Saturday, February 8, 2020

2:45:01 and Beyond: Lauren Ross

Lauren helped organized the OTQ in HOU group and shake out run at the 2020 Houston Marathon.  This meant a great deal to many women, and I imagine many attribute their 1/19/20 OTQs in part to the camaraderie and teamwork of the group.  I was impressed by how Lauren publicized the group and orchestrated what ended up being a massive pre-race meet up/Q&A/shake out.  I was even more impressed with her attitude after running 2:45:23 at Houston!  She chose to celebrate the huge PR instead of getting caught up in “I just missed it”.  She didn’t want people to mourn with her over those 23 seconds, she wanted people to celebrate with her!

She also has a contagious smile, gives very sound dietary advice, and is another former skier.  You’ll have to read her full narrative to learn more, but “There’s no reason you can’t do it too” stands out to me as her message.
Photo credit: Fredis
Name: Lauren Ross
Age: 29
City/State: Portland, OR
Occupation: Registered Dietitian

Hobbies/interests outside of running: 
Making and eating delicious food, skiing, hiking, hanging out with my dogs, and picking up random projects - I just finished crocheting my first sweater!

When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try? 
I've thought about this a lot lately. The concept of an OTQ came on my radar right around the 2016 trials, and became a very quiet ambition in the back of my mind sometime around then. In the fall of 2017 after a surprise 6-minute PR in the half marathon, I started to believe I could do it (mind you, my marathon PR at the time was a 3:05!). It was probably around late 2017 that I started to be vocal about this goal with my coach Cal Neff and a few close to me, but I had a lot of work to do! It wasn't until late 2019 that if you asked me what my goal was, I'd cite an OTQ.

Tell us about the races you attempted to OTQ at and the outcomes.  
My first attempt was Chicago 2019. I didn't feel fully confident about it, and wasn't sure until a week or two before that I'd attempt. As race day drew nearer, I looked over the work I'd done and though I didn't feel super comfortable I realized that everything I'd done suggested I was ready. As it turns out, I held pace through about the half and death marched my way in to a 2:52, which was a 6-minute PR. Given my lack of confidence going in and the big improvement, I was happy with the outcome but unsatisfied.

Soon after, I upgraded my half marathon entry at Houston to the full. My husband and I were going to be down there anyway, as we'd lived in Houston from 2014-2018 and love going back for the race. Because this cycle was so close to the Chicago cycle, it was clear to me how much fitness I'd gained. I was able to directly compare workouts without the fog of time that usually makes it hard to judge how you're feeling compared to past cycles. This gave me incredible confidence going into Houston, and combined with running on familiar roads, surrounded by friends (some running side by side with me!), and an incredibly fortunate turn in the weather that brought cool temps and clear skies, Houston was the most ideal situation imaginable. Stepping up to the line, I was more excited for the experience than anything else - a feeling that I haven't had since my first marathon in 2011. Ultimately, I cruised to 18 feeling like I was out for a Sunday jog, started to grind around 20, and over miles 23-26 became separated from the pack. The combination of rolling hills, dead legs, and solo running into a head wind slowed me down enough over those final miles to end up running a 2:45:23.

What did you gain from this journey? 
Aside from catching some epic sunrises and sunsets on runs (often in the same day) that I otherwise would not have seen, I have gained so much! The OTQ goal provided a purpose in my running that resulted in a commitment that I wouldn't otherwise have had, and which has grown my confidence in other areas of life as well. Probably the most important thing it's given me are deepened friendships - there's a level of trust that is built over fast, painful miles that is different than anything else out there.

What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit? 
I'm proud that I was not a runner in high school and college and yet I had the tenacity to believe in myself. I am also proud of the responsibility I took to make that day what I wanted it to be. After failing to convince my coach to pace 2:45, I bothered him enough that he made sure we had someone to lead us. After our amazing pacer Rick was recruited, we worked together to coordinate a shakeout run so that our pack could connect ahead of the race. I took time throughout the weekend to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and visit favorite spots in Houston. Instead of putting pressure on the race, the weekend was a celebration of everything that got me there and brought joy to my life: good friends, good food, moving my body in a way that feels awesome. As a result, I lined up with the most positive mindset of my life and it showed. 

Do you have any regrets or things you wish you’d done differently in your OTQ pursuit? 
One thing I've learned a couple times in marathons is that even when you feel as though you've slowed immensely, you're moving WAY better than your perceived pace. At the end of Houston, I thought from somewhere around 22 that I had missed it, when in reality I was still right on until around 23. I do wonder whether I would have been able to hang on just enough if I realized how close I actually was! I could see the finish line when they counted down the closing seconds of the OTQ, and though it could have been crushing I was mostly shocked - in my mind I was WAY off.

Another thing that I don't regret but that altered the trajectory of my improvement is that in the year 2018, everything about my life changed. My husband and I moved from Houston to Portland, Oregon, bought a house, I got a new job, and we got married. I had to re-learn how to live in a new place with a new set of professional responsibilities, and build a support system from scratch. I don't regret these things because I love where we live, but the improvement that I felt poised to make in early 2018 took a bit longer to come around than it would have if we'd stayed put. Such is life, though, and I'm not sure that I'd have the same potential that I do now training in Portland.

What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits? 
There's no reason you can't do it too. I believe that anyone regardless of current ability level can achieve great things in their running, but the most important thing is to not take yourself too seriously. Find friends and keep it fun, then with consistency you'll get to where you want to go.

Tell us something unique about yourself. 
My sport growing up and through college was alpine skiing, not running!

What’s next for you? 
Having run faster than my half marathon PR during the first and second half of Houston, I am absolutely ITCHING to take that PR down! Looking forward to some shorter races this spring and summer, including Shamrock Run 8k in Portland and the half at Vancouver Marathon before building up again for the Berlin Marathon in September, which will be my first trip to Europe. Come join!

Anything else you want to share? 
Don't be quiet when it comes to supporting your running buddies. When we train for so long toward big goals, it can be hard to step back and see the progress being made. A positive observation of a friend's consistency or improvement goes a long way to building confidence come race day. Messages like this from teammates helped tremendously in the days prior to Houston, and I am consciously trying to do the same for others. I encourage you to as well!

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