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grind

CIM | The Recap

You know those days where your stride is fluid, your legs are light, breathing is calm, the surroundings fade away and you feel no strain as the pace comes so effortlessly to you? This was not the case the day I lined up at CIM. As many of you know I set some lofty goals going in, wanting to win the race and run under my PR of 2:29. Coach Ben and I had discussed a race plan of 5:45s. We decided if that put me in contention to win late in the race, great. I knew I couldn’t change my plan based around the leaders. As the race approached, my heart was whispering believe, dream big, fight hard, but also deep down a voice was questioning, wondering.

 

THE LEAD UP
About 6 weeks before CIM we started to really hit the workouts. I was feeling the flow and the marathon vibes that I had once had before my kids were coming back. At this point on the build up we call it being in the “thick of it” where every workout is long and grinding and ever so calculated preparing you for what you will experience in the marathon. My “Prep with Steph” workout was a few days after the NYRR Dash 5k and by far my best workout of the training block. I felt tired but strong and locked in.

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coach

HICCUPS
Immediately following that glimpse, things took a turn and spiraled downwards, hard. My left SI and back flared up, scaring me into thinking it was a fracture. I scheduled an oh shit MRI but, luckily, as suspected by many it was clean. All that had come up was the same pattern I have had early in my career and much more pronounced since having kids. My pelvis tends to shift around quite a bit during training and although I religiously do strength work and get treatment subtle movements in our mechanics it’s magnified by 10-18 miles a day and causes undue stress.

 

Because I’ve learned from my mistakes in the past I took 3 days off as soon as I felt something in my butt. We moved training around, I missed my original 16 miler but after a rough awkward few runs I was back in the cycle. 2 weeks out I ran a 15 miler with a nasty headwind on Lake Mary. Pace goal was 6 mins, but that wasn’t happening that day because of the wind. I settled into 6:05s, then 6:11, then a 6:18. I didn’t cuss or freak out as I rode the curves of Lake Mary and as I shifted out of the wind closed my last 2 in 5:51, 5:43. I wasn’t broken but admittedly a little shaken. 3 days later I ran a fartlek with my teammate Kellyn and Rivers (local stud and pacer extraordinaire). It was just over a week out from race day. 5 hours later I was shaking in my bed with a fever, hot and cold sweats and couldn’t even be a mom let along run.

 

Sicknesses as runner are awful, obviously, but as a parent literally the most helpless feeling I’ve known. Thanks goodness for Ben. I was knocked out for 24 hours but then felt the energy fighting back into my body and 2 days later I headed out for an easy 4 miles. But 1 minute in I had excruciating pain in my left chest, pec, and shoulder. I could not run a step without severe pain. I thought, “this is unbelievable and frankly ridiculous.” It felt like I had been shot in the shoulder. I walked back home and later that afternoon thought maybe it was a fluke and tried to run again. No dice. Made into 2 mins and the pain was searing. I don’t usually put too much stock into signs or karma but for a solid day I thought I wasn’t going to make it to the starting line and the marathon was just not meant to be for me this year.

 

THE DEEP
This past spring I suffered so much “what ifs” and heartache when I never got to see how I could have performed at the Trials had my osteitis pubis not flared up. I felt so strong and fit in May, just like I was feeling in November one month out from CIM. Only now was it deja vu? Was the hard work not going to show itself? One of my favorite excerpts from the Believe I am Journal is “Attachment depletes your power. A healthy attachment to your sport is to be expected- you feel happy when you run well and disappointed when you don’t. Attachment becomes unhealthy when your self-worth is at stake in every workout and performance. I wanted to crush it at CIM. It was my 1st marathon in 3 years, 1st marathon post my 2 kids, and part of me wanted to prove 2:29 was not a fluke PR. But prove to who?

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THE RACE
I landed in Sacramento. And race weekend began. It’s a lot of doing nothing, and trying to keep nerves quiet. I did my bottles and met up with “my people”. Attended the technical meetings. And got ready to toe the line.

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bottles
I made it to the starting line. The gun went off. Mile 1 was 5:48, right behind a pacer that was set for 5:45s. Mile 1 did not come easy. It’s amazing how you sometimes feel and sense how your race is going to play out within the first few minutes. I didn’t have much pop, I wasn’t “holding back” a 5:48, and I would be straining too early to hold onto 5:45s. So I let go of the dream goal of sub 2:29:35, for now. I didn’t let go of winning or of having a great day and time. The pacers held onto 5:45s as I slowly slipped back to 5:48-5:50s. I was running solo and would continue to do so for the next 18 miles. Around 10 some joksters from Oklahoma who knew my teammate Scott Smith asked what I was trying to run. I said “this right here, you want to join.” They did, for about a mile then they drifted ahead. I ran into 2nd place around 12 miles but could not see the leader. The crowds were telling me she was about 2-3 minutes up. It felt like a lot of time to make up but also not a lot of time when you know what the death march in the last 3-4 miles of a marathon can do to someone. I kept focusing on my breathing, my stride and staying locked in that rhythm of borderline over the edge, borderline just under.

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Mile 17 I came up to a guy and he amazingly ran stride for stride with me for the next 3 miles, thank you to whoever you are out there. My quads were shot, strained from the ups and downs, but I was determined to give winning the race a chance. The crowds were now yelling “she’s fading, you’re closing on her.” I still could not see the leader. Get to 22 miles and then try to let out everything you have, reminding myself to measure my strength, gather the stardust in my pocket. I couldn’t get my legs to run any faster than 5:49/5:50 for the last 6 miles so when I hit 22 I poured it out there. I ran a 5:38 and thought “I’m doing it. I can run down the leader, and win this bleeping race.” Then a huge gorilla (metaphorical) jumped on my back. Then his family also joined the party and jumped on my back. But in all seriousness I was done.

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I mustered all my strength to run 5:58, 6:00, and 5:55 for miles 24, 25, 26. Coach Ben was just after 25 miles and yelled “you got this, go go.” I am going, I’m laughing inside my head when my every part of my fibers will move no faster than 5:50 pace. I turned the corner heading towards the Sacramento Capitol and although the clocked read over 2:32 and I was the 2nd female finisher that day, it was an incredibly proud moment. I finished the damn marathon. I made it back to the startling line 15 months after Hudson was born. I ran 3 minutes off my personal best, and I believe I am just getting started. So yeah I missed my big dream goals. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t step back, realize how much I was able to accomplish, thank all the people who supported me along the way, and believed I could I could come back to this event. I closed the chapter of 2016 on a high note and now it’s time to start writing the next chapter of 2017 and beyond.

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Dream Big,

steph-sig

 

 

 

Splits for the nerds out there (like me)
5:48, 5:46, 5:46, 5:39, 5:47, 5:45, 5:48, 5:50, 5:48, 5:45, 5:45, 5:50, 5:48, 5:47, 5:46, 5:47, 5:45, 5:51, 5:48, 5:55, 5:47, 5:39, 5:57, 6:01, 6:03, 5:55

time

I GOT STAMINA

Uh-oh, running out of breath, but I
Oh, I, I got stamina
Uh-oh, running now, I close my eyes
Well, oh, I got stamina
And uh-oh, I see another mountain to climb
But I, I, I got stamina

Don’t give up, I won’t give up
Don’t give up, no no no
Don’t give up, I won’t give up
Don’t give up, no no no
I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive
I’m free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest
The greatest, the greatest alive
The greatest, the greatest alive

stamina

THE WHY: When I committed to running CIM in late summer, my heart and mind were in a great place. I had just taken a break from the track trials and decided to let myself physically and mentally heal until I was ready to train again. One hot summer morning run along dusty Woody Mt. Rd, I got an itch. I said to myself “I’m ready to train for the marathon again.” I sheepishly texted coach Ben “I know I’m not supposed to be thinking about running but I thought about it today. IS CIM too crazy, too soon?” He said let’s see if you keep progressing positivity that could handle a full load by September. Our running camp was in a few weeks, Hudson would be turning 1 next month, Riley just over 2, both sleeping well for the most part, I almost had this parenting thing figured out, and I was working my tail off on retraining my core and correcting all the weaknesses that sidelined me before the Olympic Track trials.
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Sure it was a little risky and unpredictable as to how I would respond to marathon training being 1 year post partum but I was ready. There’s a mental component in a marathon build up alongside the physical demands. You’ll doubt, you question, you nick pick detail after detail. You’ll feel superhuman fit one week and then not even able to run a decent pace on your easy days the next. It’s like a ping pong match inside your brain, telling you you’ve nailed that workout, only to follow it up with you failed this workout. I was ready to go to battle in my mind again, to feel the burning of my quads 20 miles into my 24 miler, to keep pushing in a workout when your muscles are screaming please stop. To redeem myself as a marathoner, to dust over the rust, and to prove the best years are still ahead. I had 12 weeks until CIM.

ahead

THE WHAT: If you’re interested in my entire log and build up, you can geek out at my log on Final Surge. To simplify I’ll give you a few of the juicy and what I felt crucial components to my build up. In early September I was just putting in mileage, building back a strong core, working on hip strength, and increasing my long runs. I carved out several hours a week to do strength work at HYPO2 with Wes, and at home each night I did 30-40 mins of core training designed by Celeste Goodson from ReCore. I’ll be writing another blog devoted to this and my DR.

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workout

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Since my workouts weren’t very intense yet I usually would hit my long runs pretty steady with a moderately hard effort. I ran 3 solid 18-19 milers with Sally Kipyego, who went on to crush it with a 2nd place at NYC Marathon. We’d average 6:30s for our long runs on dirt at 7000ft. About 6 weeks into my training, I raced the TC 10 miler. It was slightly embarrassing and a little blow to my ego as I placed 10th in 55:30. I hadn’t had enough workouts behind me but in the big picture, CIM was the focus not the 10 miler. I turned the corner fitness wise fairly quickly after the race, running 12 miles @5:46 pace around Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis the next weekend. I felt smooth and in control. The month of October came and went with a string of solid workouts:

10m

10 x 1500 @5:19 avg. with 1 min rest (7000ft)
3 x 3 mile @5:40 pace with 1 mile jog rest (3300ft)
4 miles @6:00, 8 miles @6:40 pace, 4 mile @ 6:00, 5:57, 5:54, 5:43 (7000 ft)
24 miles no carbs in 2:51:34 (7000ft)
12 miles alternating 6 min pace, 7 min pace (7000ft

QUICK RACE RECAP: On NYC Marathon weekend we flew out to Manhattan as I had a speaking event at NYC Custom PT alongside my running friends and heroes Kara Goucher, and Ryan and Sara Hall. The reception of the NY running community is unlike any other. I was honored to be speaking to this group of people. Thanks to the guys at NYC Custom PT. Saturday morning I lined up for the Dash to the Finish 5k. Yes I had chosen to run a 5k in the midst of marathon training, where Coach Ben did not back me off, running 102 miles that week. Silly me. But I love racing and I love NYC. I knew I was fit, just didn’t know how that translated to the 5k. The field was loaded with talent from various Olympians, 5k and 10k studs, and just plain tough women. As I warmed up, my legs feeling like sludge, just started my period (sorry TMI) but it’s a real pain in you know … I don’t think I broke 9 mins for my first mile on my warm up. Now if we let how we feel on our warm ups determine our race success, we would all fall miserably. It was a cold and calm morning in Manhattan and I told myself to get uncomfortable, you’re strong right now, so keep pushing. Gun went off, butterflies flew away and I found myself sprinting down 1st Ave. I came through 2 miles in 10:17, put my head down crested up the hill into Central Park and kept hammering. I flew by the most unruly crowd going bananas a.k.a ‘Oiselle Cowbell Corner” and past the 26 mile mark thinking of all the marathoners who would pass this tomorrow. I crossed the line, 3rd place in 16:07. It was a successful race and weekend, now back to the grind.

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flight

THE WHO: You’ve heard the saying “it takes an army.” Well that couldn’t be more accurate in my life. So this next part is a thank you, an ode to the players in my and the boys life who have gotten me to the starting line healthy and excited. My NAZ Elite teammates who have inspired me by their work ethic and gutsy races. Oiselle for the power and possibility created by the flock, the flystyle, and the unwavering belief. To HOKA for the support and for fastest and most durable marathon shoes, the Tracers. It really is TIME TO FLY.  Eric and the PRO Compression community, for always keepingittight. Wes Gregg at HYPO2, John Ball the guru, my massage therapists Shea, Bradley, Angie, and Monica. (yes I have 4, I love them all). Thanks for dealing with my crazy, end of the world 48 hour injury scares. To my pacer and pal Rivers for the enthralling conversations and miles on Lake Mary. Picky Bars for fueling my workouts and races and for the chance to live life like we want. Ali Gregg for preparing and inspiring my meals during this buildup. My coach Ben and his wife Jen who manage it all with patience, poise, professionalism, and fun. To my husband Ben who tags in when I’m ready to tag out, who steps up when I’m stepping down. Who talks me off the ledge, when I’m looking straight down. I would not be the woman I am without you. My boys giving me perspective it’s just running. The fans, you crazy, hard core, sincere, hilarious followers of my career and journey. You give me hope on days it looks dark. You make me laugh reading your comments. You inspire me to get the most out of myself, and you fill the streets and stands, and corrals with your love and dedication to the sport. My family and friends, thanks for always understanding when I can’t make it because I have to run:) Lastly to my mom, my biggest fan, I will be racing for you Sunday.
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family

 

THE HOW: The last few weeks I’ve hit some peaks and valleys in ways I could not control. The best advice I’ve ever taken from marathon cycles is “don’t be too married to a plan that you will sacrifice health and risk injury to follow that plan. I’ve had to make some concessions on days, push back workouts, miss a few days due to illness, my kids waking up in the middle of the night, and a little injury scare. But what marathon cycle is flawless? Really? A marathon cycle has to be yours, not someone else’s and not one written in stone. Coach Ben has done a great job adapting to my life and my schedule and I think I have grown as a runner and a human in my approach to this 26.2 journey coming up. That’s the thing it isn’t just a race, it’s a journey. It’s a journey of self discovery, of who you are made of, of how much you can go through, of how much you’re willing to go through, of what you want from yourself. I want a successful first marathon post baby. I wanted to show up to the line healthy, which I’m proud to say I am. And deep down in that dark scary place you don’t wanna tell people, I want to win the race and destroy my PR of 2:29:35. What’s your deep scary place? Let’s find out Sunday.

 

“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” -Rocky

Dream Big
Steph

soul searching sky

When the Glass is Half Full

My glass is always half full. It’s how I perceive the world, my life, my running, my family. Sometimes it’s full of wine, sometimes full of crap, and sometimes full of crazy busy schedules but it’s always half full. Seeing our glass as half full as oppose to half empty allows us to make sense of the hard days, invest ourselves in many talents, and be open to life taking a different turn than we expect.
soul searching sky
I took a break after the Olympic Trials, soul searched through the peaks of Flagstaff, traveled to Santa Barbara for a 10 year college roommate reunion, put on our 2nd annual Running Camp in Flagstaff, sketched out and confirmed my fall racing season, and threw a 1 year old birthday party for Hudson. It’s been hectic at times but so worth every adventure.

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When I began my professional running career I had a narrow mind and tunnel vision, as is the case in most goal-oriented ways of life. We choose a path, hop on it, and hope to God it steers us in the right direction. Yet we sometimes fail to acknowledge we have the power to steer the course in different directions.

 

On most mornings around 5-5:15 a.m. Ben and I are awakened to the sounds of “lalala, nah nah, mom, I’m all done, come get me”, or the occasional loud thumping of Riley’s legs banging the crib. We’ve usually decided the night before who will get up with the kids based on who is working out that morning or who is less wrecked from the last few days of training. It’s a 50/50 load but with a guy like Ben in your corner it often feels 60/40 (Ben/me). Bottles are made, milk poured, diapers changed, toys thrown everywhere and it’s barely 5:30 a.m. I will usually sneak away while they are distracted, grind some dark roast coffee and hit power. That feeling is enough to wake up my senses. Some mornings my body is achey all over from a 14 mile workout day and squatting down to change diapers is especially taxing if we had a strength session at Hypo2 the day before. The boys have no idea the training we do so each morning is the same to them and they have the same needs and demands regardless of how tired we are. That’s parenting.
am chaos
An hour or so later the other parent emerges from “freedom” a.k.a our bed. We all eat our respective breakfasts from cereal to oatmeal to Picky Bars and begin the task of getting dressed. I don’t need to go into too much detail but just wait until you experience undressing and dressing a 1-2 year old… We load up the car, drop the boys at daycare and the real fun begins: training.

 

Before I had kids my typical training load landed between 75-85 miles a week, with a few strength days, massage, chiro appointments and many free hours of the day usually spent watching movies. Granted every pro at some point goes through this phase and it’s probably a necessary part of the job. Now with a family to take care of and our coaching biz I don’t have too many wasteful hours of the day. I came to that lifestyle choice on my own and although busy and tiring at times it’s a life worth pursuing. It’s not inspirational to train full time while being a parent, it’s inspirational to keep pursuing your dreams even when the road gets bumpy. I’ve seen that on countless occasions. My good friend Lauren Fleshman was one of the most decorated US runners in history and battled injuries for years only to have a surgery, it not pan out and she retired on her own terms. She gives back to the sport that broke her heart so selflessly. That’s inspirational. Olympian middle distance star Brenda Martinez hosted a contest a few years back and selected highschool girls to mentor at her running camp teaching them positive body image and healthy habits in our sport. That’s inspirational. Oiselle runners Becki Spellman and Sarah Robinson a.k.a MAC work full time, raise their 2 year olds and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials and Becki recently won the Akron Marathon in 2:51. My teammate Matt Llano came out as a gay male pro distance runner 2 years ago and his story continues to inspire those that may fear being truthful about themselves. That’s inspirational. Lastly distance stud Gabe Grunewald recently had cancer return and she underwent another surgery and is fighting her way back to normal life and eventually training. That my friends is inspirational.

 

I have witnessed so much in our sport that I’m hopeful I can leave it better than I started. Whether than means sharing my story for those interested in following, sharing my training specifics, instilling positive body image and hammering the importance of loving your body, advocating for a clean sport and life time ban for dopers, or coaching others to their potential dreams. I love this sport as a competitor, a fan, a critic, a cheerer, and a boat rocker. My perspective on my own recovery has changed over the years. I used to believe after a run you had to come straight home, lie horizontally for 6 hours until your next run, and stay off your feet at all costs. I do still believe recovery is the key to your success and progress as a runner but time commitments and responsibilities change our “free time”. I have a few key principles that regardless of how much time you have in the day, these have stayed true in my life and helped optimize recovery.
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My takeaways in my career pre and post kids have always been:

  1. Eat 30 minutes post run/workout. Something/anything get it in your mouth.
  2. Pre-hab before rehab. Make time for massages and chiro appointment while you’re healthy to stay healthy. Invest the time and money in yourself.
  3. Don’t compare yourself or your training to others. Dream those big scary goals but put in the work necessary and appropriate for you today.

 

That brings me to some exciting news that just launched. I partnered with PRO Compression earlier this year and for the first time ever they allowed me to design my own sock. You can now wear special edition “SB” Stephanie Bruce socks with my mantra “Dream Big” sewn across the foot. I hope they empower you to go after your Dream goals and do the work daily that allows you to get there.
socks
So where are things now? I’ve been training for about 6 weeks with a very gradual build up in mileage in order to work on strengthening my inner core that still needs work post partum, acknowledge my life circumstance (having 2 young kids), and let my body adapt to the training before it becomes more agressive. I will be writing a special post coming in a few weeks on what core reatraining plan I’ve been on and my progress on diastasis recti. The first 6 weeks I built to around 50-60 miles a week and then began ramping up over the past month as my racing plans have solidified. I am not without hiccups along the way but devoting extra time daily to all the little things has been paying off.

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As a sneak peak of what I’ve been up yo you can check on my training on Final Surge. A few highlights have been my last 3 long runs where I built up to 16, 17, and 18 miles. These runs are at 7000ft and were simply about time on your feet as I haven’t run this long since 2013 before my 2 sons were born. I’ve started these runs around 7:20/7:30 pace and worked my way down to the last few miles in the 6-6:15 range. A comfortable steady clip for me. I’ve have the pleasure of meeting up with Sally Kipyego, Kenyan Olympic silver medalist at 2012 Games for most of my long runs. She is prepping for NYC Marathon. Last week I had my first structured workout, a longer fartlek session in Camp Verde. The idea was to run the ons at half marathon down to 10k effort and the offs steady easy run pace. The workout was 4,3,2,1 x 3 with 2 min rest after the 4, 3 and 1 min rest after the 2,1. My ons were between 5:30 and 5:05 pace and offs 6:40-7 min totaling 8 miles in 48 minutes.
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Training is coming together and I’m beginning to finally feel the fatigue of the accumulating mileage and workouts. It is a welcomed feeling. I’ve been practicing taking fluids during long runs and seeing how my body responds to the ingestion of a carb solution mid run and mid workout. I’m preparing to put in the work, to fight on the hard days, and to suffer once again. You could say I’m preparing for the 26.2 mile beast but when and where you’ll have to wait and see….. muhahaha!
Thanks for reading guys! You make this journey a fun one.

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Dream Big

steph-sig

trials-and-b4labor

Finish What you Started: Part 1

On September 19th, 2015 I gave birth to my 2nd son Hudson. Only July 2nd, 2016 I raced the 10,000m at the US Olympic Trials. Let me take you back to how it all began.

trials-and-b4labor

1 month before my due date I still held onto the belief that I could race the Olympic Marathon Trials. The race date was 6 months from my scheduled due date. So if all went went, I had the baby on time, took the “proposed 6 weeks post partum” before resuming exercise, I would have 18 weeks to train. Oh and did I mention I had to actually get a qualifier since I had been pregnant the last 2 years, I was out of the time window. The qualifying times were 2:43, 1:15 for the half. Before my kids I had run 2:29, 70:53. It wasn’t out of this world to think I could do it, just a little crazy. Which we’re all a little crazy right? Right? So like any normal scheming, goal setting runner I sketched out a possible plan. Listen I was 8 months pregnant, uncomfortable, bored, antsy so I took to daydreaming.

weekly-schedule

It was methodical, gradual in the beginning, and more aggressive the closer we got to the race, naturally. I defined gradual in relative terms because I was running 30-50 mile weeks for a while whereas my normal training routine hovered in the 80-90 range. The aggressive part was plain and simple. I would be training only a few months post partum, breastfeeding (energy suck), sleeping no more than a 5 hour stretch if I was lucky, and my body had changed after giving birth.

oneweekPP2

I told myself I would only stick to the plan if I had no pain, no major setbacks, I put my kids first, and I wasn’t training in a sleep deprived daze. You know what happened: I experienced a little pelvis at times, a few days setback, my kids came first, and I was tired but energized. By November I was nowhere near my plan of 50-60 mile weeks. I ran 7, 13, 18, 25 mile weeks in November. I was getting over mastistis and running a turkey trot 5k in 19 mins. Still the crazy part was I had a speck of hope (the size of the Whoville Whos that lived on a speck in which Horton the elephant carried) that I would qualify with a half and be on the starting line in February.

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I can’t tell you why I held on to the Marathon trials for so long. Call it stubbornness, stupidity, legitimacy. Maybe I wanted redemption after the 2012 Marathon Trials. I had one of the fastest American times going in, hit a wall around mile 22, dropped out at mile 23. Maybe I wanted to prove that as a professional female athlete I could take a break, have kids, and it wouldn’t end my career. But in the back of my mind I knew rushing back too soon post pregnancy could end my career. So why the push? Deep down if I really peeled away all the layers there was some truth lying there. I believed I had a better shot making an Olympic Team in the marathon than on the track in the 10,000m. That was hard to admit, to swallow, and to accept.

 

In December, the snow poured into Flagstaff, and I sloshed through the cold, wet, bitter days with my teammates and with a big fat smile on my face. I was healthy and finding my stride again. Coach Ben and I still met often to plan out my weeks which included several fartleks and leg speed sessions to reintroduce paces that my body used to run half marathons at but at this point (12 weeks post partum) could only handle 30-60 second bouts. 5:20 pace for 20 secs on, 1 min off.

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It seemed daunting on one hand and idiotically possible on the other. I was allotting most of my ancillary time to core and strength work. From my experience and understanding of having diastasis recti and the symptoms I presented returning to training, this was the prescribed routine from my sports chiropractors. I did 3 main core exercises: bird dog, side plank, McGill crunch. Twice a week I did strength work at Hypo2 with Dr. AJ and Wes Gregg which included single leg RDLs, around the worlds, hip airplanes, tons of glute activation with bands, and various other exercises targeting my hips, butt, and low back. Areas that we felt post pregnancy were most susceptible to breakdown and weaknesses.

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As 2015 came to an end I reflected on all that had taken place in what felt like such a short amount of time. Our team had grown to a full roster and everyone was crushing it. We won a few national titles, made the World team in the half, ran some incredible marathons, and HOKAOneOne signed us. Riley turned 1, we hosted our first Running with the Bruces Camp in Flagstaff, Picky Bars got into REI, our family grew to 4, and we coached a few women to Olympic Trials qualifying performances. It was a great year, then the clock struck midnight and suddenly I had 6 weeks. Let me be clear there was no outside pressure for me to qualify or be on the starting line in LA, so that 6 weeks was hovering above my head and my head alone.

 

Well truthfully I had 3 weeks, because January 17th was the cutoff date to actually qualify for the trials and here I was thinking about the Olympic Team without a qualifier, silly me. The week of January 4th-9th was a breakthrough. I ran 60 miles, a 3 mile tempo in Flagstaff in 5:47, 5:47, 5:44, and then a tester workout that Sunday with Kellyn. Kellyn had 20 miles alternating 6:35, 5:35 paces in Camp Verde (3000ft) and I was to join her for 8 miles of it. 5:35, 6:39, 5:36, 6:28, 5:35, 6:22, 5:44 (uphill), 6:26. The workout made the decision for me. I could run the pace needed to qualify, but by the end of the workout my pelvis felt like it was fatiguing. My lungs were there but my body wasn’t. I remember the promise I made to myself in August that I would not force the plan if it didn’t come without risk. I was slated to pace Caitlin Comfort (whom I coach) next weekend at RNR Phoenix Half Marathon for her workout. 5:50s for 8 miles, then I’d cool down back to the finish. I knew I could do that, and then that voice crept in “maybe, just maybe, you could keep going and squeeze the pace down the last few miles and sneak under 75 mins and qualify.”

lake_mary high_five_ben

Ben was racing RNR as his tune up before the trials. He was heavy in marathon training and was looking for a solid effort. Hudson had an awful night of sleep waking up every 2 hours. I finally woke up at 4:30 a.m., stumbled around my hotel room, brewed the strongest cup of coffee, and thought today’s the day. The day to put on my uniform that had been collecting dust and I had been missing for so long. The day full of possibility. I warmed up with Caitlin and Tara Welling and I was giddy as a school girl weaving through the crowds at the start, waiting in line at the porto potty. I remembered I was meant to do this. Ben and I said our goodbyes and good lucks. See you at the finish line!

caitlin

The first mile was 5:50, right on but feeling rusty. As the course rolled along I was warming up and feeling full of run each passing mile. I look down around mile 4 and we dipped just under 5:50. My mind was wandering, scheming “I feel good, do I keep going?” Mile 8 5:48. It’s time to stop and jog back to the finish but let me just have 3 more minutes of running to let go. To know I wouldn’t be in a position to make an Olympic Team in 1 month’s time, the risk of continuing today would outweigh the reward. I have already “competed” at many trials so I didn’t need that satisfaction. I could have kids and return to a high level, just in a different fashion and timeline. I have nothing to prove to anyone, so let go. Races, chances, times, goals will always be there to chase. You just need to give yourself time and grace to get there. I let go…. I jogged to the finish, found Ben who had just absolutely crushed it. He placed 2nd in a battling race, ran 62:28 (a 30 sec PR) and in doing so won the 2015 Rock N Roll Half Marathon Series. I was so glad I was there to celebrate that moment and happy our 2 boys could share it with him as well.

fast_fam ben_congrats

I knew there was a bigger plan and sometimes you are forced to see that in the very last possible moment. For me that was the last qualifying day for the trials and so there were no more options. I felt free and at peace to move on, cheer on my super fit husband and teammates in LA. Sometimes we are so obsessed with a timeline and goal that we forget why we’re on that path and we forget to savor the struggles and triumphs of it. It was painful and ugly those first few months post partum but I loved getting back in shape. I loved making progress weekly. You have nothing to lose only something to gain. So as I let go of one goal, inevitably another one materialized. The US Olympic Track Trials were in 6 months, and I had nothing to lose. Part 2 coming soon…

Dream Big –

steph-sig

bensteph

The Olympic Year and the Untold Stories

The Olympic Year

On the outside of the bubble it is a year to celebrate the world’s best athletes coming together to showcase their athletic prowess. Countries have set up standards, marks, and performances that set the criteria for electing which athletes get the chance to represent their country. The USA T&F Olympic Trials are this week in Eugene, OR covering a 10 day spectacle of America’s best track and field athletes vying for a spot on the US Olympic Team. Hundreds will compete, but only 3 from each event will go.

team

Here’s the thing too. Not all of the nation’s best will be competing at the trials. There will be some who could have been legitimate contenders to make the team, that are sitting on their couch watching. Various reasons left them out the trials: they didn’t achieve a qualifying time, they suffered an injury, their iron levels were low, they had a mental lapse this season and couldn’t get their mind right to run times they once have. These reasons happen because when the media and the news start ringing in the Olympic Year, athletes feel the pressure. There is more spotlight, more emphasis on perfection, more sacrifice, more dreaming, more failure. We all get caught up in it at some point throughout the year and it’s sad. It’s sad because as a pro runner many of our ultimate goals’ is to become an Olympian, to hear our country’s anthem, to represent the red, white, and blue. Doing so in America is one of the hardest feats in our sport. It means achieving the Olympic Standard at some point in the time window, not being too fit too early in the season, staying healthy, not overtraining, and being top 3 on one day, of one year, of one decade, in your athletic career. You know the date of your race months ahead of time and you can only hope you don’t wake up that morning with a cold, that your mind is right, and that you timed the training and the peaking just right. Hope.

training

The stories that are not told on the Olympic year are the ones I mentioned at home on the couches. For those of you out there, don’t give up. I know some of you well and my heart is with you. There is more to a professional running career than the Olympic trials and Olympics. Take the time to remember why you started running and what keeps you running. Share your injured or difficult stories with the fans. People wanna know what happened. Don’t be afraid sponsors will cut you because you got hurt. We all train on the edge in order to become the best version of yourself. You are either on the brink of a breakthrough or the brink of an injury. Now sponsors, don’t cut your athletes because they got hurt or didn’t make the team. Before you are signed or sign, both parties should find what makes that athlete valuable and work on those things even through injuries and when you’re not competing. Athletes, connect with our sport and the fans and show your sponsor you have value outside of the stopwatch. The Olympic year can overshadow even the best of athletes who didn’t have the opportunity to toe the line. They still have a future, they just need to find their reasons to keep pursuing it.

This Friday night my husband Ben will be racing the men’s 10,000 at 6:15 p.m. It will be his first 10k in a US Championship as he has raced the steeplechase in the last 13 US track champs including 3 Olympic Trials. In 2012 he was 5th. Talk about consistency. This year he ran his first 10k on the track as a pro. The week of, he was sick in bed from a virus the kids had. He gutted out a brave 28:25 and was on the bubble for getting in. In the last 3 weeks I have seen his fitness and confidence(silently) grow. As his wife, training partner, and fan I am excited to see what this guy can accomplish on Friday.

mom_dad bensteph

As for me… where to begin? I will race the 10,000m just over 15 hours after Ben on Saturday morning at 11:04 am. I will be a little over 9 month post partum. If you had told me 2 years ago this would be the case I would have been lacking confidence. If you told me this 3 weeks after I gave birth I would have laughed and said no way in hell will I make it. We are given choices in life to which we carve our own path. I chose to pursue a dream 8 months ago and try to be a contender to make the US Olympic Team in the 10,000m. The reality of how the season has gone would point in the direction of not really having a shot. I ran 32:14 April 1st and just sneaked under the Olympic Standard. I am the last women under the mark. I’ve encountered a few setbacks, some post partum related, some trying to run at the highest level related. I was super fit, then working through an injury. I lost time and a little hope. The days that it clicked I was thankful and the days that were a struggle I kept fighting. Regardless of where it all shakes out on July 2nd I have throughly enjoyed the journey to getting here. I am a competitor through and and through but am also the biggest fan of our sport.

run_prep track

I can’t really say with confidence where my fitness and where my body’s strength is at the moment due to the setbacks I had. But I do know have 2 things. I have my mind and my heart. I will be needing those 2 things come Saturday. I can’t begin to thank the people that have been instrumental in getting me to even have a chance to compete at the Olympic Trials. To my sponsors (Oiselle, HOKA, newly, PRO CompressionPicky Bars, my coach Ben, my NAZ Elite teammates, my team of physios (Hypo2 Chiro, John Ball, Stephanie and Shea, my fans, and my family and friends. For those that have followed along and believed, thank you. I hope to not disappoint on Saturday morning. Lastly I am grateful that my 2 sons, not quite old enough at the moment to grasp, but we will tell them that their mom and dad kept chasing their dreams while they were little. That we had to leave them for a few days with grandma so we could go focus on chasing a goal around in circles. That no matter what place we were, we left it all out on the track because when you are given the opportunity you must go and seize it.

dudes