It has been nearly a month since I ran in the Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston, Texas. It feels like it was a lifetime ago, but I can still remember it clearly.
I didn’t feel stressed in Houston. I knew that Jerry had gotten me as ready as I could be given the time constraints in my preparation. But I did feel very nervous. I wanted to be on the team so badly, and it was the first time in years that I felt so emotionally invested in something. Although I knew I had done all I could on the training side, I worried that I hadn’t had enough time. I worried that I was going up against some pretty amazing women who had done perfect preparation. I had to believe in what I had done and run a smart and conservative race.
I tried to check out emotionally for the majority of the race, but when I made the final turn home about 200 meters from the finish line I felt a wave of emotion. I knew that it was going to happen. I was going to be on the team to London. The challenges of the past year were finally over. I could get across that line and comfort Colt, who had been crying at the start. (The poor kid hates yelling and the excitement of people cheering drove him to tears!)
Shalane waited for me at the finish with open arms, just as she has since the fall. She and Lisa have helped me through so many days of doubt, and there she was again to support me. When I finally got to Adam he gave me a huge hug and it made me cry. He has stood by me through all of this. Through my doubts, the injury, the training change. He never questioned my reasoning, but was there standing beside me.
Now that I am on the team, am injury free, and have until August 5th to prepare, I’m feeling pretty excited! I feel like now it is a level playing field and I’m ready to see what I can do. Houston was a nerve wracking experience, but I got the job done and now I can look to opportunities ahead. I’m beyond excited to be a member of the 2012 Olympic Team and I can’t wait to run through the streets of London in the marathon.
This experience reminded me that you need to keep faith in yourself. Sometimes things don’t go as you hope, but you can still get the most out of the situation. I entered the trials behind in my fitness, but I was still able to get a coveted spot to London. Never count yourself out, you never know what you can do. Happy training!
About a year and a half ago, my husband Adam began working on a project with his best friend Tim Catalano. They had this crazy idea to write a running book unlike any other on the market. They wanted to produce a book that would help runners get better and gain more satisfaction from their running, but they didn’t want to write about workouts, diet, or strength training. They also didn’t want to get too philosophical about it but to make the book practical, readable, and entertaining. I couldn’t really understand what they had in mind but I played the role of a supportive wife and encouraged Adam to follow his heart and to go for it.
In July of 2009, Tim came out to our house in Portland for weeks to brainstorm the book and set up a business plan. It was great to see Adam so excited about the project as they developed an outline of the chapters and an overall flow to the book. As usual they made fun and insulted each another at every opportunity. This is something I will never understand about men, but I have learned over the years to let Adam and Tim tear each other apart! Adam and Tim are always looking for a way to make an already difficult task even harder. Wanting to do everything themselves from start to finish, they decided to self publish even before they had an outline of the book! I was skeptical but too pregnant to care so I remained supportive and stayed out of it.
Our office was a mess sometimes spilling out into the living room with notecards, tablets, and a large whiteboard that was constantly changing as they tried to organize their thoughts. Occasionally they would ask for my opinion, but for the most part they kept to themselves and burned the midnight oil until they had a plan. My task was to keep them fed and remind them to tidy up the office. Then came the writing.
The book came together a chapter at a time. We decided ahead of time that I would not read any drafts of the manuscript or chapters until the finished product was ready. It was so hard not to read it when Adam would get excited about an idea or section, but I managed to stay away. Several months later they had finished the manuscript and sent it off to their editor. Because they decided to self publish, it was time to decide on an interior design, start work on a cover, get ISBN numbers, register with the Library of Congress and a host of other details and tasks they had no clue how to accomplish. Somehow they got it all done and on September 1st 2010, they did a limited release of “Running the Edge” deciding only to sell the book from their website www.RunTheEdge.com and on Amazon. They will do a full release of the book in July.
I have seen Adam edgy before national and world championship races many times but I don’t think I have ever seen him this nervous! He had poured so much of himself into this book, and wanted more than anything for it to be well received. Even though I had not read it yet, I ensured him that people would like it.
Now three and a half months since its release it has had tremendous reviews and is gaining steadily in sales and popularity. Adam and Tim are still doing it all themselves and still belittling each other every step of the way. The latest argument is who took the cover photo of the trail at Mt. Saint Helens. (I will have to give my vote to Adam here. I was there, and although I was hugely pregnant, I’m sure that he took that picture).
When I finally had a chance to sit down and read the book for myself, I understood just why it is doing so well. Both Adam and Tim made this book intensely personal and engaging. I am so glad readers of this book get to know a different side of my husband than what has been written in papers, blogs, running magazines, and books like “Running with the Buffaloes.” The real Adam lives on these pages. The Adam who is always striving to do the right thing and beats himself up when he makes a mistake. The Adam who wants more than anything to be good at everything he does including being the most amazing husband and father. The Adam who loves to run and passionately supports me in my pursuits.
I am so proud of Adam and Tim for writing this book. I found so much inspiration and motivation in it and more importantly I realize that runners of all levels are the same at heart. We may have different abilities and goals, but we are all out their pushing our limits and running our edges to find out just how good we can become. Check out “Running the Edge” (www.runtheedge.com) if you want a great read or a Holiday gift to inspire you to run and live your life to the fullest. And I would of course have to recommend my book “Kara Goucher’s Running for Women” too!
I just returned home from my second hard session with my new training group. I got killed in the workout. I am exhausted, sore, and full of hope. Earlier this week I joined my new group. I am honored and excited to have been welcomed by Jerry Schumacher to join his group of the OTC Elite. I feel so lucky to be able to train under an incredible coach and along side two of the best female runners the US has ever produced.
My decision to leave the Oregon Project was a very difficult one and a decision that I gave endless thought and consideration. I have had my best years under Alberto Salazar and after 7 years together he certainly knows me better as an athlete than anyone besides my husband. I have blossomed under him, going from an often injured nobody to a World Championship bronze medalist and Major Marathon podium finisher. To say that Alberto has helped me find myself and my career would be a massive understatement. He has forever changed my life and I feel eternal gratitude toward him.
But sometimes a situation that was perfect for you at one point in the past, is no longer the best fit for you in the present. In the past year I have realized that I need people to train with to help keep me accountable. Unfortunately my former teammate was injured quite a bit this past year, so I spent much of my time training alone or with my husband. While this worked (I did set a PR in the marathon) When I looked at myself in the mirror I knew that I could be doing more and pushing myself harder. This is where being in a group setting is necessary. If I know that Shalane Flanagan and Lisa Ulh (formerly Koll) are waiting for me to run at 8:30 in the morning, I’m going to get up and meet them because I don’t want to let them down. Instead of slogging along at a pace slower than I should be running, I’m going to run with the group and not want to hold them back.
In the end I have to hold myself accountable. It is my career and my responsibility to do what I need to do to be the best I can be. I had to make a change if I really wanted to reach the goals I had set for myself. I had to get out of my comfort zone and get into a situation that was going to really push me.
I can’t tell you how welcoming Shalane and Lisa have been to me. Instead of feeling territorial or worried that I would disrupt their great dynamic, they have supported and encouraged me. It is like being in this sisterhood where you are dedicated to getting the best out of each other. I am convinced that this is the best situation I could be in and I feel so blessed to have a great coach, group, and two women to work with me. After my first hard session with them Wednesday, where I cut out of the workout literally miles before they did, they sent me encouraging and supportive texts. It feels good to be in this group, and I believe that we are going to help each other get to special places.
Change is hard. It has been emotional, scary, and I’ve certainly had my doubts. But sometimes a reality check in the mirror tells you exactly what you already know. Sometimes you have to shake things up to get to where you want to be. I feel really lucky to have found such an amazing group of people to chase my dreams with.
The fall weather has rolled into Portland and it makes me ready to start my long buildup towards the marathon trials in January. After some time off and a heavy dose of physical therapy, I have returned to running. It is not lost on me that it was exactly a year ago that I started my return to running after Colt’s birth. Now a year later I am coming back again, albeit a hip injury is much easier to return from than childbirth!
Each time I start preparing for a new season, I take inspiration from others and from what I have seen in the past year. We have a lot of big dreamers here in the U.S. that have accomplished a lot of big things. But this past year there has been a whole new generation of dreamers. There were so many great performances this year, but for me there were three women that have really inspired me as I head into the Olympic year.
The first was when Desiree Davila came within steps of winning the Boston Marathon in April. I didn’t get to see this race live as I was racing more than two minutes behind her, but to watch the replay leaves me with goosebumps. Jenny Simpson did the impossible this summer– she became the World Champion at the 1500 meters. Her race was absolutely fantastic and I challenge anyone to watch her last lap without jumping out of their seat and cheering. Finally, Morgan Uceny impressed me with her consistent racing. She won the Diamond League 1,500-meter title and ran the fastest 1,500 meters in the world this year. Morgan came off of a great year last year and continued to build on that foundation to become the most consistent 1,500 meter runner in the world.
These three women believed in themselves and their preparation. They refused to set limits on themselves and they accomplished things that a lot of people thought were impossible. It was amazing to watch and it has left me with a renewed sense of optimism. These women have showed that with hard work, determination, and proper preparation anything is possible. I’ll be taking their success with me as I train this fall and it will inspire me to continue dreaming that no goal is out of reach.
Good luck with your goals!
I just finished up my season by running at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. I didn’t have the end result that I was holding out hope for, but I have no regrets for giving it a shot.
I arrived in South Korea and trained for a few days in Ulsan with the British team. This allowed Mo [Farah], Galen [Rupp], and I to stay together with Alberto. The British staff and athletes were extremely friendly and welcoming.
After a few days I moved on to Daegu. It was great to be around the U.S. athletes that I have become friends with over the years. Adam Nelson and I traded photos of our children while I was visiting the chiropractor. Jenny Barringer Simpson and I caught up at the practice track. And Sanya Richards-Ross and I exchanged hugs in the bathroom at the stadium.
The stadium was beautiful and as I was warming up I was focusing on my race plan–not giving up. My hip was tender, but as I ran around the warmup track, I didn’t feel a hitch in my stride. As we started the race I felt excited. Although my hip was hurting my stride was even–maybe I was going to pull this off!! But after about 5 laps the all-too-familiar painful laboring of my left leg set in. I just stayed focused on my goal–don’t give in, no matter how far back I fall. When I got lapped by the lead pack with about 2-1/2 laps to go, I cheered, “Go Sally!” and then kept going. I ran as hard as I could. In fact, I hobbled past two people in the last two laps. I was 13th, and way off a PR, but I hit the goal I had set for myself. I absolutely never gave up in the race.
After the race, as I changed out of my spikes and into my sweats, I told Shalane Flanagan that for the next two or three weeks I am “wearing my mom jeans.” I am only two days in, but already having a ball filling my day with Colt. Yesterday we went to the mall to buy him new clothes (he’s growing so fast) and today we went to the zoo. Tomorrow we have a date at the park to feed the ducks. I love being with Colt and I know that this time away from running will allow me to heal.
I am looking forward to next year and focusing on the marathon. I believe that it is my best event and I am excited to dedicate myself to it fully in the fall. But I’m really enjoying my time with Colt right now, he is so much fun!
PS. I would like to nominate Adam for Husband Of The Year. He was in Daegu for only 48 hours before he had to turn around and leave. He said there was no way he was missing me race at World Champs. How amazing is that?!?
Well, as you might already know, I suffered a bit of a blow a couple of weeks ago. After three weeks of great workouts and altitude training, I was a week away from what I thought would be a PR effort in a 5k in London. Unfortunately, nothing in life is ever guaranteed.
I’ve had a sore left hip/TFL/IT band since Colt was born. I’ve been running 120 miles a week on it, ran a 2:24 marathon with it, and qualified for the World Championships with it, so I haven’t worried about it too much. I foam roll a lot and get massage and ART to keep it under control. It has been annoying and irritating, but nothing serious. Until recently. After USA’s I threw myself into speed work. Lifting my knees and sprinting all-out is something that I haven’t done since 2009. It was exhilarating and I started to get aggressive in workouts and started to really dream about big track goals again. All the while, my hip was getting a little bit more sore. Nothing to stop me, but it took longer to warm up, took more effort from the massage therapist to loosen it up, and I went from a foam roller to rolling on a hard ball.
About two and a half weeks ago I started to develop a new pain on the front of my leg over a few days of hard speed work. By the time Alberto came out to Utah to watch my last hard session before flying out to London, I couldn’t warm up my hip at all. It had switched from an annoying tightness to something that was clearly not right and too serious too keep running on. We flew back to Portland and I got an MRI. I was shell shocked with the results: a stress reaction in my femoral neck.
I was devastated. Everything had been going so well. I have been training so hard since Colt was born for an opportunity to really be back at it. I felt lost—I had worked so hard, only to have to watch my dreams slip away. I flew back to Park City the next morning to be with Adam, Colt, and my sister, who was visiting. A couple of days of aqua-jogging and family time started to help me see the light. I was fit and maybe just what my body needed was a little rest.
I got back to Portland to work with my PT. I have so many imbalances due to my pregnancy. When I was shuffling away in marathon mode my body could compensate and get through, but now that I was sprinting, my body couldn’t cheat anymore. I have a lot of strengthening work that needs to be done and it’s going to take some time. But the good news is that I don’t have any bone problems, my femur was just getting slammed because my other muscles couldn’t protect it anymore.
I have never been so thankful to be a part of the Oregon Project and to have access to its equipment and therapists. Over the past 10 days I have been able to not only keep my mileage up, but also do hard training sessions on the Alter-G and Hydroworx underwater treadmill.
Today I am feeling especially hopeful. After a 6-mile tempo run on the Alter-G at 92% of my body weight, I ran outside for the first time in 12 days. Two glorious miles. My legs felt strange and heavy, but my hip felt the best it has in months, and that got me really excited.
Maybe my hopes of pushing the pace and running aggressively at World Champs have been derailed a bit. But I honestly believe that I haven’t lost any fitness, and my body might even function better two weeks from now than it has all year. I am forging on with hope and optimism.
Lessons learned here? Don’t ignore soreness that doesn’t go away after a few days! It will catch up with you, probably when you are least ready for it. And most importantly—time with loved ones can heal all things, even a broken heart (or a broken hip).
I’ve had a birthday since I last blogged. On July 9th I found myself thinking about how much had happened since my last birthday. It’s hard to believe that only 12 months ago I was pregnant and as far away from peak running form as I’ve been in years. Today I have an incredible relationship with a beautiful baby who is quickly becoming a little boy, and I’m close to running as well as I ever have—at least in training.
On July 9th last year I was seven months pregnant. I knew Colt only as this little creature inside me that gave me acid reflux when I ate too much Ben & Jerry’s and that kept me from sleeping with night hiccups (why only night hiccups?). Fast-forward one year and Colt is now a loud, constantly moving, happy person. He will be ten months old on Monday, and at the rate he’s going he will be walking by then. Just a few months ago Adam and I could plop Colt down in a swing and leave him there for a little while, knowing he was safe. Today we can’t turn our backs on him for one second or he’ll get himself into some kind of trouble.
There’s a new “first” for Colt almost every day. The thing I enjoy most about watching him develop is seeing his personality and preferences emerge. Colt loves to swim. When we take him to the pool and he realizes where he is he goes crazy with excitement. It’s too cute—but I don’t know where it comes from. It would be pretty funny if the child of two runners became a swimmer.
On my recent birthday I also recalled that slow, painful (yet wonderful) first run I did after giving birth to Colt, and the road my running has taken since then. It has taken a long time to regain the level of fitness I had before I got pregnant, and it’s taken a tremendous amount of hard work, day after day. I still haven’t had a post-pregnancy race where I competed the way I used to compete. But I think it’s coming soon.
My sprint speed is the one thing that’s still missing. Not that I ever had a ton of sprint speed, but I used to be able to squeak under 30 seconds in 200-meter repeats, but I can’t quite do it now. I am, however, every bit as strong as I used to be. I proved this to myself in a recent track workout that consisted of 2 x (1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m). I ran the first set in 4:52, 3:36, 2:19, and 1:06, and the second set in 4:50, 3:35, 2:19, 1:06. That’s about as fast as I’ve ever gone in this workout, and I did it in pouring rain. A big confidence builder.
That workout took place in Portland. I’m in Utah right now. We came here a bit earlier than planned to escape the relentless rain that’s been ruining summer in Portland. The weather here has been gorgeous, and although I miss my friends back home, I’m glad we made the decision to fly the coop.
Soon I’ll be flying to London to race the 5K at the Avia London Grand Prix. My theme for that race is aggression. It’s always been my style to race aggressively, but I haven’t been able to do that in a while because my body lacked the strength to give me the confidence and fire I need to race aggressively. I’m ready now, and I can’t wait.
I’m supposed to be in Paris right now. There’s a Diamond League meet there Friday night that will include a women’s 5000m race. As of last Wednesday I was entered in it and had a ticket for a flight to Paris leaving Sunday. That’s when Alberto called and told me he didn’t want me to go.
“You’re ready to run 14:55 to 14:58,” he said. “Do you want to go all the way to Paris for that?”
Since he put it that way, I wasn’t sure I did. But I had already invested so much mental preparation into the trip that the sudden change of plan rattled me.
“You have to stop doing this to me!” I said. “One of these days we have to make a plan we actually stick to!”
That wasn’t quite fair. Alberto almost always sticks to the big plans. But everything else is spontaneous. Actually, that’s what makes him a great coach. Alberto pays close attention to how his runners are doing every step of the way and isn’t afraid to make short-term changes to keep them on track toward long-term goals. But when you are constantly on the receiving end of those change-of-plans calls from Alberto, you want to pull your hair out sometimes.
It was Adam who talked me down from the ledge this time.
“He’s right,” Adam said. “If you’re going to go all the way to Europe to run a 5K, you want to be ready to run a PR. [My current best is 14:55.02.] If you focus on your training for the next four weeks, that will happen.”
If the new plan was to skip Europe altogether, I’d be very unhappy. But that’s not the new plan. Instead of racing the 5000 in Paris tomorrow, I’m going to race the 5000m in London on August 5. That’s four weeks from now and three weeks before the world championships. I’ll have a much better chance of blasting out a PR then. Why?
Before I say why, I have to first say that one of my biggest pet peeve clichés in track is when runners finish a race and say, “And I haven’t even done any speed work yet.” Well, I haven’t done any speed work yet! Now, if you saw me running on the track once or twice a week every week for the past couple of months, you’d call me a liar. But most of the training I’ve done on the track has been strength work (repeat miles), not true speed work (200’s, 400’s).
In the past, when I’ve layered this type of training on top of the strength I’ve built previously, my race performances have improved quickly. That’s why I have good reason to believe I will be able to run closer to 14:50 for 5000 meters in four weeks.
It’s funny how predictable race performances become after you’ve raced for a number of years and are able to connect workout to race results. When Alberto said I would probably run between 14:55 and 14:58 in Paris tomorrow if I had made the trip, I had no reason to doubt him. Last Friday I raced a 1500 at the Harry Jerome Invitational in Vancouver to begin the process of honing my speed. Before the race, Alberto said my workouts indicated I would run between 4:10 and 4:12. I ran 4:11.
That seems to be the major theme in my running lately: a strange mix of the unpredictable and the predictable.
In case you missed it, May was Dick’s Sporting Goods National Runners’ Month. I celebrated the occasion by going to the Oregon State High School Track and Field Championships as an ambassador for the Dick’s Sporting Goods program, who really got behind running again this year. While I was there I noticed something interesting about the amazing young athletes I met: They were much more focused on their own racing than on following the sport at the elite level. In other words, not everyone knew who the heck I was!
A lot of track and field insiders feel that the sport doesn’t have enough fans. They think it’s great that so many student-athletes participate in it, but they would like to see more people going to see the big meets in person and watching them on television. Since I am a professional track runner, it might seem self-serving of me to say I’d also like to see track gain more popularity as a spectator sport, but what can I say? I would!
Honestly, though, I really don’t come at this problem from the perspective of a professional athlete seeking more fans. I come at it from the perspective of a track fan myself, and as a participant who’s really no different from the high school runners I spent the day with at the Oregon State meet. Track and field is an exciting and beautiful sport to watch—not just the distance events I do but all of them, from the hurdles to the pole vault. And watching the very best in the world compete is incredibly inspiring.
If I had to choose between running and watching other people run, the choice would be easy, but I’m glad I can do both. Last year, when I was pregnant and unable to race, being a fan of track and field was the next best thing to competing myself. Yes, it made me all the more eager to get back on the starting line, but that’s exactly why I think every track athlete and distance runner should also be a fan of the sport. Watching the world’s best compete fires you up to achieve your own feats of greatness. When it comes to running, participation and spectating go hand in hand.
How do we create more track fans? I’ll leave that debate to those who’ve put more thought into it. But I will say this: It can’t hurt for professional track runners to spend time with runners who aren’t track fans yet. I’m already looking forward to Dick’s Sporting Goods National Runners’ Month 2012 to bring more attention to the sport!
I’m still in Park City—or back in Park City, I should say. I made a quick trip down to sea level last weekend to race the 5000m at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. It was a late decision. I was asked to go and run at Pre. Alberto decided I should help pace my teammate Jackie Areson to a World Championships A standard time (15:15). I wouldn’t normally want to throw myself into a race field as good as I knew that one was going to be when I wasn’t 100 percent ready, but I was really motivated to help Jackie and get the standard myself, so I gladly made the trip.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Jackie’s day. She fell off the pace I set for her early. Meanwhile, the lead pack was already way ahead. So I found myself running alone in no-man’s land. I finished ninth in 15:11. I’m really pleased with that time, considering I’m still working my way back into track racing shape and I had no one to work with in the race.
More generally, I’m very pleased with where I am in my running right now. The strength I built in training for the Boston Marathon over the winter and early spring has really carried over into the training I’m doing now. Recently I ran a great set of 400m intervals. I banged out 20 of them! I’ve done 12 before, and even 14, but never 20.
Adam has been doing every run with me—twice a day, every day. Lately I’ve been trying to challenge him in workouts—something I hadn’t done in a long time. Adam says he’s glad to see me going after him again. He knows it’s a good sign. When I trained with him for Boston I was just hanging on most of the time.
Mentally, I’m much more relaxed than I was in my Boston training. Back then I felt tremendous pressure to get my fitness back in a hurry; I felt that my neck was on the line in every workout. I don’t feel that way anymore. I’m no longer in such a rush. My fitness is close to where it needs to be and I have time, so I’m running with serenity and confidence and letting the improvements come to me.
I’ve kept my mileage high—100 to 105 miles per week—and continue to do long runs of up to 18 miles, in case I wind up running the marathon at the World Championships in South Korea at the end of August. But I’m more confident now that I will make the U.S. team in the 10,000. If things continue to go in the direction they’ve been going and I race well at USA’s in two weeks, I’ll probably make a short trip to Europe and chase some PR’s. No guarantee that will happen, but I am getting excited about the idea and giving it serious consideration!