Tag: Kara Goucher
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!
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.
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!
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you will probably remember my previous post about jewelry maker Tina Steinberg. In that post I invited readers to submit a personal story on the theme “I am not afraid”, and promised to publish Tina’s favorite here. Well, Tina has picked her favorite from among a great number of moving stories. It was submitted by Becca Thornton of Orem, UT. In addition to having her story published her, Becca will also receive a necklace from Tina that is just like mine, with the motto “I am not afraid” engraved on it. Here’s Becca’s story.
Seven and a half years ago I was a lonely runner, and I was OK with that. I started out as a slightly overweight mother of three who wanted to get a better body and get in better shape. Running was the easy answer. It fit my life and my schedule and it only required a pair of decent shoes to get started so I decided to give it a go. First I ran one mile, then I ran two and after a while I built up to do five miles. Every time I went out I ran the same path on the same route just going a little farther every few weeks. I did this so that my husband would always know where I was just in case anything happened. My little out-and back-route became my routine my solace and my peace. I was content….at least for a little while.That changed when I went to support my dad as he ran a marathon with a friend who had been recently diagnosed with heart problems. They were slow and at the back of the pack and I was able to cheer them on in two different locations on the course. I didn’t realize then how much that experience would speak to my soul. As I watched these people–normal people–coming out of the canyon to the last three miles of the course, I kept being moved to tears. What they were doing and accomplishing was simply amazing and inspiring and I knew then and there without a shadow of a doubt that I needed to run a marathon. I set my goal that day to run the same race one year from that moment and I kept that goal in mind as I went out on my solitary give-mile route.As is the case with all marathons, I had to train and I had to deviate from my solitary and normal routine. Through the local running store, I heard of a running club that I decided to join to help me train for my marathon. I was so out of my league that it was laughable, but I made a commitment to myself that I would stick with them and bring up the rear and so that is what I did. I made it through that training cycle and in the process made a few great friends and although I was riddled with painful injuries, I was able to complete my marathon one year after I had set out to accomplish that goal.After that, life happened and I put running on hold while I had subsequently recovered from having baby number four. When she was one and a half I knew it was time to focus on running again, so I set my sights on marathon number two! I was excited but knew that I needed a different training plan than what the local running club could offer. Through a series of extremely fortunate events, I was able to join up with a group of seven women who were training for the same marathon. In the process, we also found something amazing. Friendship almost seems too trite a word to describe what we have, because it is so much more than that. We celebrate each other, we support each other and what started out as a training group has turned into a lifeline that each one of us would be lost without. Running is what brought us together and what makes us take the time out of our busy lives to stay together, but friendship is what has kept us running. We genuinely support one and other–we cheer for each other’s successes and we discuss our weaknesses. There is no ill will or guile, no gossip or backbiting, just pure unadulterated support. It is, quite simply, amazing.Recently, one of our dear friends was diagnosed with colon cancer. She is a thirty-six year-old mother of four. She had to have 1/3 of her colon and her right ovary removed. She has since been informed that the cancer has spread and she has to begin an aggressive six months of chemotherapy. To say we are heartbroken doesn’t begin to cover it. The tears and emotions have been freely flowing as we contemplate what this means for her life and for ours, and while there are a lot of uncertainties, there is one constant that will always remain: we will be right there running this race by her side. Our pace may be slow and our goals may change, but we will all be in it together. And when she crosses her finish line, we will all be there cheering her on like never before.Like I said, years ago, I started out as a lonely runner, running my same course every day. I was content. Then, I diverted from that path, lived a bit more life and gained the best friends I’ve ever had. Now I am complete. And no matter what the future brings or holds I know that I am not afraid, because I have a small but strong army of women standing by my side who have just now been born to take on the challenge of a lifetime.
You can see why Tina and I love this story. Here’s what Tina had to say about it:
We do what we do, what we love, for the greater good. Even if doing what we love is seemingly solitary, there is an underlying mission to affect others, hopefully inspire others and possibly bring people together.This is what I love about Becca’s story. We received hundreds of stories of trial and tribulation from people who are runners, teachers, moms, business owners and much more. It was inspiring to read about the journey that everyone takes as they endure the training to reach their personal best in the passions of their lives. Becca’s story pulls this all together in a way that illustrates community, friendship, support and love.We all know how it feels to start something that requires a commitment. It’s a difficult decision and oftentimes it requires us to renew our commitment every single day, especially when we feel alone. The goals we aim to achieve can get riddled with hurdles, fear, loneliness and random hardships that we can’t foresee, but if there is a true love for what you do, others will feel that and support you. You will also connect with others who are experiencing the same thing and as time passes, you’ll notice that your personal journey is a truly a community journey. Your personal commitment transforms to a commitment towards yourself and others who need your strength and inspiration…and you need theirs, too.We were born to move past fear. This is how we grow and our growth is what pushes others forward, too. We were born to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart, and to strengthen others in the process.
Yesterday I was officially named to the U.S. Marathon Team that will compete at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in South Korea in late August and early September. I am proud and excited to have this next opportunity to represent my country at the highest level of international competition.
I know this news came as a surprise to some people, because I hadn’t said anything publically about running another marathon before the Olympic Trials next January. In fact, I still might not. It all depends on what happens in Eugene next month. I will compete in the 10,000m at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. If I’m able to qualify for the World Championships in that event, I’ll run it, and skip the marathon, passing my marathon slot to current alternate Zoila Gomez. If I don’t qualify, I’ll go ahead and run the marathon.
Making the worlds team in the 10K won’t be easy. To do it, I’ll have to finish top three in a field that will include (assuming everyone is healthy) my training partner Amy Yoder Begley, Molly Huddle, Lisa Koll, Jen Rhines, and Shalane Flanagan. If I’m at my best, I think I can do it (after all, I do have a World Championships medal in this event!), but I will have to be at my best.
The marathon will pose an interesting challenge if I run it. Late August in Korea is hot, so I will have to prepare specifically for those conditions. Also, I’ll be running three marathons in just ten months in that scenario, so I’ll need to be extra careful about doing all the little things needed to prevent injuries and avoid burnout when logging heavy mileage for months on end.
The challenge has already begun, because in my current training I need to build speed to run a great 10K next month and at the same time retain my strength and endurance in case I run the marathon after all. So I’m keeping my mileage up around 100 miles per week while also flogging myself at the track. I put on my spikes for a workout for the first time in two years last week, and I had a blast.
I love racing on the track, and I’m really looking forward to taking my best shot at qualifying for worlds in the 10K next month—and bringing home another medal in that event in August. But I feel very fortunate to know I won’t have to miss out on the World Championships completely even if I do come up short in the 10K. If I run the marathon in Korea, I will fully embrace the challenge and race to win.
As much as I love running, I also love getting away from running after a big race—and especially after a marathon. My recent, two-week post-Boston Marathon break was especially nice, mainly because it was my first such break as a mom.
I should clarify what I mean by “break”. I didn’t actually take any days off running. I ran 20 minutes the day after the race. But I didn’t run much for two weeks: only three to four miles a day for the first week and five to six miles a day in the second week. What I did get a break from was the grind of running twice a day, up to two and a half hours at a time, lifting weights, stretching, seeing my chiropractor, and the pressure of getting as fit as possible by a certain date.
Adam and I took advantage of the freedom by traveling with Colt. When we have a break, we alternate between visiting his family in Colorado and mine in Duluth. This time we went to Duluth. It was a wonderful visit. Colt got to meet his great-grandparents. I can’t tell you how moving it was for me to see them bond—and they really bonded.
While we were there I did a signing for my new book at a local bookstore. This wasn’t the typical book signing. I knew half the people who came out, and hadn’t seen most of them in years. Some of my old high school teammates showed up, along with people from the church we attended when I was growing up—even my old dance teacher!
When we left Duluth I didn’t cry. I know a grown woman is not expected to cry when leaving her childhood home after a visit, but I always do. This was the first time I stayed dry-eyed, and I think that says a lot about how fulfilling this particular visit was for me.
From Duluth we went to Nashville for the Country Music Marathon. All three of us were sick by then, so we laid low, but we still had a great time there. Southern hospitality is alive and well. We felt so welcomed. I made an appearance at the expo and did another book signing. I hope to visit Nashville again soon when I’m not under the weather.
Now we’re back home, and I’ve returned to serious training. My body feels pretty much ready, but my mind could have used one more week. Pursuing goals such as winning major marathons is so challenging and consuming that you really need to take time to recharge both your physical and mental batteries afterward. Two weeks is going to have to do for me this time!
In a couple of weeks, Adam, Colt and I are going to leave home again, this time for Park City, Utah, where I’ll have a five-week altitude training camp. I always race best after training at altitude, but I wasn’t able to swing it before Boston. I’m looking forward to carrying the benefits of this altitude camp into the USA Track & Field Championships in June and then the World Championships in Korea at the end of August. I’m also looking forward to spending five weeks away from the real world with my husband and son (and coach!).
I will continue blogging while I’m there, though. Until then…
You never know what you’re going to get when you start a marathon. If your training hasn’t gone well or you’re not feeling good, you know you probably won’t set the world on fire, but you may still run better than you expect. When you’re training has good really well and you do feel good, you may know your worst-case scenario can’t be all that bad, but you may still run worse than you expect.
By the time I was three miles into the Boston Marathon on Monday, I was already worried. I just didn’t feel comfortable. Although the pace was fairly quick, it didn’t feel too fast, and my breathing was controlled. But my body felt tight and out of sync in a way that’s hard to describe. My left hamstring was especially tight. Every runner has these days occasionally, so you probably know what I’m talking about. There’s no real explanation for them, just as there’s no explanation for those special days when you feel incredible. All you can do is hope you don’t have one of those unexplainable flat days in your most important races.
I tried to tell myself to stay relaxed and positive. I might loosen up as the race went on and start to feel much better—because that can happen sometimes too. But it didn’t happen for me on Monday. By halfway, I knew it was not going to be my day. I still felt totally out of rhythm. That’s when I really started to struggle mentally. It’s not easy to keep running as hard as you can and hurting more and more with each passing mile when you know that even with all this effort and pain you will still fall short of your goal.
By 16 miles I was completely out of contention. The real race was ahead of me. Then Desiree Davila went by me looking amazing. I knew she had a chance to catch the leaders and maybe win. As she passed me, she encouraged me. “Keep your eyes up,” she said. Now that’s classy.
When I hit the hills between 19 and 21 miles I thought about dropping out. It seemed pointless to subject my body to the thrashing of the last several miles when it wouldn’t even put me on the podium. The one thing that kept me going at that point was the encouragement I was getting from the best marathon spectators anywhere in the world. As bad as I was feeling, the support I felt from all of those people shouting my name and words of encouragement gave me just enough of a lift to keep trying as hard as I could.
Once I got past the point of wanting to quit, I started to feel a little better—mentally, not physically. I was able to accept that it just wasn’t my day and realize I needed to let this one go and start looking ahead to my next goal and trust that I would be really “on” in my next big race. The one thing that continued to bother me was knowing what Adam was going through. I know how much my happiness means to Adam, and I could imagine how tormented he probably was, seeing me off the back and assuming I was crushed by it. I found myself wishing I could flash some kind of signal that a TV camera would pick up and that would tell him I was okay. I was disappointed, but I was accepting what was happening.
I was able to pick off a few runners over the last few miles, not because I got a second wind but because they were dying. It didn’t matter to me much one way or the other at that point. I was actually thinking about Desi, wondering if she was going to pull it off. As soon as I finished, race officials started asking me if I was okay, and other questions, but I ignored them and kept asking them, “How did Desi do? How did Desi do?”
I was almost surprised by how disappointed I was to learn that she had come up just short. I’m not going to lie: I want to be the woman who ends the American drought at the Boston Marathon. But I was so impressed by Desi’s self-belief, her guts, and her class, that I really forgot about what I wanted for myself and threw my support behind her as a fellow American. One thing is certain: Desiree showed that it’s only a matter of time before one of us pulls it off.
People who remember how heartbroken I was after finishing third in Boston in 2009 might assume I’m heartbroken after finishing fifth this time. But I’m not. I feel pretty good, actually. Yes, I’m disappointed that I didn’t run quite as well as I think I was ready to run. But I came away with some positives. First of all, I set a PR! That’s always something to celebrate. Also, my stomach didn’t bother me at all during the race. That’s huge, because I’ve had GI issues in all of my previous marathons, and it was a major factor holding me back as a marathon runner generally. I have my nutrition sponsor, Nutrilite, and their awesome sports drink, ROC2O, to thank for finally solving that problem.
I had a great time in Boston overall. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of the people who came to see me at Niketown and who came up to me around town to say “Hi” and wish me good luck. A lot of you said things like, “I’m sorry to bother you” and “I hope this is okay,” and let me assure you, you did not bother me and it is more than okay! I feel like the most fortunate runner alive to have that much positive energy flowing my way from my peers.
My final thought about the 2011 Boston Marathon is that it was worth it. When I set my goal to run the race I knew it was unlikely to be my best-ever Boston Marathon, because of my recent pregnancy, but I didn’t want to assume it wouldn’t be. Above all, I didn’t want to skip it and then always wonder if it wasn’t the year I was meant to win. Turns out it wasn’t, but I’m glad I know it instead of having to wonder about it, and I’m proud of my effort.
I just finished packing for my trip to Boston. At least I think I did. I’ll probably keep messing around with my luggage until the last minute, like always. I’m one of those neurotic packers who want to take everything and worry about leaving behind the stuff that won’t fit.
At least I don’t have any bigger worries at the moment. I’m fit, healthy, happy and completely ready for the Boston Marathon on Monday. I can’t wait to get out there and see what I can do. My last fine-tuning workout, a 12-mile tempo run that I did on Saturday, went well. I’ll do a little more fast running this afternoon, for sanity more than anything, and then I’ll shut it down and store energy. By Sunday I’ll be bouncing off the walls!
It’s interesting to compare this week to the week before my first Boston Marathon two years ago. I’m much calmer this time. The difference is Colt. As excited as I am for Boston, I’m even more excited about the two teeth that sprouted through his gums within the last week. Running is still very important to me, but now I have something new in my life that’s even more important. (Family was always more important than running, but this is different.) I don’t think the shift in priorities really takes away from my running, though. Being calmer and having other things to think about in the week before a big race can only help my performance, I think.
While the week before a marathon is always exciting for me, it’s also a little sad. The process of training for a marathon is such an intense journey that I’m a little sorry to see it come to an end each time. It’s like closing the door on a little chapter of my life. I get a bit nostalgic at these times. I will probably remember this particular chapter with special fondness because it started with the birth of my baby boy.
I will arrive in Boston on Thursday. Some of my family and many friends will be there, and I’m excited for that. I will keep off my feet as much as possible. A press conference and an appearance at Niketown are my only big obligations. Being Colt’s mom will be my main focus until Sunday evening, when I’ll foist him on my mom and sister so I can truly relax and rest for Monday morning.
If you’re in the city, come see me at Niketown at 8:30 Saturday morning. And if you’re in Boston to support a friend or family member who’s running the marathon, but you’re not running yourself, I hope to hear you on the course. I promise I hear every single person who shouts my name, and it really helps! I appreciate your support. And if you are racing on Monday, good luck!
Have you seen the April issue of Competitor? That’s me on the cover. If you look closely, you’ll see I’m wearing a necklace. The oval-shaped piece hanging from the chain is actually a thumbprint of Colt. I bought it from a jewelry designer named Tina Steinberg, whose work I love.
After I bought the thumbprint necklace from Tina we developed an email friendship. Recently she sent me another necklace with an inscription on it. On the front it reads, “I am not afraid.” And on the back, “I was born to do this.”
I love it! Tina could not have picked a better message for me. It’s the kind of thing I say to myself all the time, although never in exactly these words, until I got the necklace. I believe that life should be about living your passions—doing what you were born to do. But chasing your dreams is hard. No matter who you are or what your passion is, trying to do something as well as you can possibly do it is challenging, and with challenges comes fear.
As a runner, I deal with fear almost daily. To prevent fear from defeating me, I have to fight back against it in my mind. Reminding myself that I am doing what I was born to do—that, win or lose, embracing the challenge is still worthwhile—is one way I do that.
Before each big race I choose a power word that I think about during the hard parts of the race to stay strong and fight back against fear. It’s always a word that resonates with where I am in my mind at that time. The word I’ve chosen for the Boston Marathon is “free”. I want to run this race free of both expectations and limitations. I will be thinking about freedom along the way from Hopkinton to downtown Boston. And I will also be thinking this: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
Okay, it’s time to get interactive! Tina Steinberg has graciously offered to send a free silicone bracelet with the same inscription to the first 25 readers of this blog who email her with a personal story that relates to this theme. We will pick out our favorite story to share right here. The author of that story will also receive a free necklace just like the one I have.
If you’re interested, send your story of any length to Tina at email@example.com. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say!