Is it ok to Cowbell at a track & Field meet??? (and other Track & Field questions a long distance runner may be too afraid to ask)
I love sports. I have loved sports for as long as I can remember. Yes, I would label myself as a sports fanatic. Ask any of my childhood friends and they will all tell you I was (and still am), obsessed with anything involving the Chicago Cubs. I grew up watching many hours of baseball, football, basketball and tennis. Don’t even get me started about the Olympics.
Even though I LOVE sports, I didn’t grow up athletic. It took me until I was an adult before I began road running, and finally found sport that worked with my uncoordinated body. It started with a few 5k’s, then a few half marathons, and then way too many marathons..
However, I have a slight confession; being a distance runner, it took me many years to fall in love with Track and Field. I was a huge supporter of marathon runners, but to be honest the track athletes intimidated me and I was a bit too embarrassed to tell others I didn’t really know what all those laps around the track were about…
A few years later, especially now that I know the Haute Volée athletes on the Oiselle team, I LOVE watching Track and Field. With Outdoor Track and Field season kicking off this week, I want to make sure you do too. If you are a distance runner who didn’t run track or cross country in school, this blog post is here to answer the questions you were afraid to ask.
I reached out to Dr. Sarah Lesko, from Oiselle corporate development, who is also a bit of a “track mom” for the Oiselle team, to help me walk you through a bit of Track & Field 101
Let’s start with the basics of Track.
How far is one lap around the track?
400m or approx. 1/4 mile
What is the difference between sprint events and mid-distance events?
Typically sprints are 400m and down, mid-distance 800m to 5k, "distance" usually 10k and up. The 800m is the perfect half-way race (50% anaerobic, 50% aerobic).
I see athletes running multiple distance events? How is this possible?
If there is adequate recovery time, multiple races can act as a great workout stimulus, allowing athletes to push harder than they ever would in practice. Just like doing a hard interval session!
I’ve heard this term heat sheet. What is this?
When there are too many athletes for them all to race together, races are split into multiple heats. The "heat sheet" is how athletes know which heat they are in. Typically the fastest seeded runners are all in the same heat, but some races try to evenly distribute the fastest runners so that all heats have an equal chance to have the winning time.
How do runners decide which lane to run in? Is there a “better” lane?
800m races and down are started in lanes, the 800m cuts in to the rail after the first curve. The shortest distance around the track is right against the inside rail! Sometimes it's better to run on the outside of lane 1 or even go wide to lane 2 to stay out of traffic/trouble.
What exactly is a Steeple race?
A 3,000 meters steeplechase is a 3000m track race with 28 barriers and 7 water jumps. The conventional wisdom is that an experienced racer's steeple time will be 35-45s (or more) slower than their flat 3k time, due to the extra energy expenditure of jumping.
Ok, enough about running, there are also Field events.
Can you list the field events?
Field events for track and field outdoors:
jumps: triple jump, long jump, high jump, pole vault
throws: discus, shot, javelin, hammer throw
Are women offered the same Field events as men?
Yes! Pole vault and hammer throw were the latest field events to be offered equally to men and women, but since 2000 all field events at the Olympics are equal between men and women.
Does the winner of a Track and Field event win a prize?
This depends totally on the meet and the sponsors involved! Some meets have very deep prize money (top 6 places, with first place getting upwards of $10,000), some have zero prize money.
How do athletes decide which meets to participate in? Do they have to qualify?
The art of picking meets...ahh yes! So in general, athletes want a meet that will have good competition for their event. This may include weather considerations, the strength of the competitive field, how much travel will cost (and if they get their travel paid to the event), and prize money. Some meets have qualification standards (ie you have to run X time to get in - like USA Nationals). Exclusive Diamond League meet start lines are even harder to attain, by some combo of marks, "star power" of athlete, and agent clout.
What athletes from the Oiselle Haute Volée team* participate in Track and Field events?
You can find our whole list here: http://www.oiselle.com/athletes/elites. If you click on their profile, it will say which events they specialize in!
We have some athletes who focus on road races (10k and up), but our current Track and Field exclusive athletes are:
Mel Lawrence, Megan Rolland, Emily Oren, Alexina Wilson: steeple
Megan Clark, Kristina Owsinksi: pole vault
Alisha Brown, Kendra Chambers: 800m
Rebecca Mehra: 1500m, 5k
Tori Franklin: triple jump
Jasmine Blocker: 400m
Whitney Rowe: 100m, 200m
How can we fan-girl for our favorite Haute Volée? Is cowbelling allowed at T&F events?
Upcoming races are always listed here http://www.oiselle.com/athletes/races, and HV contact Volée leaders when they have upcoming races in their areas! Feel free to always email your leaders or email@example.com with any questions! Cowbelling is *kind of* frowned on at track meets, but we're not above ruffling feathers. :)
*The Haute Volée is a team of emerging elite women athletes on the Oiselle team. A portion of the annual membership for the Oiselle Volée team supports the Haute Volée athletes.
See, the Track & Field events really aren't so intimating are they? So, grab your cowbell and head to an event this spring. Don't have a Haute Volée in your area to cheer for? Check out your local NCAA team...you never know which athlete might be the next one on our flystyle team.
As you know by now, my relationship with running in the past year was a bit strained. Every time I tried to jump start a training plan, my heart just wasn’t into it. Running became recreational and races were rarely ran at race pace effort.
This year, I am mixing it up. I am making racing special, limiting it to only 4 races for the entire year. That’s one per quarter, and nothing longer than a half marathon. My objective is to make the time I spend running, purposeful and not just a way to keep up with the cool kids are doing. My hope is this will allow me time to balance my personal time with other things I love. (like cowbelling alllllll the races)
So, here I go....time to train for race #1…Carlsbad 5000 on March 26th. Yep, you read correctly a 5k. I am leaving the long runs for a while and refocusing this spring on speed and strength. This type of training scares and excites me all at the same time. I love the feeling a pushing my fitness to get stronger, but running fast is way out of my comfort zone.
I’ve spent the last few weeks reconnecting with speed work, some days it’s great and some days the connection feels very distant. I have to be honest; it’s been pretty eye opening. I have realized my running pace had become comfortable, almost complacent. As I work through the speed sessions, the movement in my legs feels confusing; not just an uncomfortable threshold, but a consistent flow that is hard to find.
I am reconnecting with what hard work feels like, and I have to admit I kind of like it. It’s almost fun to push a little harder, and a little farther with each workout. However, as a master’s runner, I quickly realized I can’t push as fast as I used to. My breath leaves me quickly, my legs feel like lead more often and I run hotter than ever before.
Want to know a secret? The differences to what my body now brings to the track, excites me. I want to experience how purposeful fueling, hydrating and recovering will help me gain strength, form and a flow of breath. I am looking forward to trying the masters training tips I have recently learned to see how my body responds.
I'm determined to make my 5k training a fun journey, and will remind my self of that purpose on the hard days. I would love to set a goal to break 25 minutes in the race, however a more realistic goal is breaking 26 minutes. I'm headed into the meat of the training and I hope you will follow along. Seven weeks to go, as I train to get faster as a master. Each week I'll share how I'm training, what works, what doesn’t and what hurts.
Let’s make running fun again.
Engage…my word of 2018
Engage with my community.
Engage with my friends.
Engage with the trails.
Engage with weights.
Engage with the yoga mat.
Don’t just sit on the sidelines.
Don’t just like a photo.
Don’t just listen to music while I run.
Don’t just hike the trail of least resistance.
Don’t just do all the talking.
Don’t just do what I think others want me to do.
Don’t just go through the motions.
Try new things.
Call a friend.
Hike the peaks.
Lift heavy weights..
Listen to words and stories of others.
High-five friends and strangers.
Cheer harder and louder.
In real life, speak, connect, love, listen, learn.
This is my map to finding joy in 2018.
2016 was my year of trying new things. I ran a lot of new races, explored (and fell in love with) trail running and even dipped my toe into a yoga practice. I did all these things because I was burned out from running marathon after marathon and I thought it would reignite my love for running. However, to my surprise something quite different happened. I started to fall in love with all those things and found less joy in long distance running.
Then came Spring 2017, I started the year exploring Southern California via local races. While they were all great experiences, the training left me feeling flat and unfulfilled. In the back of my mind I kept thinking well maybe it’s because those were road races, or the wrong distance, or other ways to rationalize not performing or feeling that runners high that I had come to love. I was just going through the motions of running races, but in an empty way..not with the fulfillment of accomplishment. I thought maybe I needed a more structured training plan, to get back to the rise and grind.
As luck would have it, life happened to get in the way. My body wasn’t responding to the training the way it had in the past. I was tired and it was so much harder to maintain strength. After a few doctors’ visits and some interesting bloodwork, I determined most of my issues were related to hormonal imbalances. I was able to make nutritional adjustments (I now have a new love for green veggies and vitamin d) and modify my training style (more recovery time and even more hydration) which would help me maintain fitness levels.
Everything hit the wall in summer, which included emotional challenges I wasn’t expecting. There was a sick, aging dog (who luckily is doing much better) a death in the family and unexpected traveling. This put more delays in my plan to get back out there and train. I’ll be honest, I had a lot of negative self-talk during this time. Was I not training because I just couldn’t fit one more thing into my life, or was I not trying hard enough? I keep feeling the internal pressure to sign up for one more race or finally start training for the ultra trail race that everyone else was talking about. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anyone else telling me I should do all the things. However, when all your runner friends are at a place where they are excited about racing and training but you aren’t in the same place, it can make you question if you are doing it “right”. One of my main identifiers defines me as a runner, so I need to be running, right???
Don't get me wrong, during these months, I was still running, even if it was sporadic. I enjoyed running, my ability to train just wasn’t there (this was both mental and time constraints). I started to crave other activities, such as hiking vs trail running, or yoga vs a long run. Funny thing though..fall is the height of marathon season and it seemed everyone around me was in the final stretch of training. Talking to them, listening to their plans, hearing stories of their fear and their excitement for race day brought me joy. If there was a local cheer squad, I was a part of it. I couldn’t get enough of watching others race, I just didn’t want to be the racer…
Fall finally arrived and I was lucky enough to attend the Kara Goucher Podium Retreat.
I’ll be honest, I went into this retreat in a pretty low place emotionally. Stresses of life were very heavy at that time, but I had a feeling if I could just go and give it whatever I was able to give at that moment, then perhaps I could get some answers on how to move forward. You can read more about my experience here but needless to say this retreat helped me reset and find the path I needed for this season of my life.
The retreat was actually less about running, and more about introspective reflection, goal setting and personal connection. The event speakers all shared their story, including Kara Goucher; all spoke honestly leaving nothing out, creating a space for the participants to dig deep and be honest about who they want to be and how they want to direct their life’s journey. On the last day everyone was asked to share a goal and/or intention for the coming year. Some woman set pretty scary and amazing running goals, and some just wanted to reclaim a part of their identity had been lost.
It was in those days that I finally gained a bit a clarity. I had been feeling defeated by not having the desire or time to plan my running schedule. Setting running goals and doing all the things is what served me for so long that I was feeling a bit lost without it. However, at this retreat I was able to let go of what I thought I should be doing athletically and accept that those previous running goals weren’t bringing me joy. The reason why I couldn’t dedicate what I needed to training for a race, is that deep inside I didn’t want to. I keep pondering races and training plans because I just didn’t want to loose that piece of my identity. The identity of being a long distance runner. During this retreat, in this safe place, I began to frame goals for the new year around being happy and fulfilled, and letting go of piece of me that wasn't.
So here we are, the end of 2017 and now it’s time to create plans for 2018. I don’t have everything figured out, but I know what it will and won’t include, and it feels pretty exciting.
As we all spend this time of year to set our goals for 2018, I hope your plans like mine, include fulfilling your purpose and finding or creating experiences that bring you joy.
I had the privilege of attending the Kara Goucher Podium Retreat in Boulder. If you ever wondered if the hype is real, I'm here to shed some light.
1. The key to doing a track workout with an Olympian in altitude when you live at sea level is to have an amazing backdrop of fall leaves and mountain ranges to be distracted by.
2. You think foam rolling is amazing until you learn how to do it the right way.
3. Group therapy lead by inspiring women can be the most cathartic moments of your life and lead to brave new goals.
4. If you think LA is the place for random celebrity sightings, then you haven’t been to Boulder. You never know who will show up to a morning run…I’m talking to you Emma Coburn.
5. You will start repeating “scoop” or #titsup at the most random times, including standing on the train, sitting at your desk and especially when doing Pilates.
6. Food when cooked with love can be beautiful, nutritious and incredibly delicious.
7. It doesn’t matter if you are a 23 year old chef taking a leap of faith with your life, a mom struggling to regain your identity or a masters runner wondering WTF is going on with your body there is a tribe of amazing women out there that will support you through your journey.
8. You will make friendships that you never knew you wanted, yet can’t imagine your life without.
9. Colt is the real MVP of #KGPR2017
10. The Gouchers aren’t just there for the photo ops. They are the most humble, honest, open, beautiful souls that you will ever have the opportunity to meet. They genuinely want to engage with you, listen to and remember your story, and will leave you with a renewed love for life.
The verdict..my life has been forever changed by this retreat. My heart, my mind and my body is so full. I can't wait to use the knowledge I gained this week to put plans in place for my future. Stay tuned....spicy things are coming...
Photo cred: Jess Barnard
In part one of this blog (missed it? Catch up here) I spoke with 6 badass master’s athletes about how they train to get faster as a master. In part two we discuss what it takes mentally to get across the finish line. This post gets a bit raw with honesty, and I have to admit it’s a bit comforting to know I’m not the only one trying to figure it all out. Spoiler alert: even pro’s are human.
I’m inspired by the grit, dedication to training and love of the sport shared by these women. I’m left with a full heart and refocused mind, ready to tackle my fall training plan. No matter what your age, pace or experience level I hope you enjoyed this too.
Now, on to the rest of the story...
We all know comparison of ourselves is not constructive, but it is still a reality as one transitions to new phase of life. Have you experience negative self-talk creeping in as master’s runner, either by comparing yourself to others or to your younger self? If so, how have you worked through that?
Jennifer: Negative self-talk is a reality everywhere, in any sport or career or even in motherhood (or not). I have some amazing women friends. My family is super supportive too. I try to keep company with those who are with me when I am up and when I am down. I have also learned that I am not for everyone.
I have not mastered how to not compare myself to my younger self. My goal is to run faster than her. I guess when I look at age-graded charts, I’ve surpassed her but I’m still chasing her down. This was my goal when I turned 40 and thought that it was attainable then, I’ve realized that it may not happen. I’ve had a number of setbacks since I set that goal that I did not anticipate. So I’ve had to loosen the grip on that and I am okay with it. Acceptance of where I am today right now and finding the beauty in just being out there is a huge accomplishment.
Erika: I have to be honest - I am one of those people who believes when I step onto the starting line, that I will win the race. Even if every one of the others are faster than me. I call it blissful ignorance. As for comparing myself to my younger self, I know that I will never run a 54 second 400 meters again. Ever. But, my goal isn't to do that. One of my goals is to run sub 60 in the 400 which (according to the age-grade calculators) would be a way greater effort at my age than running even a 52 second 400! I did 60.79 this spring so I am getting very close. And ultimately, every time I step onto the track to run in a race, I look around and just remember how few people are doing what I am doing. And that gives me so much personal pride. I would NEVER want go back to being a 25 year old runner.
Rebecca: I’m not going to lie, I always wish I was faster and stronger. Some days, I recognize how far I’ve come and feel proud of what I’ve been able to do as Master. Others, I’m looking back on my younger self or at what my peers are doing and wishing I could do more; could be as good or better. But, it’s a slippery slope. I try really hard to be in the moment and give my best for that particular time. I make it a priority to focus on the here and now and to embrace that with each workout. I happen to coach high school girls XC and track and I’m always stressing the importance of a positive mental attitude and approach to running so I try really hard to practice what I preach. It’s not easy, but it helps that I want the same for my athletes that I do for myself.
Laurie: Absolutely, on a regular basis. For a long time I struggled with the thoughts of "you're a 40 something year old woman, why are you doing this" It has helped to see the other masters Volee (and masters friends that aren't Volee) out there kicking ass. I don't feel like the only crazy one, haha. In all seriousness, negative self talk is a roller coaster for me. I have thoughts that I'm not good enough or fast enough. I do talk with a sports psychologist on occasion. She is part of Oiselle, Adrienne Langelier. She is awesome. I read a lot of books. I have found surrounding myself with positive, uplifting runners helps. Finally, I like to make an inspiration board at the start of every training cycle where I write out not only my goals but positive affirmations. I hang it where I can see it everyday.
Donna: This is a excellent question because only recently did I get smacked with reality that I was comparing myself to my younger self and being really critical... I knocked that off right away and with all running has given me I'm really too blessed too be stressed! Basically Being a Masters Runner excites me, it means I get a brand new chance to challenge my longevity!
Catherine: Yes. This for me has usually been when I am running slower than I would like. There is still this part of me that really wants to PB or run a super fast workout time. I know that is more unlikely as I am aging. I sometimes just need to remind myself that I am grateful to be out doing what I love and that it is about embracing that and doing the best I can on the day.
How does your running community embrace master’s runners? How do you connect with a younger runner?
Jennifer: I can’t say that masters running is embraced by my community. My community is not very big on running beyond high school. At most local masters events we do not have a very big showing. I am trying to use my voice to help change this situation. I try to alert my friends of events that are taking place & get more of us to be present.
I’ve connected with a lot of younger runners. I find it is easier to do this through social media. I race a lot against young collegiate runners. I am hoping that this helps them to see that they can continue to run after college & even into their adult years.
Erika: Charlottesville, Virginia is a running town. Every weekend there is a 5k or a 10k that people can do, and the Masters running community is extensive. However, I don't run 5ks. I do Heptathlons, hurdlers, sprints, and jumps. I don't know anyone in my town that trains like I do, so all of my training is done solo. And, anytime I want to run in a meet, I have to travel to do it. That takes a lot of time away from my family as well as a lot of money for travel to get there. Because of this, I have to be very selective with where I compete. I try to do 2-3 meets per season (indoor and outdoor), so about 6 for the year. It makes me sad that this is a sport that you need to have money - and that even for the most elite Masters runners, sponsorship's are few and far between which means if you don't have the means, you can't really compete. I wish that would change. As for connecting with younger runners, I think the best thing I can do for younger female track and field athletes is to let them know that their track career does not have to end after high school or college. And, that they better watch out out for us, because we might just beat them!
Rebecca: I’ve found that the running community is super supportive in regards to Masters runners. There are times when I show up for a race and really feel like I stand out because of my age. Once in a while I’m a little self-conscious about it. But, usually it’s more in my own head than anything. And, really, I find that when we all get in line at the start, the age lines blur and we become one big group of people who are just trying to achieve our best for the day. I happen to be on several running teams, many of them with a lot of younger runners. Age really doesn’t matter when I’m hanging out with these crews. We’re just people who share a passion for running and are excited about connecting and supporting each other. I love that and I find a lot of strength in it.
Laurie: The Tampa Bay area has an awesome running and tri community. Because the weather is nice pretty much all year, we have a lot of active people of all ages. There are many running groups in my area with runners that range from age 10 to 70+. It's pretty awesome. You see a lot of the same people out on training runs and at local races. Everyone is so welcoming.
Donna: The support system coming from all ages is my biggest motivation! We are all so different and that's the best part!
Catherine: My running community is fully welcoming of master’s runners. I run with runners of all ages and feel part of the entire running community. I have been lucky to also be surrounded by amazing masters role models, who demonstrate daily how strong and fit masters runners are. I love running with my younger team mates. Watching them excel is inspirational to me. I think it is really important for athletes of all ages and abilities to recognize how hard we are all working towards our own goals and to focus on our own development rather than comparing ourselves with others
Any other words of wisdom to share?
Jennifer: “Age is a case of mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” - Leroy Satchel Paige.
Erika: Not to beat a dead horse, but rest and recovery is the key. Also, set out to live a balanced life. It would be easy to resent the other parts of your life that get in the way of your training. BUT if you re-frame it and think that it is THOSE OTHER THINGS that you have to do that make you better at everything, you will be more content. Winning that "A" race is not the thing that will bring you long term happiness. You have to find the joy in the simple act of RUNNING in that race. Setting time goals of course are important and it feels awesome to run a time that you wanted to run, but don't think that is what it's all about. It about the fact that you are out there.
Rebecca: Age really shouldn’t be a barrier in whatever you are trying to achieve. Sure, you might have to adjust and modify to make it work. But there is no reason you can’t dream as big, if not bigger at age 40 than you did at age 25. My biggest mistake was thinking that a goal was unachievable because of either how far off I was or the fact that I was getting older. What it comes down to is this, if you want it badly enough and you’re willing to do the work, you can make it happen.
Laurie: Stay consistent in your recovery. Listen to your body. Don't be a "wait and see" athlete. If you feel something is not right, get it checked or take off an extra day or two. It has saved me from many setbacks. Finally, embrace rest days. I think many runners have a hard time taking off from running. For some reason we have this mentality that we have to run everyday (myself included for a long time). Once I started looking at rest days as something I've earned, it became much easier to embrace them. I train 6 days a week so on my one rest day I feel like I deserve it because I have worked hard the other days. It gives me a chance to "sleep in", enjoy my morning coffee and get things done that maybe I normally would not.
Donna: I've found You must be a cheerleader for your mind because the mind is what Runs the whole body and spirit!
Catherine: Reminding ourselves that we are still capable of huge things athletically as we age is important. We may not be as fast as we once were, however we are still out there doing what is important to us and what we love. Being grateful for what our bodies allow us to do while focusing on our strength and abilities is key.
Follow the journey of these amazing women at their social media handles
Have you ever used a hashtag on a social media post as a form of motivation? Possibly a little phrase that gives you a little extra push? Or perhaps this hashtag is a mantra used to keep your focus during times of doubt? Well, I do. My hashtag is #fasterasamaster. Here is the thing, right now I know I am not at my fullest potential as a masters runner, but my focus is to get there. I want to be faster than I am right now, and reach goals that might be just a little out of my current range. You guessed it, my goal is to be Faster as a Master.
Two of my favorite Principals of Flight from the Oiselle Volée are: Build the Sisterhood and Be a Superfan. There are so many empowering athletes on our team who are a wealth of knowledge. So many opportunity’s to be a Superfan..and that’s what today's blog is about. Searching the sisterhood to seek out those on my team who I find inspiring and learn from them..
I spoke to 6 accomplished master's field runners from the Oiselle Volée
team asking “What does it mean to be #fasterasamaster?" This list of incredible women includes, Jen St. Jean, Erika Pietrzak Pierce, Rebecca Trachsel, Laurie Wisotsky, Donna Mills Honarvar, and Catherine Watkins. Their day to day lives differ, they run a variety of distances, but they all have a common thread of training and racing as a master. We talked about everything from how they fuel, to how they conquer the mental challenges of the sport. These woman answered honestly, sharing so much information that has left me incredibly motivated for my fall races.
Grab your coffee, and maybe a snack..this is a long form, but so worth the read. I am posting this in two posts because the answers were just too good to edit into one. Part one focuses on the physical part of running. In part two (which I will share in coming days) we discuss the mental challenges that come with being a master’s athlete and how to use that as a motivation to aim higher.
Please share your name, where you live, highlights of your masters running accomplishments and if you don’t mind your age. (not to highlight your age, but it helps others relate)
Jennifer: Jennifer St. Jean from Connecticut USA, 42 years old
My accomplishments include: Gold Medalist @ USATF Outdoor Masters, 1500m ’17 Silver Medalist @ World Masters 1500m '15,Olympic Trials Outdoor MIP 1500 meters 2nd '16, 3 x 5th Avenue Mile Age Division Champion '14-'16, USATF Indoor Masters Nationals 2nd Place 1 mile & 800 meters '15, USATF Masters 10k Championship 3rd '15, Oakley Mini 10k Masters Champion '15
Erika: Erika Pietrzak Pierce, I am 46 and I live in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Highlights of my Masters Accomplishments include 3 Age Group American Records (W40 Indoor Heptathlon, W45 Indoor Heptathlon and W45 Outdoor Heptathlon) and over 10 National Age Group Titles at USATF Masters Track and Field Championships. In my "first" running life, I ran in the 1996 Olympic Trials in the 400 meter hurdles.
Rebecca: Rebecca Trachsel from Winchester, MA, Age:42
Race Highlights include: Sugarloaf Marathon - 3:00:16, 3rd Female, 1st Master, May 2017, LA Marathon - 3:05:29, 1st Female Master, February 2016, Mohawk Hudson Marathon - 3:04:05, 4th OA Female, 1st Master, October 2015, Earth Rock Run Half Marathon - 1:26:39, 1st OA Female, April 2017, BAA 5K - 19:02, 3rd Master, April 2017
Laurie: Laurie Wisotsky. I am 46 and live in Largo, Florida.
I am a mom of 2 kids, ages 12 & 13, both in competitive sports (soccer and dance). I stay pretty busy with a lot of travel to soccer tournaments, dance competitions, and track races. Some of my greatest running master's accomplishments are qualifying for the Boston and NYC marathons, being named USATF FL Master's athlete of the year in 2014 for track , medaling at the Outdoor and Indoor Track National Championships in the 800m and 1500m and finally, getting a New Balance Tampa sponsorship (which I just recently stepped away from).
Donna: Donna Mills Honarvar I reside in Mountain Center, Ca.I am 42 years of age.
Some of my Masters running accomplishments are: 2015 Austin Cap 10k 38:02 1st Female Masters, 2015 Philadelphia RNR Half Marathon 3rd Place Master's 1:20:33, 2015 Houston Marathon 2:57 (2nd marathon), 2015 Boston Marathon 3:08, 2015 Grandma's, Marathon 2:55:03, 2015 CIM 2:55:33, 2016 Houston 2:59, 2017 Overall Female winner Tustin Hangar Half Marathon, 2017 USATF Master's Championship 2nd Overall Masters Female ,2017 Overall Female winner Huntington Beach Surf City 5k
Catherine: Catherine Watkins, age 45 but almost 46
Race Accomplishments: 8th place at Pan Am Games Marathon at age 43, was able to represent Canada Winning the 2015 Eugene Marathon in 2:42 at age 43 1st Master at the 2015 Houston Marathon at age 43 10k pb of 33:52 at age 43
When you transitioned to a master’s field, did you make modifications? For example, did your goals change, adjust the length of your training schedule or add a new type of workout to your training routine?
Jennifer: I think everyone comes to the sport at different phases of our lives. I had a pretty competitive youth career. Racing competitively for two years after college before hanging up my spikes. I took nearly 15 years off from racing. I ran with no training schedule during that time. I focused on my family & my career. After some health issues, I decided to return to competitive running. I felt that this was the only way to get my health back. I returned pretty slowly, running on average 20 miles a week for the first year. Then moved up to 30 and for the past 2 years have been between 30-40 miles a week. I’ve tried a few different training programs during the past 4 years. I have found the best training for me is not so much volume but variety. I do yoga, walk my dog, lifting weights, plyometrics, drills, long runs of no more than 7 miles and speed workouts. I’m always trying to analyze what works and what doesn’t. It takes a while for me to figure out what will work best at the time. I think there is no one size fits all. I love training for shorter distances because my body feels less fatigued. I feel stronger. I am lacking some endurance right now so I may get back to some of that in the fall
Erika: I took 17 years off from training and competing before getting back into Masters Track and Field. As a full-time teacher and a mom of two girls, I had to fit my workouts into daily "adulting" so training has been sporadic and often would take a back seat to my life. And I think as a result of not trying to train with the intensity of a 25 year old, I have avoided major injuries which is the most important thing as a Masters runner. I also have reduced the actual running I do. I probably only get onto a track twice a week and the other days I am doing yoga, stretching at home, cross-training, lifting, or just resting. I also take a few months off from running each year.
Rebecca: I started working with a coach back in 2013 right after I turned 38. At the time, I wasn’t really focused on my age. I was at a point where I wanted to see where I could take my running from a competitive standpoint. I felt that working with a coach might be more advantageous than following a standard training plan, which is what I’d been doing up until that point. Then, at age 40, under the guidance of my coach, I ran my fastest marathon, so I knew that while age makes an impact on our ability over time, I was nowhere close to being done. In a nutshell, when I transitioned to the master’s field, my goals got loftier and thus my training intensified and my overall mileage steadily increased as a result. Not quite what you’d expect, but I guess I got started kind of late in the game and was making up for lost time.
Laurie: I feel like my situation is a little unique. I was a late bloomer to the running scene. I started running when I was 37. I never ran in high school or college. I saw the NYC marathon on TV and thought "that looks hard. I want to do that. I want that challenge." So, I ran my first race, The Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco in 2008. I was 37. I have since transitioned from marathons to track. As I have gotten older, I haven't really modified my training schedule. If anything I am probably training harder now than I did when I first got into running and I still have some pretty ambitious goals. My coach has done a great job figuring out what type of training schedule works best for me to keep me injury free but still training at an elite level. As a track athlete, my training schedule has less volume, more intensity (speed work). What I have had to modify over time is my recovery.
Donna: I've learned that doing a hip routine and core helps me become a stronger runner. Also getting proper rest is the best medicine and keeps me injury free.
Catherine: As I started running competitively later in life (around 34/35 yrs old) I didn’t change a lot going into my 40's as I found I was still able to run with my younger team mates and keep up similar mileage. The past year, turning 45, that changed. I noticed an increased need for recovery. This has made me shift my mindset. Instead of total miles run being a huge part of my training, I now focus more on being rested for workout day. The overall mileage is less important than ensuring I am recovered for workouts. My goals have become more about being the best runner I can be for this age rather than aiming to break through some of my PBs. There is a part of me though that still believes I can improve some of my times. I really feel a faster marathon time is ready to be had. A big change for me is that I no longer just walk out the door to run. I now have an activation routine that I do before every run. This takes me 45 minutes if I do the full routine. I do believe this will help to prevent future injuries. I am also trying to incorporate more core, strength training, yoga and meditation into my training program. If I don’t’ have the time for a full session I ensure I add some core and strength in either right before or right after I run. Sometimes a 10-15 minutes session is much more achievable for me than a full session at the gym.
As we age, our bodies don’t always bounce back as quickly after a tough workout or racing. What does your recovery practice look like?
Jennifer: For sure, recovery takes longer. It takes me at least 2 days before I can go hard in a workout again. If I race, I may not be able to do another hard session for 5 days. I try to do a 10-day rotation when I’m racing. Sometimes this is not possible and I have to shorten it to 7 days. I can’t sustain this high intensity for long. My body usually shuts down if I go to the well too many times.
To aid in my recovery, I use massage therapy, chiropractor, stretching, nutrition supplements, hydration, compression sleeves rollers & extra sleep. I don’t know if any of this stuff actually helps. The science says that it does, so I go with it.
Erika: Well, I just ran in a track meet yesterday and literally today I am hobbling like a 90 year old! I will rest until things stop hurting. I will talk about getting a massage, but then not actually get one. I will have an extra glass of wine, ice various body parts, and just relish in the fact that I did the freaking high jump in a track meet yesterday as a 46 year old. My mental game is on point, right?!?
Rebecca: When I was younger, I would pop out of bed and hit the road. Today, I can’t even lace up without having a cup of coffee first. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that sleep is by far the most important element of my training. I have to get 8 hours a night no matter what and if it doesn’t happen I’m borderline useless. I also take naps whenever I get a chance, especially on days when I am doubling. At this point, I have two recovery days between my long run and my workouts, which is absolutely essential as I just can’t bounce back as quickly as I used to. My foam roller is my best friend. I’m on it before and after each workout, particularly on long run and workout days. Stretching is a must, mostly after but both before and after when I have time. It sounds ridiculous but I never used to do it. And finally, whenever I have a chance, I try and get to a yoga class to help with core, strength and balance. It doesn’t happen as much as I’d like, but I do try and make it a priority.
Laurie: I have a pretty solid recovery program. I have been injury free since 2013. My last injury was a stress fracture to my lower leg. I'm very regimented with my recovery. I do Physical Therapy 1-2 times a week, massage therapy once a week, strength training twice a week, one hour each session, I have a pre and post run/race stretch routine, a pre-hab night time routine, I wear compression after hard sessions and long runs, ice baths after hard workouts, and more importantly, I try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night and rest/nap when I can. My coach and I have learned that no matter what ancillary tools I throw at my recovery, sleep and rest are the clutch every time. If I have 2-3 runs in a row that don't go well, we shut down the training for a day then if I'm feeling more rested, my coach will slowly get me back into a schedule (1-2 days of easy running before giving me a speed workout).
Donna: If I have to take a day off I will... Amazing what a recovery day of sleep, compression, and hydration can do to help your body feel fresh again.
Catherine: Ideally I like to have a couple of days of recovery between workout days. This gives me more time to recover. Those days between workouts, I still run, although I have slowed the pace down a lot and also am trying not to worry as much about distance covered. This is a huge mind shift for me as before I always liked to see that higher mileage number on the training log. Another huge piece around recovery for me is nutrition. I am trying really hard to make sure I consume protein within the 30 minute recovery window after runs, especially after workouts. Typically, this is in smoothie form! I also try to make sure I foam roll every day and get regular massage to help recovery. I also see my physiotherapist every 3 weeks or so to make sure I am staying healthy physically.
On a similar note, let’s discuss nutrition? A lot of women face a slower metabolism or loss of muscle as they face hormonal changes with age? Have you modified your nutrition as master’s runner?
Jennifer: When I didn’t workout during those 15 years, I lost a lot of muscle mass. I’m still working on regaining my strength. My hormones are a mess. My last blood test said that my adrenal glands are not functioning. So I am focusing on my stress level & lifting more weights.
I am mostly gluten free. I say mostly because I can’t always avoid it. I find that I retain more water. I have Lyme disease and gluten is not beneficial to my overall health. Aside from that, I am 80/20 with respect to eating healthy. I do eat meat. My iron levels are always low and have found a hard time absorbing with plant based products, even done correctly. Lyme is the culprit here too. My belief is moderation. I try to limit alcohol & otherwise unhealthy foods. I utilize the following supplements because I like them and they work for me (these do not replace actual food in my diet): Nuun, HoneyStinger, Vega Recovery Protein & RunGum. I don’t eat a lot of bars. I only consume them when I travel & healthy food is not an option.
Erika: I have not noticed any change in my metabolism yet and I eat like I did when I was 20 year old, except more of my food is green. I also think that because I am a sprinter/hurdler/jumper, and do explosive types of movements in my training and competitions, my muscle mass is still hanging around. I spend a lot of time lifting weights and doing core work and I think that has also helped prevent injuries.
Rebecca: My nutrition has changed a lot over the past few years. For a while, as my training intensified, I found that my exhaustion levels were out of control and I just couldn’t keep up on a day to day basis. So, I began to work with a nutritionist to make sure I was getting the right balance of everything I needed. Basically, she helped me put together a plan that ensured that I met all my dietary needs with each meal depending on my training. Specifically, I make a conscious effort to eat protein within 30 minutes of finishing a long run or hard workout. I’ve also reduced my sugar intake substantially and added full fat dairy (milk,yogurt,cheese) back in to my diet. I try really hard to get fiber, omegas and healthy fats at each meal as well. If I can avoid processed foods, I give myself a pat on the back. But sometimes that’s harder with kids and a crazy family schedule. Moderation is key. And lots of avocados.
Laurie: Nutrition is always a work in progress. I eat primarily a plant-based diet but throw in chicken on occasion (that's a recent change to my diet). Fortunately, I haven't started to experience hormonal changes, but I am waiting for that shoe to drop. My biggest issue is getting in enough calories. I have a pretty high metabolism so I am constantly trying to get in good quality calories that aren't related to protein bars.
Donna: Generation UCAN has been a good base that I can rely on to keep my body steady! I don't drink alcohol and I stay balanced by eating a little all day long...Fresh food keeps me focused and I try to stay away from processed foods but I'm also human...Basically moderation is my plan per day.
Catherine: As I mentioned in my recovery practice, I am trying to consume protein in my recovery smoothie within the 30 minute post run window, however, I am also working on incorporating more protein into my daily nutrition. About 30 minutes before I run I am now taking about 12g of protein as suggested in the book “Roar” by Stacy Simms. I am also trying to take some protein in the evening before bed. I am hopeful this will slow the muscle loss associated with aging. I am also trying really hard to consume way more vegetables and fruit. I generally eat well but know I need to be even more careful now. I do have a sweet tooth and I do indulge it!
Stay tuned, this is only the beginning..part two in the coming days.
We all have heard the expression running is a metaphor for life, but lately I have realized trail running is a metaphor for living life as a master’s runner. Let me explain….
If you weren’t aware, I love a good podcast. Recently I listened to an episode of the Running for Real podcast, featuring one of my absolute favorite trail runners, Magda Boulet. In this episode, Magda speaks about transitioning her training to that of a trail runner. For those of you who don’t know, before Magda hit the trails as a prestigious ultra-runner, she specialized at the marathon distance, namely as a 2008 Olympian. In the podcast Magda speaks quite a bit on the differences, she faced as a trail runner on a new terrain. She also spoke about what tools brought her success in ultra running. I am completely paraphrasing here, but this is my summary and after a few listens, it really resonated with me.
Trail running is about managing energy levels and stress with confidence, not a sense of guilt and shame.
Those words, completely spoke to me. In the episode she discusses running trails with patience, not always taking it fast. Most times, it is better to conserve your energy, hike the hill and use your power when it is time to push it in the race. Running with your ego, or what you think your former running self would do, can drain your resources too early. The most important part though, is to do this with confidence. Yes you may be running slower, but don’t let shame or guilt creep in. If you are strategic (even if it means not always running on the trails) it will lead you to success and enable you to reach your goals.
Then it hit me. This same struggle applies to many of us have as we age. I can only speak for myself, but so many times my mind (ok, yes ego) wants to train the same way, sleep as little as possible, and face challenges head on..not with a particular strategy. The problem is I am human; I get tired and no longer can I just plow through a workout or long run without a plan in place. If I do, it sucks. When it sucks, that can easily lead to guilt and shame.
However, when I hit the trails for a long run, with the proper fuel, proper rest, and even a mantra or two the run goes well. I have learned not to push it, but to manage the training…therein lies the difference.
The same goes for life as we age as women. Just on a basic level I have to take time to make sure I am eating right, sleeping right and hydrating more. At times this takes me away from other things in my life, but staying healthy (at what I feel is my healthy place) is a priority as it assist me with managing stress…and managing that stress with confidence. The tricky part is not letting that guilt or shame creep in, but I am working on it..
On to This week’s training recap. It was not perfect, but overall I am pretty happy with it.
Thoughts on nutrition and recovery:
As I mentioned in my last post, I am working on tracking my food cycles. This is actually hard to remember to do. I am still making the effort, but need to get in a routine. My goal is to track how I feel before and after workouts and adjust my nutrition and hydration accordingly.
Stay tuned, next week is a very special blog post and if you are a master’s runner, you won’t want to miss it.
If I were to describe my first week back to a regular training cycle, it would be a quote from Kelly Roberts...“Life with a side of running”. This week has been a bit challenging in the household, which means not as much time for running. Our dog has been having trouble sleeping at night due to arthritis in his back, which means sleepless night and extra time with him in mornings and evenings as we navigate with the vet on the best way to treat this. He is on some new meds which seem be helping,, so hopefully we can ease his pain and all of us some much needed sleep.
Even though my mileage wasn’t where I wanted it to be this week, I have still began this first week of this training cycle with a new kickstart…training to race as a master. Here is a secret I have been too stubborn to accept..If I am going to run and race better, I need to adjust my training for this phase of life. I am a 46 year old active woman, not a 30 year old active woman. That means, not eating what I want (even if it is “clean eats”), and not running hard multiple times a week or heavy weight training without the proper fuel or recovery. With that being said, training as a master doesn’t mean necessarily just run more miles, or push harder, it means train differently with adjustments on some aspects (like recovery) and more attention to others (like nutrition), all while keeping the focus on reaching goals. Now that I understand what doesn’t work, I have spent the last few months trying to better understand what steps I do need to take exactly I should do in order to train as a masters runner. My conclusion, adding new tools to my running toolkit.
First up in the new training toolkit, logging my food intake and macros. I don’t count calories and have no interest in doing so, but what I have learned is I need to be eating the foods that will fuel my body not just maintain a clean diet. After reading Roar, I realized I honestly don’t have a clear understanding of my daily nutritional breakdown; so this is where I will start, tracking my macros. According to Dr. Stacy Sims advice, for a runner of my breakdown (or at least my interpretation) I need a defined combination of carbs, protein and fats in my diet. This fluctuates on training vs recovery days, but I am shooting to range around 185-200 grams of carbohydrates and 90-135 grams of protein per day. This includes a focus on carbs that are low on the glycemic index and natural food based protein sources.
This week, I began step one: logging my food, not really making adjustments to my diet, just a way to determine what nutritional value my food has. What did I discover? I don’t eat enough protein, and need more carbs from vegetables, not fruit. I have been logging my food with My Fitness Pal and while it isn’t perfect, it’s a great tool to start the process. I’ll keep you posted as I journey into this phase to share benefits and challenges to monitoring my food as fuel.
Second item for my new toolkit is…believe it or not water. Yes, I rep a hydration company and still need to focus more on my hydration. One big challenge for me as I get older is running hot. I start out a run or workout and the harder I push the hotter I get (think red face and overheating). Another gem I discovered in the book Roar is that as women age with it a hormonal shift the blood levels carry less water, thus the need keep the body cool and to hydrate before during and after a workout is even greater. (again, see the book Roar for the full scientific explanation) I tested this a couple times over the last month or so, and the days I wasn’t properly hydrated I was hot mess during my runs. The goal here is to monitor my water drinking levels and try to add a little more each day.
My last new tool isn’t actually new, but with a stronger focus…cross training. I will be the first to admit, my cross training has not been as intense as it used to be. A lot of that was due to exhaustion from weeks of hard training but a lot more if it is due to not pushing myself as hard as I can. I think I have a better handle on the exhaustion part thanks to my blood work from Athletes Blood Test. However, the pushing the workout is what I need to focus on. As a masters runner weight gain can sneak up on you and the way combat that is with high intensity workouts, and like it or not longer workouts. It was recommended to get an average of an hour a day in order to maintain the weight at my age. (those 30 minute circuits just don’t cut it these days) Once upon a time, this wouldn’t be an issue, but as life takes over and I get comfortable with an “easier” workout regimen I will need to make some adjustments. I need to build up my endurance and “power” in order to get back my strength (as well as endurance) and have more efficient runs.
So how do I put all these new tools together? My training plan for now is as follows: 3-4 days of running and 3 sessions of cross training a week. This breaks down as, 1 speed or hill workout, 1 long run, 1-2 light runs, 1-2 days of hard yoga (not restorative, but a class that pushes the power), 1 day of strength (especially with kettlebells) and 1 day of a high intensity circuit, such as a November Project workout. (One day of yoga and strength session will double on easy run days). My training plan this session is fluid, as my focus on half marathons distance this season with a buildup to a 50k in the spring.
Stay tuned, it might be bumpy road or smooth sailing, but I will do my best to share the good, the bad and the ugly along this new journey to become faster as a master.
A few years back, I had the privilege of hearing Joan Benoit Samuelson speak at a dinner before the Chicago marathon. The theme of her talk that night was run your own race. She spoke about how easy it is as a runner to get caught up in helping others keep their pace or even keeping up with another runners pace during a race. She said you should focus on doing what it takes for you to reach your goals that day and not run for others.
Lately, I have been reminded of this talk as I plot out my next set of racing goals.
Recently I have worked a few events for Nuun, assisting with sampling hydration at race expos. When asking runners which event in the race they are running, I was shocked at how many people downplayed their race. For example, if I was at a race that had a half marathon and marathon option, so many runners would say..”oh I’m just running the half”. Same thing when I worked an event that also had a 5k option, the response would seem as if they weren’t as good of a runner as those running the longer distance option. About midway through these events, I started responded back. I would praise runners for their half marathon or 5k distance, I even asked some of them to repeat the answer back to me, but this time owning that distance. I wanted them to feel empowered, not belittled by the race distance goal.
The last few weeks I have been going back and forth researching races here in LA, trying to determine what is next. And guess what…I jumped right one board that “I’m not doing good enough” train. I thought about doing a 50k this fall. All the while, I knew a running a strong 50K would be a stretch and I would rush through the training, and to be honest I couldn’t find a race I really felt strongly about doing. I still kept telling myself I must run a 50k. Every time I thought of the idea of running a 25-30K (or even two), a little voice in my head would tell me that wasn’t cool enough. After all, I am a marathon runner, aren’t I?
Seriously though, how did we (myself included) get to the point in our long distance racing that a half marathon seemed a distance that wasn't good or cool enough.
That was when I was brought back to the talk from Joan, and her message of run your race. I know deep down inside I am not ready for a 50k, I don’t want to commit to that amount of training until I have built back up my fitness levels. So why was I giving in to the runner #FOMO??? I finally came to my senses and now I intend on sticking to half marathons and 25-30K trail races this fall. You know what? I intend on owning that and committing to compete in those races…not just run. That is what I am truly craving, to excel, not to just go the distance. I have to say, when I realized it was ok to stick to those race goals that served me, and not the race goals made popular by my friends on social media, it was as if a weight was lifted.
So, as the saying goes…do you. Don’t do what others want you to do, do you. When you get there, own it, love it and most of all enjoy every single step along the way.
What’s next? Here is my tentative race schedule for fall. Training starts back July 2nd and I will share my journey each week. This time around I will focus on the difference of training to compete as a masters runner (someone over the age of 40). I have been working hard the last couple of months to understand where my fitness levels are, use nutrition to build on that, and prepare a training plan to help reach my goals. Ready or not…its time to Run Faster As a Master.
2017 Fall Running Schedule:
Bulldog Trail 25K 8/26
California Bird Camp 9/21
No Name 30K
Griffith Park trail half marathon 10/14
Kara Goucher Podium Retreat 10/19
Rock and Roll Los Angeles 10/29
Malibu half marathon and 5k (probably 5k distance)
Chino Hills 30K