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.