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Reaching New Heights – An Interview with Stephanie

I wanted to start adding some interviews to the blog so what better way to get it all started than by convincing a good friend who recently finished the Houston Marathon to share some of her personal insights into training, family, racing, and even beer. Stephanie has been an avid runner for as long as I have known her and has helped many a newbie double-knot those shoes and enjoy an active lifestyle.


Stephanie WRL

When did you start running and what brought you to the sport?

To get in shape for prom. I wanted to look great and make my ex-boyfriend regret breaking up with me. Ironically I married him eight years later!!

Were you active in any sports throughout your school years?

I was on the drill team for a very short period. I have never thought of myself as being athletic.

What distances do you race?

Anything from a 5k to the marathon.

What is your favorite race distance?

Half Marathon. Training is challenging but I don’t feel completely wiped out after a long run.

What is your favorite workout?

10 Yassos (run an 800 at marathon goal time – ex: run an 800 in 3 min 40 secs for a marathon goal of 3:40) Completing 10 of them is considered a race predictor. I like knowing that I trained correctly and might have a chance at my goal pace. It gives me a good guideline to go by.

What is your current favorite race?

I love the Houston Marathon – Great course, great crowd support, and well organized. My favorite 5k is the LoveJoy 5k – course is shaped like an upside down “L” – out and back. I get to see my husband on his way back and count how many people are in front of him. Last year I think it was nine. I got to shout, “Only nine people in front of you – Go!, Go!, Go!”.

Is there a race that really interests you that you have yet to participate in?

Flying Pig Marathon. Looks like it is a big party!!

What motivates you to get up everyday and get in that workout?

BEER – I have to earn it!! I also know that I HAVE to get my energies out. It is my anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicine. Really – I would be medicated if I did not run and run to make it count.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

I usually run at the gym on Tuesday (speed workout day) and Thursday (6 or 7 miles) while my little one is in Mother’s Day Out. I do my long run at White Rock Lake on Saturday (non-training days I run a 10 mile loop with three pretty tough hills) and a recovery run on Sundays (4 or 5 miles easy). I try to lift weights for the upper body on Tuesday and Thursday. I also always do good core exercises after each run.

Is there any wisdom/tips you have learned throughout your years of training and racing that you would like to share?

Invest in some good shoes!! Don’t run in old ones or ones that were bought because they were “cute”. Recovery – Eat some protein and carbs within 30 mins post exercise (a hard boiled egg and banana or protein shake). Ice baths – I am HOOKED! They really work! Ten minutes in a bath tub of cold water with a bucket of ice. I am a new woman afterwards!!

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?

I always strive for a great BM.

What do you typically use for race nutrition?

During a long race (15k or longer), I use Hammer Gel in a flask. I take small sips every mile after three or four. I also carry a water bottle with just water in it.

What do you typically eat the evening before a race and morning of a race?

Dinner is usually something light. I really like a foot-long Subway turkey sub with lots of veggies. I eat half of it for dinner and then the other half about a half hour before bed. Breakfast is a cup of strong coffee – real sugar and cream. A bowl of whole oats oatmeal with a banana cut up in it. (Sometimes I add a teaspoon of maple syrup and/or a teaspoon of peanut butter) 8 ounces of water.

Have you had or observed any wacky or funny moments during a race?

I love seeing the costumes and funny shirts. One shirt I saw in a marathon said, “why run fast when you can follow this a**”

How do you fit in training while working, being a wife, and a mother to a wonderful little one?

I struggle a lot with this. I have the “guilts” often. I try to run while she is at school and on the weekends pretty early – while the family is still sleeping. I am getting over thinking that I need to be home. They are just fine without me!! My husband loves the time alone with our daughter. I remind myself that I am being a great role model for my little one – staying healthy and setting up great habits for her.

Stephanie CO

Do you have any suggestions for other mothers who would like to get more active but just don’t know how to get started?

It always helps to have a workout partner but someone that with challenge you, not one that will talk you into shortcuts.

What are you currently listening to on your Ipod?

I have some country and praise and worship music but I am finding that now that I am running faster, I enjoy more Red Hot ChiliPeppers, Foo Fighters, and Maroon 5. I made a pact with myself that whenever Lose Yourself (Eminem) and Fighter (Christina) come on I speed up the pace pretty fast and when it is over, I slow down.

Do you use any running/training gadgets?

Love the Garmin 205. There is a huge difference between running 4.80 miles and running 5 miles. I was so surprised how much I was short changing myself when running through my neighborhood. It keeps me so honest. I also love that it tells me my speed at all times and has helped me want to run faster.

If you were to define your racing style like that of a particular animal, which animal would you be?

Maybe a dog. I love to get out there and run hard, but I also love to eat a great meal and sleep by the fire afterwards.

You recently completed the Houston Marathon with a time of 3:44:13 and achieve a PR by over 33 minutes! Tell us about the race.

My plan was to run with the 3:40 pace group. I tried to start out with them but it was so hard keeping up with a guy who was bobbing and weaving through the crowd. Everyone around me was trying to keep up with him too – we were elbowing each other and getting tripped. I was so surprised how cut-throat it was.

After 2 miles of this I realized that he was running about a 7:50 pace – not the 8:24 that I trained for. I decided then to fall back and run the race on my own in fear of running too fast and regretting it later. I had a wrist band showing my goal splits per mile so I felt confident that I could do it on my own. I was averaging a 8:10 pace and felt great.

I actually caught back up with the pace group around mile 14. I ran with them until mile 19ish. We had 3 minutes in the bank at this time. I fell a bit behind them at a water station – not sure what happened but when I looked up they were too far ahead of me. I still felt great at this point.

By mile 21 the sun was getting pretty warm and my legs were starting to feel fatigued. I still had 2 minutes in the bank at this point. By mile 23 I had no time in the bank was was getting nervous. I tripped on uneven pavement twice. I tensed up so much trying not to fall that my legs completely cramped up. I was forced to walk.

I knew at that moment I just let my goal of 3:40 (Boston qualifying time) slip through my fingers. I was devastated. I almost completely gave up on the race. BUT I did not – I started running again – and again my legs cramped up. I had to run/walk for 2 miles – I averaged just over a 10 min mile. By mile 26 I was back to running an 8:30.

I feel like I finished strong but not strong enough to qualify. It was so hard to swallow . I am very proud of myself for not ever giving up and finishing with integrity.

What do you feel is the reason for this new PR?

Hill training – Ice baths – 1600’s – Good nutrition

Did your training(volume or type of training) change for this race versus previous marathons?

I actually ran one less day this time around. I think I do better with less miles. I make each mile count though. No slacking! All of my runs were about 30 sec slower than race pace and then one day of speed work : either tempo – about 1.5 minutes faster than race pace and 1600’s – about 2 minutes faster than race pace.

Were there any real tough moments during the race and how did you cope with them?

I hit a few walls along the way. I prayed for my students and family to keep my mind off of the pain and boredom. I also found a faster song on my Ipod. I did not dwell on the feeling of the moment.

Did you acquire any new insights about yourself or racing?

I feel like I broke through a rut that I was in. I now really enjoy running harder on everyday runs. I have more confidence in my ability to push myself.

Do you have any specific plans for the rest of the year?

I start a 16 week 5K training program next week. The race is in May. I am shooting to for a PR of 22 minutes if not a hair faster. This will be a PR for me by over a minute. I also plan on running White Rock Lake Marathon in December.

A special thanks to Stephanie for sharing so much of herself and providing ample meat-and-potatoes for us all to enjoy!

Feel the BuzZ!

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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