Interview with Alex Varner

Alex Varner started competing in cross-country and track at Branson. He ran cross-country for 4 years and competed in track as a senior.

Alex Varner     Davidson College
Alex Varner Davidson College

After graduating from Branson Alex attended Davidson College where he continued to compete in cross-country and track.

In recent years Alex has continued to train and excel in races while he holds down a full-time job. I caught up with Alex after the Boston Marathon.

By Liz and Linda Gill

LG:  I know that you had to drop out of Boston last year. What is your history with the marathon? Was Boston your first complete marathon?

AV: In 2012 I dropped out of Boston at mile 14. I had been dealing with a foot injury for the previous 6-7 weeks and I just didn’t have the fitness to run any farther so I treated Boston like a long run. That being said, I was really happy that I had planned to stop at mile 14 because the temperature was 85 degrees and the conditions were miserable.

Alex Varner Boston 2013

Alex Varner Boston 2013

I have run two previous marathons, both times I ran the San Francisco Marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The first one was in July of 2011 when I finished 2nd in 2:35.00. The second one was in July of 2012 when I placed 2nd in 2:27.15.

Last monday I ran the 2013 Boston Marathon and I finished in 26th place in 2:21.40, the 14th US runner and the 4th California runner.

LG: You recently ran a PR in the 10km at the San Francisco State Distance Carnival placing 8th in 29:53.34. What was your previous 10km PR?

AV:  My previous PR was 30:53 at the Marin 10km in 2012. I had not run a 10km on the track since college and I knew I was in shape to blow my old mark out of the water.

Alex_Varner_Dipsea_2012_2

Alex Varner Dipsea 2012

LG: You have had a lot of success at the Dipsea race.  How many times have you won the  Dipsea Fastest Runner Award ? What is your best time?

AV:  My best time in the Dipsea is 48:54 from  2010. I have been the fastest finisher for the past four years. (2009-2912)

LG:  What is your next race before the 2013 Dipsea?

AV:  My next race will be the Bay to Breakers and possibly the Marin 10km.

LG:  What do you attribute for your improvement since college and your success in the last few years?

AV:  My improvement since college and my success in the last few years is mainly due to consistency, as well as mentality. I didn’t run very well in college because I was injured a lot, but once I graduated and I was able to start running more for myself, I found a lot more freedom in the training I could do. I was able to experiment with different things and figure out what worked for me. The most important thing has been that I have stayed consistent and healthy. I took time off immediately if I felt something was wrong. I think I’ve been injured once, for 5-6 weeks with a foot issue, in the last 5-6 years. Being able to put together such a solid body of work has really helped me. It has tought me about my physical limits as well as my mental limits. Since college, I have also found that my enjoyment of the sport has increased greatly. I run because I want to and because I love it. In college running was a chore at times, something that I had to do which made me resent it from time to time. Now that I am training on my own and with others who are no longer in school, I have noticed that we are all doing it because we want to be out there and there is no resentment or sense of obligation. I think that has made a huge difference as well.

LG: What are your running goals in the next few years?

AV:  This year I am planning on running the Cranmore Hill Climb in July in an effort to qualify for the US Mountain Running Team which will compete in Poland this fall. I have also signed up for my first 50k (Headlands 50k) in August. This will be my first attempt at the distance so I am treating the race as a learning experience but I hope to run well. After running a 2:21 at Boston my longer term goal would be to take a shot at qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the marathon.

Ranmarin would like to thank Alex Varner for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish Alex continued success with all of his running goals!

Interview with Alison Greggor

Alison Greggor Interview on RanMarin

Interview by Linda Gill

Alison ran cross-country and track at San Marin where she set several school records. She won the MCALCross-Country Championships as a freshman and won three MCAL Track Championship events as a senior.. Alison qualified in the 1600m for the CIF Track and Field State Championships in her final track season. She went on to compete for CAL in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track. Alison qualified in the 10km for the NCAA Championships and she was a CAL record holder in the indoor 3km and 5km. Alison also was a team captain for the CAL cross-country and track teams. She earned the athletic department’s Neufeld Scholar-Athlete Award, which is presented to the graduating senior with the highest GPA.

Could you walk through your high school experience and when you wanted to run in college?

AG: When I first started running, I ran because I couldn’t do anything else. I always knew that I enjoyed running. It wasn’t like I needed somebody to motivate me to do it.I found I was good at it and I like being outside. I was really looking forward to high school to getting to finally run. I knew before high school that I wanted to run. I remember in elementary school when they ran the timed mile and I got so excited and really upset that you had to wait to middle school to be on a team. Even in middle school it was like run twice a week, maybe ½ a mile so it doesn’t really count. I really enjoyed it so it wasn’t really ever a question of should I run or should I not. I always knew I was going to. In terms of running in college…I didn’t really think about college. That wasn’t until the second semester of my senior year. Maybe it was because I hadn’t really seen anyone else do it. When I was applying to colleges it was about applying and running was a second thought. It was not, I am going here (to college) to run here.

So you weren’t taking any recruiting trips?

AG: I did not take a single recruiting trip at all and it ended up spring time and I started running faster and faster and I thought, wait a second, I could actually do this. And it could really be something that I am really good at. So that is when I started thinking more about it and what aspect that running could be part of the process. When I was trying to get into CAL Linda Gill and Robyn Berry were a big help, being supportive and things. It really made such a difference. I went on an unofficial visit to CAL to meet the coaches and stuff. And then it was, wow, I am really doing this. All through high school it wasn’t even a thought of running in college. Honestly, my first couple of years I didn’t know how you even made state. Are you invited? That wasn’t even a goal. I had no idea that it was even a possibility. Track was about going to the meets that the team was going to and running. It was fun and I enjoyed the running.

Was Craig Stern your coach all four years at San Marin?

AG: No. My first two years it was coach Zechlin. He used to be a football coach.My sophomore year I ended up out most of the year because I had a stress fracture. We didn’t know it was a stress fracture. I was told “Well just go outside and run” and I would  say I am sorry but it hurts. My first two years at San Marin I was just running when I felt like running. I didn’t know what I was doing

Craig Stern was hired as the cross-country/track coach at San Marin my junior year and that made a huge impact on my running career. I am really grateful for everything that he did.The support that was there and having steady coaching because he cares about you improving. I am someone who needs to be held back and learn that if it hurts then stop running. I think the fact that I am still running is a big testament to his training. A lot of kids get burnt out or injured and they fall off and no one is there. You see a lot of that in college. Some high school kids are already training for 4 years at a college level so they can never get better. Craig left me with a lot of room to grow.

How were your times from when you were a freshman in high school to a senior?

AG: I remember from my freshman year I was so excited because I broke 6 minutes. That was a big thing. Each year I got a little bit faster and a little bit faster but I was never a top recruited athlete. I think my junior year I ran 5:18 and I thought this is great. I remember having a conversation with Linda my senior year and she said that she thought I had a better shot at breaking 5 minutes for the 1600m than most people. And I thought. Break 5 minutes. Oh my God. A five-minute mile?

Alison Greggor running at San Marin

Going into my senior season the team had gone to altitude training and we wrote down our goals and I wrote down all the San Marin school records. Looking back I had nothing to compare it to so the records seemed impressive. To be able to have the goal of those records, that were attainable, drove me through my senior year. Imagine going to a school down south and the records there are times like 4:48 for the mile. The times are so fast. But this was great at San Marin.  If I ran under 11:20 then that was a school record. That was a huge motivator.So I was very lucky.

So did you finish your senior year focused on the mile?

AG: I was always a miler/2 miler with an occasional 800 just for fun. I really didn’t like the 2 mile. I thought it was too many laps. I hated it but I did it anyway.  I was so excited about the mile. My best time for the 1600m was 5:00.5.

If you had told me as a graduating high school senior that I was going to run the 10km in college I would have cried. I would have said I am not going to do this. I remember the first 10km that I ran and comparing it to my high school 2 mile time. And the fact that I ran faster than my 2 mile time for every 3km of the 10km. And you think, is that possible? For this race that I was so scared of when I was in high school.

What do you attribute to the progressing levels from high school to college? Were you injury free the whole time. What was it like?

AG: I wish I could say I was injury free but I have had multiple stress fractures, bursitis, and tendonitis. Anything that you can think of I had pretty much go wrong. I was very fortunate to have some wonderful teammates and amazing coaches that have been unbelievably inspirational.  Because everybody has those hard times.That is the thing about college, you are going to get hurt if you are being pushed at a high level so being able to handle that is important. I think the fact that I had been through an injury in high school and I came out ahead and running faster afterwards was helpful. I was fortunate in that sense because a lot of people get hurt and see their teammates running and they have to run in the pool and they don’t see anyway out of that. I think that is where a lot of people say “ you know I just don’t want to do this”. I totally respect that from people who make that choice.

How did you stay with the running? How did you find the motivation to keep coming back?  Did your coaches play a role in that or your teammates?

AG: In high school with Craig it was very hands on coaching. He would say you need to do this and he was involved. The coaches at CAL were you need to do this, and you have to become an independent person. For me, it got to the point where I had put in so much effort  to achieve the gains that I had that I wasn’t going to give that up. I owed it to my team and I owed it to myself to not give up when I had those injuries. The team played such a huge role for me. And also I had goals. I came in as a freshman and I said I wanted to make NCAA meet someday and I want to be All-American one day and I had an amazing trip along the way. I made the National meets and I wouldn’t give up those experiences.

I think more than anything those injuries are where I made the most gains in my personal growth. No matter what I do moving forward in life I know I can get over that hurdle because I have been through rough times where you put all of your energy, time and focus into something and you completely lose it. Once you know you can handle that then you can handle other challenges . In college you have to be self-reliant.

It seems in college that it can be a hard adjustment if you get injured and come back too fast.

AG: I have done that. I have tried to come back the wrong way. You have to really want it because in college there are so many other fun activities to do. A lot of people come out of high school and they really want to be college runners and it doesn’t always work. That is fine. It is important to find something that makes you happy. There is so much joy you can get out of running if that is what you want to do.

Was there an instance in college where it clicked and where you came back the right way? And you thought you were back on track again. Where you learned how to do it?

AG: It was not until my 5th year. At the end of my 4th year I finished up my season when I ran regionals because I made the 5km regional mark earlier in the season and then I got hurt. The same pattern. It was a recurring pattern that by the end of the season I was completely out of it. So I had taken 3 weeks off of running. I did not run a step. We got on a plane to go  to Regionals and I ran the worst 5km of my life.

After that it came to me that I had to get back to running what I wanted to run. I had to make it enjoyable because it is so easy to get burnt out and to be running for other reasons besides for yourself. I decided I was going to study abroad in Portugal that summer because I didn’t have more cross-country eligibility left. I had indoor and outdoor left. So I said I am going to go to Portugal and find myself again. I told the coaches I don’t care what shape I come back in, I just want to be happy and running. And I found running again. It became this love again and I learned to tell the coaches, No I am not running any more miles. This is it, my limit. And the coaches responded really well. It is a shame it took four years for that to happen.

My 5thyear I ran a 9:25 3000m a PR at The Huskie Invite at Deampsey.That was a really

Alison Greggor competing for CAL

fun race. I always had good races there because usually I trained hard in the winter time so when indoors came I was ready to go. And then I would get injured after that. I still struggled with injuries my last season but that ended up being on my terms with it. I didn’t freak out about it. I just said, I can run what I can run. So most of my PRs are from indoors because I didn’t stress out about being injured at that time. I didn’t run the MSPF that year but I came out at Stanford and managed to PR in the 5km. I ran off of 2 to 3 weeks of running. I said, you know what? I am just doing this for me, and I ran a PR. I ran 16:16.

In Portugal were you training and running alone?

AG: I was in a study abroad program that was moving around a lot. It was a challenge to run but I was doing it for me. The first month it was run on days when I feel like it. On days when I can’t fit it in I didn’t run. By the end it was,I feel like doing a tempo run, so the hard tempo run was good and I came back feeling great. So for the first time I was able to get in a healthy solid fall. I had an actual base to go into the spring time and that was awesome. That Stanford race has a lot of emotion for me as well because when I was a senior in high school I ran there and that is where I first met Tony Sandoval, the CAL coach. Craig Stern, my high school coach, found him at the meet and dragged him over and said you have to talk to her. Tony liked what I ran and said we can talk. So I like that meet.

So you mentioned you are racing this weekend.What have you been doing since your 5th year in college?

AG:  When I graduated in 2011 I didn’t achieve all of my goals. I made Nationals in the 10km a couple of years prior but I hadn’t run a fast 10km since that time. I didn’t have a chance to run a fast 10km last season because I ran at Pac 10s but they were in Arizona and it was really hot. I ran a good 10km considering the conditions but it wasn’t fast enough to get me to Nationals. So my season ended with a little bit of redemption needed in the 10km. Especially with it being an Olympic year I thought, If I could make the trials that would be really great. At this point just a PR would be great. This past fall was another emotional break for me. I was researching in Hawaii with dolphins. Since I came back in Nov I have been steadily training. That is the great thing about running though. As long as you are doing some of it and maintaining you can get back into it without too much of a problem.

Are you training with a group?

AG: I am training with Magda Lewy Boulet.

Were you working with Magda at CAL?

AG: She was there for 2 years. She came in my sophomore year and she was there for two years and then she left to try to become a professional runner, be a mother and 15 other things so she needed to step down which I can really understand. She has had a huge influence on me as a runner. She agreed to coach me post collegiate so I feel really lucky.

Is the goal this season to get a PR in 10km?

AG: Yes. The way I look at it is the way my 5km times had been moving, if I had been running 10kms along the way then it shouldn’t be that much of a reach to run something that could get me to the trials. If I can put it all together.

What is Olympic trial qualifying time?

AG: Each cycle is different depending  on who is running because you can hit the B standard but it comes down to a descending order list. They will take about 30 runners. It changes year by year depending on how many people are running other events. It becomes very political and it may be down to the last-minute. I would probably be one of the last ones chosen if it came to that.

What would the time be?

AG: probably 33:40

What is your PR?

AG: 34:30 I was a redshirt sophomore at that point, my 3rd year at CAL. So it has been 3 years since I ran a fast 10km so I am just excited to see what I can do and if I can end up with a PR I will be satisfied. I can shoot for the stars (Olympic Trials).

(Note: Alison ran a PR of 33:58 at the Stanford Invitational and will race the 10km again in June.).

You just came back from a trip. Where did you go?

AG: I was just in Madrid for a couple of weeks doing research. The great thing about running is that you can do it anywhere. All you need is a pair of shoes. You don’t need a team. That is part of the reason that running has become such a lifestyle. Even if you are traveling in Portugal, Spain or wherever you can still run. It becomes part of your life. I won’t be competitive forever but I know I will still be enjoying running.

You have had different coaches. Have you figured out what type of training works best for you?  Particular workouts? That type of thing?

AG: Yes. It has been an evolution to it. I think for me, the right coach right now is not the right type of coach for me in high school.  I love doing long intervals but that is why you have a coach, so somebody can guide you and say “try this” and sometimes you discover new things about yourself. You don’t limit yourself. I don’t think there is a perfect coach/athlete relationship for anyone because that can change so much as you grow. You are a different person. The most important thing is to have someone who you can talk to with that level of communication at whatever point you are in your career, that is what is going to make that relationship work. So you can sit down and say, look this isn’t working or look this is great lets keep doing this.

What phase are you in right now in training? What have you been doing recently?

AG: A combination since I have been playing catch up since the Fall. My long runs are still really long, 15 miles or so. As I get close to racing then I get on the track and put on my spikes to do some hard 200s. That is why I really like Magda’s program because we do a lot of Jack Daniels so that means that through all of your racing cycle you are doing strides. You are still going to get your legs moving so you can target different paces.This is my threshold pace. This is my interval pace. This is my race pace.. For me this is great because I am someone who over thinks sometimes and you don’t have to think about it. Sometimes runners run the workouts too fast. They arern’t getting the correct benefit from the workout. It is hard because the faster pace feels good to them.

In high school many of my workouts were a race for me. I pushed so hard but it worked because I wasn’t running too many races. I could get away with it. But when I got to college and I tried to do that but I was running double miles then I got hurt instantly.

What is your favorite trail in marin to run?

AG: Running out to Arch Rock in Point Reyes starting from Bear Valley.I haven’t done it in ages but I think it is about 9 miles total.

What is your most memorable high school meet?

AG: It would have to be the MCALTrack Championships my senior year. That was just so much fun. It was at San Marin and we had just got a new track put in. My coach Craig hosted the meet and he was stressing out like crazy. It was a lot of fun to be able to run three different events and have fun with them. That is when racing can be so much fun. When you are just enjoying being out there and you don’t care if you are doubling or tripling, you are just enjoying the sport. I won all three races; the 800m, 1600m and the 3200m, so it was a lot of fun.

Interview with Clara Horowitz Peterson

Clara Horowitz Peterson Interview on RanMarin

Interview by Liz Gill

Clara Horowitz Peterson is a professional runner living and training in Marin County. She is recently coming off an impressive win at Emerald Across the Bay 12k in San Francisco and a track season opener 5k in 16:02 at the Stanford Invitational. She had an impressive career at Head Royce, a small Division 5 high school in the East Bay, where she won multiple California Cross Country and Track titles. She went on to achieve All-American honors at Duke University in Cross Country and Track, most notably with a second place in the 5k at the 2005 NCAA Indoor National Championships and second in the 10k at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor National Championships. She recently completed her first marathon at the U.S. Olympic Trials in January with an impressive time of 2:35:50 just 8 months after giving birth to her second child Riley. Clara shares her insight on high school success, college recruiting, the upcoming Olympic Trials, and the importance of setting attainable goals.

First off, What brought you to Marin?

CP: That is easy: Mt. Tam. In High School I competed for Head Royce and I used to come here every Sunday. I didn’t know any trails except one. I would drive to Mill Valley to Summit Ave and run on Hoo-Koo-e-Koo. I would come over with friends or by myself and I just loved it. I knew after college I would come to Marin and when I was ready for a family I would be here, so I have been trying to get myself over here for a long time.

When did you start running?

CP: Like everyone, the 4th grade PE mile was a big deal for me. I had to win that. My dad and a couple of neighborhood guys ran really low key jogs around the neighborhood so I started doing jogs with them at 6am. We ran in Berkeley once a week. It was a 1.3 mile loop, but I thought it was a marathon. My first race was the Bay to Breakers. I did it when I was in 6th grade and I didn’t even run the whole thing. I ran four miles and then I walked a little bit then I ran the rest of the way. At Head Royce as a freshman I earned five letters. It is a small school and they let me do Tennis at the same time as Cross Country. Sophomore year I was still playing basketball, but that was my last year. At Head Royce running was always my main sport.

When did you realize your talent and start to think about running in college and beyond?

CP: My jump from freshman year to sophomore year was huge. I went from 15th at state (California Cross Country Championships) as a freshman and I won my first State Championship as a sophomore. That was the first time I had put summer training in. I put in like 50 miles a week, which was a lot to me at the time.  I thought “Oh my god, that is like seven miles a day.”

Clara racing for Head Royce

Who was your high school coach?

CP: I had a coach named Steve Ruegg who came in for the time I was there. It was perfect for me. He was a wonderful coach and had all of these resources. He ran in high school and after college did marathons and he was really talented.

Did he give you a program for the summer. He sounds pretty dedicated?

CP: He was extremely dedicated and he became a really good friend to my family. He is really cool and I was really lucky. He made it more fun because he would fly with me to the Great American Cross Country Race in North Carolina and the Nike Nationals. It worked well because he was in a network with people and he knew my family, so it was really lucky. My dad and him were friends and belonged to the same country club. They still play golf together at the club.  Steve made it really, really fun.

What was the recruiting process like for you?

CP: My first letter I got was when I was a freshman and it was from Harvard. Up until that point I thought I was more of a UC type of person, so I remember remember getting the letter in the mail from Harvard as a freshman and thinking it was a whole new ball game and that I may have some other options opening up here. It was a really exciting
time.

Some high school athletes don’t start thinking about running in college until much later in high school. Were you like that?

CP: I knew it young. So, the Harvard letter was my first and by the time I was a sophomore, I had letters flowing in the door. My sophomore year I got 5th at state (California State Track and Field Championships) in the 3200m. You know how it is California where they put all the divisions together in Track, so college coaches look at that. Definitely at that point I knew I had options.

What was your main event in high school?

CP: As a sophomore I ran 10:40 in the 3200 and I ran 4:57 in the 1600, which didn’t make it to state. I was 5th  in the mile at NCS, so I was the first one out of making it to state. I was so mad. I was the only one who broke 5 minute but didn’t get to go to state, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I ran the two mile and qualified in that event. You know how it is; no one wants to run the two mile. The mile is the glory event. I ran the two mile and I got 5th. I would never have gotten 5th in the mile, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. I am one of those distance runners who is always fighting being a long distance runner. I just ran my first marathon. It took me a really long time to even imagine that I would actually run a marathon.  I waited until my senior year in college to even think about running a 10km, even though I am made to run longer distances. My cardiovascular strength is much better.

What were your times like comparing freshman year to senior year in high school?

CP: In my senior year my PRs got down to 4:49 in the mile and I think 10:30 in the two mile. My freshman year PRs were around 5:18 or 5:20 in the mile and I placed 15th at State in Cross Country. I was still pretty into soccer and playing other sports my freshman year.

Back to recruiting, how did you decide on Duke?

CP: I committed in November of my junior year to Duke. I didn’t even go on all of my recruiting trips. I took three or four and I took a couple unofficial visits. I was really set on UCLA for a long time. Coming from the East Bay and Tam, I am someone who really likes to be out in the woods. I need soft trails and trees. Right after I visited UCLA I visited Duke and we went on this run. They have 30 miles of trails in the forest to run on. We went on this run and the leaves were changing and it was perfect fall weather in October. The team was different and the coach was Kevin Jermyn. He was young and he was new. The team wasn’t that good, but I also didn’t want to go to team where I would be crossing my fingers that I would be the 5th runner on the team. I wanted to be a scoring member. I wanted to find a team where I could go in and be one of the top runners.

You ended up having a pretty impressive team there.

CP: Right after I signed Shannon Rowbury signed, Sally Meyerhoff signed who was really fast, Natasha Roetter who at the time was going to win cross country nationals and was a top recruit, Caroline Bierbaum signed. It was great. By the time we were seniors we really had it figured out. We were ranked #1 for NCAA Cross Country Nationals my senior year. We had this incredible team bond going, but rocky road in and out. Everyone was number 1 and the superstar from where they were from, and

Clara competing for Duke

then all those big personalities were mushed together.  I am a people person so I was totally happy, but we really figured it out by senior year. It was fun.

What were your accomplishments as a team?

CP: My junior year we were 2nd at Nationals, as a senior we were ranked number one all season and should have won. We placed 3rd, but it happens. It was disappointing for the team. The year we got 3rd at Nationals I placed  5th.  My coach wanted me to be in the top ten and I was only two seconds off of 3rd so I was really happy with my place. It was unexpected.

What were your best accomplishments in track?

CP: My senior year I placed 2nd at the NCAA Indoor Nationals in the 5km. I was 2nd in the 10km at the NCAA Track and Field Nationals Outdoors my senior year. I got 2nd so many damned times

What were your PRs in college?

CP: 33 flat 10km.  15:50 5km. One of my greatest races was my sophomore year at Nationals when I came out of nowhere to get 5th. I wasn’t picked to place. I ran around 16:05. The race came out of nowhere. When I ran the 5km I was not expected to be in the top.

Did you run a 5th year?

CP: I had eligibility left, but the time I was done. I was engaged my senior year and had moved to Chapel Hill. I had a great finishing season and I was ready to do something else. Looking back I kind of wish I had seen what I could have done in Cross Country and Track. At the time I was done like, why am I going to put my life on hold? You think you will never have this opportunity again. I was anxious to sign a contract and be a professional. Looking back I wish I had taken my eligibility. I don’t really have regrets. But if I did it again, I would definitely advise anyone who has eligibility left to use it even if they feel like they are ready to move on.

How was your transition from college athlete to a professional?

CP: It was really fun that first year running for New Balance and it was really fun to run professionally. It was exciting; you get all this gear and a paycheck. That was when I started road racing. We were living in New Jersey and I did the 5km National Championships on the road in Rhode Island then the Tufts 10km which was the 10km National Championships. I was training on the track and doing a lot of fast stuff. My 3km time came down to around 9:09 or so. I was feeling like I could run faster and then I got hurt, which is a pretty common pattern for your first year out of college.

What were some difficulties for you in that transition?

CP: It’s different. You don’t have a set schedule. Your ice bath is not ready when you are done. You really have it easy as a collegiate. Anything you need at the snap of a finger. You have to figure it out for yourself. I had a good routine working out with boy’s high school Cross Country team that I coached. But, I was neglecting a lot of the important things that I did in college like form work and stretching! I stopped icing and getting massages and was getting race happy because I was in really good shape. I was in the best shape of my life and I wanted to just race and race and race. I raced myself into a torn hamstring. It was a really bad one and I was out for about four months. Then, I tore the other one. I really learned a lot from it. I learned a lot about perspective on life and exploring other things in life. I started to work on getting my Masters in Education because I realized I needed a backup plan. We were in New Jersey at this time, and then we came to California. I didn’t finish my Masters until recently. I was on the major slow track with babies. I got pregnant with my son when I was just getting back in shape.

How did you get back into competitive running?

CP: I had my injury, I got pregnant, and I had to stop caring about running after I had my son.  I entered this whole motherhood thing.  A year after having my son I decided I wanted to get more serious about running and I wanted to get more competitive. I was running local races, nothing too serious. I was running maybe 50 miles a week. I was training on my own, no coach. Then, I hooked up with Magda (Boulet) and joined the Bay Area Track Club. I thought OK, I am ready to get competitive again. Then, I got pregnant again. I trained pretty hard with this girl right here (holding daughter Riley). I hopped back into shape really quickly. This year has been really different and I actually feel really competitive and I feel really fast. I feel like I am finally going to run faster than I did in college.

After having two kids do you feel stronger? Some competitive moms say they have felt stronger after having kids.

CP: Yes. I feel like I am stronger. I feel like when I was training for marathon I could run 90 mile weeks and it wasn’t a problem. In college and after college I couldn’t run a step over 60 miles a week. I was like absolutely not. I was tired, that was enough. But after having this one (daughter) it was a whole new ball game and miles were not an issue anymore. I don’t know what it is but I do feel stronger. Maybe running with the baby and how in motherhood, you become stronger because you are not number one anymore and are taking care of others 24 hours a day. Even physically, I can hold them all day long now. Before my arms would get tired. I couldn’t even carry groceries. Now I can carry them all day.

How did you decide to do marathon?

CP: I loved that my first marathon would be at the Olympic Trials. I thought it was really cool. The trials race was eight months after I had Riley (daughter) and I didn’t know if I would be ready for it. I really wanted to and I ran a 1:14 half three to four months after having her. That was when I thought it was definitely post-mom strength. I wish I had like three more months to get stronger. I felt perfectly conditioned for a 23 mile race and felt great until mile 23. I felt that if I could have had three more months it would have really helped the last 3 miles. But, it made me really excited for my next marathon. I ran 2:35 and placed 16th. I was really happy with it. Magda thought I could run a 2:32 and I think she was right because I was at about that pace until the last three miles.

What are you aiming for now?

CP: Stanford 5km. Stanford 10km. I will do Bay to Breakers. I really want the record at the Marin 10km. I would love to break the longtime record there (held by April Powers).  Then the 10km (Olympic Track) trials in Eugene.

What is your favorite high school race or memory?

CP: My favorite race, hands down, was winning the State Championship my senior year (3200m). There is no better way to finish out a high school career than winning in your senior year. Everything played out exactly how it was supposed to. I remember crossing the line and thinking I have now accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish.  As a junior I had missed by a few spots and it was the best feeling to come back and win. That was my ultimate favorite. One of my other favorites was running Western Regionals at Footlocker and placing 7th to qualify for the National Championship in Florida. That was my junior year I didn’t think I would qualify so that was so amazing. It was the last year you got to go to Orlando. You feel like a rock star. Getting to travel. Getting to that race. Getting all the free stuff. I was so wrapped up in everything. I remember being on the starting line and thinking “Oh yeah, this is why I am here.” Those are definitely my top two memories from high school.

In College?

CP: As a senior getting 2nd at the 5km NCAA National Indoor Championship meet. It was because I thought at best I would be 5th. And I was .2 sec off of winning. It was the most in incredible feeling coming around with only two laps left and only one person in front of me. I think strategically I made my move at the wrong time. I am still frustrated with that but I was not expecting to be in that position. I would say the best feelings in running, in general, are when you over exceed your expectations. I would encourage runners to not make their goals too high. I never made my goals too high because when you do, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment. Other people in that position could have gone into that race thinking “I am going to try to win this race,” but I went into the race with lower expectations thinking “I am just going to try to get 5th.” It is such an incredible, out of body feeling when you are coming around the corner and think “I might just win this race.”  It’s an indescribable feeling.

That’s definitely something high school athletes can take away as advice.

CP: People are always telling kids to reach for the stars. I think that it is better to make your goals reasonable. Make them attainable because when you pass them the feeling is indescribable. Sometimes when coaches tell kids to reach for the stars, then they are disappointed with their place or time. I think it is better to set a realistic goal, something you know they are going to do, because then they are going to do it and they are going to feel good. Then at the next point make the goal a little higher.  I feel the same way now. My first goal was to qualify for the Trials and then see what happens.

Last question. Favorite trail in Marin?

CP: That is a great question. I am such a Crown Road sucker. I always go to Crown Road. I love Crown Road.