Q&A: Kate Grace

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pc: Jeff Cohen

I was able to catch up with Oiselle’s, Kate Grace, as her season heats up and she heads into the Olympic Trials. We touched on the journey from injury to becoming one of the top 800 / 1500 runners, workouts, advice, drum lessons and soup nights.

You’ve had an incredible comeback from injury in the past few months. What are some of the factors that led to you overcoming your injury and lighting the track on fire?

I was injured January – May 2015. So it was a long road back. I moved to Sacramento in July to train with NorCal Distance (NCD). I finally started feeling myself in workouts in late October/early November. As for factors that lead me to turn my situation around and comeback strong this year?

1. A great support team of coach, teammates, mentors. People who can give me straight advice, improve my strengths, and complement (not compliment) my weaknesses (so, limit the impact of the areas of my personality that always seem to impede on training). I’d also include the support of Oiselle in there. My sponsor that stuck with me through a hard time, when I wasn’t giving great results, or being a great representative.

2. Strong personal conviction and accountability. This was a big area of growth last year. At one point, I can whine all I want about people not believing in me, not giving me a chance, not pushing me hard enough, etc etc. Last year it finally clicked that no one will ever believe in me as much as I do, and it’s up to me to show them exactly what I see. That I have to hold myself accountable to the highest standards, because there is no one to blame but myself if I am falling short.

Currently dealing with low after an injury myself, what are some things that helped get you past the low points of dealing with injuries?

Oof. Anything that makes you feel happy! For me, that means getting a bit of distance from the runner culture. Seek out other friends, or activities that aren’t run-centric. Focus on a different hobby (I took drum lessons), and a different means of exercise (I think you’re in to Yoga. I took up Bikram because those poses didn’t aggravate my foot). Keep social to keep from getting depressed! We started a weekly soup night tradition at the house in Bend. It was a great way to always have something on the calendar. They’ve continued it this year!

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the past year?

Hehe, see first question. Also, I guess realizing that it doesn’t get easier. Training, I mean. Normal runs do feel good if you’re in shape. But a hard workout or a fast run, that will always hurt. I used to think that at one point a switch would flip, and I’d feel smooth and great on everything. Feel how Dibaba looks… effortless. I learned that if I was feeling that way in workouts, it probably meant I wasn’t trying hard enough. Improvement comes when it hurts. I’ve learned to chase after that feeling. Even if it can be a bit scary in the moment.

What is your go-to tune-up workout before a big race?

Changes every time depending on the race. And it’s changed a lot over the years with different coaches. The pattern now is a workout 3 days out. Nothing super hard, it’s reps that simulate different places in the race. Then an easy 5-6 miles the next day, and travel and pre-race routine the day before the race. Kim (Conley) has a nice overview of a standard week lead-up on her blog (http://kimfconley.com/pre-race-routines/).

What has been your most memorable race this season so far?

I enjoy all my races! I guess the Hoka Distance Classic 1500. I got to see my high school coach and girls who are current athletes on his team. It was a PR for me, and fun to do it with old friends watching. Also, I was traveling alone for a lot of earlier races, so at that meet we had a lot of the NCD team together, and Drew, our coach.

If you had a day off from your everyday responsibilities, describe how you would spend it.

Wanna know a secret? I hate days off. Not that I hate off days, I actually really enjoy a break from running. We get one about every two weeks now. But, I tend to fill that time with errands and emails and to do list items. But I’m not great at unstructured hang time. It makes me anxious. I know, that being able to rest is necessary. I’m really good at naps. But I’d rather take a nap and then go do something. I guess if I was required to not do any projects or responsibilities, I’d want an adventure of some kind, or learning experience. Discover a new place, maybe learn about it’s history, take a tour, go to a museum, go to a play, eat good things, drink yummy cappuccinos, have some bit of nature in there. Either a city park, or something further afield. And all of this with my closest friends (not a ton of people, I would just want to be around people I love).

Dinner with three people?

Oof. I’ll just do living bc at least that narrows it down. And it’s always changing. Right now… Leana Wen, Podcast people… Stephen Dubner or Rad Abumrad, Questlove.

But lets be real I would have to do so much research before having a conversation with any of them!

Others that popped to mind: Michelle Obama, the Pope, Cara Delevegine, Paul Farmer, Jeff Bezos, Chelsea Clinton

If you could give one piece of advice to any runner, what would it be?

Have at least one run a week where you really enjoy it. Go slow, do not look at pace, stop as many times as you want, listen to music (or not). This could be a short double or something, I just think having that reset is necessary, for mind and body.
If you’re training for something, get a plan that you can stick to, either from a coach or a trusted source, and execute the workouts. And also be flexible as life happens. If you blow up more than a few times, don’t get discouraged, most likely something should be tweaked in the plan.

What is your current favorite mantra?

Fortune favors the bold

Current favorite song?

It’s hard to pick one, I’m always updating. Four favotires from my May playlist… Strive by A$AP Ferg, 24/7 by Kehlani, Living by VERITE, I Need a Forest Fire by James Blake. For albums to cook or clean to… Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Q&A: James Dodds

James Dodds

I was able to catch up with my first coach ever and possibly the most influential person in my running career and on a huge portion of my life, James Dodds. Some of my favorite runs are the long runs we’d have where we’d talk about anything and everything so I was definitely excited to get a few questions to him for this section of the blog. I can only wish that one day everyone gets to share at least 1 mile with him as I’m sure he wishes to share with all of y’all.

What got you into running?

A few things culminated at the age 24 that got me into running. First, I was gaining weight after college and I knew I needed to do something about that. Most runners are skinny so I thought I might as well try running. Next, I was engaged to be married and a number of people said we were a little young to got married. What made us think we would defy the odds, so to speak, and last a lifetime? So we ran a marathon as a symbol for long term commitment and pushing through hard times. Lastly, I stuck with the sport because it gave me a tangible sense of improvement. I think in our twenties we really aren’t sure what success should/does look like. In college we had grades that let us know where we stood against the pack. In adulthood it is more like – Hey, go live a good life. Well what does that mean? How do you know if you are improving? How do you know if you measure up against something/anything? Running provides relief from that head space. It gives you a distance and then you measure yourself against it by trying to improve upon your times and personal records. Running means something entirely different to me now but for the first five years I got into running because I wanted to lose weight, learn long term commitment, and to have a tangible sense of improvement in life.

Were you doing anything active wise before you got into running?

Yes. I have always been active but not exceptional at any one sport. I loved basketball and football as a kid but wasn’t even good enough to get playing time on my high school teams. So I played a ton of golf and become a decent golfer. I also got into powerlifting because I am from South Texas and that was our way of convincing ourselves we were tough men. RAH! POWER! In college, I was still trying to prove to myself I was a tough man so I joined the rugby team. Again, I wasn’t exceptional but I actually got starting time. I was the #9 scrum-half so lots of running was involved. You could say that was foreshadowing to me getting into marathons 3 years later.

If you could give one piece of advice about running to anyone, what would it be?

Consistency trumps intensity!! This is true for the amateur to the professional. You cannot maximize your potential in distance running without committing to consistent mileage for a long time. If you build the habit of running every morning, even if not all runs are fast or long, you will become a better runner. You will impress yourself in ways you didn’t think was possible.

What has been your favorite race?

Personal Race? That would be Cap 10K in 2012. When I first go into running I just wanted to break 1 hr in the 10K. At 5’10” and 180 lbs in March of 2012 I actually ran the 10K in 39:37. I was so proud. That course is hilly – so I have much pride knowing I broke that 40 minute barrier on a beast of a course. For the record, four years later I would puke if I had to run one mile at the average pace of that race. But I did it then and I am proud, thus, it is my favorite.

Professional? That has to go to Mr. David Rudisha setting the olympic and world record in the last olympic games. Gosh, it was the most graceful display of power and speed. He went out fast and got faster.

 

What was your hardest race?

The hardest race I have ever run is the Dallas Marathon in December of 2011. It was 44 degrees and raining. My personal record at the time was 3hrs & 48 minutes. My buddies Todd Jones & Trey Axe joined me that day and planned to pace me to a 3:30:00. I ran my heart out and bonked at mile 22. I ran 11 minute miles for #23 & #24 and then Todd got be back on race pace to finish with a 3hr 36 minute marathon. That was a 12 minute PR and is still my PR to this day. I think a PR in the marathon will always be the answer to this question. While a PR in 26.2 miles is always self assuring and mentally rewarding it will never feel good physically on that day. Pain and suffering are not potential obstacles in that race. They are the very essence of that damn race!

What is your philosophy on life?

Wow. I could write a book on this one. I would like to give you the long version but for your readers’ sake I will leave it as a one liner: “It is meant to be enjoyed” Now, I believe enjoyment involves hard work, humility, love, self improvement, acceptance of both yourself and others, and lots of other contradictory and complimentary concepts but for now let’s just leave it at: “It was meant to be enjoyed.”

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

That is a tough one. Mostly because fear isn’t really my biggest limiter. Lack of skill & talent are but not necessarily fear. For example, I will participate in most any challenge even if I know I will lose. I guess I could say I would quit my job and try to be a professional golfer if I knew I could not fail. Could you imagine how awesome it would be to be paid to play golf?

Your food always look so delicious and healthy. What is your favorite recent self prepared meal?

Can I give two answers? I can? Thanks!
#1: Breakfast: This is my favorite meal of the day. Honestly three eggs cooked in olive oil, avocado, coffee, and a small bowl of strawberries is the best. I want to do breakfast over and over again. I am a total morning guy.
I am giving two answers because most people will picture a dinner style meal when they read this question …
#2: Dinner: Salmon baked in the oven with salt & pepper, asparagus gilled in a skillet with coconut oil, salt & pepper, & mashed sweet potatoes with a little coconut milk & walnuts for crunchy texture. BOOM! Whole30 approved, super-colorful on the plate, and unbelievably tasty without any fattening or sugar-ridden sauces, etc.

Favorite quote?

“Only a sense of humor can help each of us face those great unanswerable questions: Why was I born? Why am I here? Why must I die? What must I do to make my life a triumph?” ― George Sheehan

Q&A: Liz “Pink Feathers”

 

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I was able to catch up with Liz a.k.a. Pink Feathers after her 3rd place run at the Corvallis Half Marathon and ask her a few questions about running and her music. It has been 2 months since she has become my coach and I don’t think I could have asked for anyone better in my corner.

What got you into running?

My Dad. I was never good at sports but ran a decent mile in PE class in eighth grade. Since I was starting at a new school the next year my dad suggested that I try running cross country. I would never have considered doing anything athletic otherwise. He ran with me over the summer to help me get in shape. Best decision ever.

Describe your pre race ritual.

I’ll wake up about three hours before the race and have a homemade Pre-Workout Blueberry Muffin with peanut butter (I love these because I can whip up a batch before leaving town and have a dependable breakfast wherever the race is) and a cup of coffee. Depending on the length of the race, I’ll warm up 30-45 minutes before the start with 1-2 miles of running plus drills and strides. I try to wait until the last second to peel off any layers and I absolutely have to be wearing sunscreen and chapstick. I got burned pretty badly in the 2014 Boston Marathon and was in pain for days afterward- never again!

Describe your favorite place to run or train.

I’m pretty nostalgic for my old running routes in Greenville, Illinois where I went to college. I loved the wide open fields and old dirt roads. I kind of miss the extreme heat of summer and the cold dead of winter compared to Portland, where I live now. Our assistant coach in college would have us play “guess the temperature” for our morning runs in the winter and it would always be something like two degrees out. My favorite place to run now is Forest Park.

What is your most memorable race.

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My first cross country race at age 14. Five kilometers was a long way to go and I don’t think I’d ever hurt like that before, but I loved the feeling of accomplishment and relief after crossing the finish line. Who knew working hard could make you feel so good? The 2014 Philadelphia Marathon was also a big one for me because it was my first (and hopefully not the last) time dipping under the three hour mark in the marathon.

If you could give 1 piece of advice to any runner what would it be.

Never underestimate yourself.

What got you into music?

My parents. My mom teaches piano lessons at home so music was always in the background throughout the day. My Dad is a high school choral and musical director and my sister and I would play in the theater while he rehearsed. Music has been a part of my life from the very beginning. I think my parents wanted to make sure I was interested in music by choice, so it was only when I asked at age seven that they signed me up for piano lessons.

What is your most memorable music event?

imagePC: Timothy Norris

Playing Coachella last year with RAC. It was the most massive audience I’ve ever performed in front of and totally surreal just to be there. The Pink Feathers live tour this past fall was also really special because it was my first time taking my original music on the road.

Describe your childhood dream?

To be a Broadway star. My Dad took me up to NYC to see Grease! When I was 10 and that was pretty much it for me.

Describe your guilty pleasure?

Watching the Bachelor and all its spinoffs. And birthday cake ice cream.

If you had a day off from everyday responsibilities how would you spend it?

I’d get up early, hop in the car, and go on an adventure! Maybe a run around Timothy Lake in Mt. Hood National Forest followed by a big breakfast at Timberline Lodge.