Hi guys, this is Nicki. Last week we ran the last 4 miles together at The Tunnel Vision Marathon. She is a mother of a 2 year old daughter and trains mostly with a baby stroller. She finished 6 seconds ahead of me in 8th place with her new PR of 2:55. She has already ran 5 Sub 3 hour marathons, very impressive.
In this 4th episode of The Extramilest Show, we discuss:
- balancing busy everyday life and training
- best practices for training with a running stroller
- how Nicki finally ran a Sub 3 hour marathon and much more.
I think many parents will relate to the topics discussed, however there is a lot of great advice that is applicable for any runner, from beginner to advance. Enjoy!
- Listen to it on iTunes, Libsyn or Soundcloud
- Stream by clicking here
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Question: How do you balance busy everyday life with training? Please let me know in the comments below!
Salty Running article about returning to racing after having a C-section.
Full race report of my Sub 3 Hour Tunnel Vision Marathon.
FULL SHOW TRANSCRIPT BELOW
Flo: Hi guys, welcome to The Extramilest Show, where we help athletes reach their full potential in training, racing and life. My name is Floris Gierman and today I’m going to be talking to Nicki. She is a very strong runner and also the mother of a 2 year old. She has run more than 30 marathons in total, including 5 finishes under 3 hours, so very fast. Today we’re going to discuss how she balances busy everyday life with her training schedule. We’re also diving into her training and racing strategies. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Nicki!
Nicki: I have to warn you, my two year old who’s supposed to be napping is jumping on the bed so I might have to pause if I hear screaming.
Flo: No worries, I totally know how it goes as well. Good. It was really interested in getting to meet you last week and actually really fun because I was running into Tunnel Vision Marathon, it came down to the last four miles and I saw a few people right in front of me and I thought, “Oh, a killer, I’m going to try to catch up with them.” And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, you just got right next to me and we were running for a little bit and then I looked over and like, “Oh, wow, that is a very strong runner right there next to me.” Can you tell me a little bit more about your Tunnel Vision experience, how it went because you ran a 2:55 marathon PR there, correct?
Nicki: I did, yes, it was a new PR.
Nicki: It was fun. I was kind of iffy if I was even going to run the race, clear up until probably the week before. Just the training cycle, you know how it goes. Things just get in the way and I thought, “Is it worth it to try?” I think that probably helped me in the race because I went into it with no expectations, just for fun.
But, when I caught up with you, I had actually run– I ran with one gentleman for 16 or 17 miles, and another guy came and passed us and he was trying to beat his brother’s PR so I went with him probably from 17 to about 21 and then he took off.
Nicki: He ended up finishing a few minutes ahead, he really took off, but he beat his brother’s PR which he was happy about. I think that’s why I came up so quick, I was trying to not lose sight, but I think I would have died if you wouldn’t have been there. Working with somebody at the end and you kept saying, “Focus, just focus. That’s perfect, just focus. That’s all you’ve got to do, one foot in front of the other.” It was great.
Flo: It was nice. I’ve always tried to keep some energy left until the end of the marathon, and I’ve noticed it a few times where I just died at mile 18 or 20. Then I learned my lessons over time that I started telling myself a marathon doesn’t start until mile 20 and the rest is just a warm-up.
Once again, even at this race I’m like, “Oh, now we’re at Mile 20. Now, we can start running.” You have had that reserved in your tank, which I think you had done as well because you were running at a very fast pace still at the end.
Nicki: Well, it’s the only way to finish. I don’t know if you saw the girl, there was a poor girl who kept collapsing right there in the finish chute? Just everything was depleted. She got a Boston qualifier but she literally rolled. She tried to crawl and I think her quads were just shot. Literally rolled across the finish line, it was a little painful watching but I just thought, “Oh my goodness, it didn’t need to be that painful.” Because you knew you’ve got to measure and give what you’ve got so that you can finish okay.
Flo: Absolutely. Well, here’s the thing, you have run a lot of marathons, right? We were talking before this and I think you’ve ran 28 or 29 marathons now?
Nicki: I think I’ve lost count, close to 30, I know that.
Flo: So can you describe from the beginning marathons, the first few that you have done, what have you learned over the years? Then, after a while you started breaking sub three hours as well, what has made you a better runner over time?
Nicki: Honestly, I think– she might be falling asleep, I hear crying over there. I ran in college and I always had these unrealistic goals for myself, and that made myself over train, push myself too hard, be in the middle of the race and think, “Oh, I’m not hitting my time goal.” I had a hard time with that kind of negative attitude.
When I first started marathons, I decided, “I love running, I want to back off from any time goals, any pressure, just go with what I’ve got. That’s been helpful throughout the way. I always set before a goal, instead of training for a pace, I just trained by listening to my body. Then, when I get a bad experience out of the race, I started to say, what type of fitness am I in? That’s when I set my goal.
That keeps your goals realistic, I think.
Flo: How do you do that? Listening to your body. Can you tell a little bit more about that? Can you describe in what way you do that?
Nicki: I don’t run with headphones. I don’t run with the GPS. I just these days push a stroller, but when I’m by myself, I just run. I got my watch so I’ll know I’m going to go 45 minutes and explore, and I’ll play with paces, like some days I’ll run lighter. Usually, if it’s by myself, I run pretty hard just because very few runs are done by myself now.
I don’t know, you just listen to your breathing and think, “What can I keep?” Guess like, “Okay, I’ve got six miles, can I hold this case for six miles?” If it seems like it’ll be easy, you speed up a little bit and if it seems like, “I don’t know if I can hold it.” You back off. You just change it during the race or during the training run.
Some training runs, I’ll go out there and plop out eight, nine minute miles and feel like death and others you’re sub 7s and feel great. You just adjust to what you’ve got that day.
Flo: I want to think in particular now that you’re a parent, you have a two-year-old daughter, right?
Flo: That obviously– I have two kids myself, a one-year-old daughter and a four-year-old and that completely changes the whole spectrum of training once again. Obviously, the family comes first, and then there’s work, and then there’s still spending time with your husband, for me and my wife and then there’s running. Can you describe a little bit, how do you balance that? Because you said you do a lot of your runs with a stroller these days as well, in what way do you balance family and work life and running?
Nicki: I consider running my play time and that’s also my me time. I try to get it every day but I think since Cora was real little, I first ran with her when she was only four months old in a stroller. I pushed her and I didn’t have her in a car seat attachment I just wrapped a towel. My running partner is a neurosurgeon, so I asked her I said, “I’m I going to shake her brain too much?” She said. “No, just wrap a towel around her head, she’ll be fine.”
I felt a little confident in that. She’s a neurosurgeon with four kids.
Flo: There you go.
Nicki: So I just wrapped a towel and I think Cora just got used to it. From the time she was real little, even this morning, she kept asking to go run to the big waterfall. I think I’ve made it so the running time is family time too. Last night, we went to the big waterfall which is why she wanted to go again. My husband was holding the dogs, I was pushing the stroller and we all went out to this big waterfall.
We made it fun, and we stop, and we see deer on the way or bunnies or whatever.
Flo: That’s nice. What area is that? That is in the Washington area, right?
Nicki: Yes, kind of Olympia the state capitol, much smaller than Seattle. Yes, it a nice little area there.
Flo: That’s beautiful out there, sure.
Nicki: Yes, I like it. Yes, some running time family time, I guess. We have two Vizsla dogs who love nothing more than to go running with me. I always feel guilty if I leave them. It’s all one and the same family time, running time, then you get home and play and make it fun.
Flo: A lot of these runs, are you with your two-year-old and the two dogs? At that point, your pace automatically drops down quite a bit. Although, you’re not– like we talked before this and you’re not necessarily focusing on heart rate much, but because you’re running with such an entourage, you automatically drop in your pace quite a bit, right?
Nicki: Exactly, it keeps me slow. Otherwise, the dogs will get in the way of the wheels or I’m tripping on the leash, yes. But, it’s fun and that’s what’s more important. I don’t run every day of the week. I only take everybody out maybe twice a week on days that I want as recovery days. My husband’s out of town and I– you can run pretty hard pushing the stroller,
I have certain courses that are really hilly, so those are always better with the stroller. If it’s a recovery day then I take what I call the whole group and we all go out and I’m sure my neighbors think I’m insane. It’s really fun the dogs are happy and Cora’s happy and I’ve had fun.
Flo: That’s awesome. I think for me, one of the most important parts is, when I became a parent for the first time, at the beginning, you have a lot of time to train on your own and all of a sudden you’re restricted on time. Sometimes that takes a bit of a switch that all of a sudden it’s more focusing on just getting out there and moving versus necessarily hitting certain splits, or taking any of the pressure off and it’s just more a matter of going outside and having fun.
At the beginning I was also very hard on myself just like what you were doing when you were in college and almost beating myself up over not getting enough mileage in a lot, but at the beginning, it is hard to be a parent. You don’t sleep much, you do have to combine it with kid crying all the time and all the attention that they want and you still have to work and do other things.
Training often gets this last place but on the other hand if you can give it that place of let’s remove any of the pressure boundaries and just focus on getting out there, and even if it’s for two miles at least you are outside moving like that.
Nicki: That’s exactly my philosophy. That’s why it’s a month before every marathon that I decide what time can I do because you just have to look at what you gave into the training. You can only give so much if you got a sick kid like this Fall, Cora had three ear infections pretty close to each other. You can only give so much.
Then seek to just be honest with yourself and what kind of shape am I in and be okay with it. When that’s how you run, run your best for that day. My cute grandpa was always like all through college my biggest fan and he’d say at the end of every race, “Well did you do your best for today?”
I’ve learned when it comes to race, did I do my best for that day? That’s all that matters at the end of it. But with the time pressure it helps too because then, if you do have 30 minutes to go out for a run and you want to hit X number of miles, at least for me those are the runs that turn into good tempo runs because I’ll be back by seven so my husband can go to work. I want to get in this many miles or finish this course. Then you end up running hard and maybe even with some time to do extra loops in the neighborhood.
Flo: Perfect but–
Nicki: I mean the time crunch can sometimes help.
Flo: Exactly. So, the one part that I was most impressed about is that, you at this point have already run five Sub-3-Hour Marathons. Can you describe a little bit of what it took for you, like from your first marathons they’re all longer than three hours to all of a sudden like a lot of people want to hit that Sub-3-Hour mark, right? What did it take for you to get there? How did it all of a sudden happen? I believe in 2012 it was.
Nicki: Yes, it was 2012. My first marathon was run I guess 2008, but I didn’t start with that as a goal. My first goal was to qualify for Boston and I ran a 3:31 on my first one.
Flo: Wow, that’s fast for your first one.
Nicki: I ran with a friend and it was deathly. Then I moved up to Seattle and it was just really fun running and I was training for Boston I thought, “I think I can run a 3:15,” but again I was like, “Don’t set any time goals,” but I just told myself, “If I have a good day I think I can pull that off. ” Sure enough I pulled off a 3:15. But then I got annoyed because everybody says, “Oh, you run Boston?” I say, “Yes.” Then they say, “Oh, but I hear it’s so much harder to qualify as a male than a female,” which I was a little annoyed.
Then I looked I didn’t even know much about marathons and says someone, “Wow Boston qualifying time.” I thought that was a 3:10. Then I go with 3:10 that time.”
Nicki: Yes, that was probably the first time that I told myself, “I’m training for this time.” Just because I was motivated. Then I got I think a 3:08 in my third. Then I was like, “Well, now I think I can get Sub 3:05.” It’s just like I took chunks off every time. So breaking three hours, I decided I wanted to after I broke 3:05. I don’t think I’ve peaked yet. I think I’ve got more in me. I trained really hard for that. That’s probably my best race. It was a lesson learned but I still think I might have been right. It’s a long story but it was the 2012 Shamrock Marathon.
Before the marathon, I noticed on their website they say, the top five males and females go by gun time not clock time. I tend to start slow and I usually start in the back because I speed up as I go. My husband kept telling me you need to stand on the line and I kept saying, “Well, no because there’s going to be all these–” First of all, I wasn’t sure I’d be top five. I looked at the last year’s results, it was close there was a chance I would be but I wasn’t sure. Second well, I don’t want to clog up the path, right? There’s a lot of males who are faster than us, so I don’t think I as a female even if I’m going to be the top five, if there’s going to be 30 males in front of me I should probably be behind those 30 males so I’m not blocking the way.
I started at 17 seconds behind the clock. I’m running and I was running my guts out because that was probably the only marathon that I started. I was like, “I’m breaking three today.” I mean every other race it’s been, if it happens great it doesn’t great. But that one I start like, “I’m breaking three.” I was running so hard and it was a really windy day and at one point I was in a pace group. I realized they were too slow but at the same time they were blocking my wind and I decided to go for it, so I passed them in that headwind.
I’d run hard and it was like, I think it was five miles left. I kept passing people, and then I kept hearing I was the sixth girl. I thought “Crap.” Because I was 17 in my gun time and clock time there was a 17 second difference, and I was really cutting it close. But I thought, “That’s okay as long as fifth place girl stays ahead of me I’m fine.” Sure enough, it was somewhere after the mile 24 marker, I see the fifth place girl. She’s hitting the wall and I’m thinking, “Crap.” Because I truly didn’t think I had 17 seconds to spare. I thought I was going to get under.
I came up and I came along side of her and just being a little selfish I was, “Come on let’s take this in a mile and a half left. We’ve got it together.” We run together, I let her get ahead in front of me. I’m actually technically would’ve beat her but I would have gotten my clock time or my chip time. But she was a little grumpy and wasn’t having a good day and probably muttered some cuss words and clearly wanted nothing to do with running by me. I’ve seen her watching my watch and she slowed a lot and I was like, “I’m going to miss it.”
So from about twenty four and a half mile on I just went in a dead sprint. I was just counting my steps, like how we were when you’re just really one-two-one-two, except for I was hurting a lot more at that time. Then the whole last stretch I can see the clock and I could see 2:59. I’m just dying and my clock time was 2:59:58.5.
Nicki: 1.5 seconds to spare but, I really ran a 2:59:41.
Flo: Exactly. You had a buffer there.
Nicki: But they told the truth. They gave me my clock time instead of my chip time. When you look at official results they did strip those 17 seconds. It was a good thing I didn’t stay with the fifth place girl because I think she finished three hours flat and 33 seconds I think, or something around there. I would have been about 15 seconds off.
Flo: That would have been a bummer on that day in particular, huh?
Nicki: Well, I just thought I’ve come this far. I have run so hard into this killer headwind. I had just been so focused in trying I thought, “I can’t lose it now.” Partly my anger at that girl for not coming with me helped fuel me because I’m like, “Come on. I lost 17 seconds. How do you make up 17 seconds?”
Flo: It is interesting because when you and I ran the last four miles together, I feel we both benefited so much from each other just keeping that pace. Because honestly how I saw it, I was holding on for dear life trying to keep up with you, but then hearing you afterwards you’re like, “Thanks. You helped me so much.” I’m like, “What did I do? I just tried to hold onto you.” Whereas, I know you see it from your own perspective, right?
Nicki: Yes, no I don’t think I would’ve run at 2:55 if you wouldn’t have been there because I was trying to keep up with you. I felt like we’re working, we’re focusing which then I was like, “Yes, we’re focusing,” because I tend to be a little more scatterbrain.
Flo: At one point I remember you started talking I’m like, “Let’s keep our energy. Let’s talk after the race.”
Nicki: That’s me like, “Where you’re from or something?” You’re like, “Shut up. Just keep going.”
Flo: Because I was even holding on for dear life. It was funny but now I’m glad it all worked out that way. Then, once you had done one, did it become easier for you to do multiple Sub-3-Hours after that? Was every experience different again?
Nicki: Probably. It was a probably a confidence thing that once you’ve done it once all of a sudden it’s like the mental kind of like the four-minute mile. You know once you’ve done it once it’s, “I can do Sub-3, I’m a Sub-3 hour marathoner.” It’s a significant mental barrier.
Flo: How do you overcome tough spots in your race? Because we all get to them. Do you have anything like a mantra you tell yourself? Is there anything that you eat or drink in particular that helps?
Nicki: I only do water and Gatorade. Sometimes a Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treat, but my stomach’s a little too finicky when I’m running. It’s just focusing on why I’m doing that, in the tunnel one that’s just a gorgeous course so I just looked around us and thought, “This is gorgeous. I am so blessed to have a healthy body. I can do this.” Just try to get back to a gratitude factor with it. Other times I’ll think about– the first time I ran a 3:01 my husband was deployed. I was just venting all the stress when I was running and it just all came out.
It just depends on the situation, but yes, you either run with gratitude, just anything but negative. Whatever you can do to keep negative. So whether it’s– like how you kept me the last four miles, “We need to focus to get in.” That reminded me of old days when you do speed work and you focus and take it in or other days I just need to, “This is fun, relax. It’s enjoyable. Don’t stress. Your time doesn’t matter.” Whatever you can do to stay away from the negative, I guess.
Flo: Yes. This was my first race in two years. Although, I talk about running quite a bit and I’ve ran quite a few races in the past, it was a reminder for me as well. The first really 20 miles I was taking it all and looking around, then I think once mile 20 starts at some point you really come to this, all right you know that your body is starting to hurt. You know that you’re going to start running a bit on empty, but at that point you almost get in the zone and it’s about executing.
You have worked for months to train that far then it’s purely a matter of the last bit. This is where it really comes down to, because the rest was really all prep work. Then it’s purely executing at that point.
Nicki: I think that’s where you helped me focus on. It just reminded me old tempo days, yes, you’re executing. You’re executing a plan and you’re going on with it, but you have to have fuel left in the tank at that point to be able to.
Flo: Exactly. Good, can you tell a little bit about your nutrition during training. During race you said you stick with water and Gatorade. What about during training, is there anything in particular that works well for you?
Nicki: I’m horrible honestly. We had frozen pizza last night. I guess my philosophy on nutrition is I try to cook from scratch and use lots of fresh foods, lots of fresh vegetables, lots of meat, the red meat, the red beans, whatever, but I can’t say I have any pearls of advice. I have ice-cream pretty much every day.
Flo: Perfect. If it works for you that’s the thing. If it works for you and you feel good with it, why not? The night before, what was your pre-race dinner like, and what is your normal routine pre-race dinner?
Nicki: That was questionable again because of the finicky stomach when I’m running that hard, I usually stick with bland things. I’ll just get a turkey sandwich, something that’s just gentle. Nothing too seasoned, nothing hot.
My mom was in town, she ran the race too and we went to a complex and it had a Panera which she was going to go get us on. I thought well Panera turkey sandwich I’ve had that a lot before it’s safe, but my husband was going to Chipotle and I thought that sounds actually good. I thought, “Well, I’m just going to stick with my care free attitude.” So I had a Chipotle steak burrito bowl and thankfully it didn’t. I was a little nervous.
Nicki: I’ll try it again, I don’t know.
Flo: Honestly for me, my last race before this in the Boston Marathon, for some reason for me, a whole bunch of vegetables with steak works very well. It’s been a race tradition for the last five races. That’s typically what I end up eating as well. Before my Boston marathon I also had a Chipotle steak burrito bowl.
Flo: With a whole lot of vegies and everything in it.
Nicki: Was that where you ran a 244?
Flo: Yes, that’s right.
Nicki: Chipotle’s what we–
Flo: Yes, exactly Chipotle. We like to stick with whatever works. That’s the main thing though. Typically, I try not to do anything new on race day. I’d rather train everything in long training runs so there’s no surprises, because I’ve had it before. I’ve made some Dr. Phil Maffetone Cliff bars and I thought, “Oh killer, these have all the right ingredients.” They had dates in it, and some honey, and some almonds. Then I ended up taking it on the long run and it really made my stomach upset.
Then I tried it again on another run and it did the exact same thing. So at some point you have to be careful with some of that as well, right?
Nicki: I agree completely, don’t experiment before race day. That was my thought with Chipotle, I thought, “Well, I eat Chipotle pretty regularly and run long the next day it’s fine,” but you know what also works good is baby food packets. When I go, she’s sleeping and I get hungry, they behave pretty well.
Flo: I can see that.
Nicki: Just to get through.
Flo: It digests easy probably, right?
Nicki: It totally does. well, I don’t do goo it goes right through me. The baby food packets they tend to do okay.
Flo: With the extra mile-ist group that we have put together, we have quite a few people that are looking to improve their marathon time, they’re looking to qualify for Boston or run a Sub-3-Hour marathon. Are there any recommendations, any tips that you feel they can benefit from, from the learning experience that you have gone through over the years?
Nicki: Honestly, the biggest thing I’ve learned through the years is don’t over-train, don’t overdo it. If you go out and you’re supposed to hit paces and your body feels like crap just say that’s it, call the run or run and remind yourself why you do it. Slow down the pace, enjoy it because your body needs a rest day clearly. So when you can get into the over-training trap of I have to hit this pace on these intervals or this pace on the tempo and your body doesn’t feel like it you do more harm than good.
I’ve also had days where I expected to go out six miles easy and find out, “Oh, I feel really great.” And being able to do an impromptu tempo run. I think people get too into their training plans, too strict with it and life happens. Some nights you’re up all night with a sick baby and you don’t sleep at all, and that might be a day that you need to adjust and say, “Okay, well, I’m going to run easy today but I’ll try again Friday or Saturday.”
If you have a schedules workout and you don’t do well don’t give up on it. Don’t just drop it and go back with the same plan. Maybe try later in the week, just do some adjusting. I guess be flexible, listen to your body and don’t overdo it.
Flo: What is your training mileage like, like for your Sub-3-Hour marathons, what training volume, how many days a week?
Nicki: I usually run six days a week and then I walk on the seventh day. I used to be more like 50 miles per week but as you know with the stroller it slows things down. I think I’m probably more between 35 and 45 now but actual time physically running is probably pretty equivalent, especially because I run a lot of hills with the stroller.
Flo: To those people listening to this who might not have experience with it, when you push a stroller up a hill it is significantly harder, right?
Nicki: It’s killer. I have a route in my neighborhood. I live on top of the big hill and it’s 400 feet from the base to the top, and I have a route where I go all around the base of the hill. I named it the beauty and the beast route because that was what was playing one day that my daughter was listening to. But it’s up and down these steep killer long hills and I average about 10.30’s on it but I finish pretty wasted, legs shaking, every time but it’s fun.
Flo: That’s where I think there’s something to be said about calculating the amount of time that you’re running versus mileage. Because if you really look at training volume, if that will be a flat course and you’re running it without a stroller you’ll probably cover half or double the distance.
Nicki: Exactly, so you have to equate the distance, or if you’re on trails, trails are a lot slower but their technical and you’re still breathing hard, you’re still getting that cardiovascular. So I equate to whatever on the road by myself that mileage would have been, I’ll equate to that. Besides that I probably average 50 but in actuality it’s probably literary 35 to 45.
Flo: If I look at my last training for this tunnel vision I made a perfect training schedule training five days a week and that was 35 to 53 miles a week, then real life happened to me as well. I calculated on average, I ran for 21 weeks, I ran 31 miles a week. The training volume was much lower than I wanted to, but then again some of it was in hill so it did slow me down. Some of it was on days where the kids and the family had the priority. You just have to balance that.
I have noticed as well the importance of rest and recovery. Sometimes it’s better to get the full seven or eight hours of sleeping when you can versus going out there for a late night run or very early morning run.
Nicki: I skipped more early morning runs based on my daughter not sleeping. I think the last year that my whole life before, that’s [inaudible 00:28:20] but it’s probably better for me to get this extra hour and a half of sleep.
Flo: How do you do it with sleep, how many hours of sleep do you get? Is there any strategies? Do you nap with your daughter? Is there anything you can share there?
Nicki: It depends. Since I work 12 hour shifts, there’s literally physically not enough time to sleep when I’m on a work stretch. I think I’ll go four or five hours and I’m pretty beat by the end of it. Then my first day off I’ll nap when she naps, I’ll sleep as long as she sleeps. I’ll jog with my daughter and the two dogs for the run just to recover, but I believe in eight hours of sleep and I do all I can. It does not happen as much as I’d like but that’s always my goal.
Flo: So you work four days on and then you have several days off, right? It’s a bit of a irregular schedule.
Nicki: Yes [chuckles]. I like it.
Flo: Right on. That’s good. Good, let me see. Is there any other tips that we feel we want to share about marathon training? You’ve experimented with ultra running as well right? You have done five ultra’s?
Nicki: I’ve done five ultra’s. Those are fun too. I guess my training for those was always just running a marathon. I guess my tip is like what we’ve talked about. Be flexible, don’t be so strict with a plan that you can adjust. Listen to your body and enjoy. I think if you don’t enjoy it then it’s something you might not keep doing. It’s worth it to enjoy it because at the end of the day we’re really blessed and most of the population doesn’t do things like that.
Get outside and breath the fresh air every single day and hear the birds in the morning or see the raccoons or whatever at night. It’s a great an ability to have. Just remind yourself why you do it and if you can’t remember that maybe it’s time just take a step back.
Flo: Absolutely, or it might be time for a rest day as well. Sometimes if I’m in peak training mode, especially when I was doing higher volume, 70, 80 miles a week, at some point I would start to get quite grumpy or I would just notice my body was off. Then if I would take an extra rest day I would just come back and be that much more motivated once again.
Nicki: Exactly, but then on the same end too it’s also important to train consistent. A lot of times once you get out there and start you’ll find– it’s better to asses into the runs. A lot of times you’ll get out there and start to find out you feel great. Sometimes if you get out and start analyzing for crappy that’s when you can call it, but always try if you can.
Flo: Absolutely, one other one I notice especially for the young parents out there who have a two month old or a three month old, when you’re really going to be in that baby mode still. At the beginning, I would just go outside with the little one, put her in the stroller and start walking. Then, I would see a light pole a hundred yards away and I would just start slowly jogging just to get some momentum. Then once I was at the light pole I actually wanted to go to the next one. You really remove that pressure of, “I’m going to have to run three miles,” and instead you’re just going to run a hundred yards then you can walk again. I think that way as well too.
Nicki: Just make it natural, exactly. Buy being consistent.
Flo: Exactly. Do you do any cross-training or any strength training?
Nicki: Yes, that’s probably the biggest key for my fitness now since I don’t run as much as I used too. If it’s an easy day, I’ll do a lot of, do you know the Les Mills system, they do a body pump, body compact classes?
Flo: I’ve heard of it but can you maybe clarify a bit more?
Nicki: Well, they teach in a lot in gyms, I know the gym that I used to go to they had Les Mills classes and basically it’s an exercise business and they’ve crafted certain classes that are anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour long. I used to go to only have a body combat, it’s just fun but it’s really works on your core, body pump where you do weights. I don’t do weights for my legs, I like body weight more, I feel like they get beat up running. If it’s a work stretch and my husband’s out of town, I can’t really go out and run, so I’ll wake up early and I’ll do one of those workouts, just they have an on-demand.
I have the app, I’ll click on the app find a workout and do it before I go to work. That’s what I do on the days that I can’t get out for a run, that I would like to get out for a run but I just can’t. I think it’s also been good and it’s fun to do something different every once in a while.
Flo: Does that feel like a good strength workout as well or is it?
Nicki: The body pump is outrageously hard, and they have some high intensity trainings where you’re doing a lot of burpees and jumping. Sometimes I feel those are harder than the runs.
Flo: For sure.
Nicki: Sure, because it’s usually again, just on those work days when my husband’s gone and that’s my only exercise chance.
Flo: I think especially when I was talking to Mark Allen, six-time world champion triathlete, he won Kona six times. He actually mentioned once he got in the 30s that he started noticing some of his muscles becoming weaker, especially then he started increasing his strength training. Even for myself, now I just turned 35, and I did start noticing especially my upper body becoming not as strong as it used to be. That’s why I had a Kettle belt in my office that I swing around from time to time. I do definitely feel that I need to do some more strength training.
For me, one for my legs that works really well, is that sometimes I go hiking in the mountains on really steep mountains. Even there it’s three or four hours, it’s like walking stairs pretty much, that’s how steep it gets. Those are very good to workouts as well.
Nicki: Absolutely. I think any core workout because I think the stronger your core is the better you can lift your legs, the longer your stride can be, so I think those are huge too. I try to do it for maybe four days a week.
Flo: One more thing I was wondering is, you take your daughter out running in the stroller a lot, how do you get your daughter to sit still, or do you have to take a lot of breaks or what is your strategy there?
Nicki: I think that it depends on the kid because I think I’m really lucky and she just loves to sit in a stroller. She does not love cars, car rides are rough. In the stroller, maybe it’s because we started early or maybe it’s just the way she is, but she’ll sit there are any treats, I’ll fill a treat bucket like every parent does. We’ll play music sometimes, I’ll never let her watch anything because I want her looking outside. I’ve taken her 14 miles three times now. She’ll dose sometimes but not so much anymore, but we talk, we play games.
I’ve also heard from people that said they started their baby young and their child still hates the stroller. She sits pretty still in there so I think I’m just lucky. Do you have hard time keeping yours still?
Flo: It is a certain age, I think at the beginning when they’re baby, baby they actually tend to sleep quite a bit, and then at one point once they learn how to crawl they just start standing, all they want to do is move. I’ve noticed that phase as well, but then now that my daughter is four and she sits next to my one-year-old, they can entertain each other a bit, although it is a double stroller at least. I’m wide when I’m on the bike path, I’m quite wide but they do like talking to each other and keeping each other company.
I never give them the phone when they’re in the stroller. I think once you start that habit they’re going to always want it. I want them to also take up the outside and just enjoy it to the fullest.
Nicki: That’s me too, but she doesn’t work out too much, but you also have to time it, which is nice when I am– I’m blessed and I only work part time, I’ll time it, my days off she’ll play and get some wiggles out, we’ll walk the dogs before we go, then she’s getting tired and hungry and we’ll eat. I have that luxury that I keep and play with it and time it and see when she looks ready for the ride, whereas a lot more people don’t have that luxury.
Flo: Exactly. Do you stretch at all after, before any of your runs or do you just do a slow warm up and a cool down, what do you do there?
Nicki: I never used to Beck especially when you work full time it’s hard because if you have 10 extra minutes reck, I can get an extra mile and a half in versus stretching. I used to never do anything like that, but after pregnancy my hips have never quite been the same so I’ve recently taken up yoga which before I thought was too boring. I get bored in it but I think that it’s really beneficial. I do that a couple times a week for the stretching, and it does help. If I feel my hips tight I’ll make sure I do it the next morning or that night and it makes it.
I’ve never been good, and this is the first time in my life, just literally the last maybe year and a half I started doing that. Now, I blame it on pregnancy but maybe it’s just getting older, I don’t know. The hips aren’t like they used to be.
Flo: When you were pregnant, were you able to still keep running or did you have to take a break at that point?
Nicki: I ran the whole way through, I ran the day I went in labor actually.
Flo: No way.
Nicki: I didn’t realize, I must have had the Nestea impact because I actually ran six miles that day and I hadn’t run anywhere near that far for months of athlete.
Flo: That’s crazy.
Nicki: It was a lot more like I’m going to run a minute, walk a minute, run a minute, walk a minute, choosing paths with bathroom every mile so I could stop. I just kept trotting along just because that’s me, and it’s a big part of my identity. Despite all the changes going on it made me still feel like me, but I definitely trotted pretty good, it was a little pathetic but it was fun. Then she was breech, she was upside down so I had to have a c-section.
Flo: That’s scary.
Nicki: I asked my doctor, I said, “Well when can I get to running again?” I’m a health care provider so I know the rule is six weeks but I was just thinking I’ve always been in good shape my whole life, and does that lessen the time. He was really cool, he said, “Just when you feel like it.” It was 10 days later I went out and I only made a third of a mile.
Flo: 10 days later?
Nicki: Yes, then from there I just kept building, building, I don’t think I ran more than a mile until I was probably well, maybe two and a half or three weeks out but from three weeks on I just continuously felt better, better, better. I think part of the reason the recovery went so fast is because I did push that activity, the walking, the jogging, I think it helped a lot. You do get back into it slow. For a woman really having a kid I felt it took me out of it two years of peak fitness, but it comes back, it’s muscle memory, isn’t it? It comes back.
I think honestly it’s been harder for me the last year just with the sleeping difficulties with her, that’s when it gets a little bit harder.
Flo: The whole how the body feels, I have no clue, I have noticed it from my wife going through pregnancy as well and she actually had a very difficult pregnancy. She was throwing up a lot and she was in the hospital quite a few times, but then also her going through labor. It took her quite a while to actually get back to where she used to be, but I think now the next whole step is just adjusting to the new life of sleep and all of those things.
Even there, I’m surprised how much you can actually do on very little sleep. Although it’s far from ideal for optimal athletic performance still, where there’s a strong will we can accomplish quite a bit as well.
Nicki: Absolutely, I completely agree with that. As a recovery from pregnancy too, if there’s a strong will you can get back. It’s hard, it’s difficult, it’s not ideal, but if you’ve got a strong enough will, you can do it.
Flo: Last question over here, what is your next race? You’ve just broken 2:55, new PR, do you have any other races coming up?
Nicki: I don’t know, I tend to sign up for races at last-minute, but I’m working on all 50 state. I’d like to get one on all 50 state. I’ve got my eye on a few that I’m interested in and I’ll just see how I’m feeling.
Flo: Wow, how–?
Nicki: If you’re searching for a goal time you want to choose fast courses, right? But, if you are not, there’s a lot of really fun courses that are maybe at altitude but hilly that are not PR courses and there’s some of the funniest. Now, that I hit that time, I think a whole new group of races has opened up because I’m like, “Wow, there’s this one in Colorado and that looks pretty fun.”
It’s just seeing when my husband’s in town and when I can get a babysitter, don’t know maybe. I’m not sure, we’ll see.
Flo: Are you going to make it out to Boston 2018?
Nicki: Probably not, because I have a rule, no repeat courses.
Flo: That’s right, but you have run Boston twice, right?
Nicki: Boston twice and I technically– they have the marathon course we just did, they call it a different name every month. So last year I ran it in June, this year I ran it in August. It was the same course but technically a different race, but those are the only ones I’ve ever repeated. So I think I’m done with Boston I think, more races to be run.
Flo: Yes, there’s so many good ones.
Nicki: Will you be running?
Flo: I am. Yes, I’m going to be running Long Beach in October and then I’ll be running Boston in April.
Flo: I’m very excited for that one. How many states have you done now? You said you were going to try to do all 50.
Nicki: I’ve done 13 states. I need to stop repeating. I’ll do like five in the state where I live in or whatever, I need to start reaching out more to those. I’ve got long ways to go on that. It’s fun though, you’re going to experience different places of country and different courses and so on.
Flo: That’s good. You’ve already ran for like 20 years and there’s many more running years ahead, that’s–
Nicki: As long as the body stays healthy, that’s the goal.
Flo: Exactly. Good, awesome. Well, this was very nice to hear a bit more about you.
Nicki: Thank you.
Flo: If people want to follow along some of your running journeys, do you post any photos anywhere? Do you post any– nothing?
Nicki: Actually, no, I don’t post running stuff on Facebook even. Yes, no, I don’t really post. I blogged for a while there’s the salty running, it’s a girl’s running web site. I talked about my c-section recovery there and my race reports last year but I admit I’m not very good at contributing there either. It’s trying to minimize life and whatever.
Flo: No, but I will be interested to read some more about that, so I’ll put in a link to do that blog.
Nicki: We all have names so I’m Coco on salty running.
Nicki: But now I’m inspired, I should probably write a race report there.
Flo: Perfect. All right, well, thank you very much for sharing all your tips and information. I think this was very beneficial for a lot of people as well. There’s a lot of runners out there that are parents that are recognizing some of these challenges that we all have, but you said it very well about actually truly listening, and not being too hard on yourself, and focusing on the fun element, that it’s very important.
Nicki: Yes, cool, well, I hope it’s helpful. I’ll follow your journey and now that I know your website, I’ll watch.
Flo: All right, perfect, we’ll stay in touch. Thank you!!
End of Transcript
Here is my race video from last week:
Question: How do you balance busy everyday life with training? Please let me know in the comments below!