Friday, December 31, 2010
More on those crazy, hazy, oh, just plain cold days in the Northeast in this week's column, which will appear New Year's morning in the Monterey Herald.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
This week, Blake writes about how she went from her hometown in North Carolina, braved a winter in Boston and finally settled in the Monterey Bay Area. It's a tale of coaches, car burglaries, and in home refrigerated beer kegs (what a concept!). Saturday in the Monterey County Herald.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
OK, I do carry a bag when I go to track workouts. That bag has a little of everything, from my racing shoes, extra spikes, Band-Aids, skin lube and even duct tape. But when I’m going out on a trail run I don’t need that much gear. In fact, when I was in high school, I don’t remember having much running gear at all. That was before these high tech fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin. In those days it was cotton T-shirts that would get heavy and wet.
Looking back, I wonder how I could stand it. I don’t remember having a running bra until I was in college.
Today, I’m lucky because Reebok supplies me with all my running gear. With my contract, they even custom make shoes for me. I need very wide shoes because I have bunions. Let me tell you, runners don’t have pretty feet. Jon, my husband, is a toe runner, so he constantly has black toes and is losing toe nails.
When I was working as a physical therapist, patients would show me their feet and tell me they couldn’t run because of their bunions. I’d take off my shoes, show them my feet and say, “I run 90 miles a week on these.”
There aren’t too many running gadgets in my bag.
I’m not much of a gadget person. I’m not one who runs with a pair of earphones in and an iPod turned up.
This week I went for a run along the coast through Pebble Beach and I could hear the frogs near Bird Rock. I’d miss that if I were wearing headphones.
If it’s raining out, like it was this week on the Monterey Peninsula, I’ll throw on a hat and a jacket. I have to admit rain is my least favorite element. I am definitely not an Oregon girl.
The rain was so heavy Sunday I went for a run on the treadmill at the gym. I really don’t like the treadmill, but one thing about them at my gym is they are set up in front of a full-length mirror. That gives me a chance to watch myself, watch how my feet land, pay attention to my form — make sure I’m being efficient with my stride.
It beats trying to watch television at the same time. I don’t see all that well, so I can’t read the closed-captioning on the screen.
No, I prefer a simple run by the ocean and listening to the frogs serenade me.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Blake and her family have been on the road the past few weeks, from the east (Plymouth) to the west (Hawaii). The time changes have played a little havoc with Quin’s nap schedule, but haven’t set back Blake’s training schedule.
“It hasn’t been too bad. Sometimes I have problems if I’m racing in a different time zone. Like if I’m racing at 7:30 a.m. in Florida, my body still thinks its 4:30 a.m. If it’s a big race I set time aside to get adjusted.
“The worst is track races at night. I once had a 10:30 p.m. race at Stanford. It was the best time weather-wise, but waiting around was the worst.”
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Luckily I’m a runner and not a swimmer, or a Chinese gymnast who hits her prime at what, 12? I wasn’t able to train full-time until after I got my contract with Reebok in 2004. Before that, it was kind of an “intense hobby.”
When I came out of college (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1997), I wasn’t the best, but I was improving.
I was just a late bloomer. In 2004, I just missed making the Olympic team after leading for much of the way. Even though I was probably the dark-horse, it was still a huge disappointment. It’s not fun to finish fourth and get passed in the last 800 meters of a marathon, but that performance helped get me my contract with Reebok.
Had I been a college superstar or known I had Olympic potential, things might have been different.
Right out of college my parents encouraged me, and even offered to finance me, if I wanted to just focus on running. But I wanted to get my master’s in physical therapy and work in the field.
Sometimes I wish I had taken them up on the offer to just run for a few years. When you take those 40 hours on your feet — the time you spend working — out of the equation, it makes all the difference. One of the toughest parts was taking the time off work to fly to races.
In a way, I think I am more appreciative of my contract with Reebok now because of the way I earned it. There is something about knowing you can still fight your way to the top, as opposed to someone who is given everything all along the way.
You know, of all the women running in Division I in 1997 I am the only one still competing. Thankfully, women have established that they can run well into their late 30s. I’m 35, yikes! It takes years and years to develop the stamina in order to race a marathon. I raced and won my first marathon at 28 after
Though it was frustrating to take time off to have a baby during my peak years, I would not have changed a thing. My coach and I had talked about options, and the best was to have as much recovery time as possible.
Having a baby right after the Olympics gave me the most time to recover and try to qualify for London in 2012.
Jon, my husband, agreed. It’s a good thing, because I would not have won any mommy comeback awards.
There have been a few bumps in the road, but now things are falling back into place. The U.S. Olympic Trials are creeping up and are only a year from January in Houston. In the meantime, I am deciding on a spring marathon and will use the USA 8k Cross Country Championships in San Diego on Feb. 5 as a tune-up race and possibly a few track races along the way.
I am eager to put my racing shoes on again.
Friday, December 17, 2010
When I came out of college (UNC Chapel Hill, 1997) I wasn’t the best, but I was improving. I was just a late bloomer. In 2004, I just missed making the Olympic team after leading for much of the way.
Even though I was probably the dark-horse, it was still a huge disappointment. It not fun to finish fourth and get passed in the last 800 meters of a marathon, but that performance helped get me my contract with Reebok.
- Read Blake's column in its entirety in Saturday's Herald
Thursday, December 16, 2010
When people find out I live here they ask me if I’ve run the Big Sur Marathon. I do plan to some time. It’s a beautiful marathon, but right now I need a fast time. The course just isn’t conducive to that.
But it is something I want to do after my competitive career is over. It’s just so scenic. Jon is trying to work out his schedule so he can train and run in it with a friend this year.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
How do you hold back a thoroughbred? If you ask Blake Russell’s husband he’d probably answer, “with great difficulty!” Seems the Olympic marathoner has a difficult time keeping her foot off the accelerator during a race, even if that race is only supposed to be a fun run. As we were working on this week’s column, Blake reflected on what her running life might be like after retirement. “Running in key marathons when I’m in top shape, I like that idea. … But the idea of racing after I’m done as an elite runner, that doesn’t appeal to me.” Because when Blake gets in a racing environment she wants to race, not to just enjoy the journey as she does on many of her training runs. So entering a Turkey Trot with her husband? “The plan was we were going to run together, but I kept surging ahead of him. At one point he grabbed me by the braid and said, ‘What? You got a hot date you’re late for?’” — Dave Kellogg, Blake’s writing “coach”
Saturday, December 11, 2010
How do you make sure you keep training even when you’re on vacation? Take your coach with you.
This week Team Russell (me, 18-month-old Quin, my husband Jon and coach Bob Sevene) went to Kauai for a vacation. It was our first official vacation since before the Beijing Olympics and, believe me, the Olympics didn’t feel like a vacation.
Getting motivated to run has never been a big issue for me. When you’re an elite runner you have to be internally motivated. But there are times I’m more excited about running than others.
There are just days when you feel like running forever.
I had one of those in Hawaii this week. I had started out on a bike trail, but then cut down a narrow trail and found a long dirt road, the perfect surface that doesn’t overly tax my joints.
What a great discovery. I was enjoying myself so much, I extended my run. The only reason I turned back was because Jon and Quin were waiting for me. They were frolicking in the pool while I ran.
That’s something I enjoy about runs: they can be about exploring new trails, seeing new things (like the adventure I talked about in last week’s column where I slipped out of our training center in China). I don’t like to do the same thing every day. I love being out in nature, exploring.
That’s what makes training on a treadmill so tough. It’s almost like time is going backward. It takes forever.
You have to fight with yourself not to keep looking at your watch.
The better I feel the more I want to run. It’s more fun when you get in better shape.
Runs seem to fly by.
Sometimes the toughest part is just getting started, just getting out the door. But I remember that I almost never finish a run feeling worse than when I started.
Running intervals at the track? Now, that can be daunting. I tell myself I’ve done this before and I can do it again. Once you get started the adrenaline kicks in. I get competitive with myself, trying to bring my times down. That’s also when it’s good to have a training partner and a coach there. It makes it easier to know it’s not just you out there suffering.
That’s one thing about Coach Sev, I think he errs on the side of caution. He knows if I’m feeling good I’ll push the workouts. He knows I’m giving it my best effort. It’s pretty rare when I’ve said I’m done and just leave the workout.
This past week in Hawaii, Coach Sev joined me on some of my runs or was waiting for me when I got back. Now that was good motivation.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Over Thanksgiving weekend Blake and I had a telephone conversation about some of her favorite runs. When I asked her about what her ideal run would be, she didn’t hesitate. In the background I could hear the cry of a toddler demanding a mother’s attention. It wasn’t Quin, but his cousin, who is also about 19 months old. Blake was in a houseful of relatives, old and young, and the excitement level sounded high. So, in a way, I wasn’t surprised that Blake didn’t say anything about the thrill of qualifying for the Olympic team, or entering the Olympic Stadium at the end of the marathon before a cheering throng, although I’m sure she’ll never forget those times. When asked about her favorite run she went somewhere a lot different.
“My ideal run would be just me, by myself. Oh, and maybe a couple of coyotes.
One of my all-time favorite places to run is Walden Pond in Massachusetts. When I was working in Boston I would go for early morning runs there before work. You could run for two hours without seeing another soul. There were a lot of mornings where it was just me and a couple of fishermen. I loved seeing the sun peeking through the trees and the mist coming off the pond.”
Well, heck, it was good enough for Thoreau. – Dave, Blake’s writing “coach”
Saturday, December 4, 2010
When you’re an Olympic athlete, you can’t take many days off. So when I’m out of my Monterey Peninsula comfort zone, I still have to get out and run. That means finding a challenging, safe course — even if you’re on the other side of the world.
Being in China to compete in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 presented me with many unique challenges, not the least of which was finding fun places to run.
The track and field team arrived three weeks ahead of time to acclimate to the country.
We stayed in a town called Dalian which is about a nine-hour ride from Beijing. It is a resort town on the coast, away from the pollution and heat of Beijing.
Security was ultra tough.
There were about 30 to 40 armed guards stationed around the hotel and training facilities. We could run around the hotel golf course, but that got boring pretty fast.
If we left the hotel grounds the guards were instructed to follow us in their car. Luckily we were able to lose them by ducking in some trails nearby or out a back entrance of the golf course.
If the marathoners needed to do a road workout, security officials would shut down six miles of the highway or a local road for two hours, stopping all local traffic until we were finished. I felt sorry for those drivers stuck waiting for us. Officials also closed roads if we needed to go to the training track, which was about 20 minutes away.
We had a police escort that stopped all traffic until we passed.
It was the easy runs on the rural roads that allowed me to see more of the Chinese countryside. I stumbled across a beautiful temple up a hilly road on one of these runs. Another time I came across a group of men who appeared to be taking a break from some sort of game — they were squatting in a circle, laughing. When I ran by and greeted them in Chinese they were a little stunned.
We runners definitely stood out in China. The locals were eager to practice their English on us or get a photo with us even though they had no idea who we were. The children were sweet and often came running up with hand-drawn pictures saying “Welcome to Beijing.” Some of the children were a bit more wary and just hugged their parents’ legs not knowing what to make of us.
One memory really stands out to me now that I have a toddler — that was seeing young children not wearing diapers. Maybe they were on to something over there.