Athletes Corner with Jessica: runner, mother of 4, wife, anesthetist (how she does it all...) - Part 1


As mentioned a while back, I will use these blogposts to interview inspiring people who do things that we are used to seeing pro athletes do, while maintaining relationships, working, raising families and performing at incredibly high levels. My first interviewee is well known and loved in the runners community on Instagram. Her running action shots feature beautiful trails and her selfies feature radiant smiles. It's hard for me to believe that she can fit everything she does into 24 hours but she does AND she is aiming to run her first 2:59 hr marathon this year.

After only a few email exchanges, Jessica has captivated me with her story and personality. I am sure the same will happen to you :)

R: How did you become a (speedy!) runner/ marathoner?

Jessica: I grew up in a very conservative fundamentalist religious sect that required all women to wear long skirts and dresses. Running or any type of sport that required shorts or pants was highly forbidden.

I started running in secret when I was 14. I felt soooo free for the first time ever (even in a skirt)! I eventually borrowed some shorts from a friend and would drop my skirt behind a bush a few blocks from home. I went further and further. It was the most addicting feeling ever! By my senior year, the cross-country coach at my high school had noticed me running and asked if I would like to come out for the cross-country team. I wasn't allowed to, so I told my parents I was joining the marching band. I practiced in secret and went to meets without them ever knowing. By the time track season rolled around and they finally found out, I had a track scholarship offer from a small local college. In our church, we were not encouraged to go to college, rather we were to marry young and have no less than eighteen children. I jumped on the opportunity to "run" away. I went to college and I never looked back.

Since then, I've never stopped running. Despite having children early, it became part of me, and I've been running continuously for 26 years. After college, I started doing local 5 and 10k's and eventually did my first marathon 11 years ago. I was hooked.

My speed at longer distances did not come naturally. Two years ago, after over 10 marathons, I had yet to break 3:30 hrs. I was frustrated! I always sounded like a steam engine when I ran and I couldn't figure out why I couldn't get faster. I hired a coach who promptly upped my mileage to 75+ miles/week, and added speed work and strength training. I went to see a pulmonologist and discovered I had pretty serious asthma. I started taking medications to help with breathing and on my next marathon, dropped ten minutes off my time.

Since then, with continued strength training, speed work, and high mileage (upwards of 90 miles/week at peak training), I've dropped 10 more minutes. I'm shooting for a sub-3 hour marathon this year or next. It's the goals that keep me going. Also, surrounding myself and training with friends that are just faster than me, always pushed me to aim for the next level. I think, if they can do it, why not me?

Athletes Corner Jess 1

R: You just ran #bostonstrong! What is special about the runners community?

Jessica: We have such an amazing running community with an unspeakable bond. There are no words to describe what it was like to run the Boston Marathon this year. Even though it was my 5th time, 2014 will absolutely go down as one of the most special accomplishments of my life. After last year's events (which I was also present for), we comforted each other, held each other up, encouraged each other to return, and that we did! We returned in force, we rallied, we ran together, we finished #bostonstrong, and we reclaimed this sacred event for the amazing city of Boston and for runners everywhere. We proved we don't run scared. I hold our running community in the highest regard.

R: You are also a mother, wife and anesthetist. Could you walk us through a day in the life? Jessica: I am blessed to have four beautiful children, ages 18,16, and twins 9. And I am beyond lucky to be married to a husband who supports me in a thousand different ways. Without him or my 18 year old daughter, things would be quite different.

A work day for me typically starts at 4 am, sometimes earlier. My primary job is to provide pediatric anesthesia for a large dental company that has over 30 offices all over our state. So I begin my trip early to arrive by 7 am for set-up and begin cases by 7:30 am. I'm usually finished by 3-4 pm and begin my journey home. Since my travel often takes me over Oregon's many mountain passes, I'll often stop and run trails on my way home. Or I head to the track for speed work or do my favorite 10 mile loop when I get home. Then it's homework and dinner time, and my husband and I tag team these chores. Several times a week, after the little ones are in bed, we'll head to the gym for some quick strength-training. Before bed, I prepare and restock for the next day's cases. I then fall in bed exhausted and sleep like the dead. On my days off, you will find me in the mountains, either on foot or on skis, far from any operating suite. :-) Work hard, play hard.

Athletes Corner Jess 2

R: Could you share some of your race highlights of the past years and the goals you have for the next few years?

Jessica: Well, every Boston Marathon has been amazing, and I guess that's why I keep going back. The last few years, I've had some major breakthroughs with new PR's, which had been so rewarding. There is nothing that reinforces all your hard work, as when you see significant results. It's the best feeling! I highly recommend the St. George marathon if you need a shiny new PR. It consistently delivers.

As for future goals, I truly want to run a 2:59 this fall, but if not, I'll keep chasing it. In the end, it's the journey that counts. And my ultimate goal is to keep running and stay fit for my lifetime, so it's important to keep that in perspective.

R: As a distance runner you train a lot! How do you (re)fuel and which nutritional supplements have you found helpful?

Jessica: Yes, I eat ALOT! My husband says I eat more than him ... (to be continued)