Athletes Corner: Jen Saint Jean - Faster as a Master

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After meeting Jen at the New York Road Runners Night at the Races, I was inspired to say the least. I watched her race and then chatted with her afterwards. She was approachable, easy to talk to, wicked fast and I was convinced that she had sponsorship.

I was surprised to learn that while she's been tearing up the track, she's not spoken for (yet) but I have no doubt that with her form curve going up and work ethic, that will change soon.

Apart from giving a lot of youngsters a run for their money, Jen is an entrepreneur, mother, dachshund lover, wife and somehow makes it all work and look easy. So I asked to pick her brain.

Read for yourself:

How did you become a runner and what is your favorite distance?

I started running in the 8th grade. I went to a friends house after school and she said she was going back to school for cross-country practice. I asked her if I could come and then asked her what cross-country was. She said we go out and run. So I borrowed some shorts and went to practice with her. We were running with the coach and he asked me how I felt. I said I felt fine. He asked if I could go faster and I said probably. He said, "do you see that runner up ahead", I said yes, and he said, "try to catch up to her". So I did. After practice he said, "that is the best runner on our team. Would you like to join us?". I said "my mom probably won’t let me". He said "I’ll talk to her". Mom came to pick me up at the middle school and the coach talked to her. He said, it won’t cost anything but if you could get her some running sneakers that would be great. I had run that practice in keds.

faster as a master 2

faster as a master 2

I ran 3 cross-country races that fall and ended up coming in 3rd at our league meet.

In high school, after a disappointing fall cross country season and plagued by being not prepared for the longer runs I was excited for indoor track. I stuck with the shorter distance group and started training for the 1000 meters. It quickly became my favorite and has remained my favorite distance.

You race quite a bit and not even a pregnancy (or two) can stop you? What is special about racing vs “just running to stay fit"?

I took over 15 years off of competition and I stayed running through those years. It helped me to get off my baby weight but I didn’t feel great. I wasn’t consistent in my training & really ran with no purpose. While I did not need to lose weight, I was not fit and lacked a lot of strength. My health was not great. I became determined to get healthy and to feel good about myself. I had surgery to fix a faulty organ (hysterectomy) and with all of my nutritional deficiencies I wanted to get my health back. I started eating a special diet to help my GI system and started training more consistently after my surgery. Then a year ago, I took my training up a notch and started competing seriously again. I feel strong now. I feel alive.

faster as a master 4

faster as a master 4

You are also a mother, wife and business owner. Could you walk us through a day in the life?

I always remind people that at best, I can only do two things successfully in one day. It is a juggling act for sure. The morning routine is to wake up before everyone. I have a cup of coffee and small breakfast in silence. I need this time to set my day. Then I make sure my tween is up and getting ready for school. My husband slowly wakes up to start to prepare for his long day. His income is the one we depend upon. I start to make lunches and clean up any left over dishes from the night before. I head upstairs to wake the little one and give her the “morning report”. I let her know what the weather is, what is for school lunch and what her activities for the day will be. Then she goes about getting herself ready now. At this point I may have to make her lunch or just prepare a snack. I let her decide. After both of the kids go off to school and husband off to work it is my dogs turn. I get him outside and feed him breakfast. After all of this is done, I try to get outside for my run. Then I come back stretch, do PT and have a real breakfast. This will give me about 4 hours to get all the other things done. I run a business from home making handbags and accessories. I try to get about 2 hours a day of work into my schedule. The other 2 hours are spent managing my household and all the many things that go with it. When the kids get home from school we are off to our after school activities or getting homework done. After everyone is settled & knows what they need to do, I start to prepare dinner. Clean up and get the kiddos ready for bed. Husband is on his way home from a busy day and we get about an hour or so together to relax and recap our days.

faster as a master 3

faster as a master 3

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

I just started back to racing this past year. It has been quite a journey. The biggest race highlight was running 4:37 in the 1500 meters at the world championship and winning a silver medal. The hardest part was losing by 3/10ths of a second.

Over the next few years I want to work on becoming faster as a master. My open PR at 23 years old was 4:19 and I don’t believe I have reached my top performance yet. So now I want to run faster than that time. All roads lead to this one goal.

You choose to keep a running and fitness regimen that puts many of us to shame. How do you (re)fuel and do you use nutritional supplements?

I am a big proponent of eating clean and eating real food. When that is not possible, I do have some nutritional supplements that I use. Typically I travel to races so right after a race, I don’t have time to make myself a dinner. I’m sitting in a car or plane coming home. I use Vega Sports Recovery Protein Powder after races. I have 3 favorite bars for emergency snacks: Probar Peanut Butter Protein Bar, Picky Bars Ah Nuts, and Natures Bakery Pomegranate Fig Bar. These are all gluten and dairy free. For fluids I am a huge fan of Nuun.

faster as a master 4

faster as a master 4

If you don’t mind me asking, how much weight did you gain in your first pregnancy and what was it like during and then getting back in shape?

I gained nearly 50 pounds with each of my pregnancies. A little less the second time around because she was an early c-section.

Do you work out with a team or coach? If not how do you stay motivated day in and day out?

I have a run coach. I train with the Westchester Track Club and I am an ambassador for Oiselle and Nuun. I don’t receive compensation but I love their products so I am happy to support them.

What physical activities do you do on *gasp* rest days?

On my rest days, I like to walk and do hot yoga.

What is your favourite indulgence (food or other things)?

My food weakness is the corn chip. All kinds.

Have you had to overcome (running related) injuries? How did you do it?

I have had iron deficiency, a hip fracture because I tripped on a hurdle, stress fractures in my shins, more recently a disc bulge, plantar fasciitis and patella tendonitis. Some of them were caused by growth spurts, improper shoes, doing too much, raking of the leaves…it is always the last straw that broke the camels back.

What advice would you give someone who is a running novice or looking to get fit later in life and particularly if they are mothers with a set of responsibilities, tight schedules etc.?

I think quality is more important than quantity. I would start very slow and find a routine that works for you. Doing too much too soon is not good. You’ll see people doing this and that and you might be tempted to do all the things but that is not good either. Having a trainer to get you started is always a good idea. They can help you set proper limits. You don’t need to see them every day but maybe you check in with them once a month to see how your progress is going.

How would you describe the emotional benefits of running, given that it is a sport that comes with a lot of highs and lows over time...

The friendships are hands down the best part of running. It makes me feel good about myself and generally you are around a pretty happy crowd. The friendships mean more to me than the victories.

Quick questions:

Athlete crush? Lauren Fleishman

Trail or Road? Trail

Long runs or Speed Work? Speed work

Garmin or carefree? Garmin

Solo or with company? Company