Monday, December 15, 2014

Interview #6: Beth Panke

We made it! Welcome to the season finale of Two-Something!

This week we're featuring my Fleet Feet Racing teammate, Beth Panke. Relatively new to running, Beth has shown quite a bit of aptitude for the marathon. She debuted at the 2013 BoA Chicago Marathon in 3:07 and knocked almost 10 minutes off her personal best in the 2014 race, posting a 2:58.

Of all the interviews in this series, Beth's includes the most other runners whom she calls "family." I think you'll find Beth's passion for running and her enjoyment of the running community is contagious!

What is your running background? More specifically, how did you begin running marathons?

I actually think my path is a bit unique (and that may just be me) but I used to hate running. My dad tells this great story of when on our “Family Fitness Sundays” he would take the whole family to the track to run a mile (just 1 mile!) and I would just sit in the middle of the track and pout – yes, my mom would be lapping me around the track.

Something in middle school just switched and in 7th grade I started running with my dad. Nothing long or intense – it was just that I got to spend the morning before I went to school out on the streets with my dad. Now that I look back, it was really our time together. I never ran cross country in high school but continued to run 3 – 6 miles with my dad regularly. I still hated races and would get really nervous. The idea of competition did not fuel the fire the same way it does now. I just don’t think I was really ready for it.

Once I had started running with my dad though, the progression to marathons seemed like just what you did. My dad was my pseudo coach with 43 marathons under his belt – 8 Bostons. And the group he trained with in St. Louis called the “6:20 club” (met at 6:20am in the mornings and claim they ran 6:20min/mile) was filled with similar guys (no women allowed in the 80s unless they could hang) who only talked about how men were made or broken on the marathon course. It was this ideal that just hung in my mind as the thing that you did. I actually ran the last 10K of the Chicago Marathon with my dad when I was a sophomore in high school and from that moment on, I knew that I wanted to do marathons. I went to Vanderbilt and did not run for my college either but started to find what running was going to be for me.

Beth and an unnamed runner from Lithuania, killing it at what looks to be one of the nastiest portions of the Chicago Marathon course (Mile 22?)

Can you describe your marathon progression?

I consider myself such a rookie that I think my progression is still yet to come! I really have only started building my marathon base. I have run three marathons – Chicago 2013, Chicago 2014 and then NYC 2014.  I really have to thank the community of runners in Chicago, mainly Fleet Feet [FF] and Chicago Endurance Sports [CES] and the 7:30 pace group ☺ for getting me into shape and guiding me and advising me through it all. When I moved to Chicago after graduation in 2012, I did a good amount of fall racing but really was just running on my own. I decided to sign up for spring training with CES and that is where the real journey began. I ran with the 7:30 pace group and met Katelyn [Draths] and Sascha [Edge] and Mark [Scheitler, Mark's Two-Something Interview] and they became my family. To this day I don’t know where I would be without that group. Then we all did summer marathon training and the family grew larger! Funny side note, I was such a rookie that it took me until JULY to get a watch and ran in cotton t shirts for almost all of training, Yup, that was me haha.

A sampling of Beth's run family on a shakeout run before the 2014 Chicago Marathon.
(Left to right) Jake Spitz, Matt Neibler, Beth, Alex Weems, Dennis Ryan, Mark, Sascha, and Heather Nadeau

So I would say my training for that first Chicago in 2013 was heavy mileage but not quality. I was just running A LOT and with that came the plague of runner’s knee. I was about a month out of the marathon and my hips were just weak. I actually had a free injury screening after the Elvis is Alive race and I told them if they were going to have me take time off from running that I would basically not listen. What a great patient I was! I will say though it was amazing how much incorporating PT exercises and strength got me back into the game without any time off really – [I] ran the whole marathon with no pain.

I did pretty darn well for my first marathon – 3:07:59. However, Coach Dad had me go over my splits with him and in his words they were “pathetic”. At one point, I was running a 6:22 and then got all the way up to 8:00 for one mile towards the end. Definitely paid for it. But I was in love with the marathon from the moment I crossed the finish line.

After that I really did not rest properly and got back into running too quickly afterwards. Had the same injury AGAIN over the winter and dropped out of the Boston Bound training group. It was so bad that I could not even kick when I would swim – I literally did laps down the pool only pulling with my arms. I hated that time. Came off the injury in the spring really ready to go – paced a few races and then had some strong spring races in the usual circuit – again doing training with CES in the spring and then summer marathon training, this time pacing the 7:30 group in hopes to work on consistency with my splits.

This summer the focus was different though too. I REALLY wanted to break 3. Just dead set on it. I started doing more effort based workouts during the week with Katelyn and Pam Manley (who joined the group when she moved here from Boston in July[, Pam's Two-Something Interview]) and focusing more on the week as a whole vs just a long run on the weekend. I really tried to focus on running on tired legs as well as putting in the effort in those effort based workouts and then actually slowing down on the recovery days, Marne Smiley has been my guru, coach, running partner and friend since that time – I tell her every day that I don’t know where I would be without her. We would get a run in here and there during the week and she really taught me how to slow down and shift my focus to the overall, big picture of my running goals.

When I joined the FF [R]acing team in July my world was opened up to even more amazing people to run with and learn from. This summer was pretty great and when Chicago came I was just ready. A big group of us were going out to break 3 and so it was like I had my family with me during that race. And a nice pacer (thank you Emil [Bojanov]!) got me through miles 10-21 – and at 22 I knew I had it. Crossed the finish at 2:58:39 – and the best part was I shattered my Dad’s PR of 3:01 ☺[.]

New York City [Marathon] was just three weeks afterwards and there was such a sense of “I get to enjoy this race” vs race it. I had done what I wanted to do and I could really soak up all that NYC had to offer. And it is truly an incredible race – it is the essence of the love/hate that is NYC – you will just always come back for more even though it bites you in the ass haha. Allie Walters and Erin [Chenoweth] and I all got to travel together and meet up in NYC after the race – again, it was like I had family with me no matter what. I came in at 3:14 for NYC and left happy with an incredible fall and ready for a little time off. Boston is next up in April and I can’t wait to be there for the first time. It is THE marathon. And I will be going for it!

Fleet Feet Racing teammates, Beth, Jill Czarnik, and Bess Ritter, enjoying some post-race fun at the Pumpkins in the Park 5k.

How has your marathon philosophy evolved throughout this progression?

I think I am still building and discovering my own philosophy as I am new to the sport, but there are a few main things that I have learned that I think have changed the way I view my running “career” and what I want to make of it. First, it’s the quality workouts and not just repetitive heavy mileage (although, I think you have got to get high mileage during training). Work when you have those lactate threshold runs or those tempo or strength runs – and really use the recovery runs as recovery. Your long run on the weekend should not be more than 25% of what you have run during the week. The focus should not be so narrow as to that fated long run but broader on the overall week. I also learned the value of stretching and investing in tools that do that. I used to NEVER stretch. Really never. Now I try to at least say, ok 10 mins. That’s all you have to do. And foam rolling. OH, and the ORB. Changed my life (you can buy it at FF ☺).

But I really have learned the value of stretching and preventative exercises. That is really the last thing – the strength and the preventative training rather than the reactive training. I like to use the word that the Edge Athlete Lounge that I go to says – it’s about “precovery”. I became a member there during training for Chicago this year and I know it is what kept me healthy and strong and injury free. Their compression boots, ice bath/hot tub and overall recovery equipment kept me getting back at it faster than before and stronger than before.

The other part of precovery is strength training. Marne, Jill [Czarnik], and I (and really this was Marne’s idea) got together this fall and decided that we were tired of having it be the norm that runners just don’t do strength training. The three of us have been plagued with injuries due to the lack of strength training and so we decided we wanted to change that – and truly create, if plans went well, an almost program where female runners could go to incorporate this. We have been doing strength training now twice a week at this gym behind the Whole Foods at North and Clybourn and I cannot wait to see how it pays off for Boston. It has become one of my favorite parts of my week.

Don't mess with these ladies!
(Left to right) Marne, Beth, and Jill 

What are your running goals next year and beyond?

Great question – gahhh!!! I really tried to take the time to decide what I really wanted to get out of running and who I wanted to be – if I could get myself to at 2:58 essentially on my own, then I decided it was time for someone else to do the thinking and for me to execute. I am ready to take it to the next level – and I feel like elite women athletes are about 29-32 yrs of age so I got a good 5 years to build up to that! I got a coach and have been working with him these past few weeks and he will be training me, if he doesn't hate me after a few months haha, for the next who knows how many years. He is actually Marne’s coach too so she is really not getting rid of me anytime soon ☺[.]

My first goal is to shave a few minutes off my Chicago time in Boston – maybe a 2:56? Can I do it? Then, I am excited because I am really giving the reins over to my coach. I kind of am excited to be like, ok you tell me what we need to focus on for the next few years. That is why my schedule is sort of to be determined after Boston. I would though like to improve my turnover and speed – my 5K times are just not where I want them to be so I know one thing will be to focus on that aspect.

Bonus question:

I noticed you ran a nearly perfect negative split race in Chicago this past October. Was that according to race plan or did it just work out that way? Either way, that's pretty impressive!

Thank you!!! I don’t know if it was intentional but my main focus was keeping that 5-7 second window on each mile. I knew that consistency was going to be key or I would screw myself over at the end. Since my first Chicago was so “pathetic” (but, it really was I just got lucky to hold on at the end) I knew that the key to me breaking 3 [hours] would have to be NOT TO GO OUT TOO FAST.  My standard move haha. I actually looked at my splits with my dad over thanksgiving and he noticed that I never ran one mile this Chicago as fast as I did my first Chicago and I shaved ten minutes off my overall time – thought that was pretty cool. But again, all the other things I couldn't control (weather etc) came into place so it really was just taking advantage of that opportunity. And now doing that again in all other races!

Thank you, Beth Panke, for taking time to share your experience with the marathon! I really appreciated your "newcomer's" perspective to running, and look forward to seeing your steady progression over the next few years.

Questions or comments? Leave a comment below!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Interview #5: Pam Manley

After a week hiatus, we're back with interview number five of six, featuring recently transplanted Boston-area native, Pam Manley! Like our last interviewee, Mark Dolgin, Pam had a breakthrough race at this year's BoA Chicago Marathon, running a personal best of 2:52.

In addition to discussing her blazing fast marathon PR and running background, I'm excited to share some of Pam's thoughts on motherhood and the marathon as well as her comparison of the strengths of two of the country's best running towns, Chicago and Boston!

Pam won the 2014 Chicago Spring Half Marathon!

What is your running background? More specifically, how did you begin running marathons?

I have been a runner in some way since I was 14. I ran track in both high school and college as well as field hockey (so I did not run cross country). I went to Dedham High School, outside of Boston, and then Trinity College in Hartford, CT which is a NESCAC school, Div III.  Since it was a D3 school I got to run and play field hockey which was great. I ran the 800 mostly and was so against trying the longer distance[s] that I now think it is pretty funny that anything shorter than a marathon feels like a short race to me! That being said, I did run my first marathon in the spring of my senior year [of undergrad]. I just jumped into Boston Marathon 1999 in Hopkinton (it was easier then) and ran a 4:07. I think I had run 13 miles once before trying this. I come from a family of athletes, some runners but a lot of hockey players! My parents are very fit and active and I watched the marathon every year of my childhood at the same point on heartbreak hill. I remember watching it with a crew of cousins and my sister and we just played in the grass while thousands of runners went by us. It wasn't a foreign idea to me; to run a marathon.

That first marathon was just to do it and I never really thought about what I could do if I trained. I continued to jump in the Boston [M]arathon with no number for a few years[.] I got a charity number one year from a friend at John Hancock.  I ran the next 3 marathons [in] exactly the same time: 3:47.  I did train a little bit more than my maiden voyage but not much.  I got married when I was 26 and my life kind of settled down.  My best friend also moved to Chicago and I decided to visit her and run the marathon [there], I think I was 28.  I decided to “really train” for this race but I maybe did about 40 miles a week and thought that was extreme. I ran a 3:16 and this got me started… I wondered if I could be a “contender.”

[Editor's note: Pam requested I edit out that last line however it's this mentality that I wanted to capture in my interviews! You don't have to be a sub-3 hour performer to have this "fighting spirit," but I think it's clear that so far all 2-Something interviewees have this in common. They're all looking to be a contender in the struggle to be the best possible runner-selves.]

Can you describe your marathon progression?

My marathon progression and philosophy is very much tied to each phase of life.  I ran that 3:16 in 2007 and then ran 2 marathons in 2008. Each one I trained a little more but still just on my own[;] no coach or club.  I ran a 3:10 in Boston and then a 2:55 in Hartford, CT.  This, obviously, was exciting.  I lifted a lot more (especially sport specific plyometrics) but still trained mostly on my own. This time [2:55] prompted me to contact the BAA about training programs.  I joined their team in the summer of 2009.  Since I had dropped such a big chunk of time between marathons, I kind of thought I might be able to do that again.  I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon which was the [USATF] Women’s National Championship Race that year.  I trained very hard, [doing] long runs with the BAA.  I was so psyched for that race, I went out way too fast, ran a 1:21 for the first half and then struggled in the second half and ran another sub 3 marathon but not my best time.  I was disappointed and probably would have had to reaccess training and goals except I got pregnant shortly after this and spent the next three years having two baby boys (Jack was born in 2010 and Luke in 2012) []. I did run Boston 2011 in between pregnancies in a 3:07.

2013 was my big come back year!  I was still training just long runs with the BAA, doing a little speed and tempo on my own. After having Luke in May of 2012, I ran Fort Lauderdale [in early] 2013, won it in 3:00, ran Providence 2013, [for] 2nd, ran my fastest 5K at 18:07, and then ran a PR (by 30 secs) in New York 2013 with another 2:55.

My husband and I decided to move to Chicago for his career in the spring of 2014.  As soon as we made this decision, I signed up for the Chicago Marathon.  It was great to have that to focus on as we moved our family halfway across the country, away from our family and friends.  The result of this focus and training with Fleet Feet/CES on the lakefront path was a new PR of 2:52 and that made it all worth it.

How has your marathon philosophy evolved throughout this progression?

My marathon philosophy has changed from just completing a race to competing in it.  Marathons allow me to surprise myself, hopefully in a good way.  I see it as a bit of a science experiment to see what I can do with my body.  I have [been] able to compete with fast times [despite] low training mileage.  I have always thought this was because of my background in many different sports.  I am strong and muscular, probably more so than many thin, long-legged distance runners! I still run lower mileage than many women that run my times but I have slowly learned (and admitted) that I do have to add in the miles along with the strength and speed if I want to continue to chase PRs.
Until this summer, I was also a teacher and a coach in our town outside of Boston: Duxbury, MA.  My marathon philosophy has always been to fit it in, make it work, and get it done.  I am just starting to add in more of a science and method to it.  I have always been a competitive person and marathons are an outlet for competition that has adapted with my life.

Pam with her little ones after a second place finish at 2014's The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon.

You're a mom of two, how has motherhood changed your approach to the marathon?

That same philosophy of fitting it all in has amplified since motherhood.  I leave the house to run shortly after 5am.  I do plyometrics while watching Disney movies.  My 4 year old thinks my red running shoes are the “Fastest shoes" he has ever seen and I often have to go into his closet to find my racing flats.  But this has made my running even more important.  I think it teaches my kids to be active and fit people.  My husband is an athlete as well and supports me.  I think my boys see this as an example of being a good “partner” to each other.  I am also teaching my boys that moms (women) can be strong, athletes - not just their dads.

[Editor's note: Yes!]

Since having kids I have also slowly given up other parts of my life.  I used to coach, but retired from that in 2012.  I taught full time, then dropped to part time, and now I am a stay at home mom. But running has never been on the chopping block.  I see marathons as not just a medal but a sign to the outside world that I still have my own goals, my own abilities, aside from being a mother.

After running 2:52 in Chicago this year, what are your goals for next year and beyond?

I do feel like the clock is ticking for me!  I am 37 and I want to run at least a sub 2:50 before I die!! Haha!  After this year’s marathon, I was put in touch with the New Balance Chicago Racing Team coach and I just committed to running with them for the 2015 season.  The coach there, Michael Lucchesi is very knowledgeable, the team is small and training is personalized.  I think I am going to race a several shorter events in the spring; maybe even an indoor track meet!  I’ll try to get some leg speed and maintain a faster pace in a 10K.  The idea will be to hold this speed as I add the miles back in when training for Chicago 2015.  I’m hoping for a sub 2:50; how far below will be determined by my times in the spring races.

Bonus question:

I'm not sure this is germane to the rest of the interview, but I've been interested in the tradition and lore of running on the east coast. Now that you've been in Chicago for a bit, in what can Chicago learn from Boston? Vice-versa?

I am so happy to answer this question.   There may be an edge to the Boston scene that Chicago does not have; a history of competition.  New Englanders are known for being pretty cut throat!  There are great runners in Boston [and] great coaches, but not the community of support that exists in Chicago.  At least it was harder to find for me in Boston.  When I moved here, knowing no one, I was so lucky to join a group of people training for similar times in the Fleet Feet/CES training group.  It was such a diverse group of people with a similar goal.  I know there are other training groups out there on the path every Saturday and other pace groups that have the same camaraderie.   Two women in the group; Beth Panke and Katelyn Draths, invited me to join them for speed and tempo workouts [] and after being here for about 2 weeks, I had found amazing training partners.  I do think the lakefront path itself creates this community.  You see the same faces.  I also learned how you have to really be cognizant of other runners and bikes; my first few runs on the path ended with four letter words at bikers.  I calmed down though and most of that Boston girl has adapted and learned how to stay to the right.

(Left to right) Katelyn Draths, Pam, and Beth Panke enjoying a tune up 20 miler on Chicago's Lakefront.

I also am impressed with the presence of pace groups in so many races here.  They exist in Boston but not in such frequency.  I think that is part of creating that supportive training community.  Faster runners are constantly helping others reach their goal and probably learning something about themselves as runners in the process.

Moving to Chicago was a [big] decision for my family.  There were many pros and cons but a huge “pro” has been the running scene here, the people I have met, and the opportunity to learn a lot about running even though I've been doing it for 20+ years.

Thanks to Pam Manley for taking the time to share about her marathon journey! I look forward to hearing of her continued success as she plugs away at her goal of sub-2:50!

Thanks for reading!

Thoughts or questions? Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thankful 4

Due to a variety of reasons (mostly me trying to sleep off a cold), I won't be posting a new interview this week, however for your perusal, here's my answer to last weeks first #bibchat question.

See you next week!