January 08, 2012

Houston 2012 Spotlight: Susan Empey

We have been counting the days until the Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston and now it's nearly here! 197 women have qualified for the Marathon Trials and on January 14, 2012 they will line up in Houston to compete for three spots on the USA Olympic Team!

Of course you'll hear all about Shalane, Desi, Deena and Kara... but every woman toeing the line this Saturday is an incredible athlete AND an incredible story in their own right.

We are proud to have two Oiselle Team runners competing in Houston this year! Our very own Susan Empey of Washington State and Becki Michael of Ohio. I interviewed both runners (even throwing in some questions you all asked on Twitter) and I'm excited to introduce you to both of these strong, fast, inspiring women.


MEET SUSAN EMPEY

OLYMPIC TRIALS 2012 MARATHON QUALIFIER


Qualifying Race: Twin Cities Marathon 2011
Qualifying Time: 2:45:27
Marathon PR: 2:45:27




THE HISTORY

When did you start running?
I basically started jogging about 4 weeks into my freshman year at college when I stepped on the scale to see I was ½ way to the dreaded “Freshman 15” a mere month into the school year.  My trajectory was not looking good.

First race? 
Run to the Farside in San Francisco

When did you run your first marathon? And if we may ask, why?  
I ended up loving jogging and decided to try and turn it more into a “run”.  Running became such a great outlet for me at school that it quickly became an integral part of every day.  I decided since my mom was a marathoner, that I should try one too, and chose the Big Sur Marathon (April, 1989) because it was close to where I was in school (Santa Clara University).  Little did I know until I drove the course the day before the race, that it is known to be one of the hillier marathons you can run.  I cried on the shuttle bus to the start line of the race because I was soooo scared.  But my mom came down from Seattle to root me on and although the course was indeed hilly, it was so spectacular;  I was hooked after that.

THE OLYMPIC TRIALS PREPARATION

What does your training look like for the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon? 

In addition to all of the below items, I think was has proven beneficial for me are the “little things”……  sleep, massage every so often, acupuncture when needed, and perhaps most importantly, listening to my body when it says I need to back off.

How many miles per week did you run while training?
70-95 mpw

What were your key workouts?
 I’m a fan of long tempo runs where after a warm-up of several easy miles, start with 2-3 miles of marathon pace (MP) + 10 seconds and then hit 3-5 miles of MP and then finally 2-3 miles of something closer to ½ MP.  Those are the runs that are big confidence boosters for me.

Do you incorporate strength/weights in your training? 
No weights, but I do have a 20 minute core routine that I do 3 times a week.

What about drills? 
No, I’m too clumsy.

Did you run any 'check-in' races as you prepared?
3-4 weeks prior to a marathon I try to do a hard ½ marathon.  Those results help me adjust or solidify my marathon goals but doing it 3-4 weeks out still gives me plenty of time to recover.  The older I get, the longer the recovery is.

Twitter Question from Lauren Bogenberger (@bogenber26): “How do you mentally prepare and sort through the pressure and nerves?” 
Well, I’ve had it both ways where my mental preparation has gone well, but I’ve also been defeated by myself as well.  My most successful races though I try to come up with a super short phrase (“Give 100%”,“Believe”, “Dig Deep”, “No regrets”) that I write on my hand, and I think of the people who are rooting for me back home and draw strength from them.  And I also remember a quote from Shalane Flannagan years ago who obviously REALLY has pressure on her, and she said “pressure is a privilege” -- there is something to that as well.

THE RACE

Twitter Question from Frency Moore (@runningfrency) “Will you be wearing rundies at the trials?!”
Ooooh, I don’t have those yet, but I will be happily sporting some awesome Oiselle compression shorts and a sassy striped tank.  I can’t wait.

What is your race day routine?
I am a total creature of habit.  I will do a shake-out run of 5 minutes 3 ¼ hours before the start.  I then have a large cup of black coffee, and an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana.  I’ll warm-up with ~ 1 ½ miles 30 minutes before the gun goes off.  And I (unfortunately) won’t sleep a wink the night before.

Do you have good luck charms/traditions?
Nope!

What are your race day goals? 
My A Goal is to finish the race.  I didn’t in 2008 and I want to (and will) this time!  My B Goal is to feel good and enjoy the experience – ideally I will start somewhat conservatively and then negative split, but that is sometimes easier said than done.  And obviously, a PR would be great!  U-turns and sharp corners are not my forte though so we’ll see how bad they are in Houston.  I’ll take a hill to a u-turn any day.

Who’s your support team on the course? 
The Oiselle crew (Sally, Sarah and Sarah), my husband, 2 kids, mom and step-parents.  I’m excited.
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I can't wait to cheer her on! Susan will be hard to miss - she'll be racing in my favorite Spring 12 piece: The Simplicity Tank.

If you'd like to read more about the contenders check out the official Olympic Trials Marathon 2012 Houston website.