ICYMI just 6 months after giving birth to Hudson, Steph Bruce ran the Trials Standard and the Olympic A standard in the 10k at Stanford last Friday in a blazing 32:14.42. But can we alter that headline? I suggest the following: just 21 months and 6 months after having two 8lb+ baby boys, and momming them every day while coaching 25 athletes, training and somehow still finding time to hang with her husband…Steph Bruce ran the A standard in the 10k.
Because I spent a good part of the week before her 10k at her house and saw first hand what Steph Bruce’s life is really like. Yep, between going viral for keeping it real and racing her first 10k since the 2012 Olympic Trials, Steph was like, “Hey why don’t you come visit?” I mean she didn’t know her tummy was going to go viral, you can’t really plan for that kind of publicity unless you’re a calculating Kardashian. But still…it was a pretty big race week.
I’ve seen glimpses of professional runners' lives before. When running is your job, things do look different than if running is your hobby. There are nutritionists, coaches and therapists (massage, physical, sports psychology…). There are pacers, timers, and naps. There are boxes and boxes of free shoes, nutrition and apparel. Eliptigos and bikes, exercise bands and yoga balls and rollers everywhere.
All of this is true in Steph’s life. But there are also Medela pumps, exactly one trillion small bottles and nipples, toys and board books, spit up towels, baby monitors, tiny dining tables, baby rockers and car seats, nannies and nannies and nannies and Elmo and three huge calendars to track everything. That’s because Steph is mom to two kids under 21 months, is co-founder of Picky Bars, and a successful coach to nearly 25 athletes. She has a lot more to juggle than her nap schedule.
To add to the usual logistics tornado that particular race week, Steph was being courted and interviewed by nearly every USA publication about her postpartum comeback and keep it real commitment. And her husband, Ben, was in Wales racing the World Half Marathon Championships.
After a few days in the Bruce’s world I could completely understand how Steph had the right to ask me back in December 2014 why I wasn’t running. Nothing is ever perfect; there is no such thing. There is only the best you can do with what you have. Daily decisions to keep doing work, and keep looking up. Not just when you’re motivated, but when you’re tired.
Each morning our babies would cry awake around 6am. I would follow PJ up the stairs. When Ben returned from the UK he would be wrestling Riley behind the couch for his morning diaper change (toddlers are fun), Steph next to him changing diapers.
A big pot of coffee would set to brew immediately while Steph would make Riley breakfast and Hudson a bottle. Ben would whip up a batch of gluten-free chocolate chip pancakes, often with a side of bacon.
Coffee in hand Steph would look over the day, which workout was when with who and which nanny would be on duty which hours. When possible she and Ben would switch off hours for PT and massage appointments or sponsor obligations and shake out runs.
If luck would have it and both kids cashed out at the same time for afternoon nap, she’d tear through the kitchen cleaning, throw laundry in, catch up on coaching and then hurry off to catch a 20 minute nap. Waking up with the kids to change diapers, get snacks and bottles, then hurry off for the second workout as the nanny came in.
After the second workout it would time for toddler play, dinner time, books, bath and bed. And baby bottle and bed. Both kids down by 7pm. Then it was time for battle ship, as Steph and Ben call it. Laptops open, dinner and wine, while trying to catch up with each other and all emails and coaching schedules while discussing what the next day held. Then Steph would do about 30 minutes of tedious PT work with bands and pulleys attached to chairs and tables before turning in around 9:30pm. Only to wake up at odd hours to feed and comfort Hudson, or as was the case one night, stay up all night while Riley was sick. Then 6am, do it all again.
I streamed Steph’s race on Friday night. Edge of my seat. And with one lap to go the FloTrack crew said, well she’ll need to run a 70 or 71 to make the standard. Sounding a bit like, “Welp, that’s too bad.” But they didn’t know what I knew. I had lived a week in Steph’s shadow and I knew she would do it. And when she charged that finish line and made it by .58 seconds it wasn’t luck or heart. It was all the work in the quiet hours and tiny exercises and all the miles back and forth to PT and hard workouts alone in the wind. It was the joy in the chase. Success like that is determined in places that no one sees.