Interview with Wendy Thomas

Interview with Wendy Thomas

**Sierra’s Race Against Meningitis is truly honored that Wendy thinks of Sierra’s 5K as one of the best local races to run in! Thanks for your support!
You would be hard pressed to find a runner who has made the strides that Wendy Thomas has over the last three years. In fact, she didn’t even start running until a few years ago and now she is one of the top runners in Colorado. Wendy is a regular on the Colorado road racing scene, recently winning the Park to Park 10M and setting a new course record. She also races all over the United States competing against the top runners in the country.

The 32-year-old mom of two from Windsor recently ran a 1:13:48 last Sunday at the Philadelphia Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon, qualifying her for the Olympic trials marathon in Houston.

Wendy is part of the American Distance Project based in Colorado Springs.

Wendy Thomas
Photo by Running Guru @ Scream Scram 5K 2010

Congrats on running a 1:13:48 at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon and qualifying for the Olympic trials. Can you tell us about your race? What was the strategy going in and how were your splits?

Thanks! It was one of those days that everything just fell into place. I think the last two races I did helped me a lot. First the half in Canada got me in the mind set to race a half (I’m not gonna lie racing anything over a 10k makes me sick to my stomach) and Park to Park gave me the confidence that I could hit the trials standard of 1:15. Scott told me that a good goal was to hit 5:40 pace the whole way, race consistent and stay focused. After having my mild freak out the day before the race when I went to sit down for the technical meeting with all of the other elites (I sat next to the Gouchers are you kidding me? I felt like I was in a room for who’s who in running. All I could think was what the heck am I doing here, these people would laugh if they knew who I was) I sat down in my hotel room and decided Philly was my chance to go for it. Running a 5:40 pace would give me a 1:14:20 so even if I fell apart a little in the end I could still maybe sneak under 1:15. Workouts have been going really well so I knew I was in the shape of my life, dropping down to sea level would only help.

The race really worked out perfectly for me. When the gun went off it went out pretty fast which I was expecting with the field that was there. The first mile was a lot of jockeying for position and trying to find a place to settle in. I got to the first mile fast but felt under control. At this point I found myself alone so it was a time in the race that I needed to make a decision I could try to settle into my pace and hope that someone just behind me would pull up and fall in with me or I could pick it up and catch the pack right in front of me. It was pretty breezy Sunday morning and I felt great so I decided to gamble a bit and push the next quarter mile or so to catch up. The pack was a group of a couple guys and girl, we clipped along the next couple miles together when the guys started to pull away a bit. Being the young stupid runner I am I decided what the heck today is as good a day as any to see if I can just push it and go. So from that point on I ran with this Penn State kid AJ Rossi. It’s funny because right after the 5k mark he and another guy were talking about their race strategy, I think everyone was trying to just find someone to run with to help them get through. I jumped in and said well I need my OTQ time so I am going to stick to you guys and hope I can hang and you can pull me through. AJ was a sport he is a very consistent runner and we clipped off pretty even pace all the way through the race. There were a couple of times I started to slack and he would waive his hand at me saying come on. It helped me get out of my head when I was thinking oh man maybe I should slow down. I really owe that kid for being such a good running partner! The only time I really slacked was the last two miles. When we hit ten miles I thought ok I’m going to qualify awesome! Than when we hit mile 11 I realized holy crap I am going to break 1:14! At that point I started to tear up and could hardly breathe. These last two months have just been a lot knowing it was all worth it and that I was doing this not only for myself but for my kids was very emotional! I had to fight to focus on something other than my family didn’t sacrifice all for nothing. You would have thought I won the race when I crossed the finish!

Here are my splits:
5:26, 5:34, 5:38, 5:35, 5:31, 5:41, 5:41, 5:40, 5:41 5:35, 5:36, 5:44, 5:40, 37

So I did not execute properly I should have had the 5:40’s in the beginning and then picked it up but pure adrenaline took over. I’m gonna be honest with you and let you know I was scared to death when I got to 10k just 15 seconds over my PR, 15k was a minute faster than my PR and 10 mile was 1:30 faster. I kept expecting to blow up!

There’s thread on the LetsRun message board theorizing that the Philly Half course was short. Wondering if you had an opinion?

I try to not read but I don’t really think the course was short. Not because I pr’d and I am in denial but because my splits were so consistent that I’m not really sure where that time would be put in. The Philly half has been run for so long I would think they have it together pretty well. Garmins are a tricky “tool” for runners. There are so many things that come in to play. On Saturday I went for a run through the city and it took my watch 4 minutes to get a signal just running through the buildings.

Bell’s Running Company, Boulder Running Company, American Distance Project – who are you sponsored by? Are you still part owner of Bell’s?

Unfortunately I am no longer at Bell’s Running which has been hard for me. I miss the job and just seeing all the friendly running faces every day! Not being there I feel a little distant from the local running community. Luckily I am still sponsored by BRC! I have never been so happy to be a part of a team before. We have some seriously impressive performances lately with Tera Moody, Tommy Neal, Ali Williams, Cassie Slade, Nicole Feest, just to name a few. There isn’t a day in training I don’t think “Ok I better bust my butt on this track today so I can prove I belong with these guys”. Being on ADP is just icing on the cake. It has been the best thing I have done in my running “career”!

You’ve only been running competitively for a few years, did you have any inkling that you had running potential when you were younger? It has to be quite the feeling to have never run in high school nor college and then to race and beat women who ran at Division 1 colleges?

Honestly it’s like the tshirt says “my sport is your sports punishment”. I HATED running when I was younger! I did do a year of track in high school but that was only because I was smitten with an older boy on the team. I was pretty decent at it then but I did not enjoy a minute of it.

I was a volleyball player my whole life, I remember my first year in college we had to do a mile time trial the first day of practice. If I remember right it had to be less than 10 minutes and I was so mad/scared! Looking back now it’s funny!

As far as beating other women who have been running for years, it scares the heck out of me! I am my own worst enemy! I can toe the line and have already lost because in my head so and so is there and she is a NCAA champ, or has already been to the trials, or won BolderBoulder, the list goes on and on. Even in Philly I was passing girls that I knew I “shouldn’t” be beating and I kept thinking please don’t let this bite me in the rear. The only thing that helps me is to tell myself “what do I have to lose?” I am a nobody so if I place 15th in this field that is awesome! If I place 20th that’s still pretty good to. The best thing I ever did was read Kara Gouchers article in Runners World about how she still freaks out when she toes the line. This is kind of lame but I travel with that article to every big race. I read it on the plane and tell myself you do belong or they wouldn’t have let you in the race.

You’ve done a lot of travelling all over the USA to race, what advice to you have for runners who do travel to race?

Enjoy it! In running you never know how long you will be able to run fast! Running has given me the chance to travel to a lot of fun places. I look at it as my break! I know I’m going to run but with two kids at home these are the only races that I really get to relax before the race.

Oh and NEVER check a bag! That is my worst fear that I will lose my bag and be without racing flats!

Logistically, how does/will the American Distance Project (ADP) work? Will you move to Colorado Springs at some point?

For me up and moving to Colorado Springs on a permanent basis is not an option. I have 2 kids in school and I feel being in Windsor is a great environment to raise children!

Not to mention my husband owns a plumbing company so picking up and starting over in this economy would be the worst thing we could do. Luckily Scott is so good at working with me. He knows I have a family and that is my number one priority. Right now I travel down there and stay when Scott is in town. I am from Colorado Springs so it actually works out very well for me. My Aunt and Uncle let me stay at their place and they have been incredibly helpful! My Aunt, Uncle and cousins watch my kids for hours on end so I can train, get massages and go to meetings.

Honestly I would love to move back to the Springs to be closer to family, closer to the team and closer to the amazing running trails the Springs offers. The way it will work for me once the team is really up and running is I will be in the Springs for hard workouts, long runs stuff like that. I want to take advantage of the reason I am on the team. Getting to do some higher altitude training and being able to train with the girls that have done this for so long. I think being on the track with Ali, Renee and everyone else will make me push myself harder and the result will be a tougher runner. Not to mention all the things off the track. When I was down there last time Renee and Austin gave me so much advice and encouragement, not to mention Austin is the BEST massage therapist! Being so new to running the little things the group has to offer will go a long way for me!

Since joining ADP you have really ramped up your mileage, can you tell us about the program and their philosophy? Do you do most of your workouts alone?

I have ramped up my mileage and I was a bit scared at first. The big difference for me was that now I am running twice a day every day. It seems like a lot but really my second run is all about recovery. It’s getting out there for 30 minutes shaking out the workout from the morning and just keeping the legs moving. There have been a couple times when being a mom meant I had to skip my second run and the next day I didn’t feel very good.

It’s funny I don’t do as many speed workouts in a week as I use to which at first I thought crap I’m going to get slower. The result has been the opposite! When I do get out there and do my speed sessions they are good quality fast workouts that are just more volume than I have ever done before. Another change has been on my easy days I run all my miles faster than I use to. Two days a week Scott has me do 10 miles at a faster clip. Not really a tempo but not an easy run either. Then once a week I do a long run which I wouldn’t do before. Long runs are defiantly my Achilles! I know this is not a good thing coming from someone who is going to run in the marathon trials.

I don’t enjoy them at all but I like that Scott has me do them as a progression run. It gives me something else to think about. Really the focus is on just making me stronger. Being so new to the sport is good and bad. I have legs that are a lot fresher than someone who has been doing it all their life, but I don’t have the strength you get from pushing yourself to the limit like most runners do. I also have two training partners that have been amazing! Tyler Sewald and Corey Ewing have gotten me through the last couple of months. They are both really strong runners and are willing to do any runs or workouts I have even though I know on occasion they want to kill me! I always joke that they must have drawn the short straws and that’s why they are out there running crazy hard workouts. They are such good sports though.

Tell us a few of your favorite local races and races that you have run across the country?

Favorite local race for sure is Park to Park!! Alan and Maureen do such a good job on the course, volunteers and after party! I look forward to the food after all year. Of course Greeley has a really great 5k on July 4th Race Against Cancer, and Loveland has Sierra’s race that I really look forward to.

Across the country my favorite would have to be Tufts 10k in Boston, Carlsbad 5000 in CA, Fontana Days 5k is an aided course so getting a super-fast time is always good, and now of course the Philly half.

What’s the goal out of all of it? You’ve already made it the trials. Assuming that you don’t run a marathon between now and then, the trials will be your marathon debut. Competing for a top-3 finish and spot on the Olympic team is unlikely, so do you hope that ADP coaching will help you to be move up 5, 10 spots, maybe into the top 10 or 20 at the trials?

You know my main goal was to make it to the trials; I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. IT was a goal of mine before I started working with Scott, but before Scott it was kind of a pipe dream. I never really believed I could but it got me through all the training. The trials will be my marathon debut which is CRAZY coming from someone who a year ago said I would NEVER run a marathon. Mid October we will start training for the marathon and I’m just hoping to first of all stay healthy so I make it to the start line and second give it my best. If I go to the trials race my butt off and finish last that’s what I was capable of. Do I want to finish last? OF course not! It’s funny because I want to be realistic but at the same time I’m clearly a dreamer and want to be as competitive as possible. I don’t really know what to expect as far as placing at the trials I’m going to leave that to Scott and wait until race day when he says ok here are your goals. At that point I will gun for whatever he believes I am capable of.

You can check off the Olympic trials goal, so what other goals are on your list?

It’s kind of hard for me, I want it all and I want it all now! I guess starting so late in life I feel like I need to do this and that to catch up to all these other runners. Other than making the trials I also have a huge goal of wanting to make it in the top ten in one of the USA championship races. After being so close to all of my PR’s in Philly I’m also excited to race some shorter stuff and see how the new strength I have transfers over to the 5k and 10k to see if I can take some time off of those as well. I’d also like to get on the track next year and qualify for the trials in the 10k but I’m going to have to get use to racing on the track for that to happen. Most of all I just want to stay healthy and enjoy this ride. I know it could all stop any day so I am just trying to remain thankful for it all as it happens! Most important goal for me is to show my kids that if you put in the hard work the sky is the limit. It’s for them and because of them I will never give up on a running dream! Coming home to them after qualifying was so emotional and to make it even better they made me the best present ever, saying my mommy rocks!


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