This is a Run Lift Mom podcast interview about trails and road racing with Rachel Cox.
Memorable quotes from the episode
“Running a marathon won’t impede on motherhood; it makes it better!”
“Consistency is more important than this one day”
“80% of my miles (for a 7000′ ascent trail marathon) were on the treadmill”
“I really wanted the kids to know and see what goes into training for type of this type of thing”
“As a Mom, if you’re doing something for yourself it rubs off on everybody”
- Road running and trail running are very different sports
- Focus on what you can control
- Marathon training is a complement to motherhood, not in competition with it
- Eat the frog!
The following is a transcript from the podcast episode. I’m including it for those of you who prefer to read and so you don’t need to take notes while listening- they’re all here!
Suzy: All right. Welcome Rachel Cox to the run lift mom podcast. Do you mind kicking us off Rachel, by just walking us through your background in both the running as well as the parenthood categories?
Rachel: Oh, my goodness. Of course. So my name is Rachel. I have two wild and crazy boys, a two-year-old and a five-year-old. I’ve been running for, probably 10 or 12 years now.
I feel running for me recently, just kind of took on a new life post my second baby Colton! So I took on my first marathons this last year,
and I just feel running has just taken on this new joy.
Suzy: That’s amazing! And it’s really relatable. Many of us when we become mothers, it’s something different for us.
Rachel: Yeah, totally. It’s definitely completely changed, but for the good.
Suzy: Wonderful. We’re going to talk specifically about the Seattle marathon and kind of your journey leading up to that race.
Talk to us a little bit about, I mean, you can be a runner and do a 5k or not even do a race at all, right? So why the Seattle marathon and why some of the trail running that you’ve gotten into?
Rachel: Totally. So, I feel running has kind of taken on a new form for me.
I have done a lot of runs before a lot of races and that sort of thing, but I feel my marathon decision was kind of a series, more of small decisions that led up to my marathon.
I definitely didn’t wake up one day and say, “I’m going to take on this marathon”!
Rachel: I definitely grew up just kind of in this anxious lifestyle. And then I took on a very high stress job, I worked in emergency medicine, managed in ER ICU. And so when I got pregnant with my boys, I just kind of realized I needed to slow down.
I really kind of wanted to take everything in with them!
And so I decided to be a stay at home mom, which was a complete life change for me.
My second pregnancy ended up getting a little bit rough. I was on bedrest and that sort of thing. And I just found myself binge watching these running documentaries online!
And I found myself hooked in a way. I didn’t even really fully understand, but I decided that when I was able to run again, I really wanted to give it a whole hearted try this time!
When I came out of having my baby and recovery, I was diagnosed postpartum, which was really hard and COVID had also just hit. So we’re all under quarantine. I
t was a really stressful time but I took it as kind of an opportunity to just really take some time for myself and kind of build my running base.
And so every day my husband would just kind of give me a break and I would go out and I started walking. I just found so much joy and calmness in just kind of getting out.
One thing led to another and there weren’t any races going on yet, so I didn’t really have anything to train for and I found this running organization, Orca and evergreen trails.
And so I figured, Hey, why not? , what do I have to lose? I haven’t been running on trails, but I’ll go ahead and give it a try because that’s what’s open right now during the pandemic.
I don’t even know how to explain it. I fell in love.
I think it was that calmness that I’ve been searching for for so long- just being out on the trail.
I wasn’t worried about getting lost obviously, because their trails are marked so well and I should just kind of zone out and focus on me. And I just, I fell in love with trail running and I’m going to try and figure out a way to make this work.
Suzy: Now, the irony is not lost that you were on headrest and watching some of these documentaries about accomplished ultra marathoners who were running probably on the trails.
Do you think you were drawn to it because of that as well, or just, it was just being adaptable and that’s what was open?
Rachel: Gosh, I think it’s a combination of the two. I literally remember being out on the trail and being like, “oh my goodness, this is better than the documentary“.
It was just so much fun. I felt a kid. I don’t think I have felt that playful in my life for a very long time!
So I was hooked. At the time, Orca was doing an ambassador search. And I just signed up kind of on a whim, not thinking I would get it.
They ended up taking me on as one of their running ambassadors, which really inspired me to do more of these races! Instead of being nervous it just kind of gave me that extra zip- like, I’m an ambassador now so I need to be out there!
And I ended up taking on probably about one race a month. Cause it was kind of my mommy time, right?
I got to go out do these races. It was really the only time I got to experience the trail. A lot of my training, after my husband went back to work, was on the treadmill in the morning training for these races.
One shorter race led to another and on a whim one day, I just decided to go ahead and sign up for this trail marathon!
I knew it was a gorgeous location and didn’t really realize until after I posted it on good ol’ Instagram, how intense of a race this was.
So I was getting lots of messages. You only train on the treadmill, you are going to DNF this race, whatever.
So I hired a coach, , to write a plan for me and started working with a Sports Dietician.
And I went ahead and took on this crazy marathon. And gosh, it was just the best experience, tackling something. I get sweaty palms, just kind of thinking about it!
Cause it’s definitely was a push out of my comfort zone, a challenge to what I’m capable of and to be able to do that sort of thing with training on a treadmill most of the time and having two young boys.
Suzy: You guys, Rachel is not underselling this- it is a tough, tough course!
There are a couple of things that I want to touch on before we move into the rest of your summer and eventually Seattle. First of all, you’ve got that supportive partner.
Suzy: We definitely want to shout him out and give him the kudos there, but also that sometimes with stuff this, right? Ignorance is bliss. I mean, it’s an intense sport to support, right?
Rachel: Yeah, for sure- I definitely looked at the timing of the race. It was the same weekend in Boston. So everyone was all hyped for marathons, the timeline worked, and the location was beautiful.
I have a good baseline and I wouldn’t say it was scary. You weren’t in any way “life-threatening situations”, but yeah, it was 7,000 foot elevation gain!
You had to do the course twice, which is a beautiful course. You’re running through deception pass over the deception bridge- it’s absolutely amazing. But having to do such a hard course twice was a whole different halfway: “oh, snap, you’ve got to do that again”
I’m not a big crier, but I definitely had tears in my eyes. There is no way I can do this again.
Suzy: I bet there’s somebody listening that is like, wow. Elevation gain and you’re in the woods and it sounds really cool. It would be so neat if I could attempt trail.
Are ways a listener can train for that type of terrain without being on that type of terrain. Is it mimicking the race conditions?
Rachel: Exactly. Well, you control what you can control. It’s that straight forward.
My Sports Dietician, Serena. She was just an absolute game changer, motivation.
I could not have done this without her hands down. She worked with me on how to properly fuel, which I learned very quickly is the number one thing.
I mean, obviously training and strength training and all that stuff is good- but making sure that you’re properly fueled, especially when you’re going to be out there for hours on end.
Suzy: It’s really important to make sure that you don’t bonk! Friends, if your digestion goes upside down, I don’t care how flexible your ankles are or how much of a beast you are on the single track, tough terrain. Doesn’t matter- game over.
Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. So having that fueling plan just gave me a whole lot of confidence going in my training.
Obviously wasn’t ideal for this type of elevation gain. And I feel I still was able to run it as technically, I don’t think I would’ve made any changes looking back on it.
I did as many miles outside as I could.
It was literally just kind of one day a week out the front door, finding what trails in the neighborhood we had and the rest was on the treadmill and incorporating a lot of strength training.
So having that stability training mixed in, but yeah
I would say 80% of my miles were on the treadmill.
Suzy: I am inspired and impressed by that because you do what you can, you’re adaptable.
And motherhood is obviously a more important job than runner, but runner is pretty darn important too.
And so you just did what you did.
Rachel: Absolutely. I really wanted to make sure that running this marathon won’t impede on my motherhood…but, in fact, it actually made it better!
Cause it gave me something to focus on. I am a much calmer collected person when I’ve had a run and I’m being challenged and
I really wanted the kids to know and see what goes into training for type of this type of thing.
And I wanted it overall to be a good experience over a stressful experience. So I just kind of had to accept that it’s going to be on the treadmill and I’m going to do the best I can.
Suzy: Is that fair to say that that trail running experience helped for a road race?
Rachel: Oh, absolutely. So essentially what happened is I came out of this trail race and I was so powered up. And so, I ran this marathon but then you talk to people who don’t run and that sort of thing.
And it shouldn’t matter what they think. I know that, but they’d ask, how long did it take you to finish this race?
And, I’d tell them , it was an intense course. It took me about seven hours and they’d be, “Oh, well, I know a friend who finished in such and such faster time” and it was so frustrating for me because I felt so good after my first marathon.
My recovery went really well, that I was all hyped up and I realized the Seattle marathon, it was only seven weeks away, but it was also my birthday weekend.
And so I kind of did this crazy reverse, taper, rest period. And then I think I had two solid weeks of running before I had to then again, taper for Seattle.
But my Seattle experience was really cool because I was so nervous running this trail race. I didn’t feel good the whole week before just because my nerves are so crazy, but doing a race, just for fun.
Suzy: And you’re not putting a bunch of pressure on it, right?
Rachel: I didn’t tell my story on social media.
I didn’t even tell a lot of people that I was doing this race- it was just kind of for me and I had no race nerves going in.
Cause, compared to the other course, I knew that this wasn’t scary.
I knew I was going to be able to finish and so I just went with it and I had fun and it was definitely challenging in different ways, but it felt really cool to be able to do two first marathons and kind of have the two to compare side by side.
Suzy: What it reminds me of, have you ever heard the, the phrase eat the frog? If you eat a frog first, it’s the worst thing that you’ll do.
And everything else will seem cake. It’s kind of you ate the frog in the trail marathon. And then Seattle was cake. Is that fair?
Rachel: Very fair! I keep seeing people on Instagram posting, what should I do for my first marathon?
And I always jokingly throw out, “a trail race!” because I’m not afraid now.
I am so excited to kind of see what else I can do and that sort of thing. Although it was hard, it was very uplifting and motivating. I would definitely recommend it. I love it!
Suzy: A lot of moms stop pursuing big goals when their kids are young. It seems you’re doing the exact opposite. Do you mind riffing a little bit with me on why it’s important to challenge ourselves outside of that motherhood?
Rachel: I think it’s so important. And I think that when I initially made the decision, I didn’t even realize how important it is and now I can see it.
So clearly in retrospect, I think if I had just jumped into this and have been, “Hey husband, I’m gonna run two marathons this year.” That goal would have seemed so scary.
It was better since we kind of took it on slowly, just kind of want to see where this running path takes me and this obviously makes me happier, which makes the kids happier. We’re getting out and we’re having more confidence.
As a mom, if you’re doing something for yourself it definitely rubs off on everybody.
And everyone wants to try new things and everyone is inspired.
This year has been so good for our whole family. I didn’t want it to be a stressful thing. So we definitely had to work it into kind of the nooks and crannies of our lives, but it worked and it was awesome.
Suzy: When, when you’re doing something that, it does bleed into the other areas! The discipline it takes, the courage required, the fortitude, continuing to go following the plan, doing something when it doesn’t necessarily feel great. You finish what you start.
Rachel: Running has so many lessons to offer. It really does. I feel that could be a whole separate conversation. I feel running, if you’re doing it the right way and finding joy in it, I feel can really be a magical thing.
Suzy: What would you say to a busy mom who has a big goal, maybe she wants to do her first 5k, or maybe she wants to do 30 days of movement anyhow, but she gets overwhelmed because it seems a big goal. Do you have any wisdom for action steps or how to attack the big thing?
Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. I think having a plan obviously is very important. So knowing what you’re want to accomplish that day, that week, going into the day before is really important.
But I also think, being moms, we never know our kids worst times, or we have those sleepless nights, especially when you have a one-year old or two year old. So I think it’s really important to have flexibility in that plan.
So I always had a backup plan, backup, backup, backup, backup plan.
And then if none of those worked, I took a deep breath and I said, “consistency is more important than this one day”.
And momming needs to come first and we’ll get there.
So just not giving up, continuing to move forward and just having that grace and that peace for yourself I think is really important.
Suzy: Excellent advice. Before we wrap up here, Rachel, tell me what is next for you, and then of course, where we can connect with you online.
Rachel: Oh, goodness. So I am super hyped for this year. I get to be a running ambassador again this year. So I’m going to be taking on lots of fun trail runs along the way, but I plan on taking on my first 50K this summer and then this fall, I actually get to take on the Chicago marathon!
So I’m excited to continue to play with trail and a little bit of roads and see what those two marathons are! So super excited about that. I’m just on Instagram. I just kind of hang out and share my running journey with other moms and connect with other runners and my name on Instagram is RachelGetOutside.
Suzy: Thank you so much for coming on the show!
Rachel: Thank you so much for having me. This was such a great opportunity and it’s so great to talk with you kind of in real life!
Connect with me
Guys, make sure you connect with Rachel and cheer her on as she continues her running journey in 2022. She’s an amazing example in my life of a friendship formed online and I’m grateful for it!
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