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Open Mic Friday: Meet Holly on the Run

Open_mic_friday With the focus at the Lounge on Gear and Gadgets, this week's guest lives for her gear.  She lives in her world of Gear Geekdom, but explains how her techy stuff helps get her out the door.

Today's interview skips the techno-babble.  Instead, she shares her fitness spirit and talks about her running and triathlon life, her injury comeback, and what makes her tick. 

Welcome Holly on the Run!

How did you get started with running and fitness?

Holly 1 Hang on, folks. This question has a bit of an involved answer.

I had several false starts with running and fitness in general. Fifteen years ago, I was a competitive swimmer and very fit indeed. I avoided running like the plague, but luckily my swimming never suffered for it! About eight years ago, I “retired” from swimming (as people at age 20 are apt to do) and failed to replace it with any other form of activity. A few years later, I found myself morbidly obese and stuck on the couch.

In 2002, I started losing weight and had to start small with exercise – I remember the day I was so proud to make it 10 minutes on the stationary bike. I eventually added in exercise videos and the elliptical machine, and once even dared a mile run on the treadmill. I managed to lose 80 lbs slowly over 3 years and have more or less maintained that weight loss since then. That’s when I was really able to start exploring fitness – I took spin classes and became a spin instructor at the YMCA. I fell in love with step aerobics. And then… I tried running.

I did the Couch to 5k program and ran the Human Race 3k in 2005. I then stopped running for about a year. In 2006, I ran the same 3k again. And promptly quit running for almost two years. I did not run the Human Race 3k in 2007, and I’m still sad about that!  November 2007 I decided to give the Couch to 5k program another go. And it was great for about a month…. until I had a fall requiring surgery right before Thanksgiving. See what I mean about false starts?

Once I finished physical therapy in April 2008, I decided I was going to run again. In May, I ran the Human Race 3k, and faster than any previous years. I haven’t stopped running since.

So you’ve been running about a year.  What have you learned about how to get the most enjoyment and success from your running

For me, I’ve learned that I am a social runner, and to get the most enjoyment out of running, I need to share it with someone. Preferably multiple someones. I join training groups like they’re going out of style and I love it. I even became an assistant coach to a run/walk group because I love it so much. As for success, I feel that every time I cross a finish line, every time I run a farther distance or a fast training pace, and every time I motivate someone to get up and run.

What’s the best part about running where you live?

I am ridiculously spoiled running in Sonoma County. I live less than three miles from one state park and about fifteen miles from a second one.

Holly 2 I'm just a short drive to the redwoods, to the beach, and to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Holly 6

The sights are wonderful, the hills train you hard, and there’s no pesky traffic to deal with! Annadel State Park is so popular among athletes here that we often pass people we know on the trails, which is always a thrill. On top of that, the weather here is perfect most of the year: no snow, not too much rain, and a lot of cool, sunny days. The summer gets a little touch and go and does get over 100 degrees, but I’ll take that over snow any day.

You’re still recovering from your knee injury and surgery?. 

Yes, and it’s SO frustrating! I’ve actually had TWO knee surgeries, both ACL replacements, both on my right knee. The first one wasn’t faulty either, I just managed to fall a second time and bust my first replacement ligament. Here’s hoping the second one holds on tight! My second surgery was in December 2007, and I still can’t completely bend my knee, nor can I kneel on it. It was feeling perfectly fine while running up until about two months ago when I started getting sharp pains. I’m working with a sports chiropractor now that does Active Release Therapy, and he’s breaking up the scar tissue buildup and helping me regain full range of motion. It hurts like hell but me knee is feeling strong and not having sharp pains anymore.

You’re studying to be a dietitian.  What sound lessons in dietetics would you pass along that runners might not know—or might be ignoring?

I could ramble on this subject for ages, considering I finish my internship in two weeks and am planning to specialize in sports nutrition! A simple message would be: eat enough, eat frequently, carbohydrates are your friend, and your after-run snack should have about 4 to 1 carbohydrates to protein for optimal recovery. Also, I’m willing to do any sports nutrition consultations by email starting in May – email me if you’re interested!

Holly 4 Tell us about your passion for triathlons.

Well, coming off my second knee surgery, my doctor looked at me and said this: “Holly, here’s the deal. Unless you want to be back in my office again, I need you to lay off the extreme sports. Anything with side to side motion is bad. No tennis, no volleyball, no gymnastics, no skiing, no snowboarding, no soccer, no basketball, no softball. You can go forward in a straight line – maybe swimming, or biking, or running. That’s it.”

And I said: “That sounds like a triathlon challenge to me!”

I knew I had the swimming skill, I figured I could handle myself on a bike, and I joined a running group to help me get through my run. Then I joined a beginning women’s triathlon team. I was hooked.

What I love about triathlons are the transitions. They’re fun! I also love the feeling of accomplishment once you finish. Because you didn’t just do one race, you did THREE sports. But I have to admit, when training for triathlons last year, I really let the bike and swim training slip and just focused on running. This year I plan on doing more biking and swimming, not only for the triathlon race itself, but for crosstraining. Because I want to be a better runner. And it’s all about priorities!

What’s your biggest challenge with running these days?

Since I already covered my knee issue, I’ll talk about my extra 20 pounds I carry around. Yes, I’m (almost) a dietitian. Yes, I exercise a lot. And yes, I eat healthy foods. But I also love to eat and I’m training for a half marathon! So although those first 80 lbs are gone for good, the extra 20 lbs is still hanging around and slowing me down. They make running harder, make my joints achy, and make running skirts not so cute. ;) In the downtime between half marathons 1 and 2, I plan on taking some of that extra baggage off!

What’s the greatest reward you get from your running?

Pride in myself.

Tell us about your training these days and any races coming up.

I am between running groups at the moment, as my 20k trail race was a couple weeks ago. I am running my first half marathon in Santa Cruz on April 19th, so I’ve only got one long run and a couple easy runs left before that!

Between April 20th and May 17th, I will continue to coach my run/walk group and see them through their target race, support one of my friends through her first 5k race, run my special Human Race 3k, and possibly even have some fun at Bay to Breakers. It’ll be a couple weeks of easy runs and some biking and swimming mixed in.

Starting on May 17th, the summer trail group will be under way and I’ll be using the group long runs to train for my second half marathon: Napa to Sonoma on July 19th. My triathlon this year will be in September, half marathon #3 will be in October, and the final goal for 2009 will be California International Marathon on Dec 6th. Obviously my Type A self really enjoys planning the entire year out!

What’s the greatest compliment someone could make to you about your running?

“You inspire me so much.” Luckily, I hear that one on a semi-regular basis. THIS is why I love coaching!

Who are some of your favorite blogging friends?

I’ll go with a Top 5 list:

Eriin, who lives near Chicago, is flying out to run the Napa to Sonoma half marathon with me. We’ve been online buddies for years, but we’ve never met in person. She’s my favorite running blog to read.

Julianne was the first running blogger to add me to her reads and lives very near me! She’s so friendly and has accomplished many running feats – and is going to run 7 marathons on 7 continents next! I hope to meet her at a race someday soon!

Aron is so inspirational to me. She hasn’t been running much longer than I have, and she is consistently posting about her amazing training runs. She’s got Boston in her sights.

Caitlin writes a food blog, which gives me great ideas for eating healthy. She’s also passionate about running and has bad knees, so I connect with her on many levels.

Beth is another completely amazing and inspirational athlete. She hasn’t been racing very long compared to many other triathletes, and she’s winning age groups right and left! Every time I read her posts, I just want to *be* her.

Basket Best race experience? 

Running a relay leg in the California International Marathon last December. It was amazing to share the experience with a group, and it was what inspired me to shoot for the full marathon this year.

Most interesting race experience?

How about the time my tire blew out in my first triathlon? No biggie, I just walked the last mile of the bike leg. I got a great official biking photo though:

At least in my second triathlon, I managed to stay on the bike:

 How do you like my basket?

Holly 3 What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

I’ve not yet crossed the finish line at a marathon. I want to at least say I’ve done it -- who knows if there will be a repeat performance!

Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

“If you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together.” – adapted from an African Proverb


Do you know a runner you would recommend for Open Mic Friday? 

Pass along their name, contact info, and some background and we'll explore introducing them to the Runners' Lounge Community.

Send to Amy@runnerslounge.com or Tom@runnerslounge.com.


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AWESOME job Holly! You are still my main inspiration for weight loss :)


Hi Holly! Amazing story! You're an inspiration and give me the motivation to go out and run. I'll like to try my first half-marathon this year. Best of luck with everything.

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