PR Coaching Athlete: Heather

October 27, 2016

Heather is one of the athletes on my team: PR (Personalized Running) Coaching. When she came to me this past July, she had taken nearly a year off with a nagging injury and a move across the country from Alaska to Virginia. In just a few short months, starting out slowly and conservatively, we were able to build back and come within 3 minutes of her half-marathon PR. She runs the Marine Corps 10K on Sunday, and I’m excited to see what she is able to do. I’m very optimistic it will go well for her!

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Hi!  I’m Heather, mom to Reese (8)  and Lincoln (5), and wife to Will.  I grew up in Valdez, AK but we are currently living in Stafford, Virginia.  My husband and I are in our 11th year with the Coast Guard, which currently has him working in Washington, DC.  Prior to our move here this past summer, we spent three years in Homer, AK, which we loved.  Before that there were three years in Anchorage, a few years in the San Francisco area, Cleveland, OH, Bellingham, WA… we get around!

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I’ve been a stay at home mom since Reese was born in 2008, although for the past 3-4 years I’ve been developing myself into a fitness professional, a never ending journey of learning and self-growth.  I started in 2013 when we left Anchorage and moved to Homer.  I wanted to start a group fitness business like the one I belonged to in Anchorage and loved so much.  One that was for women, where kids could come and play alongside their moms who were working out.  I began with a group fitness certification, lots of help from the owner of the group I was leaving, and an idea for Sweaty Betty Mamas.  It didn’t exactly take off the way I hoped it would, but I kept at it and stayed consistent, and eventually it grew.  That was a really fun and rewarding thing for me to focus my extra time and energy on while we lived in Homer.  I’m proud of the group it has become, the service it is for women in Homer, and the fact that it is still thriving with some wonderful ladies instructing classes now that I’m gone.  It has become quite the little community of fit-minded mamas!  I’ve since added a personal trainer certification and a few other courses to my resume, done some online group fitness bootcamps, and continue to offer an online monthly fitness subscription to help women get started with workouts at home.

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I was never a runner growing up.  I thought running was awful.  I played sports a little bit in high school but it’s safe to say I was not a super athlete.  I didn’t start running until I was 29.  It was a few months after Lincoln was born, and I found myself with about 50 extra pounds that I wanted gone as quickly as possible.  I didn’t know much about fitness or strength training at the time, so like a lot of other women, I just got on the treadmill and thought I would run myself skinny.  (More on that in another post).  I was surprised to find out that I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping to take breaks.  That really lit a spark under me, and I decided I wanted to run a 5k.  I played all the games with myself, like “today I’m going to run 5 minutes, then walk 2” or “today I’m going to get three miles in regardless of how long it takes” or “I’m going to run 30 minutes today and see how close to 3 miles I can get”.  I kept setting new goals as I achieved them.  Once I could finally run three miles without stopping, my next goal was to run 3 miles in 30 minutes or less.

My very first race was the Shamrock Shuffle 5k in 2012.  I was six months postpartum, and had only been running for about three months.  My time was 30:45, pace just under 10 min miles, and I was just so friggin excited that I didn’t finish last!  (For the record, I’m proud of the people who do finish last and I don’t say that as a bad thing, but rather to make the point that I didn’t have a lot of faith in myself as an athlete at that time).  I had so much fun, and was so proud that I accomplished my goal.  I was totally hooked after that race.  From there on out, I kept playing the treadmill games, setting new goals all the time.  “Well if I can run 3 miles in 30 minutes, why not 28?”  I started meeting a bunch of new friends at the time who were also beginner runners, and so we began running in groups and going for longer distances, which eventually gave me the confidence to sign up for a ½ marathon, a distance I still thought of as a mammoth undertaking.

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If I had to pick a favorite race, I’d probably choose the Her Tern ½ marathon in Anchorage, although Seward’s Lost Lake mountain race is right up there as well.  The Her Tern is a favorite though because it was my very first ½, and it was an incredible experience.  It was one of those gorgeous, bluebird summer days in Alaska, and I had at least eight girlfriends who were also running the race that day, which made the experience even better.  Add the finish line cupcakes and mimosas, cute finisher’s bracelets and t-shirts and the block party expo and I think you have one of the best Alaska races.  In 2015 when I ran that race, I finished with a PR of 1:38, and somehow came in 11th place overall (I still think that’s crazy), so that definitely solidifies Her Tern as a fave in my book.

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This year was not the best for me in terms of running, though it was great year in general.  For the first time since I started running 5 years ago, I did not hit any PR’s.  I spent the beginning of the year in physical therapy, trying to heal some glute issues, then moved across the country.  My running season didn’t officially start until July 1st, which is when I began working with Michelle (my first experience with a running coach).  My goals were simple: get back to 2015 running level while being careful to not hurt myself again.  I didn’t quite have enough time to get there for my ½ marathon back in September, but I’m very pleased with how close I came in such a short training season.  I finished the Navy Air Force ½ last month in 1:41:40, just three minutes behind my PR last summer.

My next goals are still in the works, however I want to do another marathon in 2017, and even though it’s a stretch, I’m going to shoot for a Boston Qualifying time.  That’s a full 10 minutes faster than my current marathon PR from last September, but I’ve only done two marathons so far and I know I can do better with good training.  The ½ marathon is my favorite distance though, and I know I haven’t hit my peak yet with that distance.  I’m looking forward to 2017!!

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I am looking forward to 2017 with Heather as well! I love her passion for fitness and helping others. She works hard, and she  is always challenging herself to see what her potential is. You can find her on Instagram as Sweaty_Betty_Mamas or on Facebook under Heather Albright – Fitness Life.