Let’s start with, “Who are you and what do you do?”
Well I am a runner and I was named Physician’s Assistant of the year twice.
I came up here in 2000 to go to school and I never left. At first I thought I was going to be a city kid and go to UW, but after my first year in Bellingham I fell in love. Here there is a sense of city and culture but it still feels like a small town, which I appreciate. And everything I need is here. We don’t have traffic—I don’t miss that at all. We have mountains, water, and everything is really close. You just can’t go wrong with those things. There’s also a really great sense of community here.
When did you catch the running bug?
When I was 26. I started a lot older than most. I was a soccer player prior to that. Somebody signed me up for a half marathon and I did it and thought well that was pretty great. After that I just started getting into it more and more. I did local race here and won. I hadn’t done a lot of training for the race. Then a local gentleman from Fairhaven Runners approached me and said, “Hey, you should train. You should join us.” His name was Steve Grichel and he really turned me on to it. That’s when I was probably twenty-seven. I trained for a marathon. I went and did a marathon in Boston and I just really exploded after that. I really got serious when I was twenty-nine.
I have heard runners who played team sports in high school and college say that they miss the camaraderie of team sports? Do you miss that?
Sure. That’s where running teams like the Bellingham Distance Project come into play. You do get a lot of alone time. And alone time is good but there is also that accountability when you have team. You might not be doing it at the same time every day but you are talking about your training with each other. You are saying, “how did you work out for this run?” or “hey, I have a long run would you jump in and run with me for a few miles and I will hop in for a few miles with you on another section?” So I feel like there’s that team aspect. We’re not working together to score a goal or hit a homerun but the accountability in that is huge. You need it. You really do.
And when it comes to cross country that is more of a team sport. Yes, you are an individual running but your times really go out the window and it’s just about the main goal. We do that about once a year. That’s where we get to be a team a bit more and throughout the year we just try to support one another and do weekly runs.
Trail running is also fairly big in Bellingham. Is that part of your workout mix as well?
I do get a mix of trail and road. I don’t trail run as much as some of my teammates. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Maria Dalzot. She just made the US Mountain Running team. She’s a big trail runner.
There are a few girls who run purely trails. I will get a Galbraith run in once a week, but I’m not gonna go do a 20-miler on Chuckanut simply because my coach wants me to be able to run at a certain pace at a certain time, and if I trash myself I can’t do that. So there are times of the year where I get to go out on the trails and play up there and I definitely love it.
So mountain trail running works your muscles in a totally different way than road marathon running?
Yeah. I am always so impressed with what Maria can do. The elevation gains they have are just insane. They have loads of it compared to what we have. We have some hills and stuff but the paces we run are very, very different. We have one gal who has done quite a few road marathons and then she just did the Chuckanut 50k and she was amazed with how quickly she recovered just because the difference in topography. The difference is in road running you have twenty-six miles of the same muscle movement and pattern. And when I say road I mean: I live close to Whatcom Falls park. I get on the packed gravel paths, but I’m not running in the Chuckanuts.
Ok. Let’s talk running spots. The one everyone talks about is the South Bay Trail.
Yes—everyone loves that trail. And who wouldn’t? It’s beautiful!
So where are the places you like to run that most people don’t know about?
Oh, you want me to give away my secrets? [Laughs]
One amazing trail is the one that goes by Little Squalicum Beach. A lot of people don’t know about itl. You can get there from BTC or from Squalicum Creek Park, which they have recently redone. It’s an amazing park now. It’s got a zipline for kids—it’s awesome! So that little section of trail is fun and I rarely see people out there. Sometimes people go out to that beach with their dogs.
At the very top of Barkley Hill there’s a loop. I think it’s called Northridge Trail. You can get to Squalicum High School from there or you can link into the another trail and go to Silver Beach Elementary. There’s a little bit of trail through the Big Rock Garden and it all connects. Nobody’s out there, and it’s shady so on a hot day it’s perfect. Those are a couple that I have in my little stash. It’s especially fun to run on little Squalicum Beach on the stormy nights with all that wind in your face. Then North Lake Whatcom is always a wonderful run but then you have to drive a bit to get there. Galbraith is also a great running trail system that not many people know about.
Galbraith is so synonymous with mountain biking that people don’t think about it as a running destination.
If you go early in the morning you won’t see many mountain bikers at all. If you want to go explore just go early. And I don’t mean really early—like eight o’clock. I think the mountain bikers get up there around noon.
So what are you training for now?
Well I’m definitely a marathoner. That’s my best distance. I had an injury and just missed this year’s Olympic Trials by ninety seconds. The window for the next Olympic Trials won’t open up again until August of 2017. I’ll probably run the Bellingham Bay Marathon then the Seattle Marathon. All of the times that I produce this year really don’t count for a lot. So I get to work on shorter, faster stuff and focus on some races that I’ve always wanted to win. I’d love to win the local marathon because it’s the hometown marathon and it’s on my bucket list.
I actually just came back from Vancouver where I raced yesterday. It was and 8k. I won, so I was really happy.
How many marathons do you usually train for each year?
I do two regularly. It’s just the build-up and recovery are so big. You can get away with running more than two depending on whether or not you are racing them or just running them. If you are shooting for a certain time that might beat you up more than if you were just running them. If they are competitive races for me then I run two a year. I probably run ten to twelve races a year total. A lot of times I’ll use the half marathon as a buildup for the full.
Tell me about the Bellingham Distance Project.
I started realizing that there aren’t any local running clubs for women in this area. The closest are in Seattle. Some Bellingham women and I joined a running club in Seattle but we didn’t feel invested in the club. We just kinda realized we have six girls here, a ton of talent and we are all from Bellingham. We said, “Why don’t we start our own thing and put Bellingham on the map.”
Now we have 12 different women of all ages who train together. Our goal is to represent Bellingham well. We try to help out with youth organizations like Girls on the Run. We pace for Bellingham Bay Marathon. We are always trying to get involved in the community and also to represent Bellingham to the rest of Washington—there are just so many amazing people here.
So how does a race team function during actual races? You don’t do relays do you? You run as individuals.
Right we are all individual runners.
Every once in awhile we will have a team competition where we can enter ourselves as the Bellingham Distance Project. Like we will all be running a half marathon and our top four times can be averaged together as the team’s time. It’s really weird.
Cross country season is in the fall. For those races we run eight people and the top five of those people score.
Usually we just go to races together. We all have our individual goals. There is something about being out there with someone who has the same shirt on as you, going through what you are going through. Maybe you see them on the course and you get to encourage to them and vice versa. There were two girls from our team that ran the Vancouver race with me yesterday—one did the full and one did the half. It’s just fun to see your teammates out there with you.
Is there a gender gap in distance running the way there is in many other sports?
I mean, yeah. Men are generally faster. It’s just how it is. The Olympic trial standard for women is a 2:45 marathon and for men it is 2:19. In the Boston Marathon there is like a twenty minute difference between men and women.
How do you experience that as a competitor?
I feel like it is just how it is. Don’t get me wrong it is really fun to beat the boys. We call that being “chicked’—being passed by a woman. There’s nothing you can really do about it. No matter how hard you train you are never gonna have women as fast as men.
So what’s your favorite spot in Bellingham? Where do you like to hang out?
I really enjoy going to Kulshan and getting a beer after work. That’s definitely one of my favorite spots in Bellingham. Boundary is great too—sitting in the Beer Garden listening to the live music there on Thursdays. I definitely operate on the rewards system [laughs]. Bellingham has a lot of great hangout spots like that. You walk in and you’re bound to see someone you know. At Kulshan you can bring your own food in. You can also bring your dog.
What is the best kept secret in Bellingham? That could be a location, person, organization—something or someone the world needs to know about.
Brad Jones. He is a Rolfer here in town who works miracles. I recommend him to so many athletes. I swear by him. For people who have never heard of rolfing it is kind of like taking massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, putting them in a blender and mixing. It is the whole package. He works with a lot of the ladies on my team. I’m also on a Ski to Sea team and he takes care of all of those women. He works with the Bellingham Swim team—he does all their dry land training. So best kept secret? Probably Brad. Now I’m gonna have a hard time getting that appointment.