Hey everyone, I want you to meet one of my athletes, Sam.
Sam has been working with me for about 7 months and has made HUGE strides. He is very new runner as he has only been running for a little over a year! When he came to me, his half-marathon PR was a 1:52 and two weekends ago he dropped that down to 1:37. He also has a PR of 20:44 in the 5K and 3:46 for the marathon. Sam is an incredibly hard worker, and it has shown in his races, constantly setting new PRs.
I asked Sam to tell us a little bit about himself and his training, so I hope you enjoy this Q&A.
Tell us a little about yourself: family, work, where you’ve lived, etc.
When my wife and I finished graduate school at the University of Florida in 2008/2009 we said, “whoever got the first, best job, wins.”
My wife was offered a teaching position at the University of Alaska Anchorage, so from Florida to Alaska we moved. I was stoked. I am a lifelong fly fisherman and my graduate research focused on trout and salmon conservation in the American West, so the move was great for me. I work in fisheries conservation. I work to coordinate conservation campaigns to protect some of the last, largest, and best remaining salmon ecosystems from the impacts of some of the largest proposed mines, dams, and other development projects. I am not against those things, but when they put the most miraculous fish, food resource on the planet at risk, then we need to prioritize health food, healthy communities, healthy ecosystems.
We have two boys here in Anchorage that keep us busy, to say the least! They are (almost) 3 and 5. Watching them grow every day inspires me to be a better person, better father, better human. Running is now a part of that.
I am also a bluegrass musician, playing in local bluegrass bands. Not many bands tour to Alaska. Alaska is not on the way to anything. So Alaskans have built an amazing, talented, and supportive music community. As you can see below, I am drawn to hobbies, activities that have or inspire strong community support – music, food, fly fishing, and now running.
How did you get into running?
I think this is what surprises me most. Though, at this point, I should get over the surprise and fully embrace running as a new and full part of who I am. Three years ago I was not a runner at all. I had occasionally run to stay in shape for skiing, but never with any real consistency. Three years ago, my body hurt, my back hurt, I had gained some weight, work was stressful and I generally felt bad. I knew that I needed to do something so I started running in my neighborhood. One mile, two miles. The miles started to build a bit. In the Spring of 2015 I ran my first 5 K, followed by a local 12 K. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the fun races. I also enjoyed the concept of self improvement and internal competition that the race provided. It has grown exponentially from there.
Highlight a few races with times and how they went.
The first races were largely fun, I pushed myself for sure, but enjoyed the experience. I ran my first full marathon in February. It was an amazing, yet hard, experience on so many levels. Much of my family is originally from Austin, TX, so I chose the Austin Marathon as my first one. Personally, I was moved throughout the race by the great Austin community as well as running through neighborhoods I grew up visiting, including my grandmother’s old neighborhood.
Everyone prepared to be prepared for anything in a full marathon, but the race went about as well as I could have scripted it, expect for the extreme cramping at mile 25, causing a 5-7 minute stretching delay. In the end I finished with a 3:46:02. Right at my B goal. It went well because, as runners say, ‘trust the training.” I embraced every step of the training and trusted the process and it clearly paid off. It was an incredible experience and I look forward to doing it again.
Recent races have been have been memorable because of the massive PRs I have hit. I feel bad comparing this year’s times to last year’s times. I am a totally different runner now. But I was elated to beat my goal time last week in a local half marathon with a 1:37:02 (a 15 min PR from my first half in October 2016).
What motivates you in your running?
I am naturally competitive. The thing I appreciate about running is the opportunity for self-competition and self-improvement. That has pulled me to dive in head first and become a ‘runner.’
I also crave the release. My work can be pretty stressful. I can also spend a lot of time on conference calls or at the computer. So running has been huge, from a mental health perspective.
What has surprised me is the running community. I am not sure why I am surprised by it, but I was. Anchorage has a great and amazingly supportive community of runners, coaches, and more. I love stopping into our local running store, Skinny Raven, just to say hello to folks, because of that support.
What are your running goals?
I have improved so much in the last year, yet I feel like we’re just scratching the surface.
Boston seems the ultimate goal for many. Like so many, I would love to qualify for Boston. I am not sure it is possible, but it is a benchmark on the horizon to chase. I think there is likely an ultra somewhere on the horizon. I love trail running, as one who identifies with the ‘dirtbag’ (outdoors, fly fishing, backcountry) community, trail running and ultras seem a natural progression and fit. So I suspect at some point I’ll run an ultra. Why not?!
What was the strangest/coolest/weirdest thing that has happened (or that your saw) on a run?
Two weeks ago, running along a local trail we heard a noise in the trees. We looked up to see a bald eagle taking off. It was no more than 5 feet above our heads. The wingspan was massive. I swear it could have picked one of us up.
How do you reward yourself after a hard run?
Donuts? Bacon? Foam Roller? Any of the above!
What are your upcoming races?
I am running the Mayor’s Half Marathon in two weeks. Then later this summer, I plan to run the Moose’s Tooth Full Marathon. These are all local races, so at some point I’ll look for a possible race Outside (as we say in Alaska!).
If there is anything else you’d like to share, feel free to include it!
As I said, I am excited to see where this all leads. Thanks to Michelle, I think we’ve improved so much, but I believe there’s room for much more growth.