Interview: Heidi Tucker, uber-runner

Morehead City, North Carolina’s 29 year-old Heidi Tucker completed the 2008 Richmond Marathon in a time of 2:57:48, earning 7th overall female and winner of the 25-29 age group. She also happens to be a buddy of mine and although she is extremely modest, fortunately she was kind enough to grant me this interview.

Whatevs: Tell me how you got into running.
Tucker: Truthfully, I started track in high school as as a break from swimming… I swam year round for 7 or 8 years. I guess I was getting burnt out on swimming so I was thinking about another sport that would compliment running. The track team was looking for members and I was the only distance girl… so I fell into it I guess.
W: What’s considered distance in track?
T: [laughing]1 mile and 2 miles!
W: What was your mile pr?
T: [laughing] Its embarrassing to say! I think it was like 5:50. I mean, now I do my mile repeats in less than that!
W: What’s your favorite distance to race?
T: I would have to say the half marathon.
W: Whats your half marathon pr?
T: 1:25 in February ’07 at Myrtle Beach.
W: I think I met you in 2003 when you had just done Kiawah [South Carolina]. Was that your first marathon?
T: No, that was my 3rd, my first was Raleigh in 2002. [my time was] 3:38
W: How has your training changed since then?
T: Well, I wasn’t planning on even doing a marathon… I didn’t have a coach, I didn’t really know what I was doing! I had just started a desk job and I was just trying to stay in shape and running with Wes [a coworker] who was training for a marathon. As his miles increased, by default mine did too, and I decided I might as well do a half marathon… This is how naive I was! The weekend before my first half, I wanted to make sure I was able to do 13 miles, so I went out to the race course and I did the whole thing, and added a few miles, making it a 16 mile run! Then I figured, if I can run 16, I can do a marathon, so I signed up for a marathon. I did the bare minimum, I never did any speedwork. Then a year later I got a coach through the North Carolina Road Runners Club, Bob Daniger. I talk to him every week, and now I have a broader structure in my training, like I’ll focus on speed in the spring, and plan on a fall marathon.
W: What’s the hardest, sickest, like made you want to puke workout you’ve done?
T: I’m not sure… I remember the first time I met Bob, he gave me a “half marathon superset.” I hadn’t been doing any speed training at the time. The workout was something like 400 at 5k pace, then an 800 at 10k pace, followed by a 3200 at half marathon pace, with no rest in between. He had me do three of those in a row. It wasn’t until months later that he told me I was his only athlete to ever complete that workout and that was how he knew I was serious.
W: What’s your favorite route?
T: Any run in Umstead Park [Raleigh, NC]. Especially now that I live on the beach, I miss the hilly singletrack.
W: Who do you train with?
T: No one since I moved to Morehead City.
W: What keeps you motivated to train?
T: Signing up for races.
W: Do you do any specific mental training?
T: No. But of course when I’m running, I have a lot of idle time, so of course I think about running! Actually leading up to Richmond, I was thinking of all the things that could go wrong, which is not like me! I had spent 6 weeks of my training travelling for work and doing most of my runs on a treadmill. I wasn’t sleeping great [in hotels] and eating like crap… I did not complete my two 20-milers and I wasn’t even sure if I should do the race. I felt like I was not in as good shape as I was when I ran a 3:05 [previous pr last year], but 4 weeks out from Richmond I did a 22 miler and I thought if it goes well, I’m doing the marathon and if not, I won’t. It went really well, but I still didn’t expect to have a good day in Richmond. It just goes to show anything can happen.
W: Do you have a specific pre-race breakfast?
T: A Powerbar on the way to the race. Sometimes a banana with peanut butter, too.
W: Any pre-race rituals?
T:I pee like 50 times! I’m pretty laid back, I sleep as late as possible… I get up about an hour before the race, which is why I don’t eat a big breakfast.
W:I understand your mom is a triathlete. Are you competitive with her?
T: Not at all. She is the least competetive person on the planet. She’s done 1 marathon and she does triathlons strictly for fun. I get it from my dad. He’s not a runner but he was really into baseball.
W: With your swimming background, have you considered getting into triathlon?
T: The whole bike thing is holding me back. I’ll never say never though. Especially here [in Morehead City] with no one to train with I could see it breaking up the monotony.
W: One last question: being a biostatistician, do you find its easy to keep track of your splits and what you need to do pace-wise to meet your time goals, or do you sometimes get tired and hypoxic and forget how to do addition and mulitpilication altogether during the last few miles?
T: Cute question! Actually, I LOVE keeping track of my splits and calculating pace and predicted finish time during a race – it’s how I pass the time. During Richmond, each mile that passed, I was trying to figure out the slowest pace I had to maintain to still break 3 hours and wasn’t even 100% sure I could do it until that last mile.

2 thoughts on “Interview: Heidi Tucker, uber-runner

  1. Natalie says:

    2 of my fave peeps talking, OK, I am totally jeals, but I love it! The 3 of us need to get together and run a race (at 3 different speeds, of course)!!! Of course wearing matching outfits the whole time. The best part about being the slowest of the bunch is that you two will be cheering for me when I finish, hehe…

  2. Pam says:

    GREAT. IDEA. Maybe a little chapel hill reuns??? coach bubba’s 4 miler/20k feb 09?? old reliable? that would be so fun!!! how cool would it be if we could gather up nancy katie and allison too!?

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