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.