Tabor, thanks for taking the time out of what I’m sure is a busy schedule for an interview with the Colorado Coyotes. I was thinking we could start with the past and work our way to the present. I think the first time I saw you and your family race was at the 2010 Denver Mother’s Day 5K. You were 13 years old, in the 8th grade and ran an 18:54 5K! Tell us about those middle school years and what were you doing in terms of training?
Oh no thank you Simon, I feel very privileged and blessed to have the opportunity to share my story! Growing up in Kremmling, CO not many kids, or adults for that matter, did the sports that my parents introduced my brother and I to. In a school system that was dominated by the traditional sports (i.e. football, volleyball, basketball) running, Nordic skiing, CrossFit were sort of taboo activities that just my family and I did. My parents emphasized the importance of learning life-long sports and enjoying them. So from a young age I grew to love the painful, aerobic sports…it helped that I was pretty good at them too! In order to foster a positive environment around these sports (running in-particular), my training was rather haphazard and more about having fun. Training consisted of running on some days, doing lifting on some days, and then cycling or Nordic skiing on the other days. By switching training up at a young age, I never got bored or tired of doing any of them as I continued onto high school.
Your freshman year (2011) of high school cross country was phenomenal. Looking at MileSplit, it appears you went undefeated the entire season, culminating in winning the 3A State Championships. Looking back on that year, what do you remember and what were your expectations for the rest of your high school career? I’d have to think that winning State four years in a row was a realistic goal?
Freshman year was by far the most enjoyable of my high school career and I credit that to being completely naïve about my competitors and the world of high school running as a whole. I was enveloped in my own world of training up in God’s country and didn’t focus on my competitors; which I think really benefitted me when I got to the start line of races. Looking back on that first year, I believed myself to be the best and that no one was faster or fitter than me. This confidence translated to my races, where I typical led wire to wire, because I expected myself to win from beginning to end. My expectations for the rest of my high school career were to win all four titles in Cross Country and then set track records from the 400m-3200m. However, God had different plans in mind for me and He had to teach me a lesson or two on humility.
Moving on to your sophomore year, it looks like you took a small step back with regards to over all times in cross country and still managed to finish second at the State meet. Your junior season saw similar times to your sophomore year, and an 11th place finish at the Colorado State Meet. Lastly, your senior year saw you get back to form, run a PR at Desert Twilight in 17:50 and you won your second Colorado State Championship, once as a freshman and another as a senior. Tell us about those high school years, I’m guessing you dealt with a lot of frustrations, and it’s awe-inspiring how you bounced back your senior year?
The rest of my high school career was VERY challenging and I had to really lean in on God to find my purpose in life. I had to go hang out in the valleys of running to truly be appreciative of being on the mountain tops of the sport. I had to decide for myself if I loved the sport and that I wasn’t just doing it to please my parents. Additionally, I had to learn how to run and train in a new body from freshman year to senior year, and that was a big component to my dip in running success for a while (definitely not uncommon for girls). Being taller, having longer legs, and being a little heavier because of the growth factored into my running form. It took time to find my stride again, both physically and metaphorically, but finally by senior year I got it down. There were a lot of hard moments in high school, but I’m super thankful for those times because it challenged me to grow, explore, and come to realize that running is a part of my life but doesn’t define my life. That my happiness/contempt on a day to day basis shouldn’t rest on my running performance.
Looking back on your middle school and high school years, you raced a lot, did you ever think it was too much? How hard was it to stay motivated during those times? Is there anything you would personally do different or advice you’d give for talented female runners in middle school?
Really, you think we raced a lot? Just kidding, I did race A LOT! I never thought it was too much, because my parents had created a fun atmosphere around racing. Growing up, the way we explored the state of Colorado (and even the nation) was through our racing. We’d train during the week, then go to a race on the weekends and make it a vacation. Doing that allowed for racing to seem like a treat, because we got to go to new places, meet like-minded people who were into running, go to cool coffee shops, etc. It was way easier to go do a race than train because we were able to do it with people and it helped that we did pretty good at them. However, as I exited middle school and transitioned to high school racing, I started putting too much emphasis on racing. I’d get so extremely nervous for a low-key JV meet that I was just running for training. If I was giving advice to my younger self, I’d tell me that it doesn’t matter and no one cares as much as you do. Looking back, I wish that I would have not worked by self-up into such a nervous nelly, but instead enjoyed the fact that I was able to run and put on a performance for those (few as they usually were) in the stands.
Ok, you’re back in high school, what made you decide to run at the University of Colorado? Your freshman year of college you ended up dropping out and returning back home for a while and then later returned to CU and began your first xc season in 2016 is that right? Can you tell me about that year and what youlearned/discovered about yourself?
What made me decide to run at University of Colorado was Heather Burroughs and Mark Wetmore. On my visit I connected with their philosophy, their demand for excellence from their athletes, their commitment to the team, the list of athletes they’ve developed, and the much more. It also didn’t hurt that I’d only be about 2 ½ Hours away from my family in Kremmling.
So my story involving my initial start at CU is incredibly long and complicated, but I’ll do my best to give you a shortened version. In the fall of my freshman year, I had to defer my enrollment due to a complication with the NCAA clearinghouse with the plan to start at the beginning of the spring semester (this actually happens rather frequently throughout the NCAA in various sports). Come January, I was enrolled, practicing, and competing at CU; however, I had some serious growing up to do. Honestly I couldn’t handle being away from home and was so incredibly homesick that it was debilitating. Because of this I got all my affairs in order to drop out, walked up to the Mark and Heather’s offices, and proceeded to tell them that I was quitting and going back home. This was, and still is, the hardest conversation I’ve ever had in my life. I did this all without my parents blessing and to put it lightly they were VERY unhappy. I then proceeded to move back home with the plan of working and continue training for running. In the spring, I raced a few big meets with lack luster results and was really feeling lost in life. Come the middle of the summer, my parents said that when the Fall rolled around I needed to do something with my life and that I wasn’t allowed to live at home forever. This created a lot of angst and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Not long after that conversation with my parents, I was given the opportunity to begin again at CU and run under Mark and Heather. I knew that a second chance like this doesn’t happen very often, so I stepped out in fear and faith deciding to go back…the rest is history.
During this time I learned a great deal about myself! I learned that I needed to grow up, develop relationships aside from those within my family, and that I needed to give myself the opportunity to become a great runner so that I didn’t have any regrets later in life.
During the cross country season, what’s a typical day look like for you, from the time you get up to when you go to bed with regards to school work and training? Coach Mark Wetmore is arguably one of the greatest cross country coaches ever, yet so many promising Colorado high school runners choose to go elsewhere, why do you think that is? Also, what’s it like running for Coach Wetmore?
A typical day in the cross country season looks like this:
6:00-6:30 a.m- wake up and drink copious amounts of coffee
7:00 a.m- Do my daily Bible study
7:30-8:00 a.m ish- eat breakfast, which is usually some combo of eggs, toast, peanut butter
9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.- typically I have class. I am a communication major and religious studies minor, so I have a very interesting assortment of classes. I typically eat lunch in class and drink some more coffee for liquid motivation prior to practice.
1:30 p.m. ish- I do some pre-run activation drills, roll out, and prepare for the run of the day.
2:00 p.m.- As a team, we always meet at 2:00 p.m. and practice varies everyday (easy, hard, long, fast) but always includes running of some sort.
5:30 p.m.- Cook dinner. I love to cook and it’s how I express my artistic side. I LOVE red meat, so a typical dinner consists of a steak, toast with avocado, and some roasted brussel sprouts.
6:00 p.m.- Start homework and try to do it uninterrupted until 8pm
8:00 p.m.- If I have time, I’ll watch a Netflix show to wind down from the day
8:30 p.m.- Bed time! I aim to always get between 9 ½ to 10 hours of sleep a night.
I think Colorado high school runners go somewhere else because they want to distance themselves from the Colorado running bubble. I think they want to spread their wings and be exposed to what other states have to offer. Honestly, I don’t understand this because I think we are so spoiled here in Colorado (especially Boulder) with the weather, training venues, and great coaches like mine!
Wow, that’s a big question! Um, what is it like to run for Mark…It requires self-motivation, autonomy, and self-discipline. Mark and Heather are a great coaching duo and they put a great deal of effort into purposely designing our training plans; however, it is up to the athlete to do the hard work. There is no hand holding or sugar coating, which I really appreciate. They treat us like adults and aren’t there to be our parents. A demand for excellence is present and this (at least for me) makes me want to show up, work hard, and race well not only for myself but also for my coaches. I feel very blessed to be able to be coached by Mark and Heather.
This past fall the CU women won the national championship in Madison, Wisconsin with snow on the course and a chill in the air. You finished third for the Buffs and a surprising 15th overall, earning All-American Status. If that wasn’t the highlight ofyour running career, it has to be up there? Tell us about that day?
Definitely a highlight! That day was really magical and to be able to share that with my teammates was incredible. Finishing 15thmade me believe that I belong up with the best in the NCAA and gave me a deeper confidence that a great runner is slowly developing within me. That day was filled with the evidence of how much training we put in as a team in non-ideal conditions. The course was covered with snow and lent itself to the tough runners…we train in all conditions because our coaches don’t want us getting soft haha, so having that component on race day really helped us out. On that day, each woman on our team had the best race of their xc career and that aided to our collective success. Afterwards, there was a lot of embracing, tears, and moments that will be engraved in my heart forever.
In sports, I think people often feel that success is linear, you just keep improving a little bit each year. Your running career is a testament that success can often be a winding path. I get the impression that your grit is off the charts, I know you’ve dealt with a lot of injuries over career, what keeps you going?
What keeps me going can best described by this quote I have on my fridge “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could day, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”
Lastly, what are your goals going forward and in particular post-college?
Going forward I hope to be able to continue to develop as runner, stay healthy, and prove that I’m one of the best runners in the NCAA. The big dream/goal is to be able to pursue running post-collegiate, securing a professional contract, and get to make running my fulltime job. I’m hoping that works out because I don’t think I’m ready to go into the 9-5 workforce yet haha
Thank you so much Simon for interviewing me. I really appreciate you giving me the platform and opportunity to share my story!