Catching Up With Blake Russell

You’ll be forgiven if you have a hard time keeping up with Blake Russell. The Olympic marathoner from Pacific Grove is one of the fastest runners in the United States, and finished in 27th place at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Blake took some well-earned time away from running after those Games, but is currently in the midst of a comeback to competitive racing, and will run her first marathon since the Olympics at the New York City Marathon on November 7th. This time, she’s got one very important addition to her team to cheer her on: her 17-month-old son Quin, who was born to Blake and her husband Jon in April 2009.

Quin’s still practically a baby but he’s already developing a taste for Mom’s unique lifestyle. When Blake laces up her shoes, Quin yells “GO RUNNING!” Blake’s coach, the legendary Bob Sevene, has supervised both Quin and Blake during hill workout sessions; like his mother, Quin seems to have an affinity for going up and down hills.

The parenting is a joy, but returning to world-class racing shape has been a huge challenge. It’s taken much longer than she expected to get back to her regular workouts, and she’s heavily dependent on an extended support network: in addition to husband Jon, Blake’s mother and her husband have moved to Pacific Grove to assist with child care, and nanny Jenny Davis helps out as well. It’s a true team effort, and Blake couldn’t log all the necessary miles without them.

Blake trains in all the usual places that the locals run. A typical weekday finds her on roads and trails near her home in Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. She does speed work at the Monterey Peninsula College track. Weekends are reserved for longer runs on the trails of Fort Ord. She often trains twice per day, and has been running about 100 miles a week this summer. Hang around outside long enough, and you’re bound to see her somewhere.

Her return to racing has been slow, and Blake considers her results earlier this year disappointing. By virtually any other standard, she should be proud of taking 8th place in the U.S. National Cross Country Championships in February and 4th place in the U.S. Outdoor National 10K in June – but when you’re an Olympian, your expectations are at a higher level.

Fortunately, she’s now in better shape and feeling stronger, and her coach says she’s got “all the bullets in her gun” as she heads to New York later this fall. She’ll use the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon on October 3rd as a tune up, and try to return to the form that earned her an Olympic spot back in 2008.

Blake’s long-term goal is to make her second Olympic team for the London Games in 2012, with the Olympic trials race in Houston in January 2012. As you’d expect from a dedicated, successful athlete, the date is already circled on Blake’s calendar.

So what can you learn from an Olympian? Blake’s advice is to emphasize quality workouts over quantity. Keep your easy days easy and run your hard days hard. Have a recovery drink within 30 minutes after every workout, and maintain a healthy diet throughout the day. And if you happen to get some downtime, it’s OK to take a nap while the baby is sleeping.

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