Earlier this year I sat down with Angelina Ramos for an interview. Here are some of the questions from that session.
Angelina Ramos: Due to a wrist and arm break in March 2008, you were injured and couldn’t train for let alone race a 5,000 until the New England Championships at Bentley College—the last day, hours before the qualifying deadline. Your pr in the 5k was from 2 years before (16:01), you’d missed Cardinal, and you weren’t even on the 5k list for Trials. How did you handle the pressure of it being your first race of the season and the only chance to qualify for trials, after just having missed the qualifying mark in 2000 and again in 2004 in the 10k? What went through your head before and during the race?
Rebecca: I definitely felt pressure to get a qualifier with this being my 3rd time around. But it was mixed with a stronger determination than the other years. I knew I was done with watching the trials on TV. I think after 2 rounds of that you get a pretty clear picture in your head of what you don’t want. Aside from my broken wrist I had been healthy for quite a while and knew this was supposed to be my time no matter what. I knew deep down that it was all a test to see how bad I wanted it. Moments after breaking my wrist so many things raced through my head, running, my painting hand, how I’d pay for this? But, I’ve always had a glimmer of optimism even in the worst of times, which I believe always saves me.
Angelina: You ran 15:55 that race, placing you 25th on the qualifying list and they take 24—how long was it between when you finished your race and when you found out someone had scratched and that you’d definitely be competing in the semi-finals?
Rebecca: It was close, but I figured at least one person would scratch. The only problem was not knowing when that would happen. It could be minutes, hours, days to a week before finding out. I was lucky enough that someone scratched just 2 days after I ran the 15:55 at New Englands and then I was able to relax in that area.
Angelina: Do you always race the same (run from the back), go out aggressive, or does it depend whether you’re racing cross vs road vs track…where are you most confident? Did you race different going into those 5k’s knowing that you’d been injured…were you tentative or hesitant at all about covering moves, going out aggressive from the start?
Rebecca: I think it depends on what race it is and what my goals are for that particular race. Going into the 5k at the trials my coach and I had discussed a number of different scenarios and what to do for each. For the semi-final, I was in the 2nd heat, so I was keeping an eye on the TV in the warm-up room to see how the 1st heat ran. Moments before stepping on the track I found out what kind of time I needed to run to get into the final. But, the main objective was always to place in the top 6 and automatically advance, so I kept that as my focus. I may have gone into the trials thinking that I was fresher than the other women, with just one race under my belt, and to be honest I did feel fresh. I felt great actually. Being at the Olympic Trials after failing to get there for 10 years and overcoming so many set backs was the one of the best feelings I’d ever had. So, there was a lot going through my head, but when the gun went off I was able to focus on the job I had to do.
Angelina: There are so many runners out there who don’t qualify for an NCAA meet on the track in their four years of eligibility and who then believe that they aren’t good enough to continue the sport post-collegiately, that they aren’t biomechanically fit or talented enough in the sport to get to “that Olympic level”, OR they don’t really have any direction with regards to how to continue the sport post-collegiately. Who or what kind of helped you find some direction to training/coaching after you were done running for UMass cross country/track, and helped feed the perspective that you could get to that next level?
Rebecca: My sophomore and junior years in college I qualified for the NCAA cross championships. I just missed making All American by 5 places my sophomore year, I tripped and fell about half way through and lost quite a bit there. I’m pretty good at falling down I suppose. So, making it to those races definitely told me something about what I could possibly do. I missed qualifying for the 1500 outdoors by one or two places and then I started to get injured on a regular basis. The injuries most definitely held me back, but I never once lost sight of my dreams of being successful in the sport. I knew early on, in elementary school, that I wanted to pursue running at the highest level. However, I do vividly remember my last collegiate track meet, ECACs, I finished my race and it all hit me that I didn’t know what I’d do next, I remember crying and thinking that it could be over. I knew I wasn’t going to get any kind of a shoe contract because I hadn’t even made All-American, and I had no idea what opportunities there were post collegiately. Luckily, a former teammate and training partner of mine at UMass contacted me about joining the club Reebok Boston. She joined after graduating and had amazing results. I knew that was where I wanted to be. I met up with my soon to be coach Bob Sevene after graduation and joined his club. He had coached Olympians, and even medalists, so I was definitely pumped to have the opportunity to be coached by him.
Angelina: You were constantly injured in college between heel tendonitis and hip injuries… and you weren’t really ever running healthy until 2005/2006… a lot of high school of collegiately runners who have constant injuries tend to get frustrated and quit the sport early on…what got you through all those years/races of pain? Do you have advice for such athletes, such as who to seek out medically, what to look for, what to try?
Rebecca: I believe what got me continuing on was a combination of optimism, positive thinking, and a vivid picture in my head of what my ultimate goals were. I most definitely asked myself quite often why I put myself through so much misery, but my answer was always the same. I raced and trained for almost 10 years with pain. I’d take chunks of time off, cross-train, come back and run for a month or so before another injury appeared. I became an elite water runner. I often told people that if they had it in the Olympics I’d win a gold medal. I even got a wet suit so that I could go in Walden Pond as late as October. I look back on all of that and am pretty impressed that I stuck it out.
I searched for medical treatment, while in college, and for 7 years after that. I had seen so many Doctors and specialist that you would think I would give up, but I didn’t. I knew that if I could just get fixed that it would all be worth the time and misery. I’ve always been a firm believer that everything in life happens for a reason and for some reason. I moved to State College, PA for graduate school at Penn State. I wasn’t too thrilled to be moving so far from home but if I hadn’t have done so I would not have found the person that fixed me. It was tough
Angelina: What do you have to do everyday/week to maintain your health… wear a heel lift in the longer leg…any other rehab exercises that you have to continually do? Walking drills? Pool exercises?
Rebecca: I get massage work done once a week, adjustments to my hips or back whenever needed, I have specific strength work for stabilizing my hips, ice baths after really hard workouts or races. I do need to wear a lift in my left shoe, but it’s only 1/8th of an inch. I do elliptical work for added cardio.
Angelina: Is it easier or harder to have a coach you have such close emotional ties with-being that he’s also your boyfriend?
Rebecca: It’s actually been the best thing for my running. He knows how I’m feeling just about every minute of the day which helps him design specific workouts.
Angelina: How similar is the philosophy in which you coach your high school athletes and the manner in which you train yourself?
Rebecca: It’s actually quite similar. When I first started coaching I mimicked what a lot of what I did in high school. Then I started experimenting by incorporating a lot of what I do in my own training just scaled down for the high school level. I’ve found the most success with this. My high school coach always kept our mileage quite low, saying that he wanted us to have fresh legs for college. I agree with this even if they don’t compete in college. Much of my aim is to make running a life long thing, so I feel that if a kid is pounded with miles and continues to get hurt and worn out, it’s very possible they’ll be turned off to running. I also strongly believe that building up mileage needs to be done in the most gradual way.
Angelina: Brag about the athletes you coach…what’s up next for them…what do you expect for the season…what are you excited for… who are you proud of…go.
Rebecca: I am always bragging about my girls at State High especially to my old high school coach. They’re an excellent group and I’m so proud to be their coach. They’ve dominated their district for 7 years in a row and then placed 8th at the 2008 PIAA State Cross Country meet which I’m so pleased with. We even had our little freshman, Nora Adams, take All-State this year. We have pretty much the same team coming back next year, so we definitely have our eyes on top 5. In track we have pretty much the same crew running distance as cross which really helps me learn about the needs of each athlete. We certainly have some standouts including our sophomore sensation, Chloe Schmidt, who last year ran a 4:59 mile, 2:12 800, 57 400, and a 26.0 200. She certainly sets the bar high and has just scratched the surface with what she’s capable of, it’s very exciting.
Angelina: Running with ipods- ye or neigh?
Rebecca: Personally I don’t like to run with one unless it’s a 2 or 3 mile shake-out run or if I’m on a treadmill or elliptical. I think it’s very important to be able to listen to your breathing, your steps, and your surroundings, especially safety wise. I also don’t want to become relyant on having one. I used to always listen to my back in the day walkman in college on all of my warm-ups before races. I then realized I was getting too pumped up listening to these hype up songs when I really just needed to relax and be in the moment. It also makes the transition from warm-up to pre-race routines smoother. This is just my own opinion and I fully respect anyone elses preferences. I do love my ipod for doing core and strength work, and maybe a celebratory cool-down run after a particularly good race.
Filed under: Ask Rebecca | Tagged: Angelina Ramos, external fixator, New Englands, olympic trials, Rebecca Donaghue, State College HS, UMass | Leave a Comment »