Heather Tanner’s journey of rediscovering her passion for running has led her back to the Olympic Marathon Trials where she hopes to experience the same joy she felt at the 2010 edition of the California International Marathon. Tanner shares with us her interesting day job, and explains what she did to regain her health following a long injury-ridden break from the sport.
Runners Feed: Take us through a typical day of your life
Heather Tanner: My training day varies mostly based on what my meeting schedule looks like at work, but I typically run most of mileage in longer singles these days. Sometimes I’ll run before work, then have a normal work day followed by a break for pilates or pt in the evening and then a little more work at home before bed at 11 PM. Other days, I’ll leave work around 3 or 4 PM, run in daylight and catch up on things later at night. I’ve worked a lot to establish a steady sleep pattern and have a pretty good routine now. I’ve never been a napper or a great sleeper though. At all. It’s something I work on all the time really because I’ve learned the hard way that sleep is a make or break factor for running.
My best years of shorter distance running were several years ago on the Farm Team when I was coached by Jack Daniels, but I never quite mastered the proper rest and life balance needed to run at my potential in the marathon back then. I had to drop out of the ’04 trials when I had a lot of fitness. I felt rotated and my glutes weren’t firing at all – turned out to be undiagnosed hip alignment injury issues. I improved again for a short period and made the world half team in late ’04 but things gradually worsened until I basically couldn’t compete on roads at all from ’07 until early ’09. I found peace with it as I focused on my day job career, discovered trail running and looked at running more as a social outlet. When I eventually addressed my muscle imbalances, I started ramping up again but with a different training philosophy. Now I focus more on doing what I enjoy and building on my strengths. I run steady mileage at an uptempo pace but don’t do many traditional interval workouts. When I do, I try to do it in sane daylight hours to make it more pleasant. My current coach, Bill Clark, was an incredible distance runner but also has a unique understanding of athletes who balance busy work and personal lives. He supports my approach. I enjoy long exploration runs, good hard climbs and bombing downhill more than anything in the world. So in summer daylight I run almost every day in Huddart, Portola Valley or any other great trail nearby. Big perk of the bay area.
I eat good healthy food pretty consistently, like oatmeal & greek yogurt for breakfast, homemade pizza, fish, quinoa, kale & spinach goat cheese salads….but enjoy treats like chocolate, wine or a good IPA. And strong coffee, obviously. Hydration is also very important. I lose track of that at work unless I have a water bottle glued to my hand.
HT: I work full time as Director of clinical/regulatory for Acclarent, which is a small business unit of Johnson & Johnson. My background was epidemiology (clinical research) but after a short stint in general research after grad school, I stumbled into a laser device start-up opportunity and have been working in the medical device industry for the last 10 years. Basically I design studies and then negotiate FDA approval for new medical devices. We’re currently working on a few novel devices to treat middle ear disease and I have a lot of exciting challenges ahead to keep me engaged and busy. It’s stressful but rewarding. My company has been incredibly supportive and offered flexibility for me to work remotely as needed for the last three months to allow for my trials build up.
I have the best physical therapist, Becky Mastrodicasa. She practices in Los Gatos and pretty much miraculously turns around everyone she touches. In my case, it was not a short fix. I had major inflexibility issues and needed to build core strength from scratch. Twice a week reformer or mat pilates class for 2+ years, in addition to PT, finally got me aligned enough to finish long races on the road again. I was overjoyed the entire last 10k @ CIM last year and credit her with that day. I was so grateful and thrilled to be running that it felt like a jaunt through the park.
RF: When the going gets tough on the 14th what will keep you gunning for the finish line?
HT: I look at trials as a continued celebration of my rediscovery for the sport and look forward making the most of the opportunity. I have a minor calf/IT band strain that is worrying me and sort of came out of nowhere a couple of weeks ago, but I guess you never know how things will go. I just hope for a continuation of last year’s joy, now with a huge group of teammates and close friends. I can’t wait to see how my many talented friends do too – they inspire!
RF: What will you eat the night before?
HT: For the night before, I eat pretty basic stuff like pasta w/ chicken, salad, bread & probably a glass of red, but don’t overdo it. I mostly focus on hydrating eating well, and a lot of good carbs, for 3 days before.
RF: Race day shoes?
HT: Lunaracer. My favorite shoe all time is the Lunar Trainer, but I don’t race in them.