The Sub-30 Club: More than a club, a family

When I started running, it was a pretty solo endeavor. I did all of my training runs alone because I lived in a neighborhood in Brooklyn that was pretty far out and I didn’t know any other runners. When I moved to North Brooklyn, I joined a local running group, but unfortunately was too slow for most of their group runs. In August of 2014, I read an article in Runner’s World about an online running group that was focused on sub-30 minute 5k and immediately joined. I had no idea how much that one decision would impact my life.

Two and half years later, I have not only been to several club meet-ups but have organized a few and have developed close relationships with several Subbers (Sub-30 Club members). Many of the athletes that I coach are from the group. I have run Runner’s World Fest, Broad Street Run, Hood to Coast, and VIA Relay with Subbers. In May when I run the Grand Canyon 50k, at least 5 other members who I also consider dear friends will be with me.

Life at the Back of the Pack

The group has grown a lot since I  first joined and at our annual meet-up at Runner’s World Festival we are well known for our”Back of the Pack Party” and for our faster runners “running in” those who are on the course alone. “No Subber Left Behind” is a constant theme with the group as is “B.E.A.S.T.” which stands for “Be Awesome and Strong TOGETHER.” Because of this, it was no surprise to me when our executive director let us know that our group was being featured on The Runner’s World Show podcast. I highly recommend checking out the “Episode 36: Life at the Back of the Pack” podcast.

Coincidentally, I was also featured today in the group in their weekly “Spotlight On” series. Here is copy of my interview for the series!

Spotlight on Brandi Cole

1. Give us the basics: Age? Married? Kids? Job? Pets?
I’m 40, in a serious relationship with adventure, and have 2 furbabies (Tiny Destroyer of Worlds and Lulu Don’t Give a Damn). I consider my job to be an adventurer, knowledge seeker, and student of life, and am also a certified distance running coach, but I make my living as a Lead Designer at McKinsey & Company focused on User Experience.

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Tiny (Destroyer of Worlds) and Lulu (Don’t Give a Damn)

2. How did you get involved in Sub 30?
I joined in August 2014 when I was still chasing time goals. I have fluctuated from very active to almost leaving at points. Something magical happened at BSR 2016, though, and now I am stuck with a bunch of incredible friends–some I talk to multiple times a day.

3. How long have you been running?
I have been running consistently as an adult since September 2011. I ran as a very young kid and attempted to start again in 2010, but street harassment (in Florida) and a heart scare caused me to push pause for awhile.

4. How has running changed you?
It has helped me to recognize and in some cases amplify some of my better characteristics: tenacity, strength, and (surprisingly) discipline. I live for that moment when a run has been really tough and I get a surge of strength and push through stronger than before. I believe finding strength in adversity is really powerful.

5. Do you have a specialty/specific interest? What’s “your thing”? (roads, trails, triathlons, obstacle course racing, etc.)
I like to run long in the wilderness. In a perfect world, I would get to run trail most of the time, but living in NYC makes that a bit of a challenge. I’d never completely give up road, though, because running is my favorite way to explore a city!

6. What distance do you prefer, and would you like share your PR?
I like long distance. I don’t have a preference. The longer I can play outside, the better. I’m not really motivated by time PRs anymore. Why would I want to cut my time on the trail short?!

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New York City Marathon

7. Do you follow a training plan created by someone else or do you make your own or do you not follow a plan at all?
It depends. Now that I am a coach I find that I am less motivated to write plans for myself for some reason. I do tend to experiment on myself to confirm benefits of training before asking the same of my athletes.

8. Guilty pleasure after a long run/workout?
I have no guilt over pleasures. Post-run I will splurge on a beer even though I have a gluten allergy. (yes, it’s a legit allergy) This summer I started indulging in Coke with ice after a run.

9. Coolest place you ever ran? (bonus points if you can add a picture)
Paris! Running along the Seine with all of the landmarks was magical. Stateside I think DC is my favorite place to run aside from my home trail along the Palisades. Can’t wait to run in Berlin, India, and the Grand Canyon in 2017!

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Running in Paris
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Running along the Palisades with my trail team pals and my best running friend and fellow Subber, Jeremy

10. Who/ What inspires you?
People who push out of their comfort zone, tackle big challenges, or make a leap of faith or significant investment to follow their passion. And I mean that in a broad way–it could mean pushing yourself physically for a new PR, embarking on a journey to regain health, doing something adventure related like skydiving, moving to a new city, or telling someone that you love them. I feel strongly that life should be LIVED so anyone who is pushing themselves to do that regardless of actual or perceived limitations has my utmost respect.

11. When not running, what is your favorite thing to do?
A lot of my travel and vacation centers around running and I am also coach so there is still plenty of running stuff in my life outside of actually running. I love good food and a good bourbon especially in the company of my favorite people. (Even if they don’t really like bourbon. 😉 ) I also love music, singing, and dancing so live music, singing karaoke, or a spontaneous living room dance party tend to top my list of fun things to do.

12. Tell us something about you that we don’t already know.
I had never traveled out of the country until 2010 when I went to Mexico for a friend’s wedding. I was 34. On that trip I did an adventure day where I was blessed by a Mayan shaman, rappelled into and swam in a cenote, and climbed a few pyramids. That was the day that I decided to move to NYC. A little over 4 months later I was here. None of my loved ones believed it was happening at the time! Since then I have seen and done some pretty awesome things. It is never too late to change your life and follow your dreams!

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Adventuring in Mexico. From clockwise from top left: Blessed by a Mayan shaman, rappelling into a cenote, sitting on top of a pyramid, pyramid climbing

Streams of running inspiration

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I absolutely love running in the snow–though I prefer it to be on a mountain–but I know a lot of runners would rather not brave such weather. If you happen to be snuggled indoors this weekend and are looking for something running related to watch, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Vimeo, and YouTube have you covered. And I have taken the time to curate some helpful lists!

If you are wanting to go the free route, YouTube is your best option. I have created a few playlists on my channel with full length running documentaries and Runspiration shorts. You can access those here: Coach Brandi’s YouTube Channel

Vimeo also has great running videos some of which are free and some are Vimeo on Demand which you can rent or buy. I have two collections setup: Running (free to stream) and Running (Vimeo on Demand).

If you have a subscription to Netflix, there are a handful of movies available. Netflix rotates titles so something that is available today may not be available next month. I have collecting what is available now on a Pinterest board here: Running Movies on Netflix Streaming.

But the real mother load of movies is available on Amazon Instant Video. Some are free with a Prime Membership and others are available for rent or purchase. Amazon rotates titles as well so some of these may not be available for free with Prime or in some cases at all, unfortunately. I have a collection of all the movies I could find on a Pinterest board here: Running Movies on Amazon Video.

So there you go! Hours of running inspiration to keep you entertained this weekend. Did I miss anything? Leave a comment and let me know if there is something you think I should add to any of those collections!

I’m a legit mutant. Where are my superpowers?

This post could also be titled, “How planning to run a marathon may have saved my life.” And by saving my life, I mean literally not figuratively. I debated whether to even share this publicly, but this IS a part of my journey–a part of the distance that I will need to travel.

Last week I got results from my pre-marathon blood screening back. Included in that was a test for a gene mutation which my mother carries and her doctors think directly contributed to her inexplicable stroke at 52. I tested positive for two copies. It’s confirmed — I’m a mutant. This type of mutation doesn’t give me super powers, though. I won’t be sporting a uni-tard and flying around the city fighting crime any time soon. There is no power with my mutation, but there IS great responsibility.

What I have is a MTHFR mutation. Without boring you with the science, what this basically means is that my body isn’t able properly perform an essential process called methylation which my body uses to clear all kinds of nasties including metals, histamines, and other toxins like chemicals. Wait, back up… Histamines? You mean those things that cause allergic reactions?! Yes, those things. Those little meanies that I have been fighting for the past several years. Additionally, this going unchecked can lead to all kinds of horribly scary conditions–heart attack, stroke (blood clots), Alzheimer’s, dementia, breast cancer, hypothyroidism and the list goes on–many of which my family members have been diagnosed with or passed from. Eek. It can also cause many of my symptoms some of which I have had most of my life, others that have made me really miserable for the past few years. Things like chronically low b12, chronic fatigue, reactions to gluten and dairy, reactions to chemicals like in cleaners and soaps, slow recovery and increased injury from intense exercise, brain fog, insomnia, IBS, high stress, premature greying, and the list continues but I won’t bore you.

So what does this mean? Well, in terms of lifestyle changes, not much for me. An organic, paleo diet is recommended.  I will have to watch out for foods with added folic acid (like big brand orange juice) as my body can’t process it. I will have to continue to be conscious of chemicals in my environment as my body has trouble clearing toxins from my system. (Quitting hair coloring and not wearing make-up most of the time was a smart decision!) Since my body has trouble ridding itself of heavy metals, I may need to do detoxes to help it out. I will likely need to practically eliminate any alcohol consumption. Sleep, sun, and moderate exercise are all encouraged. (Oh darn!) As are saunas and massages which help remove toxins and stimulate that methylation process. (Double darn!) All of this is stuff excluding the saunas and massages I am pretty much already doing so it’s not really that big of a lifestyle change. Additionally, based on my variation, I will likely be put on an active form of folate and B12 since my body can’t create those. Once my body receives those active forms my methylation should improve and my body will start to clear some of my built up nasties. Getting the dosage correct can be tricky so that may take a little time and there is chance I will feel pretty crappy during that time period as my body starts to try to clear years of built up toxins.

But what does this mean for my running? I can’t find much online, but everything I have found points to moderate exercise being okay but “intense exercise like marathon running” not being okay. I’m certainly not going to make any decisions based on Dr. Google, though! I will be discussing this with my doctors starting next week when I visit a hematologist to discuss proper supplementation. I’m hoping the fact that I don’t plan to BQ or even really push my pace in the race (I’m just aiming to finish) will mean it will be okay. Regardless of what happens, though, my health comes first.

So that’s it, in a nutshell. I’m relieved to have discovered what could be the cause of many of my health problems and that relief may be around the corner. I’m a little scared about the bigger things this mutation can cause. But mostly, I’m grateful. I’m grateful that because of this thing I love (running), I may be able to change my fate. I may be able to avoid some of the things that have plagued my family. I may be able to get relief from symptoms that I have been dealing with for most of my life. So let’s be very clear here: This isn’t a pity party, this is a moment of gratitude.

I will update this blog in regards to how this mutation affects my running and other adventures. As I said before, this is now a part of the distance I will need to travel. Challenge accepted.

The Distance Traveled

So I’ve been wanting to start a blog for awhile now, but had the most frustrating time trying to think of an appropriate name. I ended up drawing inspiration from a Steve Prefontaine quote:

“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”

I find it fitting given my evolution from partier and couch potato, to a challenged runner and adventurer, to what will now be a marathoner in training. It’s been a long journey and it is about to take on a whole new life as I prepare to run the 2015 NYC Marathon.