Meet Rebecca – professional Saucony runner who was born, raised and continues to train in Michigan. She's coached by Mike McGuire (University of Michigan's Head Cross Country Coach) in Ann Arbor (the running community hidden gem) and trains with a strong group of ladies, including Nicole Sifuentes.
"It was 2011 and I was in Los Angeles, California. I had been left alone at a table with Nicole, our volunteer coach, during a trip to California and I was panicking. Why did everyone else have to go to the bathroom at the same time? The panic was due to a combination of my social anxiety and the intimidating presence of Nicole Sifuentes, professional runner. I looked around the restaurant and tried to think of something to say until everyone else returned.
Fast forward four years, and I am sitting at another table with Nicole at her family’s house in Phoenix, Arizona. She had invited me to train with her for a few weeks to escape the frigid Michigan winter. We had finished our time trial and were ready to eat the lunch we had made and head to Anthropologie to do some shopping. If you would have told me on that day in California that someday I would be living with Nicole and we'd be doing almost every activity together, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Since my social anxiety hasn’t much improved, I know that we got to that point in our relationship due to Nicole’s extreme willingness to share her resources and her knowledge to those younger and less experienced than her. She is known and loved, and sometimes feared by those who don’t know her for her bluntness and enthusiasm. She will tell it like it is, but she doesn’t tell you what to do. Every runner should have a mentor like Nicole to guide them and push them to the next level. Whether it’s a coach, an older teammate, or someone else who has more experience and expertise, it’s always helpful to have someone to learn from and give you honest feedback.
Last spring, when I was panicking about a tight hamstring, Nicole told me about how she keeps a journal where she writes down three positive aspects of her training each day. She also stressed the importance of not having a minor panic attack after having to take a few days off. Thanks to her, I remained calm, gave my body the rest it needed and was able to save my season. Just as she models the ability to hold back when necessary, including her infamously slow recovery days, Nicole motivates me to push myself beyond what I think I can do. One day last fall, we were doing a hill workout with fellow Saucony athlete Brook Handler. Unlike Brook and myself, it was Nicole’s first workout back from her running break. Even though every step was a struggle to stay with us, she hung on until she couldn’t run another hill. That ability to push herself with such intensity is why I’ve found myself so influenced by her, and why she is in Rio as I write this, preparing to represent Canada at the Olympics.
Of course, one doesn’t have to be a professional runner and Olympian to be a great mentor. Whether it’s someone who has a few more marathons under his or her belt, or an older teammate, having someone who is willing to honestly share his or her mistakes and encourage you when you need it is so important. Observing how Nicole handles post-collegiate situations without much racing and traveling without the support of a college team has been so helpful. Plus, being close to someone who has learned how to expertly adapt to the physical and mental struggles of training also allows you to be more forgiving to yourself. Runners, myself included, tend to be harder on ourselves than we would be to our friends and teammates. When I see Nicole unafraid to give her body the rest it needs if she is feeling rundown, I am more likely to listen to my body as well. I also think that, especially in the college running world, older runners can be great models of normal eating in a community where eating disorders are so prevalent. Just as running can touch so many aspects of our lives, having a mentor can teach us how to better navigate other areas of life as well.
A few years into post collegiate running, I still have a lot to figure out, but I like to think I’ve gained quite a bit of valuable knowledge. I like to believe that I have successfully passed some of that knowledge onto the Michigan women’s cross country team (when I’m not just watching them aqua jog in the pool to make sure they stay afloat), as I was the assistant coach for a couple of years. I also plan on doing all that I can to help Shannon Osika, who I could not be more excited to have staying in Ann Arbor to train with and also run for Saucony! Most importantly, I have learned from Nicole that nothing is impossible – someone who you can’t make conversation with for five minutes at a table alone could someday be your very good friend, as well as a key to your success!"
By: Rebecca Addison, #SauconyRacing Athlete