Coaching For Women Endurance Athletes
Claudia with her kids at a kids triathlon.
Claudia Spooner is a certified triathlon, cycling, swimming and track and field coach who lives in Texas. She is a mom, and competitive athlete, who enjoys working with athletes of all abilities and ages around the country. We were lucky to interview one of her athletes for a previous article, and after everything she said about Claudia’s skill in coaching her (that athlete is 48 years young), we knew we had to go straight to the source.
GT: How did you find a love of endurance sports?
I started running marathons when I was 23 years old, and I was at a crossroad in my life. I was not a “runner”, I had no high school or collegiate background in sports, but I knew I wanted to doing something significant. When I look back I realize life is an endurance sport, we are either in it to win or we just get by, I am here to win. Training for endurance events helped me to take the time for myself to find out what I was made of, who I was and who I wanted to be. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, a positive difference. I have never second guessed that and have no regrets for the road I have taken and the lives I have changes and made an impact on, including my own.
Most of your athletes are in the “Masters” category 40+ age Group. Why?
I feel like I have a large contingent of the Master’s athletes, because I am also a Master’s athlete and it’s a very important aspect for an athlete and coach be able to relate. I am over 40, a mom, and I own my own company as well as compete at a high level in running and triathlon. I understand what it takes to balance all these things. It’s like spinning plates, it takes a fine balance. I have the ability to coach athletes with the understanding that when one part suffers, all the parts suffer. I get it…the kids, the pets, the job, the out of town spouse, being tired.. I understand. This is what makes a big difference in my ability to coach, I build their training schedules around their lives and time available to train. I also understand the part of getting older and how training has to compliment our lives and not control our lives. I am understanding and compassionate and my athletes know, when they do the training, SUCCESS is INEVITABLE…That is my favorite part and why I do what I do… They succeed… It’s AWESOME!!!!!!!!
Exiting the water with one of her athletes, Maya 70 years young, and who races visually impaired
What do you love most about training at this age?
I have never really thought much about training at this age being any different than any other age and that is speaking from 20 years of training. I think the one exception is that I train smarter and not necessarily harder. I don’t do junk training like I did in my twenties or early thirties. I have a very specific reason for some of my training. Sometimes I do just run to run and swim or ride just to swim or ride but, I have a reason for most of my training and it’s to be the best I can be for the event I am competing at. I have a goal and I stay focused on that. If I put in a training load that is just extra, I do risk injury or just being really tired and not being able to hit the training I want to for the next day or rest of the week.
CHAMPIONSHIP STORIES FROM TEXAS
Chris Chancey and Claudia Spooner received all of the attention at the inaugural XTERRA Bluff Creek Trail Run last weekend at Warda, Texas.
That they ran away from the competition to win the men’s and women’s title, respectively, was only part of the story.
Chancey, who celebrated his 30th birthday this week, was the overall champion, completing the 24-kilometer course in 1 hour, 50 minutes, 39 seconds. He basically ran by himself for the entire course, as the runner-up came in almost four minutes later.
The most impressive part was his footwear – or lack thereof. Chancey ran the entire course in huaraches, which are barefoot sandals.
“I haven’t run in a running shoe in almost two years,” he said. “It has changed the way my foot strikes the ground. In shoes, I was a heel-striker and running barefoot or in sandals makes me a fore-foot or mid-foot striker, which I believe has also reduced my injuries.”
Race director Mike Carter said much of the buzz at the awards ceremony focused on “Sandal Man.”
“I had so many people come up to me after the race saying, ‘Who’s that Sandal Man? He’s fast,’ ” Carter said. “It was pretty amazing. That thing looked like it was tied together with string.”
Spooner’s finish was equally amazing. Not only was she the first female, she was second overall – finishing with a time of 1:54:25.
The most impressive part for her was that she crossed the finish line with a broken hand and severe bruising on her thigh due to a hard fall along the course.
“I was at mile 9.4 coming down a descent into an ascent when I think I tripped over a root,” Spooner said. “I went airborne and landed flat out and it knocked the air out of me. I must have hit my quad on a huge rock -- I have a bruise almost the entire right quad. I got up and had to get my head together.”
Spooner, 40, said she saw the next runner (Matty Weston) fast approaching behind her, so she tried to block the pain out of her mind and kept going.
“Having Matty behind me really helped me push through the pain,” she said. “His quote was ‘even when you fall down and get hurt, you won't let me pass you.’ I laughed and told him he was the reason I pushed through.”
Weston came in 13 seconds behind Spooner to place third overall and second among the men.
After the race, Spooner had to make a stop at the hospital to have her broken hand placed in a cast. However, she is refusing to let it affect her training or racing. She plans to enter the Half-Ironman World Championship triathlon in Florida on Nov. 13.
The XTERRA Bluff Creek Trail Run was the first of four races in the 2010-11 season for the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series.
The next race in the Texas Series will be the Muleshoe Trail Run at Spicewood, Texas, on April 16, 2011. For more information on the XTERRA Texas Series visit www.racerevolutions.com.
RUNNER'S SPOTLIGHT: CLAUDIA SPOONER
Claudia Spooner doesn’t believe in excuses.
It is why she is able to train three times a day. It is why she isn’t afraid to keep pace with the elite men in every trail run she enters. It is why – at age 40, with two young children and a surgically-repaired knee – she is the best female trail runner in Texas.
She proved that again on Aug. 21 when she was the first overall female finisher at the XTERRA Austin Trail Run.
That race was the third event in the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series in 2010, and Spooner was the top overall female at all three of the races. Perhaps more impressive, she finished among the top 10 overall at each race, including a second-place finish at the XTERRA Waco Trail Run in May.
“Waco was an absolute thrill for me,” she said. “When I saw that finisher’s ribbon, I felt like crying. I was so super-excited. It’s a feeling no one could ever take away … to be second overall, even against the men, was huge to me and completely unexpected.”
But a look at her daily schedule helps explain things. Spooner is the founder and head trainer of the “I Run I Tri” program based in Austin, Texas. In a nutshell, she trains endurance athletes of all levels.
“I’m real hands-on, I like to know what my clients are doing every minute of the day,” Spooner said.
As a result, Spooner is not afraid to train several times a day – early in the morning for her own race preparation, then later in the day with her clients. A typical week might include 8,000 meters of swimming, 200 miles of biking, and 60 miles of running.
Spooner started as a road marathon runner, and then took up triathlons 11 years ago after knee surgery caused her to take a break from running and try swimming and biking.
Most recently, XTERRA trail runs have become her favorite type of racing. “Trail runs are flat out fun,” she said. “Road racing can be sometimes very monotonous … with trails, you have up and down, side to side; your core and upper body has to be strong. You have to have nimble feet and be able to recover from big uphills on your downhills.”
Because many XTERRA events feature a trail run on a Saturday, then an off-road triathlon on Sunday, Spooner will often do the trail run, then give tips to her triathlon clients on what to expect on the trail.
“I usually have four or five athletes who do the triathlon, so I’m out there for them as well,” she said. “I’ll tell them where the tough parts of the course are … that is, if I can remember myself. Some of those courses are really tough.”
What’s more, Spooner does it all while also playing mother to her son Cameron, who is 6, and daughter Morgan, 4. Not surprisingly, she never used motherhood as an excuse to stop training.
“If you could see my jogging stroller, you would know I have gotten my money’s worth,” she said. “I have had the wheels rebuilt twice.”
Her husband, Rob, also happens to be one of her clients, even though he started doing triathlons before she did, and is responsible for getting her to take up swimming and biking while recovering from her knee injuries.
Claudia and Rob will both compete at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Bend, Ore., on Sept. 18, and Claudia is considered a legitimate contender for the overall women’s title.
Spooner still competes in triathlons and road races, and would like to see trail runs become more popular, especially in her gender and age group. After all, she is proof that on an uneven trail, a 40-year-old mother can compete evenly with anybody.
“I think women get intimidated,” she said. “It looks too hard, but they don’t realize you don’t run the same way on trails as you do on the roads. Your body gets stronger all over when you are running trails.”
For information on Spooner’s training program, visit www.irunitri.com.
Romero, Spooner Win XTERRA Waco Half-Marathon Trail Run
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Waco’s own Pompilio Romero and Claudia Spooner from Cedar Park, Texas won the XTERRA Half-Marathon
Romero finished the grueling 13-mile course in 1:37:51, more than six minutes ahead of the next man, Chris Chancey of Austin. Spooner, who placed second overall, had Cynthia Henges of Austin right behind her the entire race but held on with a winning time of 1:43:39 (Henges finished in 1:44:16).
More than 200 runners took part in the morning’s 5, 10, and 21km races. Dylan Johnson and Erin Dixon won the 10k race, while Luke Carlson and Silvia Chavez won the 5k.
The inaugural XTERRA South Central Championship off-road triathlons in Waco get started at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, Sunday, May 23.
Claudia Spooner finished sixth in the women's division of the Austin Marathon.
Easy-does-it training regimen works for marathoner
By Brom Hoban
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Claudia Spooner doesn't worry about times or distance anymore. She just runs.
"Just running" got the 38-year-old mother of two to the finish line in sixth place last week at the Austin Marathon.
Spooner, who started running in 1993 as a way to find time for personal reflection, found that she had a competitive streak. A year later, she ran her first marathon — 3 hours and 41 minutes at Dallas White Rock — and then lopped 25 minutes off that, recording a 3:15 in her second Dallas marathon.
From there, the sky was the limit. Working as a flight attendant the past 12 years, Spooner ran while everywhere from Germany to Australia, and she was obsessive about her training.
"I wanted to race all over the world — that's why I became a flight attendant," said Spooner.
But she found that her approach to training was getting to be a grind. "It was stressful," she said. "I used to be so very regimented about it. It was numbers, numbers all of the time. Now I don't time my runs or worry about distance. I might run for an hour on average, maybe around eight miles."
The somewhat casual approach to training appears to suit her needs, and despite knee surgery last July, Spooner was able to train hard for Austin.
"The surgery worked great," said Spooner. "I was on a bike the next day, and I ran the following week. I wanted to see how much I could take after the surgery. Sometime around December I made the mental commitment to run the full marathon."
Even as she prepared for the marathon, Spooner kept her training unregimented.
"Building up for Austin, I ran a lot of trails— especially the Brushy Creek trail near my home. If I get my long runs in and feel good about it, that's enough. I just ran around the trails, keeping it going for three hours. If I can be out there for three hours, I know I can clear a marathon," said Spooner, who has run about 20 marathons, with a 3:08:18 best in Dallas in 2008.
A full-time mom of two, ages 3 and 4, after leaving her airline job last year, she finds she has the time for marathon training, even if it means pushing a little harder.
"I can run when I want," she said. "If I have to push the double stroller into the wind on the trail, I look at that as strength training."
Last week, competing in her third Austin Marathon, Spooner crossed the finish in 3:11:40, first place in the 35-39 age division. It wasn't long before she set a new race goal.
"I'll be running the Capitol 10,000 at the end of March — that's my next race," she said. "My legs feel good, and I'm already back up to running my eight-mile loop."