What’s Your Gear?: Distance Running, Heather Le Friec
The below article was printed in Out There Monthly Magazine, May 2012 Issue
“RUNNING IS MY LIFE,” says 40-year-old Heather Le Friec. For some runners, this might be an exaggerated self-assessment, but for her it’s not.
As she explains, “My husband, Andy, is an avid runner. I’m a Fitness & Health teacher and girls’ cross-country coach [at Lewis and Clark High School], president of the Spokane Swifts running team, a run ambassador for the ‘Inspire Daily’ program for Brooks Running, and a run ambassador for Lululemon. Most every day of the week I’m involved in a running commitment or activity.”
Nicknamed “race junkie,” Heather loves to compete. “When you race, you see the benefits of your training,” she says.
Her best performance, so far, was a third place finish at the Portland Marathon in 2002, with a time of 2:56. At Bloomsday that same year, she won $500 for being the third place Washington finisher, with a time of 45:13.
This year marks Heather’s 23rd time competing in the Lilac Bloomsday Run. She will toe the start line for the elite women’s wave, which begins at 8:45 am. She says she most enjoys “the black vulture at the top of Doomsday Hill—once I get to him, I know the hardest part is over and it’s time to drop it down a gear to the finish.”
On Bloomsday morning, she will complete her usual pre-race rituals. This means eating toast with peanut butter, drinking black coffee, and listening to “Jock Jams” on her iPod.
When training for a marathon—her favorite race distance—Heather builds her mileage to a peak of 70 per week. “In any given week I include one speed interval on track, a tempo run on the road, and a long easy run,” she says. “My other days are ‘recovery runs,’ and I always take a whole day off from running [each] week.”
She has completed 35 marathons. “I’ve ‘hit the wall’ every time,” she says, “[but] I love the distance because it comes down to finding the physical and mental toughness to run through ‘the wall.’”
Her favorite local training runs include the trails below the South Hill’s High Drive bluff and “mixed relays” on the track with the Spokane Swifts and Spokane Distance Project—two local running clubs.
Heather’s other recreation interests include tennis, triathlon, rollerblading, skiing and rock climbing. In fact, before she became a runner during her junior year of high school (she grew up on Whidbey Island, in western Washington), Heather was a committed tennis player. “Once I started, I instantly was hooked and discovered I was much better at running than tennis.”
She ran for Gonzaga University’s cross-country and track teams—earning West Coast Conference All-American honors in 1992 and 1993. A bone spur during her freshman year made her miss that year’s track season as well as most of her sophomore XC season because it was not properly diagnosed in the beginning. She describes this experience as her “greatest setback.”
Still, there is nothing she doesn’t enjoy about running. “I love the challenge. I love to see how fast and far I can push myself,” she says. “It never gets easier, and whoever thinks it does isn’t pushing [herself] hard enough.”
Heather’s enthusiasm makes her a natural coach. “I love coaching girls and women, because I feel that running is so empowering for anyone. When you experience the challenge of running, it makes you a stronger person and a more confident person in life,” she says. “My advice for [the female high school runners I coach] is to never underestimate yourself. Your mind is very powerful, and your self-talk can help you or harm you. When races get hard I tell my athletes to give themselves positive self-talk—to start reminding themselves of all the hard workouts they’ve completed, that their bodies are not tired, it’s just their minds trying to tell them that. I believe what makes someone faster than another person has a lot to do with her mental toughness.”
As a devoted runner now for more than 20 years, Heather says the sport has taught her three significant lessons. First: “The most important thing, when you have a bad race, is to remember that you had the guts and courage to finish. Second: “Sometimes it’s not about where you finished but about what you learned during the process of getting there.” And third: “Running is like ‘ebb and flow’—you will have good days and bad days. It’s all about sticking with it.”
SHOES: Brooks Launch and Brooks Racer ST
SOCKS: Fitsok ankle socks
SHORTS: Brooks Infiniti
SHIRT: Brooks Infiniti tank or Brooks Equilibrium LS
RUNNING PANTS: Lululemon Run Spirit Tight
WATCH: Garmin Forerunner 305
MISC. GEAR: Lululemon no-slip headband and Brooks Seamless Arm Warmers.