Catching Up With Neely Spence Gracey
After a rough beginning to her 2012 season, where she broke her foot racing at the BUPA Cross Country race in Scotland, the end of the 2012 was an exciting one for Neely Spence Gracey. Not only did she run a victorious effort at the Zatopek 10k, becoming the first American to ever win the event, but she soon followed that up with a wedding and honeymoon. Back training and gearing up for her 2013 season, the former DII champion is eyeing making the Team USA roster for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships at this weekend's USA Cross Country Championships.
We caught up with Spence Gracey this week, where she talked about her transition on to the Hansons-Brooks team, her expectations for this weekend's event, her future in longer distances and much more.
Scott Bush (SB): The USA Cross Country Championships are this weekend. Obviously one of your goals, I assume, is to make the Team USA world championship team, but what are your other expectations and goals heading into this weekend's race?
Neely Spence (NS): It's thrilling to be a part of such a great event. With so few XC opportunities for Pro US runners, the US XC Champs offers a unique racing experience and breaks up any monotony. I do want to make the World team, and to do that my number one goal is to not break my foot like I did during the last XC race that I ran! (BUPA XC in Edinburgh, Scotland last Jan).
SB: You ran a great 10k in Australia in December, but have been fairly quite since then. How has training been going?
NS: I took a two-week break after the Zatopek 10k to recover, enjoy Christmas with my family, and prepare for my wedding! My husband and I got married on New Year's Eve and went to Los Cabos, Mexico for our honeymoon (Random Runner Fact: same place as Julia and Alan Webb).
It was voted "best honeymoon place for active couples". We did a lot of running together, and the day after we got back I met Hanson's in Florida for a 10 day training stint. My fitness came back really quickly and I am pleased with how my body is responding to the workouts.
SB: Joining the Hanson's, what's the transition been like for you?
NS: Things have gone very smoothly with my transition to Hanson's. The only glitch is that my husband still lives in Pennsylvania and I moved to Michigan last June. We are hoping he finds a job and can move out soon.
The most exciting news for the team right now is that we are officially welcoming Emma Kertez. She joined the squad this week and I am thrilled to have her become a part of the group. We both are training for the same distances, so having someone to workout with and travel with will help us both become better athletes.
SB: The Hanson's are known primarily as a marathon training group, yet newcomers like yourself and Jake Riley are running shorter races. Was joining the Hanson's part of a long-term plan to transition to the marathon?
NS: Well, everyone knows my dad was a marathoner. He seemed to get better as he increased the distance of his races. What many people do not know, is that my mom was also a very good athlete until I came along and ended her running career prematurely :) She ran 5ks, 10ks, and was getting ready to be competitive at the half marathon.
So, if genetics do play a roll, I believe that marathoning is in my future. Hanson's are totally fine with helping me achieve all my goals in the 5k and 10k before we explore the longer distances. Whether it's 2,4 or 10 years the marathon will be a focus someday.
SB: You transitioned from running at Shippensburg to running for the Hanson's, where you all of a sudden had a handful of teammates at the same training level. What's it like for you having that consistency in top-end training partners and what have you learned from being around other professionals?
NS: I love it! When I looked at turning Pro, I was really looking for a support system. Somewhere that would provide opportunities for me to learn from others. I am not just a runner. I am a fan of the sport and firmly believe that learning from others will be useful for my own performances.
Having seasoned teammates at Hanson's has been a wonderful experience for me. I like being one of the youngest because now I have a different perspective. Instead of being the person training the most, I train the least and can see how much more I will do down the road, which gives me confidence knowing that I am far from peaked. I have many years of PR's ahead.
SB: A post-Olympic year can be an exciting time for many runners as they try new events. Any chance we'll see you test the half marathon distance in 2013 or are you going to stick with the shorter road race distances and the track?
NS: No half marathons in the schedule, haha. The 10k still feels long to me. We will continue to work on strength and building up my mileage, but I think track is in the books for this spring/summer!
SB: Shoes you train in?
NS: The Brooks Launch! I also wear the Defyance, Pure Flows, Pure Cadence, and Ravenna.
SB: Favorite band?
NS: No idea... I can never remember bands, musicians, or the name of songs... but I like Taylor Swift! And since I saw her in person at the airport in Japan, I will go with her :)
SB: Best movie?
NS: I usually say P.S. I Love You is my favorite, but it all depends on my mood. Funny movies are great too!
SB: Favorite race?
NS: In college I anchored the DMR and have so many good memories from this event. It is so unique and rare that a distance runner gets to participate in a relay, so sharing the success made the race so much sweeter!
SB: Post-race meal?
NS: I don't have anything in particular that I have as a meal after a race, but I usually have ice cream of some sort afterward because it's my favorite treat.
SB: Favorite book?
NS: My favorite running book is Unbroken. It's an amazing story of an athlete who gets drafted and can't compete in the Olympics. I also like cheesy romance novels like the Twilight series because they are quick reads and good distraction stories.