EBR Rock Star: Susan Wagner

It’s EBR Rock Star time! Today we’re chatting with road warrior Susan Wagner, who — on November 18 — will run her fifth half marathon in 13 months, and is part of our Fall Fun Run. (Have you shared your run with us yet? You really should!) Welcome, Susan! Also, green looks fantastic on you!

Your upcoming 11/18 race is your fifth half marathon in 13 months. Whoa. What compels you to do these big races so frequently? And how do you stay motivated?

I love the energy of a big race — being in a crowd pushes me to run faster and harder. I’m a solitary runner; I’m not good with people, at least not when I’m running. I do run with a group at my children’s school every once in a while, which is great — they’re super nice and it’s been a good way to become part of the school community — but for the most part I prefer to be in my own head when I run, especially on a long run. Races are a good way to bridge that; when I’m lining up at the start with 25,000 other runners, it feels like I’m with my people — but without anyone talking to me or messing up my pace. Perfect.

Having a specific goal, like a race, keeps me motivated. Traveling to a big race requires a lot of juggling at home, so once I’ve got everyone in my family on board with my plans, I feel like I need to take it seriously and stay on track with my training. And of course, I’m always hoping for a new pr, or for that elusive sub-two hour half marathon, but my actual goal is always just to finish. And not die.

And then once I’m done with a race, I start over with the next one. It’s a vicious cycle.

Do you have any injury prevention methods/secrets you’d like to share with us?

It’s funny you should ask that — I feel like I’ve spent the past year figuring out how not to be injured. I ran two half marathons in three weeks last winter and wound up with a hip injury that just would not heal (a combination of greater trochanteric bursitis and IT band syndrome — my hip and lower back were killing me, all the time). Eventually I went to the doctor, who put me on a five day course of steroids to control the inflammation and told me to take two weeks off. Voila, problem solved! Sort of.

My training mantra has always been rest days are for suckers! because I am a crazy Type A who believes that unless I am pushing my limits, all the time, I’m not really working hard enough. What I learned from this injury — which literally made it impossible for me to sit comfortably at my desk or sleep through the night — was that rest is my friend. I also learned that cross training makes a huge difference. I started swimming at Labor Day, and while I’ve not cut back my running miles at all, I’m not having any trouble with my hip now. Most surprisingly, I’m running faster and recovering more quickly than I used to. And I’m really enjoying my rest days. No, seriously. I am.

You’re so adorably fashionable. What do you wear when you’re running?

I’m all about function when I run, which is so boring. This summer I caved and ran in shorts and a sports bra all the time, which is so not chic (but so very practical when it’s a million degrees outside). I buy all my running clothes at Target, from the C19 by Champion line; everything comes in great colors and nice fabrics and holds up well after 1,000 washes. Recently I’ve gotten into bright colors — my shoes are a super fun pair of bright turquoise Mizunos, and I’ve been running in a highlighter pink tee. But the bottom line is that everything has to fit well and be comfortable. That’s all that matters to me.

What are your top recommendations for fueling up en route? What do you eat before a big race?

I can’t eat during a long run. I totally get why it makes a difference, but I just can’t do it, so I really focus on eating well up to the last possible minute. For a half marathon or a long training run, I’ll start carb loading three days out, eating oatmeal and rice and potatoes and pasta, with lean protein and little bit of fruit or veg. I’m always happy when I get to the carb loading part of training. I love carbohydrates. Love them. The carbs may be my favorite part of a long run. Yum.

On race day, I get up super early and have a cup of tea and a banana or half a bagel with some peanut butter. Right before the start, I’ll throw down a Honey Stinger Waffle, just for a little last-minute carb boost (the chocolate flavor is pretty delish). On any run longer than a 10K, I’ll hit every water stop and alternate water and Powerade or Gatorade or whatever they’re serving, just to get some more carbs in.

Post race, I need coffee. And lots of it. Stat.

Are you inspired by any running bloggers? If so, who?

I’m really fortunate to be surrounded by inspirational people, and I feel especially lucky that my biggest inspirations are bloggers I knew in real life.

My friend Kristen Seymour has been an indefatigable cheerleader and an invaluable resource. When I started running, she was a constant positive voice, virtually high-fiving me after every run and offering smart, easy-to-follow advice. She has a fantastic voice and is always so upbeat and positive about her training and her races — she can convince me that I can do just about anything. Recently I’ve been picking her brain about triathlons, and she almost has me convinced that I could do one. Almost.

I’m also inspired by my friend Laura Nance — in fact, Laura is indirectly responsible for getting me off the sofa and on the road. Two years ago, on my forty second birthday, Laura ran her first marathon. I followed her Facebook updates while she was training and was amazed by what she accomplished. Laura inspires me in so many other ways as well; she’s an entrepreneur with an amazing spirit of adventure, and she has a kind, generous soul. Last spring, during the worst stretch of the worst half marathon I’ve ever run, I looked up and saw Laura, waving and cheering. I was so happy to see her that I stopped and hugged her, even though I was covered in sweat. Best thing ever.

What’s your top advice for new runners?

Focus on finishing, not on winning. You’ll get faster and stronger with every run and every race; killing yourself to reach some arbitrary time goal is silly — and not much fun. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, just run. And then high five yourself at the end — you’ve earned it.

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Susan Wagner is a personal stylist and freelance writer; she lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and their two sons. You can find her on the web at The Working Closet and on Twitter and Instagram (@WorkingCloset). She’s seriously considering buying a road bike and training for a triathlon. For real.

3 Comments

  1. Yippee!! Love that I mentioned Susan as one of my running mentors and now here she is, talking about hers! She makes half marathons sound totally reasonable and sane. Which is a huge part of what made me commit to one.

  2. Oh, I love your eating plan before a race. I too can’t eat while I run, doesn’t sit well. So I like the carb loading ahead of time.

    And I’ve wanted to try honey stingers, so good to know you eat them before a run!!

  3. I love your three-day carbo load philosophy. I recently stopped eating before running and — shh, don’t tell my husband because it was his idea — I think it’s working.

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