Getting to Know Your Coach

“All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

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Welcome to my running coach website! It has definitely been a learning experience to create a website. I had a goal of becoming a running coach years ago but work and family life catches up to you. COVID has really given the extra time at home to allow me to take an online RRCA running coach certification course in January 2021. It was a two day 8-hours/day course that was a presentation and interactive followed by taking an exam and boom I am a running coach. I do feel the years of experience is very helpful to assist in coaching though.

So here is a bit about me and how I started running.

My name is Jessie Gruca and I have never been on a running team like track and field or cross country. Running was punishment for me at Ladywood High School in Livonia, MI (which sadly no longer exists) as I played field hockey and soccer. Yet I still made the time cut offs my coaches would push us through during practices. Once I went to college at the University of Michigan, I didn’t have any structured practices with playing intermural sports which were only once a week. One of my roommates had actually done cross country in high school and asked me to run the Detroit Half Marathon with her in 2009. I decided to join her and began my training when my farthest run hadn’t been longer than a 5k. I had done some 5k races with my dad starting in high school. It ended up she didn’t have a passport ready for her to partake in the International Detroit Half Marathon (you cross over the Ambassador Bridge into Canada and run a few miles in Canada before taking the tunnel back into Detroit) and the Only Detroit Half Marathon did not exist yet so I raced alone. My first half marathon finishing time was a 1:49 and I was hooked! In 2011, I ran my first marathon which was also in Detroit which I ran in 3:24, little did I know that I received a BQ (Boston Qualifier time) and was in for the Boston Marathon in 2013. I ran two other marathons in between as I began my journey to run a marathon in all 50 states (CA and ME-visiting the friend who got me into running).

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First marathon – Detroit Marathon

2013 was quite a year. My boyfriend at the time proposed at Disney World while we visited friend and bought us a puppy named Belle, a German shorthaired pointer. Belle would soon become my running partner. As many know, 2013 was the year of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. I was also coming off of a stress fracture in my fibula during winter training and was pool running to stay in shape and training. My parents had joined me to cheer me on for this marathon. This marathon was hard and I definitely hit the dreaded wall. The big downhill at the start of the marathon, hurrying up Heartbreak Hill, and many climbs before did a number on my quads. The fan support was so amazing and uplifting though. I finished in 3:32 and pretty much cried after the experience. We were back in our hotel room when we heard the bombings. We could see the runners between buildings near the finish line from our hotel room and thought it was fireworks but after the second bomb and smoke and screams, we packed up and booked it out of there to make it to the airport before the city shut down. Looking back, my parents were standing right by where the bombs went off for my finish. It made me very grateful that I finished when I did but the experience made me dive harder into running.

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My training partner dog, Belle, was finally old enough to run miles with me and was a great companion. We found a Humane Society race where to lead me to break 20 minutes in the 5k. She even marathon trained with me and would join me on my 20 mile runs like it was no big deal. I married my husband in August 2014. He and I met junior year of college at UofM through mutual friends. I now had 7 marathons under my belt. He was ever so kind to postpone our honeymoon for January 2015 to be at Disney World (we had a Disney themed wedding) where I could run the Dopey Challenge (5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon in 4 days). We did run the half marathon together but I braved the 3am wake up and bus times alone each day but still mustered the energy to hit the parks each day!

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Marathon weekend during honeymoon at Disney World

2015 was my year of PRs. I ran Glass City Half Marathon in Toledo while my dad ran the full marathon. I got 1:30:32 which qualified me for NYC marathon. My dad had hoped to break 4 hours in the full marathon but weather changed quick and ended up being really hot by the end of it. I also started my journey of pacing marathons with a team which was a pretty cool experience. But after that and running a marathon in Anchorage, AK I suffered another stress fracture in my fibula. After that I knew things needed to change. I hadn’t had my period since 2011 after graduating undergrad at UM. My weight was on the low end for my height and I wasn’t fueling enough for all my training. I gained some more weight, ran Portland marathon, and paced Detroit marathon before I PR’ed my marathon at Indianapolis with 3:13 which also qualified me for NYC marathon!

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Celebrating completion of Glass City half and full marathons

At this point I started trying to pick up swimming and biking to cross train which turned into training for a half ironman in 2016. I was 18 marathons in (16 states) and raced my first half ironman. Don’t worry over the summer I practiced with a sprint and an Olympic triathlon instead of jumping right into a half ironman. Swimming was definitely my weakest point as I have never been a swimmer. I also learned how to clip into my road bike which I set up with aerobars. It was a lot of work training. I did my half ironman in August 2016 with a 5:38. I had a goal to break 6 hours so I was happy with that. But I would not touch my bike for a long time after that race. By the time it was November and I got to NYC marathon (state #18) my body was so tired. I did get to meet Des Linden on my flight to NYC though! It was hard race. It took a lot of mental strength to get through that marathon. I was upset with myself we were not pregnant yet and feeling guilty I take so much time to train. I was also guilty my dad wasn’t there with me. He tried for the lottery for so many years and at this point he had been diagnosed with ALS and was on the decline. I had hoped we could have run a marathon together.

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Meeting Des Linden at Detroit Airport

After taking a bit of a break and receiving a little fertility support, we found out we were pregnant in January 2017. I mostly noticed because, again I was back to marathon training, I did the same 12 mile run weekends apart and the second one felt 100x harder! Yes, I ran two marathons pregnant. I was 12 weeks and then stupidly 14 weeks to check off two more states which I had already registered for before finding out I was pregnant. So I was 20 states in and 22 marathons under my belt by the time I had my first child, Lucas, in September 2017. I was not wise in only taking 2 weeks off before getting back to running causing diastasis recti and needing pelvic floor PT.

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First child is born

2018 was hard year. Not just with being a new mom, but we lost my dad to ALS after he fought for 2 years. We then lost my running partner Belle at 4 years old to bone cancer. I feel like I went through the motions doing some triathlons again, Chicago marathon, and a few stroller races. It was a lot of figuring out how to fit in running with being a mom and needing motivation again. Luckily my son started sleeping through the night around 3 months but with breastfeeding and prepping things for him, it was still tiring to juggle. We got another German shorthaired pointer puppy named Rose (where my brand name came from) when my son was 1 years old. 2019 we were pregnant again and we had a little girl December 2019, Alexandria. This put training on hold. I was smarter this time around and did not run for 10 weeks after giving birth, making sure to strengthened my core before jumping back into running. Once I was ready to run again and plan some races the world shut down with COVID. In a way it gave me less pressure to feel the need to get back at it and need to prove I could meet my pre-pregnancy times. I kept my runs easy and just ran what I felt that day. It was my way to have some sort of routine while having 2 kids at home and working full time. It felt like a long year but it was nice to have extra time with the kids being so little.

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Here we are in 2021! I took my RRCA coaching certification course and passed the test in January. I began planning what I wanted to do and who I wanted to help. I had pretty much put together all my marathon training plans either from books I read, free training plans, etc. I enjoyed putting together training plans and seeing what I was capable of. Speed work is definitely key to get faster I have learned. But I only finally learned that those slow runs are key for recovery and endurance. I have two half marathons and a full marathon planned within this next year. I am enjoying the training and trying to take recovery more seriously. I’m ready to assist you reach your goals. I feel that I have enough marathons and races under my belt to know better what works and what doesn’t at this point but I’m still learning and ready to work with you through it. Thanks for listening to my story. My goals are definitely changing now with two kids and my husband getting into biking. We will see what comes of it 🙂

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My family

Tell me about yourself!

What goals do you have?

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