Team Nichole – The Story

One of my athletes asked me the other day:

Do you think I could run my goal time right now?
I paused for a second and said, “no”.

Unbelievable. Olympic Trials Finisher medal, in a PR.
Not quite the thing you’d like to hear from your coach, right?

I am honest with my athletes. I know paces and progressions and I won’t ever fabricate something for my athletes.

This athlete is a high level athlete looking to get to that next level. To get to that next level it takes a fire and desire to get after all of the little things, and usually that means the athlete is asking their coach: “Could I do better with sleep? Could I do better with nutrition? Who can I work with? Am I training in the right zones? Enough concentration on the little things? What do you recommend? Why? How? Etc…”

First, they’re asking the coach on the “little things” (since Coach is taking care of the “big thing”). Second, they care enough to think about it, find articles, ask what to do, etc.

So… that’s the first step, as I explained. Then I decided a presentation juxtaposition would be appropriate:

I gave a presentation at the University of Minnesota last fall alongside Meghan Peyton, a team USA professional runner. She presented first as she had to hurry off to the press conference for Twin Cities Marathon.
Her story was: She won almost all of her State Cross Country meets in high school and then went on to be a super-star at a D1 college. She immediately signed a pro contract and has been competing since. She has a National Championship under her belt. I definitely admire her and her success.

Hard to back that up as the second presenter, right?

Meghan, 2013 National Championship 20k

I started my story/presentation: I was All-State in high school, but never top 15 at state, and never won any big invites. I tried HARD, though. I ran more miles than anyone on my team each summer, male or female. I decided to run college at Gustavus, a D3 school, even though I had offers at the D2 and D1 level. I did well at GAC, setting 5 school records and competing at NCAAs 4 times. But I was always just shy of that All-American mark at NCAAs.

Fast forward 5 years. I was working a high-paying corporate finance job. I had just run a 1:24 half marathon. I was so pumped; it was a great race for me. I told my husband I wanted to try to go for my OTQ. He gently reminded me that I would have to run two 1/2 marathons back to back FASTER than what I had just run in order to qualify.
I contacted Jerry and asked if he’d be willing to coach me. We locked arms, ready to fight for it. Two “blue-collar” individuals. He, a retired HS coach. Me, well, you know my history. He handed me the Olympic Trials qualifiers to date when we met. There were about 20 on the list: Shalane, Kara, Desi, Katie McGregor, other multiple D1 NCAA champions and professional runners. Keep in mind that I had never even finished TOP 35 at D3 Nationals. It was his subtle way of saying, “this is crazy”.
We set to work. I woke up every day with a fire in me to do something, prove I could do something. Every few months I’d reflect on what I could do better. He would nod his head in agreement. First it was strength, so I called a high school running teammate to write a plan for me. Then it was training partners. There were so many times that I asked anyone and EVERYONE (including those poor Red Wing YMCA masters runners with knee braces that tagged off to pace some 200m segments during my 1k repeats!) to help me pace those workouts. I needed every second.
I need regular hip alignment to keep me healthy. Enter Jim Patterson. Then mental prep. Enter Dr. Asp.

I could not be more thankful.

Fargo Marathon Win!
Little did I know it, but I was forming a tight-knit, rag-tag, cast of characters all willing to help me to get to something that should have been “impossible”. They believed in me, I believed in them. Fully. It was “Team Nichole”.

Except, the goal wasn’t impossible. I made it, I qualified. 2:44, well under the qualifying time. It was one of the best days of my life. I have that “team” to thank for it.

The point of the long story to this athlete was that you can take moderate talent and make it great. I did not have the talent to run with those individuals in 2012. I am not a Meghan Peyton. I was probably one of the least qualified to race there (based on past results). I just plain WANTED it, and was able to turn that fire into a dream come true.

Mesa has trained so many miles with me! Thank you Stunt Puppy! (See the team page for a big discount)

I wouldn’t have changed anything. All those miles, all that hard work, all those “little things” that I struggled to get in because time is short. I unintentionally assembled “Team Nichole” (individuals, professionals, and sponsors!) to get there. I am SO happy with what I’ve achieved.

I wanted it. I wanted to make it happen. I did. You can too.

The fire is there for that athlete. Start assembling your team and start thinking of those little things. Let the fire burn brighter. Every second counts.

One shot, one opportunity. Prove yourself.

* If you want to chase your impossible, I have the ability to take on one more individual for coaching. Contact me! nichole (dot) porath @

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  1. Great post–inspiring! Do you think everyone requires those same pieces to complete their puzzle? Also wondering if becoming a mother has altered your goals/priorities as a runner. Amy

    1. At this point in my life, I am so happy with what I've achieved and I am in love with being a mom/wife. So – my drive for running and racing isn't what it used to be. As far as getting to that level: all of those individuals are NOT needed. I needed them because I was so busy with my full time job – I needed someone to think for me and hold me accountable. But, all of those "little things" are what can bring you from "good" to "great". 🙂

  2. Awesome post! I have read your blog for a few years now, and you continue to inspire me. I have been working towards the OTQ for 4 years now, and hope to do exactly what you did at my next marathon this May :). Thanks for showing me what is possible!

  3. I love this!! I'd venture to say that you have more natural talent than you give yourself credit for, but I loved that you were able to reach your goal mostly through sheer determination and hard work. That's how I feel as well, and why I continue to chase goals that may seem crazy for a moderately-talented runner to pursue. 🙂 Thank you for continuing to inspire us!! Would love to join your team – just have to save my pennies for a bit. 🙂

    1. Perhaps you're right :). But based on past results… I was no where near those women I was racing against! I am all about chasing crazy goals – obviously – are you not working with a coach right now? We should chat, even though you're counting pennies 🙂

  4. I love this post 🙂 While I am nowhere near as quick as you, I always feel like I am "just shy" of the next big thing and completely understand that frustration! It's great to hear a story of someone who works their butt off to make things happen and achieve their dreams!

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