Bad Boy Running

Ep 514 | Alicia Vargo – The Super Mom Returning to Elite Trail Running Following Loss and 4 Children

November 12, 2023 Jody Raynsford & David Hellard Episode 514
Ep 514 | Alicia Vargo – The Super Mom Returning to Elite Trail Running Following Loss and 4 Children
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Bad Boy Running
Ep 514 | Alicia Vargo – The Super Mom Returning to Elite Trail Running Following Loss and 4 Children
Nov 12, 2023 Episode 514
Jody Raynsford & David Hellard

On our latest Interview episode of Bad Boy Running, Jody and David speak to Alicia Vargo. Alicia put her athletic career on hold for six long years, choosing instead to focus on her growing family. Now, she's back on the racing circuit, juggling her training schedule with the responsibilities of being a mother to four children. 

Alicia’s journey is one of perseverance and strength, both physical and emotional. Her world was shattered when her husband tragically passed away during the 2008 Olympic trials marathon, but Alicia found solace in the trail running community and used her love for the sport as a way to heal. Not only did she return to competitive running, but she qualified for the World Finals in the Golden Trail series and secured a top 10 ranking. Alicia’s story is a testament to the power of resilience, and she offers valuable insights into the difficulties of postpartum fitness and the unique challenges faced by women in sports. 

In this episode, we explore Alicia's relationship with running and how it has evolved over time. We delve into her future plans, which include using uphill skiing to enhance her pelvic stability, and her excitement about returning to the Golden Trail Series. Through all this, Alicia exemplifies how to maintain balance in life, even in the face of loss and adversity. 

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On our latest Interview episode of Bad Boy Running, Jody and David speak to Alicia Vargo. Alicia put her athletic career on hold for six long years, choosing instead to focus on her growing family. Now, she's back on the racing circuit, juggling her training schedule with the responsibilities of being a mother to four children. 

Alicia’s journey is one of perseverance and strength, both physical and emotional. Her world was shattered when her husband tragically passed away during the 2008 Olympic trials marathon, but Alicia found solace in the trail running community and used her love for the sport as a way to heal. Not only did she return to competitive running, but she qualified for the World Finals in the Golden Trail series and secured a top 10 ranking. Alicia’s story is a testament to the power of resilience, and she offers valuable insights into the difficulties of postpartum fitness and the unique challenges faced by women in sports. 

In this episode, we explore Alicia's relationship with running and how it has evolved over time. We delve into her future plans, which include using uphill skiing to enhance her pelvic stability, and her excitement about returning to the Golden Trail Series. Through all this, Alicia exemplifies how to maintain balance in life, even in the face of loss and adversity. 

Love the podcast and these videos? Buy us a beer! https://www.buymeacoffee.com/badboyrunning

Join the Bad Boy Running Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/badboyrunning

Visit the Bad Boy Running store for merchandise: https://store.badboyrunning.com

Join the Bad Boy Running Club here: https://club.badboyr...

Speaker 2:

Buh-bye bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye.

Speaker 1:

Hello Jodie, hello Dupades, hello listeners, Welcome to Bad Boy Running. We're going straight in with our interview tonight and we've just finished up. It's very much an interview of two parts because our next guest she arrived on the Golden Trail having been away for six years bringing it with four children, taking away from running, returned at a super high level, came into the season not even halfway through We've only two races left managed to qualify for the World Finals and then come top 10 overall. But in this episode we talked to her about how she'd managed to do that, what the difficulties have been actually trying to stay fit and then refocus when you've got just so many kids around you. But also, you know, alicia had a tragic story as well where in the 2008 Olympic trials in America, her husband sadly dropped dead during the marathon. So this episode we start with talking about Trail and her adaptation since coming back from Motherhood and such. But then we also talked to her about how she's managed to use running and really mainly the running community. It seems as a good way to keep on moving forward. So thanks for listening, guys, and we'll crack on with the interview. Thanks, nick. So our last guest arrived from nowhere this season on the Golden Trail and only the two races came to the final and ended up in the top 10 overall. And the remarkable thing is she's not been racing or running for a number of years, and I think it's five years. After retiring from running, she's decided to come back, turn to Trail and is currently smashing it. So we wanted to find all about what she's been doing in the meantime, her advice for getting back into running and see what her prospects are for the future. So welcome to the podcast, the wonderful Alicia Vargo.

Speaker 3:

Oh, it's awesome new year. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to chat.

Speaker 1:

How much of what I said was accurate. In terms of the timing. How many years has it been away?

Speaker 3:

It's close enough, maybe six. I don't think that doing any races while pregnant necessarily counts as racing. Nice, so you did actually do some races towards the end Just a couple that very informally I'm trying to think, maybe two. So yeah, I think it's been about six years.

Speaker 1:

And was that conscious decision not to race in that time, or was it time constrained?

Speaker 3:

No, it wasn't necessarily a conscious decision. I had my first daughter, skyler, who is now six and a half, and then I actually kind of started easing back into racing after that and I intended to run the Golden Trail series. I don't know if that was maybe the first year that the series was held in 2018. Yeah, first year, yeah, and I was really excited. I signed up for Zygama and Montblanc and then was going to do Pike's Peak, I think, and I got an infectious disease in Spain and it just really crushed me. So I was at Zygama but I got super sick. I was still sick for Montblanc and then I just kind of had to go through this whole medical protocol with the state health department and work through this issue that I had. And then I got pregnant again and then the pregnancies just kind of turned into more pregnancies and more pregnancies. So I never really had a long enough break between them where I could properly train. So it was a different kind of training.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely, because we've spoken, we've interviewed quite a lot of moms who have come back from, say, one pregnancy or two fairly close by, and it almost seems as if it is potentially possible to kind of spin your fitness through the first pregnancy a little bit, come out train and actually still perform a pretty impressive level at the end of like a year after. But how has it been for you with that longer period?

Speaker 3:

Well, I think just what you said, I think that's true that like after the first baby, if you just kind of get dealt a lucky hand with how pregnancy treats your body, you're really not away from the sport that long, relatively. You know, it's kind of like a major injury. So if you don't have any issues, like from actual delivery, I think you can get like pretty fit pretty fast. I was, I think I ran maybe like the rim to rim FKT like three months after I had my daughter, and so there was just still like a lot of like lingering fitness.

Speaker 1:

And what's the rim to rim? Fkt out of interest, because we're not as as a as a fair with all of the different FKTs in the north yeah.

Speaker 3:

I'm sorry, it's probably not everybody's from Arizona, or like the desert south of West, so the Grand Canyon, so there's a there's a rim to rim FKT and then a rim to rim to rim FKT. So running across the Grand Canyon or running across it in back there's, there's kind of two like notable. So you know for where I was living at the time I was in Flagstaff and had been there for quite a while. That's like kind of an iconic I don't know. It's like where people go to test their fitness and, you know, train for bigger races and so, yes, yeah, grand Canyon, jim Wamsley has the rim to rim to rim FKT and like I can't even remember who has the women's now, because it went down so many times in the last several years.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean. I think COVID's transformed the FKT scene For sure.

Speaker 3:

Yeah yeah, the Canyon's a testament.

Speaker 1:

So you were saying that, so that first, that first year you had the, the rim to rim, and then how did? How do things change with kind of each progressive year?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so it just I think it's just harder. I mean, I think the only thing I can maybe compare it to is, like I compare it to having like a major surgery or injury and if you had, like I had four pregnancies like within six years. So if you think of like four major pregnancies, like just the longer you're away from doing something kind of normally with your body, it's just harder to return to that, you know. And then you kind of put on top of that like loads of sleep deprivation and the exhaustion of, like you know, nursing a baby and just taking care of them, and it's just like it's such a big life changed with one, and then it kind of gets crazier and crazier. But yeah, you just don't really know if you're going to be able to get back to doing the things that you love with your body in a normal way. And so I'm super grateful that so far I seem to be able to do that, because it's not always the case.

Speaker 1:

And had you during that time? Were you always clawing back a bit of fitness before you went in to the next pregnancy?

Speaker 3:

And then yeah, I was always moving, you know, just like slower. I was always, you know, uphill skiing all winter and then like running, jogging, you know, in the warmer months, and I was always moving. But it's just so different, you know, it's like just kind of like slogging around, like getting fresh air. So, yeah, still like all of us like we have to be outside, right.

Speaker 1:

And was that was the fire there? Do you think throughout you always suspected you wanted to return to a high level racing?

Speaker 3:

For sure, yeah, yeah, I was always happy to do that.

Speaker 1:

So that I'm in fact, I've just got a message from Jodie asking if it's good to join now, so I'm going to quickly let him know. Yeah, absolutely, come on in. So Jodie is Jodie's got two young ones himself, so he's he makes a there, although his oldest his oldest is considerably older than your oldest and youngest maybe considerably older than your youngest, so he's he's run out of excuses for why he's not getting back to fitness. But um and so. So, when you, when you had your fourth then was Sky, who's got your fourth, did you say Ah, she was the first.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so my last little one is is Madeline. She's a year and a half old. She's a little pistol. So yeah, she's our fourth and last.

Speaker 1:

And so how have you managed to to juggle for and for kids and also training in the in the last kind of nine months?

Speaker 3:

I think it's like anything that the more you're, the more you're asked to do or the more you're required to do. You just kind of stretch yourself and you figure it out. So that's definitely how my husband and I have been kind of trying to like revolve the last, like especially the last year. We're like all right, like we have to prioritize what's important to us. It's important to get outside, it's important to move in the mountains and like hopefully eventually race. So we, we, you know, really kind of try to I don't know help each other, like get to that point where we can do that and just prioritize that. Yeah, and yeah, you just make it work. I don't know it's chaos, but we somehow seem to get it done.

Speaker 1:

And Jodie. Just to bring up to speed, so far this has had four kids returned after six years to kind of racing again, and so we're just talking about training now and and and how it's been in the last nine months or so.

Speaker 2:

Okay, perfect, perfect, hi, alicia, how are you Sorry?

Speaker 3:

Sorry, I'm a little bit late. I do apologize.

Speaker 1:

No, no, no problem. And what would you say has, in terms of the amount of time you've been able to dedicate and the type of training you're doing now to before you first went on maternity leave, what would you say has changed and what would you say has been? Has been hard.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I definitely have less time and when I do have time to get out the door, like I'm pretty intentional with it and I think that that's actually been a good and productive thing for me. Like I think back to when I was younger and, like you know, just running and working a little bit like I don't know you could just get away with like you know, I don't know training too much, or I think that that's a something that we all tend to like fall into sometimes if we have more time than we train more. I don't know that that's necessarily always productive, but yeah, we're just like really intentional with our time and so that has been, I think, probably one of the most instrumental things. But also like being super adaptable because, like one kid will be sick and then they'll all be sick and then we'll be sick, and so just kind of like learning that like things don't have to be perfect, like sometimes good enough is good enough, like as long as you're making forward progress and not getting wrapped up in like well, you know, these, these other runners are, like you know, they're putting in all this volume or they're doing this or they're doing that. Like we're just doing what we can and trying to give 100% of where we are at this stage in life. So I've just kind of like come to own that like here's where I am, like I have this beautiful family. They get to join me in this process. So I'm going to do what I can and not worry about the rest.

Speaker 2:

When you say intentional, there's different levels of intentional, but we, we are someone and they say they do things in an intentional way. What does intentional actually look like? Is it like very kind of specific as to as to what you want to achieve from it, or is it intentional in the sense that you know a, at least a goal of some sort, from that specific workout?

Speaker 3:

I think both Like if you have 93 minutes, you know you're like stepping out the door, and like you're utilizing 93 minutes and you're like, okay, I'm going to do these intervals, this is my goal for the workout, like I'm going to maximize that amount of time that I like have to myself to train, but then also, like you said, being really intentional with like for me, I think, just losing touch with so many different parts of training and racing, I have like 20 things that I'm like I have to work on all these things now, like I don't have this like foundation of you know, like aerobic endurance and speed, and like my uphill running, my downhill running, technical skills, like all these things that I just felt like a little bit overwhelmed with. So the intentionality was like, okay, I'm going to choose to work on these components and and that's, that's what I can do, and the rest of the stuff is just going to like have to wait for the next season or another point in time.

Speaker 1:

And have you been surprised at the level you've come, you've returned at?

Speaker 3:

I think I've been relieved that like there's still something there, but I still feel like there's a lot left, like I still feel pretty hindered by, you know, not a lot of training or training through sickness, a lot or sleepless nights, but I've been relieved that like my body still has that ability, because I think that, like something that, you know, maybe a lot of women don't talk about is just like how broken their bodies get throughout the process of having children and and I don't think that I like did anything right, I think I just got lucky with that and so, yeah, I feel relieved that I'm like I'm just really grateful that like there's not any major issue that I've really had to work around.

Speaker 2:

It's not really. It's not really spoken about, is it? I mean, I mean spoke about now more than it has ever been, but previously, like no one, no one, the whole idea that I mean. This happened to my wife. She used to run, she had children. She went out for a run after she had children. Things don't feel right and no one tells you, oh there's, you know there's going to be issues and there's all sorts of things. And because you know who tells you that, who is the person that's responsible for telling you that there's not? So so yeah, and that just it must surprise so many people to realize that they can't just come back in the way that they wanted to. They have to be really purposeful about how they do it, seek out help, which is right. I don't know what it's like for you, but certainly in the UK I there's not that many specialists and they're not, you know, easy to find, or at least they weren't when we were looking. So, yeah, I wonder if you know that's the. There's just lots of people who kind of give up on it. Yes, for sure, yeah.

Speaker 3:

I think you're right, and it not only is that happening during a time when you're like so exhausted and stressed that you have this like helpless little life you're trying to like keep alive, you know, and then then to think about like trying to seek somebody out to help you with the issues that you're having, it feels overwhelming and like maybe a little bit self indulge.

Speaker 2:

Selfish there. That's it, yeah it does.

Speaker 3:

And even from the time when I had my, my, my first child, to my last child, like when I had my first child, there was like no information, like you, just you went to the doctor and they kind of micromanaged your body until you had the baby and then they were like Good luck, like here you go.

Speaker 2:

Deal with everything now.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and now, like by the time I had my last daughter, my doctor was like oh, you should see, like a physical therapist that works with women postpartum, and that was kind of that's kind of becoming more now the norm, and so it hasn't always been, and I think that maybe, like, some doctors are a little more progressive than others or some pockets of you know different countries are more progressive than others where they're like oh, we should like take care of women, like after they go through this. So, yeah, it's kind of all over the place and I definitely think that a lot of women are just guessing and then, like you said, like not trying to be selfish when they're supposed to be taking care of this baby. But I have to convince myself, I'm like but it's like not selfish to like want to be like a healthy body, like if you had, if you had knee surgery, you wouldn't have the surgery and then not do any follow up, right, because you wouldn't better. Like that's not selfish to be like, oh, I should take care of the backside of this surgery. So I don't know.

Speaker 2:

And then also another element that they kind of like the flip side of that, where, like you said, you know, having had children, you've got to be more intentional. You can't you just go out for a run. You've got to, you know, pay attention to all the other, all the other factors, all the other variables. Those are always in your mind. You may have a few moments when you're not thinking about those things. Where you do it, Does that ever leave you thinking, god, I've done an incredible job? I mean, there's people out there running. They don't have to think about kids, they don't have to think about that is easy. What I'm doing is heroic. Is that? Does that ever cross your mind at all?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, for sure. I mean yeah, just like you just mentioned, like it's a whole nother step to like actually like leave the house and go do something. I mean that's yeah, to like pay money for like a babysitter and nanny and, like you know, kind of rearrange things so that you can like get out the door and do those things. And then, yeah, it's complicated, right. I think that's what I have to fight for it, and I think that that's what kind of grew within me throughout the process is. I'm like, if I'm going to try to come back in any way, shape or form, even if I just want to go run in the beautiful mountains outside my back door, like I'm going to have to be the one that maybe advocates for myself within this and my husband's super incredible and supportive, but like I'm going to have to be the one that's like I need to do this or I want to do this, like here's what, here's how you can support me in that process. So, yeah, I don't know, oh sorry, go ahead.

Speaker 1:

And because we've we've spoken to, we've done quite a few episodes where, like safety powers, talking about how the changes that the family are always there when dad wants to do some big activity and dad always keeps their interests throughout child birth and all of that, and actually it's so important that mums set the example of being kick ass mums as well to inspire their kids in the same way dad does. But the she, she's been doing things like you to be on almost no mileage, which was in it's so surprised by how she was getting into it, but she was doing a lot of strength training and things like that. Have you have, by seeing the physio or throughout the time you've been away, have you been doing specific exercises other than the standard kind of wants to do with your what's the what's the one way to stop you being yourself? That? someone seems to know have you been, have you, have you intentionally been trying to ensure you've been strong throughout the last few years?

Speaker 3:

And though there's still like a lot of work to be done, like I mean just kind of specifically for me and I've heard other female trail runners mentioned this that, like with the progressive pregnancy, like downhill running is kind of terrifying after these because you lose just enough stability in your pelvis that like you don't realize how strong you need to be with everything kind of in a certain position to like tackle like technical, fast downhill running. So my downhill running is horrible right now. So I'm actually going to work with my pelvic therapist, not necessarily like on my pelvic floor, but like how do I gain stability so that I like can trust my likes to run downhill fast again, if that makes sense?

Speaker 1:

Did you any discover that? Did you find out when you did it?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I was like oh, I'm like I'm so scared to run downhill, like why does this feel so weird? And I'm like it's because it's I'm. I'm wobbly, like you know, like your, your sacrum is wobbly and then your knees, everything follows suit, right. So it's just like when you run a certain way your entire life, you kind of take for granted that your body has confidence in those movement patterns and then when they shift, it's like very kind of like discombobulating, you know like where you're, just like, oh my gosh, this is, things are not moving the way they should. So it's scary, I don't know how to describe it.

Speaker 2:

It's so. It's so. It's the way you described it, like the knee injury thing and the knee and your analogy is so true. It's, like you, not many injuries that you'd get which would fundamentally change the shape of your body and and your movement of your body. Would you even attempt without going through some kind of physical therapy first, or or at least doing it? Yet people do that. They come back and then realize that things aren't right and it's. It sounds crazy when you put it like when you think of it as a, as a serious injury, and the fact that you know you do need it to. You know someone to at least work with you in order to make sure that you know it's like running it like. I think it's different, isn't it? You know, when you, when you're coming back from something, say you've put a little weight or you're coming back from an injury or things like that, you can still feel you know how you felt before. In some ways, you sometimes capture that, but feeling completely different in you and so, especially like in your pelvic area and you're kind of all around there. It just I can't even imagine how you even like cope with that as a you know just what meant the point. Like you know what. I don't even know what my starting point is now. Yeah, that was you know, and that must just be really challenging for a lot of people. I put a lot of people off as well.

Speaker 3:

And it's so far to go. I think we lose a lot, of, a lot of women to different realms of sports because of that. And I saw that you team, you, team be, for example and not only given a pregnancy deferral, but it's like a three year pregnancy deferral. Correct me if I'm wrong on that, but I think it's like it's very generous, which makes sense, right, because we're talking about like things that like how are you, if you have a baby, you know and you defer, say you're pregnant and you defer your UTMB entry, and then when your baby is like four months old, how are you going to race? Like that, right, it doesn't make sense. So somebody made that decision that they're like wow, that's like that doesn't even make sense. So let's make it three years so that you know this woman has a fair chance to like kind of try to work her way back, you know, in a wise way, without breaking her body all over again. I was like that's, that's cool. I hope that more races follow suit with that. That'd be really exciting to see.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely, and they. I think there was quite a tough, a tough negotiation, to be honest.

Speaker 2:

They didn't have a deferral at some point, did they? That was the thing you couldn't defer.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, there was very much the view that it was a choice and therefore yes that.

Speaker 3:

But but thankfully times are changing. Whoever was doing the pressure, then kudos to them for sure.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think it's mostly Steph case and potentially safer power as well. Super kick ass. So, and do you? Because one of the one of the things that has been discussed in the past is that because now for races like utmb you need to get these stones suddenly having a place in deferring if you're pregnant. Is is great that they've extended that. But now that say you wanted to do utmb, you'd have to race first a hundred mile or a hundred K race to get your qualifier to then. Do you think that that is, do you think it is a lot more or less realistic for mums to be able to dedicate at least two weekends to a whole weekend away just for racing?

Speaker 3:

Oh for sure, it's totally unrealistic and it's not even the weekends, but it's like man traveling with little kids. The 100 miler is like the easy part.

Speaker 2:

You're doing the 100 miler to get a break.

Speaker 3:

That's the yeah and you're not talking like the old qualification process that maybe you could kind of pick and choose races that were like in your region, but now it's like it's an effort and it's a financial investment and all these things that make it a lot more difficult. I think that that method of entry is going to be very prohibitive Prohibitive, and I think it already is, even for professional runners that that's their only job to run. It's still really hard to fit in those kind of races in the timeline that's required to get their stones or their entry. So yeah, it's a bummer, I don't know. Maybe I hope that races that are more grassroot races, like at least in the US, I hope that some of those races at least kind of continue to foster a different process for women, making it a little easier.

Speaker 1:

But yeah, Now are you happy to talk about, I guess, your history in the sport prior to because when you first came on the Golden Trail, there was confusion actually, as we spoke before we started recording, as to if you were two people, because you were registering on some sites as Alicia Shea and Anna Vazón Alicia Vargue. But do you want to, I guess, introduce us to partly the reason why for that?

Speaker 3:

Sure. So I guess, kind of just going back to my relationship with the sport of running, is that I started when I was a teenager, just attract kind of the normal, kind of normal progression here in the US where you run for your school, you run cross-country, you run track and field. So I did that through high school and then college. I ran at Stanford University mostly the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and then when I graduated from college I signed a contract and joined a training group, just kind of like the standard path around here. And then within that process post-collegiately I met my eventually eventual husband, ryan Shea. We were both part of the Mammoth Track Club, which the Golden Trail race and Mammoth was like pretty special. That's like the first time I've really been back there since I was like, you know, just a whole different part of my life. You know I was training there with the Mammoth Track Club. Yeah, it was just wild. I was young, in my 20s, and that's where I met Ryan. So it was kind of crazy to go back and be on the trails and just see everything from like a totally different lens.

Speaker 1:

And just so I was. Was your contract with the club or was it with a sponsor?

Speaker 3:

It was with a sponsor. Okay, yeah, so it was with a shoe sponsor, and then the club was kind of like a separate funding at the time. Yeah, so, yeah. So I moved to Mammoth. I met the man that was going to eventually be my husband, ryan Shea, and then I actually had a really bad accident at the end of college. That kind of set into motion this like weird head injury. So we left the training group so that I could get some like more specific medical help for that injury. So we moved away from Mammoth and we moved to Flagstaff and that was kind of like the wild west of like what Flagstaff now is. You know, they're runners from all over the place, but we were kind of like part of that initial like wave of runners that that moved there and it was super special and we loved it and we felt like we had a great family and community there. We were only supposed to be there for two weeks and then we just never left. Really, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

What was it that drew you in so much?

Speaker 3:

It was the people. Yeah, it was just like this great kind of I don't know like rag tag group of like professional runners and then like random people who like weren't professional runners, but then we would all run together and you know, it was like like, say, like Rob Carr, right, like a name that's like very well known in the trail running world. Now, he was kind of a part of that official wave. He was a pharmacist trying to run road marathons, trying to keep up with the professional runners, you know like just a weird mix of people. Mike Smith, who coaches the NAU right now and, you know, coaches a lot of professional runners. So, yeah, we just we loved it. We stayed for the family that we had there and you know, the area is certainly beautiful and unique and I think it's a great place for, like your professional road runners I don't buy that. It's like a great place for trail runners. But anyway, we, we loved it. So we stayed and Ryan was training for the 2008 Olympic marathon trials and just unexpectedly and tragically passed away. During the race His heart stopped. They later found that he had like some thickening in his heart, just kind of like fibrosis. That just caused like an electrical misconduct and so it just started. You know this, it it's. It's hard to put into words like how difficult that that period of time of my life was, but were you watching it?

Speaker 1:

Were you watching the race live?

Speaker 3:

I was on the course. So I was. It was in Central Park and they were running just loops. They held the marathon trials the day before the New York City Marathon and the trials was just in the park. So they were, they're running loops and I was kind of sprinting back and forth, back and forth and then all of a sudden I didn't see him and you know, starting getting calls that like he had fallen and hit his head, and I was like that's really strange, because he was so tough, like he's kind of legendary, like with that era of runners, like one time he got hit and run over by a car and he finished his run and then went to the hospital. You know, he was just so tough, like falling and hitting his head would be like not something that would make him stop. So it was such an important. So yeah, it was just, you know, for me obviously, but I think for like the running community as a whole, it was like just horrible, you know. And I went back to Flagstaff it just is like the place where I felt him and felt comfortable and like within our family of like our running community and and I kind of dug in my heels and felt like, in order to survive, like I needed to stay there and kind of figure out a path that would give me some strength or give me like a little bit of purpose. And I continued running, I continued, I was training for the trials as well, but my body just like broke, it shattered, and like all the way as possible.

Speaker 1:

So I stopped running, but I think that was linked to, I guess, the trauma or the stress.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think so. Yeah, and I think I I think I abused running, kind of like numb a lot of my emotions, so I think it was like it was. It was both the trauma and then kind of my own like just reckless training behavior. In hindsight I can see that, but when I broke, I broke hard and I broke for a lot of years and so I wasn't able to to run. But I had a house with seven bedrooms and so I opened up the house and I just had this revolving door of runners coming there to train and it was good, like it was super unique and maybe a little bit weird I don't know a weird scenario but like it really kept me connected with something that was positive for me and so, yeah, I just continued with that for a long time and eventually, like started hiking and and do you think that was?

Speaker 1:

do you think that's because you were trying to fill a void with, as long as there was, constant activity? You, it meant that you weren't having to kind of dwell too much on what happened.

Speaker 3:

I think that it was like as long as I was having to take care of other people, that was good for me. You know, like that I had this kind of purpose of like being this constant host and like caretaker for other people and I had a like a lot of like, you know, I don't know younger run, younger helpless professional runners like I was like just the mama of the house and took care of everybody and informed a lot of really beautiful relationships through that and friendships that like I still am so grateful for. And yeah, I can look back and I'm like man that like really carried me through in a way that I think if I was like living by myself, isolated, like that just would have been a bad place to be, especially once running was removed and this kind of constant like that I used as therapy was gone. So eventually, like, yeah, I just started hiking and trail running was just kind of starting to become like a trending thing with some people and flag staff, and so I just got dragged out on the trails and kind of like coerced into a last minute race and and I did it and I and I had tried to resume like road and track racing and it felt so empty to me. I was like this sport, like I was like it's just in and in. Nothing against anybody who runs track or road races, but for me I was like it just was this massive void. Like Ryan wasn't there. It filled me with sadness. I felt like it wasn't. It was just like a very kind of singular, focused, self-aborbed part of the sport and I didn't like it. So I fell into trail running and I was like, yeah, this is my community. I felt freedom in the mountains. I didn't feel that void. It felt like kind of like my thing, where I could find peace or let myself be sad and and it was just like a really beautiful thing and so that's, that's kind of how it all started. And many years later I don't know, I'm trying to think I I met my now husband in oh gosh, he's gonna laugh if I get this wrong but maybe like 2014, I think. So, yeah, like a good seven years after Ryan passed, I like I don't even think I was like ready to meet somebody, but it just kind of happened and yeah, and I met him through trail running and it was just it was, it was perfect for both of us and he's like such a. He's a special guy. You know, I think it takes a special person to come into a really relationship with somebody that has lost a spouse, right. There's a lot that goes, there's a lot of baggage with that right, and he's just always been like so gracious, so sensitive and strong for me and in all the ways I could have like never imagined and so yeah. So then now you know, four babies later, here we are and we eventually moved away from Flagstaff and kind of started fresh in Breckenridge and, and you know, just really grateful for all the beautiful things that life has given us over that period, was there any point where you thought I'm done with running all together.

Speaker 2:

I don't want to do it? Yeah, because you mentioned there in terms of the track of yourself, it felt very empty. But then trail running was emerging, the other community, which was a, you know, a good kind of turning point to to move on to that. But was there any point where you were like I'm broken this, you know, I don't know what to do? Yeah, was that were there? Were there any any doubts that you were ever going to come back to it?

Speaker 3:

oh, yeah, for sure. I think that they were probably always short lived, but maybe like just dramatic, emotional, like I you know, I'm done with this like running can be such a heartbreaker you know anybody that runs any distance, any surface, like everybody knows that, like you can love it so much. But then it can just when, when your body's broken or for whatever reasons, like you can just kind of feel kind of rash towards it, like this is, this is dumb, it's so, it's so indulgent, you know it's just running, whatever. But then, like you know, you have enough time away from it and there's just like something that's like oh man, I just want that, that freedom to like just move and like run and like feel like I don't know, just that freedom when you're using your body in such a way that not everybody can do right, like it's special to have the ability to run, it's such a gift. So, yeah, if I did quit, it was probably like an emotional, like two-day decision. And then you know, and then I go like see another physical therapist, like I never really stopped trying, like, even if verbally I'm done, I'm not doing this anymore. But then I'd be like okay, like maybe this person can help me, or like it took a lot of stubbornness to to not let go of that process in a lot of years of like it not going well.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, but I did quit for sure and, if I can ask quite a, I guess, a personal question, one thing that I've, one thing I've always been intrigued by is is how you know if we we've all had partners in the past we've loved and most of us have stopped loving them, whereas you're in a quite unusual circumstance where actually you haven't, you know, you've still got your love for your ex-husband and you're you've now met a new partner you're in love with, and is that particularly hard at times when? I'm sure there must be moments when you're still deeply sad about what happened, which for some people could actually be quite hard emotionally to deal with. That, the thought that actually it's someone else who's thinking of, or actually am I not enough, and and there's a basic human desire to feel that you can complete someone, so is is is that particularly tricky to? Has that been tricky to to deal with?

Speaker 3:

it has, and you know, for many years it that kind of felt like impossible, like not even an option. I'm like I don't even know how I could love somebody else. It was just in my mind. I was like I'll just never love somebody else because I I feel still like this attachment, or like I it's not like we got divorced, you know, like the, the union and the bond is still there. And right around the time I met Chris, I I kind of had, like people say things to me oh, I want you to meet this person or this person and I was so angry that they would even suggest that. Like it made me really angry. Like they just don't even understand, like why would they even say something like that? I don't even know if I had taken off my wedding ring at that point, like six, seven years later. And one day I was like I was out skiing and all of a sudden this thought occurred to me that like why can't you have like the capacity to have room for love for two people? Like you know we talk about. You know sometimes you hear about somebody that has like a medical miracle or like something that just like wow, that's not explainable, like it's a miracle or whatever. And I'm like why can't there be like a miracle of the heart, like where you do have that capacity for that to be possible? And it kind of blew my mind and I didn't like that thought, like I was like just know, like I'm loyal to like this love and this person, and I think it just took like the right person coming into my life and like showing me that that was possible and like giving me grace and time to navigate that and not getting upset for like any of that you know kind of confusion like you were mentioning. I mean, he was just like really steady, but not like never pressing or never showing that that was upsetting to him. And like I think, any conversations we've had around it, I'm just like, wow, I don't know how like I met somebody that can just be so gentle with me about this and so, yeah, it's really tough, it's really tough to navigate for sure. But and I still do I still hold that grief and that sadness like every day and it's yeah, it's not something that like I think it's uncomfortable for maybe people to talk about and I think that, like, probably anybody that has lost a spouse maybe has like similar elements of feeling this difficulty of like how to work through this. You know.

Speaker 1:

And has there any? Has been anything you've done in particular that you think has helped you? I guess has helped you just live with the way a little bit lighter.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean that's a great question. I think that you know surrounding myself with people that have helped lighten that load when I needed that, because I'm not somebody that like I don't really I'm not like much of a talker, like emotional, I don't outwardly like to emotionally like hash through things. I like to kind of deal with it myself and not I don't know like put that burden on anybody. But I've had the right people in my life that like knew when to step in and like help me hold that and work through that. I'd like to say that it's been like counseling or therapy, that it hasn't necessarily been true for me, but I've just been lucky with like the right people, I think, at the right time, that have known how to love me in all the right ways.

Speaker 1:

And the fact that you yeah, as you mentioned before, you did surround yourself with people who you could connect with easily and give yourself purpose as well, seems to be quite a strong theme as well, and so, looking ahead now, then, like your kids are hopefully gonna get easier to manage to know as few illnesses, a little bit more independent and maybe get a little bit more time and time back for yourself. How are you viewing trail running and competition now? Is it just an escape, or could you see it as developing into more of a kind of career as well?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, no, I mean I wanna take an intentional swing at continuing to build. I think that, like this summer, I'm so glad I was able to race and get some momentum, but it was like very disjointed and not perfect, and so I'm kind of going into this next year knowing like, okay, my body can do this again, so I need to have some specificity to what I'm doing. So I'm really excited to have that and I wanna give it a go, like yeah, and, like you said, the kids will get easier for sure. Yeah, we're like. This phase that we were in was just like. I think every parent can say that it's like, it's tough on our own.

Speaker 2:

Well, most of the way. There's always a road for you there.

Speaker 1:

There's always one of a kind of crack addicts.

Speaker 2:

And you're like, really I'm also thinking that extreme.

Speaker 3:

but I'm gonna have two teenage girls eventually, so that's terrifying, but at least for now. So yeah, I'd like to take the opportunity to do the Golden Trail series next summer and work on the shorter, faster mountain races and then you know see if maybe I'll kind of like step things up from there. But yeah, I don't know. I don't know what the year is gonna look like next year. They haven't released a schedule or kind of what the parameters are for entries, so I guess I'll have to figure that out. We can chair offline.

Speaker 1:

We can chair offline, and have you founded an exercise or a way to actually re-stabilize your pelvis? Have you discovered something that's helped for that Downhill running?

Speaker 3:

Well, you know what. This is gonna sound strange, but for me it's like uphill skiing. I think it's like the most. Yeah, god. Yeah, I know it's the opposite of, it's the opposite direction. But when you're uphill skiing because the movement's slower and more methodical and it requires like those deep core stabilizer muscles and like a lot of just pelvic stability, like you can kind of focus it's like doing an exercise that you could focus on in slow motion and I think it's phenomenal. So I don't know, would roller skating work.

Speaker 1:

I'm just trying to think of friends who Most people I know haven't got easy access to uphill skiing.

Speaker 2:

I know I can't wait to go to this school and tell Libby that she's gonna do uphill skiing now Good news man. Okay, fair enough Fair enough. No, it's great. It's great, I think. The least accessible, the funnier, I think that is for the people. We've got one of those automated ski slopes near us, one of those ones that's on a track, so she could go and do it there. I think she'd be absolutely fine, I think.

Speaker 3:

Things like a stair machine where it's not. I guess my point is that running so dynamic that you can't when something's not moving right. It's all happening so fast. You're basically bouncing from one foot to the other and then you throw trails and rocks and stuff like that underfoot and it's really hard to slow things down and stabilize. So something like a stair machine or an elliptical where you can kind of you take out that element of actually popping yourself up in the air and back down on one leg.

Speaker 2:

Yes, absolutely. That makes perfect. You take all the variables out, don't you All the variables, so you can just focus on the specific action.

Speaker 1:

I do love the idea of Libby skiing up a slope and then getting a chairlift down it and then skiing back up it again and she's like, oh God, it's downhill today. But Shakira Akabusi is amazing at these things, so I'm going to ask her if she's got any advice, because she specializes in pre and post-natal exercises to try and ensure that people don't have issues. So I'll see if she can come up with a nice little move for us as well.

Speaker 3:

Well, and there's so many great online pelvic PTs now that work with athletes, so I mean that's baseline right, like it's like finding somebody that can watch you move and give you like okay, you need to do these exercises.

Speaker 1:

Is there someone called the pelvic PT?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, oh yeah, that's what we call it in the States. Yeah, pelvic PT, oh so that's a known term.

Speaker 1:

I was thinking that that was like an Instagram handle, but actually that will be.

Speaker 2:

No, no, no pelvic.

Speaker 1:

PT. Yeah, Ah, okay, gotcha Nice. Well, that's hopefully means there's a lot of information out there and, in terms of we talked about being able to defer UTMBs, could you see yourself stepping up to the longer races one day as well?

Speaker 3:

I would like to, yeah, but I don't want to go there just yet. I like short, faster, competitive. I like races where you can feel that adrenaline and competitiveness and not necessarily like strung out a half mile from the next person, I don't know. I think it's just like a good starting point for me because it's more back to my roots of track racing, and that was one thing I loved about. The Golden Trail series is just like the depth of racing where maybe it would have been more confidence building to jump in a race where you can win or something. But I was like no, these women are amazing, like they're going to make you keep stepping up your game, and I love how that feels.

Speaker 1:

So and I think I'm right in saying that I need to check the overall results, but I think there are five mums in the top 15 ending the season, yeah, which is super cool actually. So congratulations on such a successful return and thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I will bring you some messages offline about next year, but if there's anything else we can do to help you as a podcast, then please let us know.

Speaker 3:

Great. Thank you so much. It was just really fun chatting with you guys and, yeah, I look forward to continuing to see your podcast grow and all the different guests you'll have on in the future.

Speaker 1:

Thanks, alicia, all the best. Thank you so much for everything Okay, bye guys. Wow, um what I mean? incredible, incredible story, and in so many ways actually and um To have come through all of that and then actually to be returning at such a high level first season and you know she really has gate crashed into the top 10, having only done Um what? Having had one race less of points in her school yeah, really impressive Um. So the fact that she knows she's got all these areas she can work on still to improve, pretty exciting for For what the future could hold, I guess, these next few years. But, um, yeah, I thought that hopefully be A dual story, really wanted to kind of understand and the impact of loss and but. But also actually we've spoken quite a few times to mums and um or to be, you know, specialists in in rehabilitating females back into sport. But actually it's, it's, it's. It seems to be very different to have one child to then four.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I don't. It's so funny like we have conversations with Libby about um, just how like your body is different. It's just it's a hard thing. It's a hard thing, I think, for um a man to understand because you know we change, but it just we either get a bit fatter and grayer and we lose hair, hair goes other places that you know it's. It's sort of a kind of gradual, you know, with with childbirth, you change like within 24 hours you have a new. Your body has rearranged itself in a way that you don't 100% know until you know. However, however long you know it is, until you know someone checks and because we know when you're being checked, you're never being checked for With the thought you're going to be back running soon or with any thought of that at all. Um, you know, and more focused on the health of the baby and and everything else. So, just like I, just it's such a, it's such an incomprehensible. It's like saying, okay, right, I'm gonna cut your leg off now go back out and try and run a Run like you did before. Yeah, it's just it's. It's just so incomprehensible for to understand how, how you do that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and and actually be one of um, I wouldn't say who, but one of the very best. Charon, as I know, has just had a second child and, uh, his partner for some reason has, due to the hormones, almost a overly flexible Bones, I think it is, so she can't actually lift the baby in the second pregnancy because of this, this issue, and you're like, wow, talk about something that is unhelpful as a mum. But if you then think what are the impacts of this long term and trying to rehabilitate yourself back into Normal life, let alone high level active life? Super tough, super.

Speaker 2:

It's weird, isn't it? Because I think there's a kind of a dual thing going on, and I do realize the ridiculous is too, too mental, yeah, but, but it's almost as like there's a balance, although you know, physically, physically broken with, you know rehabilitation required and everything, but I think then there's an addition of a certain level of mental strength and resilience that comes with it, and that also comes with, you know, having to, having to be intentional about it and things like that, and I think that probably accounts for why there are so many mums who are performing at that level, because you know they're obviously they've got the, you know the physical ability back. But it is just from a, from a resilience, mental strength perspective.

Speaker 1:

I mean just Kids, everything 10 days away now, 10 days away until the baby bomb drops. Gonna reverse. Here it comes. Right, I've got a shoot off to watch sam cambal do comedy, but do bad, as if you've enjoyed this episode. We've mentioned a few other people. Um, the Sophie powers ones brilliant talks about Getting back into I think we've interviewed a couple of times and we've probably interviewed like three or four times, but I don't know how to actually, on the podcast we interviewed.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, it was what. Yeah, that's this is before. We get so confusing. We're so old now we can't remember whether we've just had a jet, we've just had a casual chat with them, whether they've interviewed it with the run show, or whether we've had them on a podcast.

Speaker 1:

We literally have no idea anymore, but she talks about coming back after I think it was the second child and training for UTMB. On something In my head it was only 15 miles a week, it was something.

Speaker 2:

Oh, I thought it was like, say, 27 miles a week or something like that. It was really. It was like ridiculously low. Yeah, it was and it was, and I took that and thought, well, if she can do that, I could probably get away with it as well. So I. That was an absolute winner for me.

Speaker 1:

But I mean that episode is amazing. We've spoken to Not on the podcast, actually, but someone I interviewed at run fest run, shakira Akabusi. She specializes in pre and postnatal Rehabilitation, or adaptation, or strength training or prevent, you know, prevention, all those things. She's amazing. Go check her out. And who else have we talked? Kick out. I spoke to Jasmine.

Speaker 2:

I spoke to Jasmine, of course. Yeah, she talked about you know the, the like manner hiking she did with. You know with with baby in tow, and and how that you know changed her training but also improved. You know the visits as well, and and conditioning. So, yeah, that's another, that's another good one.

Speaker 1:

Well, they get that's. That's plenty of good episodes to be getting on with and do bad. As you've got any other suggestions of future guests, the message me, david, at badboyrunningcom, or Ping us directly on instagram.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, if you want to join the conversation, head over to facebook, type in bad boy running podcast, ask three questions and join the conversation there. If you want, merch store, bye-bye, bye-bye, bye-bye, bye. I must admit I was a clown to be messing around.

Speaker 1:

Fuck you, buddy.

Alicia Vargo's Trail Running and Motherhood
Juggling Family and Training
The Challenges of Postpartum Fitness
Challenges for Women in Sports
Running as Healing
Navigating Love and Loss
Trail Running and Future Career Development
Motherhood and Returning to Sport Challenges