1) What sports have you played besides XC and TF?
Besides track and cross country, I played softball for 8 years on an assortment of travel teams in the area.
2) How did you get your start in running?
I started running when I was in the 3rd grade over summer with my older sister. We got up every morning at 7:30 and went for runs after my third grade teacher encouraged it. Mrs. Whichard made her class run everyday and I loved it so much that I ran each of the following summers. In the 5th grade I was invited to the Pleasanton Heat's practice by a close friend who was running for the team, and after one practice I was hooked, and I hated missing my runs. My first run for the heat was a mile warm-up for about 10 minutes.
3) What were your track PRs going into high school?
My track PR's approximately going into high school, or more specifically in the 8th grade included, 4:44 in the 1500, 10:30 in the 3000, 2:21 in the 800.
4) Tell us a little about your freshman season in cross country. Highlights? What was your best race?
My freshmen year cross country season was so idealistic and I could not be more proud of the performance level I competed at, as well as my teammates. Not only was I proud to have individual success, but I could not be more proud of a group of girls for coming together in the way that we did. They became my family and made my Freshman season a bittersweet ending. It was my best cross country season to date. A highlight individually for the 2010 season was definitely winning the EBAL championships, but as a team, the level at which we competed at at NCS topped everything I had done in my mind as an individual. With four girls in the top 6 and a league and division title for Granada. I think EBAL was an amazing race but I felt as if strategically my best race was at the Brea Invitational. The race format was different and encouraging to all levels of athletes on our team.
5) How did you end up getting hurt and what was the extent of your injury?
I was injured on March 9, 2011, With a compound fracture to my tibia and fibula in an accident while jumping on a trampoline. I had split the bone in at least 5 different pieces. The injury led to two surgeries and five days in the hospital. In the second surgery, flexible rods were put in my leg to increase the stability and strength of the bones.
6) How long were you non weight bearing? What were some of your steps during your rehab to return to walking and eventually running?
I was non-weight bearing for 12 weeks.Then 6 more weeks of being in a boot. Some steps in my rehab process included leg lifts while in a full leg cast. As soon as I was in a removable boot, I began to aqua-jog as well as swim, even though I remained non-weight bearing at the time. To start my recovery, every single Sunday starting two weeks after the injury, I went to lunch with Kevin McCarthy, where we talked about running as if I had never stopped, we talked races, of our teams, prospective upcomers, and anything to keep me on track to get right back to racing. I did a lot of core and eventually was taken out of the boot to try and walk. It was a long process to walk, and I had a limp going into the end of the year of 2011. For the summer after my injury I did an hour long workout on the elliptical everyday, with biking to and from the gym as well as at the gym. I remained in physical therapy every week, doing all forms of strength training, and stayed in physical therapy through April of 2012. My doctor formally gave me permission to do all forms of exercise at the end of June of 2011, but my muscular atrophy did not allow for much so I continued to strength train and support my team. By December I became very restless for the upcoming track season and decided that no matter what I would run in it. So on January 1st, 2012, I went out for a 7 minute run. I limped the whole way but returned pleased with myself and efforts. With the support of Kevin McCarthy, I made it my goal to run every day that I could, so for at least a month I ran every few days for 10 minutes, and soon enough I continued to increase in small amounts. I kept a log with all my runs and goals that I sent months ahead so I had no excuse not to try and work towards them. The whole track season I limped while I ran but I was proud and took my mile from 8 months without running, on January 7th, I ran a 7:25 mile, and by May 10th I ran a 5:36.
7) Who are the people that have been most inspirational to you during your recovery from your injury?
One man stands out in my mind as being the only reason I knew I would come back and that's Kevin McCarthy. He has been my only father to me and supported me every time I needed it. Over one summer alone I called him every single day asking for my workout for the next day. Two weeks after my injury, I was in a full-leg cast, with a walker and he took me out to lunch at In-N-Out. He took me every single weekend from there on out, we always sat at the same spot and talked about every runner we knew. He endlessly supported me and encouraged me in my darkest times. He brought me a planner one day and told me to write everything I did down, I wrote race times of mine, feelings, events in my life, goals for months in the future. We made these goals together months in advance, and every so often I would meet a goal in the future that I would have to cross out and change to something more challenging. One day particularly, we went out to the track to run 4 times 400 and I ran one 400 right on pace but as soon as I was done my leg burned so badly that I could barely walk. Kevin was done with me sitting around not doing anything, at this point it was December of 2011. He told me something along the lines of "if you don't run this today, you will never run again" and his words stabbed me in the heart and I stood up and we ran a 400 in the exact same time. By the 3rd 400 I could not stand anymore and I sat and cried for what it seemed like hours. I had pushed my leg so far, that the burning caused me to limp for at least a week after but I knew I couldn't give up on that one workout. Kevin and I continue to go on runs and have lunch and talk about running. I know without him always checking up on me that I could not have came back to running the way I did. In August of 2011, just 5 months after my injury, Kevin promised that even if I could not run a step, he would still take me to running camp. And he did and being surrounded by so many runners that care about you is my dream life. I came back from camp fired up about everything I needed to do for myself. He didn't have to bring me to camp, other coaches would not have brought limping girls to a running camp. But he had all this belief in me, even sometimes more than I had for myself that always kept me going.
8) From the time after the injury to now, what would you say was the moment that let you know that your recovery is almost complete?
I wouldn't say I have had a moment when I knew my recovery was complete yet, because I don't believe I have reached a spot at which I have become my old self again. In my mind, the summer of long runs with my team was a relief to myself that the recovery was almost complete. The sweetest moment in track may have been my first race back as it was almost exactly a year after my break and I cried across the finish line. At the Dublin Distance Festival, my recovery for racing had just began, but in the 800, a friend of mine yelled "You're Back" and I cried, winning my heat and I knew from then on I was doing the right thing again.
9) Favorite XC course? Favorite XC invitational? Favorite XC workout? Favorite long run? Favorite track event? Favorite track workout?
My favorite Cross Country course was at a Junior Olympic Nationals in Kansas. It was beautiful and we ran through covered bridges and up crazy hills. My favorite XC invitational is the Brea Invitational. The race format races your top 8 in a different way by racing the 1,2 in a race, 3,4,5 in a race and 6,7,8 in a race so that every girl on your team can feel like a top girl on that day. It really gives all the team members the courage to go out and win. My favorite long run is a 10 miler with my teammates. We run a hilly portion up to this gate that has an interesting route and fun history for our team. My favorite track event by far is the mile. I feel like it is just the right amount of laps to challenge each runner in so many different ways, and it can be run successfully in so many different ways. My favorite track workout is probably 12 times 400, and my favorite XC workout would have to be 8 times 1000 hilly.
10) For you, what would you say is the best part of participating on the Granada HS cross country team?
The best part about running for Granada Cross Country is that I would never have known half of my best friends in this world if we didn't spend everyday running together. I would never have even met them. Our team is a family that changes a little bit every year but our coaches are like our parents that love us so much and would do anything to help us reach our goals. It doesn't matter how good one runner is, with a team every single race is more sweet. Every win that I could ever say I was a part of for Granada makes my week, until the next race comes along. Our team is made up of my best friends that love and support me, and one of the best things about our team is that we adapt and we bring each other up, if one girl isn't having a good day, the rest of us work harder so that we can all do something great together.
11) What would your advice be for somebody that faces a similar crisis and return from injury?
My advice for anyone that faces a similar crisis and return from injury would be to not just set goals and expect them to happen, you need to work for everything, just the way you did before by going out and getting that run in. But this time its more than that. Also anyone with an injury needs a form of an outlet to relieve stress in, anything that makes them happy and maintains hope. Staying around to support my team brought me through some of the worst times. I would go to doctors appointments then straight to meets to watch my team mates fight for not only themselves anymore. When an injury happens, it doesn't mean it's the end by any means, but it is a true test of if you really care, and always keep a journal of your progress.
12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thank you so much for even considering to ask about my story, it means a lot to me. I hope this helps and isn't too crazy long!
Thank you very much for your time Sophie! AJC