Let’s Get to Know … Nicole Hengels Gainacopulos!

Thanks to encouragement from her dad, Nicole Hengels Gianacopulos started running at a young age. These days, she’s the one encouraging runners – beginners, those in the hunt for a BQ, and everyone in between.

Many of you know her as Coach Nicole – she’s the owner of Momentum of Milwaukee and also manages all of Performance Running Outfitters training programs. Today, she shares with us a bit about her own running as well as what it’s like to coach everyone from high schoolers to weekend warriors to marathon winners.

Age: 29

Years running: 20?

Favorite workout: 400m repeats. I could seriously do them every week and be thrilled. My second favorite workout is hill repeats varieties and my favorite right now is at a steep hill after a warm up: 90 seconds AFAP up, rest down, 60 seconds AFAP up, rest down, 30 seconds AFAP up, rest down. Repeat this 3 times!

Favorite gear: Saucony shoes (Ride, Kinvara, or Freedom), SmartWool socks, Any apparel at PRO!

Pre-race routine: Usually a 1 Mile warmup (depending on the race) + 3-4 strides. I try to teach my runners to do dynamic warm ups but for me I usually prefer to not do them on race day.

Favorite post-race treat: Cookies. Always cookies.

Favorite distance to race: I haven’t raced a marathon since 2014, but I’m looking forward to getting back to them in 2017 (first one is Grandma’s Marathon in June!). The past couple of years I have really enjoyed racing half marathons and I paced a few as well either as an official pacer or pacing clients.

Favorite inspirational running quote: “Running is 90% mental, and the other 10% is thinking about it.”

How did you start running?  

My older sister, Laura, was in high school cross country, so over the summer my dad and I would run with her to help prepare her for the upcoming season. I HATED it. One time my dad needed some repairs on his car so we drove it to the repair shop and ran home (about 5 miles). I remember hating every second of it until we got home and I felt amazing. From there, my dad and I continued to run each weekend and I eventually learned to hate it less, which turned into a love for the run and time with my dad. I had a fantastic high school coach and team, which truly blossomed my love for running.

How does running improve your life/outlook? What keeps you motivated to run?

Anytime I am grumpy, upset, confused, or way too energetic, I get out the door. I’ve made some of the best decisions while running, such as starting Momentum of Milwaukee and marrying my husband! It also helps a person get away from technology, appreciate what is around us, see what our body/mind is capable of, and explore new neighborhoods.

The days that I am having a hard time with motivation, I grab my dog’s leash, and there’s no turning back at that point. I also get motivation from my clients and they remind me why we run in the first place!

If you could run with anyone, who would you pick and why?

My husband, Nikos. We got to know each other as friends though running, and I always look forward to runs with him even though he’s gotten so much faster (he started listening to my running advice…lol). Unfortunately, due to our schedules, we don’t get as much time to run together so I really value the runs and races we can do!

If I had to pick someone famous, then no question, Paula Radcliffe. I have always idolized her and watched her races. Her book, “My Story So Far” is the first running book I read in high school and it led me to start believing that running was not just a workout, but a lifestyle.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

Right now, I’m at about 40-50 miles per week as I’m training for Grandma’s Marathon (my first marathon since 2014 and my 23rd marathon total). Usually about 20 of those miles each week are with the training programs that I coach at Performance Running Outfitters or with clients. The other miles are what I can squeeze in to my own actual running schedule.

I run 5 days a week with 1 long run, 1 speed or tempo day, and the rest of the miles at an easy pace. I’m coming off of a broken toe (playing with the dog), so I’m trying to just make sure the runs all feel good. I typically do strength training 2 days a week and core 4 days per week.

Tell us about your coaching business, Momentum of Milwaukee – what services do you offer and what types of clients do you accept? How is Momentum different from other coaching services in the area?

I started Momentum in 2012 and focused on personal training. But I kept gravitating toward clients who were runners. I knew a lot about running, but I wanted to start programming training programs better. So I started completing running certifications and traveling to running camps for coaches to develop my skills better. Now I typically only take on runners or people who are interested in getting started in running. I currently coach runners who have literally never run to the mailbox and want to complete 1 mile to runners who are winning marathons and focused on BQ times.

How is my coaching different? I offer monthly online coaching for $75 per month as well as in-person services. I custom design each runner’s program to fit their needs and what is needed to hit their goals (that I help them establish). I also help them fit training in to what realistically works into their life. I know when to be the push my runners need vs. when they are pushing themselves too hard and I need to be the voice of reason.

We’ve heard you also coach at Dominican High School – how did you get started with the team and what has been your experience coaching high schoolers?

I re-started the track team at Dominican HS (after they had a couple years without a team) on the agreement that I could start a cross country team the following fall. While I like track, I LOVE cross country. I no longer coach track but their program continues to grow and the athletes flourish. Our cross country program is picking up, and while our team is young, they have amazing heart and dedication.

Dominican’s cross country and track programs are drastically different than the HS program I came from in Illinois. My HS team had almost 100 girls on the team, and my Dominican XC team is coed with about 15 members. It’s been an unforgettable experience watching my runners improve, mature as humans, and my ultimate goal is to allow them to see running as a lifelong sport.

You also manage all of Performance Running Outfitters training groups – How did you get started and what’s your experience been like working with so many community runners?

I LOVE working at PRO! I have been working there since 2014, initially at the Shorewood store doing the training programs for the 5k and 10k beginners. Since then, my role’s expanded to managing all of the training programs including: Half Marathons, 5k, 10k, Speed Class, and Strength Running.

It is such a difference group coaching adult runners, who have real lives and struggle to fit running into their schedule but make such a dedication to it. It’s fantastic to see the transformation when a runner starts at the 5k class and can’t run a ½ mile and then the next season they are completing a half marathon! One of my favorite stories is one of the runners who sent me an email before starting the 5k program and said, “I’m old, I’ve never run before, and I’m terrified to do this class.” Well now she has run several half marathons and counts on running as her normal in her life.

Being a part of the PRO family has been beyond anything I expected. It’s such an amazing experience at PRO and I’m so thankful to be there!

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?

My biggest goal is figuring out how to balance coaching and my own running. With running so many miles at other runners’ paces, I sometimes forget to focus on my own. Of course I’d still like to BQ, but that’s not at the top of my goal list as I’m just getting back into marathons again. I just want to love them again and not take two years off from being burnt out. My dad is trying to run 50 states, so when possible, I really like joining him (I only have 20 states; he has 40!).

What are some of your favorite Milwaukee races?

I love the Milwaukee Marathon (half marathon was my favorite) as I think it’s so amazing to bring so many different aspects of the city together (spectators, runners, stores, local businesses, etc.) and to get to run in areas I typically wouldn’t. I also love Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, as it’s a beautiful course; Rock ‘n Sole; and Brewers Mini Marathon. I also really love going to the super tiny races that not many people go to and just enjoy!

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Nicole!

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Alison Newcomb!

It’s no secret we adore Performance Running Outfitters – their stores are the place to find the best running gear in MKE. So today we’re excited to feature one of their assistant managers, Alison Newcomb.

Alison began running at an early age but, like many of us, took several years off before getting back into it a few years ago. Read on to learn how she got her passion for the sport back and how she’s now training to run stronger than ever!

Age: 33

Years running: 20 (with a nine year break in the middle due to an injury that kept me out of it as much mentally as physically)

Favorite workout: I’m a big believer in strength training since I’ve come back from my injury. One of my favorite workouts is my heavy leg weight lifting days – doing squats and deadlifts. Exercises that I couldn’t do properly with just my body weight two years ago, I’m now doing with more than my bodyweight. I really feel accomplished when I do these workouts. When it comes to my running, I still love my LSD runs (long slow distance). There’s nothing quite like it for clearing your head and getting a little perspective.

Favorite gear:

  • Garmin 235 – I am a big techie, so my GPS watch is a favorite. I love seeing all the details about my run, especially on hill or speed workouts – the graphs are great. Some days I’m at a loss for how I trained before it because of all the features.
  • R8 by Roll Recovery – This recovery tool is sooo amazing. I know how important rolling is, but sometimes I don’t want to get on the ground and do the work. The R8 does deep tissue massage without the awkwardness of a foam roller. Plus, it’s compact, so it’s easy to take to a race or training session. In addition, it’s an FDA registered device!
  • Momentum Wraps and Sweaty Bands – These both add a little style to my workouts. The Momentum Wraps are a great pick me up. I wear them pretty much 24-7. While they’re perfect for workouts, I love them for when I’m going out, too. As someone with bangs, the Sweaty Bands are perfect for keeping my hair out of my eyes during a workout. Plus they’ve got great patterns and colors. I always make sure both match.

Pre-race routine: My breakfast has become a major part of my routine. I was having problems with GI issues due to the fiber content in my traditional pre-race breakfast and finally tweaked it to what it is now. It’s a little odd, but it works for me: one egg over hard, a Greek yogurt, and a piece of English muffin toast with half peanut butter and half raspberry jam. The amount consumed is tweaked based on the distance. At the race I do a half-mile warm up and stretch. I try to throw a few strides in as well.

Favorite post-race treat: A Papa Murphy’s Delight pepperoni pizza with green olives (I like the salt) and a NAP!

Favorite distance to race: 10K – at this point in my running career I don’t have to change up my daily running routine much to get ready for a 10K, meaning I can still have a social life while getting ready for a race. I actually ran my first 10K in Germany and took first in my age group. When they presented me with my award they said I had come “all the way from America” to beat the Germans.

Favorite inspirational running quote: Currently I am feeling really connected to a line from Bart Yasso’s book My Life on the Run, “If you don’t feel welcomed in a sport or a job or a family, you don’t stick around. Running is about acceptance—of yourself and others.”

If you could run with anyone, who would you pick and why?

Probably my cross country “brother” and “sister”, Kraig and Erin. My dad coached high school cross country, so even when I was little I hung out with a lot of runners. Kraig was on my dad’s team when I was quite little and spent a lot of time at our house. He did very well in high school and college and ended up competing in the Olympic Trials. Erin ran with the high school team while she was in middle school. I took her under my wing and she became the little sister I never had. Erin went on to have a very successful high school and college running career as well. While the three of us have vacationed together and done other “family” activities, we have never raced together. I would love to do a destination race with my cross country “family” and their families. It would certainly be a fun, memorable run.

How/Why did you start running?

I started running the summer before my freshman year of high school. I had been a jack of all trades when it came to sports in elementary school and middle school, so when it came time to pick A SPORT, I was at a bit of a loss. Turning to my family for guidance was just the thing I needed since my dad was the boy’s cross country coach and nearly everyone in my extended family runs. That first summer I ran with our rec department’s Runner’s Club and went from not being able to run a mile to making varsity for our team’s first meet that fall. It was a huge learning experience for me and an amazing confidence booster – I was hooked.

How does running improve your life/outlook? What keeps you motivated to run?

I believe running is about personal growth – both on and off the course. I became more confident, outgoing, compassionate, and driven because of running. That personal growth is why I keep running. There is always a new goal to set.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

I try to cover a lot of different areas during my weekly training. This year, I’m working with my running coach, Nicole (Momentum of Milwaukee and Performance Running Outfitters’ training guru) and my strength coach, Max (AMC Energy Fitness) to really tailor my program to be more strategic in my training. I normally do a variety of types of runs, including pace work, speed work and hills. I’ve also added more biking to my cardio cross training this year. I work major muscle groups on my strength days – legs, chest, back, shoulders and arms. I’ve also refocused on core this year, which means about four days of core exercises engaging various muscle groups. Lastly, I try to hit up a yoga class. It’s another great core workout and helps me with my flexibility.

How are you involved in the local running community? What prompted you to get involved?

When it comes down to it, finding like-minded people who I could train with and learn from was the reason I got involved in the local running community. I work at Performance Running Outfitters in Oak Creek, so I engage with runners on a daily basis. Before I started working at PRO, I attended almost every single one of their fun runs. Running with PRO was a no brainer. It was a wonderful way to meet like-minded people, try out new gear, and, most of all, have fun. Now that I coordinate the fun runs I get to help build that community. I’m also a Mother Runner (although I’m only a puppy mama) and member of Badgerland Striders and Oiselle’s Volée. While some of the community that comes from these groups is primarily online, I appreciate the fact that while I have a retail schedule, there are people cheering me on and going through the same sorts of struggles that I am. Some of these friends I see in person, but even if I never do, I know they are there for me. I also try to volunteer at a local race at least once a year. Take the time to hand out medals at a local race sometime – it’s a truly transformative experience.

Tell us a bit about what it’s like to work at Performance Running Outfitters – we imagine it must be super motivating to work while surrounded by runners, running shoes and running gear!

Working at a store devoted to your passion is AMAZING. Not only do I get to see and test all of the shoes and gear, I also get to learn from my coworkers, customers and vendors about all things running. What was at first totally overwhelming is now really rewarding. The more I learn, the more I can share with our customers. I also love getting to know each customer – their experiences and goals – in order to tailor their experience whether they are a new runner or seasoned veteran. Plus I get to run at work when we host our in-store events, a total plus.

Tell us a bit about your most memorable race – what makes it stand out?

My most memorable race to date was the Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2015. After a stress fracture in my tibia in college, I hadn’t run for almost nine years until I found a “shiny” new pair of running shoes, which helped me find my passion again and set the goal to run my first half marathon. I had just finished looking at pictures from the 2014 Princess Half and how fun it looked and thought, that’s the goal. A perfect goal for a runner who is a self-proclaimed DisNerd. My family, friends, trainer and physical therapist became the best possible support system I could ask for. The race was so emotional; not only was I running at Disney, which was an experience in itself, but I had worked hard toward my goal and found my passion for running again. My parents and husband also attended the race and were the best cheer squad I could ask for.

What’s on your race bucket list?

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon (just registered for!), The Tenacious Ten, Nike Women’s Half Marathon (somewhere abroad), Walt Disney World Half Marathon, The Runner’s World Half Marathon (and Festival), and the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon. I’m all about the racecations.

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?

My main goals are to continue to stay healthy and grow as a runner, whether that means new training, new distances, or new personal bests. This year I am specifically focusing on being more strategic and training smarter. I’m looking to make core and recovery a priority, support others in achieving their goals, and continue to eat balanced meals. With everything that I am working on, I’m hopeful I’ll PR my half as well.

What are some of your favorite Milwaukee races?

Firecracker Four – The Firecracker Four is the perfect local 4th of July run. Running through Hales Corners is such a treat because families come out and sit in their driveways to watch the race. You may even get to run through a sprinkler or get shot by a super soaker! It also brings a large community of local runners together. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with people you may not have seen over the winter months.

Brewers 10K – The Brewers 10K was the first race I ran after coming back from my stress fracture. It’s a very sentimental race for me because of that. I also enjoy that you get to run on the field – my husband and I are Brewers’ fans. This past year was especially fun, because my PRO family was in the stadium cheering me and other runners on. It was great to get a little push at the end.

What makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?

Milwaukee is a great place for runners, because there are so many opportunities to connect with one another – lots of running groups, fun runs and races. There isn’t a week in Wisconsin that there isn’t something going on, which is pretty amazing. And there is something for everyone; whether you are running your first 5K or completing your first Ironman. Plus, there’s always someone there to support you in your journey, you just have to look.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Alison!

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Winter Running Style Guide

Sniff. Our warm fall weather is gone and in its place we have winter. Like actual winter. Can you believe the forecast calls for a few single digit temperature days next week??

The only consolation is that we finally get to show off our winter running gear. Need a few style pointers or ideas for sprucing up your winter running wardrobe? The team at Performance Running Outfitters put together this handy style guide to help you look hot as you burn up the track/roads/trails!

Saucony Brisk Long Sleeve

The Saucony Brisk Long Sleeve features a soft, four-way stretch comfort with great moisture wicking fabric. A herringbone pattern with a long, slim fit makes this piece an easy crossover from fitness to fashion.

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All pics courtesy of Performance Running Outfitters

Saucony Fast Track Tight

With a wide, flattering waistband, a compression fit and a bold print, the Saucony Fast Track Tight will add style while you’re working out or hanging out.

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Brooks LSD Thermal Jacket

The LSD Thermal Jacket combines protection and performance. With windproof nylon on the front and a soft, merino blend on the sides and arms, this jacket provides super lightweight insulation.

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Craft Weather Jersey

For the techy runner! This half-zip wind top has a media pocket on the back, built-in mittens, an angled double-zipper for extra ventilation, and magnets to keep the neck secure whether open or closed.

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Saucony Velocity Long Sleeve

A soft, heathered fabric that can be worn on its own or as a base layer will make this a staple in your running wardrobe.

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Nike Dri Fit Element Hoodie

This hoodie delivers lightweight warmth in a snug, streamlined design so you can keep your miles up when the temperature drops.

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New Balance Windcheater Jacket

Warm up with a lightweight jacket that moves with the body while still providing protection from the elements. It’s light enough to wear in mild conditions, or add a base layer underneath and wear it in cold weather.

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Saucony Dash Seamless Sportop

The Dash Seamless Sportop has body mapped engineered mesh placement that keeps air flowing so you stay cool and dry. This top offers a long, lean fit that won’t ride up and thumb holes to keep your sleeves down and your hands warm.

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The North Face Ampere Wind Trainer

WindWall fabric of the Ampere Wind Trainer cuts the wind while still being lightweight and breathable.   Reflective details will keep you visible as the days get shorter.

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All of the featured styles can be found at PRO’s four locations around the Milwaukee area.

What do you wear to stay warm during winter runs?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Join In: Milwaukee Running Film Festival

With all the great running movies being produced, it seems only right that Milwaukee should get it’s very own film festival that’s all about our favorite sport. The first Milwaukee Running Film Festival will take place on Thursday, December 8. The event will run from 6-8pm at Performance Running Outfitters in Brookfield.

Below, Brian Frain, event co-organizer, tells us more about the upcoming event.

[Note: The December event is sold out – watch the Milwaukee Running Film Festival Facebook Page for details about additional screenings!]

Why did you decide to create the Milwaukee Running Film Festival?

We decided to do a film festival because it’s the best way to get runners of all types together without feeling the pressure of running a certain pace or with more skilled athletes. A film festival brings runners together to watch first hand the challenges and accomplishments of other runners. It’s really a cool thing!

What films will be screened during the festival and how did you select them? Can you give us a short description of each film?

The films that will be screened are Brothers, The Double, Skiing the Hard Rock 100, and Maggatron. The featured film is Brothers and was selected because of my friendship with the Puzey brothers. I offered to put together a film fest to spread their amazing story. We decided to add the other 3 films to make it an event, and primarily because all athletes featured are Altra and Nathan runners that train together and race together.  I don’t want to give away the films so briefly: Brothers is about Tommy Rivers Puzey and his brother Jake’s experience in the TransRockies 6 day race. The Double is a chronicle of Jeff Browning’s attempt at breaking the combined finish time for the Hard Rock 100 and Western States 100. Skiing the Hard Rock 100 is Jason Schlarb’s adventure skiing the Hard Rock 100 course shortly after running it. Maggatron is Maggie Guterl’s experience running Western States 100.

Tell us more about what will happen at the event – is there a timeline of events/films?

The event will start at 6pm at Performance Running Outfitters – Brookfield. We will have food and beverages available for people as well as giveaway items! Altra will also be there demoing shoes during the event. We will start with Maggatron – her film was the first to debut of the four featured. Then we’ll watch The Double and Skiing the Hard Rock 100. We’ll finish up with the feature film, Brothers. Larger giveaways from Altra, Nathan, Swiftwick and other sponsors will be held between films….I don’t want to ruin the surprise!

How will proceeds from the event be used?

Each person that attends pays $10 and all proceeds are donated to the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association to build the Tom Bunk shelter at Scuppernong. Tom Bunk passed away a couple of years ago and was an incredible man in the running community. All raffle prizes were donated to us by athlete sponsors, which was super awesome of them! All giveaways and raffles are optional!

Why should all MKE runners consider attending this event?

Every runner should consider coming to the event not only because the films will be incredible but to support Tom Bunk and the trails and roads we run on every day. It takes so much work to have the trails and running paths that we do – so it’s a great way to give back. It’s also worth coming to meet new runners in the community, share running stories, and get a couple free things!

Thanks for chatting with us, Brian! We can’t wait for the upcoming event and look forward to more Milwaukee Running Film Festival screenings in the future!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Get Stronger With PRO

Love it or hate it, you know it’s coming …

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Instead of slogging through chilly, wet, slippery miles by yourself this winter, come join Performance Running Outfitters for its new Strength + Run Class. The class will focus on improving strength and building a great base so you’re ready to roll when spring arrives.

Here are the details:

Brookfield Location (2205 N Calhoun Road): Wednesday nights at 6pm starting on December 7

Shorewood Location (4533 N Oakland Avenue): Tuesday nights at 6pm starting on December 6

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6:00-6:25pm: Body weight strength training focused on runners (core, hips, legs, and arms)

6:25-6:30pm: Get your winter gear on

6:30pm: GO OUT & RUN!  Choose your route: 2 Miles or 4 Miles

 

Cost: $80/Person

What you get when you sign up:

  • Weekly workout focusing on strength + endurance
  • Group accountability and focus
  • Smartwool Socks
  • Winter Beanie

 

To learn more or to register, contact Nicole at Nicole@performancerunning.com

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … James Koceja!

Hey everyone! Sorry we’ve been a bit off the radar these past two weeks. We’ve been out running, racing and getting to know more runners in the MKE community.

One of the runners we recently met is James Koceja, a new member of Performance Running Outfitter’s Elite Team. His main focus is distances ranging from 8k to the half marathon, although he’s also raced a few marathons. But no matter the distance he is always up for putting it all out there and racing hard.

Read on to learn more about his training, Milwaukee running faves and how coaching high school cross country and track has positively influenced his own running.

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Age: 31

Years running: 17 Years; I started competing and running seriously when I was around 14.

Favorite workout: I like more “grinding” and mentally challenging workouts. One of my ultimate favorites is simply going for a 60- to 75-minute run, starting at a conservative pace and getting down to sub 6-minute pace for the last half of the run. Another all-time favorite is a cut down ladder, such as 1600-1200-1000-800-600-400. I am more of a strength runner as I arguably hate anything below 600’s. I will do them but they are usually on the bottom of the page; the way bottom. I usually tend to just go with the flow of workouts and see what the day brings.

Favorite distance to race: I really enjoy the longer races such as 8k up to the half marathon. I have only done a handful of marathons as I am fairly a rookie when it comes to the 26.2 mile distance. I always try to compete at the best of my ability, enjoying the challenges of competing against myself and others that surround me.

Pre-race routine: I drink coffee (always coffee) and eat a bowl of oatmeal and a banana for breakfast. I always warm up about 45-60 minutes before my race, do some drills, put on my racing flats and prepare myself to compete to the best of my ability.

Favorite post-race treat: Chocolate milk and a banana. Occasionally I will a have a nice adult refreshment afterwards – just depends on how the race goes.

Favorite race shoes: Nike Mayfly, Nike Lunaracer

Significant wins/placings/awards/accolades:

  • 2x Individual Champion Firecracker 10k
  • Individual Champion Talmer Turkey Trot 5k
  • 2x Junior Olympic Qualifier (Cross Country)
  • Three Top Ten Finishes at Lighthouse 10 mile Championships

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Why/How did you start running?

As a young child, running was always something I was exposed to as it was just a natural habit and part of my everyday lifestyle. My father, Richard Koceja, was a highly competitive runner who competed for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and later was selected to run for the Wisconsin Runner racing team earning significant wins and accolades at various race distances and major events. He was also a well-respected coach at Burlington High School, coaching both boys and girls in cross-country and track. From this exposure, I just fell in love with the sport.

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Is there a quote or philosophy that inspires your running and racing?

I have a couple quotes and philosophies that continue to inspire me. One is the wisdom that my father always brings; he is the biggest inspiration that I have and always speaks with so much enthusiasm and positivity. The best advice I have ever gotten from him is to have strong beliefs in my gifts, talents and abilities. If you have strong beliefs in yourself as a competitor then the results remain endless. There is nothing more terrible than the habit of doubt. Doubt weakens and divides your talents and abilities. Once doubt comes into play, it’s over and hard to overcome. “Be tough, think big and get the job done.”

What does a typical training week look like for you?

While training for longer races, I usually run between 50-60 miles a week, doing one or two long runs of 60-75 minutes during the week. I always tell others that there is a huge difference between being in “shape” and being in “race shape”. During the race season I will always try to include some sharpening workouts like intervals, tempos and fartleks. During the school year, it gets a little hard with coaching, and I try to get in early runs to satisfy my mileage. On occasion I will run a workout with the athletes I coach, but I run with them as it’s their workout.

Can you tell us about a workout you do that lets you know you’re ready to race?

I can’t list one specific workout as they are ever changing. I am very laid back when it comes to workouts and intensity. During the week, I will try to do a solid workout on Wednesday, giving me a couple days to recover before a race. An example of this would be a threshold run where I am consistently hitting splits within five seconds of each other. Once I am hitting mile splits around the 5:30 mark, I’m good. I always try to gauge myself on effort and feel. If I feel I am struggling during a planned workout, I will adjust. My best advice is to listen to your body. Pushing your body too much or beyond its capability will sometimes do more damage than good.

Along with your own training and racing, you also coach high school track and cross country. Why did you decide to start coaching? Can you tell us how your own experience helps you help your teams?

Great Question! I decided to get into coaching for a number of reasons; a major reason of which is to help contribute to a sport that has done so much for me, and I figured that I could give back and offer developing athletes a chance to find their own success in the sport. Through watching my father coach and watching other coaches’’ styles and philosophies, I felt that I always had the appropriate tools and mindset to help others. Some of my greatest coaching influences are my father Richard Koceja, Jeff Miller at UW-Whitewater, Matt Dollins, Michael J. Sliwa, Paul Hiegel, Pete Henkes, Richard Dodd, Mike Dewitt, Mike Mulrooney, Tom Scheller, Bill Grieten, Michael Butcher and Wally Bradford. All of these men have very dynamic personalities and philosophies. From an experience standpoint, I always try to develop an appropriate relationship with the student athlete and use my own dynamic personality to help them succeed. I always tell them to not sweat the little stuff and to just focus on their own goals and performance instead of being overwhelmed by the performances of others. I tell them to compete with a one-track mind and avoid a world of stress and confusion. I sometimes have to pull out a past story involving my own running career that may help their situation. I have a whole book of stories as does everyone – some good, some bad.

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What have you learned through coaching? Has it benefitted your own running?

I’ve learned so much! I have been coaching for about 10 years at the high school level and I can honestly tell you that every day I keep learning something new. I feel that at the high school level, athletes seem to stress out about such little things; it’s quite entertaining at times. Sometimes I can’t help but to scratch my head and laugh. At times, I have to reset my mindset and acknowledge that a long time ago I was once a high school athlete, too, and that I do understand (even at times when I really don’t). It’s the little things, like having a down-to-earth conversation, that allow the athlete to become more comfortable and adaptive to your coaching style. Just being around these athletes makes me more aware of the special gift and talents I have in the coaching world and make me that much more grateful for the opportunity to work with so many great athletes. Coaching high school athletes has definitely helped improve my own running, inspiring me to compete at a higher level. If anything, coaching also gives me a great background in sports psychology 🙂

You’re a newer member of Performance Running Outfitter’s Elite Team – how does running as part of a team enhance your running?

I am so grateful that Jessica and Trae Hoepner offered me this opportunity to compete on the PRO Elite Team this year. I believe that running as part of a team is a huge component that can automatically enhance your own abilities and performances. I feel that teammates are very crucial and can help propel you further. Through positive feedback, I have heard many great things about Performance Running Outfitters and I am very fortunate and grateful to have the opportunity to promote this outstanding organization. Big shout outs to my new teammates, including Jessica Hoepner, Trae Hoepner, Jackie Giacalone, Andy Ruffalo, Matt Barcus, Kyle Fraser, Richard Dodd, James Daul, Angie Kaiser, Cameron Ausen, Ben Garbe, Nathan Lanser and Mac Laksa.

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?

I would just like to continue to use my gifts and talents to the best of their abilities and continue to contribute to a sport that has done so much for me. To put it bluntly, my goal is to kick some butt in whatever races I decide to run.

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What are your favorite Milwaukee races?

I really enjoyed competing at Al’s Run. I’ve only participated in the event once. From my experience, I was overwhelmed at the amount of support and encouragement that the city of Milwaukee brought to this meaningful event. I remember jogging to that starting line on Wisconsin Avenue thinking “This is freaking amazing.” I also really enjoyed competing at the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival as race director Chris Ponteri did a truly outstanding job managing the event.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?

I often enjoy the scenic views of Grant Park in South Milwaukee or Eastown Tosa. My girlfriend resides in Oak Creek, so I am always extremely eager to venture off and discover new areas to run. Be back in half an hour? Yeah … right.

What makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?

Milwaukee is truly a great community. Everyone is so welcoming. I have been very flattered and humbled by the amount of support and positive encouragement throughout this community. You can meet so many outstanding people and interact with a community of runners that seek enjoyment in fulfilling their passion for the sport of running.

Any other comments?

Thank you for the interview. I am truly grateful to have this opportunity. A very special thanks to Jessica and Trae Hoepner for allowing me to contribute to PRO Elite by becoming a new member.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, James! If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Join PRO’s Run Club in 2016!

Need a little extra motivation to run this year? Performance Running Outfitters makes running even more fun with its new PRO Run Club!

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Here’s how it works: Participate in any of PRO’s fun runs, pub runs or demo runs and the store will log your miles. When you hit 50 miles, you’ll receive a “50 mile” club sticker and when you hit 100 miles you’ll receive a custom PRO “100 mile” club hat. You’ll also get an invitation to a PRO party in the fall to reward everyone for their accomplishments!

Upcoming PRO runs include:

Shorewood Run Club – Join local runners every Thursday at 6pm for a 3 mile run from PRO Shorewood.

Frosty Flapjack Fitness Challenge – Join runners at the PRO Brookfield location every Saturday through Feb. 20 for 3 or 6 miles. The group starts running at 8:30am.

Cupid Shuffle Fun Run & Walk – Join in for a 3 or 6 mile run or walk at PRO Brookfield on Saturday, Feb 6 at 8:30am. During the run you can try out a pair of the new Adidas Ultra Boost ST. After running, enjoy flapjacks, coffee and cocoa. RSVP required.

For a complete list of upcoming runs, check out PRO’s event calendar.

Will we see you at any of the upcoming events at PRO?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!