Andie Cozzarelli Ready to Race Grandma's Marathon 2018
Andie Cozzarelli is a stand-out distance runner who qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials with a 1:12:50 half marathon just one year after graduating from North Carolina State University. This means that the Olympic Trials Marathon was her first experience with the 26.2 distance, and that the brutally hot day wasn't meant to be her full debut. She was forced to drop out because of severe dehydration and was hospitalized.
After that disappointing race, she pushed her debut marathon to a few months after the Trials, opening with 2:38:49 at Indy Monumental Marathon in November 2016. Her path after her stunning half marathon and marathon debuts hasn't been smooth. And at California International Marathon 2017 she experienced an incredibly off day, finishing just under 3 hours instead of the sub 2:30 she and coach Steph Bruce had been training for.
Now, after spending much of the winter and spring examining all aspects of her health, training, and recovery, she's coming out on the other side! In addition to working with traditional medicine, she's also tapped into the mental and emotional aspects of real recovery. And she's ready to toe the line at Grandma's Marathon on June 16 to chase her second OTQ. Learn how Andie is using the lessons she's learned to come back strong and aim high.
You went into CIM a bit floored. You had stomach issues (2 gut bacterial overgrowths) and continued hormonal imbalance. Plus, looking back after the race you recognized that you’d pushed yourself over the line in the build-up. How did you assess what happened and start pulling yourself back into balance?
In January I started addressing the gut issues with a strict diet just to find out in February that I also had parasites. In January I was feeling pretty awful even though I had just taken a month off and was very slowly getting back into training. I figured the diet was to blame so I remained hopeful. I also starting reading Work IN, which helped keep my head centered.
When February hit we started upping the mileage and added in workouts, but I started feeling even worse. I wasn’t recovering well and the more I did the more tired I was. So many things were going on with my body and I didn’t know where to turn.
Through the month I was following the 28-day Work IN plan, which was likely the only reason I got through it. I recognized when things were really starting to tank at the end of February and we pulled back. Being much more in tune with my body post-CIM, I was better prepared to make that decision. It was still early and my season could be salvaged.
Races that don’t go to plan are hard physically and emotionally. How have you worked through the mental aspects of CIM’s aftermath? Immediately after the race you had “feelings of inadequacy and feelings of losing everything I worked so hard to get.” How did you flip that outlook?
Honestly, I am still working on it. The week before I raced my first race of 2018 on March 3, I was an emotional wreck. I was having health and body image issues due to weight gain. On top of that I was getting conflicting information on what was happening. I was desperately looking for answer and scared to race in fear of what people would think. If my times weren’t good would I be able to get into any races in the future? Would my sponsors drop me?
I choose to race because I wanted to face it. CIM was the last race on my mind and I needed to restart somewhere. I was frustrated, scared, and there were tears often but I still kept doing what I was doing. Every day in the gym I could tell I was getting stronger. I kept telling myself, “When we get this figured out I will be killing it.” Then of course I talked with Erin Taylor. I let her know how I was feeling and she came up with a custom meditation for me to help me get through it mentally. It is good listening to your body but my constant attention to it was getting in my head.
Recognizing issues doesn’t mean they correct themselves overnight, it’s been a long season of physical and emotional work for you, but what were your first steps?
Oh yes, definitely not! I had some answers but I had conflicting information from my second opinion who made me feel like the feelings I had were all in my head. He made excuses for the way I was feeling and it added stress to the problem. It made me scared to make my next move and unsure of what to believe. I reached out to a nutritionist. Talked to anyone who would listen. Adopted whatever practices I could to reduce stress.
I emailed my Oiselle team manager, Sarah Lesko, who encouraged me to write about it, and finally after much debate I went back to my regular doc and got medication for the parasites. I didn’t know if it would work but as soon as I finished the meds my body started rebounding. For the first four months of the year I had to just keep reminding myself that I would get through this. There had to be an answer out there. As long as I stick with it I will be strong on the other end. I did however have many doubts. The closer I got to June, the less hope I had in being ready to run a marathon. It was less about giving up and more about being realistic. Running a marathon is a big deal and with the trouble I was having recovering, going through with it felt like it may set me back. But when May hit and I had a 14 mile alternating pace workout and I nailed it, I knew things were changing.
At the start of 2018 you wrote your goals, one of which is to run a sub 2:30 and qualify for your second Olympic Trials Marathon. To support that goal you committed to 10 minutes of meditation a day. How has meditation and Work IN supported your journey?
Meditation has saved this season. If I hadn’t been able to keep myself centered it would have been easy to give up. When I was having trouble physically recovering, I was at least able to manage some of the mental emotional recovery through meditation. I like big goals because they remind me of the bigger picture. But, I also know that keeping these goals in check is also essential. So, being able to keep focused with a clear mind, I started thinking about this season for what it was. Maybe I am not going for my big goal but with 2020 in mind, qualifying for the Trials is huge and possible if I stay present.
Some runners would say there is no such thing as over-training, only under-recovering. What is your philosophy on recovery? How has it evolved?
From my perspective, there is definitely such a thing as under-recovering. I didn’t know such a thing existed until I had it happen prior to the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon. A month and half out from the race I ran a half and was sore for literally two weeks. During that same time I had a swollen foot from tendonitis in my foot which occurred from ramping mileage up to quickly. I did an InsideTracker test during that time and had elevated liver enzymes, cortisol, and other signs of overtraining. The week of the Trials I got sick, likely because my immune system was tanked. After dropping out I figured I could just keep training but I had ended up in the hospital from heat exhaustion so that likely wasn’t the best idea. I did okay for about a month and then pushed it a little hard in workout and couldn’t recover. I started gaining weight and felt super drained.
I think my body is still overcoming some of that stuff. My functional medicine doctor mentioned that the parasites could have come as a result of that period of time because the heightened cortisol and weakened immune system makes you more susceptible. There was also a lot of inflammation in my gut.
My philosophy now is that recovery needs to be prioritized just as high as training is. I listen to my body and make better training decisions. I also now understand the difference between sitting on my butt all day and truly recovering. You have to mentally recover in addition to physically. My cousin passed away from brain cancer about a month out from CIM and I didn’t take the emotional stress from this into account as something I also needed to recover from.
You had Grandma’s Marathon penciled in your calendar early this year, but you remained flexible as you navigated your health issues and training ramp up. What were the ways you adapted this training cycle that paid off? When did you feel ready to ink that race?
I just kept plugging away. Steph Bruce was in the loop on everything and she pulled me back a little. I took a down week in March when I started started feeling overdone. We stuck to one big workout a week with moderate mileage through March and April. Steph backed my paces off, giving me things she knew I could handle. Keeping up with my strength work helped a lot because I knew I was progressing with that. It wasn’t a problem with my legs, it was something else. I reminded myself I could drop to the half if I needed to. I was mindful and did my best to hold out hope for an answer to the health issues. As soon as May hit and I finished up my parasite meds, I felt good with my runs and had a breakthrough workout that gave me the confidence to race.
My biggest goal right now is to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. Completing that workout showed me that I could get it together. I had talked with Steph and she assured me that I still had plenty of time. So, pretty much, I have seriously been going after getting a Trials standard at Grandmas for three weeks now. 6:10-6:15 wasn’t coming to me prior to May but as of now I think I can do it.
What has a typical week of training and recovery looked like for you this build up? Any differences from past?
In March we cut back to only one workout a week plus an easy long run. In February I wasn’t recovering from even short workouts. The day after a workout no matter what pace I ran it felt hard. I ElliptiGO’d in place of some runs to aide in recovery and my mileage stayed around 60–70 through March & April. In May we added the second workout back in as a part of my long run and my mileage went up to the 80s.
This is my 4th marathon build up and they have all been a different. The build up for the trials was too much too fast. Before Indy I was initially still training with my college team which was preparing for 6k’s, but reached out to Steph in late September feeling like I needed a little more. This build up included mostly 90–100 mile weeks. Then prior to CIM I had been working with Steph for an entire year so we did a lot of training to build my strength. Mileage mostly 80–90 with lots of long workouts and racing without tapering.
What have been your go to Jasyoga Resets in your build up to Grandma’s Marathon?
Recovery Visualization and Mantra Meditation, plus the custom meditation Erin made for me. Then the Jasyoga videos Preventative Medicine for Lower Legs and Feet, Run Your Core, and lately the 5-Minute Hip Reset because my hip flexors are always tight! I also started doing the Pre-Run Warm Up on occasion.
What are your A, B, and C goals for Grandma’s?
A goal: Qualify for the Trials — 2:40 goal time
B goal: Qualify for the Trials and Negative split
C goal: Finish
Do you have a mantra for race day?
My mantra for 2018 was “I’m a badass” but the other thing that I have been repeating in my head through tough workouts is “I am strong.” I’ll be using both to keep me on track on race day!