Interview with Heidi Greenwood, Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier

This weekend, Saturday February 13th, U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials will take place in Los Angeles, California. Every four years, a super-fast group of competitive runners, whose previous race times meet the U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying standards, race for their spot to represent the U.S. in the Olympics.

Sanford Power athlete Heidi Greenwood qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials at the Columbus Marathon in 2013, with a time of 2:42:08, and has been living and training in Sioux Falls leading up to her 9th Marathon this weekend at the trials. When Heidi isn’t logging miles or strength training, she also keeps up an awesome blog and website where she documents her training and recipe experiments in the kitchen. We got the chance to interview Heidi before the big race – check out Heidi’s blog and her answers to the interview questions below to get inspired to push your limits and reach a little further to meet your goals!

Q & A with Heidi Greenwood


What got you into distance running in the first place? What was your first marathon and how was your experience there?

Heidi: I first started running for our high school team in the 7th grade.  In high school I mostly ran the 400 and 800 meters and by my sophomore year I started to dabble in the 1600 meters.  My first love was volleyball and knew I wanted to play that in college, but decided at the last minute to give college track a try too.  With balancing both volleyball and track in college I stuck to primarily the 800 for first couple years, but by my junior year it started to become obvious that my greater talent was in the 1500meters.  My senior year in college at the University of North Dakota I was fortunate enough to win the 2008 NCAA Div. II title in the 1500 meters. I truly believed that I was done with competitive running at that point.  In the fall of 2008 I decided I wanted to run one marathon to check it off my bucket list.  I ran the Twin Cities Marathon.  I had a pretty good first experience. I actually ran a negative split in that race by 10 minutes and ran a 3:11.  Going into that race I really had no idea what I would be able to run, but wanted to try break 3:30.  Training for my first marathon I ran about 55-60 miles per week, which was about 10 miles per week higher than what I averaged my last year competing in college.  At that point I still really wasn’t sure if I’d run more marathons or not.

 When did you set your eyes on the Olympic Trials qualifying time?

In 2012 my husband and I moved to Cleveland, Ohio for his residency and I started to become really busy with full time work.  Being new to the region I thought it’d be cool to run the Columbus Marathon and experience a new city.  However, I actually wasn’t even able to follow a structured training program for the Columbus Marathon in 2012 because of working 60+ hours a week.  I did not do one single specialized long run or fast-finish long.  I really was convinced that Columbus 2012 would be my last marathon for a LONG time.  As the race unfolded I floated to a 2:47.  I was completely dumb-founded.  How did I do that?  After that race I felt that God had given me a gift.  It is then, October 2012, when I decided that qualifying for the Olympic trials in the Marathon was something I wanted to do.  The new 2016 OT standard had not even been released yet when I committed myself towards that goal.

 How did you react when you knew you achieved that time?

I went back to the Columbus Marathon in 2013 to test myself and see what I could do.  After the race I was sort of in a state of shock or disbelief that I actually did that.  Prior to the race my coach thought 2:45 was more of a realistic goal, but I wanted to shake the dice and go for the 2:43.

My favorite running experience would definitely be the Columbus Marathon 2012 and 2013.  Both races I’d say I was in the state of “FLOW” for most of both races.  No pressure or thoughts of not reaching a certain goal.  Effortless.

What do you think has contributed the most to your running success?

In my childhood I did a wide variety of things.  This helped me to develop different movement patterns.  I never felt I “had” to do something growing up.  What I chose to do was all internal motivation and desire.  My parents always supported me and helped to provide opportunities, but never suggested I needed to do anything.  My marathon success has come from consistency.  I have had no major injuries, just some small setbacks, nothing requiring more than a couple weeks off of running in my 31 years of life.

Do you have a favorite workout that you do during a marathon buildup?

This is not a typical workout you will see in a training book, but I love it – it is fun and I can get a lot of work done.  The idea is to make yourself run on tired legs.  I’ll do this work out only once per marathon training block and about 6-7 weeks before the race.  This marathon build-up for the trials I got to do this work out on Christmas Day!

Workout: 12 miles easy to moderate, 8-12 x 800 meters at half marathon race pace effort with 60-90” recovery jog between reps, finishing up with another 3-5 miles easy to moderate at the end.  The workout will end up being anywhere from 20-24 miles.

(That is workout inspiration!)

I know you’re an active strength trainer in addition to your running workouts – What’s your favorite strength exercise?

I really enjoy doing strength work. I like doing box step-ups, lunges, and using my TRX!

Nutrition talk

What is your go-to pre-race day meal?
I do not feel I purposefully go into a “carb” loading stage before I race a marathon.  I think I will naturally pick up extra carbohydrate stores with decreased volume in training.  I try to keep a pretty similar eating pattern no matter if I’m in heavy training or peaking for a race.  I get the majority of my carbohydrates from potatoes/sweet potatoes and higher carb fruits like bananas.

Pre-race day meal: baked or grilled Chicken, Baked Potato, Dinner salad, (sometimes I’ll have a chunk of crusty bread with butter if I’m at a restaurant that has that).

 How do you handle getting in good nutrition when you’re traveling for a race?

I always travel with apples, bananas, peanut butter, almonds, snack bars (Generation UCAN Snack bars and Juice Plus Complete Bars), rice cakes, and electrolyte tabs (Nuun).  I also suggest looking up restaurant menus before going to make sure they have what you want.

What about pre-race breakfast- what breakfasts foods have you had the most success with?

About 2.5 hours before race I usually have coffee with cream, plain greek yogurt (with Generation UCAN-(Cinnamon Delite) stirred in), piece of toast, peanut butter, and banana.  Then I will be sipping on another serving of Generation UCAN-(Cran-Raz or Tropical Orange) right up to start of the race.

Do you bring any nutrition on long runs with you? What has worked well for you?

It really depends on the purpose of the long run.  Typically I take no nutrition on long easy runs.  The reason is that my trying to teach my body to be efficient, some argue that the quality of your long runs can diminish, but again, it comes back to what is the purpose of your long run.  Prior to any long run I do take one to two serving of Generation UCAN.  On specialized long runs or fast-finish long runs I may use Generation UCAN or a Gel depending on convenience.  Generation UCAN currently does not make their product in gel form, which can be tricky during training.

My go-to post long run snack is a big protein-rich green smoothie. What foods do you think help you recover faster after a long run, workout, or race?

After long runs or workouts it is usually a smoothie with Generation UCAN-Chocolate Protein, frozen dark cherries, and some kind of milk.  It tastes like a dark red tootsie pop sucker.  But, after a race it is usually a celebratory burger and fries or chicken quesadilla with a margarita.

Are there any foods you try to avoid the week of a big race? What about the rest of the year?

I try to avoid white processed food, basically because there really isn’t any nutritional value in those foods.  Also, on a regular basis I typically do not eat very much gluten.  I have found that I feel a little bloated and lethargic when I consume lots of gluten.  I do NOT follow a gluten free diet, but chose to eat in very moderately.

What is your favorite treat food/meal?

Red Wine and I’m Norwegian and love potato dumplings, soaked in butter.

Heidi is a strong athlete who knows the importance of not only logging the miles, but also strength training and paying attention to her nutrition.

Good luck this weekend, Heidi!

If you’re feeling inspired by Heidi’s dedication in training, let Sanford POWER and the the Sports Science Institute help you reach your own goals. You don’t need to be an Olympic Trials qualifier to set and achieve athletic goals – we work with athletes of all ages and abilities.

Call today at (605)-312-7870