Whippet Wednesday: Jessica Chichester

Jessica Chichester, an upstate New York native and full-time nurse practitioner, has consistently impressed us with her steady stream of PRs, including a 1:18:15 at last Sunday’s NYC Half Marathon. Her stellar performances are a result of undeniable hard work and tweaks to her training — including being coached by her Olympic Trials Qualifying brother. We asked Jessica some questions so we can get a detailed glimpse into her running life!

How long have you been on the Whippets, and why did you join the team?

I officially joined in December 2014 when I moved to NYC. I didn’t really know anyone in NY and I figured it would be a good way to make some friends with a common interest. My prediction was correct. Most people met me at the holiday party that year, since that was the day I joined.

Side-note: Matt Wong was a very persuasive recruiter.

You’ve just smashed the Dashing Whippets half marathon team record TWICE in two consecutive weekends — first at the Rock and Roll DC half, and then this past weekend at the NYC Half Marathon. You must be doing something right — How would you describe your current training? Does it include cross training?

Since coming back from injury in fall of last year, I’ve had a significantly different approach toward training. When I was forced to take time off, it made me realize I needed to do something different to avoid injury, or else I would never be able to consistently train and improve.

I feel stronger now than I have ever felt in terms of running. I’m not entirely sure what has been the most helpful, but it’s likely a combination of the following…

1. Recovery days: They are now TRULY recovery days. I run so slow on my “non-quality” days. No real work involved, just turning my legs over and getting my blood flowing.

2. The quality days: I’ve had a little help from my brother AKA Coach Bro chi AKA Brochester. For those that haven’t heard me brag about him, he is a 2016 marathon olympic trial qualifier and also a certified coach. So I decided to trust him. My training has been adjusted for little things like sickness, minor injury, upcoming races, etc, but here’s basic outline:

I’ve been following an 18 week training plan for Boston that contains 4 mini cycles, and a 2 week taper finale. There are 3 quality days in each week — 2 workouts and a long run. Each cycle: 1 week with tempos and fast repeats, 1 week with tempos and longer intervals, 1 week with a longer marathon pace run and a broken marathon pace run, and then 1 week with no workouts, just working on increasing mileage. Each cycle, I ramp up a bit– the workouts get longer, and my pace gets adjusted as needed. I’ve been basing my paces for workouts on my VDOT from my most recent race, and updating it as I’ve gotten faster. Tempo is about 15k pace, and interval pace is slightly faster than 5k pace. For the MP workout weeks, I would do something like a Tuesday with a full 10 miles at MP, recovery day Wednesday and then Thursday 6 miles @MP + 1 mile recovery, +4 miles @MP (not that milage every time, just an example). Long runs vary, but I usually do them about 45-60 seconds slower than MP.

3. Mileage: Up until recently, I was only able to handle about 60 miles/week max in a training cycle. Now, I’ve been able to tolerate about 80 miles/week, thanks to cross-training and recovery which has made me stronger, I suspect.  Since I’ve reached over 70 miles/week, I will often throw in a double once or twice per week to break it up a little bit. I will usually do it as a ~5 mile shake-out the morning of an evening workout. While I don’t think that high mileage is critical, my competitors were running much more volume than me and I felt I needed to level up.

4. Cross training: While I was slowly building up mileage after time off, I supplemented with spin classes to add some cardio without breaking myself from building running mileage up too quickly. I do think it helped a lot. Now that my mileage is higher, I still cross train a bit to strengthen and avoid injury. I try to incorporate some form of strength training/plyometrics once/week, and some core usually 2-3 times/week. Plus lots of stretching and rolling.

5. Nutrition: I could be better, but I have definitely made some strides on this one. One thing I’ve changed is that I have been making sure to eat something with some carbs and protein within 15-20 minutes of finishing a run, especially a quality day. It’s usually plain greek yogurt with a ton of fruit on top of it. And of course, lots of water of.

6. Sleep: I am fortunate enough to be able to get about 8-9 hours of sleep per night, but I’ve always been a sleeper.

Running a blistering average of 5:59 pace during the NYC Half. Photo credit: Tom Flanagan

What is your big running goal?

I am aiming to qualify for Olympic marathon trials for 2020. Ideally, this will happen in Boston in 4 weeks. If not, I have Berlin and CIM lined up this year to take a couple more stabs at it.

What motivates you to train and race hard?

One might say that I’m slightly competitive, so I think that’s probably helpful when I’m racing and training. My teammates and my family have definitely motivated me too. I felt very inspired by all of the incredible performances last fall, especially in New York City Marathon.

I also have this fear of being an old lady, and looking back and having regrets that I never reached my full potential at running when I had all the tools right in front of me and a chance to do something amazing. I have the BEST TEAM and training partners ever, super supportive runner family, possibly some natural talent, my health, adequate free time, and the awesomely competitive NYC running community. So I can’t disappoint the old lady.

Hills or bridges?

Bridges! You always know there’s going to be a downhill right after.

Marathon or 5k? Marathon.

Favorite Race:

NYRR Brooklyn Half.

Favorite place to run:

Central Park.

Pre-race superstitions:

The morning of NYC half, I couldn’t find these free red expo gloves from Birmingham half, that I wore the past two weekends when I PR’d. So I thought for sure my race was doomed. Superstition debunked. But honestly, no real superstitions. And the only real pre-race ritual I have is making sure that I chug tons of water a couple days before and morning of a race.

What I look for in a running buddy:

They should not be afraid to push their limits, and they should enjoy getting beer(s) after running. Also, no negative talk.

Favorite song to run to:

David Guetta – Titanium. Anything with Sia is usually a winner. Additionally, I enjoy a wide range of angry girl songs — Some Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato (you get the picture).

Most embarrassing running moment:

I have fallen countless times and I have holes in my tights to prove it. But actually I do have much worse stories that I won’t share publicly.

Fill in blank:

If I wasn’t a runner, I’d be: less hungry all the time.

If crystal ball could tell you what your best running performance would be, what would it say? 

If I can stay healthy this year, I think I will do something impressive at California International Marathon this December.

More about Jennie Cohen

Jennie is a member of the Dashing Whippets.

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