We're excited to introduce you to Joemarie Rodriguez! We first met Joemarie in 2018 when she joined us for our trek around Mont Blanc on the UTMB trail. Her grit and positivity was evident throughout our adventure and we hope you enjoy reading her story!
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. My siblings and I grew up climbing mango, passion fruit and tamarind trees. Sports were a big part of my upbringing, I played volleyball, softball, soccer and even ice hockey.
How long have you been running and how did you get into it?
I started running at the end of 2011 as part of an office money pool for weight loss. A group of the ladies on the team decided to register for the Seattle RnR half marathon as a way to keep us all accountable to the deal. Not knowing how this running thing worked, I guesstimated that I could finish in 3 ½ hours. When I picked up my bib, my corral assignment was Corral #37!!! From the gun time for the first corral to the actual moment I crossed the start line mat over and hour had passed and my lower back was killing me from standing around for so long! After I finished I was elated. I ran 13 miles and I didn’t die! I experienced such a high at that finish line and I haven't looked back since. My close friends and family complain that running has taken over my life and I am totally ok with that statement, heck I’m proud of it. Running has taken me to amazing places all over the world and has brought amazing people into my life.
How did you first get into trail running?
My first trail run didn’t happen until December 2014. I was terrified of falling on the roots. Heck, I’m still terrified! I’ve never fallen and I know I’m due...I'm working on conquering my fear of falling and trusting my legs! I still run road miles and races but they are so boring compared to trail! Nothing like the fresh air of the mountains. I’ve also noticed that too much pavement gets me injured so I do most of my miles on trails, especially hill work and long runs, even when I am training for road races.
What has been your biggest obstacle in running and how did you overcome it?
Fueling and self-doubt. I considered myself an experience runner and last summer was my first DNF. My legs were cramping but I knew I could probably get there, I just could not get my mind to stop spinning and find that next gear. I was so close to the turn-around spot, within 200ft, I could see it and yet I could not get the demons off my mind, so I DNF and waited for the first aid team to give me a ride down the mountain. On the way down I knew I was fine, some electrolytes would have taken care of the problem, there was nothing wrong with me and I could have finished. I’ve used that moment in my recent racing to remind myself to snap out of any funk. Unless I’m bleeding or something is broken, I should finish anything I start. Fueling is another story…still working on that one. I’ve learned that my tummy is fine until it isn’t, and I am not good at recognizing the signs of trouble. But I’ve also learned to work the problem and not panic. What’s a little puke among friends on the trails?
What are you most proud of accomplishing in regards to running?
The UTMB trail with my Runners of the Wild peeps. I wanted to celebrate my 40th with a great adventure and this was the same year that Jordan put together the trip for Runners of the Wild. I was terrified to go for such for challenging trail with more experienced and faster runners with the fear of slowing them down. Jordan eased my fears and it sure was the most epic week so far! Beats running in Antarctica! Although avoiding penguins while running was pretty epic. Part of what I love about trails is the community. As a back-of-the-packer I’ve never felt under-appreciated just because I’m slower than the rest. Out in the trails we all experience the same hills, snow, mud and rain as the rest of the field, some of us just get to enjoy a lot longer than others.
Do you train with a coach? If yes, how has that experience changed your running? If no, how do you stay disciplined through training?
No coaches so far this year, but I’ve worked with coaches in the past and I’ve found that having a coach keeps me more accountable and has given me a clear view of my progression.
Do you cross-train or participate in any other sports?
Cross-train. I’ve been working with the same fitness trainer since my health journey started in 2011. I try to meet with him at least twice a week for 30 minute sessions. It has been great to see my strength grow over the years. I’m in love with Olympic weight lifting, so cool to see my progression (225lbs squats!), while at the same time hating burpees as much as the next person.
What is your advice for a newbie to running?
Patience and humility. Your peers might seem faster, stronger or braver than you are, but we were all beginners once so just concentrate on your own journey. The journey is the best part. And don’t be afraid to ask questions! I’ve been given great advice about gear, layering and nutrition out on the trails. Expect the unexpected but don’t panic! Be prepared, always carry with 10 items for survival.
What are your goals for your running in 2020?
The theme for this year is to find my speed. I’ve been working on longer distances, ran 3 road marathons and saw my endurance getting longer but also got slower (and gained weight). This year I want to find my speed, and learn how to embrace the hurt. I am one of those runners that backs off when it hurts. I want to learn to embrace the hurt a bit better. Also working on getting my nutrition in check this year. It’s also a year away from the roads for me. I'm planning on more adventure and adult run camps! I’ve booked 2 run camps for this summer: Azores trail race in May and Territory Run Camp in Sept, as well as Sun Mountain 25K, Wy’East Howl ½ & Backcountry Rise ½.
Can you tell us a little about what you do when you aren't running?
I have been an Aerospace Engineer at Boeing for the last 20 years. I am now working on commercial aircrafts. I'm very lucky to have a job that gives me the time off for run-cations!
Favorite run food? Baby food pouches (sweet potatoes & apples)
Favorite route you have ever run? UTMB
Favorite shoe? Altra Lone Peaks & Nike Pegasus
Favorite jacket for winter runs? Patagonia Houdini
Music or podcast while running? Both! Music for speed, podcast for climbs.
Run solo or with friends? Friends
Favorite thing about running? Community!
Dream run? Pike’s Peak Ascent
Photo 1 by Glenn Tachiyama, Photo 2 by Lizzie Krawczak