Jen Milligan is 34 years old and she is a Recreation Manager a retirement home in the Ottawa area. Meanwhile, she perfoms as a Spartan Race athlete and a marathon runner! Interview with an inspiring woman!
What is your background and how did you get into obstacles races?
I grew up playing basketball in high school and then in College. I didn’t start really running until 2008 when I was working on Cruise Ships and I got bored going to the same ports all the time so I decided to start running in them instead. It was great because I went for a great run, had great food and a swim in the ocean; can’t really get better than that. I quit cruise ships in 2010 and decided to sign up for my first half marathon, the Army Run. It was after that run, that I was hooked on racing. I then signed up for the Ottawa Marathon the following year. I actually got into obstacle racing from my Mom. Her personal trainer wanted her to do the Spartan Sprint in 2011 at Camp Fortune and asked me if I wanted to do it and I said yes. I ended up beating her personal trainer and was hooked on Spartan Races. I only ran one race in 2011, two in 2012 and over 20 in 2013.
What does obstacles races bring to you?
Through obstacle racing I have met so many great and like minded people. I joined a group on Facebook called the Canadian Mudd Queens, liked minded women who train together, share ideas, car pools and share accommodations. I have met so many awesome ladies through this group who motivate me on and off the course. It’s great when you have people cheering you on.
I think the competition motivates me. I am a very competitive person and I love learning and getting better. I write my training plan on a calendar so I am held responsible. I get up at 5:30/6 in the morning to run and I love it. Weather doesn’t matter. If it says run 5km and its snowing and -40, I will still be out there.
I also go to Crossfit in the evenings since last July to step up my Spartan training. I try not to miss a class but I do know if my body needs a rest. So, I run 6 days a week, cross fit 5 or 6 depending on my running schedule. Since Boston is coming up I may have to cut a bit of cross fit out. Sometimes I need people to tell me to rest!
What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about obstacles running?
The most rewarding thing is being able to help other people who are just getting into Obstacle racing or running. I have people asking me my training plans or nutrition plans . For the most part I eat very healthy. People are curious as to what I eat because I don’t take any supplements or protein shakes, all natural. So, I love answering people’s questions and motivating them to do better.
You are the 2013 Spartan Canadian champion; what are your plans and goals for 2014?
My goals for 2014 to start are to focus on training for the Boston Marathon for the next weeks. I qualified to run Boston in May 2013 and got in. I wasn’t planning on running Boston until 2015 when I was older and my qualifying time would be a bit easier to achieve. Ottawa Race weekend ended up being the perfect weather and I was able to qualify. After Boston, I am running the Ottawa Marathon and then the Spartan Race season starts. I am hoping to be in the top 5 for all races. I have a pretty packed race calendar doing all of the Spartan Races in Eastern Canada and a few in the States including the Ultra Beast, Prison Break Ottawa and Toronto (which is an awesome new race that I did last year and loved it) and I am going to run the entire 100km for the Sears Great Canadian Run in October.
You said that you want to dominate both marathons and Spartan races. How do you manage your training sessions for those two different fields? How do you prepare both mentally and physically?
I added Crossfit to my training this year which I think is going to help me with the obstacles. I also started running up and down the stairs to my apartment (14 flights) to work on hills. Other then that I will continue to do what I was doing last year.
I actually don’t really run trails, I am more of a road runner turned Obstacle Racer. I started Crossfit at Crossfit NCR in Ottawa in July and feel it’s going to help me a lot for the Spartan Season. I already feel stronger running up hills then I did last year and I am hoping my grip strength will get me across the rig this year. I am also a commuter cyclist for 8 months of the year and I find biking really helps with the hills.
Mentally, depending on the race the night before I hang out with friends, have a good dinner and maybe a Beer. It is a bit of a tradition now to have one beer the night before a Spartan Race. The morning of I have my oatmeal, muffin and banana.
Physically I just try and get in the zone, I am awful at stretching before a race but have been trying to do more of it because I know it is something I need to be doing.
What kinds of things do you think about when your run? and also, do you listen music? if yes, what style of music
I think of everything from what am I am going to eat when I get back to visualizing winning races to things I forgot to do at work. All depends on the day. And I don’t listen to any music while I am training.
Go into your first race having fun with a group of friends. If I am running a sprint I usually run the first elite heat to do well and if I race again I go with friends and we have a great time. At the end of they day you want to have a good time and enjoy yourself out there.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the obstacles races?
I think people think they are dangerous or too hard. I think all levels of people can do an obstacle race. My Mom was 60 years old when she did her first one and she finished so I think anybody can do it. Just take your time and have fun.
Tell us about your gear. What type of clothes do you wear, socks, shoes, and anything that you can recommend?
For road running I wear the Inov-8 f-lites 182 and love them won’t go to another shoe, I keep buying the exact same pair. As for obstacle races I wear the Inov-8 x-talon 190. I only started wearing trail shoes this year for the races and love them. For road race clothing it all depends on the weather but usually shorts or capris with a t-shirt for summer. In Winter, I wear lots of layers and vaseline on the face for the wind. For Obstacle races I wear Under Armour Shorts with my Canadian Mudd Queens tank.
Are they any differences between the events in USA versus the events in Canada?
I think there are differences but in a good way. USA is way bigger and has different obstacles but Canada has obstacles that the USA doesn’t have either. I think they are both great and think Canada has grown each year since I have been doing them. I can’t wait for 2014 to see what they have. The Canadian finisher shirts are by far way better then the USA.
What advice can you give to woman to help them stay motivated to reach their goals in life and fitness?
Just stick to it, even when you don’t want to roll out of bed to go to the gym or run. I don’t usually run with anybody but if you think that will motivate you to continue, find a running partner so you are held accountable. I also think writing everything down really helps. I have a training journal and I write all my runs that I will do for the month on my calendar. I can look on the calendar and be like alright in 2 weeks I am running 20km so I can prepare for it.
Photo credit: Epic Action Imagery / Spartan Race / E. Agar