Q&A With Caroline LeFrak
The NY running circuit is pretty tight knit. Think about it – we run loops and loops around Central park, seeing the same familiar faces daily. The runners in the park vary in level, from those just embarking on running to even a few that compete on a professional level.
Caroline Bierbaum LeFrak is one of those few that stands out and frequently astonishes us with blazing breakthrough performances. She is one of the most inspiring runners I know since I took up running. Her composure on easy days, with a “gazelle” like open stride is beautiful to watch and serves as a reminder of how important it is to differentiate easy and hard days.
It’s even more impressive that at 32 years old, she is a mom of three children aged five and under 5. And she is still performing on a top level, pursuing her role as a full time mom and president of EmpireAthletics.
Caroline was kind enough to share her background in running and tell us how she manages to juggle mommy hood while maintainig her running on an optimal level.
Q&A with Caroline Bierbaum Lefrak
Profession:President of Empire Athletics Management, a sports agency that specializes in managing long distance runners. I started Empire Athletics after graduating from law school in 2009. I manage professional marathoners, road racers and track athletes. I help get them sponsorships and negotiate appearance fees for them in major races.
Education: Columbia University, BA 2006 Cardozo School of Law, JD 2009
How many years have you been running and can you tell us how you got started running?
I started running around the block with my mother when was about 12 or 13 as way to just spend time with her. I played soccer in eighth grade and decided I would be better at cross-country. Ninth grade was my first season of competitive cross-country. I never ran track in high school because my school didn’t have a track. Finally, when I got to college, I ran all three seasons (cross country, indoor and outdoor track)
Tell us about your impressive accomplishments and personal records:
My breakout race was finishing third at NCAA Cross Country my junior year. I was struggling with anemia and poor performances for the entire year prior, so it was a big surprise and very rewarding to get third place. In the spring, I set the Ivy League Record in the 10k on the track at the Ivy League Championships. I ran a 32:44, which was the fastest seed in the NCAA at the time. I ended up finishing 2nd at NCAA’s and I had a few other runner-up finishes too. In total, I was a five time NCAA All-American and three time NCAA Runner-up. After many years of injuries and one baby, I qualified for the 2012 Olympic Marathon trials and ran a 2:38 there, which is still my personal best in the marathon. I now have three kids and haven’t gotten any faster (yet),
The half marathon – I like it because I can really attack the distance without worrying about fueling and bonking issues. The training is also more manageable with a young family at home. I much prefer a 90-minute run over one that is 2+ hours
Do you have a magic number that suits youin terms of mileage per week?
I am training for the New York City Marathon and am averaging about 65 miles per week. It’s a little lower than what I would do in the past but my quality days are still long and taxing. I’m not sure if it will work but I am feeling pretty good so far.
A typical structured week of running includes…. In the spring, when prepping for half marathons and shorter races I would have one speed day consisting of shorter intervals, one tempo day and a long run day. I would run intervals as short as 200 and 400 meters to really work on my turnover. Tempos weren’t too long either – about 3-4 miles at a 5:40 pace. I like to do long runs rather aggressively instead of just logging time on my feet. In marathon training, I tend to have one big workout mid-week of either tempo intervals or long marathon pace running. The long run also consists of a large chunk of faster paced running so it requires a few more extra days of recovery.
Where are your favorite places to train and run? Every July my family travels to Mammoth Lakes, California. It is gorgeous and extremely motivating to run there. I ran regularly with Deena Kastor and other Mammoth Track Club members and loved being a part of their professional running world for a few weeks out of the year.
What inspires you with your goals?
I’m not really sure. Running has been a huge part of my life for such a long time. I can’t imagine not having races on the calendar to get excited about. It keeps routine in my day, keeps my head clear, and definitely makes me happy. Also my husband Jamie is 43 and still running a 2:42 marathon. He keeps me on my toes!
Do you have a coach? A team?
I run for the New York Athletic Club in NYC. For the past year I have been coached remotely by Jack Daniels. I also have some training partners in NYC who help pace me for tough workouts.
What do you do for cross training and can you stress the importance of it? What’s your favorite cross training activity?
I strength train 1-2 times per week and have a great trainer who knows exactly what kind of exercises to do with me. I am extremely unmotivated to strength train without someone watching me and counting reps and correcting form. So splurging on a trainer is one thing I do and really think it helps keep me strong for running. I also swim or spin or do the elliptical one day per week instead of running. I am very injury prone so I make sure to take one day off from running, even if I don’t feel like I need to.
How do you juggle being a mom and training on an optimal level?
I train once per day and try to do it while the older two are in school. I drop them off, then head to the park or gym and get it all done in two hours or so (on a hard day) or only an hour (easy day). Sometimes I do a long run mid week if I know the weekends are going to be especially busy with kid activities. My older two will ask “are you running short or long today?”So I try to be cognizant of my time and to do the bulk of my hard/long efforts when they are at school. I also do mostly local races. If I have to travel, my husband is always home to be with the kids and vice versa. And of course, we have great full time nannies on the weekdays and weekends which really makes it possible for me to get everything done.
How has being a mom shifted your training or running goals?
I know that no matter how great or poorly I run, the kids don’t care and just want to hang out with me. It helps put things in perspective and just make me appreciate the time I have to myself when running and not get too stressed about it. I still care very much about my performances but am easily distracted by my kids, which is a good.
What’s your pre-run routine?
The night before a workout or race, I like use the foam roller and stretch out with a rope. Sometimes I do this before an easy day if I have time. Usually the morning of a run, I don’t have time to stretch or roll. I just get out the door, walk a few blocks, and then get going.
Can you tell us about your nutrition pre and post workouts?
Before a workout, depending on how long it is, I’ll have a gel and some water/gatorade/coffee or half a bagel and coffee. Something sugary and easily digestible. After a run, even an easy run, I have a protein/carb drink like Boost, Ensure, Core Power, or a protein drink made by Gatorade.I often get too thin while training soI try to get in a lot of calories – even if they are not necessarily organic or the best kind of calories.
How does holistic living fit into your life?
I am trying to be better about looking at the big picture. Instead of just focusing solely on upper left hamstring pain (which i have constantly), I also get my back and upper body treated, which makes my hamstring feel better.I also run better and am more relaxed when other aspects in my life are going well. If my kids and husband are doing well, I feel better and I enjoy running and my own hobbies more.
What is your next race on the calendar and how do you choose your races?
I am running the New York City Marathon on November 6. Usually I just choose what excites me and what would work best with my kids and husband’s schedule. Jamie runs too and we try not to do the same marathon. I haven’t done a full marathon in three years due to pregnancy and injuries so it feels a bit new to me again.
Can you offer any tips on the secret to the longevity of running and racing?
Smart, consistent training, regular massage and strength training, and good doctors!