Jessica is the founder and Head Coach of Team Sugar Runs. She played soccer competitively through college, but realized that life without competition after college was pretty boring and signed up for her first half marathon. She fell in love with it and enjoyed every opportunity to better herself and keep learning more about this sport. That was over 10 years ago! She started Sugar Runs to connect with the running community and help others achieve their running goals. She’s a Level II RRCA certified running coach with personal bests of 3:01 in the marathon and 1:24 in the half. Jessica is currently based in Long Beach, CA and coaches athletes virtually all over the world.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
I really just love running. It's this beautiful thing where you can just lace up and walk out the door. You don't need much to get it done, and it gives you so much in return. It allows me to experience such a variety of things from competition, strength, humility. More importantly, I think there's always something new to learn so I never get bored of it.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
I'm not sure it's motivation so much as dedication or discipline or perhaps habit. I make it part of my day and always carve out the time I need to get it done so there's not much of an excuse for me not to do it. I remind myself of my bigger goals and why they're important to me. If I can't get out there on the days I don't feel like it, how will I accomplish that goal? What will I do when things get tough in the race? It's definitely a mental strength builder to get out there on days you don't feel like it.
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
I still want to break 3 hours in the marathon. The marathon is when I really fell in love with running and I never dreamed I would be attempting to break 3 hours when I first picked up the distance. I thought I'd be one and done. The 3 hour barrier has eluded me quite a bit, but I feel like 2020 will be the year I can break through.
What's your goal for the Griffith Park 50k?
My only real goal is to finish! After spending so much time focusing on time and pace the last several years, it's been a nice change to focus on just getting through to the end and getting an automatic PR!
What's your favorite part about coaching other runners?
Being so invested in someone else's dreams. I go through so many emotions with my athletes - the injuries, the PR's, the really tough days, the finish line accomplishments. I feel really lucky to be such a small part of what these athletes accomplish and how I'm able to dream with them, cry with them, celebrate with them. It's really special.
What was one of your most memorable moments as a coach?
I have had so many great moments with my athletes, but Boston 2019 was probably the top. It was our first big team meetup and we had over 10 athletes there. As we were doing our shakeout run together around Boston Commons, it felt surreal to see not only how much our team had grown having that many athletes at a single race, but how much each of these individual athletes had grown in their running with us to get to this race that many dream about. It made me grateful for the support my coaching business continues to receive, and proud of all of our athletes and the work they do each day to chase their dreams.
What has been your most memorable race to date?
Eugene Marathon in 2018 when I ran a 3:07. I was shooting for a 3:05 which would've been a 9+ minute PR, but nothing in my training confirmed I was capable of it and it was a very rough buildup. I still went out with the 3:05 pacer who showed up right before the gun went off. I was able to stay just ahead of him until mile 22. Despite falling off and coming in 2 minutes over my goal time, it was my biggest PR in the distance in over 2 years. I'd struggled through over-training and multiple failures at the distance and was pretty scared to go after a PR over 5 minutes. It showed me I could be greater if I stopped limiting myself and being scared. Also, that's when the sub 3 dream was born.
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
I train 2 days heavier with weights and pair these with my speed and long run (or day after long run) days, and 2 supplementary core/band work days whenever I can fit them in on easier running days. I think what helps the most is based on the individual and their specific weaknesses, but I've found lots of focus on hips, hamstring, quads, and core has been the key as I've increased the intensity of my training.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
It's not unique, but I've definitely pooped my pants a couple times and ruined a few good pairs of shorts! Haha! Hasn't everyone done that?!
What's your favorite types of fuel before a race?
I used to eat oatmeal and a banana, but this past year I got really into plain white bagels and a banana. Lower fiber has been key for me to avoid GI distress and plain white bread is low fiber.
What's your favorite cheat food & drink?
I don't really think of food as a cheat because I allow myself to eat all different kinds of foods in my diet, but after a marathon I always want a pint of ice cream as my celebration food. I also love a cold beer after crossing the finish. Only time I can chug beer!
What venue has been your favorite to race at?
NYC puts on the best race experience ever. If you ever get an opportunity to race the NYC marathon, do it. The organization, the crowds, the finish - it's all epic and once in a lifetime. I'd love to go back.
What do you enjoy the most about longer distances?
The slow entrance into the pain cave. Running a marathon is fine up until mile 18 to 20 when things start to unravel. The intriguing part is trying to figure out that last 10K of the puzzle.
Do you prefer music or nature when running?
I used to run with music, but I prefer no music. This is primarily because of safety concerns - I want to be aware of my surroundings. I've also found it's made me a better runner. I'm more in tune with my effort and pacing. I don't change my pace based on music. I always recommend trying to run without music!
Do you like ice baths?
I've never tried a full ice bath, but I've iced my feet after runs before and it is painful! I'm not a fan of the experience, but I do think they're helpful.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobby’s do you enjoy?
I love going to the movies! My husband and I go once a week so we're pretty up to date on all the new releases.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
I have so many, but here are the top 3:
Get a good pair of running shoes! I highly recommend going to get fitted at a running store or with a podiatrist to ensure you are running in shoes that are right for you and your feet.
Don't build too quickly. Try to follow the 10% rule with building weekly mileage.
Join a running group! New runners really benefit from having other runners with them not just to run, but to answer questions to help them with training (a coach is also great for this!)
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
My biggest strength is my dedication to my goals. My biggest weakness is both mental and physical strength. In my last marathon at CIM where I came close to breaking 3 hours, I mentally surrendered a bit in the last 5 miles, but I also have serious weakness in my VMO muscle that caused me to slow down. I didn't realize it was that specific muscle until I met with a personal trainer in my 50K buildup and did an assessment. Always something to get better at!
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
Kara Goucher. She's always been such a strong woman and athlete in my mind. She has accomplished so much and is still making her mark on the sport today with her Clean Sport podcast and speaking out about Alberto Salazar and Dream Maternity. I really look up to her and what she stands for.
What's one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself as a new runner?
Get a coach! I ran for about 6 years with no idea of what I was doing, just running whatever I felt like and I often think back to how much I could've accomplished with someone guiding me.
What's next for Jessica Reyes?
Hopefully a successful 50K finish and a sub 3 hours marathon on the running side. On the coaching side, I hope to do some group or in person coaching and putting together an athlete retreat weekend!
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Published February 29, 2020