Featured Rogue for January: Cate Barrett

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Cate joined Rogue as a member of Rogue Athletic Club after graduate school at Baylor University and has also worked for us on the retail floor. She recently started training with the Rogue Morning Show for the marathon distance (seeking an Olympic Trials Qualifier), while supporting the Rogue Sole Survivors with Bobby Garcia as an assistant coach. Later this month, she takes on her first solo-coaching gig, leading a group to get FAST for the Capitol 10K in April.

She is our inspiration for January!

When and why did you start running?

I started running when I was 8 years old with my Mom. She said that she saw I had an aptitude for it – maybe in the obstacle courses we made running laps around our house. I was homeschooled, so I guess that counted for my PE. I played some other sports with our homeschool teams, but was basically only good at being aggressive and fouling out every basketball game.

In high school, I competed modestly well at cross country, winning JV races, but nothing special. I remember watching the elite races at big meets, girls in the lead with their French braids flying behind them, and thinking they were breathing some rarefied air. I had no idea that I could be up there racing with them in a few more years!

Right before my senior year of high school, I happened to meet a local track coach, Chris Schrader, who showed me my potential as a competitive runner. We trained over the summer and won a few races that fall, which is when I learned I could compete in college. I ran track at Baylor, and after college I moved back home to Austin and joined Rogue Athletic Club for three seasons.

Describe your first half marathon or marathon race experience. What did it mean to you?

My first marathon was the Tunnel Vision Marathon in Seattle last August. It was a smallish race that takes place on a rail trail that drops 2000 feet in a gentle, continuous downhill. There’s beautiful mountainous views with scenic bridge crossings and lots of shade. The spectators are almost nowhere to be seen, but my husband ran the whole thing with me and there were decent pace groups so I didn’t feel lonely. I ran 3 hours, 8 minutes. I was already signed up for the California International Marathon a few months later, and I wanted to use this race to find out what happens to your body when you try to go for a 26 mile run!

The backstory to that race was the best part. 2017 was a special year for me where I took responsibility for my running and owning my journey 100%. Rogue Athletic Club had ended in 2016, so this was the first year that I was training on my own. I’d always been on teams before, and while the idea of competing for something bigger than yourself is nice in theory, it’s a copout that doesn’t force you to find your purpose and face up to why you’re really going for something.

When I signed up for CIM, I was trapped in an injury cycle and feeling sorry for myself. Running a hard, fast CIM was far enough away that it was motivating, but it didn’t feel real. Future Cate could handle that. Probably. I didn’t tell many of my friends that I was signed up, particularly Rogues, because the idea of going for it was too big and scary.

In April I put together 5 weeks of healthy running (25 miles per week), a feat that had evaded me the past six months, and I started to think about going for a BQ so I could run Boston with Jake in 2018. He had qualified the year before, and CIM was outside the qualifying window. I found the Tunnel Vision race online and chose it for the course and location. I figured even if I bombed the marathon it would be fun to visit Seattle.

During the summer, I trained really well and got my mileage up to 45 miles per week. I even ran an 18 mile long run, which I was so sure would get me “caught” by friends that I secretly ran a few miles early and didn’t upload the run on Strava.

I ran the Tunnel Vision race conservatively, with Jake pacing me and counseling me not to get too excited. I didn’t compete, just let the race flow and had fun. We ran a 6 minute negative split and had a blast. I knew the 8:00 pace that I needed to hit for the BQ (3:35) was easy for me, but I didn’t know if I was fit enough to run 26 miles at that pace. Jake was undertrained for this effort, only doing a 15 mile long run a few weeks out. We shouldn’t have worried, but maybe that’s how the race ended up feeling so easy. We kept looking at each other and the scenery in disbelief saying “Is this real? This is too good. Are we really doing this? How do we still feel so good? Man. We are awesome.”

The only thing that could have made the experience better would have been having some Rogues there to celebrate with. But posting about it on my Instagram and Facebook was a good substitute. Watching the cascades of surprised comments from friends was really satisfying. Got ‘em! Normally I think going public with a goal is the way to go, but in this case, it freed me up to make my own expectations. I don’t think I was strong enough to name the goal in public and stand by it, so doing it privately was motivating.

After that I got to share that I was going for my first hard marathon at CIM, and having the Rogue support behind me was really helpful.

What has been your biggest running-related challenge and how did you overcome it?

After my last year of undergrad, I had one last season of eligibility to compete in track, in 2013. I started grad school, and promptly developed plantar fasciitis that turned into a stress fracture. I had to take six months off running, forfeiting that season. This was obviously a sign that I was too attached to running, but it really derailed me mentally. Combined with grad school being harder than I thought and the pressure to decide “what’s next” with life as a twenty-something, I got depressed. I tried cycling with Baylor’s club team for a while, but I got less and less involved there while waiting for the injury to heal. I eventually quit working out at all. I saw my dream of grabbing an All-American award and joining a pro team getting further and further out of reach. I was only sleeping a few hours a night, partied more, and got behind in my classes.

I’d like to say that I developed a new mental strength that enabled me to be OK without running, but I really only started feeling better when I finally got out for a few jogs. I was able to go for 3 mile run-walks in April, and took momentum from that to quit going out on weekends and finish up the semester. I got hired at Rogue that summer and started getting plugged in here, then graduated that fall. I got to join Rogue Athletic Club, as slow and out of shape as I was, and I met my soon-to-be husband. I had a few very solid plans for the future and started hitting my stride along with some speedy workouts and races again the next year.

I guess what I learned about “overcoming” through that experience was that all bad times end eventually. I learned a lot of empathy for people and mental health struggles. I learned patience. And that was my first lesson about writing your own life narrative and ascribing your own value to your situation.

What has been your biggest running achievement, or defining moment since you started?

The biggest defining moment was when I took second place in the Texas Relays mile race as a high school senior. It’s a really competitive race, like a state meet preview that combines runners from every division. The year before, I’d sat in the stands watching the meet. This year, I not only qualified but raced my way to a new PR, broke 5:00 for the first time, and showed the rest of the state of Texas that I belonged.

My more recent races are a lot more important to me now, but this changed the course of what I thought I could do with running.

What’s next?

In 2018, I’m racing the Austin Half and the Boston Marathon. I’d like to race either CIM in December, or the 2019 Houston Marathon. I want to compete at the Olympic Trials Marathon in 2020, and I’ll have to qualify for that first by running a marathon in 2:45 or better. I did 2:54 at CIM last month, so this goal is extremely realistic for me. I thought that I could run at the Trials for a while now, and I’m excited that the time to chase this goal is finally now. I’m training with Chris McClung in The Morning Show, and we have a strategic plan that’ll develop the marathon legs gradually. I only averaged 35 miles per week for my CIM training block, so I know there is a lot of room to improve. I can’t wait to go after these goals and I’m so happy that Rogue is still part of my life after finding it four years ago.

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