NAZ Elite This Week: Bruce battles her way back to U.S. Marathon Team Trials
NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario left the decision up to his marathoners.
While Stephanie Bruce and Aliphine Tuliamuk decided to stay in Flagstaff to continue their training, teammates Scott Fauble, Scott Smith, Kellyn Taylor and Sid Vaughn traveled to Orlando.
Each piece of preparation and each choice seems to be magnified in importance as the Olympic Marathon Trials approach, now sitting just a little over a week away.
The idea of going to Orlando was to get the runners used to the heat and humidity they could potentially face on Feb. 29 in Atlanta, the location of the Trials this cycle.
“We’ll feel even that much more prepared,” Rosario said.
While in Flagstaff together, the group of marathoners took on hills on Lake Mary Road often, getting ready for an Atlanta race full of elevation ups and downs.
“We’ve really gotten good, I believe, at not worrying so much about each exact split but feeling just what marathon effort feels like,” Rosario said. “So when we are in Atlanta and we are not relying on the watch, but just racing, I think our internal systems, our internal data if you will, will be really honed in.”
Bruce has a lot of files mentally stored when it comes to racing, including a did not finish result in the 2012 Marathon Team Trials.
But that fear of not finishing again, Rosario assured, isn’t a virus in Bruce’s data banks any longer. That’s because a lot of success has followed, the kind that builds up confidence.
“It’s been a steady rise across all distances, and that only continues,” Rosario said.
Since 2012, Bruce joined NAZ Elite as one of its initial members in 2014, Bruce has won two national championships at two different distances and produced solid showings at each marathon she competed in while with her team. That’s just a few of the accomplishments, as she also set PRs in 2019 at 5,000 meters, the half marathon and marathon.
“She’s definitely in the best shape of her life,” Rosario said.
Bruce, 36, also might be more mentally fit than ever, as Rosario said she is one of the best runners he knows at getting the most out of their bodies come race day.
“A lot of people, one of the things they fear is that they can’t do that and that they won’t run their best,” Rosario said. “She doesn’t fear that because she’s run her best many, many times now, especially on big stages. So she actually looks forward to it, and any nerves that she might have are just excitement nerves, not nerves from fear.”
Bruce also knows she has to do more in order to get the most out of her body than other runners, so she hired a nutritionist from New York, according to Rosario, to help her with her diet and her celiac disease, which affects how the body absorbs fuel from food.
“That says right there the level of importance she is putting on this race,” Rosario said.
Bruce owns the team’s fifth-fastest marathon time on the women’s side at 2:27:47, which she clocked in Chicago in October. The only runners with NAZ Elite with better times at the distance are Taylor and Tuliamuk. Bruce also owns the 12th-fastest time for this Olympic cycle among United States women, with Tuliamuk, Desiree Linden and Molly Huddle just ahead of her on that list.
Bruce’s training segment has been at high level and she’s been “almost stride for stride with Kellyn and Aliphine the whole way,” Rosario said. “So there is no reason for me to believe that she won’t race in that same manner.”
Now it’s up to her to make the decision to win and stick with it.
Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AZDS_Hartman.