It was apparent this was coming, right? This woman was all over my Rock ‘n’ Roll recap, so the inspiration was already foreshadowed and if you didn’t read the last post, then prepare to be inspired.
Jessica and I met on a set of commercial we were doing for some insurance company. I never actual saw the final cut, but then again, that happens quite frequently. We were actually placed in the roles of runners, which is why it made so much sense. I was in a conversation about running and all of the sudden, I heard this upbeat, sultry voice from behind me enter into the conversation. I turned around to see this tall, athletically thin, beautiful blond woman behind me. Her hair in a ponytail, wearing a Newton visor and radiating the intense positive aura all around her. There was more to this attraction then the minimalistic pure blood American male to the tall, stunningly gorgeous, platinum blond female(See? I am not denying the obvious). The energy radiating from this woman was intense.
We conversed in detail all the while waiting for the lighting to be rigged, and shots set up. I came to find her life as intoxicating as Jessica herself. This woman is an Elite Runner holding course records in the Gasparilla Half-Marathon, St. Pete Women’s Half-Marathon and the St. Pete Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon. As of last year she began competing in triathlon only to make it to Las Vegas for the 70.3 World Championships her first year. If that wasn’t enough, she also coaches other elite athletes, has her own marketing company, and recently created her own Not-for-profit. She is committed to giving back.
As I have continued to attempt climb inside her head and soul to try and understand what drives her, I have yet to hear her utter a negative word about anything or anyone. She truly believes in winning not only the race, but in life itself. If there is ever the opportunity to meet this unbelievable athlete and woman, do so. Before you know it, you will be winning to. Let me introduce you to my good friend, Jessica Crate.
Place of Birth:
Victoria, British Columbia CANADA
Place growing up: Lived all over the US…. Oregon, California, Wisconsin, NY during Elementary School years.
High School: Sarnia, Ontario CANADA
High School sports: EVERYTHING! Lol…. I think I tried out for and was on every team! Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, Softball, Gymnastics, Swimming, Dance, Cheerleading, Track & Field, Cross-country, I even dabbled in Girls Rugby (big mistake-haha).
College: Arizona State for 2 years studying Exercise Science and Kinesiology and was Academic and Varsity Scholar athlete for Track and XC(Cross Country) both years.
College Sports: Track and XC, but also dabbled in Soccer, Yoga, Strength training and swimming.Transferred to Florida State University for my last 2 years to pursue Pre- Medical Studies and continued my Minors in Psychology and French. Also ran on the Varsity Track and XC Teams and made it to National Championships all 4 collegiate years. 🙂
Other Sports: I currently work out 2-3 times daily and mix up my training with cycling, running, swimming, yoga, P90X, SUP (stand up paddleboarding), surfing, adventure/mud racing, volleyball, waterskiing, snowboarding…. You name it!
When was it you started competing and why?
I was born a competitor and my Mom tells me I literally came into this world “running” as I was born 1 month pre-mature. Clearly I was eager to get moving at an early age 😉
I grew up in a very athletic family, so “friendly competition” has been a part of my life since my early years. I love to win and have a burning desire for change for the better. Thus, I’m always looking to improve and hone my skills.
What is it that keeps you running after all of this time?
I absolutely LOVE a challenge, I love growing, running is a part of me, and a HUGE part of my life, friendships, relationships and what I do. Others inspire me to KEEP running and in return I hope to inspire others in the process.
In our private conversations you have basically told me that this year you have decided to give back. How did that come about?
I have been overseas on several missions trips and have had the privilege of traveling the
world for racing, training and competing. Being awarded a full-ride scholarship to two D1 Schools for both athletics and academics was not only a blessing, but I felt it a responsibility to essentially “Give Back” all that had been given to me. Upon graduating from college, I partnered with Olympic athlete, Jon Rankin, to launch our own Non-profit organization entitled “Giving Athletics, Inc”, who’s mission is to “Inspire Social change through athletic participation.” It has been so rewarding to help others by fitting them with clothes and shoes that allow them to participate in sports and gain an education. 🙂
If you could give me one adjective to describe the feeling you get when you are working what would it be?
Exhilaration, FREEDOM, accomplishment, energy!
When and why did you start competing in triathlon?
Back in April 2011, I had been training hard to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the Marathon. I
had raced several marathons already, but my coach believed I was ready based on my workouts and marathon times. However, at mile 14, I side- stepped around some runners at a water station and snapped my foot. The adrenaline, high pain tolerance and my will to finish wouldn’t let me quit, so I ran the last 12.2 miles on a broken foot. I requalified for Boston, but obviously did more damage to my foot by continuing the race. My Olympic Trials dreams were shattered and I was now in a boot, unable to run. I began physical therapy and realized that I was going to go crazy if I couldn’t run, so I picked up swimming and cycling. Long story short, I started sprint triathlons, qualified for USAT Age Group Nationals in the ITU distance and soon I was embarking on tri training. I ended up qualifying for the USAT ITU World Championships and setting new goals, like Ironman 70.3. Now, here I am! Runner turned Triathlete 😉
What projects are involved with besides running races?
I currently own a marketing company “CRATE, Inc.”, coach and train athletes in addition to my training, while working with a neutraceutical company, LifeVantage. I have found my purpose and passion in life and live to lead a legacy by coaching, training and inspiring others to achieve their goals and dreams.
What would you say is your greatest obstacle you ever overcame
Breaking my foot in the Boston marathon, overcoming that injury and breaking onto the triathlon scene to qualify for 2 World Championships last year as well as set 3 course records in half marathons throughout the state of Florida.
What is your greatest victory?
My greatest victory is overcoming so many failures to continue succeeding. I firmly believe, and as the most successful people will tell you, you have to fail FORWARD. The faster you fail, the quicker you’ll succeed.
What are you favorite quotes?
My business partners and teammates know my favorite slogans, amongst many “Jessica-isms” are: “K.I.S.S.” (Keep it simple silly), “Relax, Smile and Breathe”, “Live life to the fullest”, “Go BIG or go home!”
If you’d like more information on where she will be next or to sign up for a training session, contact her at [email protected]
There are people out there that take everything in stride and just let the world unfold around them, and there are people who have decided there is so much negativity in the world it is much easier to be oblivious to everything. Either way, in my opinion, if it makes you happy, then do it. There are a few people out there, that have a passion for making the world a better place. There are those who find one cause and passionately support it, which is phenomenal, but a rare few people out there are able to spread their power of influence, courage, and passion to every cause, organization and individual in need they can. My friend Ben is one of those people.
Before I tell you about his cool “Run for Cause” fun runs, or the races he has organized and the races coming up, let me tell you about Ben Mena the runner. Ben and I met through friends from my tri-club the A-Train and some friends from the Run Progressive track workouts. I knew of him and knew he was fast, but that didn’t justify what I saw when I first ran with him. I am amazed at people who can run a marathon with 7:30 average per mile pace. This guy hammers through half-marathons in under 6-minute miles and then will turn around and bike for 20 without skipping a beat.
My favorite memory of watching Ben was actually a cycling workout. Ben was coerced into joining us and Pete (Tribute #2) let him borrow his road bike. This bike had pedal cages on it because Ben didn’t have cycling shoes or cleats and this was going to be his first ride. Well, Ben goes out in front with the “A” group and is really strong. We all thought, “OK, we will just hang back here and watch him die out and pick him up at the turnaround.” He reached the turnaround and just kept going and beat us all. First time out! A few weeks later he decides to do a duathlon in Orlando for the first time and he finishes first, overall. Ben’s VO2 max is off the charts. Maybe that is why he continues to help those in need, with a VO2 max that high, his heart is huge.
Ben organizes a monthly fun run in Brandon, Florida that gives to a different charity each month. I have been running in every one since July and I have seen no less than 50 people at any of them. He also is part of a duo with Beth Shaw (Dis-com-BOB-ulated Running), of which they have successfully completed their first race called the Shape Up for Summer 5k and now they have another one coming up called the Corporate 5k in downtown Tampa. The Shape Up for Summer 5k had well over 750 runners which is well over what they expected and as I used the race as a culmination runs for my clientele, let me just say it was one of the best organized 5k runs I had participated in. Beth and Ben did a really amazing job, so if you find a race organized by MenaShaw Races, you can be sure to have a great experience.
With that being said, Ben has another race he has organized and this one has an interesting spin on it while helping out some people that can really use it. I will let him tell you in his own words. Let me introduce, Benjamin Mena.
Benjamin (Ben) Mena
Birthdate: 8/25/83 – Virgo
Place of Birth: Virginia Beach, VA
Place growing up: Charleston SC and Bremerton, WA
High School: Cocoa Beach High
High School sports: Soccer, Cross Country, Track
College: University of Central Florida
College Sports: Cross Country, Track
Other Sports: Ummmm….. nope
I usually describe you as one of the fastest runners in the Tampa Bay area. What started you running?
I used to be the guy that would make fun of the runners and throw stuff at them. (in HS). I thought running was dumb and pointless. So after a win-less soccer season, the soccer girls tried to convince me to run cross country to prep for soccer… I said yeah right, that’s dumb… their response was just run behind us. What teenage guy can say no. after my first year running (JR year) I developed a passion for it and it quasi-took over my life.
JR year was just an introduction to the sport. Our workouts were easy as hell, but the one thing I loved my coach for (she was hot also) she taught us all how to make running fun and enjoyable. My Sr year of high school we had a new coach. She had a background as a professional runner, so she knew her stuff. She helped give me the dream of being a college athlete. At that point, I wasn’t good enough for any college team but I worked my ass off as hard as I could. I had the one gift that every coach wants in their athlete. Burning desire to make it.
The summer before college was pretty crazy. I was working 5 jobs to try to get ready for college (until my car died) then I had to drop my job at Publix [Supermarket]because it was a 20-mile bike ride each way). I would bike to my different jobs, then get home and run and then would be able to start hanging out with friends after 11 pm. During that time I would never miss a run no matter how bad I wanted to have fun.
I still to this day don’t know why coach chose me out of all the other walk-ons.. but I am thankful she did. I ran with my heart and I knew I had more to prove that everyone that came in on scholarships. (I also didn’t have a car… so I got a lot more miles in than most people. Outside all the running I was walking 5-14 miles a day to and from, and around school) By the end of the first season, I was granted an athletic scholarship and the following year I was team captain…
|Ben doing what he does best|
What and When was your first 5k time? What and when was your fastest 5k time?
Year of high school. I don’t remember the time but I was low 20s, but my fastest was 15:20 in college.
What kind of workouts did you do to get that fast?
You don’t want to know the schedule. But my favorite workout was mile repeats!
What was your average weekly mileage?
60-80 was the average. During the summer we would crank it up for base building. My highest week was 112 and 90% of those miles were done along the Appalachian Trail.
I mentioned above that you hold a monthly fun run named “Run for a Cause” at the Cork & Olive in Brandon. How did that come about?
Just had the idea while at the bar. I love hosting fun events for people… and it came about from there. our first event I was hoping for 10 people… and over 50 ended up showing up.
How many different charities have you hosted?
7 or 8 now
If someone had a cause they would like to have hosted at one of your events what is the best way to contact you? Best is through FaceBook.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has devastated the country. You chose to act quickly and do something about it by hosting this Virtual Run. Can you give the details?
This is a virtual half-marathon and virtual 5K. Since it is virtual, you can complete it anywhere in the world. You can run, walk, swim, bike, anything you like, and you can complete the 13.1 miles or 5K all at once, over the course of a week, or whenever you can. Just complete all miles between now and Jan 31st. This is on the honor system – you do not have to report your miles.
The registration fee for the Half Marathon is $30.
Register Here: http://www.active.com/half-marathon/tampa-fl/sandy-hook-elementary-memorial-half-marathon-and-5k-2013
Event Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/186264894845690/
What gave you the Idea?
I am on the board for a few charities, and I was already researching a way to do a virtual 5k. When the devastation occurred, I couldn’t sleep, so I mulled it over for a while and by Sunday I had it up on Active.com and Facebook and 200 people already had agreed to participate. Today on Facebook there are over 1800 that have committed and a little over 250 that have actually signed up on Active.com
It grew a lot faster than I thought. It went viral. I originally thought about a few people here in Tampa to raise around 1000 dollars, but now it is well over that.
|Beth and Ben|
Do you have any other races coming up?
Beth and I have been organizing a Tampa Bay Corporate 5K.
This is an event where the runners choose one of the 4 charities that this race will give back too. Every person that registers for the race will get a vote (fill in the blank) for the charity of their choice. The charity with the most votes will receive a portion of the proceeds along with Little Things for Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis (Tampa Chapter), and Operation Helping Hand.
You can get more details on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/131275133693630
or on the event website: http://www.tampacorporate5k.com/
|Ben and his fiance Jennifer|
|Ben and the Goof|
I mentioned yesterday I am planning on having a regular column called Tribute Tuesday where I will select someone in my life who has had a positive influence on me in some way or another. Most of the time these people will have coached to increase my athletic prowess (which is actually pretty easy), challenge me intellectually (which isn’t really all that hard either), and/or inspire me to be a better human being. My first Tribute Tuesday subject has done all three. With no further ado I would like to introduce my coach, and friend; Amy Eck.
This is a kind of crazy picture of her, but it does really give the best possible introduction to her personality. She is a wild, and free spirit with the most positive outlook on life I have ever known in a human being. She refuses to believe there are limits to anyone’s potential, including her own. Just to give you an idea, this woman has competed in the Kona Ironman World Championships, the World Xterra World Championships, numerous ultra running and mountain biking events, and was a competitive wrestler in high school and college (yes I said wrestler). I credit her incredible coaching to my 47 minute reduction in time for my PR at Ironman Augusta 70.3. There is nothing Amy cannot do and her energy is uber-contagious. She gets so excited when she is able to help and/or see someone succeeding that she turns bright red. I cannot believe she doesn’t get muscle cramps in her cheeks.
Now she and her husband Erik are training for her biggest event ever, the birth of their first child. As you can see her pregnancy hasn’t taken an ounce of her positive energy away. She continues to enjoy life and even with all that drag she still beats both me and her husband in the pool. Obviously she doesn’t let anything conquer her competitive side. She was brought here to Florida due to Erik’s mobilization as a Reserve Navy Officer to CENTCOM, so the only negative thing I can possibly say about Amy is that she will be leaving to return to her home and coaching practice in Hawaii. (It was impossible to find a photo of her where she looks “normal”. In most of the pictures she is either in a superhero costume or in race clothes, but it’s…well…it’s Amy)
Now when I said that she has also inspired me to be a better person, she does this by example. This is a woman whom rode a mountain bike for 10 days through Peru to do missionary work, and she did it for her honeymoon! Talk about combining all her loves; Erik, mountain biking, helping others and God. The stories she tells of that trip are absolutely amazing.
I had a chance to ask my friend some questions that I thought might give some insight to one of my most favorite people in the world, and here is what she had to say;
Name: Amy Ruth Eck (Bennett)
DOB: 5 March 1978, Pisces
POB: Royal Oak, Michigan (Ford Baby)
Grew up in: Arlington, Texas
High School: Arlington High School
High School Activities: Cheerleading, Wrestling, Cross Country, Track, Soccer, FFA, JROTC
College: United States Merchant Marine Academy
College Sports: Cheerleading, Wrestling, Cross Country, Sailing
When and why did you start competing in triathlon? (I) Started triathlon in Hawaii with the motivation of my knee surgeon Dr. Bottoni who thought it would be better than straight running and my crazy friend Marcy Fleming. Went to watch the XTERRA World Championships and loved the LIVE MORE and family atmosphere of XTERRA. Came home and bought a mountain bike! Within a year I was racing the Hawaii 70.3 and the XTERRA World Championships. What is one thing you love most about triathlon? I love the people! Triathlon is all about challenging your body with a group of friends around the beautiful playground of earth. I know that you run an Xterra Race in Hawaii – How did that start? Erik and I had wanted to do something fun for the community that challenged people to get outside. We also wanted to launch an event that would give us a way to raise money for charity. In 2009 we started Freedom Fest as part of our wedding weekend. 10k run, 20k mountain bike, off-road triathlon and then get married…it was awesome! The race has now grown to become an XTERRA World Championship qualifier with 500 people from 8 countries and 24 states. Come join us! www.xterrafreedomfest.com Do you enjoy Xterra more than road traithlon? Why? XTERRA does a great job of making every race challenging and fun. Off-road racing works you anaerobically and provides an adrenal rush that I am addicted to. I do enjoy mountain biking more than I enjoy road racing, but I am probably better at road racing. You have to spend a lot of time in the saddle on the road to get the proper base training for off-road. I think the major attraction of the off-road is you get to explore! You are away from cars, out in nature, and get a real chance to connect. It is also something my husband can do together! What was your favorite race and why? Favorite race…that is hard. Favorite marathon would be Boston, favorite on-road triathlon would be Wildflower, favorite Ironman would be Kona, favorite trail run would be our XTERRA Freedom Fest race, favorite off-road triathlon would be the old XTERRA Worlds course in Makena, favorite 100-miler would be Leadville, and favorite stage race would be La Ruta. A great race is determined by the terrain, the people it attracts, and the after party! Congrats on the baby! I know you are waiting for the surprise of the sex but do you have any names for either that are in your head? We have some names…possibly Bennett after my family or Hudson Taylor after my childhood hero. But we will have to see what the lil hero looks like when they come out! Do you plan on continuing in Xterra or Triathlon after the baby? Yes, I would love to get back to racing. I am signed up for the Frogman 5k Swim in JAN and the Princess Half in FEB. Will likely race Hawaii 70.3 and the XTERRA Mountain Man in hopes to travel to the World Championships. As a mom I have a new career path but I think having my child seeing me (compete) in sports is important. They need to know the importance of investing in yourself and in investing in others. Do you plan on bringing your child up around the sport? YES! As a USAT, USATF, and Newton Coach I think sports are great for children. They teach sportsmanship, discipline, commitment, failure, success, and they develop your mind, muscle, and soul. Watch out for lil Eck in the 2032 Summer Olympics! As your friend and client I always describe you as the most positive free spirit I have ever met willing to go out of her way to help people. How did you end up with this wonderful way of life without falling to the negativity of the world? Thank you Brad, I love people! I grew up in a wonderful Christian home where we were always helping people and it was contagious. I feel I have been very blessed and there is nothing better than to pass those blessing on to others. My favorite Proverb says, Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is within your power to act. Basically I have one life to live, one life to give. I take the responsibility to heart and try to share JOY with others in everything!
What is your favorite motivational quote?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
Is it possible to not love this woman? I think not.
(Amy’s coaches virtually as well using email, telephone and Training Peaks software. You can find more information at www.campbennett.com