Training for a Half-Heptathlon at 31-Years-Old

A Little Backstory

On June 18th I participated in my first “pre-masters” track and field meet in Meridian Mississippi. On the surface, this was just another long track meet on a very hot day at a very old high school with terrible bathroom access. To me, this track meet was so much more. For one, I spent about 10 weeks preparing for the big day. For two, I was surrounded by friends and family who truly love me more than I deserve on meet day. More than I deserve because who on planet earth would volunteer to go to a track meet in the conditions described previously?

Now, track and field isn’t a new sport for me. I started doing track when I was in 7th grade and quickly fell in love with the field events. I loved the explosiveness of throwing and the feeling of flying when going over a bar. My mom would tell you that I loved “not running” and that’s probably true too. In my senior year, I traded my dream of playing college basketball for the reality of a track and field scholarship. At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, I was considered a “multi.” A multi in track and field is exactly what it sounds like, you do multiple events. We also have something called a heptathlon in women’s track and field. This is when an athlete competes in seven track and field events: 100m hurdles, 200m dash, 800m run, high jump, javelin, shot put, and long jump. Heptathletes are often multis, but multi’s don’t always do heptathlons.

Whew, are you following me? Multis typically compete in an array of events–several that don’t complement each other. Like the weight throw and pole vault, for example. My best events were javelin and the high jump. However, I competed in just about every field event that I possibly could at our conference and regional meets in order to score points for our team. Scoring is 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. First place gets 10 points and eighth place gets one point. Only the top eight athletes per event score points. That being said, I would pole vault at meets where I could get in the top eight. One of my teammates who was an amazing pole vaulter would basically put me through pole vault boot camp a month before our conference meet. Was it pretty? No. Did it work? Yes. Some might call this crazy, but we did win our conference meet during my senior year! #everypointcounts

Many of you know the story of how I tore my left ACL while throwing the javelin. If you don’t, you’ll hear it one day. When I was rehabbing through my injury, I created an anonymous Twitter account @track_probs. For the longest time, I used that as an interface between the training room where I was doing all of my rehab and the thousands of Trackletes (track athletes) around the world that followed @track_probs. I am actually crossposting this on my Track Probs Twitter and blog (the last time I posted here I was 27). Did you know the name Physiolete was actually kind of born from the word Tracklete..discovered on @track_probs? Story for another day.

Shameless plug, if you are “still on” Twitter, like my husband, follow me @track_probs! If you are seeing this on Twitter follow us on Instagram at PhysioletePT.

The transition from Half Marathon to “Half Heptathlon-ish”

Before we talk about my training for the track meet, let’s talk about the transition. Every year since we started Physiolete Therapy and Performance, Lauren Buckalew and I have led a Tuscaloosa Half Marathon training group. We call ourselves the Physiolete Fleet. During the pandemic in 2021, we led a virtual half marathon and 5k training group, we added the 5k because I was 3 months postpartum and quite frankly 3.1 miles was about all I could muster up. 2020 and 2021 were hard years for many of us and to save my word count (yes I have a lot more to say) I’ll leave you with my exercise mantra for those years: “I’m here.” This was a 180 from pre-mom Nadia who worked out 6 days a week and felt horrible if she missed a day in the gym. In 2022 we were back to an in-person training group and I set a big goal of pushing my one-year-old daughter in the Bob Stroller for race day. I did all but two long runs without her, she was my “rabbit” for training. A rabbit in the running world is a pacemaker. Pushing her was my excuse for running at the speed of “Hi, I’m here today!” Because regardless of if I pushed her or not, my pace wouldn’t have changed. After stressing for a week about how I was going to sneak a stroller into the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon (apparently the rule book had a statement about no strollers), Rory came down with a fever the night before race day. As much as I wanted to wake her up at five in the morning and make her run with me, I decided she probably needed the rest. I told Lauren since I didn’t have Rory I wanted to try to set a personal record (PR). Prior to 2022, I had run two half marathons: my first one for my bachelorette party and my second one when I found out I was pregnant a week later. That morning I got overconfident and boldly told Lauren I wanted to run it in under two hours. Lauren, who is also a Sports Physical Therapist and avid runner (she’s run a few sub-two-hour half marathons) talked me out of my crazy goal, citing it would be near impossible for me to shave a whole minute off of my average mile time, times 13.1 miles. She has always been a voice of wisdom in my life and I am very thankful we just took my pace from “I’m here” to “I’M STILL HERE!” Thanks to Lauren, I did break my previous half marathon record.

Since I was on a “Half” roll, the night of the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon I decided I would sign up for either a Half Ironman or a “Half-Heptathlon.” After discussing my lack of swimming abilities with several people, I determined I would go with three or four of the seven events in the Heptathlon. I was in between the Alabama State Games in Dothan and the Mississippi State Games in Meridian. I opted for Mississippi because it was much closer to my home base. As a Sports Physical Therapist, I knew this “comeback” was going to take more than my own knowledge and preparation. That night I enlisted a dietician, a strength and conditioning coach, and a pole vault coach,

Nutrition – Caroline Brantley

I always use training for a half marathon as an excuse to literally eat whatever, whenever. When you are running four days a week and burning so many calories, you can get away with a little more than usual. This is not healthy or correct, which is exactly why I called my friend Caroline Brantley to help prepare for my track meet. Caroline is getting her Ph.D. in nutrition at The University of Alabama.

Quick PSA. Things that I know about eating and performance now, that I wish I knew when I was in college.

First, the ugly side of nutrition and performance

  • Disordered eating may give you short-term performance gains, but long term it creates issues that can be detrimental to your health.
  • Severely restricting calorie intake may help you drop weight, but it’s not sustainable and it’s dangerous.
  • Exercise Bulimia, overexercising to burn calories, doesn’t make you a better athlete–it makes you sick.

Now, the bright side of nutrition and performance

  • Food is fuel for your body, cars don’t run on empty and neither do people
  • Good nutrition improves body composition, simply put: you can weigh more and look/feel better than you do at a lower weight
  • Good nutrition and proper rest are precursors to peak performance

I wish I knew this in college because at that time my fear of gaining weight from lifting heavy stood in the way of unlocked potential. Fast forward to now, after many years of educating myself on the benefits of proper nutrition, I understand that food and weight training are performance-enhancing and LEGAL!

When I met with Caroline my sole goal was to improve my muscle mass. After training for the half marathon I was running on empty. Caroline helped me put together a plan to increase my overall calorie intake, particularly increasing protein. After 10 weeks of consciously eating more throughout the day and properly timing carbs before workouts and proteins after, I gained two pounds of muscle and weighed exactly the same! Not going to lie, I was thankful to have my quads back for summer. This is just a tiny example of how you can look different regardless of what the scale says.

If you are a competitive athlete struggling with disordered eating, you should 100% talk to a Sports Medicine Doctor and consider finding a Sports Dietician, like Caroline. Do it now. Before the stress fractures, before the missed opportunities and performances, before the anxiety, before it’s too late.

Follow Caroline Brantley on Instagram.

Strength and Conditioning – Casey Metoyer

Nutrition is an excellent segue into Strength and Conditioning. Similar to Nutrition, Strength and Conditioning has a whole field of study! People literally go to college and get their bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or even a Ph.D. in subjects that fall under the umbrella of “Strength and Conditioning.” I preface this section with, there is no way on planet earth I will cover everything you need to know about Strength and Conditioning in this section, but I can promise you one thing–if you are a competitive athlete, you need a Strength and Conditioning (S&C) Coach.

This looks different for people in all walks of life too, of course. If you are a college athlete, more than likely you have someone with their Certified Strength and Conditioning Speciality (CSCS) strategically planning all of your workouts for an entire year. If you are a middle or high school athlete, you may have access to a S&C Coach either at your school or in your town. Unfortunately, not every athlete has access to an actual S&C Coach because of location or financial reasons. If this is the case, there are great resources on the internet for coaches, parents, and athletes to read and watch to at least establish some form of programming.

I am a Sports Physical Therapist. I specialize in returning athletes back to sports. A lot of times there is crossover during the period where a client is finishing with me and getting back to their sport where the workouts may start looking like something a S&C Coach would assign, but I am not a S&C Coach. This is why I called my friend Casey Metoyer to help me prepare for my track meet. Casey has over a decade of experience with Strength and Conditioning and is getting his Ph.D. in Performance Science at The University of Alabama. When Casey interviewed me about my goals and equipment list, I literally said: I need to be able to work out in my garage, with minimal equipment and minimal time. My goals were to not get injured and to look somewhat graceful doing my events. Casey took my needs and customized 10 weeks of programming to fit not only my unique goals but also prepare me for the events I would be performing at in the Mississippi State Games. Casey is the perfect example of what to do when you say you don’t have physical access to a S&C Coach. He used an app called True Coach to program all of my workouts, monitored my progress, and updated my exercises weekly to ensure we were appropriately training.

On weeks that I didn’t feel good, he helped me figure out if I needed to lower my weight or just rest. On weeks I felt great, he encouraged me to push myself further. At the end of the day (or beginning I should say, most of my workouts were at 5 am) I didn’t care what Casey told me to do, I was just so thankful he had a plan! Between Casey’s workouts and Caroline’s nutrition advice I was able to gain two pounds of muscle, improve my overall power, and most importantly, I did not get injured during my short season!

Follow Casey Metoyer on Instagram.

Pole Vault – Britainy Short

Thankfully, Coach Britainy didn’t make me submit any videos of my previous pole vaulting form as an application for lessons with her and she cheerfully took me on as one of her oldest athletes.

Actual image of me praying to get over a bar at an indoor track meet
Actual image of me praying to get over a bar at an indoor track meet

Coach Britainy pole vaulted at The University of Alabama and is now the owner of Elevate Academy. She coaches not only college pole vaulters at Alabama, but also athletes of all ages from around the state. Pole vault is often one of those events that holds so much untapped potential because many schools don’t have the proper equipment or coaching to safely teach their athletes how to vault. At Elevate Pole Vault, Coach Britainy removes that barrier by providing not only her excellent athlete and coaching experience but also access to safe pole vaulting and training equipment.

I LOL-ed at our first practice. Coach Britainy told me that she thought I might be running a little slow down the runway because I was still recovering from the half marathon. I told her this was a nice excuse for the day, but when she learned that I am actually just slow I wouldn’t be able to use the half marathon as an excuse any longer. We started with “grass plants” which is literally running with your pole, planting, and working on rowing your arms. I almost sprained my ankle doing this as a warm-up. I immediately started to question some of my life decisions.

At the end of each lesson, Coach Britainy would take a video of me going down the runway. When I look back at all of these videos from our first practice to our last, it’s really unbelievable. I told her that I wished I had a video of my “vaulting” in college so that I could show her just how terrible I actually was at this event–fortunately I must not have allowed anyone to video me because I couldn’t find any evidence of what I had been telling her all along. Working with Coach Britainy opened my eyes to focus on the basics. Prior to working with Coach Britainy, I only wanted to get over a bar. She broke everything down from the way I ran down the runway to the way my toes should point when I was upside down. She creatively used drills on the rings, track, and even in my garage to help improve my form. Everybody wants to fly gracefully over a bar and set a PR, but not everyone wants to grass vault for 20 minutes in 102-degree heat. Kobe Bryant once said, “Why do you think I’m the best in the world? Because I never get bored with the basics.” While I am far from being anywhere near Kobe in the track and field arena, I am a better pole vaulter because of Coach B and my grass vaults.

Follow Coach Britainy Shorter on Instagram.

Meet Day

Meet day at the Mississippi State games was a success! I hit my goals of not getting injured and looking somewhat graceful. I hadn’t actually practiced shot put until the day of the meet, but I threw further than my age in feet. I didn’t clear 4’10” in the high jump, but I did clear 4’8.” It was also priceless seeing my 65-year-old mom showing me how to arch my back on my last attempt at 4’10.” When I reminded myself that I practiced high jump only one time a week, ran a small business, and helped a 19-month-old human survive over the last 10 weeks I felt a little better. Last, but not least, I cleared 7’6” in the pole vault. To many, this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but to me, this was my biggest victory. I’m afraid of heights and being injured, especially now that I am a physical therapist. The more I pole vaulted, the more worried I grew–why was I putting myself through this? I was one jump away from breaking my ankle, I just knew it! However, I stuck with the plan that all of my lovely friends gave me. I listened to Coach Britainy. I trusted the process and I kinda sorta looked like a pole vaulter going over that bar. When I turned going over the bar (something I never did in college) I could see Coach Britainy and all of my friends and family jumping for joy.

I think they'll enjoy the meets more when they are competeing!
I think they’ll enjoy the meets more when they are competing!
Getting some pole vault wisdom before the event
Getting some pole vault wisdom before the event
That moment when you find shade...
That moment when you find shade…

Final Thoughts

I am so thankful for Caroline Brantley for helping me get my nutrition back on track, Casey Metoyer for working with my little home gym to help me #getswolt, and Britainy Shorter for taking this adult pole vaulter seriously. Several mornings Rory woke up early and “helped me” finish my workouts AKA made them longer while I wrestled my jump rope back from her. Elliott and Rory often came to the track on Monday nights and we had a few jump-offs along the way. The track meet came and went, but the hard days, good times, and lessons along the way won’t be forgotten. Greg Anderson said, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”

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June 2015 Team Spotlight – West Plains High School


West Plains High School Men’s track and field team isn’t your average track squad.The team consists of 18 graduating seniors, 8 of which accepted track and field scholarships. The men have won 3 consecutive Ozark Championship titles, it’s no wonder the team’s motto is, “Take care of business.” This year at their district meet, the guys were down by 1 point going into the 4X4. A home stretch win helped them to secure the district championship and advance to the Missouri state meet.The men from West Plains placed 2nd as a team in Class 4 in the MSHSAA State Track Meet. When asked about this season, athlete Nghia Dinh  responded, “We had a heck of a season!” In conclusion the men finished up as Ozark Conference Champions, District Champions, Sectional Champions, and  had an amazing second place finish at the Missouri State Meet. Not only were they successful on the track, but they were also owning it in the classroom. West Plains Men’s Track and Field team have a team GPA of 3.7!


October 2014 Student Athlete of the Month – Jenna Fesemyer

It was just another #TrackFaceTuesday when this tweet came along

Jenna Pic

I clicked on Jenna’s twitter handle to make sure this picture was of the author of the tweet before I retweeted it. The picture sparked my curiosity, and the next thing I did was turn to Google. Numerous articles popped up about Jenna Fesemyer so I proceeded to read a couple of the articles before I got in touch with her myself. Instead of recapping what I read (and didn’t read—there were PLENTY of articles on Jenna’s incredible story), I decided to get Jenna’s take first hand.

Jenna was born with Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD). PFFD is a non-hereditary birth deficiency that varies among those who are born with it. In Jenna’s case, she was born with a shortened leg and without a hip joint. Not only was Jenna born with PFFD, but she also came into this world with a brother and a sister—she is a triplet! Jenna told me that growing up a triplet has been a lot of fun; she said, “My siblings have always been so supportive of me and everything I aspire to do! My brother, Jonathan, often acts as my sprint coach on the track. My sister is very good for moral support.” Just when you think the family connection couldn’t get any stronger, Jenna’s mom is the high school track coach and was Jenna’s gym teacher in elementary school—who Jenna says treated her just like everyone else. Jenna said her dreams also would not have been possible without her dad helping her overcome obstacles and motivate her to reach her goals. Growing up with such strong family roots, Jenna was taught that the word “can’t” was simply not allowed. “Not being able to do something is because you don’t put your mind to it,” Jenna said.


In the midst of my communication with Jenna, the only time she even mentioned PFFD was when she told me what it was and that she was born with it. The rest of my conversation with her was upbeat, encouraging, and truly amazing.

Jenna’s life completely changed in 2012. This was her first year in high school and competing on the varsity team in discus. In 2012, Ohio decided to have a meeting to add adaptive sports to the state track meet. Jenna was the pioneer to try to push this program forward for not only herself, but also all the other athletes with inconveniences across the state. 2013 marked the year of change. That was the year the first Ohio state track meet with wheelchair events was embedded into the high school track and field realm. Specific events were the 100m, 400m, 800m, and seated shot-put. Jenna competed with (not against) the men, not to mention she beat several of them, and set records that she still currently holds in the state of Ohio. In 2014, four other girls joined Jenna at the state competition where she defended all of her titles. In July Jenna went to the National Junior Disability Championships in Ames, Iowa. There she won the wheelchair racing events in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m. Not only did she dominate the racing events, she also made her mark in the field events. Jenna set the national record for the seated discus, placed second in the shot-put, and third in the Javelin!

Two weeks ago in early September, Jenna was rightfully announced an All-American in the 800m, seated shot-put, seated discus, and seated javelin. Along with that, she was named the Female Field Athlete of the Year. She recently was invited by the U.S. Paralympic team to train in Chula Vista, California for a throwing camp. In response to her time in California she said, “It was the best experience of my life. Going to this camp meant that I possibly have the potential to make it on Team USA for the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Along this whole journey, I have met some wonderful people. Those four girls I competed against at State were the most genuine and awe-inspiring girls. My family has really helped me with training and taking me to compete. I honestly can’t believe this is my life, I never dreamed of this!”


Jenna is currently a senior at Southeast High School. Not only is she a star on the track, but she is also the senior class president and she is a four year letterman for the golf team where she was named All-League this season. Jenna is looking to attend Penn State next year to study either Sports Administration or Nutrition with a minor in Spanish. Her ultimate goal is to join Team USA. When I asked her what her biggest challenge has been in her big pursuit, she said, “Balancing school and sports. Athletics is nothing without a good education to accommodate it.”

I hope the next time you are on the track or in the classroom and you say “I can’t,” you think of Jenna. Set your mind to it, work for it, and go get it. No excuses.

jenna 2

Jenna Fesemyer

Biggest #TrackProb – “Forgetting my running leg for practice!”

If you would like to nominate the next #TrackProbs Student Athlete of the Month, e-mail the athlete’s name and a brief summary of his or her character, athletic, and academic achievements to

July 2013 Student Athlete of the Month – Andy White


Picture courtesy of @jonchiang

Maya Angelou said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Rise above it. Those three words have defined Andy White’s track and field career. Andy will be a senior track and field athlete this coming fall at the University of British Columbia. The opportunity to compete collegiality at UBC and the fact that both of his parents attended the university all played a part in his decision to be a Thunderbird.

Track and field was never a foreign subject to Andy, as his mother was also a track and field athlete at UBC. “What brought me to track and field was ultimately my mom’s passion for the sport.” Secondly, a trip to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 sealed the deal for Andy. “I’m pretty sure this is where I caught the Olympic Bug. This is where I first discovered javelin. I remember hearing the throwers yell when they threw and I was sitting on the opposite part of the stadium from where they were throwing. It was so cool!”

In high school Andy competed in cross country, track and field, wrestling, rugby, and mountain bike racing. As a high school track and field athlete he competed in a variety of events such as the 100m dash, the 200m dash, the long jump, and the javelin. “I loved to do different events, and I think that also attracted me to the sport.” Despite Andy’s versatility, when he arrived at UBC he had to make a decision between long jump and javelin. “I picked the event that was most fun, javelin.”

Right before Andy began his career as a varsity athlete at the collegiate level, tragedy struck. He lost his mother, Linda, to breast cancer on January 14, 2010. “At this point in my life I truly felt that I was alone, and at times it really seemed pointless doing anything if my mom wasn’t going to be around.” With much love and support from his family and friends, Andy was able to muster up the strength to rise above adversity. “I did what my mom would want for me and has always wanted for me, I followed my dreams.” That year Andy was not only nominated for Rookie of the Year at UBC, but he also finished 4th at the NAIA Championships. “I got to see that with honoring her wish for me, I would be honoring her and the loving person she was for people.”


Picture courtesy of @jonchiang

Since 2010, Andy has made two additional trips (2011, 2013) to the NAIA championships. Unfortunately, due to yet another roadblock, those were not consecutive trips. In 2012, Andy encountered multiple ankle sprains that eventually turned into an unpleasant bone spur–an injury that required surgery to repair. Because he did not want to lose an entire year of competition to injury, he decided to red shirt. “It was definitely hard to stay away from competing, especially during a time when my training partner Curtis Moss was qualifying to compete for Canada in the Olympics.” Fortunately, Andy was able to make the best out of a less than fortunate situation. With a huge passion for photography and as a Visual Arts student at UBC, Andy was able to channel negative energy into something amazing during his red shirt season. He attended all of his team’s track meets that season and gained a new perspective on the incredible sport of track and field. He has since helped organize an annual photography show, The PRINTS Show, to raise money for an alternative cancer care organization–InspireHealth. So far he and his colleagues have raised over $6,000 in under two years. Another situation in Andy’s life where he could have given up, he again decided to rise above it.

2013 has proven to be one of Andy’s most successful track seasons so far. He received the NAIA Champions of Character Award and was ranked first going into the NAIA Championships. There he was the front runner during finals with a throw of 65.59m until his competition tossed his last javelin a little over one meter further. Although he didn’t finish with the gold, he still took an honorable silver and is more hungry than ever for his senior season. Andy competed in the Canadian Track & Field Championships in June 2013 where he threw a new personal best of 69.77m, placing 5th. Because Andy threw over the qualifying standard of 69m, he is hoping to make the Canadian team for the Francophone Games in Nice, France this September. One of Andy’s biggest dreams is to represent Canada in the Olympics. With a heart as big as his talent and his extraordinary ability to rise above whatever obstacle is in way, Andy White is most certainly on the road to success. In the mean time Andy will continue to train, study, and support his community. No doubt Andy’s mom is watching him, proud that her son is following his dreams.


Picture courtesy of @jonchiang

Biggest #TrackProb: When people ask me, “What sport do you play?” My response, “I play javelin.”

Follow Andy White and his journey @iPlayJavelin

Are you a student athlete who has overcome roadblocks in your career that have made you stronger? Do you know an athlete who has persevered and come out a better individual? If you would like to apply for the August TrackProbs Student Athlete of the Month or nominate someone, fill out the following form. Make sure to leave a current email address and factual information (with sources that can be verified) about the athlete being nominated in the comment box. The student athlete must be in good academic AND athletic standing, be sure to provide information that confirms this.