Gabriele Anderson has only raced once so far this Olympic year. She had planned to race twice at the Drake relays but a case of food poisoning derailed that plan. A deep bone bruise prevented her from having much of an indoor season and she just had her last cancer treatment in December. This cancer survivor is not letting these small detours change her whole season. She will be opening up a bit later than expected on the track competing in 1500 meters at the Occidental High Performance meet on May 18.
Gabriele has raced this season at the B.A.A. road mile finishing third in 4:46.3. Though, it still is not quite the same as a track race she explains, “Road miles are very different than running on a track. The road miles that are in loops like the B.A.A. mile I did this year are a little bit more similar to the track. The turns are a little harder to negotiate and the tactics are going to be a bit similar to the track” she goes to state, “They are very fun but very different from track races.”
Gabriele is currently a member of Team Minnesota, an elite training group based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. “We have a unique group here; we have a lot of different people focusing on a lot of different events. My coach, Dennis Barker has done a great job transitioning me from what I was use to at the University of Minnesota and figuring out what would work for me at the profession level” she explains.
Being part of Team Minnesota means access to coaching, lifetime fitness, and medical facilities. Team Minnesota also helps with travel costs and is able to get runners where they need to be to run certain times. Gabriele is the only one of the group really focusing on the 1500 meters so she does the majority of her training with her fiancé Justin Grunewald who ran at the USA marathon trials and is now in his medical school rotation. “It has been a really good way for me to elevate my training and have individualized work-outs” she said.
Gabriele says so far there has not been too much competition between them in these work-outs even though there have been a few moments. “Justin has been a great supporter. He really wants to see me succeed and run faster. I appreciate his help so much I really try to keep it professional when we run together,” she elaborates, “He is like a second coach. He does not plan any of my work-outs but he is encouraging like you would hope a coach would be.”
Gabriele is grateful for the support that she has especially transitioning from college to professional level and has learned a few lesson along the way.
“In my first year, I had this idea that I could get into races that I wanted to do but that was not the case. I had a 4:12 PR and with the way American middle distance running is, I was not getting into these races that I wanted to run. This was frustrating to me and it was something I didn’t even consider when graduating from college that it would be hard to get into races” she explains. The other difference is the individualization at the professional level. The team at the University of Minnesota was close and scoring points as a team was important. She says now, “You are really thinking about the best thing for you to do and you get to know yourself in a different way.”
Gabriele has not had to navigate the professional level alone. She also has had great support from her fellow Brooks sponsored runners and in particular the “Brooks Beasts” that signed around the same time as she which consists of Katie Mackey, Fawn Dorr, Shayla Houlihan and Angela Bizzarri. She explains “We’re learning from each other. We talk or text about what races we are doing and give each other ideas on how to deal with an injury or just different things that come up and we all have been really lucky to each other through this transition.”
Gabriele has not just had to deal with transitioning from being a college athlete to a professional runner but also with cancer. Her first fight with cancer began during her college career and after months of radiation therapy she was able to come back her senior season. But a year and a half after the first diagnosis, she was diagnosed again and had to have her thyroid removed. This past December she had radioactive iodine treatment and it was the last piece of her treatment. “I’m happy to have it done. I’m healthy right now and happy to be racing and running” she said.
Cancer has changed a few items in her life. “I’m much more aware of my body and things that seem strange. Luckily there hasn’t been anything like that come up. But I have a greater awareness what is going on with my body now” she states. Also, since she no longer has natural hormones in her thyroid, she has to take artificial hormones that could mess with her energy levels and appetite. She has become more aware of it. “All this type of stuff, I kind of leave to my doctors and I try to focus on my day to day training. That is how I approach it right now” she states.
Not all changes to appetite are because of her treatment some are just from intense training. “I do notice with a higher work load, I need to eat something before I go to bed. When I first started with higher intensity work-outs and a little bit more volume, I would wake up in the middle of the night and be so hungry at four in the morning. This happened for several weeks straight and I was like I can’t do this anymore, I need to get my sleep and don’t want to wake up and eat breakfast twice” she explains.
Looking back on the past years, Gabriele has seen how her attitude has changed.
“It has been quite a journey for me since 2009. It has been crazy, a crazy little roller coaster I’ve been on. I do feel so lucky and so blessed to be healthy right now. I’m so incredibly lucky to be able to continue to pursue my dream and become the best runner I can be. One of the things, I’ve noticed that has changed in me is just that prior to these life experiences I always assumed that there would be a next time or another opportunity for something or a next year. I try not to think like that so much anymore. I try to balance that with being patient and all the things a runner and an athlete need to do” she further explains, “But the attitude that there will always be another chance, it is great idea but it might not always be true. So now I just try to take advantage of each opportunity. If there is a good opportunity in front of me, I’m going to take it now or at least give it my best shot.”
Gabriele will be taking the chance and advantage of the opportunity she has to make the Olympic team this year. To keep up with her journey, you can follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @GabrieleAnde.