This edition of stride-for-stride takes on an international flavor, as Rasa (Michniovaite) Troup, made her way to the Univerity of Minnesota via Lithuania. The 31-year-old Minnepolis resident took most of 2007 off to start a family. A year later she is trying to earn a spot on the Lithuanian Olympic team in the 3000m steeplechase. Last weekend Troup finished 2nd at the Drake relays in 9:51.28, behind fellow U of M alum Emily Brown, who ran 9:45.38. Earlier this year, Rasa kicked off the spring racing season with a victory at the Human Race 8K in 28:08. (photo courtesy of Wayne Krydubra)
Can you tell us a little bit about your background (where are you from originally, when and how did you get involved with running, what are some of your accolades while at U of M)?
I am originally from Lithuania. I came to the U of M in 1998 after Gary Wilson recruited me. I was surrounded by sports since I was a little kid, since both of my parents are former track and field athletes and my mother was my coach in high school. I actually was not focusing on running, especially not distance running, while I was in Lithuania. I was doing short and long hurdles, triple jump, long jump, heptathlon, and just before I came to the U of M I was competing in 800m-1500m. Once I came to the U of M, I had no idea that I would be running cross country. So, I can say that my distance running started here at the U of M.
At the U of M, probably the most memorable of my accolades were winning the Roy Griak Invitational and becoming an all-American in 1998.
What are your PRs?
800m – 2:08.75
1500m – 4:17.13
Mile road – 4:39.5
3000m SC – 9:47.47
3000m indoors – 9:21.81
5000m road – 16:21
10000m road – 34:37
Marathon – 3:11.17
60m hurdles – 8.8
Long Jump – 5.79m
Triple Jump – 12.30m
400m – 57.6
Pentathlon – 3484
Heptathlon – 4217
After you graduated in 2000, how would you describe your transition from college runner to road racer; was it smooth or did it take you some time to get used to having to motivate yourself, work around a career, etc.?
My last year at the U of M was far from OK. Like Wilson would say I was “a mess”. Thus, after I graduated, I was thinking that I will stop running. However, I knew deep down that I did not use my full potential in running. I did not have a hard time to motivate myself, but I had a very hard time to find time for training. I volunteered in one end of the town, and worked in 2 other locations of the town. Without a car, I was able to get around the town with my rusted out bike, which maybe helped me to be in shape. In addition, I was preparing to enter graduate school at U of M. I just remember that it was very stressful time of my life.
What advice would you give to other college runners as their careers come to an end?
I am not sure if I have good advice in regards to this. I think it is very hard to continue running competitively after college, since there is much less support for post collegiate running. However, I think if an athlete is very talented and still enjoys running and competing, she or he may try to join Team USA Minnesota or any running store teams in the Twin Cities.
In 2006 you tied for second place in the Runner of the Year rankings and then you missed nearly all of last year. I believe you were busy starting a family. Is that true and if so, how’s it going?
Honestly, I did not even know about the Runner of the Year. 2006 was not the greatest year for me in terms of running. I tried some different stuff in my workouts and it backfired. Thus, after a disappointing year, I decided I probably should hang up my shoes. I became pregnant right at the end of the 2006 road racing season and never regretted my decision. I love being a mom and even all responsibilities that comes with being a mom. Motherhood for me brought a lot of joy and also new challenges.
You did close out 2007 with a couple of cross-country races and now you’ve started 2008 with a win at the Human Race. Were you happy with your performance at Human Race? Do you feel that you’ve regained your form from 2006?
I actually was disappointed with my race in the Human Race. I thought I did not execute that race the way I would have liked. I did not challenge myself enough mentally and physically to do my best. Do not take me wrong, I was happy to win, but I was disappointed that I did not push myself harder.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
One of the reasons, I came back to running is to make the Lithuanian Olympic Team in 3000SC. I have a huge goal in front of me this year. I have to run faster than I did before my pregnancy in order to make 'A' Olympic Standard [9:46]. I know that I have to try and do my best to do this. I know I will regret it the rest of my life if I do not try to make it.
I'm not familiar with Lithuania’s qualifying process. Is it like in the US with a meet and the top 3 finishers go to the Olympics or do you just need to run 9:46 at any open event?
In Lithuania we do not have trials, since the country is very small and there are hardly 3 athletes that do ‘A’ standard in the same event. Thus, anyone in Lithuania who accomplishes ‘A’ standard can go.
Technically, I can go to Olympics with ‘B’ standard, unless someone else from Lithuania runs ‘A’ or ‘B’ standard.
You ran 9:51 at Drake, were you happy with that effort?
I am not sure if I was satisfied with my race at Drake. Maybe I was too ambitious after delivering baby and not running steeple for about 2 years to do that. Even though I may go to Olympics with this performance, I believe I can do better and I can do ‘A’ standard.
How many more opportunities will you have to get the 'A' standard?
I will try to find some local races here to run and to do that. I know I may not have much competition in here since [Emily] Brown may not be running another steeple till trials. I will look at some races in the US as well, but I have to say that good steeple races in the US are far and few in between.
Do you tend to follow any certain training program? What is your training philosophy?
I do not know if I have any certain training program. I have been coached by about 6 coaches for the different track and field disciplines. I have learned something from each of them. I also have tried a variety of training regimens for the middle and long distance running and found things by trial and error what could/might work for me. I know that people who compete on the elite level train much harder than me and I realize that I might be able to do higher workloads if I just concentrate on my running, sleep 8-10 hours per day, and not have to work as much. However, my reality is different and I have to make the best out of what I have. Sometimes I joke with my husband and say that I am a lazy runner.
Most of weeks, I do 2-4 hard workouts. The workouts vary depending on the training cycle. I do very easy and slow runs in between the hard workouts and one longer run. I try to do some hurdle and strength training every week.
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
My strength is my persistence and perseverance.
I believe that my biggest weakness is my psychology and mentality during my races. My husband is a psychologist and he always tells me that my biggest enemy during my races is myself.
What is your favorite race distance? I don’t think you’ve ever run a marathon. Do you have any plans on giving that a shot?
My favorite distance is 1500m, but I am not fast enough for this event. If you know me I actually do not like anything above 1500m. I actually ran a marathon in Chicago in 2003. My friend was running and she talked me into running it as well. I actually enjoyed it, maybe because I was not running that fast and my last 8 miles were a faster pace than my pace in the first 18 miles.
What is your fondest running memory?
My fondest running memory is from 2005 World Track and Field Championships in Helsinki. I stood on the starting line and the track venue was full of spectators - amongst them were my parents, my brother, my in-laws, and my husband. I felt such an accomplishment inside of me that I was able to be a part of the strongest field in the world in 3000SC.
Do you have a favorite local and/or national race?
My favorite race on the road would be Brian Kraft 5K and on the track Drake Relays.
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I actually thought about it a lot. Minnesota amazes me with the depth of runners in every age group and gender. I would love to run with many of the past or present runners - young, elite, veterans, collegiate runners etc... Every time, I run with someone, I feel I get recharged and energized by it and does not matter if they are the elite runners or recreational runners. I am not afraid to ask to join someone running on the river road especially if I seen them running many times in the past, but never got to talk to them. I guess, I sometimes need company in my running, since I have been training on my own for the last 8 years.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
I wish I had known how to recover faster after my hard workouts and how to take better care of my body when I was younger. I wish I would have known all nutrition and recovery strategies when I was younger and I wish I would have known that doing less in your workouts is better than overdoing. I think I could have been a much better runner when I was younger. Currently, I realize and understand all necessary things I need to do to run well and to succeed. However, I have many priorities (like any other women in the US having a family and raising a child) that are on the higher end of my priorities and sometimes recovery goals after my workouts and my planned workouts do not get accomplished.