Monday, April 3, 2017

Volte's 2017 Road To Boston: Sandra Tezino

We all need a push sometimes.

Even when we are or appear to be the world's biggest go getter, whether that's based on what we do or how much people see us juggle.

Sandra Tezino is no exception.

"The thing that challenges me the most is my work schedule," says the 49-year-old wife and mother of six.  "My schedule changes almost daily and I have to plan my running and personal life around it."

Yet with a pleasant smile on her face, Sandra embodies the slogan, "Here everything's better", of her employer, HEB, where she's a Store Director.

Sandra at her fastest Aramco Houston Half Marathon in 2015.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
"My journey has been challenging and beautiful," she says.

That first encouragement came from her husband of seven years, Donald.

"He encouraged me to start running again and that he would take care of our twin boys while I did so," she said.  "I remember when I first started I could only run for a few minutes, maybe seconds.

"Yet, every time I went back to run, I would run a little farther and walk less until one day I could run three miles without walking."

Thirty years earlier, Sandra ran -- and ran fast.

"All my family and friends called me by my middle name when I was younger and most still do." - Sandra Dianne Bowie
(Photo courtesy of Sandra Tezino.)
While at Merryville High School in Louisiana, just across the Texas state line, she was part of a 4x400 relay team with Stephanie Gill, Katherine Hickman and Renee Franks that won an LHSAA state championship - and set a state record - in 4:11.5.

In fact, in 1953, the Merryville HS boys accomplished the same feat with a 3:53 mark that stood until 1957.

"I stopped running, though, had six children and made little time for fitness," she said.  "Before my first race, I was not very fit."

Even though her name first appeared in a race result in October 2011 as she ran/walked the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure 5K in downtown Houston in 30:16, Sandra points to The Gusher Half Marathon in Beaumont the following March as she official "starting over" point.

"I ran my first half marathon in 2:28:26," she explained.

Volte friend Jon Walk first announced The Gusher that year that Sandra finished.
(Photo purchased from Your Sporting Image)
Yet, of course, it wouldn't be her last.  In fact, she was quite content with running half marathons.

"It is my favorite race distance:  It's fast and recovery time is less than a marathon," she added.

Her time progression in the distance followed as such, according to

2:28:26 -- Gusher Half Marathon, Beaumont, 3/10/12
1:56:31 -- Houston Half Marathon, Houston, 10/28/12
1:53:10 -- Galveston Half Marathon, Galveston, 1/27/13
1:49:03 -- The Woodlands Half Marathon, The Woodlands, 3/2/13
1:48:22 -- Aramco Houston Half Marathon, Houston, 1/19/14
1:45:34 -- Run Girl Half Marathon, Houston, 12/7/14
1:44:48 -- Aramco Houston Half Marathon, Houston, 1/17/15
1:43:42 -- The Woodlands Half Marathon, The Woodlands, 2/28/15
1:43:13 -- Tinker Bell Half Marathon, Anaheim, CA, 5/10/15

That type of steady improvement would make it easy to remain laser focused on the distance.

Enter Alan Gastineau.

"Sandra and Alan came to Volte (in 2014) from Liz Berry's training group when she stopped coaching.  Liz actually sent them to me," said Volte Endurance Training founder and head coach Bill Dwyer.  "I believe Alan planted the seed for Sandra to do one marathon.  She always said, 'The half is perfect and I'm not planning on any marathons'."

"Running a marathon was a bucket item list for me," Sandra said.  "I never really thought about qualifying for Boston because I was determined to only run one marathon and that was the Tunnel Light Marathon."

A duplicate of the original Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, started in 2007 and held in June, the Tunnel Light Marathon was held on September 18, 2016 -- a date that allows participants to use their times to qualify for both the 2017 and 2018 Boston Marathons.

While Alan opened Sandra's mind that she was able to cover the marathon distance, credit Laura Godfrey for planting the seed that Boston was a possibility.

"Laura told me the time I needed to qualify for Boston during our summer training and that is when I thought, “Maybe, I can qualify for Boston," she said.

Also optimistic was Dwyer.

"When she entered Tunnel Light (with Alan and Laura), I did say to her that she'll most likely be running two marathons," he said.  "My reasoning was Laura was set up to BQ and Sandra will run about the same time as Laura, and she has 10 more minutes for her qualifying time."

He added, "Still, first marathons are tough."

Sandra and Laura out on one of many training runs leading up to Tunnel Light together.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
And so was training, other than track workouts hearkening back to her high school days, in that her work schedule made the preparation seem as if it was being delivered via an iPod Shuffle instead of Training Peaks.

"Sometimes, I have to run in the mornings, sometimes at night, sometimes on the treadmill, sometimes at the gym," she said.  "All of these things affect my sleep and sometimes I don’t get the seven to eight hours of sleep my body so desperately needs."

Yet she and Laura trained diligently through the hot Houston weather all summer.

"It was my first marathon and my goal was to finish in under four hours," she said.  "I know I needed to run with a pacer to keep me from running too fast in the beginning and from going too slow in the end."

Starting near the top of the 3,015-foot high Snoqualmie Pass and running a course that race organizers explained as having one of the best profiles in the country for a fast time due to the consistent gentle downhill grade, going too fast was a legitimate concern.

Sandra's race manager that day?  55-year-old Scott Sebelsky from Camano Island, Washington.

"He was the (Tunnel Light) pacer for 3:40 and I thought, “Ok, I can try to do that," she said.  "Scott was the motivator that kept me going.  He has a lot of experience and I trusted him, especially when he said, “We could stop to get water.”

"I was like, “I never stopped during a race before.” We not only stopped once but twice."

He had actually run the course during its June running the last two years in 3:43:25 and 3:42:56 as part of a group called the Super Pacers.

With Scott guiding Sandra's race, it allowed Tezino to focus on her thoughts of fellow Volte runner - and fellow Boston Marathon participant this year - Michelle McGill.

"I wanted to be like her - a strong, consistent and talented runner," she explained.

Fatigue, however, began to set in at mile 20, but she applied some often-shared advice from Dwyer about taking a Tums to maintain her PH level during the race.

The Light nearly went out at mile 23, though.

"I was exhausted and I wanted Scott to just go off and leave me, but he didn’t," she said.  "He kept encouraging me and he was telling everyone we passed by, “This is her first marathon and she is killing it!”

A mile later, the two caught up with Godfrey.

"I told Scott that she was my friend and she needed to finish with me.  He begin to encourage her (as well) and we both finished under 3:40," she said, as she finished in 3:39:18 while Laura crossed in 3:39:34.  "He kept saying, “You are going to hurt tomorrow any way, so give it all you can today.”

Scott Sebelsky waved his magic 3:40 wand and helped fit Sandra to her BQ.
(Photo courtesy of Tunnel Light Marathon)
As Boston is now under two weeks away, Tezino is still forever grateful.

"I know, deep down in my heart, I would not have been able to finish with that time, if it were not for Scott Sebelsky," she said.

"It was an amazing feeling," Sandra added.  "Emotional, thankful, surprised, exhausted.  All kinds of emotions."

Something she hopes to be able to share as she lines up in Hopkinton on Monday, April 17 and runs toward Boyslton Street.

"(I want) to finish the race, not walk and enjoy the experience and to smile and thank people along the way," she said with a smile herself.

Boston in 2018 is on the list as she wants to "take my family with me to cheer me on" and to qualify for the New York City Marathon with her half marathon time.

All thumbs up from Sandra during a warm 2017 Aramco Houston Half Marathon.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Tezino will get the benefit of turning 50 next year which opens up the qualifying time from 1:42 to 1:49 -- her PR is 1:43:14; however, it's pretty reasonable to expect she'll still be aiming for the 1:42 regardless.

Dwyer has no doubts.

"Sandra is very motivated to get her workouts in with her challenging personal schedule. She's very talented and very humble," he said.

And very, very thankful.

"(This is) a sport that keeps me grounded, mentally ready, and that makes me feel good.," she explains.  "I am surrounded by so much love. My biggest fan is my husband, Donald and then my children.    The twins are now 12 and surprised that I run so much.

One of many track workouts with Yaya Herrera (to the left).
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
"I have a great coach, Bill Dwyer.  A fast, strong and beautiful running/friend, Laura Godfrey.  A talented running group, Volte Endurance Training and the best of friends that give unconditional support, Alan Gastineau and Yadira (Yaya) Herrera.

"I am a living witness that “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

And the great thing is:  We all get to watch.

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