Former Buffs Back In Olympic Hunt
By Kevin Zimmerman
Former Colorado Buffaloes Adam and Kara Goucher are considered royalty in the world of distance running. They've won the NCAA Championships and competed for Olympic berths, but even with the talent necessary, winning is never as easy as it sounds.
Kara gave birth to the couple's first child on Sept. 25, 2010, and is still on the comeback trail. Meanwhile, Adam is returning to competitive running following a two-year lull where he considered retirement.
Both want to make the 2012 USA Olympic team, and much of their motivation stems from their bond that's one part coach, one part peer and another part husband and wife.
"Pretty much everything she's gone through in her career I've gone through as well," Adam says of his wife. "She's been nothing but supportive in me coming back and making that Olympic team. She's my biggest motivator, my biggest motivation and keeps me excited about things.
"She keeps me grounded and focused and you know, dreaming big still."
Injuries plagued Adam Goucher, 36, throughout his professional running career. So much, in fact, that he spent from 2009 until about a month ago away from the sport in what he says was all but an official retirement. As the 1998 NCAA cross country champion, 5,000-meter NCAA outdoor champion, and two-time 3,000m NCAA indoor champion in 1997 and 1998, Adam found himself frustrated in dealing with Achilles and other foot problems throughout his professional career.
He started viewing it as a job more than as the sport he loved. But in helping his wife return to running following the birth of the couple's son, Colton Mirko Goucher, and while writing the recently-released book titled "Running The Edge," Adam struck that competitive nerve that at one time helped him to an NCAA championship.
"It kind of rejuvenated me and got me excited about running again," he says of writing the book, which he co-authored with former Buffalo runner Tim Catalano. "You know, it reminded me what I love about running. Between getting back -- my body is healthy -- running with Kara, and kind of the process of writing the book, it was a good thing for me."
And then there's his wife's return to the sport following the birth of the couple's son -- if you can call it a return. The ever-competitive Kara, the 2000 NCAA champion in the 3,000m, 5,000m and cross country, spent her pregnancy balancing the prospects of motherhood with her competitive drive.
Like her husband, Kara has her sights set on the marathon in January 2012's Olympic trials, and she hardly took a break from training during her pregnancy. On the day she went into labor, Kara remembers her training routine consisting of a 50-minute run and a lifting workout.
"Being pregnant was great for me as an individual but hard for me as an athlete because I like to train and I like to race," Kara Goucher, 33, says.
In that balancing act, she turned to world-class English distance runner Paula Radcliffe for help.
"Paula was a huge help for me because she trained pretty aggressively through her first pregnancy," Kara says. "So, she helped me kind of see what the boundaries and limits were."
Coming back after the birth was the most difficult, she adds. That's where her husband stepped in.
Running at slower paces as his wife recovered following her delivery, Adam remained committed to keeping his wife company during workouts, all the while pushing her through the frustrating times. He helped pace her runs early on and motivated Kara to "make it fun," he says.
"Adam helped so much because he understands the whole running thing," Kara says. "He gets that you have to train; it's hard to get away from racing. He was also supportive of it. Just because I'm a mom doesn't mean I can't be an athlete."
The running was a subtle yet powerful part of the pair's relationship, and it ended up helping Kara storm back from the pregnancy and Adam realize he wasn't ready to hang up the running shoes.
But the understanding bond between the two didn't begin with a love-at-first-sight meeting.
The Gouchers were briefly introduced to one another at the 1993 Footlocker Cross Country Championships, when Adam, then a high school senior, won the event. Two years later, Kara made her decision to attend Colorado, where Adam had already built up a large reputation as one of the best distance runners in the nation.
Much of the draw to the Buffaloes was head coach Mark Wetmore, who in 2011 enters his 15th season at Colorado as head coach and has won both a men's and women's team NCAA Championship.
"He wants you to be the best athlete you can be, but also be really well-rounded and really choose running and not have it choose you," Kara says of her former coach. "He's very methodical. Every race serves a purpose and it sets you up for another race.
"I thrived in that environment."
The admiration for her future husband upon arriving in Boulder, Colo, wasn't equal in comparison. Off the bat, Kara admittedly wasn't Adam's biggest fan.
"I just thought he kind of had an ego and he was kind of the big man on campus," Kara says today. "I thought he was a little full of himself when I first met him."
Opinions began to change and the relationship began to strengthen when Adam became a volunteer assistant for Kara's women's team after his graduation. As Kara went from a talented runner to a potential All-American, Adam saw her grow into a very comparable college career to his own -- she began pushing for NCAA titles.
"There's a lot that happens and goes through your mind when you're in that position," Adam says of mentoring Kara. "I had gone through that myself. It opened the door for us to have an even better relationship, became better friends and then started dating and then the rest is history."
Added Kara: "I confided in him, and he was just so encouraging to me and everyone on the team, and he was just great. We started dating and that was that."
Just more than a year after their son's birth, both Adam and Kara Goucher are looking to return to their old collegiate form, before injuries and the responsibility of parenthood were even in the conversation. They now reside in Portland, Ore.
Kara finished with a personal-best 2:24:26 time in the Boston Marathon this April before succumbing to a minor injury, and she says she still feels confident about January's Olympic trials.
"I still feel like I haven't really hit my stride," Kara says. "The goal is always 2012, even though this year wasn't my best year, it was still a solid year."
Adam competed in his first race, a half marathon, since coming back from injury just a month ago. He believes he can make a name for himself come January as well.
"My goal here in returning to running after being away for a few years is to go out and get my qualifier for the marathon and then run the Olympic trials for the marathon in January," Adam says.
"It's been an interesting road."