NOVA Featured Runner: Robbie Brusso

By | May 8, 2017

FROM ERIN: Robbie had a break through race at GW Parkway, running 1:03:52. He has been training intensely for the past 5 months with Greg for Grandma’s Marathon, running 80-85 miles a week. He is hoping to PR at Grandma’s (current marathon PR is 3:20). He comes to nearly every NOVA event – practice, tempo, happy hour, trail cleanup, etc, and has been a great addition to the team and a very valuable training partner for Greg.

FROM COACH JERRY: Robbie has made great progress in his relatively short time with NOVA. Robbie has a lot of talent, but what has impressed me most is how coachable he is. Robbie has bought in to the idea of running workouts with a purpose, and he’s learned to temper his natural enthusiasm and competitiveness by sticking to the workout targets, and doing everything he can to stay under control throughout. That patient and deliberate approach will serve him well at Grandma’s, and he’s got a shot to run a major PR. Whatever happens in Duluth, we’ll build from there, and continue to develop Robbie into an accomplished marathoner.

1) What are your PRs (5k, 10K, any others?)
5k: 18:23 (Clarendon Day 2016 *downhill course)
10k: 38:20 (St. Patrick’s Day 10k 2017)
10 mile: 1:03:52 (GW Parkway Classic 2017)
Half Marathon: 1:27:33 (2012 DC Rock and Roll Marathon – aka being young and stupid)

2) Goal race(s) for this year? Other races planned?
If I haven’t brought it up to you personally a million times already, I’m running Grandma’s Marathon in June with a lot of strong NOVA runners. Given my marathon PR of 3:20, breaking 3 hours is definitely a stretch goal. But with the help of NOVA stalwarts, training partners, and Greg’s amazing guidance I think it is a realistic goal (as long as I’m not an idiot on race day – see half marathon PR in 2012)
After that, I’ll probably have my eye on a half marathon in October (perhaps Richmond) or the Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure

3) What do you consider your best race performance to date?
I’ve been pretty blown away by my performance since joining NOVA. I attribute all of my success this past year to the NOVA crew with a special thanks to Greg and Jerry. However, it is really hard to pick one race (and a personal weakness of mine is picking a favorite anything) so I’ll share three for very different reasons.

After the disastrous finish of the DC Rock and Roll in 2012 (if there was a Goofus and Gallant of proper pacing, this race would be the Goofus), I had a bitter taste in my mouth. Around this time, I was also in the beginning stages of my dissertation. As a safeguard to ensure the completion of my degree, I decided I wouldn’t race (though I still ran) until the dissertation was finished. Even the most miserable workout is better than sitting behind a computer, typing a dissertation, after you have already put in a full day’s work. When I finally started training again in 2016, I thought I would never get back to my previous level of fitness. Then in October, after a few months of training with NOVA, I almost PRed at the Richmond Half. In fact, I had no idea how close I was until I finished (about 13 seconds off). The crazy thing – I wasn’t even attempting to PR! I thought I would be happy if I ran 1:30. This race is notable to me because it gave me my confidence back. My first thought after finishing was, “I’m ready for the marathon again.”

The GW Parkway was the first time I had raced a 10 miler. It was going to be a measure of how well my training was progressing. After the race in March that shall not be named (Erin and Greg are also bound by this rule), I needed something positive to demonstrate the effectiveness of all of those hours of running. To say I was surprised with my improvement in such a short amount of time is an understatement. I think this is my strongest race yet.

Lastly, in 2011 I decided to do a multi-day event to raise money for the oncology departments for Children’s Hospital in Norfolk, VA and Richmond, VA. When I was an infant I was diagnosed with cancer. I thought that instead of giving my yearly donation, I would show these parents and children that a survivor can grow up and lead a normal and healthy life. The goal was to run from Virginia Beach, VA to Blacksburg, VA (Go Hokies!) at a pace of at least one marathon a day. Although I ended up with an injury in Charlottesville (probably some Wahoo Voodo), I logged 190 miles in one week – a personal record I have no intention of breaking.

4) How and when did you find NOVA, and what do you like best about the team?
I found NOVA just by looking online. I knew after completing my dissertation I wanted to get back to serious training. I tried CAR and it just didn’t fit. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just wasn’t for me. After moving from Arlington to Alexandria in April of 2016, I changed my search from “Arlington Running Groups” to “Alexandria Running Groups.” Thanks Google!
I think the passion for running, the support, the camaraderie, and the ability to be lighthearted is what keeps me coming back and why I love the club. There are some incredibly talented people on the team. We come from all walks of life with various backgrounds. But when we are out there running we are all just runners. The fastest runners clap for and encourage those in the rear. The up-and-coming runners cheer on the serious racer and don’t harbor resentment. We take pride in every victory and accolade from every individual. And with the guidance of Jerry and the NOVA seasoned runners, you can achieve whatever running goal you are seriously committed to. It really does feel like a team and I know I’ve made some lifelong friends by being a part of it.
I also want to give an additional shout-out to anyone who has listened to and entertained my various ramblings/stream of conscious questions during our runs, especially long runs. Between thinking of running related research questions on a tempo or doing our best impersonation of SNL skit writers on 20 mile runs, these conversations definitely keep me distracted while logging the miles.

5) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from Coach Jerry?
Jerry knows that my biggest “area for improvement” is proper pacing. I still have some work to do, but at least now I am cognizant of it and can try to catch myself early before I blow up during a race or workout. That being said, I tell myself “nothing stupid” before every race now. The adrenaline, anxiety, and excitement can easily sabotage a race. I imagine Jerry right there at the start, looking at me and saying, “Ok, nothing stupid.”

6) What thoughts do you have on your performance at the GW Parkway 10 Miler, or other recent races?
A good race is all about hard work, luck, strategy, and toughness. The hard work is the training. You can control this, so do everything in your power to optimize it. The luck is determined by race day weather, your current level of sleep deprivation, health, etc. These are the things usually out of your control. For strategy, “nothing stupid.” Don’t abandon your race plan and trust your training. Adjust your strategy if anything the “luck” category is less than ideal. Lastly, there is toughness. Greg once said, “before you race you have to tell yourself ‘Ok, this is going to hurt’.” I suppose I never thought of that perspective. I thought that if I trained hard, had good luck, and a great strategy I would glide to the finish laughing and joking with a new PR. But that’s not how it works. When you race to your limit, no matter your level of fitness, it will be tough. Knowing and expecting this mentally prepares you for the challenge that is ahead. All of these things fell into place for the GW Parkway 10 Miler.

7) What non-running fitness related (or other) activities do you enjoy?
I used to do a lot of triathlons, so I always enjoy time on the bike. Pretty much anything that involves being outside can pique my interest. I also enjoy the millions of projects my wife, Haley, and I come up with. Other than that, I like to read and have played guitar for a little over 15 years now. I used to be in a band named “Free Beer No Cover,” a name created as an attempt to lure in patrons. No bar would ever advertise our gig…