The alarm goes off at 4 a.m., and my husband and I are out the door by 4:15 a.m. We do a two mile easy jog to the track as a warm-up. At 4:30 a.m. we begin our track workout of six by one mile at a sub-5:30 minute per mile pace. Then we have a two mile cool-down jog back home where we will grab the dog for a short jaunt, allowing him to burn off some excess "puppy energy."
Once we're home, it's time to stretch, shower, eat breakfast, grab the bags, and get out the door by 7:30 a.m. Depending on the day, there will be either a run or "cross-fit" type of workout with the Navy SEALs. Then it's time for a second shower, getting ready for a full day of work as the Supply Officer at SEAL Team FOUR. By the time 5 p.m. rolls around, it's time to go home, unless something comes up. Over the next couple of hours I'll make dinner, spend time with family, exercise the dog, and make lunches for the next day. Wednesday is volunteer work at the local food pantry, while weekends are typically road races. The hope is to be in bed by 8 p.m., so the cycle can start again the next morning.
Work-life balance in the military is difficult at times. When I first began running competitively in 2008, I was stationed aboard USS Lake Erie
(CG-70) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. My training was hit or miss due to the ship's operational schedule. I never run on treadmills, so when we were underway I would try and keep up my fitness by doing laps around the ship. Needless to say, my training suffered and I didn't have any breakthrough races until 2011, when I received shore duty orders to Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) Raytheon-Tucson. It was there that I was able to consistently train under my coach, Jim Felty, a retired Navy Commander. However, it wasn't that easy. I was going to graduate school full-time for my MBA, working an eight-hour day, spending time with the family, and running 100 miles per week. In October 2011, under Coach Felty, I ran the Twin Cities Marathon in two hours, 39 minutes, a 6:05 minute per mile pace, ultimately qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials in the marathon. Unfortunately, during this race I broke my foot around mile 16 and was on crutches and in a cast for about eight weeks. This left just four weeks to train for the Olympic Trials in Houston, Texas. For obvious reasons, I had a sub-par performance. I ended up finishing the race and decided to set my goals for the 2016 Olympic Trials.
Since transferring from Arizona to Logistics and Support Unit-TWO, in Virginia, the work-life balance continues to be a challenge. While I am at an operational command and am very fortunate to be able to incorporate physical training into my normal working hours with the SEALs, my work hours can go late into the evening. Luckily, I have a great social network that understands military life and is very supportive of me logging long hours on the roads and trails.
My husband, who is also a prior active duty military service member, is a competitive runner who runs with me a majority of the time. He understands the time commitments and lack of certainty in my work schedules. I also have a great coach who looks out for my best interests and who has improved my marathon time by more than 15 minutes in the past three years. All of my past commands have been very supportive of my life goals with running, approving my requests when operations have allowed me time to compete on the All-Navy Running Team. I have found that while the military can be very regimented and strict, the Supply Corps community has always done its best to accommodate and strike a balance between work and life goals.
With upcoming deployments approaching, I set the goal to qualify as soon as I could for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. I ran four marathons this year - Boston, Chicago, Marine Corps, and Outer Banks Marathon. I was 9th American Woman in Boston (2:43) and 5th American Woman in Chicago (2:40), where I ultimately qualified to run in the 2016 Olympic Trials, being held in either Cincinnati, Los Angeles, or Houston in February 2016. Based on my second place finish at the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon, I was one of four military women selected to compete in an international military competition in the Netherlands in October 2014. As long as operations allow, I plan to run in this race.
Running for me is a “hobby.” I am realistic and know that I have no chance what-so-ever to run in the Olympics. The top three female finishers in the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials will be selected to the USA Olympic team and they will run about 15 minutes faster than me over a marathon. I am just lucky to be able to stand toe-to-toe with the best marathoners in the United States, wearing a U.S. Navy singlet. Instead of comparing myself to them, I focus solely on my own goals and personal records. My two goals for this year are to place competitively in a 100-mile ultramarathon this January, and represent our nation well in the Netherlands. In 2016, my goal is to avenge the poor performance I had in the 2012 Olympic Trials with a personal best in the 2016 Trials.
It is a long way off, but I am very hopeful.
Lt. Gina Slaby, SC, USN
Combat Service Support Officer, SEAL Team FOUR