Deena shows her love for the High Sierra Striders with a club shirt. (Photo courtesy Andrew Kastor)
Catching up with Andrew and Deena
What do 100-pound Olympic medalist and world renowned runner Deena Kastor and apple turnovers have in common? Both make occasional appearances at High Sierra Striders workouts in Mammoth Lakes. The club, which has officially been an entity since 2005 and has reached a membership of 75, is run by Kastor’s husband, Andrew, and is a great source of training for runners all over the Eastern Sierra. While Deena doesn’t train with the Striders, the organized running club is one of her biggest inspirations.
“I enjoy coming to their practices. Not just because they get bagels every Tuesday from the Old New York Deli [and sometimes homemade goodies such as the abovementioned turnovers], but because the people in the club are so uplifting and motivating to be around,” Deena explained. “They work really hard no matter what their reasons for being out there. It is the most optimistic, hard-working and amusing group to rub shoulders with. I don’t run until later in the morning, but I love taking my cup of coffee to Strider practice to get inspired by the group.”
Deena credits the Striders with warming up Shady Rest Park for her and leaving good energy behind that helps her exceed her expectations during her own workouts.
This year, in addition to donating good vibes to Deena, the Striders also gave back to the community at large with four running scholarships for high school seniors in the Eastern Sierra. Each scholarship was valued at $1,000. One was presented to a student in Lone Pine, one to a student in Bishop, and two to Mammoth students. The worthy athletes were headed to college not only to pursue academic careers, but running careers as well.
“Criteria included having run for two years in high school, planning to run cross-country or track in college, and a 3.0 GPA,” Andrew explained.
Supporting top-ranking student athletes is just one of many things the Striders are dashing into this year. This weekend they are heading up the Footloose Freedom Mile once again.
“We have to start at 10:10 in order to allow the police to shut the road down at 10 a.m. but be finished and have the equipment broken down before the parade begins at 11,” Andrew said. “It’s very tightly scheduled, plus the awkward time makes the start stick out in people’s minds.”
It’s definitely not a race that slips Deena’s mind. “I always look forward to the races in town,” she said. “I will be running the Footloose Freedom Mile as it has become such a great event within the July 4th celebrations. I love the fact that every finisher gets an American Flag that we can all wave during the parade that follows.”
The Striders are also taking over the Footloose/Charthouse 10k/5k, which will be held on Aug. 8 this year, as well as the Moeben Ultra Marathon on Sept. 18. The Ultra Marathon is a 25k and 50k, which will be held at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, making it the highest race in California.
But the biggest project of all for the Kastors, the Striders, and all other interested runners in the Eastern Sierra is helping the Mammoth Track Project break ground at Whitmore.
“Right now we are waiting for the current DWP lease to be amended to add a paragraph that says a track and field facility is an OK use for the land,” Andrew said. “That could take 10-12 months, so we are hoping to break ground next spring .”
“Although we are hung up on paper-work for the Mammoth Track Project, it by no means has been frustrating,” Deena added. “We knew this project was big and it would take a mammoth effort to move it. It will get done in due time, but we want to do everything right so the facility will be well utilized by the community and guests for many years to come. It’s exhausting, but we are not exhausted yet.”
The High Sierra Striders, along with the Kastors and Jim and Elaine Smith, are heading up the Mammoth Track Project. For more on the project visit www.mammothtrackproject.org.
A few more questions for Deena while we could catch her:
Sheet: What’s new in your career? Your life in general?
DK: I just began running after taking more than seven weeks off. It doesn’t feel so good starting back up again, but every day I feel a little smoother than the previous attempt. I am getting ready to help crew my friend at Badwater. She has done it before, but it should be a fun adventure for me. In fact, I’ve been going to Bishop for some heat training since Mammoth has had such a cold “spring.” I’m not sure how much of the 135 mile distance I will do, but I am going to log everything that happens. The first thing on my packing list is a journal. After this race I am going to be home training for the ING NY City Marathon. I am really excited to be here in Mammoth for the entire summer and preparing for this race.
Sheet: How’s the foot? Does it give you problems anymore?
DK: I am grateful that my foot doesn’t give me any problems. I owe a huge thanks to Mammoth Hospital and Dr. Karch who figured out that the fracture I endured at the Beijing Olympics was due to a Vitamin D deficiency. Since then I have been able to reverse the bone deterioration that the dexa-scan showed, and have strong bones once again.
Sheet: You said you are training for the ING New York City Marathon. What would winning this race mean for you?
DK: I will be running the Philadelphia Half-Marathon in September as preparation for the ING NY City Marathon. Meb and I work well together when we are preparing for similar races. By working well together I don’t mean physically, but spiritually. We are great supporters and encouragers of one another. I look forward to training with Meb this summer and racing NY together in the fall. I would love to capture the title there as Meb did last year. Even better, if we won together this year.
Sheet: What are your career goals for the next five years? Do you plan to go to the Olympics again?
DK: The next summer Olympics are in 2012 in London and it is my goal to make my fourth Olympic team. There are other races in the nearer future that have my attention, but that is my next big goal. It is my biggest hope to improve on my bronze medal.
Sheet: Are you still working on your cookbook?
DK: My cookbook is an embarrassing topic because it is finished, just needs to be published and I don’t have the energy to follow through with it. When it becomes a priority, I will see it through. My kitchen and the trails in Mammoth remain my two favorite places to be.