This week we catch up with New York raised Nicole Blood. Find out about her journey transitioning from stand out distance runner at the University of Oregon to landing an awesome job at the Nike HQ.
Nicole is currently based in Portland, OR and does an excellent job juggling work, training and enjoying life.
Belle Lap: So tell us a bit about your journey since high school…
NB:Whew! It’s been an amazing journey, for sure. I chose to continue my running career with the Ducks in Eugene, OR. My freshman year, we had a very small team and were not good enough to qualify for Nationals. We continued to grow and get better, and the very next year, we finished second at Nationals. It was awesome to be a part of something so special. The program is now a national powerhouse in xc and track.
After college, I struggled to find an environment that would help me continue running successfully. I struggled with some injuries, which can get pretty depressing when your job is to run, and I wasn’t making enough money to make ends meet. After two years of things not going right, I decided to put running on the backburner. I was the women’s coach at Columbia University for a couple years, and then I was a sales rep for ElliptiGO Inc for about a year before moving back west to work for Nike. I’ve been in Portland for about 6 months now.
Belle Lap: You were a stand out performer for the Ducks… How did you manage to balance training with your studies?
NB:Honestly, running always came first (sorry to the parents who are reading this!). We had practice at the same time every day, so I scheduled my classes around practice. I still maintained a high grade point average because grades were still important to me, but I didn’t stress about tests or stay up until late hours to complete an assignment.
Belle Lap: What did you learn from being a student-athlete at Oregon?
NB:#1- time management. To avoid those late-night cram sessions, I had to be good about studying and working on big assignments consistently throughout the semester. Procrastination was not an option because I gave my body enough stress at practice.
Belle Lap: What did you major in and what were your career goals throughout college? How did they evolve?
NB: Gosh, I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do. I started in Science, thinking I wanted to be a physical therapist, but after 1 semester of Biology I thought, hell no. Then I tried business, but I was bored out of my mind. Finally by my Sophomore year, I decided on Journalism. I loved to write and always enjoyed public speaking, so after a few introductory classes, I found my passion (outside of running). Communication is always an asset when applying to jobs, so I’m really grateful for the skills that I’ve acquired. My degree is especially coming in handy now as a Brand Respond Specialist at Nike.
Belle Lap: After Graduating you pocketed a job with ElliptiGO… How did this come about?
NB: Coaching at Columbia got me pretty burnt out. Between the Ivy League year-round recruiting and the constant weekend travel, I knew pretty early on that I didn’t want the D1 coaching lifestyle down the road. I was familiar with ElliptiGO when I was an injured athlete and I absolutely loved using it for cross training. When I heard they had a position available to work with high school and university accounts, I was psyched! I wanted to help spread the word, and I knew my connections could be an asset. The team at ElliptiGO is amazing, too, so even though working sales was fairly new to me, I learned a lot from my co-workers and truly enjoyed the process.
Belle Lap: You currently have an awesome job working at the Nike HQ. Tell us a bit about your career, working on the Nike campus and how the Nike ‘runner friendly’ employee lifestyle allows you to carry on competing.
NB: I was really stoked for the opportunity to move back west and work for Nike. I wasn’t running seriously when I first moved here (I became an occasional jogger after my athlete contract ended in 2012. I wasn’t sure I’d ever compete seriously again), but the motivating and competitive environment here got me craving the fitness again.
My current position as a Brand Respond Specialist has me working the @nikerunning social media accounts. We build relationships, motivate and serve consumers through media like Twitter and Instagram. I’m really enjoying the creativity side of things, and people are seriously motivating. There are a lot of stories out there!
Belle Lap: How do you balance working full time and training?
NB: It’s good and bad. Like college, it’s nice for me to have a distraction. When I was running for Nike straight out of college, I really didn’t enjoy having nothing to think about but my next run or workout. I like having other things going on. Obviously, working 40hrs/week in an office is not ideal, but I make a schedule and stick to it. On Mondays, I meet my coach JMar at a gym for drills and strength from 6am-8am. I work 9am- 6pm. I maybe fit in a run during lunch or I run after work, and that’s it. There are enough hours in the day to get everything done, it’s just how you manage it.
Belle Lap: So you run for High Performance West… Looks like you ladies killed it at National Club XC this year, can you tell us a bit about the team dynamics and set up?
NB: I am so so excited to be part of a team again. I started training more seriously in August, just to see if I still “had it.” My body was responding well, and I was excited about the progress, so eventually I decided I wanted to be all in again. JMar reached out to me about his club team at the perfect time, and I was ready to really step up my training with a crew of women who had some big goals. The majority of us have full-time jobs, so we meet when we can. JMar works with all of our schedules and somehow makes the majority of all of our workouts throughout the day, which is pretty amazing.
Photo: Paul Merca
But our group overall carries a perfect balance of life and running. Most of us are unsponsored, paying for our own travel, massage, sneakers and gear. But hey, we love what we do and we’re working our butts off all day every day, so we’re tough. That’s why we ran well at Club Cross and that’s why you’ll see more of us this year and next.
Belle Lap: Can you share some career advice that you have learned since graduating?
NB: You don’t always have to be on the right track or know exactly what you want. I found what I wanted to be doing and where I wanted to be by process of elimination. I don’t regret any career path I started going down because each experience brought new amazing people into my life and helped me grow more as a person.
People get so scared to change course… if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, make a move.
Belle Lap: How do you mentally switch off from work and running?
NB: That’s a tough one to explain. My easy run days are great for relaxing. Whether I need to sort out thoughts or just not think at all, I look forward to my easy days for a breath of fresh air during my lunch break or after work.
On workout days though, I can pretty easily get in the zone as soon as I get to the scene of the workout. My body just knows. I can be focused all day on a project for work, but the second I leave the office and pull up to the Michael Johnson track, I’m ready to go. That’s just how it’s always been.
Belle Lap: What are you looking forward to in 2016?
NB: The Olympic Trials. Aren’t we all?
Belle Lap: Hell yeh! We are very excited for your come back in 2016!