Final Surge Podcast Episode 85: Jess Tonn

In Episode 85 of the Final Surge Podcast we talk professional runner and Brooks Beast team member, Jess Tonn. Jess discusses her high school and collegiate career, her transition to professional running, and the impact of the coaches she has been fortunate enough to work with. In addition, Jess also recently began her own coaching career through RunDoyen.

Welcome to Episode 85 of the Final Surge Podcast where today we have the pleasure of bringing you one of the best young track runners in the country, Jess Tonn. Jess is fresh off her sub-32 10k win at the Payton Jordan. We talk to Jess about her running career to date including her stellar high school career where she qualified for 4 Foot Lockers, her running career a Sanford and how it has been making the transition to running with the Brooks Beast team. We talk to her about the amazing coaches she has been blessed to have so far and how that has helped her in her own coaching career with RunDoyen. Jess' energy is contagious and we hope you enjoy this episode as much as we did recording it.

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Tell us how you got started running when you were younger

  • Started when was 12
  • Mother worked in the athletic department at ASU so did many sports
  • Tried many sports like soccer, running came naturally
  • PE teacher recommended after-school running program
  • Joined youth team for USATF
  • Ran at Xavier in Phoenix for high school

You had quite a high school career, 4 year Foot Locker qualifier, 14 state titles in cross country and track and you went to an academically challenging high school with Xavier, how hard was it to put in the time you needed to be successful in school and as such an accomplished high school runner?

  • So much pressure on student athletes to perform now
  • Phoenix is hot had to meet at 5 am 6 days a week
  • Academics suffered a little because of hours
  • Had a great support system

Was there ever a time in high school you thought I want to be a professional runner some day?

  • When made her first Foot Locker coach sat them down and said this was a big deal
  • Wasnt until college that decided it was a possibility

You also had a successful college career as a runner at Stanford, another tough academic school. There are dozens of young women runners in high school who go onto college and you never hear from them again except on Let’s Run message boards saying whatever happened to….. Why do you think you were able to make the jump to the next level?

  • Amazing coaches
  • Jeff Messer, high school coach developed well and left room for potential
  • College transitions that were hard were the lifestyle not running

What did you study at Stanford?

  • Communications

In November 2015 you signed a contract with Brooks to run as a professional. How hard or easy was it to make the decision to put off your career and chase your dream of being a professional runner?

  • Easy decision
  • When made top 3 in NCAA's knew I wanted to keep going
  • Family and coaches supported making a decision to run professionally

What was it about Danny Mackey and the Brooks Beast team that attracted you to them?

  • Prioritized what ideal position would look like as far as living and training
  • Coach, team atmosphere were all important
  • Visited a few teams and companies
  • Brooks HQ atmosphere was unbeatable
  • Coach Mackey was invested in each individual

Earlier this month you ran the 10k at Payton Jordan, I want to talk about the race in some details and ask you a few questions about different stages. But first, what were your expectations going into it?

  • Had nagging issues earlier this year but decided at USA's wanted to focus on 10k
  • Had strung together 75-80 mile weeks
  • Training at altitude coming into it
  • A few workouts were tough but indicated was in shape
  • Was great to go back to Stanford
  • Goal was 31:45-32:15 range
  • 2 weeks out did a really hard workout and nailed it so knew was ready

What was that really hard workout?

  • 7x 1k, 600 with short rest

Do you see yourself as a 10k runner going forward?

  • 2020 plan to try and make 10k team

You mentioned you had some injuries, can you talk about getting through those?

  • Had to pull out of Olympic trials which was devastating
  • Had to learn to implement crosstraining
  • Last year was on a long run and snapped a foot bone, came out of nowhere
  • Was in the middle of training block and was in a boot for 8 weeks, 12-week block with no running just swimming, biking and elliptical
  • Had to work on the mental game

Rabbit took the group through almost 3k at just sub 32:00 pace and when the rabbit left the track things started to stretch out. At 3200k you were down by about 9 second and by 5k it was almost up to 15 seconds and you were leading a chase group in 3rd. When the lead grew to almost 15 seconds did you ever think I should have gone with Ichiyama?

  • No, had a solid race plan
  • Stayed relaxed over the first 5k
  • The goal was to be around 16:00 at 5k and was within 2 seconds of that
  • Was confident in my race plan
  • 6-8k was a little tough but started closing the gap so gained momentum
  • When got tough kept saying one more lap
  • Knew if was within contact with a mile to go could win

In the last mile your group started closing the gap, were you girls talking and communicating as it looked like you took turns leading the chase?

  • No communications, it just happened and took turns leading chase
  • Knew that workouts had set me up to win at end
  • Biggest goal was to compete to win

With 800 to go the lead group was back to 5 and Cliff made a push then with 500 to go Pagano made a push, and you were content on the back of the 5 person pack, what were you thinking, what was your plan as you saw what was going on ahead of you?

  • Learned to stay out of chaos but aware if any moves happen
  • Knew when I made a move had to be definitive
  • I could have run faster if made my move a little earlier

That last 400 you close in 70, and when you went at 300 there was no doubt who was going to win, you looked so strong. Did you feel as strong as you looked?

  • Felt strong and had been working on mechanics and turnover
  • Through all the drills we had been doing I could feel it pay off over last 200

What have been your keys to consistency across her high school, college, and professional training that have supported your long-term evolution to a sub-32:00 performer?

  • Having fun has been huge for me
  • Staying healthy is tricky because my body feels different now
  • Have had to get to know my body
  • Always riding that line but every injury I can see where I made a mistake, they were learning moments
  • Super in-tune with how I am feeling and communicating with the coach
  • All the pre-hab, rehab is important to staying health

What are your plans for he rest of the race season?

  • 5k in June
  • Good 1500 at Portland Track Festival

You are now coaching with RunDoyen and we will leave a link in the show notes if anyone wants to get a hold of you about coaching. You have been blessed with amazing coaches since high school. You had one of the top high school coaches in the country with Jeff Messer, then, of course, Stanford and now with the Beast club. All of your coaches are successful, but I am sure they are all different in their own ways and coaching methods. What have you learned from your coaches that you will use in your coaching?

  • Communications
  • Adaptability and being flexible and not married to plan, life happens
  • Clients range from college runners hoping to make the team to mom's
  • Use Final Surge makes it easy to communicate

The Final Surge... 5 questions in under 1 minute
Favorite endurance/running book? - Peak Performance
Current trainers you are wearing? - Brooks Ghost 10
Favorite race? - 10k
Favorite meal or recovery drink? - Gatorade, water and protein
Your favorite workout - 4 sets of 4x400 or 5-6 mile tempo on the track

How to Connect with Jess:
@JessTonn on Instagram
@JessTonn on Twitter
Jess Tonn on RunDoyen


Team Final Surge

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