At the Track with Ella Kociuba, Reebok AZ Spartan Sprint Winner

by Jason Jaksetic

Last Saturday, Ella Anne Kociuba won the 2013 Reebok Arizona Spartan Sprint by 5 seconds (here is the race report).  After an grueling neck and neck battle where the lead women sparred continusously for the top position, only 5 ticks of the race clock stood between Kociuba and April Luu, who took 2nd.

“The pace was intense.”  Kociuba explained.  “For the first 3 miles my heart hurt, we were running so fast.”

With competition this fierce in the elite fields, the details that a racer pays attention to will make all the difference between top honors, and a mid-pack finish.  I was fortunate enough to catch up with Ella and ask her for her insights as to what helped prepare her to take home the win over such a talented women’s field.

Training at the Track

“I only train quality miles.”  Ella explained, “I used to run much more volume in training, but now I’m more worried about making sure each mile I run counts.  The track is a great place for this.”

The following is a favorite workout for Ella.  Suicides, the speed agility drill engineered to make you puke, are a prime example of the intensity she brings to her training.  Immediately evident is the balance she keeps between her strength and speed, knowing full well that a successful Spartan racer is one who can not only run fast, but who can pound out burpees in a hurry.

Track Workout #1

Main Set:

18 min hard run (goal 3miles)

4 min rest 

5 suicide sprints on 30 seconds rest

30 burpees 

5 suicide sprints on 30 seconds rest

20 burpees 

5 suicide sprints on 30 seconds rest

10 burpees 

Training Hills

“Even though I live in Austin, Texas, a place not exactly known for mountains, I train hills every chances I get.”  Ella explained, “The Arizona course had it’s share of hills and I was able to make some moves and get time when things got steeper.”

Ella’s persistence on hills paid off, for it was evident that she was able to make some time on competitors when they slowed, while she surged.

Practice Makes Perfect:  The Spear Throw

Love it or hate it, the spear throw is a Spartan staple, and it can make all the difference between 1st and 2nd.

Ella explains, “I hit the spear throw while the two women I was running with didn’t.  I had been practicing and was ready for it.  This made a huge difference.”

In Conclusion:  Ella’s Take on the Race

I asked Ella to say a few words about this amazing photo taken immediately after her win.

“As many know by now, I have had to deal with countless of serious injuries that could have very easily ruined my athletic pursuits. At the age of twelve, I had managed to break my spine in two places (in a horse riding accident) along with discovering the birth defect of my spine never being connected to my sacrum, and suffering from spondylothesis (a condition where a vertebrate breaks off and falls onto a vertebrate below it). It was a miracle I have come this far and so when the recent struggle with my leg came upon me, I knew that all my patience, belief, and heart was going to be tested and that with the right mindset, this too will pass and things will be okay. I ended 2012 season on a very weak, unhappy version of myself, but I kept working hard for this year.

So this past weekend’s race of coming out on top and fighting for the finish line, brought me such an overwhelming sense of happiness and fulfillment to me that I don’t know how to describe it.. As soon as I saw the finish line, I couldn’t stop screaming. That moment was beyond amazing for me, because despite the struggle i endured, it has given me strength to push forward and I can overcome anything if I put my heart into it.

Never ever give up on your dreams, no matter what. You gotta fight the fight for it.”

Be sure to check out Ella Kociuba’s athlete page on Facebook.

4 Responses

  1. avatar

    I just read about Ella in the spartan e-book and was truly inspired. I did the above workout today and it definitely felt like my lungs were melting. After I finally recovered, I felt great (and kind of wanted to do it again). Ella, I know it’s rough but I’m working hard to get where you are!

  2. avatar

    You rock!!

  3. avatar

    She is definitely a winner! What a great work rate and mentality! Just curious as to her definition of a suicide run because I know there are many ways that people do them.

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