This week on the Dirt in Your Skirt Profiles series we focus on Aliza Lederer-Plaskett. She is a vocal voice in the Spartan Chicked community online. She has jumped into the world of fitness, obstacle racing, and ultra running with commitment and an undying sense to find the next big adventure. While not finding the next mountain to climb this 24-year old calls Westchester, New York her home. Like her racing she holds a variety of different jobs during the week including duties as a Field Coordinator; Trainer; and Pole Fitness Instructor while also a graduate student at NYU. She took some time to answer our questions.
How did you get involved in your sport?
I have reached my place in each of my sports through a stubborn desire to prove to someone who said I couldn’t that I absolutely can. OCR in particular I came to as I began the process of losing 75lbs after finishing my undergraduate career at about 200lbs, and began using Spartan Races as a motivator to stay on track. Two years later, I’m finally starting races in the elite heat, surrounded by the most amazing women in the field.
Were you always an athlete?
I have always been an athlete, I just haven’t always been a very good one. I grew late and awkwardly, and though much of my time in high school was devoted to swimming, I didn’t find my place in the sport until I was about 17. Unfortunately, a severe shoulder injury with little expected hope of recovery sidelined me from the sport early on in college.
What are some of your athletic achievements?
I had wonderful moments afforded to me through my days of high school swimming at both the club and varsity levels – perhaps my favorite of which was finishing third overall at our division championships, only to discover Michael Phelps and 3 other Olympians were in the arena, watching and waiting for a photo shoot.
In recent years, I’ve learned to embrace the fact that where I have grown up in the water, OCR and running have never and will never ‘come naturally to me.’ This made winning my age group and placing as the 5th female overall in a 50k this past spring so much sweeter. I’m moving up consistently and gradually, and with a lot of work and a little luck I will continue to do so.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
First and foremost, I’m determined to finish the Spartan Ultra Beast in a strong, good time this year. I was pulled from the course at a time cut off, with severe hypothermia last year, and I’ve spent the last 365 days making sure that will not happen again.
The fall is full for me this year, with major events coming up about every two weeks. The biggest for me include the Fuego y Agua Hunter Gatherer in Texas, the World’s Toughest Mudder in Las Vegas, and a subsequent run of the rims of the Grand Canyon. I will also be at the Fuego y Agua race in Nicaragua in February 2015, competing in the Devil’s Double.
Who is/are your inspiration?
I find a little bit of inspiration in all of the strong women in my life, athletes, professionals, and advocates alike. I’ve been very lucky to come in contact with some of the brightest minds of my generation and some of the most talented athletes in my sport, as well as to watch up-and-coming athletes begin to near their prime. Seeing women who have overcome to succeed where others have doubted them is both my constant inspiration and joy.
What is your most proud moment in sport?
While I feel like my proud moment should be one that came with a medal, in actuality, having gone from 200lbs to around 130, my pride lies in my firsts. Crossing the finish line of my first Spartan sprint at Tuxedo Ridge. Finishing my first marathon, and then my first ultra-marathon. Persevering through over 20 miles of the 2013 Ultra Beast with two broken bones. Those mean the most by far.
What is your most proud moment in life?
The moments I prove my own self-doubts wrong are always my proudest. I am a loud mouth with an opinion on absolutely everything, but when I use it for good, to stand up for the people I care about are usually those I feel best about. Also, I got an A in Organic Chemistry last semester. That felt pretty good too.
How do you overcome a bad race or training day?
I go home and lace up my sauconys and put my English pointer on her leash, and we head out for a run. No phone, no garmin, nothing. We run until we’re done running, and then the next day I try again.
What is your training routine like?
I do a lot of everything. I teach at least one pole class per week, and do Krav Maga combat training four days per week – more when I’m not in season and can risk an injury. I clock about 60-80 miles per week on roads, trails, and on the dreadmill doing intervals. The stepmill and I are besties. The ERG… we have a special sort of relationship. I build my own circuit workouts for the week, and commit to them. All in all, I probably clock upwards of 15 hours of training per week.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your sport?
Dive in. Fear is the worst thing to let hold you back here, because truth be told, no one actually knows what they’re doing. Right foot, Left foot, and one way or another, you’ll find your way to the finish.
What is your favorite pre-race and post-race food?
I eat a bowl of honey nut cheerios in the morning before every single race. It’s more a ritual than a beneficial secret food, but I’m oddly superstitious for a bleeding heart liberal atheist. After a race, you can usually find me sitting on a bench with half a watermelon and a spoon.
When not training and competing what do you do with your down time?
The outdoors are my happy places; even when I’m not training with a time or goal in mind, being on my board or swimming in the waves is where I find my bliss. I’m also a dog nut, so you might also find me snuggling my dogs or volunteering with the rescues I work with; I’m only ever about 3 dogs away from being cast in an episode of animal hoarders.
What is your favorite quote to motivate you?
“The only good race pace is suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.” – Steve Roland Prefontaine
What is the best advice a coach ever gave you?
The best thing a coach has ever said to me was to just get in the water and swim until my heart was full. Well, actually, that quote was preceded by him instructing each member of my 200 medley relay on how to approach their leg of the swim, and finally turning to me and saying “And you… I’m not telling you anything. You swim weird. Just swim until your heart is full.” It’s how I try to approach everything now.
If you could share some advice to the next generation of athletes, what would it be?
Fear of physical challenges is stupid. Dive in head first and try everything – it’s the only way you’ll ever find what makes your heart sing.