On The Road To RIO: Trekking With Nathalie Marchino

Nathalie Marchino in her Colombia swag!

Nathalie Marchino in her Colombia swag!

In our initial feature on Nathalie Marchino (Running To A Rio Rugby Dream: Part V), we spoke how Marchino had previously played with both the USA Eagles for 7s and 15s including World Cups for each (7s and 15s). We also discussed that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a different and stricter set of rules for eligibility than World Rugby has, and since Marchino (a resident of the States) does not hold US citizenship she is ineligible to play with the Eagles in Rio.

The positive side is that Nathalie was eligible to suit up for Colombia who has qualified for Rio later this summer.While many of Marchino’s teammates from both the USA Eagles and the Berkley All Blues have been able to train full-time as residents athletes at the USA Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Chula Vista and with the Eagles, Marchino has had to do the work mostly independently.

Currently, Marchino has been in Colombia with the national team there, but she put in a great deal of work before flying to the southern hemisphere, and continues to work for the 2016 Summer Games.

We followed up with Marchino to see how her journey to Rio is going, but also to show the readers and future Olympic hopefuls that the road to the summer game is long, and grueling, but for those willing to do the work like Marchino it can be a worthwhile reality.

Here is our interview with Marchino!

Nathalie Marchino with Les Spellman, Speed Coach (SD, 2016).

Nathalie Marchino with Les Spellman, Speed Coach (SD, 2016).

The Rugby Republic (RR): So what was the biggest challenge to training for Rio 2016, since you can’t use the OTC? Were you still able to train at all with USA Rugby (as a 15s player) or did you have to go solo?

Nathalie Marchino (NM):
Prior to moving to Colombia, I was mostly training solo with the occasional help of friends that would join me for my workouts. However, I met a speed coach -- Les Spellman -- that has really helped me along. He's based out of San Diego so I flew down 1-2x per month to work with him. Les is awesome! He would use any break he had during the day to put me through some sort of workout. We worked out 2-4x a day when I was down there. He also helps out with the ATAVUS Academy, which is based out of the same gym he coaches from so I participated to a few sessions there as well. So not completely alone :).

RR:  So you did some work with ATAVUS.  How did that come about and what did you specifically work with them on?

Natalie Marchino playing with ATAVUS 7s in Las Vegas 7s. (photo by ATAVUS). 

Natalie Marchino playing with ATAVUS 7s in Las Vegas 7s. (photo by ATAVUS). 

NM: I participated in their ATAVUS Academy based out of MM7 gym in San Diego. I am really good friends with Emilie Bydwell, their Head of Rugby Programming who told me about their academy. I also have worked with Richie Walker a number of times through the USA 7s program, and really respect him. I knew that he would be coaching at the academy so for me it was a no brainer. Between him and Les, I was sold. From there, I talked to Richie about playing for ATAVUS at Vegas 7s, which I was able to do.

The ATAVUS Academy was the only type of rugby training that I did prior to going to Colombia and it was hugely helpful in teaching me new techniques through a variety of guest coaches, such as Chris Brown, USA 7s Men's Assistant Coach and Derrick Luque, Olympic Lifting coach.

RR: Prior to joining Team Colombia, were you training with peers, other ruggers or did you have access to professional coaches (strength and conditioning, speed coaches, rugby 7s coaches)?

I was mainly training on my own but a number of friends and Cal Rugby players joined me for workouts. I also had the privilege of working out with the likes of Les Spellman, USA 7s speed coach, Richie Walker of MM7 Training Center & new USA 7s Women's Head Coach, Chris Brown, USA 7s Men's Assistant Coach, Derrick Luque, Olympic Lifting Coach, Ronnie Taylor, USA Long Jumper (and hopefully future Olympian!), and a number of NFL players and hopefuls through Les' gym. Those were great opportunities when time allowed.  So I got some exposure through high caliber professionals!

Nathalie Marchino at the MM7 Training Center (SD, 2016)

Nathalie Marchino at the MM7 Training Center (SD, 2016)

RR: What was a typical training sessions like (as far as what work were you doing for the sessions) before leavening the States?

NM: I was on a 4-week strength program that focused mainly on developing explosive strength. I lifted 4x per week. In addition, I did 1-2 speed and conditioning workouts per days. I went to the track at 6am to do a speed workout. It could be sprints or sprinting technique. I typically hit the gym at 2:30pm, then back to the track at 6pm for a speed endurance, a conditioning workout or a functional conditioning workouts (rugby specific: hitting bags, up downs, etc). Wednesdays and Saturdays were easier days with 1-2 workouts and Sunday was a rest day. On Wednesdays, the conditioning workouts generally were on an indoor bike or the rower to give my legs a bit of a break.

RR: Once you shifted your focus to training fulltime, how many hours a day do you train? And do you have a standard training regiment, or do you change it up regularly?

My first week in Colombia, I decided not to do anything extra. I wanted to see what their programming looked like to see if I wanted to supplement it with anything. In retrospect, I wish I'd continued to do at least my speed technique, but that's neither here nor there now.

This past week, I started doing speed technique before all our field sessions. I am also organizing skill sessions for whoever wants to join. We train every day, and lift three times a week but most of it is in the mornings so I have the rest of the day to add a workout if necessary or focus on recovery. 

RR: You had to take a leave from work and focus full-time on the Olympics. How has that impacted your life?

NM: We are still working out the details of that (with a smile).  But at the moment, I'm only focused on rugby, which is rare for me. Aside from the time that I was contracted by USA 7s, I've always had to work to play rugby and while I played rugby. Not having to worry about work has been liberating. I can really dedicate myself to improve on the things I need to improve on ahead of Rio and it's been amazing. 

The Team Nathalie T-Shirts

The Team Nathalie T-Shirts

RR: Was the T-shirt drive/fundraiser a success? Can you tell us about what the goal was, and how that’s helping?

Yes, I've been humbled by the overwhelming support I received from family, friends, coworkers. I sold 150 t-shirts, which is double what I had aimed for. I am using the funds to get equipment we don't have. I am also using the funds to help with team costs that aren't covered. Finally, I am looking for trainers that specialize in dry needling, craniosacral work, and a clinical massage therapist, as we don't currently have access to that, so the funds will help me cover the costs of those treatments. The support has come from all over the globe.

RR: Now that you are training in/with Colombia, what way or what aspects of the training are different than when you trained with team USA?

NM: Well, let's just say everything is different. From the training sessions, to our access to fields, to our equipment. I remember that as a USA player, we always felt really lucky to have the facilities we have, but I realize now just how lucky we were. In Colombia, we train on a turf field that is extremely had. It's causing a lot of join injuries, and it instantly destroys cleats. We don't have ice baths after our sessions or access to an athletic trainer that can work on our injuries. Sometimes we train on a baseball field. And while Medellin (the city) offers free access to amazing facilities, Rugby is one of those sports that is struggling to get the support it needs.

We regularly get kicked out of our weight session because our time is up. There is another gym that is in the same complex and actually has more of the machines we need but the track and field team won't let us use it. Individually, these are fairly small things but they add up. That said, it's made me appreciate just our resourceful and resilient the girls are. They make do with what they have. And while they all know that they could use more and should likely get more support, seeing as they've qualified for Rio, they just keep going. Pride is a powerful thing.

RR: What do you miss the most from being a part of Team USA, and what do you love the most about being able to be a part of team Colombia?

NM: I miss my old teammates most. We had an incredible squad full of intelligent, funny, and talented women. We knew what we wanted and we all worked really hard for our goals. I also miss having a team manager that just handled all the small details that could get in the way, but didn't because she was all over them.

What I love most about being part of team Colombia is that this is a strong group of women that with little managed to achieve their dream of qualifying for the Olympics!  They carry that attitude in everything they do. It doesn't matter what they have (or don’t have), they make it work. That's true of Colombian culture in general. People just find ways to make things happen, regardless of what resources are available. I also love the passion with which they play. People often described me as a passionate player, so I love that about the team. And they are fun! You always know when the Colombians are around because they love to play music, to dance, and to laugh. 

RR: How has Colombia responded to Rugby 7s? You said its still trying to get support/recognition?

NM: Rugby in general in Colombia is still a fairly unknown sport but FCR (Federacion Colombiana de Rugby) is doing a good job of giving the team exposure. There is always a TV crew around waiting to interview the players. I recently did a couple of interviews and have been recognized on the streets by people that said they saw me on the news. They're wishing us good luck for the games, and tell us that they didn't know about rugby but are now pulling for us. I think the tide is starting to change. Slowly, but surely.

RR: With the impact and gurgling work that comes with training full-time for the biggest sporting event in the world, how important has your recovery been?

NM: Really important. I try to be very mindful of what I do outside of training. Like I said, we don't have consistent access to a athletic trainer. I'm older than most the rugby 7s players so I have to be extra cautious with my body. 

RR: What do you do for your recovery? Do you have a program? We’ve seen some of the treatments you’ve received on twitter, are those new approaches for you and how are they helping? Sorry for all the questions?

NM: I have been primarily using bands and softballs to do my own recovery. I use compression gear but that only helps so much. We ice bath once in a blue moon. I am looking for Epsom salt to do my own soaks. If I could, I would also get a massage each week, work with someone that does dry needling and cupping work, and have a regular PT regiment but for now, bands will have to do. 

RR: What have you learned so far in this Olympic Journey?

This isn't necessarily a new lesson, but I think the most important thing for me has been to try to enjoy each part of the process because you never know when it might end. My career [almost] ended twice before. Once due to my citizenship status, and another time due to a jaw fracture. It could happen again. The first few weeks in Colombia were difficult for me. But, last week I decided to do the things that make me most happy, and to just relax and enjoy the ride. It's completely changed my experience!

RR: Anything we’ve missed or you want to plug (your blog, etc)?

es! My blog: http://whatsupwithnath.blogspot.com/     My fundraising page: https://www.rallyme.com/rallies/3833/swzroad2rio -- as we can use all the help we get!  My Twitter account: www.twitter.com/swissbeatz   My athlete page: https://www.facebook.com/USAR.NathalieMarchino/?ref=settings

If you want to follow Marchino’s incredible journey to Rio, you can always follow her on twitter, and also check out her Blog with a lot insight into her experience. We again want to than Marchino for her time and willingness to share her rugby experience. We can't wait for our Team Nathalie t-shirts, we'll be sporting those proudly.