Izzy Frost may just be 12-years-old, but she's already accomplished a lot in the world of running.
Before hitting her 12th birthday, the Rolla native set two state records for 11-year-olds and has won countless races in and out of Missouri. It's funny to think that all of that started because she picked up a flyer at school a few years ago.
"I brought home a flyer from school for the PCRMC Heart to Heart run and I showed it to my parents and they said 'no you can't do that.' Basically, they didn't believe in me," said the young runner. So I begged them for about two months and it came time for the race and they let me do it. "
They let her run her first race on Valentine's Day a few years back, but they were nervous. Her dad, Patrick, wanted to hop in the car and pick her up in the middle of the race, but her mom was committed to seeing her finish that race. Not only did she finish, she was the top female finisher in her age group, finishing in about 31 minutes. This jumpstarted her love for running, which was a shock to her parents.
"(Her desire to run) had nothing to do with us. We had to look it up to see exactly what a 5K was," said Patrick with a laugh. "I thought it was three miles and I was close, it was 3.1. Prior to that she hadn't run a straight distance more than 300 meters."
After that race, she decided to run another 5K three weeks later and she managed to shave three minutes off of her time. That's when this love for running really started to seem real. Because Izzy started running in the winter, she trained at The Centre and she and her dad started to meet more competitive runners. They ran into one runner who takes part in the Boston Marathon and he gave them some very simple, yet intimidating advice.
"(He said) 'Don't become localized, get her out of this area.' And I'm like, 'what do you mean? She's doing great,'" Patrick recalled. "He said, 'don't take any offense to this, but your daughter will never see true potential unless you get her out there, get her out of state, get her in the bigger cities.' At first I was kind of offended, like what's wrong with racing her in Rolla? And he said 'just trust me here, take her to the bigger cities and you'll be able to see if this is what she really wants to do. It's either going to make her better or she's going to quit.' And in the back of my mind I'm thinking I don't want my daughter to quit and if she gets beat real bad, she's going to quit. So we did."
That's when Izzy's intensity with running kicked it up a notch. The Frosts hired Bryce Swafford, an assistant track coach at Rolla, to help her train and he whipped her into shape for the next three months as she prepared for her first trip to a regional qualifier for the Junior Olympics. All through this process, Izzy wasn't entirely sure she could do it, but coach Swafford made her believe she could.
"Izzy was like 'well I don't want to go down to St. Louis and get my butt kicked,'" Patrick remembers. "And I said 'well if you get your butt kicked, you get your butt kicked. This will show you where you're at. You're getting first in Rolla and some of the surrounding towns, let's go up to the big city and see if this is the real deal.' And she was like 'okay, but I'm telling you, I'm gonna get my butt kicked.' We decided to stay positive and try it and we did."
"I had a bunch of practices with Swafford and he really got my mind in the game. He changed me...he taught be how to believe in myself because I was doubting myself," added the young runner. "He has taught me everything I know."
Izzy has been trying to run in the Junior Olympics for a few years now. She made it to the big show last year, but wasn't able to find her way to the medal stand. This year might be different though, as Izzy has taken massive strides in the last year. In the Spring, Frost set the 11-year-old Missouri state record for the four mile run. Ironically, she didn't even know she set the record until a few weeks later. Izzy's drive to get an amazing time in that race didn't come from a desire to set a state record, but to prove a grandma wrong.
Izzy's running partner, Mike Counts, is a manager in the pharmacy at the Walmart in Cuba. One of his co-workers is the grandmother of Allie Gibbs, a state medalist in cross country from Steelville high school. That grandma told Counts that Gibbs was going to beat Frost handily. That didn't sit well with the Rolla native.
"Mike told me that and I was mad as heck," said Izzy. "She started off and she sprinted out, she shot out and this was a four mile race so I don't do that. So I started out about a 6:30 pace and she went out at like a five minute pace, sprinting like the Terminator. At about a mile and a half I started cruising up on her and she looks behind and starts to speed up."
Right around that minute and a half mark, Izzy made her move and passed Gibbs. A half of a mile later and she and a massive lead
"It's rolling hills so I got up to the top of the hill on mile two and I turned back even though I shouldn't have and she was way back, you couldn't even see her," said Izzy. "And that grandma made me mad and I was gonna show her! So I just go and go and I wanna finish this and I want to be first overall female, because there was only one more female and I was going to catch her. I caught her and I was like, screw it, I'm gonna win this."
Patrick said that Counts, who is the fastest male runner in Rolla, couldn't keep up with her by the three mile mark. She went on to set the state record thanks to that grandma doubting her. The same thing would happen when she broke the 5K record months later, but this time it was her dad fueling the fire.
"Izzy had come within the state record six or seven times and so the morning of the Go! All-American in St. Louis it was raining and mom asked her if she was ready to break the state record today and she goes 'well, I'll try.' I remember saying 'ah she can't do it, she's not gonna break the state record,'" said Patrick.
Izzy interjected, "I was like 'screw you!'"
"She was like 'don't say that!' and I was like 'well you're not. If you were gonna do it, you would've done it two months ago.' And I knew what I was doing. I was just fueling her," continued Patrick. "We went down for breakfast and she was mad, she didn't talk. We got to the race and she got out of the car and didn't say anything and went over to the start line and I could see she was pretty fueled up. We got to the finish line and sat there and waited on her and it was raining pretty good, it was a good light rain, and here she came through at 19:10. She was one of the first female finishers to come through.
"When Izzy got to the finish line she was jumping up and down shouting 'dad, I did it, I did it! I broke the state record!' And I was as calm as could be and said 'yeah, I know, I knew you could do it.' And she was confused and I said, 'yeah, I knew you could do it. You just had to believe in yourself, recalled the elder Frost. "You had to get mad and prove it to yourself, because it was you versus you today. It wasn't you versus anybody else or you versus me, it was you versus you today. You just had to beat yourself and tell yourself mentally you could this.' And she did it beat it by a little bit. She blew the record out of the water by 33 seconds."
Now that Izzy has turned 12, she has a new slate of state records that she wants to break and she's training accordingly. Her new 5K goal is the 12-year-old state record of 18:09, just over a minute quicker than her time for the 11-year-old record. Over the summer she trains about four hours a day, except for Sundays, splitting it up over two training periods. Frost also has a demanding diet. To compensate for the amount of calories she burns throughout the day, she has to eat a lot. Roughly every 30 minutes in fact. She'll dig into a handful of nuts or a protein shake because her workouts burn through so many calories. And she doesn't just run. She gets in about 20 miles of runner per week, but on top of that she swims, she bikes, she does plyometrics and then some. The idea of cross training came from another state record holder Erica Holroyd.
"She's nailing every angle of this. She's going biking, swimming, strength training, plyometrics," said Patrick. "One of the state record holders that we talked to back in February or March up in St. Louis, Erica Holroyd, we asked her what we could do prolong her body so that when she's 16, 17, 18, her body isn't worn out. That the joints aren't worn and the knees aren't banged up and she said 'that is an excellent question, very few people will ask that and all I can tell you is cross train.'"
Since she set those state records, Izzy has a slew of people asking her about that diet and workout routine. Her Instagram account has blown up - she has almost 2,000 followers - with runners across the state, even some as old as seniors in high school, asking her how she's able to accomplish these goals. Izzy doesn't care about her follower count, but she does want to help people, even if she doesn't know how to do it every day.
"I'm like 'I don't know how to answer these questions, I have to ask him every day asking what I should say,'" said Izzy.
Izzy will look to make a splash at several events in the next couple of weeks. First she'll run the 1,500m and 3,000m runs in the Show Me State Games this weekend, before running those two races in the Junior Olympics the following weekend. While she is a lock for the Junior Olympics, she still has a lot of donations to get, so if you'd like to help her out, look her up on Facebook.
Frost doesn't like to set expectations for times in any races, but she does have some goals for the Junior Olympics. Setting expectations for times is a big no-no for Frost, as it was one of the things that made breaking the 5K record, but she's shooting to medal in the 3,000m run, hopefully in the top three, and then get close to the stand in the 1,500m run. The top eight medal in each race. She learned some key lessons at this event last year, most notably where to stay in the pack.
"Stay in the pack. Top three, not first, top three, four or five. Stay with the pack. If you lose the pack, you're screwed basically. (In the 1500) You have to start all out and you have to stay all out and you have to finish all out," said Izzy. "(In the 3000) You have to speed up in the middle of the race because that's when everyone else slows down. For example, in the mile race and the 800, that's when everyone slows down. The smart runner would speed up in the middle of the race."
After these races, Izzy has a slew of 5K events in the fall to set that new state record. She will also look to run in cross country Nationals in Tallahassee, where she'll need to place in the top 21 to be an All-American.
The simple fact is that Izzy wants to be the best. She's already got her eyes set on the 2024 Olympics, which will be hosted in Los Angeles.
"I wanna be the best in the world. I want to go to the Olympics and win gold," said Izzy. Her dad added, "We just feel like we're raising a miniature junior Olympian in a child's body, because she lives it and breathes it...she believes she is an Olympian."