Carlee Daub

Carlee Daub, a state champion volleyball player at La Conner High School, is now into distance running both personally and professionally.

In high school, Carlee Daub was known for a dedication to volleyball that bordered on the fanatical.

Her coach remembered Daub saying minutes after a difficult loss in a state title game: "Tomorrow, we start working toward next year."

It's been more than a decade since Daub — then Carlee Marble — helped lead La Conner to an undefeated season and state title. Today, she's devoted herself to a whole new sport — and to helping others discover it, too.

Daub lives in Norman, Oklahoma, with her husband Bryce — director of strength and performance for the University of Oklahoma — and has co-founded Wahoo Running, a web-based business that helps connect runners with training plans, support and a community of like-minded athletes.

"Did I dream in high school I'd be an endurance athlete? No way. It's crazy where life has taken me," she said.

On teams that didn't lack for talent, Daub stood out as the setter for the Braves.

With stepmother Suzanne Marble coaching on the sidelines, Daub was a three-time all-state selection and helped power the team to an undefeated season in 2006. She was a three-time selection as the Skagit Valley Herald Volleyball Player of the Year.

She went on to star at Central Washington University, where she was a conference player of the week, all-academic team honoree and multiple-time all-conference honorable mention selection.

Daub said she ran sometimes to keep on top of conditioning, but didn't focus on it until she and her husband were living in Eugene, Oregon, while Bryce worked for the University of Oregon. Eugene is a running-mad city, and Daub was eager to fit in.

"Everyone seemed to be signing up for the Eugene marathon. I figured if I'm going to be a true Eugenian I need to go the distance," she said.

The experience was far from pristine.

"I had no idea how to train properly, how to prepare. My initial way of running was to power through. But one thing I learned most is you can't power through a marathon," Daub said. "I saw my husband at mile 18 and gave him a thumbs-down like, 'I'm never doing this again.'"

That prediction was off base. Once Daub heard fellow Eugene residents talk about how many runners ran one marathon and then gave up, the former volleyball star's competitive spirit kicked in.

"People said, 'Everyone does one,' and I was like, 'Well, I have to do two,'" Daub said.

Since that first race in 2012, Daub has gone on to run a dozen marathons, including the New York City Marathon twice.

She didn't expect her newfound love of running to turn into a business until she moved to Oklahoma. In fact, when she and her family first moved to Norman from running-heavy Eugene she wasn't sure she'd stay involved with the sport at all.

"I thought my running career was over," she said.

But after the move, Daub met Christie Thomas. 

Thomas had started a kids' running club called Wahoo Running. The name wasn't carelessly chosen; it was named for the joyous cry Thomas and a previous running partner would make during long runs to pump themselves and the crowd up.

"We wanted running to stay joyful and stay fun. We both started wahoo-ing and the crowd got energized," Thomas said.

After her running partner died suddenly, Thomas stopped running.

She later founded the kids' group as a way to honor her former running partner's spirit. That effort expanded after she met Daub and realized they complemented each other's strengths ... and had lots of knowledge to offer runners.

"I asked Carlee to train for a marathon with me. I'd been toying with training adults. We decided after we trained for that marathon to join forces," Thomas said.

They founded Wahoo Running, an online portal that helps runners connect to training resources and other runners for a monthly or yearly fee. Daub, her husband and Thomas are all among the business's coaches.

Daub said she's happy to have found something with facets of the community-building aspect of team sports she had enjoyed as an athlete. Even though clients may be outside Oklahoma, the business still allows her and other trainers to connect with runners — and for runners to connect with each other. 

"(There's) still a team aspect like back in high school and doing volleyball. Even though it's an individual sport it drives a team atmosphere. For adults that's hard to find," she said. "We realized community is what people are after."

Daub noticed that aspect keenly when Wahoo Running was selected as "virtual coaches" for Michelob Ultra-sponsored athletes at the New York City Marathon.

Connecting with athletes throughout the country online, Daub and Thomas did more than share tips. They built a community among the runners to the degree that an online "reunion" in the past few weeks drew more than half of them. 

"It was like a team, just like back in high school," she said. 

Daub is happy with spending so many hours helping runners, as well as running herself. It's been an unexpected path, she said.

I've fallen in love with the sport, the camaraderie, the adventure, the training," she said. "I never would have guessed."

— Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Sports_SVH, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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