When it comes to running, new Bend residents Renee Metivier Baillie and her husband, Austin Baillie, just may be the fastest couple in town.

The Baillies relocated from Colorado to Central Oregon in December, and Metivier Baillie (pronounced: Meh-tee-vee-ay Bailey), who has been a professional runner for Nike since 2005, is preparing for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in track and field, scheduled for this summer in Eugene.

“I think it’s cool, and I think we fit in really well, and we’re excited to be a part of it,” Metivier Baillie says of Bend.

She and her husband have settled themselves and their two cats into a small home near downtown, and they are ready to involve themselves in the local running scene with the start-up of a new running group. They are partnering with the Bend Downtown Athletic Club and will be able to share their knowledge of the sport through the Bend Downtown Athletic Club Running Club, which will meet for structured workouts based out of the facility twice a week.

“It’s for anybody from all levels,” Baillie says of the group. (For more on the Bend Downtown Athletic Club Running Club, see the accompanying sidebar, D4.)

Baillie has long been acquainted with Central Oregon, as he used to drive through Bend on his way to family vacations in Sunriver when he was younger. He has always wanted to live here, Metivier Baillie says of her husband. So last year, after giving up their place in Boulder and living in Colorado Springs for a short stint, they headed for Central Oregon. They are getting to know the local beer scene — they mention the Deschutes Brewery, Boneyard Beer and McMenamins in particular — and have already explored popular local trails such as Shevlin Park, the Phil’s Trail complex and the Deschutes River Trail.

Metivier Baillie, 30, is a lively, petite woman who recently dyed her naturally brown hair platinum blond. She arrives in Bend with a long list of achievements to her credit. Among her career highlights, she was the NCAA cross-country runner-up in 2001 and 2004, the first time while she was enrolled at Georgia Tech and the second after she had transferred to the University of Colorado, which is where she met Baillie. She won the NCAA indoor 3,000-meter championship for Colorado in 2005 and was the national champion in the same event at the USA Indoor Track&Field Championships in 2010.

And she has made the national team five times for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, winning a bronze medal with the U.S. women’s senior team in 2010.

For his part, Baillie, 29, was the sixth man on Colorado’s NCAA runner-up cross-country squad in 2005. He has a personal best of 1 hour, 4 minutes, 18 seconds, in the half marathon, and a personal record of 2:19:35 in the marathon, which he set en route to a 13th-place finish in the Twin Cities Marathon in 2010. Baillie serves as his wife’s coach and is a massage therapist — who also happens to have a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. His massage therapy skills have come in handy over the past several years while Metivier Baillie has been dealing with an Achilles tendon injury. (In the interest of full disclosure, Baillie also just happens to be a former cross-country and track teammate of mine at Westview High School.)

In fact, Metivier Baillie is still coming back from surgery on her right Achilles last June. She initially incurred the injury, she says, in 2005, her first year as a professional, and had mostly been able to manage it over the ensuing years with help from her husband. But the condition flared up periodically and got progressively worse. A huge lump that turned out to be an enlarged bursa was rubbing against her Achilles and affecting her mobility in that area.

“The last year was the worst,” Metivier Baillie says. “I think I raced one race last year where I actually finished. It just got to the point where it was really bad.”

So Metivier Baillie underwent surgery in Sweden after learning of a specialist there through another athlete. The specialist removed the bursa — a soft tissue that serves as protective padding between tendon and bone — near the tendon, scraped her Achilles and removed a small piece of bone so it would not rub against the affected tendon. The bursa had been 10 times enlarged and had hardened, Metivier Baillie recalls of what the doctor told her. The only evidence of the procedure that now remains is a tiny pink vertical scar of about 2 inches at the back of her right foot.

The recovery from her surgery has been somewhat longer than expected but is progressing well. After returning to the United States from Sweden, the Baillies relocated for a few months from Boulder to Colorado Springs — where Metivier Baillie rehabbed at the U.S. Olympic Training Center — before moving to Bend. Her running has been a bit stop-and-go, as her Achilles felt good coming out of surgery, but her foot was still somewhat unstable.

Despite the interruptions, Metivier Baillie returned enough to form to capture fourth place at the USA Cross Country Championships, staged last month in St. Louis. Since then, though, she has been dealing with a sore spot on the top of her foot, which she noticed while cooling down after her race. She thinks the irritation was the result of not wearing spikes on the course, part of which wound up being muddy, and slipping around.

So she is cross-training to maintain fitness and strength, and she plans to resume running again in a few weeks.

“I don’t want to get stuck in that rut where you keep training on something and then it gets worse, and then I risk the Trials, because ... that’s what I’m focused on,” Metivier Baillie explains.

She is still deciding on which events she will contest in Eugene — the 5,000, the 10,000 and the 3,000 steeplechase are all possibilities — though the 5,000, in which she claims a personal best of 15:15.78, has been her primary event on the track for a while now. And she is looking forward to being healthy, a better version of herself than she has been while dealing with her injury.

“I want to be Renee at 100 percent capacity, and I feel like the last five years, I’ve been running at like 85 percent,” she notes.

If she can toe the starting line in peak physical form, no matter which events she selects, Metivier Baillie could well be in the mix to land a spot on the U.S. team.

And be headed for the Olympics in London, rather than surgery in Sweden.

“I mean, it takes time,” Metivier Baillie says of getting healthy, “but it’s worth it because I’m going to be indestructible pretty soon.”

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