Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chasing a younger me

I signed up for the Houston Marathon. January 17, 2016. It will be marathon #19 (or 21, depending on whether you count the 26.2 miles after the 144.4 preceding miles at IMFL and IMLP). It is a goal race. (No. I am not able to do this "just for fun.") A big goal. I want to qualify for Boston. (Note that I waited until I aged into a qualifying time that seemed more realistic.) 4 hours. Flat. I probably need to run under 4 hours to make the cut.

I might actually have to run faster than a 24/25-year old me who ran just under 4 hours at Marine Corps Marathon (either 1988 or 1989...I can't remember. And, yes. I know that's one of the signs.)

Not many details of that particular marathon. So long ago. I had run the Shamrock Marathon that same year (I think). Also just under 4 hours. All I remember about training leading up to MCM was a lot of very long tempo runs. About 2-3 weeks earlier, I ran a half marathon on a hilly course in my fastest time ever. I vaguely recall hitting the halfway point of the marathon somewhat faster and thinking, "uh oh." And I sort of remember that the last 10k of that marathon was exceedingly long. And painful.

Luckily, I am not undertaking this journey solo. I will have a training partner. She is younger. Fresher. Faster. She doesn't quite know it yet, but she is in charge of making me run like I am 25 again.

It won't be easy. My last standalone marathon was in 2012. I had walking pneumonia. That excruciating 4:52 doesn't count. My most "recent" fastest marathon was a 4:11. Ten years ago. The others (unless I had pneumonia or was running with someone else as a pacer), have been in the 4:20 range. I have my work cut out for me. Even the trusty McMillan Calculator has me only at 3:55 when I factor in my fastest half marathon in the last 5 years, but a 4:06 using my fastest half marathon this year.

Of course, I can't keep it simple and just focus on marathon training. I have committed to training for a half ironman in October. Which will leave me about 14 weeks to run myself into BQ marathon shape. Not ideal. But, heck. When is marathon training ever ideal?

How cool would it be, though, if I could run as fast or faster than I did 26 years ago?

Right now, I am probably a good 2 or 3 miles behind that young lady. But I will dog her footsteps, run into her shadow, and keep going until I clip her heels and breeze on by.

If I manage that...well, it's champagne for everyone!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

From There to Here

Many years ago...maybe 15 or more...I was in the elevator at work and a colleague stepped in with me. I didn't really know him other than to know he worked at the same company, different division, and that he used to be severely obese but had, over a few years time, lost a significant amount of weight. 

He turned to me that day, and said, "I want to thank you." 

"For what?" I asked, confused.

"For saving my life," he said. "You motivated me to exercise and lose weight and finally get healthy."

It turns out, when he had seen me coming back in from lunchtime runs, we had frequently talked about running and why I did it and how I started. I doubt I ever said anything particularly profound or especially motivating. But I imagine I told him if he started slow, he could run too, and realize all the benefits of an active lifestyle.

"You saved my life."

Humbling. Certainly not deserved. 

He saved his own life with his own decisions to change.

Even then, though, becoming a coach had never crossed my mind.  

I had a corporate career that was fairly demanding and that I was fairly good at. I had advanced through the ranks, as they say. I was well compensated. On the side, I ran, and I coached for charity programs. Strictly for the perks and travel opportunities.

I wasn't qualified to be a "real" coach.

'Lo these many years later, I have ditched the corporate job, and upwards of 50 people know me as "Coach Karen." They are runners and triathletes in our Fleet Feet training programs. They are triathletes who have hired me to guide them to their next big race. They are triathletes who simply need someone on the pool deck helping them tweak their swim.

I still don't think I'm qualified to be a "real" coach. 

(Shh. Don't tell my athletes that.) 

Despite the certifications; the continuing education seminars, clinics, and webinars; and the endless research and consultation with other experts.

"Real" coaches are folks with real credentials. I've met them. Jamie Turner, Gwen Jorgensen's coach. Bobby McGee, coach to elite triathletes around the world. Gordo Byrn, who made a name for himself both as an elite athlete and coach to many others. 

Compared to them, I am a poser. But I will continue to pose, for as long as it lasts. 

Because I really, really like what I do. I like writing training plans. I like working one-on-one with all different athletes of all different abilities and experiences. I like sharing what I've learned and, hopefully, teaching folks new techniques that will help make them better, faster, more efficient. 

If you had said to me in that elevator, all those years ago, that I would end up here, working at Fleet Feet Sports and coaching runners and triathletes in the metro Jackson, Mississippi, area, I would have surely thought you had lost your mind. 

Yet, I journeyed from there to here.

And it's all good.