I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:32:22, two minutes and twenty two seconds off of my goal time. All signs pointed to me walking the finishers chute huffing and puffing at my failure with my hands in a fist and a sour puss on my face. So when my husband saw me excitedly walking towards him flailing my arms about with the hugest grin plastered all over my sweaty visage he didn’t know what on Earth to say.
I should have felt disappointed, frustrated and defeated. I didn’t break my goal of 1:30 in the half. Heck, I didn’t even PR at my “A” race of the season. Why wasn’t I hanging my head and scuffing my feet through the final steps of the finisher’s chute? And why was I beaming with pride while waving my my arms about like a madwoman to greet my husband and daughter?
I’ll tell you why.
I just ran the best race of my entire life from start to finish! I felt lighthearted, in complete control of my body and attacked the race from start to finish! The numbers simply don’t tell the entire story of Sunday’s battle royal at the Baystate Half Marathon in Lowell, MA- but I can, and I will. So sit tight and I’ll tell you a little story about how I finally learned how run from the heart.
A little history
Once upon a time I thought running coaches were only for elite runners, track stars or the people who win the toughest local races. It wasn’t until Beth Shutt from Your26.2 approached me to express interest in coaching me that I ever thought about hiring a personal coach.
On February 13th 2015 I received an email from Ms. Shutt simply saying,
“Hey Kass! I had an idea and was wondering if you might have time to chat on the phone at some point this week? Just a short call… Let me know. “
Within the previous year I had paid for Your26.2 to write my training plans as part of their Mission Plan services. While their bulletproof training plans took me to PRs at Boston’s Run to Remember 13.1 (1:32:02) and the Chicago Marathon (3:16:23) and got my glutes in gear for the Boston Marathon I kept wanting more from the program. I wanted someone who would I could go to with all of my random questions and silly worries, someone who would teach me the ins and outs of training and road racing, someone who would help push my body as far as it could go without getting it injured and someone professional but not intimidating. It took me over a year to realize it, but I wanted a running coach.
Out of the goodness of her own heart (and possibly due in part to my relentless nature) Beth fielded incessant, frazzled emails about run nutrition, pacing and how to adjust my training plan when sickness strikes etc for months and months. Soon after I received her email (above) we scheduled a conference call where she immediately said,
“I REALLY want to coach you and I think you would make a perfect athlete for one-on-one coaching services at Your26.2.”
When I questioned why me she instantaneously responded,
“Because you simply love running! Your passion. Your heart. It’s going to take you places and I want to help you get there. I have access to a plan and the resources that will help you get there safely and I’d love the opportunity to work with you.“
1) Average 141 for all Z1 runs.
2) Adhere to HR zones, especially recovery runs and warm up/cool down and recovery during repeats/tempo.
3) Focus on good nutrition and lowering sugar intake while still maintaining balance in the diet.
4) Improve FOCUS in training and racing.
5) Improve pacing and learn the “feel” of different paces in training/racing.
6) Break 1:30 in the half marathon.
7) Break 20 in the 5k.
8) Keep training and racing in perspective and HAVE FUN! Enjoy the process!
For the past five months I emailed Beth my run data, questions, qualms, fears and hopes. I voluntarily wore my heart on my sleeve when it came to achieving my lofty running goals. I was no walk in the park to coach. From day one I questioned her methodology, her rules to running and recovery and if I would EVER be able to achieve my goals. Over time I realized that not only did Beth closely examine my daily run data/numbers (pace and heart rate), but she always referenced goal number eight (To keep training and racing in perspective and HAVE FUN!). One week Beth voiced her concerns for my obsession with pace and fear of lack of progress when she wrote in an email,
“I often worry that you lose sight of number eight. Let’s make sure you have FUN out there, because that’s what it’s all about in the end: FUN!”
There was no sneaking anything past Coach Beth. She was right; at times I was putting an exorbitant amount of pressure on myself to improve. My weekly speed work runs were so challenging that I often felt frustrated that I ran 7:02 splits instead of sub 7 splits for my tempo intervals. It’s TWO SECONDS, Kass. Be happy you can compete at all. All training cycle I was competing against myself and yet somehow I felt like I was still losing. How is this even possible? I do not know. (I did however realize this summer that humidity is the devil when it comes to heart rate training…)
Thankfully Beth noticed and approached me about my emotional ups and downs throughout training. She praised me when I ran on pace, but more importantly she always acknowledged my optimistic, energetic mood on the good days. Little did I know, but throughout this training cycle Coach Shutt was helping me hone into my biggest weakness (and therefore my biggest area for improvement) in the run game: my ability to stay present in the run, HAVE FUN and enjoy the day!!
In the few weeks before the race I made a few mistakes during training runs. My focus in training was being overshadowed by other life stressors and Beth rolled with it. For example, I didn’t run as hard as I was scheduled one day and several other days I ran too hard. While Beth didn’t necessarily turn her head to these mistakes, she didn’t berate me for them either. My coach knew that I was under significant amount of personal stress and needed to let go, to run free and calm down. I used taper as a way to relax and accept that the race was going to be whatever it was going to be. I even found myself singing, “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be…”
In essence I wasn’t going to roll over and give up at Baystate- ha, NEVER! But I wasn’t going to stress over a race that wasn’t staring me square in the face either. The week before the race a strange sense of calm washed over me for the training was complete and all that was left to do was race.
Beth took me from a nervous, anxious runner to a calm, serene racer who was finally ready to be present in the day and most importantly enjoy the run. Taking a leap of faith to invest in myself and my passion by hiring Beth from Your26.2 was the single best decision that I made since I started running.
The Starting Line
I stood at the starting line with a huge grin on my face. I cupped the burning boat on my left shoulder and repeated, “NO SURRENDER, NO RETREAT. BURN THE BOATS!! SMILE. HAVE FUN. ENJOY THE DAY!!” This pre-race moment was unlike any other I had experienced. No spiked heart rate, no wave of nervousness rushing in, no fear- just all heart, smiles and calm.
At 7:59 AM I stood at the starting line in Lowell among a sea of thousands of other runners. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and felt a strange sense of calm rush over me. The time had come and I was ready to race. I don’t know how but a part of me knew that I was about to have the best race of my life.
To be continued…