Thursday, 23 March 2017

Your Inner Coach

Several months ago I launched my website which included a run coaching component.  Since then I have struggled to define what I can offer as a coach, and a description was to why one would benefit from hiring a running coach.  I know why I value a coach, and I know what I hope to offer as a coach, but I couldn't really define what a coach can do for you until today.  And it didn't come from me.

Today I receive this email from one of my coaching clients.  I have been coaching him for just under 2 months.  These are his words.  They humble me and make me want to do the happy dance all at the same time!

"Feeling stiff from my first “real” hill workout two days ago, I let out an "old man groan" as I eased my 42 year old frame into my desk chair. I wanted to take one last look at week 7 of my training plan. This was going to be brutal! The plan called for intervals. The memory of last week’s near-puking effort was haunting.

"I set the treadmill (you can’t cheat on a treadmill) to 7 mph for a 10 minute warmup and tried to relax. My legs burned. Not good! All too soon, 10 minutes flashed on the display and I punched in 10.1 mph for my first 5 minute interval. Almost instantly I felt a cramp in my right hamstring. It worked itself out but I stressed over keeping this up. My legs were churning as fast as they could go and I was already feeling exhaustion setting in. I thought back to a recent relay race and pictured the high schoolers running effortlessly as they passed me. Their legs were fast but not faster than mine. I remember marvelling at how their feet barely kissed the ground, as if they were flying. But HOW? What was I missing?

"Then it hit me - upside the head like Al Capone with a baseball bat. It had been staring me in the face for two months since hiring Kim. It was front and center on her webpage and in the signature of every email. BOUNCE STRONG! If my legs couldn’t swing faster, I would have to go farther with each stride. I needed to engage those muscles I’d been punishing for the last two months. I needed to bounce stronger! I intentionally relaxed my cadence a bit and focused on pushing harder, engaging my calves, quads, glutes and any other muscles willing to join in. Almost instantly I felt a hint of relaxation. It didn’t get easy but at least it felt possible.

"I bounced, and it became my mantra for the rest of the workout. My legs burned, my eyes stung with sweat, my lungs choked in every last molecule of oxygen, but I focused on bouncing strong. Finally, as I mashed the number 7 for my cool down, that familiar but elusive feeling washed over me... the runner’s high! On tired legs I had achieved one more seemingly impossible goal and I felt absolutely amazing!

"Two months ago when I hired Kim I told her one of my goals for the year was to achieve a sub 20 minute 5k. Within my interval workout today was a 5k time of 19 minutes, 20 seconds and a 10k time of 39 minutes, 54 seconds. That’s TWO 20 minute 5k runs back to back in the same workout! Talk about crushing a goal!

"People often wonder, “at what point do you call yourself a runner”. I’ve been running for 4 years, but I’ll always remember today - on the treadmill no less - as the day I became a runner. I found that one crucial piece of the puzzle. Today I bounced strong and I couldn’t have done it without my amazing coach, Kim."

Sometimes a coach feeds you gruelling workouts.  Sometime a coach asks you to do things that are hard, and sometimes a coach sends you inspirational mantras and Friday night videos while telling you to rest.  Often a coach can simply be the loudest voice in your head - that doesn’t let you stop, that doesn’t take excuses, that gives you permission to exhibit the greatness that exists within yourself, the awesomeness that you are afraid to show.

A coach can be someone you hire, or it can simply be the best friend that you run with every weekend.  It can be that elite runner you follow on social media or it can be that terminally ill relative that just keeps going despite the odds, who puts things into perspective.  

This weekend as you run, let the voice of all your coaches lift you up, get your feet moving, and help you to believe that all things are possible if you work hard and believe in yourself. 

Because they are.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

My Tribe

Today I finished my peak week for Zion 100 after coming back from a stress fracture last fall.  In 12 short weeks I went from doing run:walk combos to running 50-60 mile weeks, successfully I might add! I'll be going into Zion definitely under-trained, but healthy and mentally fit, which is minimum standard for me.

After a long winter of frigidly cold weather alternating with spring-like temps above zero, I am done with mother nature's flirtation and very ready for spring.  So when we had freezing rain last week that turned the city in sheets of ice on EVERY surface, my training partner and I made a last minute decision to head south to North Dakota for a 50K race as a way to get our last 30 mile training run in before Zion on real dirt.

Which brings me to the point of this piece.  For a variety of reasons I ran the vast majority of my miles this winter alone: my need to do my own thing with regards to my injury, family commitments, need for quiet time alone. An ultra runner often cherishes the alone time, craves it, gets used to spending hours and hours with only their thoughts and their iPod for company.  Ultra running is a very solitary sport for most of us.

But there is also a very unique, tightly knit ultra running community.  It does not respect geographical, topographical or cultural boundaries.  I have formed bonds with runners whom I met at a races only once in another country (thanks to FB), as well as runners whom I regularly run with. Some I go way back with, some I've just met.

Sarah and I running Mt. Albert Edward in a day (2006)
After our 50K race in North Dakota, several Manitoban runners met at a local pizza place in Fargo for supper before heading our respective ways.  The group included runners of all different ages, professions, experience levels. There was talk of big races coming up, but also talk of crewing for those races, flying or driving across the country to support friends and family in their journey across that line.

As I sat at the table in Fargo eating pizza and listening to the conversation around me, there was genuine excitement.  Excitement expressed from the runners who were planning their races, excitement from the crew members who were going assist them in that process or who had been a part of it in the past.  The excitement was shared on all sides and it was genuine.

As we drove home the circle widened.  I was getting texts from my friend Sarah in BC who will be racing the Zion 50K and Isabelle who will be crewing for me.  Scott was wondering how we did and checking in to make sure we were travelling safely. My husband was checking in to make sure all was well and letting me know everything was good on the home front.
Sarah & I at the summit of Kings Peak (2006)
Scott, Myself, Todd - Fat Dog 2016
It struck me how we all have our individual goals, but so many people support us in achieving them.  We spend hours upon hours running and training solo.  We dream, plan, strategize ways to reach our goals and achieve our dreams.  We devise these plans in solitude, but they quickly morph into logistical nightmares that involve many others who support us.  We recruit some, some volunteer, some are "voluntold" (usually spouses lol).  Ultra runners know that to run seriously long distances, for most people takes a team.  The vast majority of us are not professional athletes. We rely on our family, friends and our fellow runners to sacrifice their time, funds and physical energy to hold down the home front, crew and pace for us as we strive to achieve our impossible.
Isabelle and I - Nootka Trail 2005
I will be heading to Utah in less than 3 weeks to run my first 100 accompanied by my long time coach and running mentor Sarah.  I will also have Todd and Isabelle coming as pacer and crew with the sole purpose of assisting me in achieving my goal. Wow. My husband will be holding down the fort at home with our 2 kids, who simply cannot comprehend what mommy is set out to do (and frankly neither can their mom).

Sarah and I at my first 50K race: Sun Mountain, Winthrop, WA (2013)
It BLOWS MY MIND and humbles me when I stop to consider what others are doing to help me achieve my goals.  I am so honoured to be a part of this incredible community of ultra runners and friends who just get it.  Who know what needs to be done and step up to do it.  I am grateful for a husband who supports my need to run even though he may not always understand, and kids who don't blink when mommy says she's going out for a "short run" of 1 1/2 hours.

My husband, Yan and I in Hawaii for the Xterra 1/2 Marathon (2012)
My family - my world
My dream could not become a reality without my tribe.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I will not let you down.