I have a guest post today from Kate, an athlete I started working with this past summer. You guys are in for a real treat because Kate is an actual writer (unlike yours truly, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, ha!)
Check out Kate’s writing accomplishments on her website, http://www.katehattemer.com
She’s published multiple books, but today, she’s here to tell you about her running accomplishments instead. Enjoy!
I am honored that Jessie invited me to write a guest post about working with her as a coach!
Before September, I’d never had a running coach. Like any good millennial, I was a firm believer in GIYing: Googling It Yourself. That belief eroded shortly after I had a baby last November, when I realized that googling “how to make one-week-old baby sleep through night” might give you search results, but no real results. By August, after a fortunately easy postpartum comeback and a summer of racking up the early-morning miles, I’d begun to wonder whether a fall marathon PR might be possible. I’d run a 4:02 for my second marathon in Richmond right before I got pregnant, and the sub-4 mark was tauntingly close. But I didn’t know how to get myself there. [Jessie’s note- I’ve run Richmond too and LOVED it; read my recap HERE!]
Enter Jessie! Some of my reasons for reaching out to her were legitimate: I loved her blog, I admired her voracious and speedy running. Some were legitimate only in my head: she shared a name with my grandmother, we both have a bunch of sisters. What more ingredients for a great coach-athlete relationship do you need?
I wasn’t sure how I’d take to being coached. I definitely wrote something annoying on my intake form like, “I’m very disciplined and don’t need the external accountability of a coach, I just want you to tell me what to do.” Well, my dormant show-off side immediately surfaced and I found myself extremely motivated to nail every workout because I knew I wouldn’t be the only one looking at the splits. (Note: my husband is often also forced to look at my splits.) When the speed workouts got tough in the back end, when goal marathon pace fifteen miles into a long run felt intimidating, when I didn’t really want to slog through seven recovery miles in the dark before work, I remembered that Jessie would be looking at my runs too. I’m not sure it was the accountability so much as the companionship. I felt as though someone cared about my running who wasn’t me.
Everything was smooth sailing, lots of emails like “Great week, how’d you feel?” and “Great!” bouncing back and forth, until my IT band got cranky just 4.5 weeks out. This was when I was really grateful to have a coach. I ran through the stiffness, with some improvement, for a week, but when it didn’t get significantly better we pulled the plug on my 22-miler (go ahead and picture me bursting into tears at the playground that Saturday afternoon, because I did). Jessie encouraged me to see a chiro for some Graston and ART, which literally never would have occurred to me; I usually just weep and eat candy through my running injuries. I’d never seen a chiro before and I do have to ask — all those annoying boys in my third-grade class who’d crack their knuckles right in my face when the teacher wasn’t looking, did they all grow up to become chiropractors? This dude seemed to take way more enjoyment from cracking my back than most people find in the normal course of their jobs. However, I shouldn’t complain too much because he also fixed my knee. Phew!
Despite some emotional ups and downs in the taper (I had definitely lost all my fitness, my entire body was falling apart, I probably had swine flu, etc., etc.), Jessie’s race plan got me excited again. The day before, we took the train to Philadelphia, where we stayed with my aunt Nancy and uncle Ed; they’re ultrarunners, Ironmen, and 50-state chasers who make runners like me look laidback. Possibly even sedentary. Nancy was also running the marathon as a guide for their friend Warren, who is visually impaired, and Ed appointed himself Chief Logistical Officer. It was really fun to stay with them, and great for my race too: I knew I could trust them to feed me carbs and get me to the start line.
The combination of excitement and a nearby one-year-old in a Pack ’n’ Play was not ideal for pre-race sleep, but when I awoke at 4:30 to chilly, windy rain, I didn’t care. I was excited to eat my bagel, to pack my GUs, to engage my aunt in the ever-intriguing debate, “Shorts or Tights?” Ed’s Boston-honed driving skills got the cah pahked downtown in no time. The portapotty lines were long, but luckily Nancy and I were wearing giant contractor-bag ponchos that doubled as truly portable potties.
I was in a different corral from Nancy and Warren, so I shivered into the corral alone and began to peel off giveaway layers. Jessie’s race plan warned me not to go under 8:50 for the first 16 miles, so I edged ahead of the guy holding the 4:00 sign (9:09 pace) but stayed well back of the 3:50 sign (8:46 pace). Based on my training, Jessie thought I could go under 4:00 by at least 5-7 minutes, and I had a secret “A” goal of breaking 3:50. But the last thing I wanted to do was go out too hard and then have a miserable second half. In Richmond, I’d run 1:59 for the first half and 2:03 for the second — not a gigantic positive split, but enough that it wasn’t fun. Today would be different.
I retied my shoes several million times. I ditched my contractor bag. I teared up a bit as my corral edged to the start line. It had been a long time coming. The last time I was on a marathon start line, parenthood had seemed like the distant and hazy future; now my training was a family endeavor. My husband had taken baby duty every Saturday morning for five months straight. I was grateful to running because it had given me hours alone, hours of freedom, and the piece of my pre-mom identity that had seemed far away when first-trimester fatigue had decimated my ability to run longer than a mile, or when the third trimester turned my stride into a waddle, or when, in the kid’s squalling infancy, I’d rush to run in the narrow window before my breasts were required again. There was the timing mat. We were off.
The first five miles looped through downtown. Instead of subtracting the mile markers from twenty-six, I focused on more achievable goals: ditching my rain jacket (although I kept my giant white gardening gloves), taking a Gu at 5, seeing my sister and husband and baby at 6.5. I heard a guy say to his friend, “Lindsay ran the half yesterday, got an elite bib at the last minute –” “Lindsay?” said his friend. “Lindsay Crouse,” he said.
I whipped around. “Oh my God, you know Lindsay Crouse? She’s awesome, I love her work, I’m such a fan…” He gave me a smile that on the surface said, “She is awesome” and underneath said, “Check yourself, weirdo.” I grinned awkwardly and fell back, and he continued his conversation with his friend. “She was racing the half as a tune-up for CIM.”
I made a mental note to add Lindsay Crouse to my CIM text-notification tracking list and, shortly thereafter, a second mental note that perhaps I deserved that creeped-out smile.
We hit a cheer zone after mile 6; when I looked down a quarter mile later my lap pace for the mile was 6:50. Whoa! Pull it back. The crowd support in a big-city race was totally unexpected. I tried to ride the energy without digging in too much, but I was speeding up, miles in the 8:40s and occasionally the 8:30s. I almost ran right by my enthusiastically screaming mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew — my brain had already registered the baby as “not mine,” so it was a jolt to realize I knew him — and although I realized the rest of my family must have missed me, I’d gotten so much positive energy from anticipating them that I told myself I’d see them soon. I refocused on my next mini-milestones: another Gu, the biggest hill of the race in mile 9.
The hill wasn’t that bad, but as I crested it and finished ten miles in 1:28, a tiny bit faster than my 8:50 pace goal, I felt like I wasn’t recovering from the incline as fast as I should have been. I was out of breath and my legs hurt. I thought, This is it, it’s the beginning of the end, I went out too fast, it’s going to suck from here — and then I thought, NO! That’s just a negative thought. It’s not the truth. I don’t need it here. I almost had the physical sensation of brushing the thought away, and I think that’s when my race turned from potentially good, maybe good, to something sure. I was having a great day. This was going to be fun.
I let my legs turn over in the next few downhill miles and crossed the half in 1:54:37, or 8:44 pace. Okay, I told myself: you went out faster than the plan, so now prove it wasn’t stupid by running a faster second half. I had the average pace for the whole run displayed on my watch, and even as my capacity for mental math disintegrated, I always knew that if the average was going down, I was speeding up. It wasn’t even misting anymore, so I flipped my baseball cap backward and immediately felt extremely badass, or as badass as a white nerd from Ohio can be.
Then we hit the next cheer zone — and there was my family! My sister, tall and striking, was holding a sign; my husband was waving madly; the baby was sulking in the stroller, staring stolidly ahead, thoroughly unimpressed. I shouted her name. No reaction. I waved my arms. Nothing. Oh well. I was excited, even if she wasn’t. The next mile was 8:18. Not so fast, I told myself, but 8:50s were a thing of the past. Reining it in meant 8:30s.
Mile 16 comes awfully close to the finish line before starting a ten-mile out-and-back on a wooded riverside parkway. My aunt had told me that it felt downhill both ways — this was great advice, as otherwise I’d have freaked out until the turnaround that the way back would be much harder. The headwind felt heavier, and I kept trying to find a big guy to tuck behind. The problem, though, if you can call it a problem, was that I was speeding up, passing most of the people around me (#humblebrag). I’d find a good windblock and then have to ditch him a minute later. 8:15, 8:19, 8:22, 8:18… around mile 17, I knew I’d never had a race like this before. I still felt amazing, and I was staying in the moment, running the mile I was in: as a Certified Grade-A Worrier about the Future and a Recovering Mental Mathaholic, this was not my usual race mindset. I saw that 3:50 sign, trailed by an amoeba of runners, and I thought, I’m gonna get them. I got them.
The turnaround was lined with spectators, and I rode the momentum, made the 180, and skidded into my last 10k. Now, Jessie had said, was the time to race. Give it all you’ve got. I ran an 8:01, a 7:44, a 7:49. I was working. I was out of breath, pushing myself, looking forward to lapping my watch at the mile markers. I thought of my last marathon, when the distance between 20 and 26 seemed interminable, torturous. Mile 24 was 8:00, and I thought, I’m kind of sad this is almost over, but I also want it to be over as fast as possible. I tossed my giant white gardening gloves into the bushes. I was pushing my legs to turn over, feeling the accumulation of miles, and I ran a 7:52, a 7:43, a 6:39 sprint, and there I was.
I obviously burst into tears. I didn’t know my time but I knew I’d run a big negative split, and I knew how hard I’d worked at the end. Someone gave me a medal. Someone gave me a soft pretzel. I was still crying, and I think she thought it was because I didn’t want a soft pretzel. She said, “They’re actually pretty good!”
My official time was 3:41:20, which I found out, appropriately enough, when Jessie texted me a few minutes after the race. I’m still smiling about it: a 21-minute PR, with a 3-minute half marathon PR built in. I’m not sure what magic Jessie wrought in these legs, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be coming back for more.
Congratulations Kate, and THANK YOU for sharing your experience! I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did!