Ahhhh, Nancy! What can I say? A lot, actually :) Let me try to sum up Nancy in a few sentences. Nancy is a Kindergarten teacher and a mother of four ranging from ages 12-20... two girls, two boys... like myself. Nancy likes a party, tells it like it is, dances suggestively at 5:30 in the morning in our TRX class, enjoys beer... a LOT, makes people laugh and could honestly not give a rat's ass what people think of her. She is who she is. No apologies. Oh yes, and Nancy is now a marathoner.
I mentioned in my blog about Nikki that these two were training partners. If I knew the two of them separately, I would never think to pair them together. They approached marathon training from different perspectives. Nikki's, goal oriented and serious. Nancy's, well let's just say Nancy's approach was different. When training first began, I didn't know if Nancy would be able to train for a fall marathon. She had been running in pain for several weeks and I don't think it was easing up much. She was diagnosed with turf toe (I still don't even know what that is. Just that it hurts). I'm not even sure she was supposed to be running, but nonetheless, she was. But Nancy was game for training and so I figured we'd give it a shot.
Like Nikki, Nancy bought a Garmin (all these years running and she didn't have one. Not sure why I act like people's legs don't work without a Garmin...). She too, purchased a heart rate monitor to go with it. We began training and each person was given their heart rate ranges based on age. Now I realize this is a very ROUGH estimate of maximum heart rate. But it was all we had without going to an actually lab, shelling out tons of bucks and getting a true max HR value. So we went with it. The goal for training was to keep most runs at about 80% of MHR. Depending on one's aerobic fitness level, that doesn't equate to running very fast at all. Nancy was very frustrated. She'd been running paces that were nearly 5-6 minutes FASTER prior to using a HR monitor. The reason for this was that it took her slowing down to nearly a 15 minute mile to keep her HR in the ranges I was giving her. Once I heard that, I figured she was going to bail on the program out of sheer frustration. How was she going to run a marathon close to 4 minutes per mile faster than this? I assured her (not really knowing myself) that as her aerobic energy system became more conditioned, her paces would get faster while her HR stayed in range. Nancy also began training shortly before her sister-in-law (party buddy) came in town. When Andrea was in town, She was running on late nights and mucho beer. Gee, Nancy, not sure wazzz up with that HR! She averaged very little sleep each night even as the mileage began to creep up. I'm not sure at what point Nancy finally decided she just wanted to feel better while training and decided to give up drinking ("Hi, I'm Nancy and I've been sober for...."). Ok, wait. I am making her sound like a crazy lush.. and she is NOT. I mean, doesn't everyone honor "Wine Wednesday" and "Thirsty Thursday"? No, really. Nancy keeps it in check for real, but she needed to have a little less while marathon training. That's all.
Well guess what happened? Nancy began sending me her Garmin Connect splits. Week after week, I noticed a bit faster paces with sometimes even a bit slower HR. Nancy's body was adapting beautifully to this method of training. She was hitting her speed day paces without difficulty most of the time and was following the recommended paces and HR range for her time goal. When she needed an extra rest day, without hesitation, she took it. But that didn't happen too often. Nancy really did master the fine art of balance in her training. From what I had heard, and actually experienced on a 13 mile long run with her, Nancy never stopped talking, joking or laughing during the training runs. Sounded to me like a 3-5 hour weekly Sunday early morning party!
Nancy gave me 3 goals for her first marathon: Her primary goal was a 5:30. That is what she figured she was capable of getting without too much trouble. Her BEST DAY EVER goal was 5 hours (which I gave her paces for to bring her and Nikki's 4:30 goal closer together). Her fall back goal was to finish... running, later changed to "alive".
Marathon week I checked in with everyone. Nancy was nervous. She just wanted to race to come and go, like most of us anticipating the unknown. But she seemed appropriately nervous (actually they all did. Only Greg seemed unusually calm the week of his race... oh crap, like I am this week!). At dinner the night before the marathon, Nancy seemed no different than she normally did. We had some laughs, ate and then everyone left for their hotels for a good night sleep (HA!). In the morning, we met at the baggage check and I got the chance to see everyone. Our friend Kim was headed up to meet Nancy at mile 13 and run the second half with her. We exchanged good luck wishes and Nancy, Nikki and Kristie headed to their start corral. I would not see them until the end. They seemed in good spirits. No one was particularly uptight or anxious. That was a very good thing!
After John and I finished up our half, we set out to find and wait for the full marathoners. I received a text from Kim that said "We are at mile 17. Nancy is really strong, Kristie medium, Nikki is not talking at all.." I responded "Keep em going" to which she said she had plenty of stories to keep them until Tuesday (Kim's a riot). The next text was at 19.5 "running out of fuel and steam at a rapid pace..." I told her to have them slow down (not even knowing what pace they were currently running, I just knew it could only get worse). I told Kim to have them look down at their shirts. All three were running in honor of a 13 year old boy, a good friend of Nancy's son, diagnosed with Leukemia last spring. Tanner had recently undergone a bone marrow transplant and was waiting for his sister's marrow to take over. I knew from my own experience, that in the wake of physical suffering, the thought of someone else's more difficult battle makes the task at hand suddenly seem easier.
I got one more text when they were at mile 25. They were in the home stretch and I was ready... Nikki and Kristie had just gone by. Then I saw the familiar bright pink shirt.... Nancy was coming to mile 26. I ran out to greet her and run with her for just a bit. She had salt crusted on her face and for once in all the years I'd known Nancy, was quiet. Quietly digging deeply to finish the task. I ran to the finishers gate and waited. I saw Nancy come through in 5:08. Her momentary silence minutes earlier was now filled with excitement over that awesome feeling of knowing what it's like to run a marathon.
I never worried about Nancy's ability to do this. Maybe it is because her attitude over the whole event was pretty laid back and relaxed. That is something I always neglected with my Boston attempts. I was very focused and serious. Not to say Nancy was not focused. She was. But she also put the importance of it in perspective. Her carefree and fun approach to training as well as the race allowed her to do really well. She ENJOYED herself and that made all the difference! I loved coaching them all, but particularly, Nancy. I don't think she realizes that by watching her, I have taken a really good look at how I approach training and it just may be what has kept me calm, composed and downright excited this week. Never in the past 3 years would I have thought that 4 days before my first ultra distance race I'd be this relaxed. And for that I say... Nancy, John thanks you very, very much!
Disclaimer: this is not saying I won't freak out at any given point. I may. Just haven't yet :)