Saturday, December 10, 2011

Polly... the rest of the story

The refrigerator is in, working and already could stand to be cleaned out.  The sign of busy family with hungry kids who open the fridge constantly!

Today wraps up the end of a hellish week.  I never would have thought that a volunteer position could cause so much stress, anxiety, sleep loss and yes, tears.  The job of girls' basketball coordinator for my kids' school can be compared to the job of CEO of a fortune 500 company at risk of going belly up.  At least in my mind it does.  One would think that jobs and lives and the honor of one's country depended on what team their daughter was placed on or what one coach thinks vs. another.  Dear God, continue to grant me the common sense to place the importance of all this nonsense in perspective and sleep a little easier in the weeks to come.

This week also begins the formation of new training schedules for 6 runners who want to run all or half of the Flying Pig Marathon.  I am flattered that some of these runners wanted to hire me based on word of mouth from some of the runners from my first training group.  Three are from Harrison (where I live), two of them are girls I used to work with who got in touch with me and one lives in Columbus.  Perhaps the biggest compliment of all is that Sarah wanted to hire me to coach her again.  I say it's a compliment, because again, Sarah's job revolves around training and nutrition. Even after not quite hitting her goal mark, she wants me to formulate an individual plan and coach her for the Flying Pig.  Her goal is different though.  She wants to run with me.  My time goal is way achievable for her.  In fact, at times, my marathon pace was her long run pace when she trained for Columbus.  But she wants the structure, the layout and the plan to follow.  Or else she says she won't do it.  I told her to just do what I do and I don't need to make her a plan.  But she can't do what I do.  She can't run 6 days a week with what she does for a living.  She wants to do this on 3 days of running.  So I now go in search of the perfect marathon training plan for my 3 day a week running friend!  Looking forward to the challenge of figuring all that out for her.  This morning I found myself  doing what I'd missed doing over the past two months... sitting down to make weekly schedules for runners.  For the first time in awhile, I was completely engaged in figuring perfect starting mileage for 6 very different athletes.  I was happy, involved and consumed by what I was doing.  But I realized I hadn't quite wrapped up my previous group... at least not where blogging was concerned.  I needed to blog about Polly.  And so here is Polly's story.

Polly was not new to running.  She had run a couple of half marathons but was more or less a non-competitive recreational runner.  Polly started inquiring about being trained for the Columbus half marathon back in early June.  After a long conversation with her, I discovered that Polly was a great candidate for the full marathon.  During our chat, I asked Polly how much running she'd been doing.  "Oh about 5-8 miles six days a week."  I told Polly she was currently running more miles than some of folks who were planning on the full marathon "Why don't you think about doing the full, Polly?  I mean, you have an incredible base, you've been running for years.  You would be great at marathoning."  "I don't know if I can run that far though..."  And so I began to draw her in with scientific explanations about base building and endurance and all that stuff.  I think what first timers forget when they look at marathon distance is that no one is telling you that you must do this tomorrow.  Be consistent with your training and you CAN go that distance.  I compare it to the two surprise pregnancies I had... I remember the freak outs of "I cannot do this..."  Well no, I couldn't do it the next day, but after many months of preparation (and heavy prayer), I could... well I guess I had no choice :)  We tend to relate things to come in regard to life as it is right now and it can paralyze us from going after things we dream of doing.  I've noticed people saying... "50 MILES!!!!  OMG are you human???"  Well what I found is that any damn fool can run this distance.  Anyone.  They just don't know it.  Yes you have to train like you have to train for any endurance event.  But what I did was not amazing.  It was the natural result of consistent training and mileage building.  Very simple really.  And I suppose anyone that desires to run this distance is a fool so yep, any damn fool can run it.

A few days after our phone chat, Polly called me and said she'd been thinking and after discussing it with her husband, Keith, wanted to run the full marathon.  I was really excited because I knew Polly would be one hell of a great distance runner.  However, Polly did not own a Garmin or watch with a compatible heart rate monitor.  I had just purchased a new Garmin so I offered her my old one that had just lost it's 2nd replaced band.  By the time I got it to Polly to use, it was essentially, a pocket watch.  Even the tape wouldn't keep the band on anymore.  But nonetheless, Polly assured me she would order a new band and a heart rate strap and start using them.  Until then, I described her "easy" runs as "conversational pace".  I told her to run a pace in which she could easily and comfortably carry on a conversation.  If that was what she was doing, then that was probably the right training pace for her.  The challenge was trying to hit pace days.  The good thing was that Polly often ran on her treadmill, which helped her set her pace range.  But on outside days, we again, had to gage effort since we had no pacing data.  Well Polly, who is probably a lot like me, never got around to getting her band, heart rate monitor or figuring out how to make the Garmin work.  God love her, week after week she was "going to get that band ordered" and week after week, didn't.  She is exactly like me in some ways!

Polly would often meet the group for our long runs.  Once we got her nutrition squared away, she had a really easy time with the long runs.  She showed up for a 16 miler once with nothing but water.  She just didn't know and I guess I assumed she did since she'd been running for many years.  I guess I'd forgotten that she had never trained like this or run this far.  With the introduction of Gatorade, energy gels and other fuel sources, Polly had no problems.

Polly's challenges during training were like everyone else's... TIME.  She was the only one out of the group that would sometimes run after work.  You wanna know what Polly does for a living?  She is a nurse who works 12 hour days.  To think that she went home and ran after a 12 hour work day is inconceivable to me.  No way could I do that!  But she also had a hard time getting all the running in during the week as the miles built up.  She worried, I reassured her.  Rest was more important and she would be ok.  A lot of my exchanges with Polly were reassuring her that she was still on track and that she was still training well.  Missing a workout here and there would not hurt her.  That is hard for a first time marathoner to grasp.  Sure, you can't go around week after week skipping runs, but you definitely can cut yourself some slack here and there and often times, benefit from the extra rest.

As the weeks closed in, training really became hard for her.  Keith was out of town a lot and her girls were taking turns being sick... each one for roughly a week.  Polly was missing a lot of running and again, was feeling insecure about the race.  The advantage that Polly had was that she had an awesome base when she began training.  She didn't just start running.  This would all count and I told her it would be ok.  If she could just get her long runs in, she would be fine.  Two weeks before the marathon, Polly ran her longest distance ever... a 24 miler.  And then her taper began.

I know I said that on marathon morning, Sarah was the only one I didn't see.  Well that is not true.  I never connected with Polly that day or the day before either.  I talked to her on the phone and we exchanged texts, but I never saw her.  Until about mile 9 of the race :)

Polly's primary marathon goal time was a 4:30.  She ultimately wanted a finish, but that is what she thought she could do.  She made a BEST DAY EVER goal of 4:15.  Those are the paces I gave her to train at.  Again, hard to tell exactly what paces she was hitting.

At mile nine of the my half marathon, I came beside Polly and her brother, who was running with her.  Polly was running pretty much at that 4:15 marathon pace.  She of course, had no Garmin to keep herself in check, but assured me she was comfortable.  And according to my Garmin, she was pretty close to being right on track. She was certainly chatty and I was so excited to see her and run with her for a few miles.  I gave her a few tips for later in the race, made sure she was fueling well and kind of did my own assessment of her.  Nothing about Polly seemed off.  She was very at ease and had a grin on her face the entire time we ran.  When we got to the 12 mile mark, I told her I was going to speed up this last mile to finish up the half.  I reminded her to stay smart and run easy.

The next time I saw Polly was after she'd finished.  I first saw Keith.  He told me that Polly crossed the line feeling great.  She was tired, but never really struggled or hit a wall.  She had met a girl who was running who's father had committed suicide the week before.  She'd asked that she not leave her.  Polly and her brother stayed with the girl for a while and helped her run.  The pace was still rather comfortable for Polly.  The last couple of miles, Keith jumped in to run with her at which point, Polly pulled ahead of the girl.  Polly's brother stayed with the girl though so she did have company.

Polly didn't hit a wall.  She didn't struggle or exhaust herself.  She smiled and enjoyed her run.  She fueled well and she didn't have a Garmin.  Polly finished her first marathon in 4:18.

Polly needs to run another marathon :)

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