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Life as a Sherpa - Training and Racing Through Others

Posted Apr 12 2013 9:41am
After I finished Shamrock last month and spent the past couple of weeks recovering, my focus has shifted away from myself a bit and onto others I coach.  I don't talk about that side of things much, but this is more directly related since one of those people I am currently focusing on coaching is my wife .  You see, a few months ago, a bunch of her friends all decided to race the Nike Women's Half , which is coming up in 2 weeks.  To honor some family members, they all joined in as a team to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through TnT .  And while they provide you a "plan" to train for the race, it is a pretty bare bones one to barely get you across the finish line IMO.  Some of these ladies haven't run anything longer than a 5k or a 10k, but they all have plans to do more than just finish.  So without a real plan, I stepped up to provide them coaching, because I know that each one of these strong women are driven and motivated to do great things.  And most importantly, I simply love seeing people work hard for something they want, and ultimately achieve it.  I have no doubt that race day will be a great day for all these women.  But before we start writing the future, lets talk about the past and my recent life as a sherpa and coach.


When we first started training, I had all of these women use recent race performances to set a baseline for their training paces, because as you know, you can't just pull goals out of a hat .  After about 4-6 weeks of training, we retested to set a new baseline at a realistic level now that they all had a chance to have some consistency.  The results were astounding - they all PR'd by 1+ min in a 5k time trial, which is a large chunk of time for a 5k!  Now mind you, some of these women have been running for 6+ years, including my wife.  So when I saw their results, I was so proud to learn they were adjusting to the training I was giving them.  It was only a few moments after they were all basking in their glory of these results that I informed them of the "bad" news - all their workouts just got harder!  You see - here's the thing about training...getting faster never makes it easier, because you just adjust your paces with your fitness.  So when they all proved they were more fit than they were when they started, I adjusted their paces to be more in line with their current fitness.

Fast forward to this past weekend, which was the first real "test" since that 5k time trial.  A number of them had won entry through the lottery into Cherry Blossom , so had planned to run it in place of the designated long run for the week.  I wanted them to go into this race as a simulation for Nike.  So I spent some time writing them a race plan so they knew what to focus on, how to stay controlled, where to hold back and where to push, and how minimize distractions at a big event like Cherry Blossom.

Additionally, my wife was scheduled to run her longest run of the training cycle (13-14 miles) the same day.  And seeing how she isn't the biggest fan of running solo, let alone for such a long run, I joined her.  And so did the little man.  We linked up with some of my fellow coaches and friends , and joined them on the always enjoyable W&OD .  Having never run longer than 8 miles with him in the stroller (at my faster pace), I wasn't sure how he'd do for such a long run (likely 2+ hrs).  I also wasn't sure what it would be like pushing a stroller for that long.  Initially, I was only planning to run 8-10 of the miles, as I figured he'd only last about that long if we got lucky. So we ventured off, and shortly after, the little dude found his happy place.  As we neared where I'd have to turnaround if I was only doing 8-10, he seemed to be still well asleep and doing fine.  So we stayed together and figured I'd just take of him if he woke up and Rebecca would just continue on until she was done.  Well sure enough, around 11 miles, he woke up.  And with a few crackers brought along for just this type of situation, he was fully content to just hang out and watch the world speed by for the last 2.1 miles.  Since he was awake and we were running out of time (due to other obligations), we decided to end the run at 13.1.  Because you can't train someone to run 13.1 and end a run at 13.  That would just be cruel.

Overall, it was such an impressive day - for both the Z man and Rebecca as they both set new long distance PRs, and for the other folks who ran Cherry Blossom!  Z managed his first double digit stroller run, while Rebecca ran her longest continuous run ( excluding this, since she had good reasons to slow down and walk ).  As for the Cherry Blossom race, of the 3 people I coach, 2 ran 9+ minute PRs, while the other was their first 10 mile race ever!  So pumped for everyone!

But it doesn't stop there!  Tomorrow is the Monument Ave 10k , which has historically been a race we've run each of the past 6 or so years.  Last year , Rebecca didn't run it, since she was very pregnant with the Z man.  Well this year, its my turn to take off, as I will be official race sherpa and super dad!  Will she represent us well?  You'll just have to stick around to find out!

Can't wait to see these ladies rock Nike in 2 weeks - its going to be such a great time for everyone!
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