January was an interesting month here in CT, to say the least. I want to record some notes her that I'll do in two installments over the next few days, to remember the kickoff of 2011. Record snow fall has my house looking more like an igloo. it was a busy, fun, fast month - yes, time passes and spring will be here before you know it.
I had three sessions left to go with my Saturday morning swim clinic. The group impressed me; No whining and lots of progress as I threw many drills and instruction at them. The last day, I had them doing a set of 5 X 100's towards the end of the session, and 90% of the field held all of them under 1:30, as opposed to maybe 20% of the field in week one of this clinic! I plan on running this swim clinic again in March and April.
In early January, I headed down to Orlando for the Disney 1/2 and full marathons. I coached a team for the American Liver Foundation that was competing in these events and I went down to support them. I arrived on Friday night late because of a flight delay and went right to Hollywood Studios for a dinner with all the teams representing the ALF. Marla, my connection with the ALF, informed me that they registered me for both races so I could get out on the courses to see my athletes if I wanted to, but registration closed that night at 8pm and it was now 7:30 - and I had to get over to ESPN studios! Thanks to one of my runners husbands who drove me there, and a long sprint through the studios, I made it and was the last person to register. The 1/2 marathon began at 5:30am on Saturday morning. The team was taking the bus over at 3:30am - I told them I was going to jog over to the start from our hotel and that I'd meet them there. I ran an easy two miles in the dark towards the loud, growing noise of the race start to find 28,000 registered runners waiting in their corrals! The race began and I waited at the starting line on the side of the road to meet up with some of my runners, maybe run a couple of miles with them, then cut across the course. As a sea of runners went by, I realized that picking them out in the dark this early on would be challenging, and I was getting cold, so I jumped in and started running. I was locked into 6 min/mile pace and began clawing my through the crowded course, which takes you through Cinderellas castle in the Magic Kingdom which was pretty cool. Near the end of the 1/2, I pulled to the side and cheered on the ALF runners. Many of them were running their first 1/2 marathon. I had one women, who when we began back in September, couldn't run for more than two minutes, and she finished strong. I then jogged the two miles back to my hotel room, running 17 miles that day and the 1/2 which I hadn't planned on doing.
The next day, I met the team at 3:30am to take the shuttle over to the start so that I didn't miss them early on. We hung out in our corral, the very last corral in the very last wave, awaiting the starting gun. Again, many of the ALF team were first time marathoners and you could easily sense their pre-race anxiety. They were discussing their goal times and I spoke up and said that they were all giving themselves too much cushion, that most of them should be in the five to five and a half hour range (they were estimating 6+) and that Alyssa, the youngest runner in the field (not in the ALF field but out of every runner in the marathon) at 18 yrs old should be around four hours. The race began, and I again figured I'd run out to the four mile mark with them, then cut across and catch them around mile 12 and 18. It was so crowded in the back of the race as we weaved our way slowly through the field. We went through the first mile in a blistering 13 minutes, the second in a speedy 12 minutes. At this point I told Alyssa to follow me as we picked up the pace and began ducking and weaving through the thousands of runners. I kept turning to see if Alyssa was still with me, and she was right there. At the four mile mark, she said to me "I was going to run with my mother" and I quickly responded "oh, I'm sorry Alyssa, we could wait up for her", and she came back with "no, I could see that she'll be fine with the group - when you mentioned that I should aim for four hours, that's what I really want to do!" So after a seconds thought, I decided that I was going to pace her through the marathon and kept running with her. She was carrying a camera and I got some shots of her running into and out of the castle, and on some other parts of the course. She was running well, smiling, and taking in the whole experience. I have to say, after training and coaching athletes for twenty years now, longer than Alyssa is old, her attitude and determination impressed the hell out of me - and this would be her first run longer than 18 miles! I was wearing a garmin and had us locked into an 8 to 8:45 pace but didn't tell Alyssa as I didn't want the pace to get in her head - and she was talking quite a bit meaning she was handling the effort just fine. She was anticipating hitting the wall at mile 20 since that's what's supposed to happen in a marathon, right? This is what she had heard and what every runner hears. Yet she ran through mile 20 fine. Around mile 23, the effort started to catch up with her a bit and this is where you truly show your cards. She remained tough and focused - the pace slowed slightly, but she was still running, and smiling for the most part, even though she turned down the chocolate at the chocolate aid station. I have to say, this was one fun marathon to participate in! I like the early start in the dark, the temperature for running was perfect, the race was entertaining and it was cool running through all the parks. Now I'm not a big Disney fan. I've taken my kids there and we had a great time and, well, I feel we did that so no need to go back. We didn't get close to seeing everything you could, but we saw enough. We aren't into huge crowds, waiting in lines, crappy food - regardless of what I've heard, it's hard to get a decent meal in Disney! But it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the parks and realize the spectacle that they are as you run through them. Alyssa and I crossed the finish line in just over four hours and she was beaming - I felt very proud of/for her. We then waited for her mom and the rest of the group to finish up. I was really proud of this whole group. Many back in September seriously doubted that they could run a marathon. A few even signed up for the 1/2 but then switched into the full marathon. All finished. I spoke with Marla maybe a month out from the marathon mentioning that this is a cool project that the ALF is doing but that next time they should use a novice coach since it requires a lot of time, something I am short on considering my current businesses. Coming off this weekend however, I'm glad I was involved this first year. We then waited for the shuttle to take us back to the hotel, however, I got impatient and ran back, registering 29 miles of running for Sunday. Not a bad weekend considering I hadn't planned on running either race.
Alyssa's marathon reminded me of when I did my first Ironman. I had a naive, young attitude and didn't overthink it, and it allowed me to lay down a solid time that would set the tone for many of my up and coming IM's. Us veterans now, we overthink, overemphasize, overtrain, overanalyze, ...
More to come.