Friday, June 8, 2012

A New Chapter

When my husband, Dan, decided late last year that he wanted to re-learn the violin, he knew almost immediately that he wanted to hire a teacher. He had started playing when he was in third grade and he played through high school, dipping into it again in college, before dropping it entirely as his working life got underway. But everywhere he moved, his violin went with him.

When he started again, some things came back to him quickly. But he knew that to fine-tune his technique, to keep him accountable and to get him going at the right pace (not too hard, not too easy), he wanted professional guidance. He found a teacher and has been working with her since late winter. His first recital is planned for this fall. His ultimate goal: to play in a community orchestra.

For similar reasons, today I hired a coach.

I'm on the cusp of recovering from this back thing. I'm to the point now where I....just know I'm better. I still have bad moments, but now they're almost always limited to the mornings, when I'm stiff from being still all night. Some gentle yoga moves and a sweaty cardio workout usually are enough to deal with it. On really bad days, I might also need an hour or two in my sacro-iliac belt. And that's it. My next appointment with Cathy, my physical therapist, is Tuesday. I've been faithfully doing my PT and Pilates exercises. I'm feeling very optimistic.

But I'm truly clueless about how to ease myself back into running in a way that's not too hard (so that I re-injure my back, or injure something else) but not too easy either. I still have goals for this year.

I have two races already booked, the Detroit Marathon on October 21 and the California International Marathon on December 2. I thought about buying another custom plan from McMillan Running. I'm a huge fan of these plans as a cost-effective way to get some personalization in your training. Greg McMillan (he of the calculator) is a fantastic coach.

But with my back an unknown, with all the usual unknowns like illness, plus the fact that I'd really like one of those two races to be the One where I reach my Boston Marathon qualifier goal, a static plan, even a really good custom one, just wasn't going to offer me enough guidance. Many other bloggers have had great experiences with coaching. So I talked to Dan about the cost issue, did some research into what the going rate is....and made up my mind that now is the time.

I'm really happy with the coach I've found. His name is Darren De Reuck. He's the husband and long-time coach of Colleen De Reuck, who has been in the Olympics four times and still wins races at age 48. He's also coached my friend Cynthia, who came to running recently as cross-training for mountain biking, fell in love with it and, with Darren's workouts, has achieved all of her running goals up to this point.

My new coach, Darren, and his awesome wife, Colleen. I've run well behind them in many a local race. It's nice to say I have Darren on my team now!
Darren's also local, and I really wanted someone local because the other thing that's been lacking in my training has been group workouts. I'm working with him through Boulder Coaching (which also coaches runners and triathletes remotely), but the $90/month package I went with will allow me to join his elite group, the Boulder Striders, in their weekly track workouts when he thinks I'm ready (he assured me they have pace groups--a big relief given that I know how fast those Striders are!). After years of being intimidated by the Boulder running scene, I'm excited that I'm now going to put it to work for my own running.

I sat down this morning with Darren and mapped out a plan for the summer and fall. Here are the highlights:

1) Even if Cathy OKs me on Tuesday to run outside, Darren wants me to stick with the recumbent bike and the Alter-G next week. If I get the OK, the following week he'll incorporate some easy 20 minute runs outside. He wants me to keep outside runs on relatively level gravel tracks indefinitely.

2) I will be running the Detroit Half-Marathon instead of the marathon. The California International Marathon will be my goal race.

3) Local races will be sprinkled throughout my training, but we're waiting to see how my return to running goes before I actually sign up for any of them.

4) Once I've got a good four weeks of recovery runs under my belt and have proven that my back is truly stable, Darren's going to have me do a lactate threshold test (in the form of an all-out 3,200 meter run). This will determine my heart rate ranges for the workouts he'll be prescribing.

Cynthia was right about Darren. He's very nice, and un-intimidating despite his amazing resume. I really appreciate that that he asked about my kids and told me about his kids (he has two daughters) and that he said helping mid-packers is just as satisfying to him as a coach as helping Olympians. I joked with him that if I actually get to run the Boston Marathon, I plan to wear a tiara. To which he said--and he was serious--"No, you won't. You'll be racing Boston, too!"

My kind of coach!

I know hiring a coach is no guarantee that I will meet my goals. In the end, I'll still be alone out there in Sacramento with a marathon in front of me. But I feel like I have an ally now, someone else who will see my success as his own success.

Running, like the violin, requires the right touch. Since I'm still learning, and probably always will be, I'm so happy to have the guidance of a good teacher. I am one lucky girl. Big thanks to Dan for letting me hire Darren.