2007 Top Ten Marathon Dynamics Highlights
1. Nathalie Auger — who ran yet another consecutive marathon PB of 3:34 at, of all races, the CHICAGO Marathon last month. Anyone who ran there (and most of us that didn't) know that a finishing time there could/should be adjusted by at least 4-5% to reflect the ugly, and ultimately race-halting, heat and humidity (which would be another 10 minutes faster in Nathalie's case!). This puts her "net" time in around the 3:25 range. Not bad for someone who came to us about 2 years ago as a 4hr plus marathoner, eh?
2. "Boston Armada" — the 111th running of the Boston Marathon this past spring will be memorable to us here at Marathon Dynamics for many years to come, for much more than the rough ‘n tough conditions created by the cold, rain and wind. To have a number of our coaches there (Michael Brennan's 13th, Sherab Melvin and Jackie Dupuis' 3rd, and coach Kev's 1st ever Boston!) and to run and share the experience with our largest single contingent of runners ever — over 60 — was truly incredible! Following up on that momentum, at last count, we have helped almost 100 runners to Boston Qualifier performances for next year's 2008 Boston Marathon. Based on last year's stats, that could mean over 5% of all Canadian runners at next year's race! Go Marathon Dynamics Nation Go!
3. Nick Friedman — "Boston...by a hair." After a great season of training with our York Coaching Group this spring, Nick Friedman commissioned me to coach/run with him over the final 11-12km of his Boston Qualifier attempt at the Mississauga Marathon. His training had gone well, he was looking fit and fast, and although I knew that he had a big marathon in him, he would still need a 10 minute PR to hit is 3:30 Boston Q. As anyone who has tried for Boston knows, it's those last 10 minutes that are often the hardest, so though I was fairly confident he could do it, there was always that worry. Fast forward to the 31km mark of the race where I merged with Nick. He was 30 seconds behind our original game plan with 10km to go — not bad, but given the hilliness of the last quarter of the race, and the running body language Nick was showing, let's just say that my brow was (hopefully privately!) furrowing with concern. For the next 5 km or so, Nick's pace was steady, as he basically held his target splits, losing only a few seconds here and there on hilly sections, such that as he approached the final 3km he was actually just over 3:30 flat pace. He was really tiring, but I was using every possible "sleight of mind" trick in the book to keep him focused and fighting, and with 1km to go he was on pace for about a 3:30:30 — just inside the 1 minute grace allowed to "on the cusp" Boston qualifiers. If he faltered here, disaster might still strike, so I fumbled around in the pocket of my torso pack and pulled out the "in case of emergency" secret weapon I'd brought with me. With 800m to go, I thrust the Boston Marathon Finishers medal from this year's race in front of him, and screamed "2 more minutes to Boston, 2 more minutes...go get it Nick!" and as I'd hoped, he switched gears and hammered home to finish in 3:30:10. Mission accomplished!
4. Rob Kent — "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again...15 times!" Always one to run to the beat of his own drummer, it took a lot of sacrifice for Rob to ultimately commit to shaping his training according to the training we prescribed for him this season. However, he REALLY wanted a Boston Qualifier this time, since he'd made many previous attempts on his own (14 in fact, but who's counting!), and though he'd come close (within 3 minutes) he had yet to pull it off. Long story short...at the St. George's marathon last month, with all his training (and then some!) in the bank, and his race day game plan firmly in hand (well, on wrist!) he went for it. When all was said and done, Rob was the proud owner of a new all time marathon PB — 3:20:10, and a ticket to Boston...Hooray Rob! What made his accomplishment even more incredible (and vexed me repeatedly as his coach & training planner) is that just 4 weeks before his marathon, he also did an IRONMAN Triathlon (Lake Placid)! Talk about a guy who just has to do it all, eh? Speaking of which, guess what crazy challenge he's already committed to next? The Marathon des Sables! A 7-day, 230km race across the Sahara Desert next April, a week before Boston — which by the way, he's also doing. Oh my god!
5. Marathon Dynamics Coaches — we shuffled around and added to our coaching roster more than ever before this season to accommodate new groups/times/locations, so we were understandably anxious to see how the changes would be received. Well, as the dust settles here at season's end, we are absolutely thrilled with the performance of our entire team — I've never gotten so much positive feedback (in person, by phone, by email) from our runners as I did this season! Head coach Robin McKechney and new head coach Jennifer Faraone received top marks from all their charges, while stalwart "regulars" Jackie Dupuis & Todd Milligan (and myself I guess!), as well as assistants Bennett Cohen, Steve McKinnon, Sherab Melvin, Patty Cranston did their usual bang up job, and newbie coaches Alicia Snell and Dera Nevin, though both saw limited duty, proved to be terrific additions to the team. Check our website to learn more about these fabulous people, and read on to find out how you can work with them directly in the coming season!
6. Susan McCallum — a.k.a. "Our Lady of Perpetual Improvement!" 4:07 Marathon and 1:56 Half Marathon — those were Susan's PBs when she arrived at the MDI doorstep to start training with us in January of 06. After more than 5 years of training and toiling to improve her distance running on her own and with other groups, she wondered if she could get better/faster, and if so, how much? Oh, and could she get to Boston too? Well, it's been a wild ride over the first 1˝ years we've worked/run with Susan...but all in one direction — to the moon! Leading up to the NYC Marathon earlier this month which she ran to support a friend coming back to running after recent child birth (and still nipped in under 4hrs!), she's PB'ed at over 12 consecutive races, at distances from 10K to Marathon, including a 3:54 AT this years weather-beaten Boston Marathon, and most recently a 1:44 Half at Waterfront! If this keeps up, she'll be vying for a spot on the 2012 Olympic Team!
7. Chuck McCoy — "Age is just a number." When a guy over 60 meets you at a track one cold and blustery December morning, limps over to you wearing a leg brace that could double as a car jack, and says, basically "get me to Boston this spring" let's just say, I was...skeptical. As a coach with a lot of running experience, who prides himself on having "seen just about everything", this was a new one, that's for sure. As I got to know Chuck through our Gold level Coaching correspondence, and saw how dedicated to and serious about his training this guy was, it soon became apparent to me that he was, if you'll excuse the expression, "The Real McCoy" (groan). Turns out he had a torn meniscus the previous season the year after qualifying for Boston, and had undergone surgery after that (hence deferring his Boston registration), and was still on the rehab & recovery trail when he started with us last winter. He correctly surmised that he'd need a "VERY Customized" training plan. So that's just what we provided, knowingly breaking many of the tried and true tenets of training and coaching lore in order to "find a way" for him to a) make it to Boston b) make it through Boston. To make matters more interesting, midway through the season his knee flared up intensely, and required even more rest & further "tap dancing" on the training front. It really didn't look all that promising 6 weeks before Patriot's Day, but with some "game saver" giant catch-up run workouts he managed to eke out, and a lot of stubbornly executed aerobic cross training, we declared him "barely" Boston-ready. In the end, he did indeed make it triumphantly down Boylston to finish Boston (just over 5hrs, but the stopwatch was the furthest thing from our minds in this case). Though it wasn't the fastest performances we helped a runner to this past spring, it sure was one of the most memorable and satisfying for me. Well done, Chuck! (Postscript — he ran WF Half this fall in about 2hrs flat!)
8. Angelo Meffe — "Boston...by a mile." Angelo had been a Training Plan & E-Coaching client on and off for a couple years now, having used our system very effectively to achieve a 3:20 Boston Qualifier a couple seasons ago. This season, Angelo was in the hunt again for another sub 3:20 Boston Q. His training had gone quite well, but he wanted to make sure he did everything he could to ensure success, and he remembered seeing me at the previous spring's Mississauga Marathon alongside the aforementioned Nick Friedman, as I race day coached him, and thought that might be just the "insurance" he needed. So we arranged for me to meet him at out there at around 32km, and developed our game plan to bring him home. Well, I was more than a little surprised to see Angelo hit the 32km marker almost 3 minutes ahead of pace, to say the least...this was either going to be a very good day, or a very long and ugly one. Happily, it turned out to be the former...we started clipping off the kms in the middle 30s, and I realized he was still running those faster than target pace (i.e. still gaining time), so if he was going to crash in this race, it hadn't started yet...moreover, it sure didn't look like it would. He was running strong and smooth, and was lucid and able to communicate well, and though he complained once or twice about (stomach) cramps, all systems seemed to be GO as he entered the last 4-5km.
I have this "game within a race" that I like to play myself and recommend to others, where you set up a mental scoreboard late in the race, with "0 — 0" on it — "runners I pass" vs. "runners that pass me", and start the game. The idea is to get as high a differential, with as few in the "loss" column, as possible. If you've done a good job of assessing your race day goal time potential, and run a smart, well-paced run, I find this provides a motivating and constructive way to break the remainder of the race up into "micro challenges", that make the bigger goal seem more manageable. It also helps take our mind off everything else we're feeling at that point! We didn't actually hit the start button on Angelo's game until about 34km, but when he hit the finish line, guess what the score was? 50+ to 0! And a 3:12 brand new 7+ minute PB and Boston Qualifier to boot!
9. Bev Whelan — "Rookie of the Year" It's not often that we help a young, first time woman marathoner achieve a debut marathon performance of 3:07. Actually, make that any marathoner, man or woman, no matter what their age or running experience — but that's what happened here. From the moment she committed to attempting her first marathon early this summer, I knew she'd have a big one, if she could make it through the training. Oh, she could handle any workout we threw at her — I made sure of that by accompanying her for many of her intensity sessions myself — but she was coming at the marathon from the "short side". She was a track distance runner (1500m type) who had only once dabbled in the long stuff, a single "lark" half the previous year. So the big question would be how she would respond to the much longer runs and controlled pacing that we'd be asking of her. Well, "asked and answered", as the courtroom drama lawyers say. She managed to get 95+% of her training in, even after relocating back to school in the Boston area in September, we "E-Coach" corresponded regularly to help her stay on track through her "peak weeks", so that come race day, she was ready...really ready. If it weren't for a couple of totally understandable "rookie" decisions re: aggressive early pacing, she may well have nailed a 3hr flat marathon, or very close to it, and as it was still hung on gamely (or grimly?) for a tremendous debut marathon of 3:07 at the Bay State Marathon in Massachusetts. I was especially touched to receive what I'm calling "the mother of all testimonials" from Bev a couple weeks after her race. We often get very positive feedback in the hours/days/weeks following our runners' big events, but never before have we got such a veritable dissertation on how the Marathon Dynamics approach helped an already very talented and experienced runner prepare for and execute her first marathon attempt. Especially if you're one of those reading this e-newsletter who has been "curious but not committed yet" to actually trying the Marathon Dynamics approach please click here to read Bev's account (and see me blush)
10. Youth Movement — Speaking of young and promising runners, in addition to Bev, we were very pleased to work with a couple of "south side of age 20" runners this season, which doesn't happen that often. Tristan Sandhu, an 18yr old high school senior was trying to qualify for the OFSAA cross country championships for the first time ever (as an individual, much tougher than getting in with a team), and Kelty Cambell, another 18yr old, who had visions of running a half marathon only 7 weeks after she contacted us...even though she'd as yet not run further than 5K! The long stories made short? After a fall season of dedicated training, blending the workouts we prescribed (including a zinger of a tempo/race pace effort I did with him in High Park), with some track work done with the Mississauga Track Club, Tristan earned his OFSAA stripes, qualifying as one of the top 3 individual runners from his region, and went on to finish in the top 3rd of the field overall at OFSAA! Young Kelty also crammed a lot of training into a short time, and showed up on race day hoping to run her first half marathon in about 1hr50min. At the finish, it was close...she breezed through the finish in 1:51 (3rd in age group)