Archive for May 28, 2012

Last week I boarded a flight home late in the afternoon from Iowa.  It was a regional jet taking 26 of us or so into Dallas Fort Worth where I would connect to Austin and arrive home just before Midnight.

I had a long day, was facing a longer one to follow and was looking forward to a couple of hours with my phone off, no distractions and some time to rest and read a few chapters in my book.

As I settled into my seat two young athletes sat down behind me.  Just behind them were their two coaches who sat across the aisle from me and one row back.  I said a quick hello and thought about not talking running with them.  But I couldn’t resist.

I said to one of the coaches, “Looks like we’ve got a couple of fast runners on board this flight”.

The coach replied, “We sure do, we’re heading to a meet.  This one right here is a middle distance guy, the other is a hurdler”.

“Good for you both” I said, “I’m just an old marathoner.  I’m not too fast, but I can run pretty far.”

The second coach spoke up and said, “If you want to talk about marathoning, this is your guy right here” as he pointed to the first coach.  “He was really something else when he was a young man.”

My curiosity was of course about off the charts – I couldn’t resist the temptation.  I had to know.

I looked over at the coach and said, “Well, I’m new to the sport as I just started running back in 2006, but I’ve got 8 marathons under my belt, including a couple of Bostons.  I’m not done yet, still trying to break 3 hours.”

The coach looked over at me and said, “what are you 40 or 41?  You’ve got plenty of time to keep getting faster.”

“I’m 44 actually, will be turning 45 this summer.  I’ve got young legs though since I got such a late start.  Maybe only 12,000 miles on them to date.”

The coach said, “well, I’ve run 46 marathons and have about 80,000 miles on my legs.  I don’t run marathons anymore, but there was a time when I ran a whole lot of them.  My PR is 2:19.  I finished 5th in the New York City marathon in the mid 70’s, 12th in Boston a year later.  I made it to two Olympic Trials and qualified for a third, but of course with the boycott in 1980 I didn’t get the chance to run there.”

I was flying with royalty.

The next two hours went by in the blink of an eye.  We talked about training, running and racing.  What it was like to run with Bill Rogers, Dick Beardsley and Frank Shorter.  How the sport of running has changed, and what it was like as an amateur back in the 1970’s not racing for prize money but for the love of the sport.

I soaked up every bit of advice and running philosophy I could and talked about my summer plans to prepare for my first Ironman 70.3 and of course chasing 3 hours in Houston in January.

Out of respect for his privacy, I will not share the name of the coach, where he works today or where he lives.  What I will say is that after spending half a decade of my life trying to improve, mature and progress as a runner – I learned more about the sport in those two hours than I did during the previous 5 years.

With the arrival of summer we are at a crossroads in our training and racing.  We have the formula to prepare.  We have the base mileage and health to the point where we can push our training a bit further, perhaps to that 75-80 mile a week level when the focus shifts from Iron Man to Houston in October and we have the fight and the will to go after the final chapter in our quest for marathoning excellence.

At least the level of excellence as we define it.  Sub 3 hours.

But to talk to a truly remarkable athlete and an even more amazing man was truly a gift this week.  A week that was full of challenges personally and professionally. 

After great runs on Wednesday and Thursday Landry had fallen ill.  My plans for a swim Friday morning and a long bike ride on Friday afternoon were scrapped as I stayed home with our little one and helped her over her bug.

I was able to make a 30 mile ride on Saturday morning before that bug reared its head a second time in our household.  I got it full-bore and could not keep any food down.  Couldn’t think of eating and could barely drink enough to stay hydrated.  Three days and 4 1/2 pounds lighter, I am now starting my way back.

What was planned as a 111 mile week fell far short at only 73.  Those miles were great quality – just not the quantity that we had hoped for.

But on this Memorial Day, the first day of summer we are feeling more like ourselves.

Confident, assured and powerful.  We have some work to do with nutrition right now to get those calories back in us – but Tuesday morning we start anew.  After Landry is dropped off at school with Momma Bear away in Germany this week, we will start to hit it hard again.  Pushing the limits of our training to prepare for our first summer races in Holland, TX on June 18th followed by the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon the following morning on Father’s Day.

Summer is here and the time is right for dancin’ in the streets.