BY: ANDIE COZARELLI
It's pretty cool having one of your running role models be your coach. I mean what could be better than having a kick-ass marathoner coaching YOU in the marathon? But as I boarded the plane to make the trek to flagstaff to see Steph Bruce, I got a little nervous. Not because I was intimidated but because I'm weirdly awkward around people I look up to. The kind of awkward where you stutter and make up words. Its one thing when we talk on the phone or through text every so often; I only have to keep my cool for like 5 minutes and I'm good. I realized in the moments before boarding that first plane from RDU, I was going to have to keep my cool for a full week. Luckily, on my first day in Flagstaff, Steph let me borrow her car and I locked the keys in them. So basically we reached a new level in our coach-athlete relationship real quick. I mean no more trying to act cool, she knew now that I was as spacey as they come! But as it turns out she’s not that scary after all.
The timing of this trip ended up perfectly for both Steph and I. She was in the thick of training for the NYC marathon and I got to see her and train with her during a very pivotal part of her marathon buildup. In hearing her speak about her workouts, I got a sense of what makes her a great marathoner. She has her struggles but she adapts. She listens to her body but she doesn't give in to her mind. She’s also real. When her second to last mile of her grueling 14 mile tempo on rolling hills into the wind was slow, she remained calm and finished her last mile faster than pace. The marathon is all about being controlled and strong through adversity. Watching her persevere on tired marathon heavy legs, was just what I needed in my own build up. I am so glad our races aligned the way they did. Her race a month before mine means I can follow along and walk in her footsteps. She may be faster but we all are human and we all operate in similar fashion. No matter what pace we run, we all fight the same fight. We all battle the same demons. It's all about how we handle them that ultimately determines whether we fly or fall.
Last week I had the good fortune of joining the NAZ Elite team at practice. Through this I got to meet and talk to so many new people who gave me great advice in my pursuit of the marathon. Running with not only the NAZ Elite team but also the likes of Matt Fitzgerald, well known author, coach, and nutritionist, James McKirdy of McKirdy trained, and Diane Nukuri was such an honor. I joined them in Camp Verde which lies around 3,000 ft. At this altitude workouts almost resemble sea level paces. I nailed a 16x400 workout and felt great. I joined them on their regular and easy runs which they actually ran easy on. This reinforces the idea that not all training needs to be hard. In fact easy runs give way to hard solid workouts which are the meat ofbecoming a faster runner. With high mileage and altitude, recovery days are essential.
In the beginning of the week I did a decent job being careful with my pace while training at altitude but as the week went on I became a little over confident leaving me a little more drained for the final and hardest workout I had during my week at altitude. The lower mileage I was operating on at the beginning of the week lead me into a great workout on Wednesday. Friday we hit the track for just a little bit of speed and my little legs hung in there. But by Sunday my legs felt a little bit more tired and I also underestimated my hydration needs despite numerous warnings... Let's just say I definitely felt the altitude.
Overall my week in Flagstaff was a great experience. I got in to see Steph's chiropractor, Wes Gregg of HypoSport 2 who gave me a new perspective on where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I went through Steph's strength session with her giving me an idea of how closely related our training is. I also had a chance to get a massage from Shea Tinder of Tinder Touch Massage which was so nice and so needed after racing and then traveling. Best of all though, I got to hang out with two of the coolest toddlers on the planet!
I learned a lot about myself through the training during my week in flagstaff but also came away with so much just being in Steph's company. Saturday we got to spend some quality time together over some of the best food I have ever eaten (check out the Local Juicery in Flagstaff - you will be amazed). We talked about life, training, and racing. She led me through my schedule leading up to CIM and explained to me that goal pace cannot be forced. As you work through each marathon cycle you have to let your body do the talking. As Steph put it, "You can't simply pick a time and say I want to run that. You need to find an effort in workouts that feels like you could run a marathon and start to train around that pace. Then as you get fit and progress in a cycle you'll get closer to the race and be able to target a real time."
The goal I had in mind for CIM was a low 2:30 marathon but this year has been tough for reasons I am proud of. I decided to work to overcome my Secondary Amenorrhea and through the process I have had to deal with a lot of change. I had to become uncomfortable at times and I have had to be okay with not racing as fast as I would like. I know that putting myself and my body first will get me down to that 2:30 goal in the future but I don't know if I am there just yet. Talking through this with Steph helped to reinforce that my potential is still very much on the horizon. I am going to work my butt off through the rest of this season and continue to grow stronger. I don't know what the future holds but I feel confident that I have the right guidance to be in the moment and come out of CIM with my head held high. For now the goal stands as between 2:35-2:40, but who knows, with 2 months to go I may surprise myself!
No matter what race you are training for, whether it be NYC, Richmond, CIM, or any race there in between, enjoy the process, have confidence in your training, and no matter what the circumstances keeping kicking butt!