Running may be my passion, but coaching is my calling.

                                

“I have a lot of emails and some training plans to write this week,” I muttered to my mom while on a family vacation at the Jersey Shore. She quizzically (and earnestly) inquired, “Why can’t you just cut and paste their plan? Make it all the same. Wouldn’t that be faster??” My eyes widened and I let out an audible gasp of breath. “MOM!!! These people hired ME to coach them base their unique goals, strengths and abilities! I would NEVER, EVER cut and paste a plan. I owe it to them to give them my 100% my best because they give me their best.” My mom threw her hands in the air as an act of self-defense, “Okay geeze! Don’t be so touchy. I was just wondering.”

I’ll be honest- coaching takes up a lot of my time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  My athletes are my friends, my family and my daily reminder that if you want something bad enough you will work hard for it.

So, what is it really like to be a running coach?

Yes, my inbox in perpetually full of athlete emails. Yes, I am essentially always on call. Yes, every week I have several training plans to write. But I also help people face their fears, push their limits, find strength they never knew existed and reach their goals. It’s a life changing experience and I absolutely love it.

Coaching is my passion.

***

                                        

Months ago in a training plan far far away I met many of my athletes for a team dinner to celebrate past races and amp up for our next training cycle. After a few too many pasta noodles were slurped, one thing led to another and we began planning the next training cycle together as a team. In an act of solidarity seven athletes raised their hand to race the Baystate Half Marathon in Lowell on October 16th, with one chomping at the bit to run the full 26.2. I then put it out to the rest of the team across the country and one athlete from Florida is going to fly up for the race! YESSSS!!! Awesome-sauce times 1000!!

Since we all planned on running the same A-race then our taper and peak weeks of training would align too. As a team we also agreed to run the Run to the Rock (R2R) half in Plymouth in early September as our lead up race. Habitually hot and horribly hilly, the R2R race series wasn’t necessarily the ideal lead up for a pancake flat Baystate half but it was local and the timing was right.

On Saturday September 10th the team met at the race start to the Run to the Rock half marathon. Hot and humid and a hilly course, we reevaluated race strategy to account for race conditions. We discussed fueling, hydration, strategy and of course everyone’s NERVES! Each athlete came to the race with her own unique level of fitness based on her run history, time in her training cycle and current goals. I spent one-on-one time with every athlete reviewing the race plan we discussed earlier in the week, course strategy and most importantly mentally preparing them for the highs and lows that were about to come. After a short warm up jog we were ready to race!

I stood at the starting line with my athletes, my teammates- my friends. We may have had our own pace goals but at that moment we stood there for same exact reason: to do something we love that is challenging, thus forcing us to push our limits and grow. The bottom line is that we were there to become stronger. Stronger mentally. Stronger emotionally. Stronger physically.

Taking the season off from racing hard I went into the R2R with the following goals: stay in control of my pace in the heat to negative split the final miles, support my athletes on the course (if possible) and at the finish and HAVE FUN! After the gun went off I ended up trotting alongside Dana for 1.5 miles as she tends to go out a smidge too fast. A delicate balance between supporting and hovering over Dana once she found her comfy race pace I decided to ease into my own. A warm, sunny day with a breeze in the air and surrounded by runners I couldn’t help but feel genuinely happy during this race. I held 8’s for the first 7 miles (or so) and made sure to keep my heart rate in the high Z1 range. To be clear- this isn’t racing- it’s more of a hasty trot. Miles 7-9 had a gradual downhill grade that allow for the paces to naturally descend into the high 7s with little additional effort. My plan was to give it all I had from miles 10-13.1 and so I did. Passing nearly 30 athletes, over 8 of whom were women I put on the gas in the final miles, threw down a few sub 7:30 miles and glided into 5th place female with a 1:42:XX. IT FELT PRETTY DARN AMAZING to negative split a half marathon and pass so many runners in the final miles- but no race performance could top what happened AFTER I crossed the finish line.
 

I crossed the finish, grabbed a water bottle and booked it to the sidelines!! I HAD ATHLETES TO CHEER ON!!! Mere minutes after I finished my athletes started pouring in. I stood there trying to do the math in my head, "Kristi should be in any minute - her pace goal was X:XX- wait, there she is!! Dana's pace goal was X:XX, and her time was X:XX:XX, so she... wait she PR'ed!! Whaaaaaaat!!... Ok - next should be Jillian. Where is Jillian! COME ON JILLIAN!! PUSH! PUSH!!" I was a ball of excitement and nerves all the way to the last athlete as I wished, hoped and wanted all of them to have successful races!

As they crossed the finish some were utterly elated, some were frustrated with their race performance, and some REALLY had to pee ;). Dana’s sheer excitement of PR’ing on a brutally hot day and an unforgiving course. Kristi’s surprised expression of how she possibly ran so darn well and came within a minute of PR’ing. Lisa’s look of utter disdain that she flat out will not run R2R ever again because it is a possessed course that is “just plain evil.” Jillian’s hand in my face steps after the finish line as her way of expressing, “I NEED A MINUTE COACH LADY. I love you but back off.” Flower’s huge bear hug around my gross, sweaty body to express excitement, shock and awe for her strength and perseverance. The raw emotion experienced at a race empowers runners and changes lives. Bearing witness to this revolution within individuals is why I coach.

Running is my love, and coaching is my calling.

On October 16th I will run the Baystate Half Marathon (as originally planned) with my team. I’ll turn around at the finish and I will be privy to one of the most amazing experiences: watching my athletes grow stronger with every step.

Can’t stop.

Won’t stop.

Never stop running.

We got this!

Kass



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