Last Thursday in Athens, GA, my Coach (former college coach) went into cardiac arrest twice. He fell into the arms of Steve, the head coach at state, and my husband, the head xc Coach at Mississippi State, during warm-ups at the GA track. Moments later my husband called me in a state of panic. I grabbed my keys, picked up Maddy, and drove through the night with Coach Al’s wife and daughter....we arrived around 4:00am. I spent the next few days watching the SEC Track and Field meet and visiting with him. He is alive and doing much better and he is scheduled to undergo open-heart surgery Thursday. This will not be his first rodeo so please keep him in your prayers.
When I came to the realization that I had almost lost the one and only man that I call COACH (I don’t even call Houston “Coach”, and he respects that) I realize just how much I take my relationship and the memories I have with him for granted. Before Al I was a lost and lonely high school athlete that had obsessively ran twice a day everyday for almost 2 years trying to find a way to “run” away from home. I succeeded only because Al took a chance on me. Though I was never as successful in college as I wanted to be, I definitely had a very successful college career only because he believed that I was capable of everything, and like myself, he was never satisfied.
This man has been a mentor for me since day one. I was compulsive, irresponsible, mean, and self-centered. I may be all those things still, but he took me in and helped me establish some sort of direction in life, and in a way, he became a father-figure being that I was over 3000 miles away from home at the time.
Though our relationship was rocky at times, it was the best relationship I had with anyone going through college. Coach now calls himself “Grandpa Al” as he happily pushers Maddy around the track in her stroller any chance he gets.
I know this is selfish, but I CAN’T lose Coach. Too often STILL do I come to him for support. I have cried so many times in his office then I can remember. And thought I have yelled, screamed, and cursed at him- he never holds in against me. Because in the end he knew we both were just trying to be successful.
My best memory in College- and boy do I have many- Is probably of my senior year at state. This was one of my worst years ever. Though I was plagued with injuries all through college, I had over-trained (not a new thing here) throughout the summer, fall, and spring only to enter the outdoor season tired and hurt again. My back and hamstring never responded to treatment the entire year. The morning before the SEC meet I couldn’t even run 10 minutes on my hamstring. We had spent weeks trying to get me just to the point that I could race- just finish! I could not warm up the morning of my race and highly doubted that my pulled hamstring would allow me to finish. I spent 4 hours listening to “clocks” by cold play and praying to God, “Just give me ONE MORE RACE”. And I truly believe to this day there was someone out there on the track with me, because I would later learn just how out of shape I really was. I wanted nothing more than to score just one more point for the team, JUST ONE! JUST GIVE ME ONE MORE POINT. And as I stepped on the track that night, I truly committed to running this race or dying right there. If finishing meant death, then surely that would be the end of me. And thus I ran the best race of my life, not the fastest and not my highest finish, but by golly it was with every ounce of my being. – I finished 7th, at one point moving from 8th to 4th, and eventually back to 7th as my fitness finally caught up with me. So yes, I got my last two points ever. Not my best, but given the situation, I couldn’t ask for a better outcome.
Coach walked up to me after the race and said, “J.C. girl you are one of the best big racers we have ever had. I don’t know where you got it today, but thank you. It’s been a damn pleasure.” And with that, I realized it was truly the end of the most amazing five years of my life. (at that point in time).
Today, I take all the lessons he taught me and I pass those on to the kids I coach, I find myself repeating some of the same things he said to me. I tell them, “YOU will give up on yourself well before I give up on you, I will never EVER give up on you.”
And therefore, Coach, I will never give up on you either. I know there is a hell of a fighter in you- because that same fighter is now in me. Good luck tomorrow.
Training update: 6 weeks out from Winnipeg Marathon
Monday: 70 minutes with M&D
Tuesday: 60 minutes
Wednesday: 2 mile w/u, 8X800m @ 2:36 avg (on road loop) 2 rest, 3 mile cool down, w/M,D,Houston
Thursday: 70 minutes (felt great)
Friday: 60 minutes
Saturday: 21 miles in 2:24:50 (6:53 average for the run as a whole)
splits: 7:43, 7:10, 6:55, 7:02, 6:59, 7:01, 7:12, 7:01, 6:48, 7:01,
7:03, 6:31, 6:43, 6:28, 6:43, 6:43, 6:35, 6:39, 6:43, 6:41, 6:59
*Record setting day! Longest run in my life= 21 miles
In the next few weeks I will attempt a 16 miler at 6:45 pace- this will mean no stopping to take gels/water- I will need to learn to take in fluids and carbohydrate via Houston throwing these at me out the window of the car. ….Wish me luck.
Wednesday’s workout was suppose to be 10X800m w/ 2min rest. This workout was done at 4:45 in the morning on the roads, so I gave myself a few seconds for that. My pace was slow- 2:44-2:48 because I just raced a half- but after running the first 3-4 at a conservative 2:43, I dropped down to 2:30 to average around 2:36 for the whole thing. Besides some tired quads, I felt pretty damn good the whole time. Given the state of my achilles, we cut out the last two and ran a longer cool down.
Saturday’s run was pretty much that same feeling. I ran relaxed early- not sure how I would handle 21 after having raced the Saturday before. After taking Gatorade just after 11 miles, I started to get impatient- I yelled out to M. - “Please don’t think I am an ass hole for running up here alone.” In which he replied, “It’s fine, I know you are all about the numbers.” So I continued to pick up the pace, while garmin quickly took notice…I watched as my clock steadily decreased till I was averaging just under 6:40 for the last 10 miles. I was fairly pleased by this run- but also not excited about the fact that my hip cramped from mile 12-16, and again during the very last mile. My P.T. appointment is Monday. I will be as dedicated as I can to this P.T. I need to get this hip problem taken care of once and for all.
So, it is Mothers Day, and like all Sundays, I am taking the time to reflect and evaluate if I am spending too much time on one area of my life and not enough on others. And as I sit here and type this- Maddy is crawling around on her new floor mat while watching blue’s clues (something about how the potty is fun and clean…thanks but she’s not quite there yet). It’s days like this that I make myself stop and think just how grateful I am to have a healthy child that is so low maintenance (well- somewhat). That I am able to work, sleep, run, and blog about it once a week while she does her own thing (because Maddy is an independent 7 month old- don’t you try to assist her in doing/hold anything!!).
This week I have been over taken with guilt about how I go about my life because my Dad came into town sort of unexpectedly. I didn’t have much time to prepare- so I neglected to make sure everything was clean enough you could eat off it. The state of our home has drastically improved over the last few months, but to some it could be cleaner. To most- it is livable now. For me, it is fine. When I come home after work each day I don’t feel like I am about to have an anxiety attack over dishes in the sink or a dirty floor, and thus I would say I am satisfied. However, the first think my father did was clean the entire second floor- which I think he did to help me out. But deep down I am thinking.. maybe he feels it should have been cleaner???
SO then I go about my week getting up at 4:00AM so that I can run (the one thing that allows me to deal with stress so that I do not have a breakdown over a glass of spilled milk or when Maddy has a paper cut) then proceed to get Maddy out of bed so she can be cleaned, dressed, fed, and her bag packet for daycare on time. All the while Houston and I are running around trying to get ourselves ready (did I remember to eat and brush my hair this morning??). Then we come home at the end of the day, and it’s all Maddy time once again. Don’t get me wrong, I would not have it any other way- but it doesn’t leave a lot of time for laundry and dusty. So these things get done in chunks, not consistently every night.
And though I know there are those around that feel I should give up the running thing all together and focus more on fitting into that traditional motherly role. However, the year is 2011- and Houston and I both work in jobs of similar importance, so screw the traditional role. I cook, he cleans, I tidy the den while he mows the lawn. I don’t feel like anything around the house is owned by me and I often get offended when important documents are addressed to Houston or when people feel like I should be left out of the loop when he scratches his signature on something that will affect us both.