Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hey Volte, What Was Your "A" Race in 2016?

The holy grail of all runners, regardless of ability, desire, time, effort, commitment level or any other factor, is still an "A" race.

Even if we're struggling to get out the door, whenever we pin on a bib, we're always looking for the best -- at wherever we're at in life or in our running.

So, everyone's "A" race in a year in review like this isn't going to be the same.

From all of those factors above, we're all likely in different places.

But our own "A" race brings us together in a common spirit to do as well as we can, given those things above that might be described as limiters.

We put the question out - "What was your "A" race in 2016? - and here's what we learned from some of you.

A Good Nausea

None of us likes to puke our guts out, but as George Rux tells us, getting close to doing so might actually be a satisfying feeling.

George Rux in his "A" race of 2016 - Texas 10 Conroe
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
"My best race in 2016 was the Texas 10 Conroe, thanks to Coach Cooper," he said.  "The tempo runs he required were especially grueling, but, they worked.  I was able to maintain my intensity with a negative split for the second five miles."

"Coach Cooper saw me about 200 meters from the finish and challenged me to “Catch that guy” ahead of me."

"It was a sprint to the finish and I think I just nipped him at the banner.  Immediately after, I felt the brief instance of nausea as I was handed water by one of the volunteers.  I knew I had “left it all on the course” -- which is another way to describe a memorably good race.

Encouragement Is Contagious

Jill Tresaugue said hands down her best race of 2016 was Ten for Texas.

"I was training very well, felt prepared and felt great during the race," she said.  "Weather was the best it has ever been for that race."

Jill's all smiled because of great weather - and Volte's world famous cheer squad!
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
"The best part was the Volte cheering section at Hughes Landing, which was the perfect spot for a pick-me-up on the way back to the finish line."

Bouncing Back with New Experiences

Dana Formon has been coming back from an injury this year, but a triathlon energized her like nothing else.

"Tri For Old Glory, an Olympic distance triathlon, was my first triathlon -- and I asbolutely hated every minute of it," she exclaimed.  "For some reason, though, I have three triathlons on my race schedule for 2017, so I guess I've been bitten by the bug.

"I plan on going back and improving my time and I liked the challenge -- once it was all said and done."

Maybe Dana will displace those two hats in the #1 spot in 2017 at Tri For Old Glory
(Photo courtesy of Seven Hills Running Club)
And 2017 looks bright, she adds.

"I ran the Run Thru The Woods 3-miler at a pace I was really proud of after spending four months without running because of an injury," Dana said.  "It’s still going to be a long recovery to get back to where I was before I got injured, but it leaves me optimistic that with Bill’s help I can really make 2017 a good year."

Faster and Stronger

Pays dividends for sure, as evidenced by Marta Mixa's year of a record number of races -- 18.

Set to do a triathlon at Cap Tex on Labor Day, she didn't let the swim and bike portions that were cancelled from the effects of never surprising rain in the capital city deter her efforts.

Marta didn't let the lack of a swim or a bike get in the way of run domination at CapTex.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
"I ran my PR in the 5K here and placed second in my age group," Marta said.  "And it was in a year of PRs for me, placing first, second or third place in my division in many of the races - from the one mile to the half marathon."

A Race For One

Desna Jackson-McDonald learned in 2016 that the only person she competes against -- is herself.

That lesson came early in the year at the Chevron Houston Marathon.  And she made it to the start line without any help.

"I trained by myself," she said.  "I had to figure out everything by myself and in the end, I crossed by myself, albeit with only five minutes to spare as my official time was 5:55.

"(And) although I started cramping at mile 9, that did not deter me from completing the task at hand."

"The race taught me that I am mentally tough. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. It taught me to believe in myself and trust my instincts. It also taught me that in this life, it is my race and my pace."

Desna, we're excited for you too in 2017, especially with a bright smile -- and race gear!
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
She's excited about what lies ahead for 2017, as she's getting out of what she puts into it.

"Last year this time I was anxious about Chevron. This year I am screaming, "Bring it on Chevron!", she smiled.  "With Coach Rich on my team, I can see the difference in my pace and attitude. I am getting faster and even though my pace is nowhere near qualifying for Boston or any of the other prestigious races, I am moving forward."

What we accomplish in each one of our minds is prestigious.

"Now I can run an hour and not feel exhausted. I wake up and look forward to running. I love my running life," she gushed.  "I love looking back at where I was and seeing the progress.

"Best thing I ever did was to hire a coach. It takes the guesswork out of my training. I just wake up, look at Training Peaks and run!"

About Those Training Plans

Rich Cooper counts entering them all as joy.

"It (all) starts with sitting down and creating the training schedule, as I slowly construct it, I envision that person getting stronger and stronger," he explains.  "Then it comes down to conversations at track or on Saturday mornings after the long run.

"A lot of times we have to encourage our runners or lift them up after a bad workout, but we also have to be tough and remind them to follow the training schedule."

Even though he led the Woodlands Fit program for many years, he says 2016 has been different.

Happy Coach, Happy Runners!  Great job this year, Coach Rich!
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
"I will never forget as it was my first one as a Coach. In the past my focus was on my races like Houston, Woodlands and the Texas 10 Series," he says.  "In a lot of ways it has been very gratifying as I have watched my runners I coach improve."

"So for me, my best races have been ALL of the races my runners have run."

"I love the process of watching somebody grow stronger and faster and when they achieve their race goals, it's such a great feeling. I compare coaching in a lot of ways to being a parent. You take somebody who has raw talent and determination and slowly shape and mold them to being a runner."

So Santa has been good to Rich this year.  He says it this way:

"The biggest thrill I get is when my runners say two words, "Thanks Coach."

And adds, "I want to say "Thank You" to all my athletes I have coached this year -- Marta Mixa, George Rux, Yaya Herrera, Jimmy Baker, Paul Vita, Desna Jackson, Claudia McMeeken and Andres Ruales. It's been such a joy coaching all of you and I want you to know that it has been an honor to be your coach!"

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