Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I hired a coach. (179 days to go)

I started my life as a born-again runner with a New Year's resolution made on December 31, 2004: I was going to run the 2005 Chicago Marathon. I had no idea how to do such a thing, so I turned to a friend who had run 2 marathons and asked her where to start. She gave me the name Hal Higdon. I visited Mr. Higdon's website, pulled up a free training plan, and the rest, as they say, is history. I've used some variation of a Higdon plan for all of my marathon training, though in recent years I've relied more on the principles than the plan as I've gained knowledge into the sport and my body. In 6 years, I've lost 25 pounds (okay, that weight came off pretty easy once I started running 20 mile long runs in the St. Louis humidity) and cut 35 minutes off my marathon time in Coach Hal's virtual hands.

Coach Hal doesn't have any 100 mile plans. Therefore, I started looking for a coach that did. I found him in Idaho, of all places.

Photo from http://ajwsblog.blogspot.com/

Andy Jones-Wilkins is a school headmaster who leads a double life as an elite ultrarunner. He started running ultras in 1996 and ran his first 100 miler in 2000. Since then, he's run 25 hundreds, including seven straight Western States 100s. He has six Top Ten finishes at Western States, including a second place finish in 2005. His course PR is 17:07, and many call him the unofficial race historian. He is a member of the Montrail-Newton Ultrarunning team, and he is accomplished enough in the ultrarunning community to have his own wikipedia page! (Okay, that last bit was just amusing to me!)

He runs about 130 miles/week, including hills, track workouts (including my preferred sets of 800s), and back-to-back long runs on the weekends totaling 60 to 70 miles. From what I can tell, we share a love of post-race burgers and beer. In viewing pictures of him running, he seems to always have a smile on his face. I like that.

In this 21st century, most of his instruction will come via email. We've also exchanged phone numbers, and we'll chat from time to time. I also plan to attend the WS100 training camp over Memorial Day, where I'll have a chance to sit down with Andy to map out a gameplan. We'll have one final prep session in person in the days leading up to the race. I am looking forward to tapping into his knowledge of the course, training, nutrition, and all the little logistical things a first-timer wouldn't know about Western States.

AJW told me there were three keys to training for this race: speed, strength, and endurance. I've got two of three, for the most part, and he'll help me develop my endurance. This won't be easy, but it will surely be fun.

Here's his bio.
Here's a link to an interview with AJW in Running Times magazine.
Here's a link to his fantastic blog.
Here's another interview with Andy.
Here's his wikipedia page.
And it wouldn't be complete without a link to a video interview of him from the 2010 WS100.

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