“The last two miles always suck.”
That’s how I kicked off our first four-mile training at the Oracle end of the Bay Trail, back in January when we kicked off our Peninsula team season. I told them when I started over a decade ago, I hated the last two miles. I was tired. My calves were cramping. I couldn’t wait until it was over. The next week at the 6 mile training, it was the same thing. It was always the last two miles.
But after a while I started to understand that most of the time all the miles leading up to those last two weren’t so bad. When we got to 10 miles, I breezed through the first 8. Even we hit finished our longest training of the season at 22 miles, I was tired, but still felt strong after 20.
Fast forward 11 years and I’m on the other side of the coach/participant relationship, marking the Bay Trail on what was going to be a warm day for Northern California. While it’s dead flat and has plenty of access to restrooms and water, the Bay Trail doesn’t have a lot of shade. Getting through this day meant not getting into your own head.
Our training captains Christy and Cathy were up early marking the ends of the route. Christy took the west side to the bow tie course starting at Seal Point past CuriOdyssey for two miles. Cathy covered the other end to the Oracle end of the trail since it was close to home, marking miles 5 – 8 on the eastern loop and I bike marked 0 – 5 going east.
Coach Hang took care of check-in and waited for the 8:30 start for the half marathoners. The four of us didn’t know each other very well when the season started. TNT NorCal was hard pressed to staff the Peninsula so when we agreed to form the coaching team, we didn’t have a lot of time to get to know each other’s styles. We still have a few hiccups, but I’m happy with how far we’ve come.
Once I got the mile 5 markings down, I happened to check my Facebook On This Day memories. Six years ago, I was coming off reconstructive knee surgery and prepping for Rock n Roll Seattle 2010. I was excited about going to a Team in Training Fall kick-off meeting, planning to just be a fundraising participant that season. As it turns out, the Peninsula team was looking for a marathon coach, so I ended up being one of those MIA participants that showed up at the event at the end of the year. Back then we had all of the SF Bay Area chapter teams meet in a hotel ballroom, often hundreds of participants, their families and friends and staff. It was a huge motivation for me back then. I got to reconnect with friends and hear stories from our honorees to really remind me why we kept raising money. We didn’t have that this year, so we tried to connect with each participant individually as best we could.
Full marathoners Keith, Hal, Mike, Carroll, Rick and half marathoner Alison took off early to get 12 miles in. Susan joined them as we ramp up to our full at the end of June, doing her longest mileage since early 2014. She said the first 4 miles was the prettiest part of the course. I spent most of time patrolling the east end of the loop so once again, I missed the half marathoners completely. I really need to plan that better. Fortunately, we had plenty of people to support the water stations. I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to get volunteers like Terri, Lisa and Myra who give up a holiday weekend morning to help us out.
Susan and Carroll hit the mile 12 turn just under 2:30. One confusing turn and the rising temperatures had Carroll firmly in the Bite Me Zone for the last 8 miles. Carroll’s usual training partner, Ginny, had to stop with hip pain, so Carroll would be on her own on the way back. It was looking like those last two miles would be brutal. She’s a veteran marathoner though. And the week before, Colleen, one of her honorees, lost her battle with cancer. I wasn’t worried about Carroll’s resolve.
I followed behind her as best I could, sweeping up flour and lifting Route Arrows only after she passed them. As a walk coach, I’ve brought in the last participants during training and more than a few during races. There was no way we’re going to leave anyone out there thinking the race is over before they finish. Myra volunteered to run Carroll in from the last water stop at mile 17. The last 3 miles were going to suck, but thanks to Myra, much less so.
Everyone finished their mileage. We have a knee, a back and some sore leg issues to address this week, but nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s too early to call this season a wrap, but it’s a relief to start the taper and start healing up before the race.
If I somehow forget to say it later, thanks to our coaching team. Hang, Cathy, Christy, your guidance and experience put our participants in a position to succeed. Ginny, Lisa, Cindi, Valerie, Guy, Chrisi and the rest of the staff, thanks for all the love and support. Despite how we only had a short time in January to start the team, we really came together. In three weeks, we’ll be at Rock n Roll Seattle or Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage to cap off the season.
And those last three weeks are not going to suck.