“A Command Performance: Rocking St. George with Effort-Based Racing, Apple Cinnamon Gel and Imodium”
From the beginning of the fall marathon training program, Amy Anderson and Mark Enstone have awed participants with their stellar teamwork. Amy began coaching with Rogue when it was a mere embryo of business, and Mark joined this year, first as Amy’s assistant, before leading his own group for the Austin Marathon. Close friends, both triathletes, IronMan finishers, and runners, the two had much in common even before they stepped up to the start line. Their command performance at the St. George marathon would soon become another addition to the list.
Pre-race preparation, in addition to the training Amy did on the road, included naming and writing ten affirmations on a note card. She finds that referring to these simple positive statements about her preparation and ability maintains her focus and self-assuredness on race day. Amy’s coach, Rogue owner Ruth England, added the last two to the list to make ten. In the race plan meeting, “we worked on changing Amy’s pacing to 5K or 5 mile chunks, rather than mile-to-mile bits. We also talked about how she might possibly feel and what she was going to do to make the best of the situation, if it got tough,” says Ruth.
As race day neared, Mark gave Amy an ultimatum: “you are not checking essential running gear” onto the plane. She resisted at first, having traveled much herself and not having any anxiety about it, but when he offered to stuff her “little baby shoes” into his carry-on, she conceded. The essential running gear he referred to included shoes, shorts, a shirt and socks, because “nothing new on race day,” and these items were long run road tested for months already.
The day before the race, Amy and Mark drove the entire 26.2 mile course, walked around on some of it, and even memorized special landmarks in what they thought might be the tough areas. They decided that, at the wildlife crossing road sign near a vista point they encountered, they would “be golden” for the finish of the race. From there, they could recall the prior day and their resolution to finish strong. Also the day before, they planned meals carefully. Amy relies on a well-balanced lunch, while Mark counts on a rounded dinner as a pre-race meal. Funnily, they found themselves in a Chinese food restaurant for dinner, hoping to get in “plain fish, green veggies, and rice”; who would have thought?
The morning of the race was cold, rainy, windy and dark – miserable by most post-race accounts, but Amy and Mark positively reframed the conditions as a solution to their concerns that their time at the race venue had been too hot and humid, rather than dell on it as miserable and negative. Mark and Amy “dressed in race gear with an extra shirt over that, a dry-clothes bag in hand” and headed towards the bus stop. Because the St. George Marathon is a point-to-point race, all participants ride from the finish in St. George to the start in Central, Utah, where they start and run back the way they came. After two encounters with the bushes for bathroom breaks, some huddling under a towel to avoid getting soaked, dropping their dry-clothes bags in the U-Haul van, and each ingesting half of an Imodium tablet, they were ready.
Although Amy and Mark wanted to run a 3:40, they decided not to run with the pace group. With balloons just flush with the bobbing of running heads, they had a hard time spotting the group, but kept it in sight for perspective, occasionally measuring themselves against the pacers. Mark observes how he doesn’t mind running with pace groups if: “their spitting, snorting or snotting doesn’t land on your leg, arm or face, if their banter doesn’t wear on you, if their elbow doesn’t bang your bicep like an SOB”, and Amy’s belief in effort-based racing doesn’t align well with the concept. Instead, they decided to start easy and finish strong, with an eye casually on time.
Amy describes effort-based racing as “running how you feel” without giving in too soon. This type of racing acknowledges the possibility of off days, which she says can occur for any reason, including: the route, the weather, your nutrition and hydration, and your health. She articulates the cardiac drift phenomenon, which means “effort has to increase just to maintain the pace, not even to speed up, just to maintain.” Starting too fast leaves very little room to go up, while starting too easy causes a time-loss you probably can’t regain in the end.
Mark and Amy relied upon four time checkpoints, captured on his and hers cheat sheets, at miles 5, 10, 15 and 20, just as Amy and Ruth discussed. Amy never read hers, but Mark referred to his for both of them, and she verbally checked in to inquire about whether they had met their marks. After successfully executing their nutrition and hydration plans, they took gel for the last time at Mile 21. For Amy, a traditional Apple Cinnamon Carb-Boom did the trick; she takes the same gel at every marathon in honor of Claire, one of her Boston Qualifier athletes from another year. Mark had the same, and they moved in to close the race, pouring on the work and effort for those final miles.
Their final times were 3:35:26&27, five minutes faster than their projected goal time! It was a command performance, one that far exceeded expectation when consistent training and healthy choices culminated in the race of a lifetime.