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Commentary: Kept in check by one tough coach

April 02, 2013|By Carrie Luger Slayback

Re. "The L.A. Marathon at 70?," March 24:

I opened Jake's email congratulating me on my Daily Pilot commentary:

"Nice article! You've made your public proclamation; thrown down the gauntlet; taken a stand; called out the competition; gone eye to eye with the gods of fate ...

"We should talk about your training. It is not too early to start building your base. :-)

"Jake"

I emailed back, "Let's talk about my base," which means Jake will coach me to run the Los Angeles Marathon, all 26.2 miles, in 2014, after I turn 70.

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Jake coached me for the Portland Marathon of October 2012. His idea of "my base" means I should hit the pavement every day for distances of seven to 21 miles.

"I can't do it Jake," I said. "I do two long runs a week and walk or hike between. My knees won't take daily pounding."

Jake is 60ish, an engineer and a coach-by-prescription kind of guy. He looked at me doubtfully but said nothing until the following Saturday.

At the Corona del Mar parking lot where we meet before the run, Jake addressed me, stroking his mustache.

"I looked up the information on ..." Here he paused and then let me have it: "older runners. You can run every other day as long as you get your mileage in."

And there was my downfall. Although I continued two long runs a week, I never reached Jake's mileage requirements.

August heat is the enemy of endurance sports, and I wilted during our final 20-mile run before Portland.

Worried I wouldn't make my time in Portland, I emailed Jake. "How will I finish in four hours and 24 minutes when I'm doing 14-minute miles on Saturdays?"

His answer:

"To be honest, I am very worried about how exhausted you looked after last week's 20-mile run. ... Running to exhaustion on a long training run will not make you faster; it will make you slower! ... Your marathon problem is endurance not speed. Your problems are pacing, lack of patience and lack of discipline.

"You slow down not because you lack speed but because you lack endurance. ...The key to endurance is weekly mileage over months and years. ... I am sorry if I keep repeating myself, but you keep making these beginner mistakes."

Jake had already called me old, but with this email, he added undisciplined and a beginner.

Still, I ran Portland and at a four-hour, 24-minute pace until Mile 20, when marathoners traditionally hit the wall. I slowed. Not only was I tired, but I badly needed a port-o-potty, adding misery to my final five miles. My time was four hours, 30 minutes and I finished in fourth place in my age-group.

Runners tell all, so I reported my successful 20 miles to Jake and then the particulars of hobbling in, desperately seeking a potty.

Jake's response: "Were the slower final miles lack of endurance or the bathroom problem? Next time, try Imodium."

So, yes, Jake, whip this old, undisciplined runner into shape for L.A., 2014. And thank you for addressing every detail of my runs.

Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is an award-winning teacher and runner whose articles have appeared in Coast and Sassie magazines and the Los Angeles Times.

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