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Claudia Kirby

When I met Andy we were at a run group that a mutual friend had started in the spring of 2015. A change in my work schedule left me resorting to running exclusively for exercise. With the group I had a couple of short runs each week and a longer one on Saturdays. I would get home from the long runs and ice my knees or lay around exhausted the remainder of the day.

Eight or ten miles would be draining, twelve or fifteen would literally have me limping into my house after I parked my car and pulled myself out of it. How could I be a runner? I kept going to the runs, encouraged by the friendships and the adventures. I signed up for a couple of half marathons and a 10K that summer and those were good challenges and fun times with friends.

Then during the winter people were talking about signing up for the Aspen Back Country Marathon. I had volunteered at it during the summer and as I saw the finishers come in I thought to myself, how could they will themselves to do a race with such treacherous elevation gains and descents and for a total of more miles that I could imagine. Now a few friends who had not run more than a half marathon, like me, were talking about registering for it. I told Andy how I was thinking about it but how it seemed like I could be reaching too high.

That day I had an email from him with a training plan in it. That excel sheet with 20 weeks of boxes and miles in each box became my ultimate goal, week in and week out; Andy’s consistent guidance gave me the confidence to stick to it! “Looking over your data. You are putting in solid work. Not just the mileage but the vertical too,” one of Andy’s many emails read. As the weeks ticked by and I was near the marathon I started to have uncertainty coupled with burn out and Andy taught me about tools to make it through those weeks all the while reassuring me about what to plan for and what to expect from the next week of training.

Calories, sleep, energy expenditure, self care, hydration, mental approach, heart rate, rest, speed training, effort levels: these were all part of a very new world to me and as I listened to Andy with each run, email or phone call I gained more knowledge than I could have imagined. I also got messages like “I just got a chance to look at your training from last Wednesday’s run. Your pace and effort going up looks spot on,“ and when I finished a big week and was nearing my taper, “All of your heavy lifting is done now. You did it!”

The morning of my first marathon Andy walked to the start with me in the dark, we talked about the strategies we had discussed many times and then he took my extra layer and I was off. I started running in the cold, dark morning with many others, feeling scared, excited and also on top of the world because I could trust the training Andy helped me with. In twenty weeks I had run 646 miles with 54,580 feet of elevation gain and all the while with Andy’s encouragement and knowledge propelling me to do something I once thought impossible.

At mile 19 Andy was at the rest station and he said “How are you doing?” and I said “I’m tired, really tired,” hoping for some sympathy. That’s when Andy said, “Now is the time to dig deep, go fast and take chances.” I was running before I replied, I screamed “see you at the finish!” as I willed my legs to keep going. I sprinted past the finish line strong and thrilled beyond belief, thanks to Andy and the work he helped me put into training.

A couple of months later I went back to one of the half marathons I had done the previous summer and again thanks to the input and the consistency I received from Andy, I accomplished a PR on my time for that race: the Denver Rock & Roll Half Marathon.

Next month I’ll be in Moab to run my second marathon, the Moab Trail Marathon. I still want to pinch myself, having started this journey about a year ago. But more importantly I want to thank Andy Wooten for being the inspirational person he is and for the many things he has taught me.

One of my favorites quotes Andy used to motivate me is this one: Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.


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