Call Me Coach

Team ChallengeI have started a job as one of the coaches for the Las Vegas Team Challenge organization. Team Challenge is the endurance training/fundraising group for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

I’m very excited to be co-coaching the team with my good friend Jimmy. We are training a group of about 60 runners/walkers for the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon on July 18.

When I trained for the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon with Team in Training, I posted a recap of our group runs every Saturday, so I will do that for this group. The differences in training will be huge though, because this time I am the coach as opposed to the nervous runner worried about covering the distance while raising money for a cause.

Today our group met at 7:00 AM at the local Fleet Feet store. We had a 15-minute clinic from the store owner on the importance of having proper gear, from shoes to socks to apparel. Many of the team members were there in cotton sweats and fashion athletic shoes, so I’m glad they got a presentation on the importance of having the proper equipment. Hopefully they follow through and get the gear they need.

After that we set out on the group run/walk for the day… 2 whole miles! It was about 50 degrees out but the winds were blowing pretty fierce, so it felt chillier than that. Some of the people were very quick and covered the distance in good time. I played the role of sweeper, running back and forth between the groups of walkers. A lot of our walkers are going to need to pick up the pace to do the race in the time limit, but I am confident they will be able to do it safely as long as they pay attention to Jimmy and me. Due to my role at the back of the pack I ended up covering about 2.5 miles.

Post-training the group had a little birthday party for our Team’s honored hero, a local girl who has struggled with Crohn’s disease her whole life. Today was her 14th birthday, a very fitting and appropriate way to start our training season. The group ate bagels and sat down for a fundraising clinic to get tips and tricks on meeting their goals.

From a coaching perspective I am a little intimidated about learning everyone’s names… I would like to know everyone, but there are a lot of people! Granted, we didn’t have all 60 show up this week (I hope they got their mileage in!) but there were at least 30 people there. I’m excited to share information with them and help them avoid making mistakes that I’ve done. But I realize there is a certain level of mistake-making that will occur regardless of how tough/nice we are as coaches. The urge to go out too fast, too soon hits all of us at times, even those of us who have done it in the past, experienced the pain and know better. Sometimes you just get excited to MOVE!

All in all, it was a good start to training; I look forward to getting to know my team better and helping them (the majority of them are complete novices to racing) cross the finish line this summer!


  1. Congrats on starting the coaching job. I am so impressed that you are doing this for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. My oldest, who is 10, has Crohn’s Disease, and I have been considering running for them. There is not a local chapter here, though, so I haven’t signed up. I’m such a dork that I think, oh, I can’t just run for them, I should lead a group, and then I get all intimidated and I forget about it. Are they a good group to work with? And do you know if they are thinking about having a group for the Las Vegas 1/2 this year? Thanks for the info!

    • I’m sure they will have a group for the Las Vegas race this year… the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is the official charity of that race! My friend and co-coach Jimmy coached the Las Vegas team for the 2009 race and we had 63 finishers just from our chapter. There were chapters from all over the country that came here for that race.

      So far my impressions have been very positive of the organization. They are enthusiastic and well-organized. You should see about leading a group! Or if you wanted to, see if you could join a group from a distance, train on your own and meet up with them at the race. For some races (like the Napa to Sonoma one we’re doing) the only way to get into the race at this point is through a group like Team Challenge.

  2. I am SO excited about this! CCFA means a lot to me because my brother has been struggling with Crohns for about 6 years now. I’m actually a member of the Team in TRaining here in Western PA, but I’ve never run with them. It just hasn’t worked for me yet. I really want to run the Pittsburgh Marathon for them, but I can’t figure out how to do it…and it’s a little late too!

    You’re going to do so well!!

    And thanks so much for supporting CCFA!

    • Abby: I have been surprised at how many people I’ve come across that are affected by these diseases since I joined Team Challenge!

      And if you can figure out how to run with a team like this, you should do it because it really is a great experience!

  3. Great job!! I hope I can get an official coaching gig one of these days. For now, helping my friends is good enough. I enjoy running between the slower groups, too. You get a chance to get to know the runners and get more mileage in as well.

    Have fun coaching with Jimmy!!!

    • Lisa, you would be so good with a big group like this too! I hope you can get a gig like this someday too! (I’m excited to be coaching with Jimmy! He’s such a good friend and I think our styles are pretty complementary!)

  4. Awesome! You must have the highest karma rating ever, Jill. You are always doing thing for and helping others. You are a genuinely great person and I feel lucky to know you. 🙂

  5. Hey, Jill —
    I’m a Team Challenge Mentor! The New England team is currently the largest group nationally this cycle (since the race is here in Boston)… Some of my closest friends are also mentors and coaches for TC New England — in fact, we ran in Kona last year together for Team Challenge, and some of them are on my 13 Relay team for May 1 & 2! I’m so glad that you’re volunteering your time for the CCFA–it’s a great way to meet new people and to make a HUGE difference in people’s lives. I have already been overwhelmed with how many obstacles some of our participants have overcome.

    I probably will take a break for the Napa cycle, but my friends who did it last year had a BLAST! (Also, my friends Chris and Kate were coaches for New England during the Las Vegas cycle, and they had a great time out there, too!)

    • I have seen all of the Team Challenge mentions on your site, but I was waiting until our season kicked off before I mentioned that I was involved with the group. How many people are in your group? I’ve been really impressed and amazed at the amount of support people around here have shown so far… I’m glad that people are involved! I agree, it’s a great way to meet new people, get in shape and make a difference. I like when running can “give back” in ways.

      • We have about 150 total in Team New England. We’ve had anywhere from 30-75 people come to the Saturday practices. I mentee 20 people individually, but answer questions and speak/get to know as many people as I can. 🙂

  6. I think it’s great that you are going to be coaching. You get to put that RRCA knowledge to use! Yay! And inspire people along the way… Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers, just ask others for help if you need it, and you’ll do fine.

  7. […] I do run at Fleet Feet on Tuesday nights which is always fun as well as running on Saturdays with my Team Challenge group. On the occasions that I get out to run with friends on other days of the week it really does help […]

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