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10-Minute Marathon PR Nets NH’s Heubner A Trials Qualifier

(As Seen in the Sept/Oct issue of New England Runner)
 
Granite Stater Andrew
Heubner‰Ûªs Day in the Sun

 

by John Barbour

 

The marathon has an
unwritten rule. It states that there exists a quantitative point beyond which
training returns diminish significantly. It happens that the point for men is
2:30, 3:00 for women.  How poetic,
how ideal; Plato would delight in the perfection. Many runners have found that
getting down to 2:30 can be tough, but with training a good athlete can knock
chunks off each time. But going from 2:30 to sub-2:20? Dribs and drabs, pilgrim,
dribs and drabs.

Good thing no one told
Andrew Huebner.

 

The 27 year-old from
Portsmouth, NH, a 2010 graduate of Bucknell via The Governor‰Ûªs Academy of
Byfield, MA, didn‰Ûªt attempt the distance until two years after college. His
first one, Philadelphia, resulted in a creditable 2:27. His next, at Boston the
next April, was a few seconds slower. See? See?

 

So Huebner, training on his
own, puts marathoning off a year. In January he gets a coach and aims for the
venerable Grandma‰Ûªs Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. On June 21, he proceeds to
PR by a whopping 10 minutes in 2:17:05, nearly a minute under the Trials
qualifying standard and placing him, presently, ahead of Ryan Hall on USATF‰Ûªs
list of qualifiers. That crinkling sound you don‰Ûªt hear may be that of an unwritten
rule on nonexistent paper being tossed into an imaginary trash bin.

 

 ‰ÛÏMy girlfriend Ali was a great support,‰Û Huebner says. ‰ÛÏIt
got down into the 40s and like an idiot I didn‰Ûªt bring any tights. She managed
to keep me calm.‰Û At Grandma‰Ûªs a pack took off at sub-5:00 pace, tempting
Heubner. ‰ÛÏI wanted to go with them but knew the pace was way too hot,‰Û he says.
‰ÛÏThen I found a second group of guys talking 2:18 (the Trials B standard). I
trusted that and ran with them. We were right on at the half (1:08:59); I
wanted to go then but knew it was better to wait until 20 miles. Then, I didn‰Ûªt
want to risk waiting for the last 5K. I told myself, ‰Û÷I can run for half an
hour‰Ûª and went as hard as I could.‰Û

 

Huebner left his group in
arrears, though Colorado‰Ûªs Sean Brown bridged up at 23 miles. ‰ÛÏHe said, ‰Û÷I
think we‰Ûªve got it, let‰Ûªs just maintain.‰Ûª We traded places and passed runners
who fell off the lead pack. I made the last turn, knew I had it, and it was such a great feeling.‰Û Huebner becomes
the third-fastest ever Granite State marathoner behind twins Casey (2:15:26)
and Pat Moulton (2:15:35) from 2006.

 

Huebner might never have
been in this position had he shown more patience with soccer as a high school
freshman. ‰ÛÏI didn‰Ûªt make varsity and my parents wanted me to stick with JV
soccer.  But after meeting with Abu
(now-retired Governor‰Ûªs coach David Abusamra) I decided to try it.  I took to it right away and have
improved every year since.‰Û

 

‰ÛÏAndrew had an immediate
impact,‰Û says Abu. ‰ÛÏHe was our MVP all four years, a young man with good
insight and good suggestions about workouts. He is a true student of the
sport.  Other
coaches admired his competitiveness and respect after the race, his easy-going
manner, his support of younger runners. We‰Ûªd go to meets his senior year and
other kids would ask for his autograph, that‰Ûªs the kind of respect he
engendered.‰Û

 

Mileage went from 35 a week
at Governor‰Ûªs to 90-plus at Bucknell, where he often did the arduous
steeplechase-5000m double outdoors. This made fast PRs hard to come by; still,
his 8:52.68 steeple for fourth at the 2010 IC4A meet ranks third on Bucknell‰Ûªs
all-time list. Most vividly, though, he remembers a team accomplishment. ‰ÛÏWe improved each year, and in 2010 won the
Patriot League meet by three points. I took second in the steeple and we went
into the 4 x 400 relay needing at least fourth place to win. Our anchor runner
crushed it and won the race at the line. The whole last turn the place was
screaming, and when it as over I just went to my knees and cried.‰Û

 

An English/creative writing
major, Huebner left Bucknell ‰ÛÏknowing I wasn‰Ûªt going to be one who gives up
running. I knew I was in it for the long haul.‰Û He took the summer off, went to
work at Runner‰Ûªs Alley in Portsmouth, then started training again. ‰ÛÏI was totally
relaxed about my training, not as structured as in college and didn‰Ûªt have a
whole lot of direction. I was serious but floated around a lot.‰Û Racing
frequently, he broke through at the 2012 Hollis Fast 5K (4th, 14:37) followed
by a third-place 51:54 at Newburyport‰Ûªs Yankee Homecoming 10-miler. Then came
the marathon and that pair of 2:27s.

 

In the fall of 2013 Huebner
won the Granite State 10-miler (51:39) and took second in the Manchester City Half
(1:08:41). Teased by the marathon (‰ÛÏI thought I could be good at it, and the
grind was appealing‰Û) he looked for a coach and came upon Portsmouth triathlon
coach/massage therapist Shawn Crotto. ‰ÛÏWe‰Ûªre not cut from the same cloth at
all, Shawn‰Ûªs more Type A and focuses on the execution of workouts. I‰Ûªm more of
a spiritual type of runner.‰Û 
Heubner sees their differences as complementary; thus, ‰ÛÏThis felt like a
low-risk move.‰Û

 

A course record at the
Eastern States 20-miler in late March, albeit with a tailwind, suggested that
Andrew‰Ûªs fitness was at a new level. A few weeks later a long run confirmed it‰ÛÓnot
just any long run but a pace-controlled three hours 15 minutes, mostly at
threshold (5:45-6:15/mile) with a handful of eight-minute segments at race pace
(5:10-5:15). That is correct. Huebner figures he covered 32 miles. ‰ÛÏIt was
hard, but the crazy thing is that I wasn‰Ûªt totally wrecked, so that night I
went out and did another few miles to shake it out a little bit, then got up
the next morning and ran again.‰Û

 

One might wonder how often, and over how many years,
a body can accept such stress, though some may recall tales of 200-mile weeks
by past greats Gerry Lindgren and Britain‰Ûªs Dave Bedford. Crotto says, ‰ÛÏIt
might sound like a method for disaster to run that distance, but because of
previous training loads and test results we decided it would be beneficial. I
knew he was capable of running the duration and recovering quickly. Not
everyone could handle it, but Andrew is truly in a league of his own.‰Û

 

Huebner is now pondering how to prepare for the 2016
Trials. ‰ÛÏI‰Ûªd like to give myself the best opportunity. I‰Ûªm trying to decide
whether that means staying in New Hampshire or moving somewhere to train.‰Û Whatever
the future holds it will be motivated by the day in 2003 when, at the end of
his sophomore cross country season at Governor‰Ûªs, he lost his father to complications
from diabetes. ‰ÛÏMy dad was a huge part of my running
life. He must‰Ûªve come to every meet, and I remember talking back
and forth with him about runners and goals.

 

‰ÛÏI remember feeling that one of the
worst things about losing him was not seeing him by the starting line of my
races: there was a massive void physically and mentally where he should‰Ûªve
been. I couldn‰Ûªt help but think of him before every race whether I liked it or
not. So I got into the habit of thinking of him in those
timeless, suspended-in-air seconds before the gun went off. I still
do before every race. It‰Ûªs my little ritual to remember him, connect with
him, and keep him updated on my running career.‰Û

 

Whether he stays in Portsmouth or makes
tracks for Boulder, Mammoth Lakes or elsewhere, Huebner knows ‰ÛÏthere are a lot
of things to consider. But I think I owe it to myself to do it as well as
possible.‰Û We‰Ûªll bet that his dad, and a whole lot of others, would agree.

 

 

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