So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

My photo
Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Common Sense Ain't All That Common

The workout kinda reinforced the youth/age thing. I think, short of two guys out there...okay, three...everyone who was out were either dinged up or on the mend. I'm not so certain, looking at the last two repeats of the second set, one guy was not pushing as much as the other was hanging on for dear life. I'll have to ask him later.

Rather than telling me, 'hey coach, I'm a little dinged up today, so I'm going to run it a little less intense than what you're asking,' I've got to watch them self-freakin'-destruct. And it's not the track work that's killing them. It's what they are doing on the "easy" days.

Listen closely - if your easy days are approaching your race pace, then you are going too %(#-#!&^ hard. Easy days are what make you stronger, faster, and better...'cause you recover from the @$$-kicking workout from the day (or two) before.

It's five weeks before the marathon training commences. Of course, I'm still (half) in a sling. I walked much of the workout yesterday out of the sling, getting a little bit of that gentle assisted ROM work. Once I started feeling the tension on the back and shoulder muscles it was time to sling-up again.

I'm getting the first inklings of fear that my marathon is going to be a nightmare. Well, really, a four-week delay in base training isn't going to kill me. What's going to kill me is if I force the progression, go too soon into the next phase. It might mean sacrificing one race of three (5K in September, half-marathon in October, 10K in November) this fall and spending a little more time in cardio.

So, puppy...what IS the goal? For me, it's a Boston qualifier. For me, it's 3:30 - 8:00/mile pace. Smart running for 26.2 miles. As my old coach would say: It's not only PACE, but what fits within...PAtienCE.

It's not only pace, but also patience.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Nice Thing...

"Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend." - classic Chinese poem borrowed by Mao Zedong, ca. 1957

Athletes who identify themselves as part of a training group can be divided into three categories: Those who buy into their coach's plan, those who ascribe to an eclectic plan (their coach and one or more other coaches), and those who ascribe to their own plan.

As an athlete/coach, I'm not so certain which category I fit. Then again, it's not so much about me (I have three coaches; one for my running, one for strength and one for swimming) as it is about you.

My knee-jerk reaction is to suggest you get with one coach and trust them implicitly. My religious cult-survivor reaction is to suggest you have a coach, but take an active role in your training. Read. Ask questions. Talk about how you're feeling in between workouts. Lay out your plan, then get feedback. Adjust as necessary.

Should the athlete/coach relationship be beer and skittles? I don't think so. There's always an underlying clash of wills, IMHO, when a good athlete and a good coach come together. Think Cerrutty and Elliott, Bowerman and Prefontaine, Warhurst and Webb, Bowman and Phelps.

Most of my athletes were formerly teammates, so I'm not as much of a hard-@$$ on them as I could be. In many ways it's a benefit; they know I won't assign a workout I haven't tried myself. They know exactly what I'm doing day in and day out; some train beside me three, four, five days a week. Others I know know their body better than I; I'll recommend, take their input, suggest...and often sit back and say "did I tell you?" when they realize the (easier) effort I assigned would have done the trick.

The goal of training with a coach is to get an outside influence (point of view) while you're learning what works best for you. Since great athletes are known (more often) for switching coaches as their needs change, it's not unrealistic to expect you won't need to move on to another coach over time. Just make certain it's one at a time...most coaches are a jealous lot.

Monday, June 11, 2007

With One Arm Tied To Make It Fair...

Well, not really. It is the inevitable outcome of training. Hubris. That feeling of overconfidence that makes you forget allof the obvious logical things you should do.

Example: Forgetting to unclip at the car midway through an easy Sunday morning ride. I hung onto the car in order to drop my wife's water bottle off. Silly me, I didn't get a good push off from the car. The front wheel flopped to the left and tipped me and the rest of the frame to the right. I reached out to stop my fall with my right hand, but was too far out from the car. My arm was pulled back beyond what could be described as a normal range of motion; two small 'pops' and a gentle topple to the pavement, a'la Artie Johnson in the old Laugh-In skits. Lots of pain.

I felt like I could get a limited range of motion, but it was very uncomfortable. On top of this, I could feel all of the shoulder muscles tightening up as I drove home. Amazing what muscle groups come into play just to keep you balanced in a moving car. At that point, I gave in to Suzanne's suggestion to go to the immediate care clinic...if she drove.

First thought of the doctor was possibly an injury to the rotator cuff; therapy and injected cortisone at the worst. However, after the x-rays, he found a small fracture at the humeral head, the bone that goes from the shoulder to the elbow...up near the shoulder.

So, now I'm in a sling and immobilizer, waiting for an orthopedic consult. Looks like light duty for a while, since I can barely type, and driving (automatic transmission) is hazardous, at best. No trauma, no impact...lots of elliptical trainer and spin bike, maybe some swimming in six to eight weeks. This bites.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


I guess it was as inevitable - Marx would say 'as the collapse of capitalism' - my iPod ate the big one. It's probably a battery issue, which means Apple will take care of it, but not without a price. Who knew it would die, conveniently, over a year after it was purchased by my loving wife?

(In order to show my appreciation, I bought her a white iPod with twice the storage - she doesn't use it too often, was a better deal than my Softride, hindsight being not only perfect but magnified. But that's another story.)

I'm not particularly addicted to my iPod, except immediately before a race or if I'm on the road between point A and point B. I can't use it safely on a long bike ride; swimming is definitely out of the question (although Finis makes a waterproof headphone for those who want to carry their tunes while in the lap pool), and there aren't too many opportunities for me to listen on a solo run, since I don't do that many solo runs. I do like it for those occasional trip to the Y, when I don't want to listen to the early-1980's pop/rock/disco stuff being played over the muzak...okay, it is much better than having to listen to Fox News.

Of course, with the battery dying, I have one of several choices:

  1. I can send it to Apple, who will put a new battery in and send it back. Not as easy as it seems. Have you ever tried to get a RMA slip through their on-line customer service link? I'd rather shove a sharp stick in my eye. I used to think Nike was monolithic and uncaring...not any longer.

  2. I can buy a new one. I think Apple's customer service mentality lends itself to this response. They'd rather have you buy a newer, flashier, sexier and more expensive unit with larger memory and more functions that can go wrong in the course of a year. While I'm jealous of my friend Christian's 20GB iPod, with all the videos he has on there, I can't see having...let's see, 1GB equals 133 tunes, so multiply that by 20 and...well, it's close to my entire music collection, and I do NOT need my entire music collection. Come on, why would anyone in their right mind WANT to run to "Sister Mary Elephant" by Cheech and Chong!?

I've complained about my poor relationship with lets me down by dying at the worst possible time. This is the only time a music player has died without being in the middle of one of my long runs. Thank God. More comments on long runs follow...another Rundown reject. Enjoy!



“I used to hurry a lot; I used to worry a lot...” – Randy Meisner (songwriter, member of the Eagles)

If you want to get better at swimming, writing a business letter, or drinking beer, you have to spend time doing the act. No one starts to run and is immediately able to complete a marathon or run a fast 5-kilometer race without the ill-effects of beat-up muscles, sore joints and a pounding heart. We all start at the same point, adapt to the physiological responses and eventually learn to love this activity. The persons who cannot adapt stop running.

IF I WERE YOUR COACH: I would recommend, as part of your training, to run long one day a week. It proves to me an individual really wants to improve as a runner. During a long run, your heart adapts to the work and becomes stronger; strong hearts pump more blood to your other muscles. The small blood vessels (capillaries) increase and become denser, taking the blood to more areas of your body, especially the muscles. The muscles get more oxygen-rich blood, and also develop more and bigger mitochondria, which produce energy. This means the muscles can keep more of the glycogen it has stored, providing you with a ‘larger gas tank.’ Your mind also learns how to work around the discomfort of running over an extended period of time. Believe me, this helps when you begin to have (and you will!) those bad running days.

“…Who can go the distance? We’ll find out in the long run...”

So, what is the ideal distance? Instead, let’s look at time. Remember we all are an experiment of one; what works for the local running stud might put the mid-life, entry-level runner with spouse, corporate job and two children into a mid-life crisis. Some coaches recommend to their athletes that the long run should be no more than 20 percent of a weeks’ workload: If you have eight hours a week for running, then the long run should last around 90 minutes. That’s probably a good rule of thumb for races up to 10 kilometers. If you plan to run longer distances, your percentage might need to be closer to 25 percent. If you’re a new runner thinking about marathons, look into the Hanson’s training program…better yet, start with shorter distance races first.

The marathon is a completely different animal; it feeds on the flesh of the foolish. Trust me. I have the marks (tattoo) to prove it.

“…You know I don't understand why you don't treat yourself better; do the crazy things that you do...”

If you are fortunate, there’ll be someone close to your pace (hopefully an experienced runner) to run with you. That will help with both motivation and pacing. I’ve been on wonderful morning runs where the topic went from how beat up we were at the beginning of the run to all those other things that only can be discussed among the closest friends.

My wife and I do not run together on Sunday morning; we do the same loop, and then discuss training specifics and gossip over breakfast. We don’t run together because our paces are too dissimilar; I injured myself while on vacation in Hawai’i trying to run at her pace. She wonders why her running partners don’t run with her as frequently as they once did. As she started to recall the pace of the run, I noted something she completely overlooked. Lately, she has run with older men who want to take a fast pace early, turning in when she’s in the mood to tack on two more miles. While not always true, the ego and competitive nature of men can turn the most laid-back of runs into a hammer-fest.

I have hammered my Sunday morning runs; I have also run them at a comfortable pace. Quite frankly, I like the comfortably-paced long run a lot more. Some coaches recommend doing your long runs at a minute per mile slower than your marathon (or goal race) pace. My coach, Dale Fox, used to call the necessary pace of the Sunday long run “kinder and gentler.” If I am going out with a friend, we’ll work out the pacing within the first 15 or 20 minutes. If by myself I will take the iPod in order to keep entertained. Running with the iPod presents its own share of challenges.

A couple of Sundays’ back, I was by myself and plugged in to the iPod. I landed on a particular track that I couldn’t help but repeat over and over and over. I ended up running about 30 seconds faster than my marathon goal pace, a personal best time for the loop. However, I was beat up for the remainder of the week. After that, I decided to set up a playlist specifically for the “kinder and gentler” morning runs, saving my 80’s and 90’s rock for the treadmill or the days nearer the end of the training cycle when intensity is the order of the day.

Regardless of whether you choose to run your long run at a more relaxed pace or decide to “scald dogs,” the benefits are the same. When you are thinking about the pace of your long runs, keep in mind that long, slow distance leads to long, slow runners. A little variety in your pace is a good thing every so often; let your later-season long runs be closer to the pace you intend to race and your earlier season runs be “debate club” conversational pace, where you can hold a good conversation with a running partner.

As always, what works for the local running stud might not work for you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

So, What IS "Fresh?"

Newcomers to my track workouts spend a lot of their first workouts trying to learn all of the terminology - to do the workouts you have to speak the language. I've spent lots of time trying to explain - especially to newer athletes who are hammering at my pace on an easy day - just how hard they should be working.

The object is not to run all-freaking-out at every practice. If you are going to run anaerobic, no more than ten percent of the workout should go there...the rest of the time should be in varying degrees of aerobic pace...or lactate threshhold pace. My wife, once again, asked me last night how I would describe a "fresh" pace, which is what the workout was set for as of late...we're in between seasons and getting ready for laying a new base.

Here's how my coach's coach, Bob Schul, described his workout paces:

First there are various speeds you will be using. They are "fresh", "good" and "hard".
I do not run my athletes "all out" as I find there are too many injuries or potential injuries when the body is pushed to that extreme.
Distance runners do not need to run all out, since in a race, when they are sprinting, it is not how fast their muscles will contract but how fast they will contract when tired
There are efforts in between the "fresh, good, and hard," but they are subtle.
"Fresh" running is faster than a jog but there is no pressure on the body.
Everybody is different depending on their natural reflex action.
Some can run 200 meters in 40 seconds while others may run it in 30 seconds.
It is the effort that is important.

"Good" means that you now have some pressure on the upper body.
Somewhere between 5/8 and 3/4 speed.

"Hard" means you are running about 7/8.

If I tell an athlete to do a good build up, that means you will start "fresh" for 1/3 of the run, change to a gear I call "fresh to good", for 1/3 of the run and finish the last 1/3 at "good".
If you are doing a "hard" buildup, you run the first 1/3 at "fresh", the second 1/3 at "good" and the last 1/3 at "hard".
Obviously you should be well conditioned to attempt "hard".

Where you run the intervals does not matter.
It could be on a track or a nice grass field.
Don't be too concerned with exact distances.
If you use a park then estimate the distance and use it.
Try to stay off the roads when doing these, as a softer surface will treat your legs much better.
Even your long runs might be done on a softer surface if it is available.
Trails would be great for your long runs.
Be sure to wear good training shoes, not racing flats.
Save those for the races.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Priority Male

When you are an athlete, and even more so when you are a coach, your life revolves around coming attractions. Vacations are tied into races, accommodations are considered worthy or unworthy based upon their adaptation to training, air travel is preferred over driving, aisle over bulkhead seat, and so on...
Suzanne's better on this than I am. She'll drive to visit her parents on a Saturday when I can't seem to get away from running a track workout. The 'rents are pretty understanding about it. They know I'm passionate about the sport.
And really, the psychology of performance translates quite well from the world of sport to the world of everyday work/life. Think about these points:
1. Choose your parents wisely.
- - As a whole, we all bring pretty much the same general stuff to the table. The little things we get from our parents can make a difference.
2. Attitude is everything.
- - Toxic teammates are a bummer no matter what the situation. There's not enough salary in the world that can make a person stay in a place where they're not happy. However, the wrong persons stay too long and the good persons leave too soon.
3. Have a Plan "B," a Plan "C," and a Plan "D."
- - Success means the ability to adjust the plan as circumstances arise.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Bigger Than My Wallet Gives Me Credit For

...and since there are less triathlons here than there are running events, even the average guy has to travel farther to get beat. But we can solve this problem, given enough time and a job. This is a reprint of an earlier blog posting I had on another site. Forgive me. I'll do better next time...
I've been a runner for nearly 15 years and an athlete for nearly 10. Outside of my senior year at The University of Tampa, every expense related to running or triathlon; shoes, clothes, travel, entry fees, rehabilitation, and so forth, has come directly from my own pocket. I consider the $500-1,000 spent each year on running alone as an investment into my own well-being. However, I'd be lying if I said I never wanted to have someone else pay for my habit.
I will say I've been fortunate to be employed by the federal government in one way or another for nearly 20 years. This provides a secure income, liberal vacation and sick time, reasonably-priced health insurance (although I could complain about my dental coverage...), a 401K-like retirement plan, and - most importantly - tenure. As long as I don't break any laws or kill someone (I've fantasized about doing my boss in more than once, but we're all better many ways...), show up to work in clothing other than my Speedo within a time zone of when I'm supposed to be there, I'm good to go. The new pay-for-performance system might not provide any pay raises, but I can keep the wolf away from the door.
My coach has told me (to a degree) that having someone pay for you to do what you like to do is something akin to prostitution. Mekhi Pfifer told Eminem in the movie "8 Mile" that ' comes with a (graphic reference to sodomy).' But I still envision the fantasy about just how cool it would be to be a professional athlete, especially in the endurance sports.
Since I'm not independently wealthy I still have to pay for all the things to keep honey, hound, house and 'hoopty' happy or copacetic. That J-O-B stuff keeps otherwise driven, motivated, and (nearly) physically-talented persons from becoming professionals at whatever sport they love. In order to get better you have to train, in order to train you need time and resources, in order to get time you have to steal from other things in that small 24-hour stretch (that ideally includes sleeping) otherwise called a day, and resources, well...there I digress.
So, where do you go to find opportunities to use, as Tim Cahill wrote about the joy of adventure travel, other people's money? If you're a regular user of an on-line race registration web site, sometimes the opportunities find you, via the siren call of e-mail. In the past I've filled out on-line applications for sponsorship, to no avail. After several years of consistent, strong performances at races from the 5K to the half-marathon, I felt I was unjustly being ignored because I live far from other major metropolitan cities.
Since I began coaching this year, I got a little more aggressive in applying. I would love to have a team supported by sponsors. Another option would be to earn a sponsorship, kick @$$ and take names for a season, then tell the sponsor, '...hey, I have a team full of people like me; let's make a deal.' My decision to explore different distances, moving up to the marathon in the fall, dabbling in triathlon, plus the fact I was going to run lots of out-of-town events this year, this racing schedule had to show I wasn't just a little fish with a big name in a much bigger pond of marketing opportunity.
I was selected for the Snickers Marathon Team, who provide me with racing kit for running and expect I will go out, market and do well. Ah, here comes that sudden sodomized feeling. Since they won't let me place my club logo on their gear, I cannot represent my club at the same time.
It puts extra emphasis on my own training and desire to do well at events, since there are incentives built into the agreement. Not that I needed much incentive beforehand, but if there's a chance for money and perhaps a little recognition I can step up the energy level.