So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Even my training runs weren't all that encouraging leading into the event. I kept feeling like ten pounds of used kitty litter in an eight-pound sack during my easy afternoon runs; and track work wasn't looking all that great, either. Mind you, most of the efforts were what I outwardly considered maintenance workouts; ideally at an aerobic (somewhere in the 70 percent maximum heart rate) pace. But, when I looked at my heart rate data afterward the efforts were lots closer to 80 percent, which could tell me one of two things:
1. The heat and humidity were worse than I feared, or
2. I was still a fat, lazy b@st@rd.
So, I didn't have too many expectations on this race. All I wanted to do was run as hard as I could for 3.1 miles and not embarrass myself too much.
Saturday's conditions were fairly conducive to racing; a bit of a breeze along the shoreline, partly to mostly cloudy, a little bit of rain (sprinkles) here and there. Since I hadn't raced a short race in a long time I made certain to be a little more ready, taking 30 minutes to walk along the bicycle path, then jogging easy for another 15 to 20 minutes. By the time I finished the warm-up I felt pretty good. Not confident, but good.
The first moments before the race are always hell on square wheels. While I wanted to line up as close to the front as possible I didn't know whether I was going to have the sustained power to keep from getting stomped on by some of the local greyhounds. However, I took my chances and stood one stride off the line. When the start was called it seemed like everyone and their mother went roaring past me; it probably was not so bad (high school runners and the really fast local dudes) as I feared. I tucked in behind five or six of the high school guys and cruised through the first 600 to 800 yards without too much strain. At about 800 yards it seemed like they were dawdling just a skosh (and I was concerned about a couple of my age group staying a little too close this early), so I gently knifed through the middle of their five-abreast formation and started to pick up my pace a little bit.
The time clock was set at about 1450 meters rather than a mile, so I couldn't take the time split or the call as gospel. In fact, when I looked down at my watch I knew the split was off; I haven't run a mile that fast in about four years. As always, the second mile would be the proof of how well I was doing. Got into the rhythm until it was time to turn back into the wind and run back toward the aid station. At that point the breeze seemed to pick up a skosh and reality began to set in. I managed to get past the second mile split before strange things began to happen (loose shoelaces, excessive heart rate, panic, and so on). I tried to stop for a second or two to at least tuck my shoelace into my training flats, to no avail. At that point I lost mental focus and all the bad things started to come into my mind...and when the mind goes the body is not long to follow.
My last mile and tenth was not particularly pretty; well, it was good for a half-marathoner or the run leg of a triathlon but not so good for a 5K road race. I ran a 19:16, which would time out to a respectable 10K or half marathon, and was good enough for a top-20 and age group first place. I groused for all of three minutes, then put it all in perspective as I watched some of my friends and athletes come in...it was warm, humid (not terrible) and not a goal race. And age group hardware is age group hardware no matter how you slice it.
What bothered me more was to see a guy in his early 50s, who uses me as a target for his training and racing, looking much like his life was over. He finished about 30 seconds behind me and looked absolutely despondent. I guess it's worth feeling that way if there's money or honor involved, but with a local race with little more than a beer glass (and perhaps local bragging rights) at stake...I'm not so certain.
I took the time to chat with him, ask a few questions about his training (he works strictly on speed training) and recommended he train with my friend George. I also told him what I felt it would take for him to beat me at a 5K. Dude, it doesn't mean that much to me...if it means that much to you, then here is what you'll have to do.
But, I did tell him the bottom line - you are only as good as your next race. Who knows when mine will be? Hard to tell.
Until then, it's back to training. Being a fat, lazy b@st@rd is no fun.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I did get a little reinforcement of the perception the other afternoon: One of my athletes tries to come out once a week and works hard when at the track. They mentioned I got a little cranky during a workout the previous week. Of course, I was surprised at the honesty in bringing the issue to my attention. I quickly explained myself and told them I would make an honest effort to not be so short-tempered.
It was easy to figure out the root cause of the cranky moods. When I'm trying to run my own workout and organize/supervise...or, better yet, coach other runners at the same time I can get a little short, sweet and to the point. When you're training, it's all about me is the mantra; how much sleep do I need to recover, how much time do I need to set aside for this long run, this cross-training, this therapeutic modality (massage and stretching for those of you who hate those fancy words), and so on. It makes spouses, employers, and family members lose their even keel...especially when they are the ones who always have to adjust their (overcommitted) schedules to fit those of the runner.
In performance improvement, we are often told to ask the why question four or five times in order to get down to the real root cause of the problem.
Problem: Coach Mike is cranky.
Why is Mike cranky? Because he feels his workouts (at the same time as his athletes) are interrupted to deal with stuff.
Why are Mike's workouts interrupted? Because Mike is running his at the same time as his athletes.
Why is Mike running at the same time? Because Mike has a work project that keeps him from running earlier in the afternoon. Mike also has an athlete who runs workouts by himself and needs to control his pace a little better.
So, one issue meets one root cause, or two. Coach Mike's real job (which cannot be changed all that much) compresses his schedule. Coach Mike has an athlete who is running faster than he needs to be at this time of the year. Normally, I wouldn't gripe too much, save for the painfully obvious fact running hard during the heat of the Florida summer is going to do a number on your body. I could let this athlete drive himself into the ground, or I could suggest from the sidelines that he back off. When recommending an easing back on the throttle, I get the I only went (blank) seconds faster on this 400 than the last one response. Of course, then I have to mention another painfully obvious fact; multiply those (blank) seconds on that 400 by four and figure the difference per mile. Bouncing around with (blank x four)-second variations per mile of running is not the way to become a good runner.
I tend to set high (and often, unrealistically high) expectations for myself. I have always done this, not to mention projecting those high expectations onto those around me. In educational theory, it's a well-proven fact teachers who set and communicate high expectations for their students find the students will meet those expectations more often than not. So, while it may seem to the outsider I do not care to the persons who don't want to vault over the bar I set, the exact opposite is true. I care a great deal about every athlete who expresses the desire to improve and makes the honest, consistent and continuous effort to improve.
It's all I can ask from any athlete. It's all I'm entitled to ask from any athlete.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
2. Rick Nelson was (and still is) right. Those of you who are old enough to remember Rick's last hit (in his long hair stage!), Garden Party, know the tag line: 'You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself.' Not every coach is a good fit for an athlete. Not every training program is going to work for every athlete. Read a Carmichael Training Systems press release, and they talk about training 5-time IM champion Peter Reid. However, when interviewed by Bob Babbitt and Paul Huddle, after retiring from active competition, Reid mentioned he and CTS were (ultimately) not a good fit. So, you have to figure it out for yourself whether the training plan or the coaching is a fit. If it's not, then move on and chalk it up to a mismatch.
One good reason I don't go micromanaging a particular training plan (unless its my own) is because I've offered to help draw up a plan, including work outside of the track. Lots of folks, especially recreational runners, don't want to commit 9-11 hours of their life each week to running. They like listening to music on the beach on Tuesday nights, going to the downtown concert on Thursday nights, sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
And I understand that. I don't want to do it, but I understand it. I try very hard not to consider those persons who choose to have lives outside of running as children of a lesser god. It's possible I will have a life outside of running; for now I choose to live it vicariously through them. And, by golly, they need to do a better job of it (just kidding!).
If Ethan Barron, the XC/track coach at Tufts, were sitting with me over coffee, I think he would remind me, 'respect yourself, then do your best. Acceptance by others should never outweigh those two things.'
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
This sort of stuff doesn't happen too much here. It's more like that in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, which at one time had some of the most dangerous street crossings in the U.S. I recall fondly my efforts to cross the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley (or Tampa) Street, usually in running attire, and often on days when traffic was at its worst. Since it was only half a mile from the U.Tampa campus to the offices where my girlfriend (at that time of life) worked, it was always a good chance to get together for lunch two or three times a week. I never saw anyone get hit at one of those two intersections, but there were a couple of close calls, let me tell you.
Exactly the same thing my friend Sam said to the HR person here, which she said supposedly to the HR person in Norfolk. So, now the government HR folks and my granddaughter have something in common; neither one know of me.
Of course, the Navy, in its infinite wisdom, continues to make dietary decision-making difficult. I walked in to see sailors selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts, five dollars for a box of 12. Sure, no problem, let's load folks down with fat and sugar, then watch them crash and burn later in the afternoon...or have heart attacks after twenty years of the stuff.
And I do like the stuff. I haven't had one in a very, very long time. The only problem is that Krispy Kreme doughnuts are like potato chips: It is almost a certainty that you will not be limited to devouring a single doughnut.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Thanks, Ferris, for taking the time to run 8.5 miles with me. It would have been much uglier without your help.
It's the joy of analysis. You have as much data as you are going to get from a given set of sources during a given time frame. You look for the trends, the philosopher's stone which will turn base metal into gold, and let 'er fly. If you're fortunate everything falls into place and you look fairly smart. However, more often than not you are dealing with human beings. That means you might not receive all of the information you need; or they'll withhold that little sliver of stuff which would help you make the right decision...and then they ask, 'you didn't look at...?' Of course, I didn't look at that particular piece of information. But only because you didn't provide it to me until now.
There aren't many differences between my job as a coach and my job as a program analyst; except the fact right now I seek a job which will pay me after October 1st. In spite of 20 years of federal government experience as an analyst, an administrative person, a go-to guy, a jack-of-most-all trades, a teacher, a seeker of good stuff (research) and a writer, all of it and 85 cents will get me a cup of coffee at Denny's...if I can get the attention of a waitress.
Yes, quite frankly, I am shamelessly plugging for a job. I'll be glad to send my resume to any prospective employer. Just point them in my direction. In the meantime I'll be developing Plan B for my employment life.