So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Big Plan B


That was the low battery warning signal from my (formerly) trusty Garmin 310XT GPS receiver. The sound was immediately followed by a slight buzz, silence as the receiver shut itself off, & an unprintable comment from my mouth. I guess it wouldn't have been such a bad thing if not for the fact I was driving out to run a tempo run with a group on a Wednesday evening.

My wife asked, 'do you have a charger in the car?'

'My charger, unfortunately, is attached to my computer back at the house,' was my reply. As we continued the 20-minute drive I was stewing in my own juices of stupidity. I know I put the receiver on the charger the previous evening, so how could this be? I resigned myself to the thought of going out for what former triathlete (now triathlon coach) Chuck "Chuckie V" Veylupek calls a 'caveman run.' This would be an acceptable compromise. I took a deep breath, let it out, & returned to conversing with my wife about life, the universe, & everything. You know, the kind of stuff married couples talk about when there's nothing else to do...wink, wink, nudge, nudge...

My wife then pulled out her new smart phone to check her voicemail & realized her phone had been off all day. She had a little trouble turning the phone on & assumed the battery was dead. I managed to reset it, & then realized, 'hey, these smart phones have GPS. If I download a run mapping program (like iMapMyRun) I should be able to keep track of the pace I'm supposed to do for this tempo run.' So, with precious few minutes left before the group was scheduled to leave on the run I tried to download the software. However, I couldn't get WiFi or set up the phone in time to download. That's where the ability to "Plan B" a workout is a valuable skill.

When talking about training I repeatedly have borrowed the John Lennon song line: 'life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.' This is so true as a runner or as a coach. I can lay out a training schedule in macro for 16, 18, 20 weeks out from a race, but more often than not it's going to get adapted, truncated, or...worst of all...pitched in the wastebasket as life takes hold of the stick & throttle. Even the micro level of an evening's (scheduled) track workout gets adapted; heavy cranes & lighting equipment, soccer matches & "facility fascists" can take up part or all of the track & leave an inexperienced (or unprepared) runner - or coach - wondering what to do as a "Plan B."

While in a two-year internship with the Navy I spent periods of time ranging from two weeks to two months at training commands. The assignments had the obvious drawbacks of living out of a suitcase, with access to hotel treadmills, & so on. But I learned how to adapt my training to the conditions. During a two-week assignment to Orlando I learned that light poles along this nice long stretch of road near my hotel were set at approximately 50 yards. So, all I had to do was count the number of light poles for my interval workouts; run three at 5K pace, walk one to recover, repeat six times, jog eight poles...I'm certain you get the message.

Frank Shorter once was quoted as saying 'hills are speed work in disguise.' So, running up a section of hill or bridge for a period of time (or distance, if you know it!), then jogging easy or walking down can provide a great workout. A 300-yard hill near the track facility where we train has three points marked on it; if a soccer match is going to keep us off the track for most or our entire workout I can always go down the hill. Sometimes the soccer matches are not interrupting; I'll do a set on the hill just to break up the monotony.

Training by perceived effort for a long enough period can help a runner develop a sense of pace; after a while you know what a nine-minute per mile pace feels like, as well as an eight-minute pace, & so forth. The most important thing in understanding pace sense is to know how a particular pace FEELS. I always marveled at my coach's pace sense when we would go out on easy runs during the weekend. I had purchased my first heart rate monitor/foot pod combination & was geeking out checking our pace during one run. He asked me at one point what my heart rate was; I looked at my wrist, then told him, to which he replied, 'yeah, I figured that. We're at the right pace.' Sometimes, it is safer to not ask how they do it. They just do it. I've got a few paces pretty well nailed down after eight years of training by perceived effort, so I can tell how hard I'm working give or take a few seconds now.

But I don't have a good sense of time, with the exception of swimming in a pool. I can tell you exactly how long it takes me to swim 50 or 100 yards, even though it feels like forever, give or take a second. (It must have to do with that love of oxygen.). So when it comes to running a particular period of time at a particular pace I'm doomed if I don't have a watch. So rather than the planned tempo workout of eight minutes at the pace I need to run a half marathon, two minutes easy, eight minutes at threshold, two minutes easy - repeated twice - I had to adapt. I decided to count telephone poles; eight at moderate effort, two easy, eight at hard effort, two easy, repeat until the end.

Adapting a workout to meet life's demands: So simple, even a caveman - or a smart runner - can do it.


Anonymous said...


I hear ya on Plan B: My senior year of high school the school decided during the track season would be the perfect time to put in an all-weather track, leaving no track to workout on. So the entire season was Plan B, but somehow managed to become all-state, without running a single time on a track except meets...


Michael Bowen said...


That's a killer example of how a runner can excel in spite of obstacles.

Perhaps also of the painfully-obvious fact that common sense is never as common as we would like it to be.