Tag Archives: 140.6

The Common Thread to Running Success

If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store without a list while you’re, you know how crazy and chaotic it can be. In the store you’ll be going up and down each aisle, carefully looking at everything on the shelves, running a mental checklist of sorts. Some aisles, you might even have to come back to. And when you come home you will immediately realize you forgot to buy laundry detergent, or now you have three quarts of yogurt instead of just two. You’ll end up buying junk you don’t need, but looked yummy on the shelf. If you really want to be efficient and get the most out of your trip to the market so you’re not wasting time and gas to make another trip just a couple of days later, you’ll probably make a list.

So is it a list that can help make us succesful runners? Sort of, not exactly. I’m willing to guess that 99% of the time any given runner will have a given goal. It could be a race goal, a mileage goal, whatever kind of goal. We runners set these little carrots out to help give us motivation while at the same time directing our efforts. So while our goals may not be the same, we all have them.

The trick is to know what goals are really important, which ones can be missed without too much worry, and how to set them realistically. Individually, it can be difficult to have the foresight to recognize and set longterm goals: yearly mileage, a 5-year marathon time goal, a rehab goal. We can think about them, and we may even set them, but working towards them can get lost in the shuffle and the completion of immediate goals that at the time seem much more rewarding. Having a third-party work through goals can help steer an athlete in the right direction and keep things on track. To the runner, it might seem more important to run their first sub-4 marathon despite running through injury. A good coach would see it in a different light and instead focus in on a 5-year goal of a sub-3:30 marathon.

Further, it is important to set realistic goals while at the same time, not setting goals that are sub-par. When I set out to make goals for a given race or a week or month of training, I give three different goals: an ‘A’ goal, a ‘B’ goal, and a ‘C’ goal. A ‘C’ goal is pretty low-end. It’s kind of a safety net. Not everyday goes according to plan, and sometimes, they go abysmally awful. A ‘C’ goal is one that would most likely be achieved even on one of your awful days. It allows an athlete to look back at their race, week, month, year, and come away with some sense of accomplishment. A ‘B’ goal is the most realistic goal. It takes into account little hiccups during training and race day. It leaves some room for error, it is achievable but still requires 100% of your effort. Finally, an ‘A’ goal is one of those goals that you can achieve, but don’t expect them to happen all the time. We all have breakout races, but not every race can be a breakout. ‘A’ goals require all systems healthy and working together, plus a little bit of luck.

It is important – and this is why having a third-party involved – that goals are achievable, but not too easy. If we set our goals too high, even our ‘C’ goals, get ready for some disappointment. Too much disappointment and it becomes all too easy to lose sight of what’s important and suddenly running has lost its joy. It’s also important not to set our goals too low. In part because constantly achieving your goals can also get boring, but because if we don’t fully challenge ourselves, we won’t fully succeed.

Goals can be anything. They don’t always have to revolve around time or miles. They can be measured by time, or heart rate, injuries, types of workouts. Maybe it’s devoting one workout a week to hills. Or forcing yourself onto the track once a month. All athletes are different and all of our goals will be different. The important part is to set them, and make them realistic while at the same time challenging ourselves. So get out your log book, and jot down some of your goals. Make a list and keep it handy; work with your coach and have them help keep you accountable.

Asking Questions

Whether you are a self coached athlete or an athlete that is working with a coach who is customizing your training plan leading up to your next big race it all begins with asking a series of questions. Much like composing an essay you have to define certain aspects of your training before you begin or you will most likely find yourself way off track somewhere along the lines.

Even if I have been working with an athlete for a period of time before writing a new plan for them I take the time to sit down with them and ask them several key questions to help define the training and racing seasons. First I ask them their goals, basically what do you want to achieve as a result of training this season? Some might list new pr’s or achieving a top 10 performance at a key race. We then discuss training times and where key races land in the season and how to train to maximize results on that particular day.

This kind of leads into the next question, where do you see yourself and your running in the next 1 year, the next 3 years and the next 5 years.  This is hard for more people than you might think, developing a 5 year plan is a lot to ask especially when injuries and life obligations tend to spring up and set you back a few months at a time. But at the same time it is important to lay out these long term ambitions so that from day to day and month to month you have an idea of where you are headed. This plan can be revisited often so that if an injury does set you back you can readjust, or if you achieve something sooner than expected you can set new goals to pull you further forward.

If I have a new runner I might ask them to define themselves and who they are. This might sound like a hokey kinda thing but it is interesting to see how people label themselves. It also helps to see what people value in themselves and in their lives. For example if I were to answer that question and I said I am a runner who enjoys running 5k’s and 10k’s you get a sense that I value running and I enjoy shorter distance races that are faster paced. If I said I am a teacher who enjoys going for a run after work as stress relief, it paints a new picture. Finally if I were to say I am a committed runner who dabbles in triathlon and wants to complete my first Ironman as a coach I might see that as a clue that this individual might need to work on their swim and bike in order to complete that Ironman triathlon. It is all about reading into peoples answers.

So far we have touched on many of the basics, who, what, where and when. The why is incredibly hard to answer and I have watched it stump a great number of athletes. Why do you run? Why do you want to finish an Ironman? Why do you want to run 100 miles? Even as a seasoned athlete sometimes I find it hard to answer the why question myself, and often the dialogue goes as follows.

  • Why do you run?-It is fun and I enjoy competition
  • Why do you find it fun and why do you enjoy competition?-It is good stress relief and I like the process of training and seeing how fast I can get and to see my improvements.
  • Why do you want to be fast?- Because I love crushing mile after mile and that feeling of satisfaction at the end of a race, and I want to finally break through that 16:00 barrier that I missed in high school by 3 seconds.
  • Why do you think you missed by only 3 seconds? Because sub 16 seemed like a big deal and deep down I thought that was for super fast people.

Now I know that this athlete probably needs to do some mental training to go along  with his physical training simply by asking why again and again.

The how portion of all of this comes down to the coach and the plan. How do we achieve those goals laid out in the interview process. Not every plan works and fits well with every individual. For example you might have a friend who ran a marathon pr with a certain plan. So you follow the same plan and actually run slower. why is this? well each person has a unique muscle structure and system that adapts to stresses differently.

Also blindly laying out a training plan for 24 weeks isn’t always the best plan. The best advice I think I ever got was to write your plan in pencil. This way if something comes up you can adjust. Or if you are having a killer mile repeat workout and you tack on 3 x mile extra you can, and also if you are having the worst workout of your life (we all know it happens) you can cut it off and readjust. Adapt your training plan to you and how your body is coping with the training regiment.

These are simple little ideas and practices that can be used by a self coached athlete and most certainly should be used by a coach. Coaching is all about problem solving, the athlete wants to achieve a certain level and the coach has to problem solve to get them there and without all of the information the trip can be a lot longer and harder than if you took the time to ask a few simple questions.

Good luck this racing season, check out or coaching packages and start working toward your next big pr today.

Ironman Recap

Completing my first Iron man has been a goal of mine for the last 9 months. I went into it with high expectations and set goals for myself to achieve on the way. After a hectic start to the summer training regimen I finally got in the amount of training I had planned in the last six weeks leading up to Ironman Louisville.

On race morning I lined up behind about 2200 people at the swim start. I figured it was more valuable to make sure everything in the transition area was the way I wanted it on race morning so I tended to that as oppose to standing in line at 5:00 am. 

I had planned on swimming the 2.4 miles in 1:00:00, I felt that this would be an achievable goal, maybe a little bit of a higher expectation but seeing as how I had been battling elbow bursitis for the entire summer and was only able to swim one to two days a week for the last six weeks I felt it was a substantial enough goal. I never knew what my time was getting out of the water until after the race, but getting out of the water I felt fresh and like I had taken it easy. The current might have had something to do with it but hey that is part of the race right. In the end my time was a 1:01:?? not too shabby.

I jogged through the transition area, no idea what my split was, I put my bike gear on which had gotten poured on with rain the night before and my bike gear bag was a quarter full of water. This would mean that all of my home made rice bars (a take off on Alan Lim’s rice bars) were now soaked and real soft and squishy. I retrieved my bike and set off on my way with the expectation of taking it easy until about mile 80.

At the start of the bike I was crushing 21 mph and had to keep reminding myself to slow down and take it easy. The thing was, it felt so easy and I just couldn’t seem to go slower. At about 30 minutes I realized that I had not eaten or drank at the transition area as I had planned. I then tried to catch up on the plan by drinking and eating a little extra. This was the first time I got to eat one of my rice bars all day and it was disgusting. I don’t know if it was because they got left in the trunk of the car when I was doing race check in and the car was being unpacked, the rain, or sitting on the Great Lawn from 4 pm to 8:30 am, or a combination of them all. It tasted like sour bread dough and a hit of spoiled milk, my stomach was not happy. So I bailed on the bars. Luckily I had made a bottle of super concentrated Hammer Heed and Sustained energy that had about 1000 calories in it, and a super concentrated bottle of Heed which had about 500 calories. So these reserve bottles became my nutrition for the race as my dietary restrictions would not allow me to eat the food provided. 

I was churning out the miles and felt great doing it. I felt relaxed, calm and like I wasn’t even working, but I was still hitting the 20 mph range quite often. Around mile 75 the sun came out and the temperature spiked from 80 to 96 and high humidity. I don’t do well with heat and the New York summer had been a great one for training being a cool 75 for most of the time. At mile 90 I hit a wall, my hands started cramping, my back locked up and I lost all energy. I thought it was hydration so I started drinking more of the heed and water at which point I realized I had lost track of how many bottles of water I had drank throughout the day. 

At this point I had one goal, get to the transition area.

When I got there my hamstrings were cramping and when I tried to put my running shoes on my back, hands, quads, hips, hamstrings and calves started to lock up. After a few minutes I was able to get out of the changing tent and got maced with sun screen, so now I was cramping and blind. When I left the transition area I was at 7 hours. I had completed the bike in about 5:46:00, a whole lot faster than I had planned. 

About a mile and a half into the run I stopped breathing, no matter how hard I pulled in no air would enter my lungs. As a result I was forced to stop and walk. This caused me to realize my vision was all wonky and I couldn’t see straight, but I could breath again so I started jogging again. Ten steps later it happened again, this time my whole body was pins and needles, I couldn’t see, I started blacking out and tried to sit down but the ground was too far away so with hands on knees I started dry heaving, vision pulsing with my heart beat I made the decision not to try to fight it for another 25 miles. I found a race official and dropped out. 

My blood pressure was 70/50, temp was 95.2 and my hr was 70. I had depleted my body so much that it had decided to shut down, it couldn’t even maintain proper temperature. After several cups of chicken broth and an hour in the med tent with 12 people fawning over me I shuffled out under my own power. I found an over pass sat down on the side walk and went to sleep/passed out. Some time later I came to with a crowd of people over me, an older guy said he had called the EMT’s and that I would be ok. After convincing the EMT I was fine I went back to the curb.

Ill be honest, I might have cried a little. Not tears streaming down my face, but definitely had some fluid build up in my eyes. Maybe if I hadn’t been so dehydrated. I was so mad at myself for dropping out of the race, something I had never done before, I was disgusted. I knew however that I had made the right decision. 

I went for it, I didn’t want to just finish, I aimed for the clouds and got stuck in the tree tops, but at least I tried and I gave it my best. As athletes that is all we can do, put ourselves out there time and time again, push to that fine line between failure and greatness. Sometimes we fall off the edge, but without failure how will you ever know what you truly capable of at that point in time. Embrace the suck, embrace failure, make it your training partner and your friend.