Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 in Review

What a strange year it has been. My life now is unrecognizable from a few years ago, in so many ways. I may write about this later.

This is my 2009 Running Review.

The winter and spring saw me do the first focused training I have done in years. I basically found my old routine from medical school, of running hard several nights a week. It paid off generously, with fast legs in late spring. The highlight was a 16:15 5K on a rainy, windy track. I had the legs to go under 16, but didn't hit the right race.

Then I think I pushed it a little too much and crammed in some long hard runs to prepare for a half marathon PR (1:13.54). I did a training run the week before the race, indicating that I was right on PR pace. On race day, I found myself alone in front, facing a stiff headwind. It turned out to be a disappointing 1:16.xx.

Then it was time for some fun. We did a triathlon in June and Voyageur 50 miles in July.

Late summer and fall lacked focused training. I ran a lot, and ran hard. I think the highlights would be a 16:30 5K and a win in a fairly big cross country race in October.

These last two months of 2009 have been good. I am running on the same plan as last year. Goals for 2010:

5K 16:00 flat (under 16 would be too much pressure)
Age group national champion in the 5000
10K Under-34
Half Under 1:15
Win an ultra

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Coaching Frustrations

I coach one single athlete, and she is frustrating the hell out of me.

Her stats are pretty good: 5'6, 114 pounds, long legs. You could not ask for a better build for a top runner.

She suffers from what would be called an unspecified eating disorder. This has led her to run long, slow runs for years, without much purpose other than to lose weight. Over the last two years, she has gotten increasingly interested in getting fast. Her motivation to work hard is impeccable.

Her personal bests are good, but not great. Her best times have come in the 5K and 10K, where her times are approximately 20 and 41 minutes. These are decent times that allow her to win about half her races, but they are hardly elite. I am sure I could get her much faster, if only I could get her to train right.

Problem is, she is an idiot.

I tell her: "Do three hard sessions a week, preferably one interval, one tempo and one long run. Do this all winter and you will be fast as hell in the spring". I tell her to use the other days as recovery days, although, at one point, she may be allowed to run two long runs on the weekend, a la SQUITRAP. But getting up to four hard sessions is tough and won't happen for a while.

Repeatedly, she runs too long on easy days, leading to subpar hard days. It's her main mistake. She even sneaks in extra running on the easy days, without telling me. I repeat, "easy on easy days, hard on hard days. You're supposed to feel better after a recovery run than before it. It's not supposed to serve an actual training purpose." She pouts and says, "but I feel better after running three hours. Why can't I run three hours on my recovery days." I use profanity and tell her she is not Anton Krupicka.

Then when she does her hard days, I tell her to measure out a route, say 6x1 mile or an 8 mile tempo. I tell her to make it reproducible, so she can do it over and over again. Instead, she runs with her Garmin, telling me that it was weird: "I ran what felt like an even pace, but my actual pace went from 8:30 miles to 5:30 miles on the Garmin." I tell her not to use the Garmin for pace, only for measuring out the course. Then, instead of running all six intervals, she tries to run the first 3 extra hard "to beat her record". She then has to miss the last two, because her legs get too tired.

Then my athlete doesn't trust me. She says, "how do you know 4 intervals don't work better than 6? Maybe it's better". I say, she has to trust me. I have never coached anyone, but I have had good coaches, myself, and I enjoy reading fast people's training plans. I tell her to trust me, but then she says "maybe I'll be fast, but I will be fat, too. I have to run long every day, or I will gain weight."

We keep at it. She wants to drop the whole plan and go back to jogging exactly 2 hours every day. If she comes back after 1:59.34, she runs circles in the parking lot to get the full 2:00.00 in. It frustrates me to no end.

My main psychologic tool is to casually mention how some top runners use speed in their training. My athlete thinks that to run a marathon fast, she should run long runs as often as possible. Preferable a marathon 3 times a week. I tell her that Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliffe do tons of speed work and probably rarely, if ever, run farther than a marathon in pratice. Mentioning Paula Radcliffe always helps a little, because she is the only woman in the world, who ran more than my athlete during pregnancy. Actually, Paula ran harder, and my athlere ran longer. But still.

I generalize: "every fast runner in the world does speed work. If they don't, they either do it anyway, but don't call it speed work; or they could get much faster by doing it." This rarely works. She just doesn't trust me and tells me some tale about Helen Lavin only running long runs and doing naked heat yoga.

Sometimes I bring up cute training concepts, like Yassos, basically to disguise my plans to get her to run intervals. Slyly, I tell her that she is one of one tenth of one percent of the world's population who can use the word "fartlek" in their native language. And it works. Sometimes. The other day, I ordered her to run fartleks: "go do three street lights hard, two easy. Keep doing it until you get sore". She came back, having misunderstood my instructions. She thought I meant stoplights and went over 4 miles fast before stopping! The idiot. The next time I sent her out in subzero temperatures, braless, just so she could learn to obey her coach.

Once in a while, I make the mistake of using myself as an example: "look at me, I have no time to train. I run only 20 miles a week; I run only 3 days a week and yet I am able to call myself the fastest guy in town." Then she wails something about me being lucky there are no fast guys in town, and that she has a gazelle for her teammate (Mette) that she will never be able to beat.

I tell her to trust me: "keep doing what I am telling you and you will get fast". Again, she doesn't trust me. I tell her she is only using me for sex and I am done being her coach.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

DGI Cross Round 2 - report

This race was humbling.

I have felt great in practice, running increasingly faster intervals and losing weight fairly easily. I'll admit I thought I would be able to challenge for the win in the long course (8.5K).

When we showed up to the race, we were prompty informed by teammates Mette, Rasmus and Peter that last month's route was nothing compared to this one. We jogged most of the 3K loop and found two lung-busting climbs tracked arbitrarily into the hills. There were corresponding downhills, one of which ended in a sharp right-hand turn and a field of deep mud.

The course proved too technical for me, unfortunately. The guys around me, most of whom were young and fearless, bombed down these hills, gapping me by 30 yards each time. There were a few strethes that resembled runnable trails and on those I was able to benefit from the speed I have built up over the last two months.

In the long course race, I finished third, with top two out of sight. The eventual fourth and fifth place finishers started out yo-yo'ing around me. The younger of the two, Lasse, got the aforementioned 30 yards on me on three downhills per loop. What was worse was that the uphills were very slippery and I was the only top runner without spikes. So even though a non-technical guy like me ought to do well on the uphills, I ended up dreading especially one very muddy hill.

On the short course, a lot of juniors shot out in front. A lot of them hadn't run the long course, so they had fresh legs. I was in tenth spot after the first half mile, despite sprinting to get to the front. The trail was so muddy that everyone wanted to be in front, but I had to give in to these young speedster. Thankfully, they all lost steam and I was able to fight my way up to third, with Lasse, the monster dowhhiller behind me. On a steep downhill, he passed me and got a good gap. With a half mile to go, I caught back up, considering the horrible possibility of a sprint up the last 50 meter hill. He had spikes and I didn't, I kept telling myself, and I was willing to just let him stay ahead. Then, of course, on the hill with all the spectators screaming at us, we started sprinting. I was able to pull even but he responded with a wild dash over the last 10 yards.

All in all, a fun race but I didn't perform quite like I was hoping for.

With all the hills, especially downhills, I feared for how the Girl would fare. She must have learned a thing or two from Transalpine, where the downhills killed us, because she did really well yesterday. It's hard to compare races, because there are very few fast women running cross country. She took second last month and she took second yesterday. Compared to Mette, our teammate and fastest woman in Southern Zealand, the gap was much less than in their last two races. I think she was fairly satisfied with everything.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

8.2K trail race - report

We did this same little race last year, because it's close to where I grew up and - sadly - because there was a tiny bit of money awarded to the winners. And I mean a tiny bit. I think the sign-up fee was $10 and the first prize was either $20 or $30.

The route is really cool, however, with lots of steep hills so we decided to run it at 90% as a tempo run. I had told myself repeatedly that no matter what happened, I would stay with other runners. I have told myself this same thing multiple times before but it never works. 200 meters into the race, I took the lead gingerly, trying not to gap the 2nd place guy. He passed me on a muddy, technical downhill and I caught him shortly afterwards.

For some reason, I accelerated a little and gapped him and because we were in a headwind, I convinced myself that I shouldn't let him get back "on my wheel" so I accelerated some more. The problem was that this guy was going almost my pace, so he stayed maybe 50 yards back for much of the race. I ran scared and completely blew the 90% effort plan. While it wasn't exactly all out, I went way above 90%. Hopefully, this won't ruin tomorrow's planned long run.

I am on a roll, though. My intervals are faster than this time last year. I am significantly lighter (weighing in at 65.2kg Friday morning) and - knock wood - completely uninjured. Or at least as uninjured as one can be when doing 2 fast interval sessions, a tempo and a long run a week.

My time was 30:06, 11 seconds faster than last year, which was also a near-100% effort.

Next weekend brings the second race in the cross country series. Should be fun.

The Girl won the women's race without much competition. Her time was a few seconds slower than last year, but she has been training really hard and didn't taper at all. She is on her third intense week; she has done an interval and a tempo every week - in addition to her multiple "anorexic long runs" and 3-4 miles of swimming a week.