Monday, May 23, 2011


If you've been following this blog (or even have not been but know me and are reading), you''ll recall the HUGE disappointment I encountered in January when I traveled to Houston for an RRCA certification course on distance running coaching.  Long story short, I screwed up the days and arrived and shopped with my sister on the first day of class... thinking the first day of class was the next day.  I was further pissed off when I learned that I could not be certified by taking the class only 1 day even if I caught up on the reading materials on my own and then took and passed the test.  No, they wanted me in class both days.  How stupid!  Lots of people are capable of learning on their own!  What I learned from this experience?  Mother knows best, you really CAN make lemonade out of lemons, running is not rocket science, but there is plenty of science involved and I really didn't know shit about my favorite hobby.

This weekend, Warren and Patti Finke came to Harrison and taught the 2 day course at our very own community center.  My solution to my stupid screw-up in Houston was to bring the course to Cincinnati (or close enough).  Our town met all the requirements and I had to supply breakfast and lunch for 30 people (which was paid for by the RRCA... I just had to plan  and execute the meals).  For hosting the class, I was granted a free certification (a $250.00 value... see why I was pissed off?).  Patti and I corresponded by e-mail to coordinate the class.  I was really nervous about what to feed these people.  Distance runners are HUNGRY people and they tend to eat a lot.  Some are health nuts while others eat anything not nailed down.  That is a pretty broad spectrum.  Then there is the type like me who are somewhere in the middle... I eat well most of the time, not super picky and love sweets :).  All went well.  The meals turned out to be a perfect blend and Suttan, who also took the course, was kind enough to meet me an hour before class started each day and set up (thanks SO MUCH, Suttan!).

The class exceeded my expectations.  For starters, we had a class of 30 people who came from all parts of the US and Canada.  I can't think of one classmate that didn't seem to be friendly and knowledge hungry.  I met some pretty neat runners, most of them seasoned distance runners, but some newer to the sport.  Many of them currently coaching athletes and feeling it is most important to obtain a certification for what they are doing.  Some of us never really officially "coaching" anyone, yet have a deep affinity for giving advice, sharing what has worked for us and what has not and thriving on seeing performance improvement in our running friends.  For me, the idea of taking this passion to the next level was very appealing.  The other side was yearning to learn the mystery behind fabulous training runs vs. crappy performance (by my training standards and my goals.  I don't consider my race times "crappy").  Yes, as I've said before, some of this has to do with the psychological aspect of racing.  But I now know I was giving way too much credit to that theory and ignoring many, many training mistakes and mistruths.   Ironically, yesterday I sat beside a lady from Seattle who also has tried to qualify for Boston numerous times.   She trains hard, has great training pace runs and does a lot of speed training.  She always falls short of her time goals.  We discussed the frustration behind this phenomenon.  We both listened intently and absorbed everything that was said for this reason.  Patti (our instructor) tried numerous times to nail a 3:30 and qualify for Boston (back when that was the women's time).  Having falling within minutes many times, she switched to ultra-marathoning out of frustration and for a mental break (gee that sounds familiar).  After ultra training and running, she broke her 3:30 goal by a lot.... the key and basis behind their whole training philosophy.... run MORE miles and run them SLOWER.  They told story after story of their athletes who had also slowed down their training and hit incredible PR's.

For someone who loves to log a lot of miles and run comfortable long thinking or "therapy" runs, this new revelation is exciting.  I actually convinced Sarah to run my 14 miler with me this morning at a 9:30 pace!  I didn't think she'd accept, but since her spinning class was canceled and she had the time, she figured "what the heck".  We often found ourselves faster than pace, though we felt like we were shuffling.  We stopped to talk to friends, go to the bathroom and get water.... and still ended up with a 9:37 avg for our run.  So ok, we didn't heed the 9:30 pace running, but that is very hard to do when you are not used to it.  Was our run easy?  No, not really.  It was hot and Neither one of us had run for 2 hours and 15 minutes for a long time.  We can usually do a 16 miler in that time and it's been since Columbus that I'd even run as far as 14 miles.  Both of our legs had had enough by the end.  But I got to tell her all about these new training principles and believe I have my "balls to the wall in training" friend quite intrigued at perhaps what she could do if this really works.

So now to put into practice my new found knowledge.  It will be hard.   I will have to throw out a lot of old training beliefs and really adapt to new ideas.  How do I know it will work?  I don't.  But I believe it will.  When you have an advanced degree exercise physiologist who has run over 80 marathons, 80 ultras, winning the women's divisions in several of them, written books on the science of distance running and why fads don't work well (I did learn that ALL training works, but some works better than others), coaching thousands of distance runners including some elites AND has done track work with Alberto Salazar, telling you that it will work.... you just may want to consider she's telling the truth :).

As for the title?  My weekend in Houston turned out to be a lemon.  From which came the sweetest lemonade I've ever had.

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