Friday, October 28, 2011

Coaches Corner

I don't know... I didn't know what else to title this entry.  The one I chose is kind of queer, I know.  This is about my first experience coaching adults.  One of biggest things I learned this summer is that no two people adapt to the same method of training.   Everyone walks a fine line between not enough vs. overtraining when marathon training.  But that line is different for everyone.  Finding that line for five very different runners was tricky.  It was a challenge.  It was also a privilege, a headache, very stressful, satisfying and a complete joy.  I guess you could say it was the whole package.  This is about the five runners who graciously agreed to be my guinea pigs over the summer and be coached for a fall marathon.  In exchange, they were to keep documentation of their training, monitor their heart rates and follow specific pace and heart rate ranges in accordance with their goals.  This would be training like no other for each of them.  They were going to have to adopt a higher mileage, slower pace method of training.  The majority of their runs would be easy paced, comfortable mileage, with 1-2 days of speed work to develop speed and fine tune race pace.  All five were experienced runners, although for 3 of them, this would be their first full marathon.  All five have children, jobs and otherwise busy lives.  And since the bulk of training would be in the summer, the day began VERY early for most of them (to beat the heat and avoid having to run after work).  As one can imagine, higher mileage and slower paces meant a lot more time out running.  Time was not on these runners' sides, however they all remained committed and focused on their goals. The runners were not given a 20 week schedule, but rather each week, a new schedule would be emailed to them.  Initially, I would only send out the new week's schedule after being given their training logs from the previous weeks.  This would allow me to analyze signs of overtraining by comparing heart rate/pace changes and make out new schedules accordingly (perhaps someone needed an extra rest day or someone could handle more mileage).  I quickly realized that some of them were much like myself and I just wasn't going to get all their data.... so I settled for some.  Garmin Connect became a very useful evaluative tool and I had access to most of their Garmin data.  Because I was also training for my upcoming 50 miler, I wasn't able to devote the actual running time WITH them as I otherwise would have.  I had to make sure I was getting in the mileage and paces I needed as well as my cross training activities.  In the end,  all completed their training and ran their marathons.  This is the training story of each of them, who all gave me permission to blog about them.


Greg's marathon was first.  Greg chose to run the Air Force Marathon.  I think he would have preferred Columbus, however Greg had a milestone anniversary coming up and a promised trip to his wife.  One that did NOT revolve around running a marathon.  He'd be the first to tell you his wife Mary is the most supportive person in his running network, but she had a limit.  And her anniversary was her anniversary.  Plain and simple (smart lady!).
I sought Greg out because I just KNEW this program would be so great for him and bring him the PR he wanted so badly.  Greg has been running for roughly 10 years and has done a handful of marathons.  I met him over a year ago when I was training for my second BQ attempt in Columbus and he was training for Marine Corps.  This was in 2010.  Our mutual friend (and Greg's co-worker Kim) told him that there was a group training for the Columbus half and full marathon and he should join us for track work at the high school track.  That is how I met Greg.
Greg did not meet his time goal at Marine Corps.  Again, I was unaware of some of the mental struggles of Greg when it came to marathoning.  He jumped back into training that winter with sights set on 4 hours at the Flying Pig (2011).  Greg was using a training plan of intense speed and medium high weekday mileage, with the longest run being 16 miles.  Greg seemed to do very well on this plan, though I just couldn't get the rationale behind a maximum 16 mile long run for a marathon.  I didn't run with him much (if at all) during this training cycle since for the first few months I was injured and then I was training for the Pig half, however I had heard that he was doing an exceptional job, getting faster and displayed utmost confidence in his ability the night before the Pig at my sister's pre-race party.  Sadly, the week before the Flying Pig, Greg's sister passed away from cancer.  Not knowing how the heck he could even bring himself to the start of the Flying Pig, I marveled at his silent strength.

The Pig did not go as planned for Greg.  Greg finished in over 5 hours.  The reason (per Greg)?  Total mental collapse beginning at mile 3.  Knowing this started so early in the race, I realized Greg was actually way tougher than he credited himself for.  All I could say is that I would not have been able to go much further.

Knowing Greg had some disappointing performances given the amount of time and energy he devoted to training made me want badly to coach him with this different type of training.  One thing about Greg is he is a hard knocked gadget NUT JOB.  I mean, if you could see the charts, graphs and tables he has created around his running, your mind would spin.  Greg is overly meticulous with his training data.  I believe he analyzes every run very carefully.  After explaining the scientific premise of this training to Greg, he agreed to come aboard.  He willingly hopped on board with HR training and was happy to get started.  Slowing down was NOT easy for him to do as evidenced by some of his training data.  I had to really reign him in.  After all, how can comfortable training really work?  I mean, isn't this supposed to suck?  Aren't you supposed to be breathless and spent after each run?  NO!  I kept telling him the goal was to train optimally, not maximally (Greg McMillan's words).  Two days a week, Greg did speed work.  One was usually in the form of a tempo run, with specific pace ranges, and the other track work.  I would get to the track at 5 am some mornings and Greg was midway through his repeats.  The guy was hard core at training.  He also slept very little, which was a huge concern of mine given the mileage he was running and the life he led outside of running.  I began hearing from some of the gals that ran with him regularly that Greg liked to throw in extra mileage or run a bit, shall we say, over paced.  Now Greg blamed them at first, but he was definitely the culprit.  However, after a few blasting e-mails, Greg did settle down.  His HR (won't even get into the fiasco his Garmin monitor created in the beginning) was well within his aerobic range even at his race pace.  This was awesome!  He asked me if we should re-evaluate the goal because race pace for him, was truly a comfortable and easy pace.  Uh, NO!  I wanted him to get the 4 hour time, regardless that his training and HR indicated he is a sub 4 hour marathoner.  Once he was able to get through a marathon comfortably with a nice PR, he could go for what he is capable of.  So he continued as planned.

As race day approached, Greg appeared confident and excited.  I sent him information on carb loading and tapering.  I'm sure the taper was very difficult for Greg, who peaked at roughly 65 miles a week in training.  We joked often about his obsession and precision to detail when racing... such as how many times he would re-evaluate his wardrobe and how often he'd re-pin his bib number on.  He also "joked" at one point that he was busy lining up and counting shot bloks.  I kind of think he wasn't kidding!

On the morning of the marathon, Greg was calm, chatty and ready.  Our trusty friend Suttan was going to run with him and keep him on pace.  His goal pace was a 9:09.  My advice to Greg was start slower than pace and then bring it down slowly.  I knew there would be miles that dipped below race pace after he was good and warmed up, with rested muscles and carb loaded (or so I thought he'd loaded... he recently confided that he fuels as well as he sleeps... holy shit, Greg, sounds like you may have been running on empty.  Literally.).  At 7:30, we were off!  I quickly lost sight of Greg and Suttan.  I saw them at around mile 10 when they had turned around and were running in the opposite direction.  Right on pace with a huge smile, I snapped a picture of the two of them.  A huge wave of relief washed over me.  It was all going to be fine.  I had no doubts the Greg would finally hit his goal, perhaps even below.  I knew I would not see him until he greeted John and me at the finish.

When will I learn that you just never know what can happen in this god forsaken distance of 26.2 miles? When?

At mile 18, I chatted on the phone with Sarah.  At mile 20, my sister Maggie.  At mile 21, John says to me "Is that Suttan and Greg?"  My heart dropped.  John and I were running roughly a 4:20 paced marathon.  If we were approaching Greg, something had gone terribly wrong.  I came up to him, put my hand on his back and said "Greg, what's going on?"  I'll never forget the look on his face or the tone of his voice as he said "I'm so sorry, Kate."  Sorry?  For me?  You can't be serious. This was his race, his goal, his dream.  Not mine.  I could definitely empathize with his crushing disappointment.  No doubt I could, but at that moment, it was Greg's heartbreak that mattered.  I knew how hard he'd worked.  I knew how much he wanted this.  I knew everything he was feeling.  It was the Flying Pig all over again for him.  I don't think you can possibly get it unless you've been there.  I've been there.

We walked/jogged with Greg for 2 miles.  Something was going on with his right hip and he seemed to be in pain with every step.  I knew he'd gone to the start uninjured so I didn't get it.  I thought maybe he didn't disclose something.  That would certainly be like Greg :).  Greg urged us to go on.  It was as if he just wanted to be alone to finish.  I understood.  Sometimes being alone is what is needed.  I am a lot like that when I am struggling.  I realized that there was nothing I could say or do.  Everything I said sounded stupid and pointless.  Encouraging him was no longer effective or helpful.  Greg needed to be alone.

Greg finished in 5 hrs and 3 minutes after running 16 miles on pace for a 4 hour marathon.  I worried about his hip.  He later told me it was his mind.  I'll call them his racing demons.  He was running again that Thursday (I knew he couldn't wait a full week like he said!).

Greg is running Indy's Monumental Marathon on November 4th.... FOR FUN!!!   He is not letting all that training go to waste but he is also not after a time goal.  We are going to go for a long run.  His long runs are much faster than his races (his 24 miler smoked his marathon!).  We'll take walk breaks (or wine and cheese parties as he and Jen like to call our long fuel stops), and for 13 miles or so of it, I will make him fuel and slow him down (I'm officially tapering as of Sunday so I will not be running all of it).  I will be that very annoying person.  Greg "says" he has no expectations for this marathon.  I am trying to believe him, yet when I suggested leaving the Garmin at home and just running, he replied "I will NEVER run without my Garmin...."  SO... Greg, I am going to try and believe you are without a goal, but forgive me if I'm skeptical.  November 4th is a long run in which you will be given a medal at the end.  It is an awesome way to enjoy something you love to do!  No stress, no expectations, no pressure.  Just running.  Just like our summer long runs.  I think you'll be happy with the clock time when you are really able to run that way :)

Since I am never at a loss for words, I am going to blog about each runner separately.  I should have known I could not do it in one entry!

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