A Confession and 3 Race Reviews

Back in early January I took the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) coaching class to become a certified RRCA coach. I learned a lot and got to meet many runners who are inspired to help others in our sport. The class, based in large part on Dr. Jack Daniels’ work, is very solid and takes into account years of scientific study about the sport along with a large dose of common sense learned from working with athletes. Still, runners are quirky people so the coaching challenges are always interesting. Some of the test questions were pretty funny but actually quite realistic if you know runners! So with that backdrop, I posted a sample test question in the facebook group for the class. Here is the question and the responses I received in the facebook comments:

So coaches- You have an athlete who has been training for a marathon. He announces to you he plans to race a 3,000 meter indoor track race next Friday, a 15K road race the following weekend and then a half marathon 3 weeks later. He wants to PR in all three. You should advise him: a) Just go ahead and taper now, b) Increase his mileage to be ready for the half marathon and add speed this week to be ready for the 3,000 or c) pretend you didn’t get his email and hope for the best?

  • Hahaha- too funny
  • Is there an all of the above!! LOL!!
  • LOL
  • Increase the mileage, but I’m skeptical that any more speedwork will help this close to the 3k.
  • Sounds too familiar…folks with conflicting goals wanting to do it all. Marathon training can help with speed/endurance for the shorter races and will play a major role in the Half. Many people training for a full marathon will PR in a HM on the way to doing their targeted event. Adding speed work at this point could lead to injury and with one week out there will not be enough time to see a significant improvement. What would be nice is if the athlete could see the 5K as speed work, the 15K as a tempo run and the HM as a gauge of fitness for the marathon.
  • When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
  • Dan- I really thought you posed this as a funny joke. After further review, I’d like to answer a little more seriously (if that is possible with me):
    Have the client choose 1 event and focus on that. If he/she can’t decide then I’d focus on the 15k so that you would still be doing speed work but have enough of a base to hold on during the half marathon. They can hope the adrenaline of the event will propel them forward to the finish line
  • I agree with Chris and Elizabeth. No time for any beneficial speed work before the shorter distances, so might try to just PR on the longer ones at this point.
  • (My response) Well, it is half in jest and half serious…… I’ll let y’all know how it turns out. The scenario did seem like a good test Q though. 🙂 This is a real runner actually running these races!
  • Wow!! Wishing him all the best!!

All of the advice and comments were on target. Perhaps the best summary came from the course instructor who said “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”

Confession time

It was me. The runner in the question is Dan Clark. Why would a guy who just took a coaching class embark on this fool’s errand? Shouldn’t he know better? Don’t we all do this sort of thing though? We pick races for emotional reasons, opportunities to travel to a particular city or just for a challenge while ignoring the practical training implications. My coach didn’t balk at the idea and he adjusted my training slightly.

The 3,000 meters, Jimmy Carnes Invitational,  January 17th.

I had to run this meet because it might be the last opportunity to race on the indoor track at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville. The remodeling plans for the arena do not include a track. So what’s a distance guy to do? The longest race offered was the 3,000 so that’s what I signed up for! We added some quicker track sessions the week before and week of the race. There was not an expectation of any fitness gained from those sessions but the intention to get some quick turnover on the legs and become comfortable with the idea of really rolling fast.

  • Week before the race Track: 4X400, 4X200, 4X400. Total weekly miles=77
  • Week of the race (Tuesday with race on Friday) 15X300. Total weekly miles=70

The race went well. I was in the 2nd heat (slow heat) and I took the pace out easy, tucking in behind two college runners. At 1,600 meters (5:04), I surged by them and stopped thinking pace, shifting to reeling in and passing other runners. I passed several of them including getting two runners on the last lap, clocking 32 seconds for the last 200 meters. 9:29 finish time. Masters PR.

The Newnan’s Lake 15K, Gainesville, FL, January 25th.

This is one of my favorite races in Gainesville and where I’ve set my all-time PR for 15K and my Masters PR for 15K. Last year I ran 52:42 and I knew it would be a challenge to beat that. The morning of the race turned out to be nearly perfect conditions. The predicted 24 degree temperatures never materialized and it was about 38 degrees at the start. The perfect pace group developed for me as Bobby Hensley and Mike Rosato started out trying to run 5:40 per mile. Mike Hensley was also along for the ride, doing a tempo run. I ran with the pack and just cruised. At mile 5, Bobby and Mike Rosato picked the pace up to run 5:33. I held on. 5:29. I held on saying to myself, “Just one more mile before you let them go!” 5:29. I held on. 5:38 (Ouch!). The last mile Bobby, Mike and Mike dropped me. However, Mike Hensley circled back the last half mile to encourage me and prod me in. It helped and I finished in 51:53. Masters PR!

The Pack at Newnan's Lake 15K

The Pack at Newnan’s Lake 15K

Gasparilla Half Marathon, Tampa, FL, February 23rd.

Having a few weeks to train and not worry about any racing was nice. I added some tempo work on Thursdays to zero in on Half Marathon pace and kept the mileage above 70 per week, hitting 83 and 80 the two weeks before the race. Everything pointed to a great race; the 15K time, my track sessions, the tempo runs and my overall confidence was high. The only thing that did not point to a great race was the weather. The morning of the race was 70 degrees and 98% humidity. Downright swampy. I decided to run with no shirt and planned to dump water on my head at every water station. The early miles went well and I was on pace for a Masters PR. The crowd had thinned out and I was running alone by mile 8. The warm conditions were taking a toll. Despite surging in effort to pull away from a group of three runners, my mile split was still slower. The last few miles were a slog and although my splits remained even from 8 miles to the finish, that pace was slower than I needed to get a PR. 1:17:29 was my finish time and I ran in with a good kick. Although disappointed with the time, I think I ran a solid race. I was 2nd in the Masters Division and while a little bit slower than I wanted, I ran tough.

Near the finish of the Gasparilla Half Marathon.

Near the finish of the Gasparilla Half Marathon.

So what did we learn from my test question? Maybe we learned that even runners who should know better will still do crazy things. It’s about the challenge and the journey, even if the trip is not the best route as determined by coaching science. I nailed the 3,000 meter time and the 15K time. I’m also convinced I would have gotten my Half Marathon time if the weather was better but I’ll have to take another shot at that Masters PR soon. Have fun running out there and have fun coaching your crazy runners!