Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ch-ch changes

I made a tough decision this week.  I will, for some undisclosed period of time, self coach.  For those who think I'm copying Ryan Hall with this move, I assure you I am not.  While he is getting help from God, and that appears to be working well for him, I am doing just the opposite and getting my help from Dog.  Her name is Coach T, and I think she is highly qualified for the job.  She knows how to use a whistle and a stopwatch.  She works for treats and has lots of spots.  I'm not sure what more an athlete could ask for.
Coach T
All kidding aside, the timing for this decision coincided with my six month anniversary with Focus n' Fly.  I had initially paid for my first six months, treating it as an evaluation period.  If you've followed my blog over that time period, you know that there has not been much to evaluate in terms of training. I started out broken and haven't been able to stay fixed.  One of my main reasons for switching up my program was to be able to train with other runners.  Because I have been injured on and off, that has not happened.  I have learned a lot from Coach Tom--some very valuable lessons that will indeed make me a stronger runner.  However, when faced with the decision to invest another chunk of change without a good feeling about whether training with others or training at all is probable, I decided to look to Dog for help.  

I realized as the deadline for renewing my membership loomed, that I was putting way too much pressure on myself.  I was taking myself too seriously.  I tend to see myself more as a hard working runner that happens to be able to pull off some fast marathon times rather than an "elite runner".  I think a lot of this pressure stemmed from the fact that I was spending a lot of money on coaching.  In some warped way, I felt that I needed to get my money's worth and that was affecting my judgment.  When I think about what really matters to me, I realize that first and foremost I just want to run.  I have to get back to it, and I have to get back to a place where I enjoy it.

In reading through my own recent blog posts, I recognized that, somewhere along the line, I lost confidence in my own good judgment.  I reflected on my success leading up to Chicago.  It was no fluke that I improved enough over a six year period to qualify for the Trials.  While I credit good coaching and a solid training plan for a lot of that success, I hadn't realized before how much responsibility I had for my own training and health.  Over the last three years, Coach Nicole advised me, but I made the decisions. Before that, it was pretty much all me.  Those decisions led me to six years of (nearly) injury-free training. On top of that, in the three years leading up to Chicago, I completed all but one scheduled workout.  That's like hundreds of workouts, and it's not like my training was easy either. I did this by knowing myself and listening to my body.  Nicole told me that over and over, reminding me that I knew my body well and should listen to it.

Being the analytical type that I am, I have enjoyed looking through all of the running books I own and ordering new ones to see what type of a program I might follow next. I am not foreclosing on the prospect of having a coach in the future, but for now Coach T is cheap and I think being fully responsible for my own training is a good way for me to get my mojo back.  I know a number of self-coached running superstars that give me faith that it can work.  As far as I know, they don't have anyone like Coach T on their side, so I think I will have a distinct advantage.

As for my running plan: I ran 37 miles last week and have 40 planned for this week including strides and a mild progression run this weekend.  I'm back to fitting in some cross training and have added back into my program some of the strength work I was used to, like the Rock Circuit which I did this morning and realized I kind of missed.  I think my runner's body is used to and thrives on variety.  It certainly kept me strong for 3 years, so I'm going back to the stuff I know worked.

Coach T told me to go out and ride my bicycle for as long as I wanted on Sunday.  It was fun to set out without an agenda and just ride.  I rode 20 miles to Coffee Republic in Folsom, had coffee and apple pie, and rode 20 miles back home.   It was lovely.
Hey!  Get your ass to work!
That Coach T is a hard ass.


  1. Hi, I'm new to your blog and so glad I found it as I can relate to some of your stories that I've been catching up on. This is my first year as a masters runner, training as my own coach. I've been coached before and by great individuals but like you commented, I'm going to learn to trust my own judgement and see what happens. I'm also going to incorporate that post 5 min stretching you discussed back in March. I look forward to following your progression and making the best of running's trials and tribulations. Cheers to marathoning!

  2. Good for you! I'm the same way. Invested money causes me too to put further pressure on myself. Your analytical orientation, willingness to due the due diligence, and best first-hand knowledge of your body will see you through.

    That being the case, as a social person you'll benefit motivationally by running with others who are ideally near your talent level, so if there is any way you can unofficially join with your former group - at least for long runs - that would be ideal.

  3. I don't know you, but as a researcher, I think you will find self-coaching to be even more rewarding that having a coach. one of the most satisfying things about running for me now that improvements are tough to come by, is coming up with my own training plan and having it result in goal time i set. I get to take complete responsibility for both the good races and the injuries/being trashed that come when i make mistakes. it's like having a hypothesis, running the experiment where the race proves or disproving the hypothesis.

  4. Coach T looks pretty menacing. ;)

    Great decision. Finding your mojo and trusting yourself with the things that got you here in the first place will be worth its weight in gold/fun. Enjoy this new phase, I bet you'll have a blast.


  5. i hope this works for you! you are right... self coaching definetely works for a lot of people. i think mary coordt coaches herself and she has done great on her own. sometimes there comes a point when a person realizes that they are just better off listening to their own body and making their own decisions about training. leonard reached that point years ago. i think the key for someone like you, who will be a newbie at this, is to not be afraid to pick people's brains who you respect. for instance i imagine your former coaches would be open to you asking them a question here and there. and you can always call or email leonard to bounce things off of... many people have done that over the years. rich hanna is another good one, as is mary. good luck to you and you never know... you may end up really liking it!

  6. It's kind of refreshing to read your thoughts on taking yourself so seriously and the pressure that may have affected the health of your body and your state of mind! Thanks for being so honest! I can't wait to follow your new adventure.

  7. How much does Coach T charge? He looks pretty expensive, but I thought I'd check it out anyway. : )

  8. Thanks to all of you for your support!

    Willie, sounds like we're in the same boat and for some of the same reasons. Good luck to you too. I hope you'll continue to comment in the future so we can learn from one another.

    Mark, glad I'm not the only one who feels pressure when money is involved. It's funny, but when I played golf, I could smack the ball like crazy until there was money on the line. Make a bet with me and it's shank city. One of the things that has been hard about this last 6 months is that I have not been a part of my usual running support network. I plan to get back to that!

    GIM, I like that you used the word fun. That is what I am looking for!

    tmeat, thanks for the insight and for offering up Leaonard:) In fact, you always have good advice for me so maybe you should be my trusted advisor:)

    Thank you, Meg. I'm glad that resonated with you. It's easy to get caught up in externalities and lose what's truly important. I think I'm finding my way.

    Jennifer, Coach T uses a barter system. In return for her coaching services, she typically expects treats and massage.

  9. As it's Easter Sunday down here I'll pray to Dog that Coach T is the perfect choice and that she doesn't 'do a nana' when you stuff up a training session.

    I think it'll work out well (especially the 'pressure' reduction -- I know you can produce more than enough self-pressure). As tmeat said, bounce ideas off people from time to time if need be.

    Coincidentally, a mate of mine, Scott ( http://the-long.blogspot.com/ ) is debating the merits of taking on a coach in his quest to run 2:30, but then, he doesn't have your smarts ;)

  10. Forgot to say that I hope this doesn't mean we'll be reading blog posts full of "It was a decision to let my faith in Dog and the promises She has made to me" as in Ryan's recent post: http://ryanhall.competitor.com/2011/04/22/reflections-on-the-2011-boston-marathon/

  11. Happy Easter, Ewen! Wow, I have no idea what doing a Nana is, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to see that! Yep, you're not going to see posts like Ryan Hall's from me here. Coach T has made me no promises, except that she'll wipe the floor with my ass if I stuff up a training session:)

  12. Sorry. 'Doing a nana' is the same as 'chucking a wobbly', 'dropping your bundle', 'losing it', or 'crying like a girl'... well, maybe not the last one - we all know Dog doesn't cry.