Friday, July 13, 2012

An Interview

Coach T after a hard workout
Here's a transcript from a recent interview with Jaymee conducted by Coach T.  Those of you who have been around for a while know who she is.  She came onto the scene last year to try to whip Jaymee into shape when Jaymee decided she wanted to turn to Dog as her coach.  Coach T ended up being a bit bossy and seemed more interested in training Jaymee to sprint after small animals than to run a marathon, so the coach-athlete relationship ended, albeit amicably.  We met up with Coach T and Jaymee on the Coast of California…

Coach T:  So, I noticed that you sort of went radio silent there after your last race.  Can you explain to us what happened?

J:  Sure.  I had a pretty tough training cycle leading up to that race.  The workouts I did in the last few weeks were pretty awful.  My legs had no giddy up in them at all.  I wasn't particularly confident going into the race, but I also learned from a very wise woman not to ever count myself out.  I felt as though I'd put in the hard work and something great may happen on race day.  I made some bonehead choices, like thinking it was a good idea to travel for work to Orlando, FL 5 days before the race, sleep less than 5 hours a night race week and then spend 12 hours traveling to Duluth two days before the race.  I was just flat on race day, and my little legs didn't want to go very fast.  I do not regret making the trip to run in the Half Marathon Championships as part of Grandma's Marathon.  The race was amazing and the support was really top notch.  I hope to travel back that way again for the full marathon at some point.  When I got home, I realized I was pretty burned out.  It is mentally tough to train really hard for a race and then have a subpar result.  I just wanted to give myself a break, which included a break from telling my running stories.

Coach T:  Fair enough.  So, did you come in last place?

J:  Harsh, Coach T.  No.  I did not come in last place this time.  I was at the back of the pack for sure, but not last.  (Proof here).

Coach T: So, what have you been doing since the race.  You said that you are taking a break?  Are you running at all?

J: I mentioned before the race in this post that I felt like I was putting too much pressure on myself and running was starting to become unfun.  I realized after the race that I actually had a fair amount of anxiety associated with my running, and I needed to figure out a way to get past that.  I was having trouble even getting motivated to just go out for an easy run.  I did what all good type As do and tried to power through those thoughts and feelings at first, thinking that if I just set a new goal and developed a training plan, I would muster the motivation to start anew.  That approach flopped as you could probably easily predict it would.  My first workout of this new training cycle was just as angst-ridden as any I had done in the last training cycle despite my newfound desire to keep my running all Zen-like and flowy.  It took me about a week to realize that I needed a mental break.  I talked with Coach L about this, and he said it was a very smart idea.  So, for the past two weeks, I've let myself just do whatever I wanted.  I ran when I wanted to run and I didn't run when I didn't want to run.  It has worked wonders.  Just giving myself that mental break has breathed some life back into me.

Coach T: Does that mean you have new goals?

J: I actually set a race goal before I decided to take this break.  I thought it would be fun to run the Masters Marathon Championship race at the Twin Cities Marathon in October.  I ran this race in 2009 and really enjoyed it.  It's a good course for me, and I loved the race hospitality.  I actually developed a training plan with Coach L right before my training implosion.  Despite the beauty of the plan, I just couldn't get excited about gearing up again for a big training push.  Over the last two weeks, I've started to feel much better about running and more motivated to train.  I've had 3 weeks of low mileage and am building back up.  I have taken the time to do a lot of thinking about my running and a bit of troubleshooting about why I felt so flat in the last training cycle.  I've started experimenting with some of the elements of my training that helped me become a strong marathoner in the first place.  This is stuff I once complained about doing, but I find myself oddly looking forward to:  stuff like plyometric hill drills and a suite of variations on strides.  I hypothesize that these activities will help me get the pop back in my legs, and I actually think it's working.  I think I'll try different types of workouts and do everything effort-based at this point so I don't pressure myself into trying to hold a certain pace.  I don't have to pull the trigger on Twin Cities until the end of August, so I have time to see how far I get in these next few weeks.

Coach T: I like your approach.  I personally think you should be doing more squirrel sprints and digging exercises, but those are the things I love.  If you like hopping on one leg up a hill over and over, then knock yourself out.

J:  I think we're on the same page, Coach T.  Do what you love; love what you do.

Coach T: Okay, that might be a little too touchy-feely for my tastes.  So, you're getting pretty old aren't you?  I understand you turn 45 soon?

J: That's right, Coach T.  I'll be in a new age group.  I'm excited about what I'll do with the rest of my 40s.  I never would have guessed that I would have accomplished what I did in my early 40s.  I have many great female masters runners to look to for inspiration--some of them are still setting PRs well into their 40s.  This past year, I feel like I've been on an accelerated learning track with running.  I had some crazy ass shit happen, but I met some of the most amazing people too and learned an awful lot about myself.  It was a year of growth for sure.

Coach T: It has been fun chatting with you here in beautiful Cali, but I have to go do some beach running and eat some crab shells with my boy, Püddle.  Hasta, chica.


  1. Great to hear that you are doing ok and getting back to running! So you gave yourself over to Dog and all he wanted was for you to run faster in the name of bringing home small animals? Tough break. Good that you ended that coaching relationship.

    Our bodies really operate on a quid pro quo basis, don't they? "You don't give me sleep before the race, I don't give you a fast time." Plus I've read a couple of race reports about this race and it seems that most people had a hell of a time actually getting there.

    And yeah, the anxiety thing. Fellow Type A here. Have yet to find an issue I couldn't turn into a stress factor in 5 minutes or less. And yet running is my main source of fun! It's such a constant battle to let the Type A-ness go and just freaking enjoy it.

    Do you think the higher your running level, the more that sort of thinking impacts your performance at the margins. i.e. if you take two people with the same training and ability, but one is relaxed and the other isn't, the lower-anxiety person is going to have the edge? This is so cheesy, but I actually possess the book "Zen and the art of running" (someone gave it to me as a gift, I was like "you really don't know me very well, huh?" but now I realize there was a subtle message involved....) Anyway, my 9 month old pulled it out of the bookshelf recently and started chewing on it, so I read a few pages, and you know what? Dude is so right on.

    btw, my cats would like to offer you an innovative new coaching programme. Basically they do the recovery for you, enabling you to do twice as much work. Strength training includes lifting 10-lb bags of extremely expensive hypoallergenic cat food + flexibility exercises involving cleaning hairballs from unlikely places at 3 a.m.

    1. Oh, Heather. I missed you!

      You're right about travel to Duluth for the race. A lot of people had delayed flights due to the weather. That wasn't my issue, though. It just took that long to get there, mainly because I flew into Minneapolis and then took a 3.5 hour shuttle to Duluth. On the return trip, it took me 13 hours to get from Duluth to Sacramento, and none of my flights or shuttles were delayed. I joked that I could have flown to China in that amount of time. All that aside, every time I travel, I am reminded how much it takes out of you even though you're just sitting around, enjoying cocktails while someone else does the driving.

      The funny thing about the trip to Orlando for work before the race is how I thought it was such a great idea when I planned it. How cool is it that I get to go to Orlando the week before the race and then swing back through Duluth on the way home for a little race? I'm really not that smart.

      Hmmm. Zen and the art of running. Intriguing. I think that being type A can be an advantage in competitive sports and that, even as a Type A, you can be that relaxed person who has the advantage in a competition. The trick is to find ways to take the edge off of that part of your personality that likes to take things to the extremes. It's comforting to know books have been written (and chewed on by babes) for those of us who suffer.

      My Cats already tried to seduce me into that program. I do like yours a bit better in that theirs involved kitty litter lifts rather than food. Let them know I'm considering their offer.

    2. "Relaxed" is probably the wrong word. "focused" is probably better. In a state of flow. And obviously, the more type A you are, the more flow-y you will be, because you will have developed and followed a detailed plan for achieving said state of flow at exactly the right time.

  2. Holy ****. Sorry I just hijacked your comment section to write an entire blog post :/ I will look into decaf...

  3. Coach T has a relaxed interviewing style. I like it! I'm surprised she didn't suggest a workout of 'chasing the mailman'.

    Sounds like the break from schedule (and writing) has done you good. Hope you end up making it to Twin Cities. Love the 'run by feel' approach - I tried that in my last 10k and it worked a treat. Now doing it for pretty much all training runs (although being a pedantic bastard I still record times/HRs after the fact).

    Shame about the travel/sleep dramas preceding the Championships. Arriving rested and ready to go makes a hell of a difference to performance on the day.

    1. Coach T is relaxed about everything except when you get between her and food.

      The break from schedule also helped me tone down my expectations for my training. I'm happy to hear that you've experienced the running by feel approach with good results. Oh, and I too keep meticulous records, I just don't worry about it.

      I'm not sure that the travel is what left me feeling flat race day. It probably contributed, but I had a number of other issues during the training cycle that probably played a role too. I'll post about those soon. It's all a big experiment!

  4. Nice article, thanks for the information.

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