Coach Blog: Winter Training February 9-15

We had a recovery week this week, and some solid races at the end.

Monday was a classic 20min tempo. At this point, this workout is pretty light for us. The key thing is that it doesn’t take long, so we can get it done quickly, which adds to the recovery feel of the week, especially in very cold temperatures! Wednesday we did 10min of tempo as part of warm up, then a bunch of strides: 2x2k as 100m fast, 100m jog. Long run on the weekend for those who didn’t race. That’s it.

For those who raced, there were a variety of options. Track 4x400m relay up to 3000m on Saturday, as well as road 5k and 10k on Sunday. A couple kids ran their school indoor championship on Thursday, too. We got 7 more PBs, and 4 wins (2 in the schools championship and 2 on the roads). Here are the results:

Marie 3:16.97 SB
Les 3:06.81 PB
Matteo 2:56.80
Thomas 1:33.34
Marie-Eve 11:02.32 PB
Annyck 11:38.82 PB
JD 9:17.81 (1st attempt)
Adam 9:29.62 PB
Mohamad 9:32.56
Antoine 9:38.37 PB
Mike 10:30.68
Jarry 4:03.06 PB
Dan 4:16.16 PB
Mel 4:45.61
Val 4:53.28 SB
Christina 68
Elisa 75
Marie-Eve 67
Marie 68
Montreal English School indoor championships (GMAA)
Oliver: 400m, 61.55 800m 2:18.17 (1st!);
Henry: 1500m 4:54.80 2nd, 3000m 10:29.36 (1st!)
Hypothermic Half
Leslie Gold 1:41:24
Ile Bizard
Anthony 19:26
Liz 20:28 1st female
Dave 36:15 (this is impressive in this cold. Wow) 1st
Note the conditions for Ile Bizard: One of the top guys on the list was a solid 2min behind what he usually runs (1:15 half marathon guy ran 18min for 5k).
Next week a few will race in the AC Indoor meet. The rest will return to build mode. This brings to an end our short anaerobic experiment. Considering the PBs, I’d say it was successful, though it is hard to tell what elements of training exactly contribute to success. In any case, at the very least, it didn’t hurt. A couple individual cases did not PB, but there are reasons behind it (-20 temps are not ideal; Marie was 4sec faster than December but not a PB; Mohamad started school and was sick all week).
So far so good. On to some unrelated commentary…
I’ve been having conversations lately with people about how to improve the spectator experience of track and field, get more sponsors, that sort of thing. I used to worry about this, but I don’t any more. In fact, I think we are doing the sport a disservice by chasing spectators. And by “the sport” I mean the bulk of people who participate in track and field.
The first issue I have is that we are highly overestimating our product. Your typical track meet is not a spectator event. Certainly, we could do things to make it more spectator friendly, but why? What is the benefit? The thinking goes this way: if we can get more spectators, we can sell more sponsorship, and bring in more money for athletes. There’s a kind of side-track to this which is, if we can get the media to report on track, that will build the audience, and again, the sponsors shall flock. This is true but only in a very narrow sense. For example, the AC Indoor meet next weekend will feature two events that are quite worthy of the media attention they will hopefully get: there’s a 60m celebrity race and a 600m world record attempt. Both of these have been put together with professionalism and are likely to build the excitement we crave around our sport. (I should say I am biased in that the events were put together by a good friend and a co-worker, but the results will speak for themselves)
Other than events of this stature though, the media have very little reason to be interested in track and field. But this is OK! Ours is not a spectator sport, it is a participatory one. Let’s worry about arranging things so that athletes can have the best experience possible, rather than focusing on spectators who, let’s be honest, aren’t there! To take another example from the AC Indoor next weekend, on the schedule there are several “community” races which allow anyone (the rest of the meet is limited to registered members who have hit certain standards) a chance to race. This is also a good initiative because it focuses on participation: people get to “try out” our sport. This is good because, surprisingly, you can’t do this most of the time as track races are closed to members only (and they are also extraordinarily complicated to enter, compared to road races, for example. Ever heard of “Hy-tek”? The most ironically named software in existence…)
That said, and this may be my own annoyance because I am participating in it, the plan for the community 1500m is to split the field up into a couple different sections, one for those aged 40+, one for a wave of runners faster than 5:30 and another for those slower. So this is not necessarily bad either, as masters running often gets the short end of the stick and it is cool for them (almost “us”) to have their own race. The reasoning given behind it though, is flawed: “We want to give spectators a good race.” That’s the reason why the race won’t simply be divided by ability. The first flaw is that there will be spectators. It’s on Sunday afternoon and anyone who came for the world record or celebrity races is not coming back. The spectators will be other competitors (who are not really watching but getting ready for their own events) or parents and friends (who are only watching if their kid/friend is in the race). So instead of having a section with say, all the runners of a certain ability, there will be two races with that group split. After the race, it will be inevitable: someone will say, “oh I wish we could have raced together.” And no one will understand the reasons why this was done because probably whoever decided it will be too embarrassed to say anything.
A final example: at the Redman Classic on the weekend, there was a delay as teams got ready to run the 4x400m relay because the people running the timing system refused to allow the race to go on unless they had all the names of the participants for each team. This makes sense, to a degree: you want to know who the players are. But the fact that this hadn’t been sorted out ahead of time (there was a system to do this, but not enough teams “checked-in” so they were taken off the start list) is the issue. It’s not entirely the fault of the pedantic score keepers. The teams should know better, too. But there should be a better system. There should be a way so that the athlete experience (i.e. getting to run your relay) is privileged over the mundane details of administration. Could the race not be run and timed and the names added later? Can we not have a central database (like swimming does) where everything can be easily assigned ahead of time? Apparently not, though some help may be on the way.