Coach’s blog: Go for it!

The run streak continues. I’ve run 130 days consecutively since January 1, 2012. Actually it’s 131 because my last day off was Decmeber 30, 2011, but I’ll count the streak from day 1 of the year. Last night might have been the latest I’ve had to push it to get the run in. It was just a longer day than usual, with the wedding coming up, and I had to go from Robillard to Kent tracks for two different workouts in the afternoon (normally I would run to the Kent workout), and then I met with a new runner after that. So by the time I headed out to run it was 9:30pm. Not that late really, but later than usual.

It felt really good. I think I felt better than I have in a while on that run (maybe because the cold I’ve had for the last week has abated). It made me think of you guys. The runners I coach. Especially the fast ones. It made me think, man if I can get out an run every single day, and I’m a washed up old guy, then you kids should be able to train your diapers off! It was one of those moments that old guys have, those, “If I only knew then what I knew now” moments. What I was feeling was probably the lightness of the day slipping off my back as I headed out the door. It was also the consistency in my legs from heading out that door every day for the last four months. I have become the run. The habit is me.

The “moment” might also have been inspired by a nice talk with David Zilberman, an Olympian and member of the Montreal Wrestling Club. I also had recently watched the Cam Levins interview, in which he mentions that during his 150 mile per week build-up, he sometimes ran three times a day. I had these two Olympians’ simple, straightforward thoughts circling in my head.

David mentioned that in order for him to get to the Olympics, he understood that he had to train 3 times a day, just like Levins did. For a wrestler, it was quite varied: as a team they would play soccer or basketball in the morning for an hour or so. In the afternoon they would have a solid 3h wrestling practice, and there would also be a weights session. The actual wrestling practice only took place three times per week, but the training around that was quite voluminous. I hope the “three-a-day” thing doesn’t become like 10,000 hours, or even 100 miles per week: an arbitrary number simplified and reduced from its original significance. The point is not 3 or 10,000 or 100. The point is: become the habit.

Another thing Davis said was that the wrestlers trained through everything. Injury, illness, whatever. His reason was that if a big competition came up, and he was hurt or sick, he wanted to be able to handle it. I played devil’s advocate (or just argued with him I guess, because I’m not quite convinced of the wisdom of that strategy), and tried to explain that, at a certain point, training through illness or injury will just lead to further breakdown, and instead of taking a planned break, you have to take a forced one. But he just kind of looked at me with that “you’ll never be an Olympian with that attitude” look. Actually, he also asked about whether runners could do cross training when injured, and he seemed to be mollified when I told him that pool running could make up some of the difference, or biking or elliptical (in a pinch). But his certainty has made me wonder. Are runners too soft these days?

Yes, high mileage is de rigour once again, and it seems like an understanding that there are no shortcuts to success is back, and we are seeing the results of that among Canadian distance runners. There will be Canadian distance runners at the Olympics! So the ones who are getting there are not soft.

But my question is directed more at those who are not getting there. There are many different theories to distance running training, even if you assume a certain minimum amount of volume (100mpw?). Do you do an all-easy mileage build-up? Do you do the majority of quality work at vVO2max, or at threshold pace? Do you do hills? When and how? Long or short? Everyone has an idea of what could be done. The question that each athlete, along with his or her coach, should ask is: am I doing EVERYTHING I can do to reach my goal? Put another way: What ELSE can I do, today, to make my dreams come true?

I sometimes thing runners today play the game of talking about training more than training. Yes, I know this is a blog about training. I do think that talking about training can be beneficial to training, when used in a judicious and therapeutic way, but sometimes the talk that surrounds the workouts can be detrimental to the work getting done. Or, what I often find, is that there is actually NO relationship (positive or negative) to some of the chatter: I hear “I don’t feel 100%, my foot is kind of achy, I’m tired, I don’t know if I can do it” but then I see runners running pretty much what they should be running.

Normally I wouldn’t do this, but sometimes a quote from the Let’s Run message board can be good. If nothing else, they don’t spare the feelings. Here is poster “CONTO” responding to someone who says they don’t have time to run 100 miles in a week:

“no offense, but that’s because you’re probably pretty poor at time management.

I worked full time (7:30 AM-6:00 PM), had 2 kids, a 55 minute commute each way, and built an online training system in my spare time in evenings and still ran 100 mile weeks with never… not once, running while my children were awake (I was helped along on weekends that they napped while I was doing that).

And you’re telling me you’re in college and you can’t fit in more then 100? That’s messed up. Not saying you should run more then 100… just saying using time as an excuse is poor, imho.

100 mile weeks is really easy. 10 and 5 a day is 105. 20 on Sunday makes it 110. Get up at 6:00 and be done with your 5 before 7:00. The 10 will be your normal practice time. If you can’t get up at 6:00, you’re going to bed too late, because that’s not that early. And that’s 120 assuming you only run 10 every practice. With warmups and cooldowns and stuff, you probably have many days greater then 10… which means you’ll be over 120.

The trick? You need to run doubles every day but Sunday. That’s 30 miles tacked on for an extra 35 minutes a day (fine, 50 minutes if you account for shower and getting ready).

Seems really easy to me. I wish I was still in college from a time to do things perspective. Wait until you graduate if you don’t think you have time now, you have no hope later.”

Sure, there are plenty of reasons why running 100 miles per week is harder than this. Exams, part-time job, boy troubles, girl troubles, roommate troubles…whatever. Also, it makes you tired. The fact remains that the single limiting factor in a runner’s ability to get the work done is his or her own will. Just decide to do it. Then go do it. (There’s a running shoe slogan in there somewhere.) Does it matter whether you do a tempo on Monday or Tuesday? No, just do the tempo. Does it matter whether you run 10miles in the morning or in the afternoon? No, just run 10miles. To be honest, for most of the runs (80-90% of them) even the PACE you run them at is not all that important. Just go run. There is time every day to run. You only have to be particular about running pace maybe 2 or 3 times per week. Strides don’t count as worrying about pace (easy to do that every day, too: Cam talked about sprinting. Strides every day, people, strides every day.)

For students, this should be a joke. Of course you will have to sacrifice some things. But what’s a bigger sacrifice, giving up a couple beers and the third period of a playoff game your team is not even playing in, or giving up on your dreams? Not watching that funny youtube clip or finishing your reading so you can go to bed and be ready for a morning run? There is a limited amount of time in your day, yes. I dare you to catalogue every minute of it and see how busy you really are. How much time do you waste? (count this reading blog as useful time only if you decide to act on it!)

Even if you have a job, you can do this. “This” being do all that is necessary to be a really good runner. Check out this guy, John Mason. I dare you to go on his blog or twitter or facebook and say, hey man, I am too busy for running. He will punch you in the face. Actually, he might not, he’s probably a nicer guy than that. But at the very least he will look at you with scorn and disdain. Or maybe ask Matt McInnes, two-time Canadian marathon champ, and emergency room doctor, about how tough you have it and you don’t have time to be good at running. Or how about Lanni Marchant, for the ladies, who is the 9th fastest Canadian woman to run a marathon. She is also a practicing lawyer. If these people can do it, you can do it. There’s no such thing as not enough time. Just “I don’t want to make enough time.”

So suck it up, and get it done. If you make it, it will be because you decided to make it. If you don’t make it, it will be because you decided not to. Nothing else.