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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Change

I kept moving in the water, arms pumping, legs turning, without a belt.  In college, my coach Ben Thomas taught us to pool run without a belt, so it is the only way I've ever learned to pool run.  You basically stay afloat by using your core along with swinging your arms and legs to keep moving within the water to stay afloat.  Obviously, you need to do it in deep water so your feet don't touch the ground(no cheating!).  To make it harder, I do intervals where I hold my arms steady(without swinging them), and just use my legs and core to keep me afloat.  You can feel your entire body working very hard.  I also do "the robot" where I swing my arms and legs straight without bending them.  I'll do these for 1 lap intervals with "regular runs" in between as recovery, or I'll do each exercise without breaks for a longer period of time.

I began to daydream as I continued...

I flashed back to the race 11 months ago.  Such a great feeling, running like there were no limits.  5:00 pace for miles...











"Colder today," the old man said to me as he got into the pool.

I swung back to reality of where I actually was in the indoor aquatic center.  

"Yes, it takes a bit longer to warm up today."  

The last 6 weeks I have averaged not more than 15-20 miles/week, and I've been doing a lot of cross training.  I've had plenty of time not running or running very little, so I've substituted pool running as one of my favorite cross training activities.  I also feel like I need to get back in the habit of doing it once/week again like I used to.  So I've gotten to know some of the people in the pool at the Germantown Aquatic Center.  In addition to the pool running, I've been cycling a few times per week, and really have been enjoying it.

I am going by feel when I feel I am ready to run more and train again.  I've needed the break.  My body had been going strong for years, and the number of miles it has done required a period of re-building and resting.  It has been a long time since I have taken this long of a break.  I needed it.  I am starting to feel recharged and re-energized and it is a really refreshing feeling.  My foot is continuing to get much better and needed the rest.  It is not as noticeable as it used to be, and continues to dissipate through the rest, but it also needed a lot of restrengthening so I have been doing a lot of that in my strength training routine, thanks to Tom Stott at Performance Sports Insititute.  I know when it is time, I will be ready to go again.    

But I thought back to where my running has been the last few years, and what I need to do going forward.  I looked at my past years of logs and races I have run.  The last time I was injured was during college and high school where too much of the intensity got me hurt.  I overdid things a lot then.  In 2007, I began self coaching myself and studying how to learn the art of balancing mileage with intensity.  This has become my own coaching style and it worked for me when I self coached myself.  I didn't see success from my self coaching immediately.  It took time.  I had to learn and study the training of many different coaches.  Pfitzinger, Douglas, Hudson, Daniels, Lydiard.  I coached myself while running for different clubs for 7 years.  I bounced ideas off of runners I have known in the area to help me.  I was successful at it, but then I got to a point where it was just monotonous.  I felt I needed a coach who really understood the level I had gotten to, someone to help me push to the next, and to make a push for the Olympic Trials standard.  I had learned how to train in a balanced way, but I needed to have someone else guide me with racing strategy as well as an overall plan.  When you coach yourself, it is really hard to look at the overall picture and it is only yourself you have to go back to.  Even if you are a coach yourself, it is very hard and mentally exhausting(in addition to the runners you coach!) to do all of this on your own.  Danielle is a great example of this-she is a fantastic coach at Univ of MD-she is super successful and experienced(I look up to her!), but she wanted to have me as her coach for the marathon distance this fall.  She needed a plan that she could follow without mentally wearing herself out by trying to figure it all out on her own.  She also needed someone like me to look at good possible race options for her-we agreed Richmond was a great choice.  She had a fantastic debut marathon and experience, finishing in 3:15, and negative splitting 1:40/1:35.  It was a really happy moment for both of us as coaches and athletes.  We both understood the gratification of being both a coach and athlete.




Regards to my own running, while the first half of 2016 was the most successful I have had, the second half was a complete shutdown.  And that's ok-it happens, and I think it has led to what I talk about below...that I need a change.  I called Roland after the finish of this season, and I respectfully disagreed with some of the things he felt were wrong.  While he assumed I had been running too fast on easy days, I could not disagree more.  My argument was that I have been running simply too much, and that I was off balance.  The reason I felt this way is that my quality actually suffered the second half of the year.  My good friend(and great coach of the Bridgewater Eagles), Brian Flynn completely sees what has happened from his perspective-he's been watching my training for a long time and he told me he couldn't believe how low my quality was this time around and how very little of it there was.  "You get to a point where you're just running to burn calories, you're not doing the specific quality you need to do to get better.  And, you're running so many junk miles-what good does that do?" he said.  I agreed, because come to think of it, I had been running slow all the time.  Too much running, and too much slow running!  And, I couldn't run fast because I was tired from all the junk mileage.  While I wasn't running fast, I also wasn't recovering.  Mileage is important, but it's not the only thing that develops runners.  This goes back to my own coaching strategy of balancing mileage with intensity.  Eventually one of them tips over if it gets off balance.  Just like I used to get injured from too much intensity while in high school and college, the exact opposite has happened now.

I continued to talk to Roland about my theories, but eventually while he agreed to take the mileage down, there were other areas I felt like I needed to change as well.  I felt that the continuous long runs he had me do week after week actually beat me up too much to not be able to race a marathon well the last few years.  In fact, the last marathon I have finished was in 2012(when I coached myself).  Yes I can handle a lot of miles/week more than others, and the long run is important, but there is a limit to that.  "I can't be doing 20 mile long runs after 20(sometimes 26-28!) mile long runs every week, and expect to get to the marathon starting line healthy," I said.  Of course I had already done the damage.  It seemed that every time the fall season came around, my body crashed one way or the other.  I mean, I can handle a lot of miles, but again, there is a limit to that if I want to get faster.  Perhaps I needed to see it through and explore that limit.  It's done now.     

Another thing I disagreed with is tapering strategy.  I never agreed with anything really hard inside of 10 days before a hard half marathon.  Maybe a little bit of tune up stuff, but nothing crazy fast or hard if it is a peak race.  I saved myself by doing my own thing 10 days before and a bit of my own self coaching to get me to the starting line healthy in order to run a 1:06 half marathon-which I did.  Tying up those loose ends and editing things are what kept me running some fast races in the process while benefiting from all the training I did leading up to those races.  It's all about balance.   

Richmond, VA.

I went to Richmond, to cheer on a lot of clients I coach and it was a great day for running.  Everyone I coached PR'd.  It made me happy to see everyone do so well especially when my own season went down the hole.  While there, I saw George Buckheit.    

"I didn't want to tell you this at the time, but when you were doing all these 20 mile long runs over the summer, I knew you weren't going to make it to the marathon starting line," said George.  I agreed.

"Give me a call, we'll talk about it."  

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I had a great conversation with George and have decided to switch coaches.  It feels right to have him coach me.  He has been at the highest level-in his prime he ran 13:43 for the 5K, 28:39 for the 10K, and 65:18 for the half marathon.  He has coached a 2012 British Olympic Marathoner, (Claire Hallisey-2:27 PB), and currently coaches Susanna Sullivan, one of DC's top female runners in pretty much anything from the mile to the marathon.  She is one of the few Olympic Trials qualifiers from DC, and finished an impressive 20th in the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.  He also coached Chris Mills, a 1:05 half marathoner who I trained with one winter before he moved to Florida.  George is the right move for me at this time, and I need the change.  I need to go back to the more balanced approach I used to have, and he understands that at the very high level I am at, the thing I am trying to do now is to perform.  I no longer need to pile on all these miles and wear myself out.

Below is an outline of the history of coaches I have had, including when I self coached myself, and teams I ran for.  The times in red mean they were PRs at the time.  It reminds me of the really long way I have come.  All you high school runners out there who are trying to break 5:00 for the mile, be patient, and do not underestimate what you can do with more years and miles under your belt.  I started somewhere.  There is a lot I am still hoping to find out about myself and I know I have a really fast marathon in me.  The Miles of Trials, Trials of Miles.

One interesting thing I found out about George is that he and I share the same birthday-June 26 (except 1957 vs 1983).

Up Next: 2017 Race Schedule and the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon Standard


2016...Coach: Roland Rust
Club: Saucony Hurricanes
5K: 15:13
10K: 31:16
10M: 50:32 (current PR)
13.1M: 1:06:50 (current PR)

2015...Coach: Roland Rust 
Club: Saucony Hurricanes
Mile: 4:21 (current PR)
5K: 14:49 (current PR)
8K: 25:04
10K: 31:29
12K: 37:37 (current PR)
10M: 50:56

2014...Self Coached until May began with Roland Rust 
Club: DC Elite
3K: 8:48 (current PR)
5K: 15:13
8K: 25:01
10K: 30:43 (current PR)
10M: 50:57
13.1M: 1:07:29

2013...Self Coached
Club: DC Elite
Mile: 4:26
5K: 14:53
10K: 30:43
10M: 51:35
13.1M: 1:08:51

2012...Self Coached
Club: =PR= Race Team
Mile: 4:26
5K: 14:58
8K: 25:08
10K: 30:56
10M: 51:44
13.1M: 1:09:27
26.2M: 2:35:09 (current PR)

2011...Self Coached
Club: =PR= Race Team
Mile: 4:27
5K: 15:13
8K: 25:32
10K: 31:26
10M: 52:54
13.1M: 1:08:39
26.2M: 2:37:21

2010...Self Coached
Club: Georgetown Running Club
5K: 16:18
8K: 26:50
10K: 32:51
10M: 54:16
13.1M: 1:12:57

2009...Self Coached
Club: Georgetown Running Club
5K: 16:31
8K: 26:52
10K: 33:29
13.1M: 1:15:33
26.2M: 2:43:00

2008...Self Coached
10K: 34:16
13.1M: 1:17:37

2007...began Self Coaching

COLLEGE(Virginia Tech 2001-2006) 

2006...Coach: Kelly Rusk
13.1M: 1:16:27

2005...Coach: Kelly Rusk
10K: 34:20
10M: 55:30
13.1M: 1:13:13
26.2M: 2:38:48 (debut)

2004...Coach: Kelly Rusk
10M: 58:06
13.1M: 1:16:21 (debut)

2001-2003...Coaches: Ben Thomas, Mary Jane Harrelson
College: Virginia Tech
3K: 9:10
5K: 16:17
8K: 27:00 
10K: 34:50

HIGH SCHOOL(Quince Orchard 1997-2001)

2000-2001...Coach: Seann Pelkey
400m: 54 (current PR)
800m: 2:03 (current PR)
1600m: 4:34
3200m: 9:55
5K: 16:40 

1999...Coach: Seann Pelkey 
1600m: 4:49

1998...Coach: Jerry Link
1600m: 5:04
3200m: 10:54
3 Mile: 16:31 

1997...Coach: Jerry Link
3 Mile: 17:47 

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