Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: coaching

I Need A Pissing Contest – Why I’m Going To Get Coaching


I’m pulling the trigger and getting some coaching this year.

I’ve been quasi-diagnosed with ODD by some lesser-known psychologists, but I’m actually pretty coachable. The way I look at it, if I’m paying someone (or committing my time even) for coaching, I’m going to be all-in and do what they ask of me. Even if that’s at odds with the way I’m used to doing things.

People who know me may read that and think I’m delusional for saying it, but I’m a slave to a training schedule. I do what it says. Most of the time anyway. And I trust it–sometimes to a fault. That’s what it means to be coachable–trusting the coach and doing what they say to do. No questions.

But I can read the research and follow a schedule on my own. That’s part of the reason I’ve never sought out any coaching for triathlon. Well, that, and I’m cheap.

I don’t need a coach to motivate me to do something I love, right? And I’m pretty hard on myself during training. I know how to dig down deep and get more from my body than it wants to give.

I’m a “pusher”.

At least I thought I was before last year. But 2012’s results have me a little worried that is no longer the case.

Let me back up…

When I first started training to run distance in 2003, I’d been playing rugby pretty much continually for 10 years. A lot of rugby training translates to endurance sports, so it was really easy transition for me. I already had pretty good endurance and strength base, with an especially strong core.

Yes,there are muscles under there.

In that 10 years, I’d never let my fitness go either, and I was used to a rigorous training schedule. There were off-seasons in rugby, but that was a lot like recovery periods for endurance training, and I always kept up my maintenance training during those times as well.

I’m not claiming I was ever the fittest guy on the team, but I was often the fittest guy over 200 pounds.

But more importantly, I had built up a gritty mentality. All of our squad training and most of my training outside was done with the same group of guys or a subset of them. That meant you always had someone watching, even if there wasn’t a coach around. There was always someone there to see you quit. There was always someone who would know if you were bagging it during a sprint. There was always a guy in the weight room who could lift more and would push you to lift more. Everyone had little injuries and hurts at all times, and there was always someone hurt worse than you who was still playing.

It made for a very testosterone driven atmosphere. That was a good thing. I’m not saying that it motivated everyone to push themselves to their limits, and I’m not claiming I always did either. I had my share of lazy days. But that atmosphere and the fact that not everyone was lazy on the same days kept the bar set at a pretty high level at all times. You knew the days you didn’t reach that expectation, just like you knew which guys didn’t care if they ever reached it.

And some of us never wanted to be “that guy”.

So you pushed. You didn’t have a choice.

That was the mentality I had when I started training for endurance sports, and for the next 3 years. Even when I went through periods of what I like to call “taper-training“, where I was really lazy, I could always show up on race day and find some push.

Fast-forward to January 2012. I decided to get back into training for long distances. I decided to kick it off with a 70.3, but I wasn’t really happy with those results. So I decided to do a marathon to try to fix what was ailing my run. And I wasn’t happy with those results either.

I stuck with the schedule for both of these events, and I was really happy with my effort level during training. So why didn’t I get the results I wanted?

I’m not one to beat myself up over that kind of stuff for long. But I have realized there’s a problem that goes beyond the fact that I’m getting older. Injuries and heat aren’t going to cut it for long term excuses either–those are just a fact of racing that everyone has to deal with. So the last few weeks I’ve been doing some reflection, and I think I know what may have happened. It all began at the beginning.

Here’s what my starting point looked like in 2012:

I hadn’t done anything more than an Olympic distance tri since 2006. 10k was the furthest I’d run. I was living in a house with 4 women. Granted, three of them were under 5 years old, but still, it’s pretty much a testosterone-free zone.

I was living in a new town, not actively playing rugby. So I didn’t have an expectation there to meet, and I didn’t even have the peer pressure of being around guys I used to train with and the pissing contests that were involved in everything they do (rugby, running, lifting, eating, drinking, skirt-chasing, etc.).

That, I think, is the real problem in a nutshell...I haven’t been living in a perpetual pissing contest.

And I like pissing contests. I need pissing contests.

I wasn’t coming into training in couch-potato shape or anything like that. I don’t think fitness is the problem at all. I think I may have forgotten what it’s like to push. I mean really push. I think it’s something I may have unlearned. I mean, I think I’m pushing during training, but how can I tell if I really am?

So that’s where coaching comes in. A coach can see what you’re doing from the outside and test you, make you run that one extra interval. A coach can throw you a surprise workout that an 18 week schedule can’t. A coach can disrupt everything. A good coach will do all of these things.

Hopefully, a coach can help me reset my definition of what “push” means.

So I’m starting a triathlon specific swim clinic at the gym on Tuesday. I’m hoping everything about my swim gets torn apart and rebuilt. I’m in a good situation to do that–my cardio is fine, so I can handle long workouts, but I haven’t been swimming enough lately to have my horrible habits burned into my muscle memory in the way they would have been if I was coming off a training plan.

I’m planning on a running coach for February and beyond too. I’m hoping to maybe fix some mechanics, and definitely fix my head.

If I’m completely wrong, and I don’t get pushed that much, at least I’ll get some information I didn’t have before, meet some training partners, get some new workouts, and a new source of accountability.

But I’m pretty sure I’m right about the pushing thing.

Trying A Running Program That Fits My Style and Lifestyle

When I first started running just after the turn of the century (haha) I sought out some experts and tried to leverage their knowledge as best I could. That meant using the Hal Higdon (awesome running coach) Novice Marathon program, reading message boards that focus on training, and finding some locals who gave me good advice based on years of experience (“If we’re running so fast we can’t talk, we’re running too fast.”)

Around the same time, some guys at Furman University were starting to do some research on running based on science. I know…the horror! At FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training), what they learned flew in the face of the observed conventional wisdom coaches had been passing along for years.  The result was a program featuring only three days of running a week.

Ah…there’s something worth noting there. It’s not a three days of exercise program. It’s a three days of running program. The program has at least two other days of cross-training. And the three days of running are all difficult–intervals one day, tempo runs another, and a long-distance day that doesn’t let you go as slow as you want. It’s slower for sure, but still challenging.

No easy running days.

Personally, I’m not short changing the conventional wisdom at all. I followed the Higdon programs for many distances and was very happy with my results. These programs will get you where you want to be, for sure. My only real complaints with them are the number of days I have to spend running , which really takes its toll on my knees, and the fact that there are a lot of slow/easy miles involved, which is against my natural tendency is to try to race every day. Granted,  it takes some restraint on my part to run these miles without going hard, and there are some valuable lessons to be learned there about patience and restraint that can really help on race day. I haven’t learned those lessons as well as I’d like, but I know the lessons are there.

But this weekend I grabbed a copy of Run Less, Run Faster at the library and gave it a really quick scan. It looks like a really thick book, but lots of the pages are calculated pace tables, so only a small part of that material will apply to any one person. I’d read the Runner’s World article about FIRST a few years ago, so I was already familiar with the basic concepts and reasoning laid out in the book.

I was a little disappointed that the marathon programs in the book start with a 13 mile run on week one and feature five 20 mile runs. That’s probably a great program if you’re coming into the training in marathon shape, but I was looking for a beginners/not-quite-ready-for-marathon version. A web search turned up this schedule, which seems like it was part of the FIRST program…I’m just not sure why it’s not in the book.

Right now I’m working on getting ready for a 10k test in mid-July to determine what my predicted marathon pace will be and hopefully squeeze every second I can out of my finish time. This is so I can go into my next 70.3 with the best running base possible and fix what’s ailing me there. This, so I can (hopefully) convince myself I’m ready to tackle the 140.6 distance. Lots of miles ahead of me.

Another Daggum Link Dump!

‘Blue Christmas’ drug bust targets illegal prescription drug sales in Brevard – Big day tomorrow for mugshots!

Tools vs insight – I am Jack’s complete astonishment that Seth Godin can come up with these amazing posts for his blog on a daily basis. I would read it in a box, and I would read it with a fox.

Does Beer Affect Your Training? – I was warned not to read this, but I did anyway. Dammit.

Rethinking the Value of the Brick Run for Long Course Triathlon – And here I was thinking I was bucking the system by doing “rested bricks” on the weekends. Sounds like I may have been on to something.

How to Make a Citizen’s Arrest – Yes!

If Everyone Else is Such an Idiot, How Come You’re Not Rich? – Atlantic Mobile – Great article from someone who is NOT an idiot.

Stop Trying to Coach People Who Shouldn’t Be Coached! – This applies to so many people in so many situations. And I’ve been all four of these people at one time or another as well. I try my best to be coachable though.

Proper Pacing for Your Best Run – I’ve always just used HR control on the bike and tried to build a good run with negative splits with whatever I had left. There are some good ideas here I could definitely use to improve at different distances.

Cuba Libre! – Check out @hungrymother featured in this article!

A Food Label That Actually Teaches You About Food – There should be a “nom nom” graph on there somewhere too.

Delicious Link Dump– December 15th through December 17th

8 More PowerPoint Train Wrecks – I went to a great 2 day coaching clinic last weekend. About 10 minutes of the 2 days included the use of PowerPoint. Coincidence?

In Search Of Clark Griswold’s House – You have to check every single light individually.

Carbonhagen Meltdown – LOL! “…riots, madness, styrofoam cups, people eating meat, real fur coats, CFC-laden hairspray cans, it’s crazy.”


45 Free Online Computer Science Courses | – Street Fighting Mathematics? I’m in.

In pictures: Zambia’s leading lady in the ring – My buddy I.B. sent me this. He’s an Indian guy who grew up in Zambia and has a British accent. He also wrote the first code editor I’m aware of that allowed you to highlight and comment a complete block of code.

With U.S. Opportunities Dim, Expats Return Home – That’s a relief. Now we don’t have to worry about them taking our jobs. Oh…wait a minute…

More Rugby Learnin’ — Technique is For Sissies


I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but…

I attended a USA Rugby coaching clinic this weekend that was phenomenal. It could not have been more different than the USA Rugby “education” sessions I’ve attended in the past. Admittedly, I had very low expectations coming in, but this was time well spent.

A big part of it focused on coaching in general, not just coaching rugby, and it could have applied to any sport–any subject for that matter. Another benefit was that it actually reminded me of one of my weaknesses of being more of a big picture person. I tend to focus more on the “why” and “how” than on “exactly how”. I’m more likely to think about strategy first, then spend the bulk of my time on the various tactics I can use to implement that strategy. Technique seems to get lost in the shuffle a lot of the time.

If you’ve ever seen me do anything other than type on a computer, you know technique is not my strong point.

So, where would you guess my weakness is as a coach? Duh. Teaching technique. I need to remember that going forward and make an effort to focus more on technique and fight my urge to always move on to the next tactic.

Another option–try to align myself with people who excel at coaching technique. I like that option better. Then I wouldn’t have to work on my coaching technique so much. 😀

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