Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A sweet shift. Part 1

Not since I was coached by Scott Jurek have I seen the kind of progress I am experiencing now. October I hired Sean Coster (on the recommendation of my friend Kristin) who owns Complete Running. He didn't actually just LET me pay for services.  There was an initial meeting where we discussed why I wanted to hire him.  I knew Sean from back in the day when Stacey and were Hagg Lake 50K RD's. No introductions were necessary but I sensed he wanted to make sure we were a match with regards to goals and philosophies. I was craving the running ability I knew I was capable of.  Something I gladly gave up to become a Leadman. My focus from diligent run training to master the mountain bike enough to achieve my goal took precedence. I wouldn't change that for the anything! Becoming a Leadman was on my list of "Holy Crap Can I Do That" list since I watched the mountain bike race with Beast while prepping for The Grand Slam.

Though my main goal was to regain my confidence and running ability I had another goal.  I needed to shake the attitude or clean out the mental junk drawer. The drawer had accumulated a lot of trash. Stuff I had been telling myself and negative ideas I created. Some of the biggies: I am getting old, I was never fast anyway, everything is going to hurt and a few others I can't remember.  Basically a drawer full of crap! It was time to make an adjustment. Not only did I need a good training plan I needed a good mental coach. I know full well that in order for me to change the way I think I need to do things. I can't just buy into the "I'm Great" idea without action. There's a quote posted on a billboard I drive by daily that says, "A goal without a plan is just a wish". I am not able to sit down, write a bunch of positive things down, read it and believe it.  I need to experience it through results and find a journey that forever cements a new outlook. I can however, clean out the drawer. I can dump the crap in the garbage and decide to be nicer to myself.

During our meeting I wanted to be clear I wasn't looking to be a better ultra runner.  I was looking to be a better runner. After an initial time trial at the Nike Campus it became clear to Sean what I needed to work on.  My mind was open.  I left all preconceived ideas of who I was as a runner and what I've accomplished behind. I was a clean slate ready to gobble up all the advice and direction he could dish out.  That is the best place to be when hiring a coach or mentor.  Otherwise it's wasted money and time. After watching me run, attempt drills, sprint and move it was clear I had potential but there was work to be done. My body was off, my stride was funky, my arms didn't move and my high end cardio was absent. There were drills and bounding I couldn't even do, tests I simply failed and though frustrating I was more determined. I found loads of humor in just how stuck I had become. I was really excited to make changes......on so many levels.

The plan:  I am sucker for detail.  The more detail the better. The schedule was incredibly well thought out.  Though nothing I've done before I was excited to give something new a try. The general phase training I was used to wasn't there, the pacing stuff wasn't there and no general periodizaiton training I could identify. In addition to the running there is strength training and drills. The goal is to improve my form, get me off my feet using drills (not shown in the schedule), fire up my fast twitch neuromuscular system and stamina. At this point my endurance was not part of the picture.
 A typical week would like this.

Conversational run w/ 4 x 20m of A and B skips at end;  good day for Bikram (after run)
2 mi w/u + 4 x 1 mile in 7.15 w/ 200m jog for recovery between each + 2 mi c/d
Recovery to Conversational run;  focus of form
Day off

w/ 6 x 60s runs uphill at tempo effort w/ jog down for recovery
Long run
Conversational w/ last 30 min a moderate to steady
w/ 4 x 20m of A and B skips + 6 x 200m strides


Recovery run
w/ 4 x 150m top speed accelerations
Fast and smooth running
8 -12 x 400m @ 1.52/400m (~7.30 pace)
Moderate run

Conversational run
w/ 4 x 150m top speed acclerations
Tempo running
2 mi w/u + 4 x 8 min at tempo effort w/ 2 min jog + 1 mi c/d
Cross train/ride

Long run
After 25 minutes moderate to steady


Though the description would say recovery, tempo, etc and he had paces based my time trial those were secondary to the FEEL.  This was a big road block I had to over come.  I had to learn how things FELT rather than solely relying on my Garmin. I spent years using The Daniels Method for my key workouts where pace is a key, I did years of Heart Rate Training where HR was key so this FEEL thing was not easy for me. He supplied me a detailed guide defining the FEEL of each of these. I studied it trying to visualize and think about how my body would FEEL during the effort. In October when I started with Sean I used the paces as my key guide but worked very hard to adopt the ability to FEEL it, to be in my body mentally.  I noticed right off, at that time, I didn't have much association with anything past easy and hard. Nothing in between had any kind FEEL association in my brain. I knew it was first because I have never looked at my training from this angle and second because my fitness would need to evolve. When I say evolve I mean my gears, different speeds or whatever you want to call it needed to be developed. In order for the speeds to have a FEEL I needed to be able to do them with more emotion than just plain hard!

Now into this for 20 weeks where I have not missed one workout I can report the changes are quite dramatic. Not only did my 1/2 marathon time come down from 8:20ish pace when I started to a 7:41 pace in January but my low end has made some huge improvements.  When I started I would run my 9 mile conversational run at 9:45ish at 142 beats avg.  Today I'm running my 9 mile (same route) conversational at 9:01 and 138 beats avg.  Pretty freakin awesome!! My track times for 400M (8-12 intervals) were at 1:49 and now at 1:38.  The proof is in the numbers. There are many other interesting adjustments or side effects this training has helped create.  I'll go into that next time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Winter! Short and Sweet..

Generally winters are long for me.  The gray sky's take their toll on my mood. This winter has been less gray, less wet and I have felt reborn.  It was a long late summer for me.  I raced poorly and spent the good part of late July through December very sick.  Off and on illnesses that were explained away as the flu.  I was wondering how many times can one person get the flu! After lots of tests, a couple of trips to the hospital, a lot of blood draws and much resistance on my part I finally got an answer.  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from some random tick bite I never knew I had.  It was one of the most frightening and frustrating periods of time. Not knowing what is wrong and professionals validating there's a seriously problem but not having an answer is not good for a control freak. Also, I have devoted my much of my free time to living and creating a healthy lifestyle. To be told that might not be happening gave me anxiety. Thanks to my persistent, relentless, curious doctor I finally got an answer and treatment. The CDC still wants to believe I had something else but each time they take more blood, send it back to Colorado, test it differently it kept coming back with the same bug.  So, I am just going to say RMSF is in Oregon folks! It's a terrible hard to detect bug so wear your 100% Deet and check yourself for bites.

All the while I still worked on running.  I fought hard to do workouts. I made some minimal progress from October (when I hired a coach) to December. I ran an all out 10K in Early October to get a baseline.  My goal was to get my running speed back. I was able to squeak out an 8 min pace for a flat 10K.  I fought hard through good days and bad days not knowing I was carrying this lovely bug around. On Thanksgiving I set out run as hard as I could at the local 10K Turkey Trot to see how much I progressed just to be slapped in the face. Just 3 days out the hospital I should have known better but I guess I was just hopeful.

In early December I ran the Holiday Half Marathon which was slated as another time trial for me. I was still not completely well but was better. I had high hopes and though I was severely hampered with breathing issues I was able to do 8:15 pace. Not at all what I had hoped for but at this point in my life I was just happy to be running.  Honestly I had began to decide I might have some weird auto immune disease and I needed to come to grips with the how my new life was going to be. Alex came to me one night with tears and flat out asked me if I had Cancer or something horrible and was I going to die. Thank God that all ended by mid December! I was diagnosed and was done with the simple Antibiotics. I was a whole new person by mid December! I didn't realize how sick and crappy I really felt until I felt better. Months and months of measuring my weeks by announcing to Bill I had a good day was over! Each day would start off with a hope I'd feel better and on occasion, usually after a day of being so sick I slept most of it away after an hour run, I would be thrown a bone. It was over and I was back to my old self I hardly knew.  If it wasn't for Chris and Carrie (BRF's) to drag me along and motivating me through their runs I might have thrown in the towel.  This is why we need running partners :)

With a clean bill of health and whole new outlook I was able to think about races and fun things I wanted to do.  My first goal was running speed. With my Coach committed to forgetting I'm an ultra runner and train me solely for speed I was on my way.  Now the workouts were paying dividends!  My track times were coming down and progress was being made.  There is nothing more motivating than making progress.  Measurable, quantifiable results are what we all need.  I ran the 20.13K in forest grove at an 8 min pace then ran the Vancouver Lake Half Marathon in a 7:41 pace.  I was so excited!  It's not anywhere near my PR just 4 years ago but it was serious progress as of late.  
Last weekend I ventured up to Orcas Island 50K.  Not at all in shape for this very hard 50K I second guessed myself all the way up the final 10 miles of the race.  My coach didn't really have much to say about whether or not I should do this.  He felt I had the endurance in my body somewhere and more than enough experience to understand it.  He left it up to me.  My longest run since September was 17 miles of which only 9 was on trail.  Everything I've been doing has been on the road. I have been in the weight room working on solid honest to god Deadlifting with Chris and Jeron at Savage Strength.  This has been awesome for my running form, glute strength and hip mobility.  All the things I have been (and most runners) struggling with for a while. It's really key to keeping me injury free. During Orcas I was surprised at how all that I have been doing played well into this event. I started out in the back where I belonged and took it easy for the first 15.  Since I thought the wheels were going to fall off at about 20 miles I wanted to be smart and realistic.  I ended up running negative splits and actually felt amazing at mile 20 and decided I would throw caution to the wind. I ran the first 14.6 in 3:46 and finished in 7:16, can't complain! I had never been to Orcas Island before and since this was a Rainshadow event I couldn't pass up the chance to see it.  Beautiful!  I was in a state of pure bliss all day.We got a bluebird day taboot! My quads were pretty sore on Sunday.  Can't remember the last time a 50K did this to me but it was a great injection of wilderness.