Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ultra Coaching: Some Others Got Me Thinking

This great post by Vanessa, about this great post by Geoff Roes on irunfar, has prompted me to share my own thoughts.

I'm preparing for my first 100miler, the Tahoe Rim Trail 100, this Summer as I train in Boulder. For ultrarunning, I have no coach. That doesn't mean I'm uncoached. I've joined a track club with which I'll be doing 5k/10k training as a supplement to long distance running. The combination of fast, leg beating track and tempo sessions and long mountain grinds has worked well for me for 50mile and 12hr races.
While extrapolating that to 100mile distance is a bit presumptuous(maybe even arrogant?), I feel compelled to keep doing what has worked. I ran a sub 17:00 5k in the same season that I ran a 7hr 50mile. Coincidence? I doubt it. After a long winter of doubles and indoor track workouts, I ran 78 miles in 12 hours. Again, likely related. These aren't as good as the times posted up by Geoff, but they earned me 1st place medals and I was surprised by my performance.

In a nutshell, My plan to measure my short runs in terms of pace, my long runs in terms of hours, and visualize the hell out of a solid race. I also plan to liberally apply lube to my ass crack.

But I'm a coach? Doesn't that make me a hypocrite?

I suppose in some ways it does. Personal trainers believe in the value of what they do. Does every personal trainer in the world have their own personal trainer? Not likely. Most of us are too broke for that. It's all about mixing different personalities and strengths to make the world a better place. I'm capable of fixing my computer and getting my own coaching site up and running. I'd rather pay my IT guru friend Ryan to do that. He's got skills I don't have, and rather than bumbling through it and doing a half assed job, I'll ask him for help and pay him for it. That train of thought makes me wonder where the animosity toward coaches came from. Do you pay for oil changes? It's one of the simplest tasks in the world, and people pay 3-4 times the cost of materials for the service every day. I do it myself, but I don't look down on folks who choose to hire it done. We all choose how to budget our time.

I don't feel that ultra coaching is like coaching shorter distances. To help an athlete find success at an ultra, a "here ya go, follow this schedule" approach may not cut it.  I think an ultra coach could be a member of a team. Example: I take on a client. She is the main foundation of the team, providing the determination, time, and willpower to train the race(80% of the work in an ultra). I, as a coach, help eliminate some of the guesswork, provide support when thengs are rough, and apply the knowledge I've learned in school and in the field to help her maximize the hard work she's doing. Not everyone loves to exhaustively research and would rather someone provide some guidance. This is why I've decided to do my little coaching project for runners of different distances and abilities.

This may sound offensive, but it's truly not my intent. I'm not trying to coach people to make a ton of cash. I hate being sold things as much as anyone else. That's why I don't aggressively market coaching services. I worked in a gym where I had to sell personal training packages. I felt sleazy and I quit to go work in a foundry. I'd rather get burned by molten iron than dupe people out of their hard earned money and hand it over to a manager who sees them as no more than profit. The opportunities I've had to help people achieve more than they assumed they could have been rewarding beyond monetary value. I currently have one client. I love sharing the ups and downs that come with the self-discovery of running.

But hey, its just a project for now. I'm not attached to outcome, but would rather just see where it takes me.

Thanks for the cool post Vanessa. It got me out of a writing dry spell helped me take a look at myself.
My misty view this morning as I contemplated this topic.
All blog posts need at least one picture.

3 comments:

  1. The primary reason to have a coach is to have somebody who can look at you and say, "Man you're looking good today." Jack Daniels

    I think there's truth in that, even over the internet. Really, there's nothing new in training. Anyone setting up their own schedule can do so easily, with a quick read of any number of books or magazines. But can they do it with confidence? Maybe not. And once that doubt creeps in, you can get off course.

    The coaches job, then, is to keep the Type A's from doing too much, and quell their neurosis. And it's to boost the confidence of those who lack it. It is, in simple terms, to motivate.

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  2. Well said, Alex. I think many assume there's some sort of wool that coaches pull over the eyes of their athletes. They know there are no wheels being reinvented. What's different is personality and work ethic. It makes an athlete more accountable than if they write their own plan. Ok, I beat that dead horse enough :)

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  3. Great post Jesse, I think the following paragraph from you're comments sums it up for me -

    ''I don't feel that ultra coaching is like coaching shorter distances. To help an athlete find success at an ultra, a "here ya go, follow this schedule" approach may not cut it. I think an ultra coach could be a member of a team. Example: I take on a client. She is the main foundation of the team, providing the determination, time, and willpower to train the race(80% of the work in an ultra). I, as a coach, help eliminate some of the guesswork, provide support when thengs are rough, and apply the knowledge I've learned in school and in the field to help her maximize the hard work she's doing.''

    I am coached (free of charge) by a short distance runner, although I prefer longer distance - such as Marathon and Ultra's. My coach has adapted plans/schedules to my needs for marathon training and I continue to do his shorter faster sessions within these structured plans.

    In his wise words - ''How can you expect to run a quick marathon (or Ultra, as the case may be), without being able to run a quick mile!!''.

    I think coaching through interval and tempo sessions helps a lot and as you said, the extra eye's looking upon your effort and training gives you reassurance and guidance.

    The answer to this question may also come down to the fact of - Do you want to complete or compete these long distance races? To complete, its really just about the milage in my opinion, but to compete at the highest level some structure is needed.

    Justin
    N. Ireland

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