Please interpret the sarcasm in the title. Thanks.
With that in mind though, I met with The Coach, “Coach”, “Coach Matt”, Matt, El General Supremo, etc. yesterday to get the 101 on his coaching style, philosophies, and to develop a plan for the coming year of running and racing.
Now, initially I was expecting that the 2010 plan would be about picking an appropriate spring marathon to train for, weighing the positives and negatives of its race date and then looking towards Chicago for a possible go at qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials. I was only partially right and this is the benefit of having a coach who has devoted many, many years to the science of running, even rubbing elbows with Mr. Lydiard himself. Before we even got to discussing a spring marathon he laid out a plan for me that culminates in running the 500 Festival Mini Marathon, which is a half-marathon, on May 1st as my primary spring race, meaning everything builds up to that. Upon bouncing back from that race, we will then gear up for a go at Chicago.
The idea behind this, as he explained, is to concentrate intensely on building my speed, the speed I’ll need during marathon training to qualify for the trials in the fall. This, makes perfect sense, and shows a fundamental mistake I might have been making without him as a coach, if I decided to train for a Spring marathon followed by a Fall marathon. Sure, I would put in the appropriate work for a race like that, but it’s not advisable to train for a marathon again and again and again, as the workouts and efforts are geared for that specific distance and tend to neglect other areas of running progression. Diversity is strength.
Training for this shorter distance will also give me more opportunities to knock out some faster, shorter races while still putting in solid training. It’s much easier to do this, to practice the speed training, while running shorter races, without compromising the quality needed for the important workouts during the weeks. On a personal note, I’ve really been wanting to knock down my 5k and 10k PR’s, but didn’t get the chance while training for Chicago, because I was concentrating on running more key longer races, like 1/2’s and 15k’s and the like. I mean, my 5k PR is 15:47, which is pretty decent by my standards, but I was beating that time during workouts leading up to Chicago. So, if I can kill that time in the middle of marathon training, DURING a workout, I can only imagine what I’ll do to that during a race. Then again, that’s neither here nor there. Let’s keep our eyes on the big picture.
That big picture is qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials. And believe me, that’s a BIG picture. Matt said to me, he thinks I can run sub 2:19, which is the qualifying time for the trials. Admittedly, he said if I ran well under 2:19 he’d be quite surprised, but still, he thinks I can run 2:19. So do I….I think. It’s hard to say. I don’t have a lot of experience in the marathon, and when I make my go in Chicago, it will only be my second road marathon. And that’s quite a jump in time too….going from 2:25:55 to 2:18:59. Seven minutes. That span of time will haunt me for the coming year. I just know it. In a marathon it seems a lot less insurmountable than a 1/2 marathon, but it’s not really. That’s still a huge chunk of time to cut down.
And that makes me relieved to know I’ll be preparing for it for almost the entire year…fine tuning not just my marathon endurance, but more importantly, my speed, my muscle strength, my running economy, etc. I’m cutting nothing close on this one. I’ll be working myself like a machine.
But let’s also keep this in perspective. The goal of competitive running is about progression, always progression. We hit one time and then we want to hit one quicker. Over and over and over. It’s simply a race, quite literally, to see how fast we can run any determined distance before our body, or circumstance, says “enough”. It’s forever an unanswered question, “How much faster can you go?” I don’t want to quit or die without answering the question. That, however, doesn’t mean I’ll be crushed if I don’t make the Olympic trials. Hell, I still can’t believe I toed the start line of one of the world major marathons. That’s an accomplishment in itself. But there is always the question lingering. So, although I am focusing on the trials, it is merely a benchmark, a point in the distance to run to, but what will always matter is where I am in the process. No matter how close I make it to the trials, each step will (hopefully) be a new accomplishment, the question answered again and again and again. I might be let down if I don’t make it, but I certainly won’t be disappointed. That doesn’t mean I won’t be fighting like hell to get there though.
And finally, there is my son…who might have the same question someday. “Papa, how fast can you run?” This way, we’ll know.
So, here we go, toward the Mini and on to Chicago, in which we’ll find out where we go next.