Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Decided Against Hiring a Coach

Regardless of whether you run 80 MPW or 20 MPW, you are immeasurably better off than the average person sitting on the couch.  Regardless of whether your marathon PR is 2:30 or 5:00+, you have my respect and support.  I know what it’s like to be a mid-back of the pack runner and how hard it is to slog through those miles.  I will say that there is definitely a snob element in the running community especially on forums such as Let’s Run and some faster threads on RWOL.  I have serious issues with such people.  Everyone has different goals and aspirations and all should be encouraged.  Yes, I'll get more respect and admiration from the running community both in real life and online if I get faster, but that is no longer important to me.

Last month, I met with Coach Will from Running Lane for an initial consultation but decided against joining because there are still too many questions about my health.  Upon further reflection, I’m not sure it’s worth the cost even if I was healthy enough to follow the training schedule.  Coach Will is a good man so if you ever read this, please don’t take it personally.

I can think of 3 circumstances in which hiring a coach would be worthwhile:
1)      An ex-collegiate athlete who struggles with motivation without the structure of a team environment.
2)      A new runner who has had some success but has little knowledge of training and never runs intervals or tempos.
3)      A serious runner who is very close to a major milestone and the 1-3% increase in pace would make the difference.

Now let’s take a look at where I am and what I have accomplished:
400- Ran a 61.2 SOLO a full decade after I last raced that distance.  I’m afraid I’m too old for another shot at 59.9 but I can live with that.
Mile- Ran a 5:18.3 SOLO at the age of 32.  That’s within 10 seconds of my HS PR in a race setting.  I’d like to go sub-5:15 but would not be crushed if I fall short.
5K- Beat my HS PR just before turning 34.  Very few adult runners are able to beat their times at distances that they raced in HS.  I’m very proud of that.  Current PR is 19:09 and I know I can go sub-19 under the right conditions.
10K- 39:44 would have been unthinkable in high school.  My best event was the 800 meters and I was weak in cross-country.
Half- 1:28:12.  My strongest PR and I am most proud of this one.  It will be very difficult to beat.
Full- 3:21:56.  I still have room for much improvement here.  I didn’t have my best stuff at Mercedes and believe that if I raced that course the day I ran my half PR, it would have been 3:16ish.  4 years earlier, I could have BQ’d now with a 3:15:59.  Put me out there on a faster course and it would have been mine but I was born too late and the standards were toughened and may toughen again.

If I hired a coach:
Will said that I could expect about 1-3% improvement per season as a realistic goal but I know I’d level off within a few years.   Let’s say that my lifetime bests end up being 18:30/38:xx/1:26:xx.  How would my life improve?  I’d place in my age group more often but outside of that, I really can’t think of anything. Again, I no longer care about getting more respect from the running community. I’m not helping a team win meets and would be light years away from contending for the Olympic trials even if I was healthy.   If my marathon time improves as a result of coaching, yes there would be a real benefit but only because it could push me into BQ territory. 

My training:  I can run 50 MPW with relative ease when symptom free but struggle to hit 30 when sick. 
Spring and summer:
-3 standard issue runs (40-45 mins @ pace sustainable for 3+ hours)
-1 Tempo
-1 Interval
-10-13 mile long run @ standard issue pace
-1 Rest day
Fall and Winter:
-3 standard issue runs
- 1 Medium-long run (75 minutes)
- Tempo or Interval
-13-16 mile long run (jacked up to 20 only if I’m signed up for a marathon).
- 1 Rest day.
Brace yourself for some heresy.  My principle goal is NOT to get faster but rather to feel good and relatively fresh every day.  If my standard issue run was 60 minutes or longer, yes I’d have to slow down but as it is, it’s really not that hard.  I’ll be zonked after a 16+ LR or back to back quality sessions but I’m fine again after a single rest day.   Coach says that the idea is to feel like a million bucks when tapered but because of high volume, you can expect to have some fatigue most days when training at high volume.  I don’t want that and in my view, being constantly tired and sore is not worth the gain on race day when tapered.

Moreover, I believe I can BQ without a coach if healthy.  Simply jacking my mileage up from an average in the upper 30s-low 40s up to near 50 over the course of a full year may be enough.  When I set my PRs, I only had 3 months of good consistent training.  Finally, I’ve been symptom-free before but never in balance.  Even without additional training, I expect to be faster in balance because my system will operate more efficiently.

Will I ever hire a coach down the road?
Maybe.  Suppose after a breakthrough, I am on the cusp of a sub-5:00 Mile or if I run 2-3 marathons just short of a BQ.  In that case, I’m in but as of now, the cost of $60/month is not worth the potential gain.

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