Jeffco Relays

Posted on March 21st, 2012

The relay meet was only two hours in length, if it was run well. Two and a half more likely. A welcome relief from the usual several hour long meets that dominate the season.

The 4 x 800m opened the meet and the 4 x 400m closed the meet. Dan and his relay teammates would get a maximum amount of recovery.

The Green Mesa 4×8 team was considered the strongest team in the field by 15 seconds based on performances to date. They had already dipped below eight minutes and were looking to improve on their mark at Jeffco. Dan would anchor, Sam third, Phil second, and Les, the tall and lanky sophomore would lead them out of the hole. Dan had a theory that if they listened to the same song before warming up, they would sync up totally – body, mind, spirit – and naturally run a more unified race together. He had made sure they all had Souls Like the Wheels by the Avett Brothers in their ipods. When the song was over, the foursome was quietly fierce and introspective. They wanted to do something special today. The season was too short to wait to perform.

Les hung in the middle of the pack for the first lap. On the second lap, Jerry Mathias, a senior from Arvada West, bolted, putting ten yards on the pack before the backstretch. Les and Karl Happy from East jumped together at the backstretch to chase Jerry down. They caught him coming off the curve onto the homestretch and the three ran step for step to the exchange zone where they found their teammates waiting, hands outstretched, shaking hands and legs, desperate for the stick. The front three came through the split a hair under two minutes.

Phil took the stick from Les and slid to the rail a half step behind the purple singlet of Arvada West. The second leg runners were no match for Phil’s 1:59.2 and Green Mesa was several yards ahead by the third leg. Sam nearly matched Phil’s 1:59 and Dan received the stick 50 meters ahead of the field. Bill expected as much. He had advised Dan to run smooth but strong, practicing a slightly negative split. Dan rounded the first lap in 59 and felt as if he was just cruisin’ as he had done in so many practices. At the bell he notched it up just slightly, imperceptive to anyone but himself and probably Bill, lapping 58 seconds for the second quarter mile, finishing in 1:57.0.

It was a great effort by the Green Mesa 4×8. They were now definitively on the map with a 7:54.5. Bill was pleased. He caught his four athletes at the gate leading off the track and led them out for a slow cool-down. As they ran, he explained the science of their performances. It wasn’t by luck they had run so well, but natural ability and training put together. As their training progressed, their ability to deal with lactate improves, and with it, the ability to push harder on the first lap and a stronger response from the legs on the second lap will be possible. Bill said he expected that each one of them, Les, Phil, Sam, and Dan, all had at minimum 2-3 seconds yet to shave from their 800m.

“It could get scary,” Bill said, grinning widely.

The four continued the cooling with Myrtl and Back routines, and then retreated under the stands for a game of PG ‘would you rather’ with some of their female teammates. Dan felt the soreness of his achilles, aching a bit more after the effort, but he decided against mentioning it to Bill or Charlie, in an effort to wish the ache away. He told himself that if it didn’t get any worse, it wouldn’t be a problem.

After an hour under the stands it was time to warm-up for the 4 x 400m. Charlie came around and summonsed the distance boys out of their lounge. They were the B team 4×4. They passed the stick around during the warmup, jocular, feeling the light load of having to go once around the track. Coach Walton called out to Dan to come over and see him. Dan gave the baton to Les and jogged over to Coach Walton.

“Listen son, I need you for the A squad. You’ll go third.”

Dan looked back without a word.

“That’s not a request.”

“I understand. Third leg.”

Dan was thinking about how he’d really rather run with his teammates from the 4×8. They might actually give the A team a run for their money, but not without him. He was also concerned about his achilles. Somehow running on the A team seemed as if it would stress it more. While this was probably not true for his achilles per se, it was true for his mind, inexorably connected to the achilles.

On his way to find the A team, Dan mentioned to Bill and Charlie that Walton had requested he run on the A team. Bill was incensed at Walton pulling his athlete willy-nilly, without discussion and consent from the primary coaches, no less, ten minutes before the race was to begin. Bill asked Dan if he had yet practiced hand-offs with the A team. No was the answer. Bill shook his head, with a look that said, “Walton is an idiot.”

“Take an open hand off Dan. If you haven’t practiced blind, don’t try it now. He’ll hit you every where but the hand, and if by some miracle you do get the stick in the end, you’ll have wasted more time than if you took it looking. What leg are you?”

“Third.”

“Have a little talk with leg two. Let him what you mean to do. No need to mention it to anyone else. We don’t need a debate.”

Dan did as he was told by Bill, and ran respectably enough, 25.2 and 25.7 splits, good for a 50.9. Dan cooled down after the race with the B team that had run well, but did not challenge the A team. Bill noticed a slight limp in Dan as he finished three laps of barefoot jogging and began the Lionel Hampton routine.

“Dan!” Bill shouted across the field. He motioned for Dan to stop what he was doing and briskly walked out to where Dan stood on a grassy area northwest of the track.

“Something’s hurting you. I want to know exactly where it is and on what day it started.”

Dan sheepishly confessed that he had felt a twinge in his achilles since Monday. Bill was clearly unhappy about the news but internalized the worst of it. He told Dan to ice tonight, ten on ten off, for an hour.

“Most importantly, do not stretch the lower leg. It will only make it worse.”

Bill emphasized the words, do not, such that it was clear to Dan how pissed Bill was that he didn’t tell him about the achilles before. It was a sour ending to an otherwise great day of racing. Dan knew Bill would make him rest, and this worried him about what the rest would do to his fitness.

Dipped in Gold by the Achilles

Posted on March 20th, 2012

Dan put on his headphones with two minutes left in seventh period. Chicago by Sufjan played. Dan liked the horns on this song. Before practice he liked to listen to music that imparted a placidness with gentle tempo. He believed he could be soothed and energized down to the cellular level by the right music.

Tuesday was designed as a Speed Development workout, even with the meet on Wednesday. It was the middle of the season, and the season was waiting for none. Bill explained prior to the workout that peaking time for State was only a few weeks off, and the Jeffco Relays was definitely a meet to train through. The Speed Development that they would do today was a great compliment to racing, as the legs are asked to turn over faster than any race longer than a hundred meters.

Practice began with the competition Warm-Up, then 3 x 150m In-n-Outs, then 3 x 30m Max Patch with a three minute walk between each, followed by 3 x120m at 90-95% effort.

Dan’s achilles was not worse than the day before, and so he continued to keep the discomfort he felt to himself. “The achilles will make public debut tomorrow,” a voice said to Dan from the recesses of his mind.

Turn it Over

Posted on March 19th, 2012

Daydreaming constituted a large part of Dan’s hours at school. Some of his teachers engaged his mind and imagination, but sitting in school listening to approximations and opinions was only so stimulating. When his mind drifted off it was mostly to the future and practice after school and who he was going to hang out with this weekend and what they were going to do. Fifth hour was a particularity of its own. Dan began anticipating fifth towards the end of fourth hour American Lit. Sarah Bloom was in fifth hour and Dan couldn’t shake the crush he had on her, and really didn’t care to. Sarah was the sort of person that basically took care of everything in an orderly way but was also creative, imaginative, and a skosh quirky. And Dan thought she had the most beautiful brown eyes, and everything, and her brown hair gathered up in a bun speared with a pencil was going to make him go mad he knew for certain. Suffice to say, fifth hour was something to look forward to, to the point of nerves, and also a bit of a wash when it came to focusing on the academics at hand. Dan was careful to never look too long in Sarah’s direction, and was thankful that she played soccer in the Spring and field hockey in the Fall, so he would be spared distraction at practice.

After fifth hour Dan began thinking about practice. Today was 30 minutes on Green Mesa, then 3 x 200m with 200m jog, then 3 x 120m with 280m jog. As Willoughby said, “just to turn the legs over.” The goal was to run 800m pace on the 200s and a bit faster on the 120s. Gladwell would say, “a bit faster,” just the way Willoughby would say it. He was taking on some of the characteristics of Bill, and it suited him. They seemed to be cut, if not from the same cloth, then a similar one, and they liked each other, which was immeasurably good for lifting the feel of practice. Even if it were a hard day, Bill and Charlie would add levity with their chatty camaraderie and occasional joking to one another and the athletes. The laughter became leaven, something to look forward to, even on the hard days.

“The key to today’s workout,” Bill said, “was the constant movement, that over time will make no insignificant demands. Go directly from 30 minutes on the trails to changing shoes and smack into the 200s and 120s. From these, smack into Grant Green. You’ll find that you get a nice aerobic stimulus in 60 minutes, yet you’ve not run a terrible amount. This workout is fabulous for novice runners and the seasoned competitive runner who needs an easy day, yet still needs to get the legs turned over.”

Bill insisted on explaining most everything to his athletes. He was a teacher by nature, enthused with the subject and he imparted this enthusiasm to his athletes and fellow coaches.

Dan didn’t feel great, mostly because his left achilles felt tight starting out, and then, when he switched to spikes and got on the track, it only worsened. Dan prefered to keep it to himself, finish the workout, and hope it would go away, maybe in the cool down he thought.

After the Grant Green, Dan and the other distance runners walked barefoot in the long jump pit, an exercise intended to strengthen the feet and lower legs. It felt good to have what amounted to a cool sand message on hot feet after a long workout.

The distance runners took turns walking in the sand, entering the pit one after another, like ducks entering a pond. Charlie stood on the side of the pit watching his ducklings go round when Coach Walton approached. He gave a sideways glance of suspicion at the runners in his long jump pit.

“You’re going to rake the sand when you’re finished?” Coach Walton said to Charlie.

“Of course.” Charlie said.

“What are they doing? Nevermind, I’m sure you have your reasons, just put the pit back the way you found it. I’ve got jumpers in there tomorrow. Are you and Bill planning to enter a 4x400m team in Wednesday’s Jeffco Relay?”

“I believe we are. We plan to be on your A team’s heels, W.” Charlie said.

Charlie liked to call Coach Walton W.

“Well, I doubt that very much, but good, see if you can’t score some points. It’d be nice to take some hardware home from this meet. Make sure your athletes have a full dance ticket.” Walton said.
Charlie gave a noncommittal nod that he’d heard Walton’s wishes.

Race Schedule

Posted on March 18th, 2012

Dan -

From my perspective the Panther Invitational went well. There are some things to be improved upon, but that’s exactly why we run meets – to practice the skills needed to run to potential.

As far as future meets, the first thing we need to accept is that we will not have the ideal schedule for the simple fact that we live in Colorado. The weather will certainly alter a meet or two, be it rain, wind, or even snow. There will be meets that have fine weather, challenging competition, and will be ripe for a fast time, but you’ll run races to compete, not to post a fast time. The time will take care of itself given enough opportunities. I’m confident that the schedule I’ve laid out for you has ample opportunities to run fast on several occasions and qualify for the state meet. Of course, all of my planning for you is within the confines of what Coach Walton has generally outlined for the Green Mesa Track program. My limited control lies in the races you will run in any given meet, and I suspect that this will not go without challenge from time to time by Coach Walton who will want you to score points for the team.

The State Meet will be the goal, and within that meet, the focus will be the 1,600m. Outside of that race at State, I think you and I are best served by waiting to see what Coach Walton projects as the best chance for the team to score points. I would be surprised if he didn’t want you to run on at least one relay, the 4x400m and/or the 4x800m. Your teammates on the 4 x 800m have promise, I think we’ll have a nice team put together for the State Meet. The three day State schedule works to our favor. The 4 x 800m is on Thursday and the 1,600m is on Saturday, giving you a rest day between those two efforts. If you run the 4x400m relay you will be running after the 1,600m. From what I’ve seen of you so far, I believe you are fast enough to be on the 4x400m relay. This would be an ideal scenario.

Working backwards from the State Meet, the Jeffco League Championships will serve you well the week before state, given that the schedule is a Tuesday/Saturday schedule. I have you penciled in to run the 4 x 800m and the 800m on Tuesday, then the 1,600m and a leg on the 4 x 400m the second day. You’ll get a full load.

Prior to the League meet is the St. Vrain Invite on Saturday. We will skip this, allowing you a full week of training. Same idea the week before. We’ll skip the Jeffco Qualifier – unless you need it to qualify in the 1,600m. Instead we’ll have you focus your efforts on the Dakota Ridge Invitational April 24th, a simple 1,600m/4x400m double. Fresh for the mile and hopefully you’ll have established yourself on the varsity 4x400m. As you know, I believe that running the 4x400m at every opportunity, assuming you are healthy and injury free, is in your best long term interest as a miler.

The Rod Card Invitational is the week prior. Again, you will run the 1,600m/4x400m double. The reason to do the same double back to back weeks assumes that you run well at this meet. If you do, we have the opportunity to practice various race tactics at the Dakota Ridge Invitational the following week. Rod Card will be the first 1,600m that you will enter fresh and your second 1,600m of the year. We will want you ready to compete well at this race.

You’re a junior who has run 4:29. By the time you arrive at the meet on April 14th you should be thinking, “I’m ready to run a PR and contend.” My research shows that the field is always solid and you shouldn’t have to do any pacemaking.

The week prior we will run two meets and we’ll train through them. The Jeffco qualifier meet on Wednesday April 4th, you will run the 800m open and a 4x400m leg. On Saturday the Longmont Invitational, you will run a 3,200m at the beginning of the meet and a 4x400m leg. No formal workouts this week as the meets are the hard days. The hard days hard and the easy days easy.

Your first 1,600m will come on March 31st at the Bulldog invitational, followed by a 4x400m. The goal is simply to run to your fitness ad get one on the board.

This brings us to your next race. I have you slotted to run the 4x800m and the 4x400m at the Jeffco Relays this coming Wednesday. My hope is that you run a 4x400m leg with fresher legs than last time. And, another chance to run the 4x800m – a race I’m sure you and Phil, Sam, and Les look forward to running together.

When you think of the schedule for this season, don’t think of it as a printed document from your computer printer, nor a document written in pen. Think of it as written in pencil on the back of a scratch piece of paper. This is something I learned from my college coach – write the training plan in pencil, then when something needs to change you have a tool, the eraser, to make your change. Things will inevitably change as we go along Dan, and I need your mind flexible, ready for any change. Expectation is the stuff life is built on, and your expectation needs to be for the potential of change. Embrace that the schedule I’ve just shared with you is just a plan. Reality will look a bit different.

Final thought. There are regional meets and national meets that come after the State Meet. A runner of your potential, who enjoys training, should consider continuing their training after the State Meet. And we will. But we will limit our view to the State Meet for now. Focus on working towards being the best runner you can be the third week in May. If you do that, the season is a success.

I will see you at practice tomorrow.

- Bill

As Dan read the email from Bill he realized how short the season really was and how few races he would actually run. This motivated him to not take a practice or meet for granted. He appreciated seeing a projection of the entire season, somehow making it feel more manageable. Though the League Championships looked daunting. He indicated to Bill he had read the email with his initials, and went to bed looking forward to the work and races ahead of him.

Panther Invite

Posted on March 17th, 2012

The day of the Panther Invite was a beautiful Colorado day with very little wind and bright sunshine. Bill enjoyed the drive to Colorado Springs. When he arrived at the track he sought out Charlie Gladwell and the 4x800m team. He wanted to advise them of a few things, particularly to stay out of the sun. Shade under the stands was their best bet.

“Don’t be like the sprinters,” he said, “who walk around without their shirts on, showing off their stuff. These adolescent displays are folly, but also instinctual, the way an ape might pound his chest, or a bull stomp the ground and snort dust into the air. A show of force. You’re more evolved than this,” Bill joked, half seriously. “You’ve stood up on the Savannah to chase your prey with stereoscopic vision. You’re distance runners.”

The 4x800m was the first race of the day and came with the benefit of engaging the body before the mind could play too many games. Sitting at a meet all day waiting for a race can be torturous. A race has a similar effect to the first hit in a football game, it calms the nerves and sets the mind at ease, giving an outlet to pent up energy and reminding the mind that the body knows what to do.

Dan felt snappy in the Competition warm up and is wise enough to reflect that he will definitely need to hold himself back in the first 450 meters of the race.

To change it up, Bill has Dan third and Phil Charriere will anchor. The first and second legs for Green Mesa, Sam Robbins and Phil Morrow, both run poorly against very good Arapaho and Rampart legs. Dan is 25 meters off the leaders when he receives the stick from Phil and yet proceeds with control, not nearly as aggressive as Bill expects him to. He reels in the prey methodically. After 320 meters Dan has made up the deficit and gears down, breathing on the necks of the two race leaders. It is a three way race with the rest of the field far behind. Dan has completed the first 400 meters in a controlled 58.8, nipping at the heels of the leaders along the backstretch. Bill splits him for the third 200m in 31.1. The leaders are beginning to wane on the third leg and Dan is taking it conservatively.

Bill stands at the 200 meter start line.

“Go now, Dan.” Bill says, over the top of his hand resting on his chin.

Dan crisply bumps the pace and surges past the two leaders, putting 10 meters on them around the last curve. Dan arrives in the hand off zone 20 meters in the lead, which may or may not be enough for Phil Charriere, depending on how strong the anchor legs are for Arapaho and Rampart and how well Phil runs. Bill notes Dan’s final 200 meter split as 29.2. What’s more impressive is the command Dan carried through the final 50 meters. He is ready to run a few seconds faster.

Phil finishes with a personal split of 2:00.56, and 8:05.01 for the team, holding off Arapaho and Rampart for the win.

Dan, Sam Robbins, Phil Charriere, and Les Morrow take three laps on the infield following the race, joking and laughing as they go, feeling the ebullience of victory. The Lunge Warm Up follows the jog, with Gladwell on duty, assuring small lunges are employed. The foursome finish with Myrtl before retreating underneath the stands to rest.

It will be three or three and a half hours until the 3,200m, enough time to eat a piece of fruit, perhaps raisins or an apple, maybe a handful of crackers, and replenish with fluids. Each runner knows what they can eat through trial and error. Bill doesn’t much care what they eat, but discourages junk food and soda sugars that cheat the body. Les Morrow the sugar fiend, fishes out a bag of animal crackers, popping the white and pink speckled animals one after another. He blames his sweet cravings on his blue eyes.

“A dead giveaway for a sugarholic,” Les says, as if it were a medical fact, and he no more than a lousy victim of an involuntary condition. Everyone receives one or two. Dan audibly observes the addictive quality of the animals and is cut off the supply by Les. The bag empties to crumbs in minutes.

The foursome cat nap, play cards, and text back and forth with friends. Later, Dan, Phil, and Sam, all juniors in Gladwell’s American Lit class, decide to do some reading and take turns reading aloud from Dan’s copy of The Scarlet Letter.

The meet is predictably behind schedule, and the four, all running in the 3,200m, begin their Competition warm-up routine twenty minutes before the scheduled start time of the race instead of 30 minutes.

Bill suggests that the four include a couple of 100m repeats at pace, 18.5 sec per 100m. The pace feels super slow to Dan.

At the gun Dan goes to the front. Bill and Gladwell stand at the 200m mark and Gladwell calls out the splits as the Green Mesa runners go past.

“34, 35, 36.” Gladwell says, marking Dan’s pace.

“Too fast.” Bill says.

Dan slows his pace and comes through the 400m right on schedule at 74 seconds. After making an initial adjustment on the first lap Dan does a tremendous job of hitting splits thereafter. At each lap Bill simply calls out “right on” or “that’s right where you want to be.”

Dan’s lead extends a second or two with each lap and with two laps to go it is evident that no one will catch him. Dan doesn’t accelerate in the last 600m, 400m and 200m, which would have been ideal, but continues in a steady 74 pace to the tape finishing in 9:44.3.

Sam, Phil and Les finish in 10:14, 10:16 and 10:27. Respectable times given their shallow aerobic foundations, Bill observes to Gladwell, quite pleased with all four of the performances.

After five minutes of walking and chatting, the four begin the warmup for the mile relay with three easy laps on the infield. Dan leads the group through Myrtl leg swings, then 2x120m In-n-Outs, hitting 95% for the middle 40m, a primer for the pace of the 4x400m. The foursome comprise the “B” 4 x 400m team

The four warm up on the infield. Les carries the aluminum baton.

Dan will run the second leg, allowing him to chase a bit from this spot. Bill wants to see what he can do, especially given the fatigue of the 3,200m living in his legs. The important thing about running the 4x400m, from Bill’s perspective, is that his distance runners will receive the benefit of fast twitch stimulus and will have to ask their nervous system to get out fast and metabolically hold on and endure a fast pace for 400m. Somehow this is always easier to do when taken in relay form at the end of a meet.

The distance team looks skinny and pale next to the other teams at the starting line. Les runs the first leg and does a commendable job for a sophomore just minutes removed from a two mile race. Les hands off to Dan in last place but only a few seconds back. Dan punches the gas and by 300m has closed the gap and is running just off the back of the tightly bunched group. On the homestretch Dan passes the Green Mesa A team’s 2nd leg and a couple of other runners, positioning the Green Mesa B team in the middle of the pack. Sam receives the baton from Dan and is summarily passed by the entire field in the first 30 meters. Green Mesa B is back in last place where they will remain.

Dan splits 53.2, but the key in Bill’s mind is that he went out in 25.2. The last 100 meters dove a bit, but this was only a function of not having the buffering capacity to deal with the lactate that a hard run 400m produces. Dan will receive treatments for this condition in future training sessions.

Following the race the group of four run two laps barefooted on the infield and finish with the Wharton AIS 10 minute routine. There is no blurring hard and easy on this day. Three races and significant warm-up and cool-downs have made for a demanding day of training, with some pretty good race results to go with it.

On the bus home Dan receives instructions for Sunday from Gladwell: a light swim in the pool or a short 40 minute hike on Green Mesa. His choice. A day Willoughby terms active rest.

Dan opts for a swim and a hot tub at his parents’ health club. Crane has to convince his son that while he would love to play him in a match of squash, it is not in Dan’s best interest to play. Certainly not in Dan’s legs best interests. Dan concedes with a minimum of griping and teases his Dad that he isn’t worried about his welfare, he is worried that he might lose if they play. Crane doesn’t take the bait.

Shakeout Street

Posted on March 16th, 2012

The day before a meet has a unique feel. Dan felt his own mixture: Relief from running the hardest practices and nerves feeling the closeness of the starting line. But Dan was feeling something special. Something he hadn’t felt in some time. Peaceful. Restful and confident in his preparation, trusting the process determined by Willoughby and Gladwell. It felt good, as if he’d arrived home after years of wandering lost.

After a light jog with his 4x800m teammates Dan met with Bill to go over the strategic rationale for each race.

The day would begin with the 4 x 800m. Dan would anchor. Whether they were ahead or behind didn’t matter. Bill instructed Dan to get out the first 20m-30m and settle into a controlled rhythm. In the 800m it is a common foible to go out too fast, especially in relays where there is added excitement. Stay controlled. Run mindfully.

After the relay, Dan and the relay team were to do five minutes of easy jogging, Myrtl, and Lunge Warm Up half the typical distance.

Bill advised Dan to find a comfortable place to keep off his feet and wait for the 3,200m. A great time to catch up on reading for English class.

The Competition Warm Up routine precede the 3,200m. The goal for the race was to hit 73-75 pace, evaluate each lap and adjust, finish somewhere between 9:45-10:00. No need to be a hero at the end of the race. If challenged, change gears gradually on the last 400m.

After the 3,200m Myrtl leg swings, then 2x120m In-n-Outs, hitting 95% for the middle 40m, priming the legs for the pace of the 4x400m

Dan observed that this was a lot of warming up and cooling down, much more than he had ever done before in a meet situation. Bill acknowledge as much, explaining that this first race day was more than a racing day, but also a hard training day. Hard days hard, easy days easy. There would be two easy days coming up on Sunday and Monday.

No Land Rush

Posted on March 12th, 2012

The plan for the week revolved around the three races Dan would be running at the Harrison Panther Invitational on Saturday. Bill intended Dan to run a leg on the 4 x 800m at the beginning of the meet and the 3,200m and 4x400m relay at the end of the meet. Because the 4×4 immediately followed the 3,200m, Dan’s leg would probably not impress Coach Walton. Dan would need to post a fast time to get on the A team 4x400m, but this opportunity would probably have to wait.

Bill’s strategy was for Dan to run a fresh 800m to see where his fitness was, then 3,200m for a nice aerobic stimulus, with a quick turn around to see how fast he could run a 400m fatigued.

The meet would be the big workout of the week. Bill was protecting Dan a bit. If Dan were coming off a stellar cross country season with months of good consistent work Bill wouldn’t have been so conservative, as it was early enough in the year that athletes could be expected to enter meets with a good deal of fatigue in their legs. But as it was, Bill knew that psychologically Dan needed a solid meet to positively reinforce the new coaching situation and to gain a measure of confidence in himself after a couple of dramatic seasons.

Bill worked backwards from the race to plan the week. An easy shake out on Friday.

On Thursday they would begin with an easy aerobic run, followed by a dress rehearsal of the competition warm-up, and then 4 x 800m relay exchange work running 3 x 200m at 800m pace with a 90 second recovery between each. Practice would end with the Cannonball cooldown.

Wednesday would begin with the Aerobic Work Warm-Up. Then 8 x 400m with a 200m recovery jog on the track. The idea was to groove 10 minute 3,200m pace, 75 seconds per 400m, into Dan’s legs, the goal time for Saturday. Bill projected that 10 minutes was a fairly conservative race plan for Dan, even though Dan would have run the 800m early in the meet. Bill intended a controlled preparation for ascendance to performance. This was not a grab what you can while the getting is good land rush, it was about following a methodical plan of preparation. Wednesday’s workout would ideally be done in racing flats not spikes. For those who only had spikes and trainers, Bill advised trainers for this workout.

Dan ask Bill if this was the type of workout where he should try to increase his pace towards the end of the workout. Bill said that it was, but only if the 200m recovery tempo was also increased. Bill reminded Dan that this workout should feel very controlled. When the workout was complete he should be feeling as if he could quite easily do two more laps, maybe even three or four more. The cooldown for Wednesday consisted of the Back Routine, Myrtl, and General Strength and Mobility (GSM). Wednesday’s workout was relatively easy because Tuesday was the crux workout of the week.

Tuesday was a deviation from the norm. Green Mesa distance runners normally did a long run or a threshold run on Tuesdays, but this week they would do a long workout. The distance team began with a 20 to 40 minute run on the Green Mesa trail, depending on age and ability. They returned to the track for the competition warm-up, then Dan and his fellow 4 x 800m teammates would run a 4 x 600m relay workout. The goal was to get out for the first 50m and settle into 800m pace or slightly slower, then speed up again at 400m, then change gears a final time for the final 100m. While they wouldn’t be expected to change gears this dramatically in a race, Bill wanted them to get a feel for the discomfort they would each face on their leg of the 4 x 800m relay on Saturday. The athletes would do 10 minutes of easy jogging as recovery, then 3,200m of fartlek – 150m at goal 1,600m pace, followed by 250m of “just cruisin” pace, and back to goal 1,600m pace. Back and forth for 3,200m. Bill said they would know they had run the 3,200m fartlek well if, at the end, they knew they could have done two more laps, and no more.

The fartlek workout had a three minute recovery jog on the track, followed by 3 x 120m at “fun fast pace.” The recovery was simply This bit of speed play gave Bill and Gladwell the opportunity to stand on the backstretch to note posture and mechanics. They gave posture advice during the recovery jogs.

The day ended with Hurdle Mobility 82 and Grant Green for General Strength and Mobility (GSM). Bill had considered giving them the 1st 20 as their GSM, but thought this routine was a bridge too far. Tuesday indeed followed the “hard days hard, easy days easy” view of training. It indeed a long day, hard day.

Monday was a Speed Development day, a duplicate from the previous Monday. With the first meet on the horizon, there was a palpable energy to the Monday workout, as there should be when the work is short, fast and has plenty of recovery.

For a running coach the art is about yoking a progressive and appropriate volume and intensity for each athlete, akin to spinning many plates all at once.

Training Considerations

Posted on March 11th, 2012

Daniel -

I want to share with you what I believe to be the keys to performing in the 1,600m this spring.

We will do our best to get a weekly long run in, yet the nature of outdoor track and field is such that this won’t always be realistic. Come summer, the long run will be a non-negotiable and you’ll run it weekly, but during the season we may need to skip a week, or do a threshold workout in lieu of the long run. There are many variations on the threshold work. One of the important variations is what I call aerobic repeats. These are long repeats on the track and are mostly aerobic in nature. These repeats are similar in spirit to the cruise interval intended by Dr. Daniels, though I might shorten the threshold portion and have you push the rest portion, making the workout more of a fartlek, perhaps closer to a Lydiard fartlek. But names aren’t the point. The point is: most weeks will have a long run, but in the weeks that you do not, the threshold workout will take on the duty of furthering aerobic capabilities. Lydiard had Peter Snell running long runs in his journey to winning Olympic gold in the 800m and 1,500m in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The intent is to build your aerobic engine, and what better way than with solid aerobic training, a key Lydiard concept. We’ll be using this logical gem to help you realize your potential.

At the opposite end of the continuum is speed. By speed I do not mean 400s run at 800m pace. Rather, what is top speed for 30m? 50m? 100m? I want to know how fast you can run for a short distance, and improve on this top speed over the coming weeks. This is a long term goal with incremental improvements. Next year at this time you will be significantly faster over 50m, 100m, 200m, and 400m than you are this year. Too many people have a doubly wrong understanding of speed: they think all athletes can’t improve it and they definitely think distance runners can’t improve their speed. This ignorance is what keeps so many well below capability. I need you to have faith that the closing speed you’ve used on the soccer pitch is not the fastest you’re capable of. In time your maximum speed will increase.

Two ends of the continuum, the long run and threshold work on one end, pure speed on the other. What lies in the middle won’t be foreign to you. Repeat 400s are what you were used to freshman year with Coach Cipoletti. We will do similar work. These workouts are important metabolically as they improve your buffering capacity, helping you deal with the lactate that accumulates during middle distance races. On that note, you’ve heard the term lactic acid, but you will not hear it from me. I will use the term lactate. If you’re interested, read the following two articles by Matt Fitzgerald on the subject (Lactic Acid Myths and Six Lies you were taught about Lactic Acid). These articles were written for a broad audience and are a helpful synopsis of what is going on during high intensity repetition workouts. We want to improve your body’s ability to deal with lactate and the workouts that do this are workouts you’re already familiar with from your freshman year.

This brings me to another point on terminology, repetition vs. interval. When running a workout of say ten times one lap, the interval is the time between each lap and the repetition is the number of laps run (i.e. the number the of reps). If I write “10×400 w/1 min” this means you will run 400m ten times, with one minute recovery between each 400m repetition. Or, we may do something like “1,000m/8 min/600m/3 min/400m” which means 1,000m at pace (2.5 laps), eight minutes of recovery (most of which will be jogging), 600m at pace (1.5 laps), followed by three minutes of recovery jogging before finishing the workout with a hard 400m lap.

The final aspect of your training that I want to cover in this email, and one that I am fairly certain has been lacking in your training, are short, fast strides throughout the year. Obviously running 100m or 200m fast is important during the track season, but ideally this is something you would have done with your training all year round. The good news is that you’ve had many short bursts of speed during your soccer games. The bad news, from a biomechanical perspective, is that this type of speed training was not ideal. Why? Lets assume you ran fast for 20m to get to an open ball. What was your posture like once you reached the ball and ran towards the goal? My guess is you were bent over the ball, biomechanics that make sense for soccer, but not ideal if the goal is to run fast on the track. So far I’ve been impressed with your posture, both in your easy jogging and when we’ve run some of the faster speed development work. However, we have yet to see how you will run during a full speed development workout or in the final stages of a 1,600m. But this is something that we’ll work on in practice, so that your mechanics are second nature come race day. We will get you to the point where you are fatigued, and then we will ask you to run fast. During these practices I’m confident that you will be able to run with sound biomechanics.

Okay, that’s enough for tonight. I’m sure you’re excited for your first race this weekend. Keep your expectations conservative and remember that we have many weeks ahead for improvement. Patience.

 

- Bill

 

Dan indicated to Bill that he had read the email by replying with his initials.

 

dh

Finding Rhythms

Posted on March 5th, 2012

The second week of Mule track practice replicated the rhythms of the first week, with a few wrinkles.

On Monday they worked on basic speed development work. Bill had one cone at the start of the acceleration zone in lane 5 and another cone at the end of the exchange zone, marking a 30m “patch” that the athletes would run through. They were given 30m to accelerate to 97% speed to be maintained through the 30m patch, followed by a 50m deceleration. The recovery was 3 minutes of walking, which Bill had explained to Gladwell was to help regenerate ATP in the muscle cells. This added wrinkle in Monday’s workout caused some hamstring soreness on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s circuit work was psychologically more brutal than the week before as every athlete knew what was coming. Dan averaged two seconds per 500m faster than the week before. Bill and Gladwell both noted the vigor with which Dan performed the exercises between the 500s, and Bill reminded him to stay relaxed. Composure brings progress and strain leads to injury. Composure was one of Bill’s daily mantras. Bill placed composure in the mind of his athletes, and what is in the mind manifests in the body. He asked them to visualize composure. What does composure look like? Every kid was to imagine what composure looked like. It didn’t matter what it was as long as it prompted composure.

“Hang a picture of composure in your mind.” Bill said.

Bill said the epitome of composure was a paradox, it could be both a lion sitting lazily on a tree limb and a lion absorbed hunting its prey. Lion was Bill’s catch-all cue word for composure. When Bill asked for composure during a workout, his runners were to pull up their picture and run without strain .

“Be the lion sitting in the tree.” Bill would say, or simply, “Be the lion.”

To the kid with the image of a shark, “Be the shark.” To the kid with the image of a rose, “rose.”

Wednesday and Thursday were exactly as before, with an easy Wednesday and a shake-out on Thursday. Dan approached Gladwell before Thursday’s practice and asked if he should perhaps do a bit more. He felt strong. Gladwell said no, reminding that Friday was intended to be rigorous and this would be the only respite until Sunday.

Friday’s Practice was what Bill called middle distance fartlek. The nuts and bolts of the workout was simple: 150m at 800m pace, 650m at a comfortably hard pace – hard enough to be breathing, but not so hard that hitting the 150m at the correct pace was a strain.

To make the numbers easy Bill asked Dan to hit 21.0 seconds, 1:52 800m pace. No doubt more than Bill could expect from Dan this year, but definitely something he could handle in this workout. Dan was instructed to run twelve laps of workout: 6 x 150m broken up with 650m pace change. 900m at 800m pace. A helpful and manageable early season workout, that was as good for the mind as it was for the legs. Gladwell, per Bill’s whispered advice, instructed everyone to hold back on the first 650m as they could always speed up the pace on that portion of the workout, but they could not undo debt incurred early on.

Bill thought Dan started his 650s a little too fast, running just over 6 minute pace. Nonetheless Dan ran a beautiful workout, hitting an average just under 21.0 for all of his 150s and completing each 650m recovery faster than the first.

“Brilliant work today Daniel. You must be feeling it today.” Bill said.

“It felt good and I thought it’d be smart to run it like a progression run.” Dan said.

Bill smiled. “Yes, it’s a good idea to run this workout like a progression run. Well spotted. In the future run your plan by me so that I know what your intent is. You might not always read the tea leaves with such accuracy.”

Dan felt shamed for a moment, like he had done something wrong, but Bill, sensing the tail between the legs, soothed Dan, the way he might Wexford.

“You’re fine. You didn’t do anything wrong. Let’s just make sure I know what’s going through your mind before a workout. If we need to tweak things we can.”

The workout ended in a 3x120m at “fun fast pace” followed by hurdle mobility and the Grant Green cool down. The next week they would run the 5 laps of cool down barefoot on the infield grass, but this week they ran shod. Dan asked if he could run 10 laps. Gladwell, not stopping to discuss, simply said, “five laps is the plan Dan. Trust the plan.” Bill’s inner face grinned when he heard this maturity coming from Gladwell. Dan gave an okay, yet the tone was drastically different than in the fall. This okay conveyed agreement. Dan was no different than any other animal being trained: stubbornness gives way to trust when the master proves they are capable, trustworthy and unrelenting.

The Saturday optional long run drew 80% attendance at Bear Lake Regional Park. Dan ran 75 minutes easy with his future 4x800m teammates. Following the run everyone did the lunge matrix and Myrtl for the cool down that coupled as a mild strength exercise. It was easy to asses fatigue with these two routines. Some athletes were unable to complete the lunge matrix with upright posture, a dead giveaway.

On Sunday Dan was allowed an easy 35 minute run along with the lunge matrix as a warm-up and the full AIS routine as a cool down. The stipulation was that Dan had to agree to run somewhere flat, eliminating his favorite Green Mesa trails. Dan was learning the difference between disciplined training and erratic training.