One week closer to London and one more week of solid training in the books. This week was highlighted by mile repeats on Wednesday on the same tough, hilly loop as the previous weeks. I didn't get much faster at the end even though I had an extra minute of rest, but the quality in the beginning and middle was better. These are the workouts that will have me ready for a half-marathon mid-way through this marathon training block. My coach and I decided to do something a little different on Sunday than we've done in the past: a long progression run. Before New York, I did hard 15 mile tempo around this point in the build-up, but we decided to get a similar effort in without forcing any kind of a pace this far out. We will save that kind of effort for the half-marathon in 3 weeks and a long tempo 3-4 weeks from London.
I want to briefly discuss the dynamics of training solo versus training in a group. This is one of the first questions I am often asked regarding training, especially after leaving a talented college program at Oklahoma State in 2009. There are benefits to each style depending on the type of runner, the training environment, and the coach. I personally am not the type of person that needs someone to hold me accountable for training. I have no problem getting myself out the door, and I have no problems pushing my limits during workouts without someone standing there with a watch. Most runners don't have problems with motivation, but I find that some have issues with confidence. This can be confidence in the effort at which a particular workout should be run (am I going to hard, not hard enough?), or it can be confidence in one's level of fitness (after a good or bad training day). There have certainly been days when I have called my coach, Dave Smith, looking for validation after what I feel has been a great day, or I have called him to help me talk myself off a cliff after a rough day. Fortunately Dave and I are comfortable enough with each other to do this over the phone, but it can certainly be positive to have someone in person to help with the emotional swings.
The training environment and the people around you can also play a big part in determining the pluses and minuses of training alone or with a group. In Portland I am in a place where I can do 95% of my training from my doorstep, and I have the ability to do my long efforts in a place where I can drop my own nutrition and fluids in advance. If you're in an area where you need to drive before or after a workout or have someone cycle with you in order to get fluids/nutrition, obviously the support of a coach on-site is very beneficial.
Along with the environment comes training partners. Ideally a training group is full of athletes trying to accomplish similar goals as well as several athletes of similar fitness/talent levels. For the most part, this helped me thrive in college, but there were times when this was detrimental to my training. When German Fernandez showed up in Stillwater, OK as a freshman, I had no idea what I was in for. German was always extremely humble and looked to me for cues his first year, but he was a monster in workouts. As a 5th year senior, I was not ready to accept that he was simply better than I was. I raced workouts trying to prove to myself, to Dave, and to the team that I was still our number one guy. This led to me showing up to the NCAA Cross Country Championships feeling ragged and beat up, finishing 10 places behind where I had the previous year even though I had been training so much harder. After gaining some maturity and perspective, we were able to adjust that spring and Dave separated us for some of our workouts going forward. It is great to have someone around to help push through tough reps in training, but I know that I'm the kind of person that has trouble holding myself back when there are others running faster around me. I am very good at knowing my limits when I'm on my own. With that said, I do miss swapping leads with a group of guys and the camaraderie that comes with the pursuit of a common goal.
Finally, it is challenging to be on your own if you don't have a close and trusting relationship with your coach. I could not be doing workouts on my own in Portland if it were not for the relationship that Dave and I built over five and a half years in Oklahoma. I know his expectations of effort and paces when he writes a workout, and he knows how to adjust my training based on how each workout went. This is very difficult to do between a coach and an athlete who have not developed this in person.
Overall I'm pleased with my current training situation. I've got some very talented guys in the neighborhood do log miles with, and I'm confident in my efforts during hard workouts. But with maturity, the right coach, and the right mix of athletes, a training group certainly has its benefits. Thanks again for reading, and check out my weekly log below. To follow more of my training, click here to connect on Twitter.
|Tuesday||14 + drills and strides||5||19|
|Wednesday||5||7 x mile (4:42 down to 4:28) w/ 3 min rest)||20|
|Friday||9||15 x 200 (29-32) on track||20|
|Sunday||16 mile progression run (starting 5:50 and working down to 4:45) + warm-up/cool-down||off||23|