Wednesday, September 13, 2017

An Open Letter Regarding Contrasting Endurance Cultures - Running, Triathlon, OCR, etc.

The context for this post: all endurance athletes (runners, swimmers, cyclists, climbers, triathletes, obstacle course racers, marathoners, track athletes, ultra runners, trail runners, road runners, etc.) have a similar, yet slightly different culture. We all have distinct jargon (terms that refer to idiosyncrasies of our sport, even words that are different that mean the same thing). This past Sunday, I ran the Santa Monica Classic 10k, and for the first time in a local road race, pushed my daughter in a jogging stroller. I've run a very small 5k in Brooklyn pushing my daughter, and I've done tons of miles (primarily when she was about 8 months old until she was about 18 months old) with her in training. But this past Sunday was different. As I worked my way into the starting corral (immediately after the 5k race was sent off and the 10k runners loaded in), one girl took notable exception to my being near her with a jogging stroller. This is an Open Letter to her, that I hope stimulates some dialog between our contrasting (and at times conflicting) cultures. This is not to say that one is right and the other is wrong, but to acknowledge that each culture should seek to understand those that share our endurance lifestyle, and understand that when we cross-polinate, and try other disciplines, it may not be what we've grown accustomed to...

Dear Anonymous Triathlete Girl,
I'm the dad pushing a stroller in the corral that you threw a tantrum at last weekend. I am that completely random stranger who responded by asking you what your race goal was (to which you responded "42-minutes" which I can remember clear-as-day because it's Jackie Robinson's number, and was about the time I thought I would run that day) and when I then offered to pace you to that goal whilst pushing 55-lbs of toddler and wheeled machine of death you subsequently ignored me, not even offering a halfway polite "no thank you", nor even eye contact from that point forward. Not only did you non-respond, but you demonstratively turned your back to me because I wasn't doing exactly what you wanted me to do. I am still not sure whether your female and male companions were mortified by your behavior, or if they too were giving me the "sharks with friggin' lasers on their heads" stare for being the stroller-guy sandwiched up in the front 250 people in a 3,000 person race. I sensed your race nerves and that the event was important to you, so I chose not to say something awful back to you. I gave you a temporary pass.

Here's the thing: most stand alone road races allow runners with strollers to compete (my favorite race of this sort is the Redondo Super Bowl 10k, that actually has a separate stroller race/division). I had as much right to be there in that corral as you did. Our crew specifically sought out a family-friendly, strollers-allowed race to run with our young children, and some of us wanted to do that as fast as we possibly could. Athletes are asked to "self-seed" at a race like that (whereas 10k plus person races generally have pace-per-mile signs posted to aid in this self-seeding), and as someone who ended up finishing 65th overall, I had more people in front of me than there needed to be (it took me a full 11-seconds to cross the starting line). I was very conscious about my race-lines, not running over feet or clipping heels. Let me tell ya, it was one of the most difficult 10k's of my life, having to zigzag while pushing my 2.5-year-old daughter was rough. Going up that 2-3% grade to get to the the turn-around on San Vicente built a new room in my pain cave. My daughter tossed her green racing car out of the stroller twice and trying to pick up something while pushing 55-lbs upgrade/uphill while at a race intensity pace, well, damn, you should try it sometime. It's awful. But I'm not asking for your sympathy. I enjoy the hurt locker, quite a bit.

I do get it, nobody likes being passed, nor beat by any parent pushing a stroller. At that very same race, many years ago, I ran 36:13 (my personal best) and had a dad pushing a stroller run 35:30-ish in front of me. Again, a little over a year ago, I was 4th overall at a 5k pushing my daughter in a stroller and was soundly beat by a guy pushing twin 3-year-olds in a double-stroller. No hard feelings either time, just mad props to those badass dads setting a pretty stellar example to kids who won't quite understand why that's so awesome, maybe ever (or until they have children of their own and try to run a fast race while pushing them). At the very least, I take precious little joy in my finishing position. I'm an effort conscious and time-minded athlete. If I run a time I'm capable of and if I worked hard for it, that's satisfying to me. That doesn't mean I won't push myself for position during a race, I mean, what's the point in dropping some coin unless we can push ourselves to be the best we can be with-and-against other competition. I respect my competition. Always. I let my legs, heart, and toughness do the talking for me. I never tell anyone in the corral they shouldn't be near nor in front of me. Nor should you. Nor should anyone.

I'm hoping that somehow this makes it's way to you, and you either find a way to be polite to others planning to suffer alongside you, or maybe select events that don't allow strollers (the LA Marathon, and pretty much ANY triathlon). But, I suggest that you treat someone pushing a stroller with a bit more respect, as the Boston Marathon (a race you've publicly declared you'll run) has a guy who pushes a huge stroller (well, it's more of a strolling-wheelchair) and he also does the Kona Ironman (towing his son in a friggin' BOAT), in fact, he's one of my personal heroes and inspiration to millions. I passed this father-son duo at the Boston Marathon years ago, and I cheered for him and shook his hand. His son cheered for me. It gave me a ton more juice to finish a tough Boston that year. 
Dick and Rick Hoyt aka TEAM HOYT at Boston

In closing, I sincerely congratulate you for putting the training in, showing up on race day and running your PR in the 10k. I didn't displace you in your division, nor did my 2.5-year-old daughter (although, when she's about 14, watch out in the female overall division at local events). If we ever bump into each other at another race or local group run, I'll buy ya a beer (or your favorite beverage) to show ya there's really no hard feelings. I wish you luck in your upcoming races in 2017 and beyond. I hope you get into Boston and crush it. Give Rick and Dick Hoyt a high five from me...

With Respect,
Jimmy Dean Freeman
Coyote Running Founder and Head Coach
Road/Track/Trail Runner w/300+ Races of Experience

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Danger-Danger, Overachiever: 10 Reasons to Schedule Rest into Your Running Program

So you just ran a big deal race, huh? A race you focused on for half a year, invested countless (or specifically tracked) hours that ultimately exceeded 100-hours and that doesn't even count the amount of time you spent thinking, dreaming, talking about, having nightmares about this event. Maybe it's a day that you had your best performance (at that distance) ever?. Maybe it was a completely imperfect day where you knew had you had better "circumstances" you'd have run much faster. Either way, you find yourself inspired, hungry, excited to take on what is next, to keep this momentum moving forward.

Take a deep breath. You're not likely going to love what I have to say next... the most important thing you do in the next phase of training is recover from your hard effort. While I do not fully subscribe to this rule, a long-standing coaches saying in the realm of long distance running is:

"For every mile raced, take at least one day of recovery."

This means, generally speaking, that a 5k raced requires a few days, a 10k requires about a week, a half marathon merits 2 weeks of recovery and marathoners need about a month to bounce back before resuming normal training, long runs and hard/fast workouts. When it comes to ultra distance events, 50k is pretty similar to the marathon in terms of recovery (about a month), 50 milers and 100k's generally merit 5-6 weeks of recovery, and 100 miles often requires a solid 2 months for bounce back.

This is where the debate comes in: what defines "raced" vs just having "run" or even ran/walked/hiked/crawled a particular distance? That will largely depend on your base of years in experience, current training volume, and what physical condition you were in on race day (i.e. were you injured, or sick, or were the conditions of the race extreme, etc.) to create the total cumulative stress on your instrument (aka your body). These are all factors in determining when it is appropriate for your body to be ready to run hard (in workouts or another race) again.

Don't be this dude/lady... those fish impressed by his/her Strava
All of you hard working overachievers have anecdotal stories and evidence of athletes who have bucked these rules of thumb, and lord knows there are a tremendous number of training-idiots out there (one of my favorite nicknames for chronic over-trainers and over-racers is Hammerheads, taught to me by the founder of the Fluffy Bunnies Track Club, David Olds). Hell, I know a few knuckleheads that thought it'd be a good idea to run a series of 6 x 100 mile races with only 2 to 3 weeks of recovery in between them, that's 600 miles (of racing) in less than 3 months. Don't be like those guys. Not scheduling recovery weeks/months into your training season and training year is a little like playing Russian Roulette, it's a fun, adrenaline filled game until you finally pull the trigger and the chamber is loaded.

My first marathon (raced) was in October of 2002. I ran the Chicago Marathon and was 11+ minutes off of my A-goal (2:59), and only 12 seconds away from a Boston Marathon qualification (or BQ), needed 3:10:59, ran 3:11:11. I was super inspired and ready to sign up for an early December marathon (California Int'l). Here's the thing, simply running that December marathon may not have been an issue had I taken 3-4 weeks of recovery. Instead, I kept training hard because I had another race to "prepare for". That Russian Roulette chamber was loaded, and I went down hard with quadriceps tendonitis that took me out of running completely for 10 months (each one of those months is a reason not to overtrain, I'd have killed to have any one of those months back). November of 2002 to August of 2003, I was out of commission. Dejectedly attempted 3 painful runs in that 10 month span. I was not surprisingly depressed about the whole situation. When I finally started back running again in September of 2003, it took me another 15 months to train back up to where I was when I over-trained in the month following my first marathon. That's a 2 year "impatience penalty," a massive price to pay for the inspired athlete.

I have learned a lot of hard lessons in my life (and running career) so that maybe you (my reader, or my athlete) wouldn't have to. So for those of you ready to pull the trigger and sign up for that next race that's only a few weeks to a few months away, I urge you to be conservative with your distance, with your pace/effort, and work more on low-intensity cross training elements to allow your body to fully heal from the effort you just put forth. Especially those of you who ran hard road marathons, you're likely to feel fully recovered in about 14 days post, but your bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage are not gonna be there (ready for high impact, high intensity training) for another couple weeks after that. Patience is a huge key here. And knowing you're not going to lose much fitness in 3-4 weeks of taking it low key, but you will lose a ton of fitness if you are forced to take 6 months off due to a stress fracture or tendonitis or worse.

Every training year has it's season, which season are you in?
Every athlete who is serious about their racing, and serious about improving, should have 3-6 weeks off of serious training and hard/long running, 1 to 2 times per calendar year. If you ignore this, you're going to be physically or mentally burned out, and your running career will be but a flash in the pan.

Be proud of your race result! Be inspired and absolutely sign up for more races if you want to. Keep your habits and routines going. But always be mindful that training is like weather's seasons, we all need a Spring (early season base training), Summer (peak fitness training), Fall (racing season) and Winter (rest and recovery focused season)...

What season are you in? Don't allow over enthusiasm call the shots in the realm of rest and recovery, just the same as don't let feeling uninspired stop you from training when you need to keep the routine going. See you at the next race, in the next training program, or out on the trails in between...

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bulletproof Attitude & 1 Trick to Develop Mental Toughness Thru the Alvin Matthews Story

Alvin Matthews is a current member of Team NutriBullet (training for the 2016 LA Marathon) and many years ago trained with the SoCal Coyotes in pursuit of running a marathon on all 7 continents. As a runner, Alvin completed marathons on 6 of the 7 continents (and the North Pole too).

In April of 2014, Alvin fell 3 stories off a roof and cracked his cervical spine rendering him quadriplegic. As he healed/recovered and went to PT (after surgery to fuse C5-C7 vertebrae), Alvin's diagnosis was refined to "incomplete quadriplegic" as his paralyzation is chest down. He has limited (and uneven) use of both of his arms and hands, although precious little strength which he's currently working to build back up. Due to the difficulty of working with his health insurance, he has not been to Physical Therapy in over 3 months.

Alvin's first finish line as a wheelchair athlete
Alvin was barely able to complete 200 meters in his wheelchair on his own power 2 months ago. As you may have seen in the video (above), on Sunday, November 8th Alvin completed the Calabasas Classic 5k in 2 hours, 4 minutes and 54 seconds. He pushed up the hills and on the flats on his own power, and on the downhills he had his mentor Ralph (a very experienced wheelchair athlete with 13 years of racing under his belt) and me making sure he didn't slip backwards down the hill, and also to steer/brake on the downhills as he didn't have the strength/leverage at higher speeds to brake. His wheelchair is not designed for racing.

Our plan is to purchase one of these hand-cycles for Alvin!
We (his coaches, teammates and friends) aim to raise $15,000 (or more) to cover the costs of a new racing hand-cycle (a specialized wheelchair that will allow Alvin to restore his strength and health) and put Alvin back into the Physical Therapy he needs to perform everyday functions. Alvin dreams of being able to drive again, he plans to race a marathon on his 7th continent to complete a huge personal goal, and he also plans someday to be able to walk again. Doctors have said cases like Alvin's are a one-in-a-million shot to walk, to which Alvin responded, "why not be the one who does?"

Alvin has a very simple reframing technique when he's struggling: he simply reminds himself that there are people less fortunate than him. Kids and adults in hospital beds, fully quadriplegic and unable to move, to exercise, to perform every day functions. So whenever you are struggling, think of how lucky you are to be able to do what you do. Whether you are a runner or a walker or a hiker, every movement is a gift. Cherish those gifts.

Alvin has inspired all those on Team NutriBullet, and on the Coyotes, and in his life. His positive attitude in the face of these challenges is infectious. We thank you for anything, even if only $10. If you can give more, I thank you, Alvin thanks you, his family and his teammates are grateful for every contribution. We will publish our grand total and how much the hand-cycle costs (and how much more we put towards Alvin's return to Physical Therapy). Thank you, thank you, thank you so much.

"​Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people."
-​Dennis Prager