In the Summer of 2010 I had long been beaten down by my coordination issues. I still had a shoe contract but I had done little to keep it. I was however, despite having very strict limits on what I was capable of doing in terms of training because of the coordination issues, quite fit. I had qualified for and competed in the USA indoor track championships that winter and I had run a couple of my fastest 5k's earlier in the year, a 13:56 in January and a 14:01 in June. However my training lacked direction or focus.
In fact in late May I finally got health insurance thanks to my wife, Melissa, and my focus was going to various specialists in hopes of finding a solution to my troubles.
Most of my years of dealing with the coordination issues I give myself grades ranging from D's to F's on how I chose to train. Mostly I was true to my stubborn ass self and just tried to force the long tempos and the similar workouts that I love and that I knew worked. Frankly, however, they were guaranteed failure because of the coordination issues. Somehow despite knowing this I only had a few cycles where I got out of my own head enough to make a nice rational decision to experiment a little bit so that at the least I would learn something and at the most I might actually improve a bit in spite of my issues.
This stretch of time, leading up to my 10k road best, was one of those rare times I made some good choices. I had no intention of racing much that summer, again my focus was getting my leg fixed, so I hadn't tried to get added to any races. My hope was to spend the summer getting healthy and come back in the fall cured and ready to get back on the horse and run the way I knew I could. That was generally how I have viewed every cycle for the last few years. I would be hopeful whatever treatment I was currently doing would fix my leg and the next cycle I could get back to the marathon. Generally this was a disaster for two reasons. First the treatment never worked so the 'next phase' never came. Second I would do a marathon base phase of which I couldn't complete many of the most important workouts. This time however I decided to try to follow basically a Joe Vigil base phase based on his 'Road to the Top' book. I would have to make some adjustments as I couldn't do the long moderate tempos and I would have some trouble with some other workouts but really they were very small tweaks.
Starting at the end of June I was doing 2 week cycles. Each week had 3 to 4 hard or moderately hard sessions. I was still running full time so I also was trying to do a bunch of Dan Pfaff general strength work for cross training, that is the stuff John Cook's athletes do.
In each two week cycle I would do something like this
Monday 10x400m at 10k pace ~69 or 70 with 100m jogs, for the last 400 I would do a 500m so that I would cover 5k on the track continuously in one session. The reps were easy but I kept the jogs pretty quick. I would cover the 5k in 15:30 to 15:55. I'd do an easy run for a second session.
Tuesday Easy double generally 10 and 7
Wednesday 8x1k at around goal 10k pace or bit slower, 2:55 to 3:00. It was summer and very hot and I didn't want to work hard on these. I would take 400m jogs in about 1:45(7min pace) for rests which would mean I was running under 5:30 mile pace including the rests. I would do an easy second run
Thursday Easy double generally 10 and 7- most weeks I had a doctors appointment this day- or would be getting x-rays or mri's. I don't remember if I was purposely booking these on this day or if worked out that way.
Friday I would do a 5k tempo run on the track or around the Phillips Academy fields in the morning, 14:50 to 15:00. Not hard. Sometimes very hot. That was about as far as I could run around threshold pace without losing coordination. I would do an easy 7 in the afternoon
Saturday Easy double and some drills followed by max speed 2x100m.
Sunday I would do a fartlek on the grass at the Phillips Academy fields and just go until I lost coordination. Some weeks this was only 10k, one week I went 24k. The soft grass helped me hold coordination. I know now that was because the soft slightly uneven surface was preventing my ankle from locking up as much as it would on a harder surface.
2nd Monday easy double generally 10 and 7
2nd Tuesday I would try to do 10x 1600 at half marathon to marathon pace with 400 jogs in around 90 to 100 seconds. Often I would have to stop on the jogs to stretch to keep control of the leg. I would run these around 4:55 to 5:00. It was often very hot. If I had to stop it would be because of the coordination. I would do an easy 7 mile in the afternoon
2nd Wednesday easy double generally 10 and 7
2nd Thursday I would generally do 30x100m in 14/15 seconds "on the minute" which is to say I ran a watch constantly without it stopping and I started the first on 0 the second at 1:00 the third at 2:00 and so on. So if I ran a 100 in 15.0 I got 45.0 for rest. This session for a middle distance runner can be an aerobic war for a marathoner it is just a lot of strides. Great muscular work. If you do this and it is hard aerobically you need more aerobic training and you should take longer rests on this session because it is all about building the strong muscles to stay smooth while running fast. I would do a second easy run.
2nd Friday easy double generally 10 and 7
2nd Saturday I would try to get through a 10k progression run on the Phillips fields generally the coordination held. This was sometimes as fast as sub 32 with the 2nd half in the low 15's. PM an easy run.
2nd Sunday an easy double. generally 10 and 7.
I went along like this for a couple months and I started to realize I was actually quite fit. Scott Douglas from Running Times where I had my blog at the time suggested I jump in the Beach to Beacon 10k last minute and said I could stay at his place. He got me contacted with the race people and I was added to the field.
I ran with Scott the night before the race on the course and I remember we passed Lee Troop, 13:14/ 2:09 Australian Olympian who currently coaches, among others, Laura Thweatt, going in the other direction. Now Lee was 39 at the time and not having the best year but he looked so Goddamn perfect. So smooth I just remember thinking 'what the hell am I doing out here that old guy is going to kick my ass tomorrow on the memory of the runner he once was.'
Now quickly approaching 39 myself I feel bad about thinking of Lee as an old guy but then at my current age, 34, I often feel like the old guy at races in terms of the contenders for the win so I guess it is what it is. Still the point or points remains. I was not in the best place mentally and I am not one of those guys who looks the part at all. I actually remember being a coach at a middle school while I was on injured reserve in college and a teammate who was working with me was doing some high knees drills to demonstrate them to the kids and the high school coach said something to the effect of how amazing he looked and what an athlete he was. Then he stopped and said "I suppose you look the same though." I just answered "no".
The next morning Scott drove me down to the start area and I found my way to the invited athlete tent. There was a great field assembled for the race. I did my easy jog warm up, actually running with NYRR head Mary Wittenburg who I have always really liked talking to for a stretch then I just tried to find a spot to do some strides. Gun was up and the mile split was real fast, 4:32, but Scott had warned me that the first mile seemed to be about 10s fast and the second 10s slow so I just held effort and let the groups start to form. I hit 2 miles in 9:22, Scott was right! By this point the lead pack was away and I was running with Ben True, yes he has gotten a lot better since then, we hit 3 miles at 13:58(4:36) and the 5k in 14:29. Ben who had a stated goal of 29:00 really took off on the downhill 4th mile and I knew if he was going to run that time he was going to have to get some time because the last mile is very tough. I ran the 4th mile in 4:49, not good, but my overall split was 18:48 which was good for me so I just needed to keep it together. I calmed my mind, pulled myself together and realized I wasn't actually hurting that bad. I dropped a 4:44 5th mile hitting 5 miles in 23:32 which was equal to or a bit better than my 8k PB of 23:26. As I was coming up to the 5 mile mark Pat Tarpy caught me. We went back and forth a bit but then we started to climb and I just tried to hang on to him. He got away a bit but there is a short steep downhill and I caught him there and we then turn and go up the last short steep climb. I used all my reserves to hang with him up that. to the 6 mile mark. 28:35(5:02). This split was much slower but given the hills this was actually a good mile. Pat drilled me on the last .2 which is a perfect gradual downhill for a sprint finish. I ran 29:31 which was the fastest last .2 I had ever run by quite a bit.
At the finish Pat stopped and doubled over. I was going into the dark a bit and didn't notice him that is until I ran into him. He was not happy. I always got the feeling I annoyed Pat a bit. Can't blame him. He is a quiet guy and I don't shut up. He is a much better runner than I but he never got the press he deserved and I'm more than a bit full of myself and have received far more attention than I ever deserved. Crashing into him after a hard summer road 10k could not have helped things.
I would end up never progressing the training of this cycle to a specific phase because I would start getting spinal injections and other minor procedures in the coming months leading up to a major low back surgery that would 'half' fix the coordination in January of 2011.
I would guess based on how most people's times at Beach to Beacon compare with track times that this was about a 28:45 to 29:00 track effort. I would guess that if I had been able to do the full cycle as Joe designed it I would have been in much better shape by the mid-fall. If I ever do a 10k season again I will likely use Joe's book to go after it. In addition to being one of the nicest and most inspiring people you will ever meet Joe Vigil is a genius who can flat out coach.
Looking back at this schedule the only two adjustments I would make if I were to get a chance to redo this again are, one, include the 30k fundamental paced tempo runs that Joe puts in them. At the time my coordination obviously wouldn't allow it at the time but they really add a huge aerobic boost to the training. Second I would do strides on all the easy days.
If you are looking at this training for guidance the three things I would keep in mind. First this is high level training and there is a lot of work in a given week so beginning runners or low mileage runners would have to adjust the volume, not only in terms of mileage but in terms of the workouts as well. Second the EFFORT is important don't get caught up in the pace. None of these workouts were very hard, they shouldn't be, they were controlled base phase aerobic efforts. You need to adjust the paces based on your fitness not on what you want to run down the line. If you hammer these sessions as fast as you can you won't be training the right, aerobic, systems and you will break down and not see much improvement anyway. Third the real thing that makes this training exceptional is the variety of systems being challenged and improved in balance. Far to often we run but we don't train. This is training. You are sprinting, running race pace, a bit faster, a bit slower, running tempo work doing muscular work all in balance and all very regularly.