Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Throwback Thursday Meeting Canova

  I ran my debut marathon in February of 2006 (full story here ) I ran 2:15 and for the first time was running on a national class level.  The whole story to my conversion to Canova styled training didn't quite end there.  Instead some of the most important part of my journey would wait about 10 months.

  The NYRR invited me to come to the 2006 NYC marathon as a guest.  They had been working hard to bring in all sorts of top Americans to see the Olympic Trials course and my debut had been good enough to get on their radar.  I felt like a bit of an odd man out of the ten guys they brought in as part of our American VIP crew.  It included Abdi Abdirahman, who was the top dog in the USA at the time having just run a 2:08:56 at Chicago a few weeks before, Ryan Hall who had not yet run sub 60 for the half or his marathon debut but he was coming off a USA title for 20k and an American Record in that event at the World championships.  I was happy that my roommate was the only other guy in the group who wasn't a household name in running circles, Josh Ordway who had run 2:15 with me in Austin.

  The entire weekend was an amazing experience for me but it was on the bus ride home from the post race after party that this story begins.  The NYRR had a bus to bring all the athletes and their families coaches etc.. to and from the event.  For a crazy running fan like myself it was an unimaginable experience for me.  I saw every running star I had ever heard of it seemed and got to talk to so many of them it was really quite a night.  Still the man I really wanted to talk to seemed to be the most popular there, Renato Canova.  As we were getting off the bus at the Hotel I decided it was my last chance and I caught Renato as he got off the bus.

  Now full discloser, I was not stone cold sober.  It seemed to me that Renato was not either.  I'm not saying we were blasted just that neither of us should have been driving a car.

  So here we are on a sidewalk around the corner from times square stand two men.  I quickly approached Canova and said something to the effect that I wanted to thank him for posting so much stuff online and getting the information out there.  He was trying to follow a group to the after after-party and seemed very uninterested.  I hastened, I didn't want anything from him you see I just wanted to thank him and let him know that his actions had greatly impacted me a person he didn't even know.  I added what was my planned last line.  I told him that I had used his training to go from a 1:07 half marathon best to a 2:15:28 marathon debut and that I knew that would never have happened without his training being posted online.  The moment I said 2:15 his whole demeanor changed.  It seemed to me this man had no interest in being told again how great he was or talking in abstracts but the chance to influence a young athlete who had some potential, not that interested him.

  Immediately in his heavy but almost lyrical accent he began questioning me.  What were my other PR's?  Where did I get the info from?  Where had I run the marathon?  Had I raced today?

  I answered as quickly as I could that I had not run today, I was slightly hurt, I had run my debut in Austin on a super fast course rated as fast as Berlin by ARRS.  My other PR's were not nearly as good but I had run 1:04 and not long after the marathon a 23:26 8k, all my other bests were much slower.

  I must admit I was almost sick to tell him my other PR's they seemed so inadequate.  I didn't want him to dig deeper to where I would have to tell him how slow most of my regular times were.  His response floored me.

  "You didn't do my base phase! Did you?!!"  before I could answer he added. "You did a Lydiard base! Did you not?!

  To say this is not the response I expected is an understatement I was wheeling and confused.  I stammered back "uh.. umm.. yes.  I, I mean that is exactly true.  I did a Lydiard base and then used a Rodgers Rop schedule of yours for the specific training."

  His response was quick and more mind blowing to me "Yes, yes!  You were not able to finish many of the marathon workouts!  You took too long to recover.  You should have run much faster in the marathon, 2:13 for sure.  You came apart badly in the last few miles of the marathon did you not?"

  I in a state of shock I responded in the affirmative and asked how he could possibly know.

  Canova laughed "But it is all to clear!  You think your marathon is your best performance but your other bests are superior.  You needed more specific workouts to not run out of the glycogen but you could not do them because you didn't prepare properly for them.  Now for your next marathon you do my base and you will run at least 2:13."

  I said something bland to the effect that he made it sound very easy and I wasn't very talented.

  He smiled knowingly.  "You americans are lost on the marathon.  It is not such a big deal running 2:10 in the marathon you need a little talent, you have shown enough, and little hard work and you are there.  I coached an Italian not running under 30 flat for 10k to 2:11 for the marathon so for you 2:10 is certainly a good goal and in present state of running you will likely make Olympic team with that, No?"

  I said something about how that would certainly give me a shot at the Olympic team.  He said something to the effect that he needed to join his party and wished me luck.

  This conversation turned my running world on it's head.  I was thinking I had vastly exceeded my potential in the marathon and that I had approached it just about perfectly.  Now my hero had told me I had everything ass backwards.  In the coming months I would get healthy and put his simply advice to work and the results would show me quickly that he was right and I was under achieving.


GZ said...

Beautiful. Love the entire mind shift this represents.

Patrick Bugbee said...

Great post - do you have any older posts that go into greater detail on the 'Canova Base'? I read the post from early January about planning a full marathon cycle, but I'd be curious to read a bit more on the base phase if you have anything.

Thanks for the frequent posts!

RunningDoc said...

Nate, Great post - it is fantastic that Canova was willing to listen and with such little information was able to diagnose the "problem" in your training. Thank you for taking the time to make more sense of the Canova training on your blog. Hope your training continues to go well. Good luck at Boston. said...

Patrick- this post is about a Canova base for cross country running

this post is on my full marathon training guidelines and needs some updating but has good info

You can also get some more general stuff under the my training guidelines page

GZ and RunningDoc- Thanks!

danny said...

So it's all about that Base ( shout out to Mehgan trainor). I wish I had my base season back after reading this. Now I have to figure out how I can mix in the fundamental stuff with the specific stuff, seeing as I have races every month from March to November. Thank you for sharing this very valuable information Nate. said...

Danny- you can race well through a Canova base I would suggest setting up a plan where you start with a base heavy on fundamental tempos and short hills/strides. Then do your races and mix in race specific alternations just Start with the rest on the very slow end. If you do this you will still race very well in the base but by the end of year you will make big gains you would otherwise giving up -nate

brady said...

Great blog entry! I stumbled across this while searching for something else. I met Canova's protege (Gavin Smith) while at a camp in Kenya. Gavin coaches, using Canova's methods, and I must say it's pretty amazing training. I could ramble on all day, but it's cool to see someone else interested in these methods and theories. I have only used Gavin for specific periods, but want to expand more into the base and start incorporating his stuff much earlier into my programs. Thanks again for the post and great blog. said...

Thanks. It really is amazing how effective the stuff is when you get it right. It makes you feel like much of the running we were brought up doing is just stumbling in the dark by comparison.