After much hemming and hawing, I’ve bit the bullet and decided to work with a running coach. Not just any running coach. One that focuses on trail, mountain, and ultra running.
When I started training for the 50k this past spring, I had this notion that perhaps I should get some outside perspective about this running thing. Especially the trails. Sure, I’ve been a runner for over 20 years, but I don’t claim to know everything about the sport. As I completed training and my first 50k, the thought became more prominent. Finally, Nick encouraged me to make the connection when he said, “Even professional athletes have coaches.” Truth. So if the pro’s out there need them, then certainly a mid-packer like me desperately needs one! I’m not trying to be a pro, or ever think I’ll be among the elites; however, a coach could just give me a different perspective. A coach could get me out of a training rut. A coach could help me with form and being a more efficient runner. A coach could help me navigate the trails and mountains. A coach could offer suggestions for my long-run fueling issues that creep up occasionally. A coach could be a good thing.
So, I contacted Ryan Knapp whom I’d met through IG and had ironically just moved to Colorado. After chatting for a bit, we felt it was a good fit, and we were off. While I’ve only been with him for a month, I’ve learned a lot. Mostly about myself. I love this about running.
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. You might have to run with a Heart Rate Monitor.
Or, HRM as the cool kids call it. This was totally new to me. I’m used to running/training based on pace. Even my high school Cross Country and Track coaches had us train off pace. I suppose this HRM thing was a little high-tech in the mid-90’s. That, and who could expect teenagers to run with an HRM?! Back to being an adult…So when Ryan told me I had to go out and get an HRM I was…curious. I know a lot of people train based on their HRM zones so the science behind it has to be legit. Right? The first time I wore the band, I chafed and I screamed when I took a shower. I’ll spare you the photo. And the audio. But then I dug out some old Body Glide that I hadn’t used in years and it works like a charm. Once I did all my initial assessments and Ryan set my zones, it still took me about a week to get comfortable with keeping my eyes off of the pace and onto my current heart rate. But now that it’s been a month, I am starting to see how my heart rate really should be driving my training. It isn’t always about maintaining a pace, but more about maintaining a zone. My pace can fluctuate drastically within a zone, even within a few heart beats, but it’s about the effort I am expending.
2. You might get pushed a little bit. A lot a bit.
I’ve certainly been asked to do things in the past month that I wouldn’t have asked myself to do in previous training seasons. But the good news is that someone actually thinks I can do it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been asked of me. You want me to do HOW many fartlek workouts this week? You want me to maintain THAT zone for HOW long? Ryan definitely sees more in me as a runner than I see in myself. And I think that’s a good thing. Because then, he’ll be able to push me past some limits that I may have initially placed on myself out of fear.
3. You might have to start “asking permission” to do things.
Suddenly, I’m actually accountable to someone other than myself. Suddenly, I have to ask if a race will fit into my schedule instead of my typical MO of signing up day-before or day-of. Suddenly, I have to ask if I can substitute any workouts. Look, I’m a pretty Type-A kind of gal. I can stick to a training program completely solo with very few modifications. So, it isn’t that I don’t like the accountability, it’s just a totally different kind of accountability.
4. You might not be running 6 days a week.
This was also my MO. One rest day. That’s all you get, Rebekah! Work hard! But when talking with Ryan about my hopes for the future in running, I shared that running is a lifestyle, not a goal-and-done type of thing. I want to be running for the rest of my life. I want to race hard and push myself, I want to have short and long term goals, but I want to have seasons of rest so that I don’t get burnt out on this passion of mine. And I don’t just want to be a runner. I want to be a strong, healthy runner. I want to incorporate reasonable strength training to help me be a more efficient runner with better form. So, Ryan included that. He adds yoga and core work and strength training to enhance the running that I’m doing as well. Oh I’m sure that when I gear up for another big race (50k!), some of this may change. But then again, maybe not. And I’m okay with that.
5. You don’t have to plan anything.
Ever. All of my workouts are ready for me a week in advance. On Sundays, I know exactly what’s required of me for the next 7 days. It’s actually quite nice to not have to even think about what I should do each day. Kind of makes me feel lazy.
All of that to say, I’m so glad I’m finally working with a coach. While I do have some short term goals that get me through the rest of the year, I know Ryan can help me also prepare for the long term goals as well. I am excited for what this means for my running career.
Also, Ryan has a pretty good blog here.