Six weeks ago, my friend Shelley asked me if I’d coach her for the Monterey Bay Half Marathon. Shelley has already run a handful of half marathons and a full marathon. So I asked her why she wanted me to coach her. She told me that she wanted to change things up. She wanted a new plan and new regimen. That seemed reason enough for me. My next question was, “what is your goal for the race?”
“To finish the race and come away healthy.”
Finishing a race healthy (uninjured) should always be at or near the top of the list for an athlete.
I then asked Shelley is she had any interest in attaining a personal best at Monterey Bay.
So it was decided, pretty much right then and there, that my not-so-hidden agenda would be for Shelley to get faster. Maybe she won’t get a PR at Monterey Bay, but my goal is for her to run it really well, and come away healthy, happy, and able to recover faster than she did after her best half marathon.
I created a 16-week periodized training plan that includes mileage, workouts, tempo runs and long runs.
I had to travel out of state the week that Shelley’s plan started. We maintained communication via text messages. On her second day I had her doing hill repeats. This was her feedback:
I was still out of town for her second week into the training plan. Tuesday consisted of a 4×400 track workout. Shelley hadn’t done a track workout in a really long time, and she wasn’t sure how to maintain my prescribed pace during the workout.
Interval training feedback:
I was back in town for the following week and she invited me along for the Tuesday hill workout. I was a few minutes late, and she had already banged out one repeat. I ran the next repeat with her, and then told her I needed to catch up. So I picked up the pace and tried to catch her in the next 5 repeats, but I was already a half mile behind, so it wasn’t until the final downhill that we finally reconvened.
The fourth Tuesday brought us back to the track for a 6×400 workout. I wanted to be there for this workout so I could pace Shelley. As we walked to the track, I told her that this workout was going to be: Hard, hard, hard. Harder, harder, harder. We were going to work on turning our legs over quickly and increasing VO2 max.
She was raring to go, so we started our first 400. My watch was having a hard time calculating pace (it told me we were running a 10 minute pace. We needed to be running an 8:15). So I settled into what felt like an 8:15 pace. At the 300 meter mark, my watch told me we were running a 7:45 pace.
We settled into our 2-minute recovery and I asked her how that felt. “That was okay. A little faster than the last time I did 400’s, but it was okay.”
I smiled and said, “Good.”
Recovery time was over and we started our next 400. As we started I told her we were going to go a little bit slower. She liked that notion. But we still kept a 7:45 pace. And we kept a 7:45 pace on the third 400-meters.
We’re into our recovery and Shelley’s breathing hard. Two minutes goes by quickly, and I remind her that this is the part where we’re going to go “harder, harder, harder.”
And it’s at that point where my watch beeps, telling us it’s time to run, and Shelley says, under her breath, “fucker.”
I laugh and settle us into a 7:15 pace, and we finish the last 200-meters at a 7-minute pace. It’s at this point Shelley’s done expressing her feelings under her breath. “DAMMIT. ASSHOLE. HATE. YOU. FUCKER!”
Two more to go and I remind Shelley why we’re doing this. The track is like the gym. We’re here to do work. It’s going to suck, but it’s going to pay off. She wholeheartedly agrees, and then calls me asshole again.
The next 400-meters start at a 7-minute pace and we quickly settle into a 6:45 pace. “FUH. ASS. UGGGHHHH!!”
Two minute recovery before our final set. “I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you. Fucker.”
Last lap. We start at a 6:45 pace and I’m cheering Shelley on. “You got it. You got it! Push push push! Finish strong! Keep going! PUUUUUSSSSSHHH!!” And we end just shy of a 6-minute pace.
As we waddle our 2-minute recovery, Shelley takes her time to catch her breath and chug a bottle of water. High fives are exchanged. I was really excited for her and I commend her for her effort. I can easily see that she has the runner’s high thing going on. She calls me asshole again and tells me that I’m not invited to track workouts anymore.
The plan is working.