Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Coe Project

If you follow my training via Twitter or Facebook or here on my blog (Thanks Dad) then you know that I have been working on some weird "project". Likewise, if you regularly attend the weekly Rush Hour speed sessions at Tiger Track in Bentonville you might be wondering, "Who is that pasty skinned dude doing something different from everyone else?" (Thanks Whitney). Well, it is my Summer carrot...
I thought I could provide some details for this idea here so that I don't have to keep explaining it to people that ask and have them stare at me blankly or hold back the laughter. Yeah, I'm that guy usually pulling off back to back weekend runs of 20+ miles and traveling to Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri or Tennessee for trail races. This time last year I was rebuilding my base following the stress fracture. My first race back was the Pumpkin Holler 50k (Tatur) over near Tahlequah where I bagged a top 10 finish and a new PR. Next up in December was the Rock Creek Series Lookout Mtn 50 miler in Chattanooga where I found a very lonely, dark place to die before being pulled to the light by David Newman for my worst race ever (but a great learning experience). February found me back in the Lone Star State for the Tejas Trails race known as Rocky Raccoon where I once again tackled the 50 miler and bagged another PR. In April I erased my newly set 50k PR with a new one at Frisco Trail 50k (OMRR) in Missouri and earned a top 3 finish. Then I blew myself away with my time at the Bentonville Half Marathon with a huge 18 minute PR. Then this month I grabbed a top 5 finish and new 25k PR at War Eagle. Coming off of that streak I was hungry for more PRs. Namely for the 5k and 10k distance. Based on my new half mary PR I began some workouts for the 5k distance. I was not able to finish any of the workouts. Oh yeah, I could nail it for a couple or 3 miles but then my legs would quickly turn to lead. Sure, I could run 50 miles at a given pace but try to speed things up for a 5k and I was done. My aerobic base was great but the lactate threshold was anemic. 
So I gave up and decided to just run over the Summer. No specific training, no races, just run. That lasted about two weeks. I read this article at about the mile being America's classic distance. You see, I'm a carrot guy. I need something to shoot for to stay disciplined in my training. The thought of stepping outside my comfort zone was appealing to me. I floated the idea past Mike Rush, owner of Rush Running and former NCAA 800m animal at the U of A. Mike knows my running background. He knows my strengths and weaknesses. He laughed at me. He asked what my goal time was. I told him 5 minutes flat. He laughed harder. He asked "Why five minutes?" and I told him "Because it sounds good." I had to pick him up off the floor. OK, I didn't do that but he did laugh. I explained the reason why. How I wanted to not just set new PRs for 5k and 10k but to blow them away. The reason those first fast workouts were cut short, he said, was because I had worked backwards as far as I could from all of the big volume training for my ultras.  There was no turnover, the engine couldn't rev high for very long. If the goal was to crack new ground in shorter distances then I would need to go forward in my training, not backwards. I needed to start from square one. He asked what my best time was for a mile. I told him I ran "4:50 something back in high school. You know, 1987." He shook his head and told me to meet him at the track the following Monday. He needed some numbers to work with and was gonna make me run hard. 
So I showed up. He wanted me to run a 400 as fast as I could. I knew a 5 minute mile is 4 x 75 second laps. I figured I had go sub 70 to have any type of shot at it. I had no clue if it was possible. For motivation, Matt Blaty offered to rabbit for me. Matt is a former NCAA stand out at Cal Poly Pomona where he set records that remain intact to this day. He was All American in 1980 and once ran a 30:16:00 in the 10k. Sick. Mike says "Go!" and Blaty is off like a scalded cat. I'm thinking "Holy $#@!". He instantly gets 5 meters on me but I manage to hold it there all down the back stretch. Then we hit the turn. Halfway through it my legs were burnt toast. I began throwing my arms out front in an attempt to keep my momentum moving. Probably looked more like flailing. He began to pull away. By now I could hear some of the Rush Runners yelling at me and cheering. I wanted to die. My legs felt so damn heavy. We crossed the finish line and Mike asked for the time. The answer was "77" and I thought I had just embarrassed myself. Then "No, wait, I mean 67." I do the quick math and realize that is 4:28 pace and that Mike might be surprised. I was. Mike then says he wants us to do 3 x 200 repeats all out with a 400m shuffle for rest. We knocked those out in 35, 34 and 36 seconds. More proof that my legs had turned to concrete. After an easy cool down I asked Mike what he thought. His realistic projection was 5:10-5:15 and anything better than that was icing on the cake. And yes, he was a bit surprised that I ran a sub 70 on the 400. 
But you know what? The goal is not the final time on August 12th (yes, just 8 weeks of training), that is almost irrelevant. The process is what is important. That is the focus. I am really stepping out of my comfort zone here. I know if I want to get that 18 minute 5k time and sub 40 minute 10k and get my BQ marathon it is going to take work. But it is possible. I also know that doing this will require smart training. I will need to monitor my body physically in new ways. I will have to incorporate regular strength work and stretching. All the stuff I normally blow off and disregard. After chalk talking it with Mike the plan for the first two weeks looked like this:
Regular runs of 5-7 miles at a comfortable to comfortably hard pace. If the body says slow down then slow down. Just get miles for now. One long run of 10-12 miles weekly. Again, allow the body to dictate the pace. Striders 2-3 times per week, 6-8 x 110 meters and build up to 75-80% effort on them. In other words, not all out but comfortably hard right at the very end of the stride. In addition I complete a lunge matrix before every run that takes about 4 minutes. I have been vigilant about taking time for proper cool downs. I have taken time to stretch when needed and try to closely monitor for any signs of breakdown. It has been a long time since this body went hard. Wait, that sounds wrong. You know what I mean, my body ain't used to running 400s and stuff. 
So week 1 looked like this:
Mon: LM (lunge matrix), 20 min w/u, 400x1, 200x3, 15 minute c/d down and GSM (general strength work)
Tue: LM, 5 miles @ 9min pace (recovery run)
Wed: LM, 5.5 miles @ 8:15 pace, 8 striders
Thu: LM, 4.5 miles @ 8:15 pace, 4 x repeats Fishback Hill
Fri: LM, 5 miles @ 7:50 pace
Sat: LM, 10 miles @ 8:55 pace, several surges during middle of run
Sun: LM, 7 miles @ 8:20 pace, 6 striders
Total: 41 miles in 5 hours and 37 minutes 
After two weeks I am contemplating a name change for this from the Coe Project (in honor of the great miler Sebastian Coe) to Project FT. The FT could stand for "fast twitch" or on other days it could stand for "F*** that!" I like the sound of that. 

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