Monday, March 12, 2018

So I got a Coach, but how did I get there.

One of the big changes I made at the end of 2017 was hiring a coach and I figured it was a good topic to share my thoughts on and the steps I took to make sure I made the right choice for me (which is the most important factor).  As a runner I spent High School and College with two coaches who I really believed in and trusted their methods and they both got me to succeed ultimately.  I may have under-performed but that’s better saved for a future blog post about things I’d tell my former self.  But to stay on topic for those 7 years I followed the plans laid out in front of me and enjoyed having a coach there watching practice to give feedback.  It was much less stressful to have the workouts already figured out and my only job was to hit the times given by my coach.  So, after my 8 year hiatus I came back not having that luxury any longer so I started self-coaching myself.  Over the past 5 years I had some success.  I was fortunate to learn a lot from fellow runners on workouts and training goals while also reading blogs online to figure out different things. I then followed and executed a plan pretty perfectly for my first 50 miler.  But there was always something missing for me, sure I had friends who would sometimes give feedback like “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING, YOU’RE GOING TO GET HURT”, but we are runners and we are stubborn.  In 2016 and 2017 the big issue that came to haunt me as the year dragged on was the much-needed feedback loop.  I struggled on two ends with that, on one end I was doing too much and not getting the needed feedback to calm down and secondly, I was sometimes doing workouts and when I hit paces I wasn’t sure if I was running a good pace and should be satisfied or too fast and I should be worried (Not all runners have this issue).  To be fair the second issue came more about after my burn out post Boston where I started second guessing everything.  So, in November of 2017 I reached out and hired Coach David Roche (, but the story doesn’t start there.  Let’s get into how I ultimately choose him and then get into why a coach is helpful for me (and might be for you).

Ultimately finding a coach is a pretty big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  I mean let’s start with the obvious that you are paying for this service but on top of that you are putting a lot of your goals/training in the hands of someone else.  Obviously, we still need to run the race, but we need to trust the process, workouts, and above all else our coach to stay positive to achieve the goals.  Finding David was not something I just stumbled upon, back in 2016 while listening to Ultra Runner Podcast (100% listen to this podcast it is amazing), I heard David come on as a guest and explain his training philosophy.  Basically how he makes his runners take 1 easy day, builds in strides/pickups into runs to keep speed going, 1 workout day and a long run, how he emphasis’s the process not the end result and he spoke with such positivity about it all, it was a great interview I thought.  I ended the podcast thinking that David really shared similar views with me on training (although I failed often to do a lot of these things in my plans).  But for me, my 2016 continued and I was running great so I stuck with doing it alone.  However as 2016 started coming to an end I really dug myself into a hole for JFK50 thinking I needed to overdo it because you know 50 miles.  Instead of sticking to the views I heard from David that I also shared I went overboard and ran myself into an injury and then burnout.  In 2017 I stumbled upon David on twitter and was amazed by how supportive and positive he was about all the athletes he coaches or just others in the sport.  I get it, he’s a coach and he has to be somewhat civil but the level of gratitude and positive energy he showed everyone was amazing.  I then stumbled upon his articles on trail running magazine and once again I just respected his views and they once again aligned with mine. 

So in November before ultimately hurting myself again I finally reached out to David to inquire about coaching services and unlike what I heard from other runner’s experiences with coaches, he didn’t immediately just accept me.  We started with a candid back and forth dialogue where he asked me 5 questions about running and we had a pretty lengthy email chain back and forth on my answers and his coaching style (Like a match maker test!).  His goal wasn’t to just find someone else to pay, he wanted to make sure that we were a good fit.  He explained that his style might a little might be a little different than I was used to (1 rest day every week, time-based workouts, time-based runs) and it was important that I was able to train this way.  His ultimate goal along with mine was to make sure we were on the same page, so he could help me achieve my goals.  I appreciated this and once I joined I was blown away at the community his wife and him have created.  SWAP is an amazing community of runners across the world that support each other with such positivity.  It’s more than just athletes who have the same paid coach, they have really created a place for all of us to motivate one another.  David’s goal was to put us together to share our journeys as a group and his passion is felt thorough out every post he makes.  He even puts out a weekly Race Recap for everyone who ran one over the weekend. 

So that’s how I found David, but let’s get into the factors that mattered to me in my decision:

  1.  Above all else finding someone that fits with me was most important.  A coach won’t just make you faster, the trust has to go both ways. 
  2. Coming from HS/College with a coach with me everyday I wanted some level of feedback.  The Feedback loop is what matters to me, and David offers feedback daily for my runs.  Even if it’s sometimes just a simple “Outstanding run, you are doing great”.  For me personally I know he is reading it, he knows everything going on with me and no harm can come from some positivity.
  3. A plan that adapts.  Anyone can go online and grab a training plan for free, but that plan is basically thrown out of the window after the first week when you need to adapt because of this tweak of a muscle, or this real-life issue.  This also matters to me because as real life crept in I had less and less time to figure out workouts, runs, a plan each week. 
  4. Honesty, I need the truth.  About 5 weeks in having him as my coach my hamstring injury came back really badly on a LR and I mentioned it in my log.  David immediately changed my plan added in a week off and made the recommendation of based on the goal I want to hit and after some downtime I’d only have 3 weeks to train and it’s risky to go after my goal race.  He obviously said he’d support me either way but the truth was after getting hurt I kind of thought there was no time so thanks to his honesty I knew it was the right call.  Without a coach I’d probably have pushed through who knows how much more hurt I would have gotten and if I would have still be hurt today.  Starting the healing clock at this point allowed me to be running pain free in Mid-December.
  5. Availability, David offers up for emergencies a way to contact him if I need advice/decisions/etc.
  6. David supports a mindset of enjoying everything, enjoying the process.  His website is called Some Work All Play (SWAP), his Instagram is full of fun times with his dog.  He embraces life and loves running.  As I mentioned earlier this type of energy rubs off (it’s contagious) and I love seeing it every day in his comments on my runs.
  7. Lastly, while he coaches some of the best runners in the world he never makes me feel like I don’t matter because I’m not a pro sponsored athlete.  I’ve never felt like my goals don’t matter to him, like my time isn’t important.  And you can see that everyday from his twitter as he constantly mentions how all his athletes are doing like a proud father.

After all this and several months later I am still so happy with my decision.  Obviously hiring a coach isn’t for everyone, some people feel they are better writing their own plans or don’t think they could listen to someone else.  I’ll tell you though a good coach cares more about what you want to get out of running then their plan.  David’s goal is not to write me a plan and have me not follow it, it benefits neither of us and isn’t worth either of our time.  The hard part of hiring a coach is putting that trust of the plan to reach your goals in someone else’s hands, which is why I say it’s important decision not to be taken lightly.  Ultimately, we are a team and if I disagree David will work with me but that goes back to trusting one another.  For many of the reasons I mentioned above and lastly just having someone to offer me feedback that I trust (runners are stubborn) having a coach really helped me just focus on the running and less on all the other stuff that took up my time.

I hope this article was helpful/insightful, especially if you have ever entertained the idea of a coach.  If you have any questions don’t hesitate to each out.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

2017 Recap (only 2 months late!)

One of my 2018 goals was to get back to blogging and recapping my thoughts and stories because I like to share them.  So one of the first blogs (even though it’s a bit dated) I wanted to write about was my 2017 and what happened.  2017 was the year where a lot of poor choices I made in running and life caught up with me and where I can honestly say I learned more about myself than any other year of my life.  In 2017 I learned how to not put blame on myself for everything and go down blame spirals (especially with running, it’s not healthy), I learned really what it was like to be a parent and how to bring my love for my daughter and running together (many stroller runs!), and I learned and stepped outside my boundary a bit and realized everything isn’t black and white, a grey area does exist (Some things just happen).  In 2017 when it came to running things didn’t necessarily go the way I wanted to but that doesn’t matter 2017 was the year I needed to have to grow up and keep my story going.

From a running perspective running started off great, I had some really good early season results a 16:05 5k(yes that’s what my watch said, stupid timing mats) a solid 2nd 50k at HAT and a really good showing at Boston despite some unfavorable temperatures and running the race like a moron.  But post Boston as I have written about ad nauseum things went downhill.  Hamstring injuries, poor race results, poor workouts/runs, constant pain and just a dislike for running.  So for the first time in my life instead of just doing something I hated and pushing through it I just stopped and found joy in other ways.  Training for the next PR went out the window and running was just something I was going to do for fun and when I wanted.  I met new running friends who gave me new perspectives, I spent a ton more time with my daughter and friends on weekends and I just decided when I wanted the fire would come back.  It eventually did but I made the mistake of jumping back too soon and faced another setback in November before CIM and shutdown the whole season.  Finally, in mid-December the breakthrough I needed occur, pain free running and a slow start up with some help was the recipe I needed.  In the end I learned a lot through my running experiences in 2017.  I learned a great deal from some of the new friends I met and I shared a lot of their joy, fun and enthusiasm for running which helped me to gain a whole new perspective of running I will not forget one of my favorite experiences of 2017 was getting to run with my friend Gavin when he PR’ed in the Marathon at Philly.  It was a positive spin to the end of the 2017, where I spent a lot of the year just finding something to blame when things went wrong.

Blame is an ugly thing and it unfortunately something I do with myself and to others too often.  For most of 2017 when my running went bad all I could do was blame the mistakes that I had made previously.  I burned out, I pushed too hard, this injury is because of this reason or that.  As races went poorly my mind immediately went to blaming anything I could.  Weather, competitors, no time based on parenting responsibilities, you name it.  The thing is none of this needed any blame attached to it at all, blame was just my easy way out, instead of accepting the outcomes.  When we blame others or things when something goes wrong we don’t grow and we don’t sometimes don’t acknowledge/accept what happened, and ultimately we struggle to move on.  My poor race results, my injuries, the mistakes I made in life in 2017 they happened and some were mistakes I made.  Which is fine I am human being that is what we do, but instead I spent most of 2017 blaming anything I could and as I did that I continued to not grow or accept what happened.  I think if I focused on what happened and learning from it instead of finding something to blame I could have overcome a lot of this quicker instead of living in a blame cycle.  When you are someone who tends to think a lot in black and white operating in the grey is sometimes a bit difficult but as I tried more and more in 2017 I started to feel better and better and finally by the end of the year I was able to move past.  The past is written but the future is mine to define.

The story of my 2017 running year doesn’t lie in my results (I only raced 7 times) it’s in what I learned as a person and about myself.  I am 35 years old and I constantly am learning something new, it’s the only way to be able to continue to grow as a person.  Keeping my eyes open and trying to understand other perspectives helps me to learn new things and see things in a different light.  The more I learn about myself the better I am about dealing with life and running.  In the end when something happens be it a running injury, a burnout in running, stress from work/social life whatever it may be, it’s on me to be able to deal it.  Too often in the past I pushed these issues on others, when in the long run I need to be able to deal with life because ultimately the way you react to something says much more about you than the issue itself.

As always I hope you enjoyed this blog and I’m hoping to get back on a more regular blogging routine as I have some things I’d like to talk about and talk about some big running decisions I made in late 2017 that I am excited about for 2018.

As always some photos from recent events!


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Apple Watch Series 3 for the serious runner

I was need of a new GPS watch and it so worked out that Apple was releasing a new version, the Series 3.  As a runner first, whatever watch I get (and this review is centered around running first) will support my running career first and foremost.  If I can’t do workouts with the right data on my watch, or long runs, or feel confident the information I receive is correct then all the other bells and whistles are not worth it for me.  So, when writing this review that is what I am focusing on, is the Apple Watch Series 3 a good watch for a runner like myself?  Interestingly enough the answer may surprise you (obviously that means it is).

I received the Apple Watch on release day and setup was quite the breeze.  Having never used an Apple Watch (AW) or smart watch before I loved how easy Apple was able to take all the data from my years of using my IPhone and get it onto the watch.  Since the series 3 allows for cellular data it was very simple to setup that portion of the watch, link it to my data plan (AT&T waives many of the initial fees so I can just get going immediately) and have everything ready to go.  The longest part was the downloading of all the apps I have on my phone that also work on the watch.  After playing around with what apps to keep and not (not sure I need my Chipotle app on my watch but I might regret this decision if I end up hungry on a run) I ran through some of the settings and got into the important stuff for me.  I quickly downloaded the Strava app and looked into the Workouts app.  I was immediately disappointed that the Strava app lacked all customization and after reading online I am not the only one.  It currently allows for 3 fields, time, current time and distance.  Nope, sorry for a runner those are not even the three most important fields, let alone not enough fields.  Outside of a workout and even then not so much I rarely care about what my pace is for the current second during my run, average pace yes please.  So immediately the Strava App would not support my running, however workouts app did allow for 5 fields to be available and had many choices.  I ended up on Total Time, Heart Rate, Distance, Avg Pace, Current Pace(although like I said how about making last lap an option).  With everything figured out I charged my watch up and was ready for my first run, a 22-24 mile long run(Go big or go home Apple Watch).

I heard all the negatives of the AW, like how your battery life won’t last your long runs or how the GPS will be so far off it will frustrate you to no end, or how because of the screen you can’t read it in the bright sun.  So my first run I took off at the crack of dawn for 24 miles with a watch on both wrist(Garmin on the right, AW on the left) on a run that would see me progress down to faster than marathon pace.  I was going to give the AW and the 3+ hours I’d be out running all it could handle.  I left so early it was still dark out and immediately I loved how when you turn the watch towards your face it illuminates in the dark and is perfectly clear (Garmin obviously has a light you just have to hit a button).  I was doing a point to point run and my wife was going to meet me at the end point and she was very happy to be able to pull me up on find my friends and see where I was (thank you cellular data without phone!) and also text me to update me (which I ignored because I was running but nice to have).  Ten miles into my run I was happy to see that both watches had similar distances (off by .05) as I started to do some loops around a lake.  As I knew the distance was 1.4 miles around I was happy to see AW clearly get that every time around as did of course the Garmin.  I headed to my final destination, a local track for some faster stuff at the end.  At this point the watches seemed to disagree and after 6 miles running on the track they ended up .6 miles off.  It would be easy to say the AW was the culprit but the splits the Garmin had me running were way outside what I felt capable for myself and off from the split a friend had for the 5k timer I ran so who knows.  I finished my 24 miles and spent some time hanging around afterwards noticed that even with cellular data running the whole time, and heart rate data that 3.5 hours from when I started my battery life was still at 45% when finished.  Honestly that’s pretty solid all things considered in my opinion and a far cry from what everyone told me.

After that run I began to try my AW out on many different terrains and runs for the rest of the week, and stopped wearing two watches because man was that not fun(also I got called a dork a bunch on my first run).  I took it on a run through the trails on Sunday and got a very similar distance to my friend who was wearing a newer Garmin Watch (however she started it late so I’ll never know!).  I took it out for a morning run with a friend that I run twice a week and got the same exact distance I get every week when I used my Garmin.  I even took it through some of my lunch runs and through a workout.  A solid week throwing everything I could at it and the AW continued to shine and handle mostly everything I needed to perform my running but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about some bad things that might matter to you.

First off the lackluster Strava app aside, which I don’t necessarily hold the watch responsible for since I really enjoy the workout app, the synchronization between Garmin Connect, Strava and Health App (which is where everything is store on the Iphone) is really lacking currently.  Strava being the main place most of us runners store our data it’s important that one way or another our runs get into Strava so we can get the Kudos’s from our friends(really it’s my main training log these days).  Currently to do that I needed to download a $1.99 app called RunGap which shares my data from Health to Strava but it shouldn’t be needed.  From what I read the new WatchOS should allow this to occur automatically in the future when app developers make updates but until that does happen it’s not my favorite.  Secondly, the only way to take splits is to double tap the screen which sounds nice and easy except during my workout many times it did not take the first couple tries.  It’s nice that it does vibrate your wrist when you hit a segment so I get some feedback but it was not responsive enough for me doing a workout and wanting a split.  Some segments took 7 seconds of double tapping, maybe my hands were too sweaty(How about letting me split a segment clicking the side buttons?)?  Also along these lines, I don’t know what other runners do but on my Garmin I have a second screen I use for workouts because I want different information for intervals then I do for runs.  It would be nice if I could slide to the right and create a different interface for when I do workouts (also add a Last Lap and Current Lap field please).  Pausing is also not my favorite, hitting the two side buttons to pause when 1 button could work seems silly.  Although it’s better than having to slide the screen to the left and hitting pause(nope). 

So, onto the good, I absolutely love the heart rate data.  For once I can trust heart rate data as run after run I watch it progress normally like I’d expect.  No more seeing 200 heart rates on 8-minute mile easy days, or giant spikes for no reason on runs.  For my 24 miler I saw a constant increase the entire time and that makes me feel confident in the data.  The display whether sunny or dark out I love it, it’s crystal clear and displays my information in an easy to read format.  The GPS data has been really solid, the slight vibration for a split is nice/subtle and not an annoying beep I turned off on my Garmin.  It really has helped to meet all the expectations I would want from a GPS watch.

And lastly the bells and whistles which factor into this for me, as I said if the watch can perform its primary function the rest only helps me as a runner.  Having the ability to receive/send texts and make phones calls without my phone (which I never bring on a run, and therefore why my Instagram suffers #PhotosFromTheRun) is amazing.  The phone quality from the watch is great as I’ve tested it out calling my wife.  Do I need to send texts while I am out on a 20 mile long run, nope.  But if something happens to me and I need something or assistance having that safety net can’t be ignored.  Heck through applepay you can technically make purchases from my watch if I need a mid-run fuel.  I didn’t get to test it but with WatchOS 4.1 the ability to stream on LTE is coming and I can’t express how nice it will be to be able to stream music or other things on my runs to Bluetooth speakers without needing a phone.  Many days I’d love to just get out on a run and listen to something and relax but I don’t want to bring my phone so this will be a game changer for me, although I do recognize it will probably destroy my battery life of the watch.  I’d imagine a runner might not want to run cellular data while streaming music to their Bluetooth headset for a marathon if they want the watch to make it.  Lastly while this isn’t something I crave having notifications on my wrist has been a nice addition for my GPS watch.

I got the watch because I do enjoy apple products but also because I knew if I hated it I could just return it and get a GPS watch.  I went in knowing this watch HAD to perform as a GPS watch otherwise none of this other stuff mattered and once it proved it can meet my needs(with some minor hiccups, honestly I think a new Strava app will fix most of them) all these other nice to haves put this watch over the top for me.  I have a watch that can meet all my running and now day to day needs all for around the same price some of the top end GPS watches cost.  If you are up for a new GPS watch and don’t hate Apple just because I’d highly recommend you give it a try and see what you think.  You might be surprised at how it performs and if you don’t like it take advantage of Apples return policy.  However, I think most serious runners might be surprised that this watch can work for our needs.

As always if you have any questions hit me up and I’ll be happy to give you any impressions or feedback you want.