Four ultra marathons, four marathons, about a dozen half marathons, loads of 10km, a few random distances and a couple of outdoor swims – that in a nutshell is the last few years of my life. I’ve pound the ground at every opportunity, I’ve run up hills, down hills, across fields and forded streams, there has been no race too long, tall or difficult. I’ve tried them all, but even I recognise I’ve hit a bit of a wall.
What type of training do you do?
Well @hitmanharris describes my training as ‘running’. He went on further to say that if I wrote down my training plan on an A3 bit of paper I’d basically just write ‘RUN’ in big letters. I’ve never really thought about disciplined training and plans but actually that all sounds a bit too much like running by numbers – no matter how tailored to you it is. I tend to get up in the morning and decide I fancy 15miles or decide I fancy a fast 5km. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason, I try and mix my running up by doing some fast, some slow, some bigger distances, trail, road, hills and flats. I’ve added in Pilates and swimming over the last year or so but the truth is that I’ve seen myself plateau since I started ultra running and trouble is I’m finding giving up the smaller distances really hard to do – already in the first eight weeks of 2014 I will hopefully complete 2 ultra marathons, 2 ten mile races and possible even a duathlon, that’s a lot and hard to train for because your preparation needs to be for the ultra but then I turn up to the shorter races and want to give it my all but I’m then not performing well enough to race decent times.
At this point last year I was still running a reasonably good 3.30 – 3.45hr marathon distance but a broken foot and a shedload of ultra training and this time has being slowly eroded to the point where I think I’m more like a 4.00hr marathoner. And the trouble extends further to the point that when I go back and do speedier running all I find is disappointment as I can’t quite get in under 20 minutes over 5km ( I don’t think ParkRuns count as I’ve usually just ridden 15km to get there – uphill). I’ve also got my desire to do my first triathlon this year and I still can’t do more than about 50metres freestyle before I need to revert to breaststroke. I see trouble ahead.
I’ve been extensively watching the timelines of all the runners I follow on Twitter and have noticed there are a lot of runners who use coaching or have joined a club and the conversation is almost universally that this has helped them overcome issues of levelling out, overcome the mental block of not being able to focus on a couple of specific goals, not being able to give up all the bad food that gets consumed and adopting a healthier lifestyle in eating as well as exercise.
I know I would benefit from the social and training support offered by a club or by the knowledge of runners who have been there and done that. I used to run with the London Social Runners for about 6 months until I found that each week I got caught up nursing home one of the really slow runners and becoming resentful of that, so I stopped going and convinced myself that group running simply wasn’t for me. However, because I can’t find a way out of my spate of injuries, my lack of direction and a bit of a lack of enthusiasm I think I need to do something. But what? I’m also confident that actually I could offer something to less experienced runners – for good or ill I’ve got a lot of experience now and I’ve adopted some good practices as well as some bad ones, I should be sharing this experience more.
I have two problems, the first is that I don’t think I would be committed enough with one to one coaching, I’d lie and cheat, I’d run when I was supposed to rest, I’d race short when I was supposed to run long, etc. And effectively I’d just be cheating myself, wasting their time and mine – I need someone who I have to look in the eye very week and say ‘yep I did as I was told’. Suffering from guilt so easily makes it better for me to have to face someone and the public humiliation of being in a group and not being competitive because you’ve not done your training horrifies me.
However, there is the second problem which is that I travel on average four hours a day, usually a bit more and getting to a club is almost impossible. If I join a Central London one I’d be regularly left waiting around because of my works finishing time, plus not getting home until really quite late and then I’d need to travel into the city at the weekend, which is very rarely practical. If I join a club nearer to home (and there are a lot of them) I’d never get there in the evenings and my racing habit generally means I’m not available most weekends.
A change of job and location would enable me to join a club closer to home and reducing my commute time is one of my aims for 2014 but until then I can’t see a solution to help me break through the glass ceiling I seem to have reached. I’d be very interested in hearing about the coaching and club experiences of other runners and the benefits they felt and also how runners feel about one to one coaching over club running.