Monday, January 28, 2013

Lydiard Based Running Wizard: How It All Began For Me

"There's no shortcut to the top..." ~ Arthur Lydiard
This story begins in May, 2012, when I attended an RRCA Coaching Certification Clinic in Denver. Now, there's lots and lots of running big-wigs residing along Colorado's front range, and I was lucky enough to be in class for 3 days with Lorraine Moller who was attending as a sort of expert in residence. Lorraine, originally from New Zealand, is a former runner with Aurthur Lydiard, Olympic Marathon bronze medalist in Barcelona (she ran in the first four women's Olympic marathons) and head of the Lydiard Foundation.

In class situations I'm pretty outspoken. I'm a college instructor, so I'm very comfortable debating and discussing contentious issues and theories. So there was a lot of debate going on during the class, and I found myself even questioning and challenging some of Lorraine's claims and assertions. But often I am more comfortable talking in groups than one on one. At the close of the course, I worked up the nerve to shyly introduce myself to Lorraine.

A month later I received an email from Lorraine inviting me to attend a Lydiard L1 & 2 Coach Certification Course being held in Boulder. I jumped at the chance to accept this fairly exclusive invitation.

And so began my relationship with Lorraine Moller and Aurthur Lydiard. I always found myself gravitating toward a Lydiard based system, but it wasn't really based on a solid grounding of what that meant except as it is often filtered through other coaches and the systems they develop, often incorporating aspect of Lydiard's principles. After taking the course and the exam, I realized that things are a lot more complicated than we often believe...and I still had a lot to (a lot I wanted/want to) learn about all of this.

After the New York City Marathon was cancelled, I floundered a bit. I had trained and tapered to race on November 4th. The soonest I could schedule a replacement marathon was December 9th in Tucson. Lorraine scheduled a get together for local Lydiard coaches about 3 weeks before I was to run Tucson. It was on a Friday, and I had every intention of doing a last 23 mile training run the next morning. I hadn't run a "long" run since pacing in Chicago in early October, so I felt I needed just one more before Tucson. I bounced this idea off of Lorraine.

Her response, "No. I don't want you running any more than 2 1/2 hours."

I gasped. I panicked. Dang it, dang it, dang it. Why did I ask her. I knew what she would say...hmmmm. Yes, I did know what she would say...But...What had I just done??? "But...but" I stammered "I haven't run anything over 16 miles in 6 weeks. I have to..."

She smiled, gently, knowingly, and said again "No more then 2 1/2 hours".

"But...", feeling a little desperate, grasping for some hope, "...I may run it fast, right??".

Again, her smile, "Nope. I want you to run a smell-the-roses pace." she replied in a bit of a sing-song tone.
Arggg. I pleaded, I groveled a bit, I no avail. I really had no leg to stand on and I knew it.

The next day I ran a slightly too fast 17.3 miles in 2:34 - about as close as I could get to what I'd been asked to do. And then another taper began.

And when I lined up at the start in Tucson, I had not run anything over 17 miles since Oct 6th in Chicago. I thought this would be a problem, mentally, for me. But as the gun went off and we made our way down Mt. Lemmon and through the desert, that thought never entered my mind.

And I have never felt so good, so strong, so solid, so in charge, while running a marathon. By mile 20 I felt shockingly good, and my last 6 miles were the fastest I've ever run during a marathon. 

I was sold...But still, I have a skeptical nature...So I need more.

After that, I told Lorraine that I wanted to make myself a guinea pig of sorts, and use the Running Wizard program for my Boston training. Running Wizard is the fairly personalized running program offered through the Lydiard Foundation for anyone racing distances from 1500 meters through marathons. Now, this is tough for me, because as a coach myself, I have a hard time buying into any sort of  "cookie-cutter" plan. But I wanted to do it mostly to learn more about the principles (first hand and applied to myself) involved with a purely Lydiard based program. And so, after an insufficient downtime following Tucson, I embarked on my Running Wizard program.

Next, I will tell my story of the first phase of training...

"Train, don't strain..." ~ Arthur Lydiard

Thursday, January 10, 2013

NYRR's Wrongheaded Resolution: A Letter to Mary Wittenberg

 "To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice." ~Confucius

These are the stated goals, the professed vision, of the New York Road Runners:
"We are driven by a singular vision. We believe that we can change the world through running. This is the dream and the promise that drives us. Running is our favorite sport but it's more than just that. It's also a route to bettering lives, building community, fueling positive social change—and enabling folks to have a whole lot of fun. Since our earliest days, our vision has allowed us to continuously move forward and to challenge the status quo so that we can grow as individuals, as a team, and as an organization."
Several weeks ago, after more than 7 weeks of deliberation and working through the details and options with their insurers, the New York Road Runners/ New York City Marathon announced their resolution to the issues surrounding the cancellation of the 2012 marathon.

Those who registered for and did not take the deferment option prior to the cancellation of the race, will now have a window of opportunity to choose one of the options below:

2012 Marathoners may choose one of the following options:
  • Option #1 – Refund. While NYRR has always had a no-refund policy for the Marathon, given these extraordinary circumstances, we are offering runners who were entered in the 2012 Marathon, and were unable to run due to the cancellation 1,  the opportunity to obtain a full refund of their 2012 Marathon entry fee (excluding the $11 processing fee);  OR
  • Option #2 – Guaranteed entry to the ING New York City Marathon for 2013, 2014, or 2015. Entrants in the 2012 Marathon who choose this option will be granted guaranteed entry to the Marathon for the year they choose. Runners will be required to pay all processing and entry fees at the time of application (in the given year), with fees maintained at the same rate as those paid in 2012; OR
  • Option #3 – Guaranteed entry to the NYC Half 2013. Entrants in the 2012 Marathon who choose this option will be granted guaranteed entry to the NYC Half 2013, to be run on March 17, 2013. Runners will be required to pay all processing and entry fees at the time of application. Availability will be limited.
My immediate response was critical - Yes, the refund option is obviously the right thing, but doing something half right does not make the whole deal a good one. Option 2 falls woefully short of what is fair and right. When I express my disappointment and disgust, many people respond: "What did you expect? Did you really expect that they wouldn't charge you again?" Well, as a matter of fact, yes! Many people claim that this is a fair and gracious offer. I beg to differ...

Here's why:

Michael Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg invited us to their city to run. Had the marathon been canceled in a timely fashion, I might be more sympathetic. They got our travel dollars (airport taxes, hotel fees and taxes, rental car fees and taxes, food, etc...). I know...First World Problem...but I refuse to give them $11 + $255 + ANOTHER $255 for 2013.

I know people believe runners are rich, so this whole fiasco amounts to little more than a "first world problem" which when compared to the problems faced by many in this world is absolutely true. But I saved and planned for this race (and I was raising money to support the education of girls in Liberia and Pakistan), and I know and have heard from countless others who planned for years for this trip to run NYC, some coming from much farther away then I came. I haven't taken a vacation in 2+ years. I'm a college instructor and running coach. My husband is a college instructor and climbing coach. I made this investment because (as I've explained in other posts) I've wanted to run NYC since I was 16 years old. NYC is WHY I started racing again 4 years ago.

So there is the cost factor, but that is not what bugs me the most. What bug me the most is that agreements (a type of social contract) have been broken and violated.


So here's what I wish I could say to Mary Wittenberg:

Dear Ms. Wittenberg,

         For some runners promises were made and those promises were broken. I ran a qualifying time to get into NY through the "guaranteed entry" option. This was not easy for me, and I dedicated the fall of 2011 to achieve this goal. But my guaranteed entry has never actually been honored, and for that reason I believe that the NYCM/NYRR has failed to hold up its end of the bargain. What about those who got in via the now discontinued policy, of applying 3 times in a row - if you don't get in during those 3 years you automatically get in on the 4th. Their guaranteed entry has also not been honored. Or those who did the 9+ program, running 9 NYRR races over the year and volunteering for 1. Those have not been honored either. We kept OUR part of the bargain, but the NYRR seems to have no problem ignoring your part in the agreement.

So what will I do? I will take the refund. I will not pay for a guaranteed entry that I already EARNED! I will not pay again for a race that was cancelled too late, under suspicious circumstances..

All those who traveled to NYC came in the spirit of support for NY and NJ. We were invited by the city and by you. In fact, had we deferred we would have been required to pay again for the chance to run. But we didn't defer. I came to run with my friends from NJ. They had no power. They had no gas. They lived in a disaster area, but they were still going to run. How could I not support them?? 

What will I do? Perhaps I will try to qualify again. What does that mean for me, well I'll need to run a 3:35 full marathon or a 1:40 half marathon. It will also mean that, other challenges I might wish to move on to will be postponed a bit. And I'm not sure I'm willing to make that sacrifice. I see no other way for me to do this. The easy way is to just cough up another $255. But that is not the right way. Perhaps there is no longer a 'right way'.

Unfortunately, this whole episode, and how you have chosen to handle this situation, has still left a very sour taste in my mouth about the NYCM. The decisions you made, I believe, are antithetical to the original aim of this race, and the vision of Fred Lebow. But it seems that the NYRR, and you, have lost the vision, and have become just another American capitalist enterprise.

I believe, that for many of us the NYCM will never regain it's stature as the greatest marathon in the world (thanks to this 'resolution'), as the peoples' marathon and the city's marathon. Perhaps you don't care. Perhaps you believe that this will all fade from memory. Perhaps, sadly, you are correct. But for this one runner, this one individual, the girl who stood in Central Park and watched with tears in her eyes and chills in her spine as Grete Waitz flashed by,  you have shattered something that can not be repaired. What a shame. What a terrible, terrible shame.

Caolan MacMahon

Character is much easier kept than recovered.  ~ Thomas Paine

Friday, January 4, 2013

Reflections and Resolutions

 "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, I'm a bit behind the Resolution curve in the blogosphere, but I've been away, chewing on things...ruminating...fermenting...And as it turns out, finding some true resolution (shall I say 'healing') in New Jersey following the NYCM/Hurricane Sandy episode.

2012 was a year of some pretty extreme ups and downs, and I suppose I enjoy a roller coaster ride, but unlike on a roller coaster, where you can see what's coming and where it's going, life is not so apparent. 

Some stats on 2013: bear with me here...I'm doing this mostly for my own purpose: that of remembering.

Miles: In 2012 I ran around 2,493 miles. I say "around" because I always round down on my logging. If, for instance, my Garmin says I ran '5.15', I will log '5'. Only when it hits 5.2 do I log 5.2. Sometimes I run a little extra to tack on the extra .5 or .2, or whatever is necessary to reach that threshold and sometimes I don't.

Marathons: I ran six marathons in 2012. This was a bit of a fluke, and completely unplanned, but it worked for me. As I've said in the past I tend to favor quality over quantity, but at the end of it all I managed to pull off at least one decent effort (Tucson) and one mediocre effort (Fox Valley) - both of which turned out to be major learning experiences for different reason in my continuing education as a marathoner. Along the way I also became a Marathon Maniac, and managed salvaging a very disappointing and difficult late winter/spring. I learned a whole hell of a lot this year, and the learning did not come easy and was not always welcomed.

Shoes: I have absolutely no idea how many shoes I've run through this year. I want to estimate about 12-15, but that is because I had shoe/foot issues (still have, but they are being managed) throughout the year that caused me to experiment, a lot. The guys at Road Runner Sports hide when they see me walk through the door. Thank goodness for their return policy, though I have expected to see a "Wanted: For Return Policy Abuse" poster with my mug on it.

Races: 13 (14, unofficial). Some I raced, some were training runs, all of them taught me something I needed to learn.

Injuries: 3. I began the year (really started on Thanksgiving 2011) with Posterior Tibial Tendinitis/Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, and enjoyed very painful, weekly needling sessions (in the soles of my feet) to get me to the starting line of Boston (Thank you, Heather North, at In Motion Rehab).

In February I suffered a concussion which, while not a 'running' injury, proved to be the scariest and most challenging injury I've had to deal with. This hit me right smack during peak Boston training, and I really did not feel that I was myself again until probably October or November. Now the constant threat of getting hit in the head again, and it's possible dire consequences (instant death, even for a seemingly harmless hit) keeps me ever aware of my surroundings in ways I've never had to be before. If I think about it, it scares me. So I try not to think about it.

Nebulous foot pain/numbness. This has and has not been resolved. It hit me hard at Brookings and Fox Valley, both around miles 15-16 and made for excruciating finishes. Sometimes it hits me and sometimes it doesn't. Still working to resolve that one...

Friends: The absolute highlight of my year has been the new and dear friends I've made thanks to running and the prudent use of the interwebs. I've had the opportunity to travel and run with new friends all over the country. They have come out to support me (BQ Number Two: With A Little Help From My Friends) and I have come out to support them  ( This year allowed me to connect, intimately, with a much bigger and broader running community.

So that's where I've been...Now where shall I go...

The whole New York City Marathon fiasco initially cast a bit of a pall over the year for me. NYC meant more to me than any other marathon because of my history with that race, and the experience in NY/NJ was devastating. I know I tend to go overboard, emotionally, at times, and perhaps this was one of those times, but I was, honestly, crushed but that experience. I know it's just a stupid marathon, but for me it symbolized much more.  

A few weeks ago the NYRR/NYCM announced their "resolution" (much more on that in my next post) which, in my view, falls far short of what is right and fair. In so doing, they presented me with my challenge, my resolution if you will, for this year (perhaps next, depending on how things go).

But first a few thoughts about a recent trip back to New Jersey.

I didn't return to New Jersey on December 28th looking for healing or closure, or any such silliness. I went to see my family, and quite honestly, I was not at all happy to go. In some important ways my experience in November, in a place I once called home, left more than a bad taste in my mouth. I really wanted nothing to do with that place any more. I was done with it. Period. Good riddance. But I got on the plane and set off to do my duty.

And this is where running and friends make all the difference, for me...

I had the opportunity to hangout with my friend Esther, to swim and run a race in her town, and with her running club, the North Jersey Masters (they even let me run as a member for the day as part of a competition they have with another running club - We won ;) At that race I got to meet other runners, fb friends, people I had met in May at another race in NJ, and I felt at home. I felt that I was among my people...runners. Something happened while I was running that race. My bitterness over NY seemed to evaporate. I accepted, again, the place from which I came. 

 ~North Jersey Masters~

...After Athens sentences Socrates to death, he tells his students, who beg him to escape, that he must accept (though not agree with) the decisions of his city. He credits his city for making him the person he is, that he would not be 'Socrates' without Athens. As such he owes Athens something, for he would not be who he was without them...

I realized during this visit that I needed to make peace with my feeling about this place. I wanted to just put it aside, make it the past, turn my back, and never cast my eyes upon it again. But that's NOT actually what I needed.

And so, now I have my resolutions for 2013: 

I want to qualify, again, for the New York City Marathon. I do still want to run this marathon, but on my own terms.

I aim to surround myself, as much as possible, with the people who are uplifting, supportive, and life affirming, and to return that to others.
"Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great" ~ Mark Twain

Everyone Seems to be Looking for "Motivation"...

  "Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going" ~ Jim Ryun It's January. For many of us that means cold...