Yesterday I went to a mini running conference where the keynote speaker was Jack Daniels. If you’re not familiar with Jack Daniels (the coach, not the whiskey), I’ll provide a brief background. Other than being a renowned running coach, he went to the Olympics twice for the modern pentathlon, has a PhD in exercise physiology, and pioneered the VDOT value.
It was really cool to see him talk. He’s almost 78 years old but is sharp as a tack. He doesn’t look too shabby either (reason #274,851 to run: it keeps you looking young). He had lots of great stories. He ended up talking until 4:00 (conference was supposed to be over at 3:30). The moderator kept trying to interject but he kept blowing him off. Gotta love older folks; they just do what they want.
I took a ton of notes and plan on reading his book too. Below are some of the highlights of his talk without going into too much math and science detail (you’re welcome).
Basic Rules of Coaching
1. Treat everyone as an individual.
2. Always find positive things to say.
3. Everyone is different and responds to training differently.
4. Everyone has good days and bad days. Optimists blame good runs/races on their hard work and brush off bad runs/races. Pessimists think good runs/races are a fluke and they blame themselves for bad runs/races (more on this below).
5. Don’t train when sick or hurt (he kept stressing this one…I completely agree).
6. Stride and breath are important (learned so much about this one…need to read more and I’ll do another post about it).
7. Encourage good sleeping and eating habits.
8. Training should be rewarding.
9. You shouldn’t feel bad consistently in training. If you do, there is a problem.
10. Most mistakes are made in the first few minutes of a race (SO TRUE!). Run the first 2/3 of a race with your head and the last 1/3 with your heart (I think I may write this on my bib for the marathon).
11. Focus on the task at hand, whether in training or racing. Sometimes that means focusing on one step at a time.
Ingredients of Success
1. Ability – we are all born with different abilities.
2. Motivation – talking about intrinsic motivation here, not extrinsic. Jack wrote this on the board:
↑ability, ↑motivation = champions
↑ability, ↓motivation = a coach’s nightmare!
↓ability, ↑motivation = self-frustraters
4. Direction – having a solid training plan to follow.
He then started talking about training, VO2max, and VDOT values. I’ll spare you the diagrams and math but it was interesting. He also kept stressing over and over about doing the least amount of work possible to achieve the maximum benefit. Why run faster than you need to when running slightly slower will be enough of a stimulus for improvement? This ties into his VDOT values (again another post). I kept thinking about the FIRST program I’m using for this training cycle. Overall it’s good but I think it can be a “one size fits all” plan. Case and point, last week’s tempo run was 3 miles just under 8:00 pace. Why in the world would I run tempo miles faster than my half marathon PR pace (which is 8:22). The purpose of tempo runs are to raise your lactate threshold (more on this here). If you do them too fast, you miss the whole point of the workout and end up with some heavy, acidic legs and no stimulus for improvement (hello, last week’s brick legs). So I’ll definitely be modifying my tempo runs from now on and maybe speed work too.
I’m also going to give myself a break on weekly mileage. The FIRST program follows the less is more philosophy. This is different from my previous plans which stressed higher mileage. Why do I feel like I need to hit 45+ miles a week during training? Why is that number so important to me? Isn’t improving important? If you are improving at 39 miles a week, then why run 45+?
Another thing Jack said that made me think was the optimist/pessimist view. Since my long run on Saturday, this has been the nonsense going through my head:
You ran that too fast. You know you should run your long runs slower. What a mistake!
That run was a total fluke. You ran well because the weather was so nice.
STOP! Why am I doing this to myself?! I ran well because of hard work, not the weather! And I ran based on feel, so I wasn’t purposely “racing” my long run. I can be so critical of myself. I work so hard physically and then mentally send myself 10 steps back. This must stop.
If you’re still awake after reading this, here are some pics of Jack. Yes, I totally whipped out my camera while he was speaking (I wasn’t the only one!). At least I turned the flash off so I didn’t blind him.