Saturday, September 29, 2012

Quotes To Consider

Don't we all need encouragement and insightful quotes that can help us along the way as we strive for athletic excellence? Quotes that,among other things,make us think and consider? Contemplate the following:
"A man shows what he is by what he does with what he has." Anonymous
So true! Only in distance running can a less naturally talented, but harder working runner,beat a  more gifted one. Here's to the distance runners who didn't let a lack of foot speed and God given talent stop them.
"How a man plays the game shows something of his character,how he loses shows all of it." Anonymous
Add to that-- and how he deals with setbacks along the way.
"Only the man himself knows his limits,and he's no runner unless he pushes himself to the limits." Herb Elliott
Why am I not surprised that Herb Elliott said that?
"It matters not how long we live,but how." Anonymous
So,so true.As I get older I realize the truth of that quote even more.
"Set a goal--then get rid of those things in your life which keep you from attaining that goal." Anonymous
Very Cerutty. What's the saying? "You can't have it both ways"?
"Oftentimes the roughest road may be the best way to where you want to go." Anonymous
Don't be too quick to curse the difficulties and obstacles,they very well may be the builders of strength and character.
"No life ever grows great until its focused,dedicated and disciplined."
Three essential keys to success.
Have a great Sunday---go long!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's that Time of Year Again

For me,when the fall season arrives,I think of marathoning. It's probably because years ago in Buffalo the marathon to do was the Skylon marathon.Starting from downtown Buffalo,it went across the Peace Bridge into Fort Erie in Canada and along a road right next to the Niagara River all the way to Niagara Falls(Canada).I remember very well the Sundays myself, Ralph Zimmerman,Joan Zirkelbach,Harvey Sipel,Freddie Gordon and many others would do our long runs along that stretch of road leading to Niagara Falls. The Skylon course served as the Olympic marathon trial's course in 1980 and 1984.Those were definitely the days my friend(s).The following is from The Stotan News and deals with the subject,Reasons For a Poor Marathon Performance. Some of this may be familiar to you,then again,to many,it may not.Either way,those who intend to run a marathon should read the following and consider it carefully.
"Those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them." How true that statement is! Yet runners,especially marathoners,too often make the same mistakes....too often.
The reasons for a poor marathon experience are really quite simple to identify. Some you have control over and some you don't. #1.Bad weather. Not much you can do about that. I've known runners who've bagged their race the morning of due to the weather and picked another one somewhere else a week or two later.In the fall it seems like there is a marathon every weekend not too far from where you live.#2.Starting out at a too fast per mile pace.This is something that should only happen to inexperienced marathoners but.......#3.Insufficient hydration and electrolyte replacement before and during the race.If you dehyrate and/or run out of fuel you're done,plain and simple.Months of training down the tubes because you didn't do a basic but necessary function,a physiological neccessity.#4.Not doing the proper pre-race preparation.So,you've done the 20 milers in the months before your marathon,the only problem is the race is 26.2 miles long.What in the world is going to get you through the last 10k?  You don't have to go to the extreme but running 3 or 4, 24 to 26 milers in training are essential,IF,you're running to do well.#5. Last but not least,perhaps the biggest reason for sub par marathons is due to not tapering properly before the race.You think the conditioning gained from months of serious hard training is negated because you intelligently taper down the workload as your marathon approaches? Again,months and months of training wasted and a possible great finishing time is lost because you weren't rested and fresh on race day?
Now that's not only a shame, its pure foolishness.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Internal Motivation

Humble apologies for not posting yesterday as I had previously announced I would,circumstances beyond my control prevented me from doing so. Wednesday's article will be published as scheduled.
Canadian coach Brent McFarlane answers the question as to where an athlete's internal motivation comes from. He says: "Each athlete is responsible for providing his own internal motivation.And nothing can compensate for the lack of will to fight when the situation demands. In every race,there may be one moment(or more) when the runner wants to quit and needs internal motivation to survive the crisis.Otherwise,the penalty is defeat.There is no defeat,no failure like ceasing to try."
Two thoughts come to mind when I read the above:first,the internal motivation,to some degree, can be developed and nurtured through workouts,time trials and races.Ideally,the athlete keeps in mind that this is what he wants to develop via those three scenarios(workouts,time trials and races) before he starts them.
Secondly,very insightful and perceptive is Mr.McFarlane's statement that,"There is no defeat,no failure,like ceasing to try." How true! Ever have the realization that you just sort of gave up at some point during a race? Losing or racing below expectations is bad but knowing that you didn't give it your all makes you feel like more like a failure than a loser.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Post Delay

Due to training at Umstead State Park in Raleigh yesterday, Saturday's regularly scheduled article will be up on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Question For Arthur

The coach for all ages,Arthur Lydiard. Words of wisdom from the Master. When asked: "In addition to the proper training,what can a runner do mentally to prepare for competition?"
Arthur said:" The best psychology you can use on an athlete is to make sure he understands why he's doing everything he's doing.So that physiologically,mechanically,he's clear in his mind as to his approach.If he does everything he has to,he's the guy who goes out to the race with confidence.It's the guy who doesn't understand what he's doing who has a problem. He guessing at his training,invariably doing too much anaerobic work,and he's never sure whether he's at his peak or not.He can't balance or evaluate his training. You don't need to say,"You can beat that guy"to the person who balances his training. He knows damn well he can beat him,or he knows he can't beat him,one or the other,because he's done everything corectly."
The above make me think of the training I did during my high school and college years. I never understood the whys of the workouts I was being given,then again,I never asked.In retrospect,seeing as how long ago it was, I sometimes wonder if my coaches really knew?The overlooked components to competitive success,realizing what your workouts are accomplishing and recognizing when you are peaking.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On Racing by Percy Cerutty

In the following, Cerutty offers some profound insights into racing as well as advice as it pertains to a  runner's competitive season.Provocative, thought provoking stuff here.After each paragraph I'll offer a comment or two. Percy proclaims:
"The athlete should be aroused simply by the idea of competition. This should be enough to make him emotionally ready, and draw on what has been developed through practice."
Aroused, an interesting choice of words but I know exactly what he means. Have you ever been so ready,emotionally and physically to race? Have you been so confident of your condition that you couldn't wait to to test it out? I have, but not nearly enough as I should have.
"This arousal can be hampered by worry about the race or the competition,lack of interest or staleness. These are the enemies of good racing. An athlete can put in months of grueling,exacting workouts and then be defeated by them in a race situation."
Optimal,peak condition should greatly reduce the chances you will "worry"excessively.
"When serious racing season is underway,races take priority. Training should be limited as much as possible,usually to no more than a little sharpening work on the grass. The runner has to save his best efforts for the race. Many waste them in time trials and workouts."
Isn't that the problem with the majority of elite and serious American born distance runners? Who haven't you known that hasn't continued "interval" sessions into their racing season? Lydiard tells you not to,Cerutty says the same,so why are they continuing? It would be easy to blame bad coaching but don't you think it could be something else? Try anxiety or fear, try an unreasonable belief controlled by emotions that send the message that if they don't continue to bust their butts in training they're going to lose their edge.
"If the runner has trained properly and is "mentally tough,"the race should be run as fast as possible. Since the runner's physical condition doesn't change very significantly in the space of a week or two,if the runner is doing his best,his racing should not fluctuate much from race to race. They should be progressively faster."
Progressively faster--if---you haven't been leaving your best on the track doing foolish workouts mid-week.
Notice the little tie in with this past Wednesday's article?
Positively essential advice by Cerutty for anyone who is serious about racing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lest We Forget,Some Thoughts on Conditioning and Physiology

As athletes,have you ever found yourself  not backing off or resting when you know you should? I may have written about this before but I knew a runner who had a tradition of racing Boston and then doing another marathon 2 weeks later. When I asked him if this was wise, he responded with:"I've been doing it for years." Today this guy is a shadow of the runner he once was,plagued by back problems,he has now entered the ranks of the fun runner. Other athletes I've known who viewed backing off as something akin to being a "wimp," have long since taken up cycling or gotten out of athletics altogether due to recurring injuries. Our bodies are incredible,they can tolerate a huge amount of abuse for long,extended periods of time,but,there comes a time when they will break down. For reasons I've never understood, many seemingly intelligent athletes don't understand this physiological fact.What follows is something by Edward Frederick who has written extensively on physiology and the runner.He gives us the specifics of what happens when we rest and what it accomplishes. It is more than the commonly held and simplistic notion that we're just getting some rest. He begins by letting us know that running can be "an exercise in destruction." Frederick continues, "Each time we run, we tear ourselves down. Muscle tissue is torn. Mitochondria,the powerhouse of the cells,swell grotesquely. Metabolic wastes accumulate. Blood sugar levels drop.Dehydration occurs and,along with it,excessive losses of electrolytes upset the delicate balance required for efficient muscle and nerve function.Muscle glycogen is depleted.As duration and intensity of the workout increase,the damage becomes more pronounced.
However,in the period between runs, the body attempts to recover and rebuild.
These two phases---destruction and regeneration---together constitute conditioning.The two can never be separated if conditioning is to proceed in a positive direction."
For far too many coaches and runners,those last two sentences are perhaps the two most forgotten principles of training.Optimal conditioning can only happen if adequate time for regeneration is allowed. It is my belief that most serious competitive runners do not give themselves enough time in that department. Frederick then lets us know what happens when an intelligent training,racing and regenerative program is put together: "In any program of running,the body is systematically broken down and rebuilt. And each rebuilding leaves the body a little stronger than before.These incremental increases amount to the development of a progressively stronger body,capable of more and faster running. That is,if it's done right."
Of course,the key word here is if. I'm always amazed at runners who can't understand why they are not seeing more improvement in their performances or why they feel chronically rundown.Runners who are in their prime should be seeing improvement in times.Instead of looking for the magic training system they must be aware of the needs of a body that is often stressed through rigorous training. This takes time, effort and study,something that many athletes are unwilling to do.
More on this subject to come.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do You Have Championship Character? pt.2

It is said that particular personality traits can be indicators as to whether or not someone will achieve success in athletics. Last month we examined a few of them, today we'll look at three more.Many thanks to Doctors Tutko and Ogilvie for the research they did on this subject several decades ago.Remember,these traits may be present in all athletes to some degree but stronger in those who achieve success.Comments by yours truly will occasionally appear in parentheses after.
1.Believes one must be aggressive to win.
(Although there is the portrayal of the "laid back" distance runner this doesn't mean that they don't possess a fiery determination and aggressiveness.It is a mistake for those outside the running world to believe that only the contact sport athletes possess these qualities).
2.Releases aggression easily.
3.Enjoys confrontation and argument.
(An interesting finding,something I wasn't aware of but it definitely fits in with what,at least in part, constitutes aggressiveness).
4.Sometimes willing to use force to get their way.
(I can see already I'm falling a little short in the aggressiveness profile).
5.Will not allow others to push them around.
6.May seek to "get even" with people whom he perceived as having harmed him.
(I worked with a psychiatrist years ago who had contact with athletes who excelled in their chosen sports and he said that they were not always people of exemplary character,that often they were very self oriented).
1.Has unfaltering confidence in himself and his capacity to deal with things.
2.Confident of his powers and abilities.
3.Handles unexpected situations well.
4.Makes decisions confidently.
5.Speaks up for his beliefs to coaches and players.
(Such a necessary trait is self-confidence. Regarding #4, ever find yourself waffling on a decision you've made?).
Emotional Control
1.Tends to be emotionally stable and realistic about athletics.
2.Is not easily upset.
3.Will rarely allow their feelings to show and their performances are not effected by them.
4.Not easily depressed or frustrated by bad breaks,calls or mistakes.
(Not easily frustrated,patience is the key).
Consider the above,are there any areas we need to work on?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Keeping It Real

Recently I came across a statement on an ultra running site that said running ultras were 90% mental and 10% physical. When you think about that statement,especially if you have never run an ultra before,it has a kind of comforting ring to it. It sort of infers that if you just convince yourself that you can run it,then the running(physical) will not be all that bad.Well, I learned two things from running ultras: one, is that quite often certain parts of the ultras you race can be incredibly boring. The other? They are very challenging physically,irregardless of the fact that I once thought that it was just "mind over matter." Optimism and positive thinking have to be tempered by some kind of grounding in reality.
 Australian coach Fred Lester really offers great insights into this subject,consider the following:"To ignore facts, to substitute wishful thinking under the guise of 'mind over matter', can only lead to abuse of the body and depression of the mind. In the case of an athlete,it amounts to stupidity,in the case of the coach it borders on the criminal. As for 'thinking big,' we have to interpret that phrase to mean having a long view of things,a perspective of what we aim to achieve.It becomes a case of building up gradually,step by step,consolidating one stage before the next. Know what you are capable of at the time. Then,and only then,you raise your targets to the next level. The confidence you have gained by fulfilling your earlier target leaves you free of mental strain to go on to higher places.Disappointment in not reaching a target which has been set too high in the first place acts like a brake by the setting up of mental strain,expressed in nervous tension beyond the safe point.Knowing what you can do, knowing that you can go on improving by intelligent and correct conditioning for the task ahead is the only positive mental approach. Constant and regular application and an intellectual appraisal of facts are the highway to success and satisfaction,to getting the best out of yourself."
As Cerutty said, an athlete must always consider and evaluate what he is doing..

Saturday, September 1, 2012

For the Youth

I was taking an afternoon run in a nearby park last week amd came across a preseason high school cross country invitational. It took me back to the days when I coached cross country runners at Canisius High School in Buffalo,N.Y. There is a special kind of enthusiasm and excitement at these "invites" that make them great to watch and be a part of.
In the archives I found a copy of a handout I gave to the cross country runners I coached just prior to the start of their competitive season. It's purpose was to inform,instruct,calm and instill confidence,everything a coach must do before races.
It's my hope that what follows may be a help to you or simply a reminder of some things you may have forgotten. Ideally,it can be something the younger runners can use. So many enter races overly anxious and things too often do not go as well as they could because of that anxiousness.
The Races:
First of all,everyone,I mean everyone,the fastest and the slowest are nervous before a race. The key is to control your nervousness and adrenalin so that you can run YOUR race, not a race that is determined by fear and anxiety.A runner that runs smart can beat a better runner that runs stupid. The majority of runners(over 50% H.S.) run stupid, they go out too fast and either die or struggle to hang on to the finish. You guys won't be running dumb. The emphasis is on running the second half of your race faster than the first! Except for possibly(?) three runners in our league, everyone fades to some degree in the last part of their race. How do I know?I know from watching years of competition at every level of high school racing. It's as predictable as the sun rising and setting.
As your race starts competitors go out fast for a good place in the pack,don't run on the outside,run on the inside.Settle into a pace that is comfortable for you,if you get the feeling you can't keep it up then you are running too fast. Throughout the race you should be making observations about your competitors, but most importantly,you are telling yourself to stay relaxed. That means breathing comfortably and deeply,not taking short,choppy breaths. You are also telling yourself to relax your shoulders and arms, stay loose.
Yes, you can allow your competitors to get or gain yards during the early stages of your race,what is 15 to 30 yards  in a race that may be 2.5 or 3.1 miles long? As you will see,more often than not,these runners will come back to you in the latter stages of a race.
Pass your opponents with authority!Surge by them,when people are fading this is even more discouraging(mentally).When you turn a corner, or go into an area where those runners behind you can't see you for a few moments,throw in a surge so when these runners see you again they will recognize that they have lost further ground on you. In the latter part of a race this tactic is especially effective.
At the end of a race, 95% of the runners are just looking to hang on or maintain, they are ready to be passed.
Assess your condition, know the right time to make your final stretch drive. Notice I don't say kick,anyone who runs like a sprinter in the last 50 yards could have started his final surge much sooner. Remember,it is essential to think relaxed,no tension in your shoulders,think about using your arms more and lifting your knees slightly.
Finally,nobody has been offered the quality of training you guys have.Remember this, as the season progresses you are going to get stronger and faster. You have trained in hard conditions and surfaces while others either took days off or trained inside. Patience and persistence are the keys,don't get discouraged,let downs are only temporary if and when they do occur. Every run and race is a learning experience.