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Why I Have a Coach and 6 Reasons You Don’t Need One

USATF Coach Jeremy Wallace

USATF Coach Jeremy Wallace“If a man coaches himself, then he has only himself to blame when he is beaten.” – Roger Bannister

…….. but before we get into that, let me tell you about the duck foot.  It’s attached to my right leg and you can see it in roughly 50% of my race pictures.  It turns out when I run, from push-off to leg extension to hip flexion.  My significant other makes fun of it, it occasionally rubs against my left leg, it turns out awkwardly all the time unless I consciously turn it in, makes me feel self-conscious and has a mind of its own, but has never caused me any real problems.  Next time you see me running, or even just standing around, you can look briefly at the duck foot but don’t stare, it’s not polite.  It’s something I’ve tried to “fix” in the past after friends, coaches, chiropractors and doctors told me I needed to in order to be a good, healthy runner.  I’ve tried rolling, stretching, strengthening and just being conscious of it, then I injured my knee trying to “correct” my form, on advice from one of the “experts”.  I finally had the duck foot thoroughly examined only to find that the cause was simply the way the bones in my ankle were built and I should probably just blame my mother.

Now about the first time I went through a workout with my current coach.  He took a look at my form as if through a microscope, an hour or more of putting me through all sorts of drills and punishing intervals, all while eyeballing and seemingly criticizing every movement and shaking his head at the duck foot.  Lap after lap he asked me to make small changes to what I was doing then examined the results closely.  He asked questions about what sort of training I’d done in the past and what I’d done to change the way I run.  Truth be told, even with my experience, I’m self-conscious about my performance, so having someone critique every move I made without saying anything about what I was doing wrong almost sent me over the edge.  At the end of the session I almost expected him to tell me that I wasn’t good enough, to go home picking up some Carl’s Jr. on the way, kick the duck foot up and watch some cooking shows.  Thankfully that’s not what happened.  In the end, he simply said “There’s nothing wrong with your form, you just need to work harder”, which I know isn’t entirely true, but it completely changed the way I looked at my training and one reason I have a coach.  His statement somehow gave me permission to step back from what had been ingrained in me as an athlete and coach.  In short, it allowed me to stop letting the foot be my limiter and trying to correct every little thing that was “wrong” with me.  Since then my fitness has improved exponentially.  That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about my inefficiencies and working on them, it just means they no longer limit my efforts.

Here are some other reasons:

-Accountability: I get asked often why I don’t write my own training program, especially since I’ve coached so many others.  The answer is simple.  I’m not my own best coach.  I’ve realized over the years that I can run hard, but I run harder if someone is looking at me expecting me to run hard.  I’m also more likely to limit random days off, I consider nutritional choices more carefully and do more supplemental work like foam rolling.

-Different perspective: There are a hundred different ways to train for an event and there are none that are wrong, just wrong for the athlete.  My coach and I regularly discuss my training path to ensure I progress appropriately.  Sometimes I don’t follow the path he’d like me to take but talking with him allows me to consider another opinion.

-I don’t know everything: I know, disappointing right?  It turns out that running is a simple act but bio-mechanically complicated.  To run in an inefficient way is equivalent to trying to throw a baseball without using your wrist or fingers (the ball won’t go nearly as far).  Throw in mental training, nutrition, periodization, flexibility, hydration and injury prevention, and there’s a lot to learn.

-Someone to blame: This is my favorite reason for having a coach.  I’m afraid of giving 100% and failing, not just in running but in other avenues of my life.  Having a coach gives me just enough crutch to put everything I have into my training with no reservations, and if things don’t work out the way I’d like, in my head there must be something wrong with his training plan.  I’m sure this sounds silly to some but it’s just how my brain works.

-Motivation: My coach knows what makes me perform.  Somehow he’s able to get me to push myself way out of my comfort zone and into what I like to call the “Blue Zone”.  It’s the area of consciousness just before passing out, when your breathing can no longer keep up, when your vision starts to lose focus, when the only thing you hear his your heart beating out of your chest and the only thing you feel is your legs tingle as though they could crumple beneath your body at any moment.  You know, the sweet spot where real gains are made….. Ah, to be a runner:)

-I need to be held back: I’m prone to bouts of egotistical running behavior.  If you’ve ever run with me, you know it’s a rare day when I’ll let you get too far ahead of me before the run turns from friendly training workout to death sprint, which good distance training almost never calls for.  Having a coach doesn’t eliminate my propensity to go harder than I need to, but it certainly makes it less likely.

And now, 6 reasons you don’t need a coach:

1-You’re not motivated by being a better runner: People run for many different reasons.  Some for an energy release or because it helps them focus or lose a few pounds.  Others because their daily 4 miler helps them get going in the morning or they like spending time with other runners or because in their minds it means they can have an extra glass of wine at night.  In any case, I’ve learned that not all people who run regularly are interested in becoming a stronger, faster or more durable runner.  If you’re one of them, you don’t need a coach.

2-You already know everything there is to know about distance training: Why bother with a coach, go straight to the Olympics.

3-You’re impatient: I’ll often be asked by a runner to help them in training only to have that same runner ask me a few weeks later why they haven’t set any records yet.  Running well takes time.  There are no magic bullets or workouts that will transform you over night.  If you decide to go with a coach, success isn’t automatic, it’s a big investment of time and it will take months or years of consistent, specific work before you reach your potential.

4-You’re not open to new ways of training: Occasionally someone will ask me to write their training program for them and then not follow one day of it.  They have their own ideas of what they like or want to do and a coach’s program just isn’t it.  This isn’t productive for the coach or athlete.  If you have a program you’re getting good results from and/or aren’t open to new ideas, you don’t need a coach.

5-You’re your own best coach: There are very few professional or elite amateur distance runners who coach themselves, but most novice runners think it’s as easy as putting on your shoes and pounding out 20-30 miles per week or downloading a generic ½ marathon training plan to be at their best.  Maybe it is for you.  Here’s a little test: Do you know what the terms periodization, cadence, hip flexion, glycogen depletion or aerobic threshold mean?  Do you understand the role of low and high glycemic foods in training?  Do you know what you’re going to eat the day before your next event or drink the day of?  Do you know within a few BPMs or seconds/mile how hard you’re going to run your next tempo effort?  Do you keep a food and mileage log?  Are you progressing?  If so, maybe you don’t need a coach.

You like taking a little advice from everyone:  As an athlete myself, I get daily unsolicited advice.  Sometimes even from non-runners, on what I need to be doing to be a better runner, from making my long run at least 22 miles every week, to limiting my runs to 3 days per week so I don’t ruin my knees, to avoiding nuts because they’ll make my hair fall out.  Everyone’s an expert, but I can only listen to one coach at a time and if you’re someone who likes to take advice from everyone, one coach isn’t going to cut it.

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A good coach is a good motivator, teacher and friend.  He or she can be just what you need to develop your fitness, get over that training plateau, injury or help you set a new personal record, but only if you’re ready to be coached.  I’ve learned that a coach doesn’t necessarily have to have a ton of education or even be an athlete and that some of the smartest, best athletes make the worst coaches.  Your coach should only know what they’re talking about when it comes to getting the best out of you.  Usain Bolt’s coach Glen Mills never ran past freshman year in high school and never went to college, but has gone on to help develop the fastest sprinter in the world.  Why?  Because he found a love and passion for the sport, became a student of running and has learned how to effectively motivate his athletes.  If you go looking for a coach, that’s exactly what you should look for.  Not all coaches are the same.

Here’s the truth: My coach and I don’t always see eye to eye.  He holds back my paces when I’d like to go harder and tells me to eat more or less food.  Sometimes he questions my efforts and others he asks me to give an extra 10% when I have nothing left (which makes me mad for some reason), but I don’t need him to be my bestie all the time.  The bottom line is that I’ve become a better and faster athlete with him and without him there’d be no one to tell me to ignore the duck foot and work harder, which is really all the permission I need.

Happy training!!

Jeremy “Duckfoot” Wallace
Las Vegas Runners
USATF and RRCA Running Coach

USATF and RRCA Running Coach, Jeremy Wallace

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Duathlon World Championships Race Recap 

Duathlon World Championships - Las Vegas Runners

Las Vegas Runners - Melissa FarellLet me begin by saying that none of this could have been made possible by the large group of supporters including my family, Jeremy Wallace for supporting my training, my favorite Las Vegas Runners run group, and all of my clients who have been so positive throughout the entire process.  I couldn’t have done it without ALL of you and for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

We arrived in Vigo, Spain after a countless number of hours of flying and layovers.  I have never been so excited to see a piece of luggage come off of the belt as I was when I saw my bike box.  One of my biggest fears was getting to Spain, sans bike.  After spending the first couple of days recouping, getting s little run in, we decided to do a dry run on the bike course.  What could be better then a straight downhill into town, only to get to the 5+ mile uphill bike run, on a wet road, with a narrow shoulder and heavy traffic?  Needless to say nerves were high among the group.  In case there weren’t enough nerves going around, the wet bike course outlook didn’t help things.  We all spent the next day resting and seeing a little bit of the town.  We walked the run course, which consisted of 16 turns(yes, 16 turns), a short steep uphill in the very beginning which waned into a slight incline, before heading through the cobblestone streets of town which took you on a fast and beautiful downhill to the water’s edge.  From there, you run into transition where the last 200m on the track took you to the finish line.  It was an absolutely beautiful run course, well laid out in terms of logistics and elevation change.

Saturday, the day before the race and the plan was, and always is, to rest up and not do anything to strenuous.  Easier said then done, especially when racing abroad.  After a day of getting things prepped, making sure to eat and hydrate throughout the day, we were set to drop off the bikes at transition…..starting at 8:30PM.  It wouldn’t be so bad if my race was not starting at 8:30am.  Lines of athletes, from all over the world, waiting in line as we get our bikes checked, our uniforms checked, our ID’s checked, and basically looked over like we were going through TSA.  By the time we got in, set the bikes up and got back to the hotel, and had dinner, it was 12:00AM.  I’ve run races on 4 hours of sleep before, but it didn’t fully put me at ease.  Non-ideal conditions create stronger athletes.

Race day, wake up call 4AM, quick breakfast of bananas, Belvita, water, a little Gatorade and we were off.  I must say the nerves were a little high, but my consolation is to throw on the music and try and stay in my relaxed and focused zone.  One of the hardest things about racing, in ANY race, is NOT getting sucked into the other racer’s chatter about the race & their nerves.  If you start your race calm and collected, the chances of having the race you planned on having are higher.  We get into transition, set up helmets, shoes, check out the run, and it’s onto the warm up.  One thing I have learned is that you do on race day just what you have done in training.  If your warm up consists of squats, leg swings, and other dynamic drills, then you DO THEM come race day.  if you jog 1 mile before your runs, then you run that 1 mile before your race.  Stay with what got you there in the first place.  After the males take off, all of the females line up(it’s time!).  On Your Mark…..the horn sounds!  I have to say for the first 5K run, I felt good, I felt really good, so good that I wondered if I should have pushed harder on that run.  I get into transition, helmet on, shoes on, bike off, and we are going.  Hard to run on soft muddy grass with bike shoes.  I get on my bike and I have so much mud and grass in my right cleat that I cannot clip in.  After several failed attempts to knock it out, I realize I need to dismount in order to clear it out.  Screw that!  So I decided to ride the entire bike course with one foot clipped in, and one foot praying that it doesn’t slip off.  No way I’m getting off that bike unless it’s to put my run shoes on.  After a 5+ mile uphill ascent(about 180m in about 4.5 miles) and fast descent, it was time for the final run.  I will say I felt great, other then the normal “my legs feel like jello” feeling.  One more lap on the run, through town.  As I entered the stadium, with the fans in the grandstand cheering, it was probably one of the best feelings I have had at a race.  The energy of the athletes, the energy of the locals, and the energy of those who have travelled from all over the world to cheer on the athletes, it was amazing! As soon as I finished, I vowed to go back to compete again.  It was too amazing an experience to not.  Finish time: 1:24.52 1st run: 24:30, bike: 43:43, 2nd run: 12:43.  11th in my age group, not the best placing, but a tough field.  I was happy with my time and I am determined to represent in 2016 and to go in stronger & faster then I did this year.


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An Athlete’s Track to the World Championships

Team USA - Las Vegas Runners

Team USA - Las Vegas RunnersBy: Melissa Farrell

“So, I qualified to represent Team USA at the Duathlon World Championships in Spain in 2014??  Do I want a spot on the team?  Um, YEAH!”  That is pretty much what went through my head when I found out that I had qualified for Team USA after the National Championships in AZ last year.  I will be honest, I am not an elite athlete, I have only been running seriously for about 3-4 years, I love running ultra distances, and until 2012 I had no idea the duathlon was an event.  Trying to motivate clients, I had decided to explore the possibility of competing in a triathlon in June 2013.  As anyone who knows me knows, I am not, shall we say a FAN of swimming.  I like to be on my feet…..on land……breathing oxygen.  When the option to compete in the duathlon option came up, I jumped on it!  Running & Biking, you mean no swimming?  I’M IN!  After placing 3rd female overall, the journey began.

From there I went to Nationals and in two months we will be on my way to Pontevedra, Spain to compete against the best in the world.  It may sound intimidating to most, but the way I look at it is I have a chance to compete against some awesome athletes and see how they race, learn from them, rub elbows with them, and experience the atmosphere of a World Championship race.  I’m going out to do the best I can and have been putting all my efforts into my training & preparation for this race.  It’s intense when I think about it, but I feel very fortunate to have such a great support group in Vegas to allow me to experience such an event.

In January of this year, I began seriously training and prepping my legs for the fast pace of a 5K run, 20K bike, and a 2.5K run.  Getting my body used to jumping from one regimen to another and then finishing off with pretty much a sprint to the finish.  Now, for those of you who are runners, I want you to imagine preparing to run a mile, as fast as you can, after doing 3 sets of heavy squats and some hill repeats and oh, throw some weighted step ups in there too.  I remember the first time I stepped off my bike, put on my shoes, and began to run.  I swear my legs were no longer stable and I waited for the jelly to force me to the pavement.  But like any training adaptation, that’s just what my body did, adapt.  Over the weeks things have become easier, speeds have increased, transitions have become smoother, and the confidence has increased.

As we approach the final two months of training I am feeling great!  I know I have put in the work and I see it paying off.  I no longer about what others think because I am on my recovery day and running a 10:00/mile or biking for 15 miles at a snails pace.  I do my own training, on my own schedule, with my own rules and that is exactly what I encourage everyone to do.  Set a goal and get with someone who will help you reach that goal whether it be to run your first 5K or PR in your marathon or try out a triathlon this year.  If you want it and you put the work in, you will get it and it’s that simple.  I will be keeping updates on my progress for those interested and look forward to sharing my successes come race day.  I appreciate ALL of your support and only wish I knew a way to say thank you to everyone.  And a special thank you to my biggest support system and the best training partner I could ask for.  Jeremy, you have helped me stay on track and been there through all the ups & downs(as in ANY training program) and for that and much more, I thank you!

Viva Espana!!

Melissa Farrell
Co-Founder & Running Coach, Las Vegas Runners
Ultra runner & World Championship Duathlete
www.LasVegasRunners.com

Melissa Farrell - Running Coach