Last Sunday I had my second coached track session with Chuckie. It was quite an experience and I've resisted blogging about it because one part of me wanted to keep the experience to myself and another part of me couldn't quite find the words to portray the event.
Four stellar runs later I have a little more clarity and decided to give it a go.
Last Sunday Chuckie proved why he may be a really good coach via email, but he's a REALLY fantastic coach in person. The electric version of Chuckie is superb, you know if you read his blog, but the in person Chuckie is frickin' off the hook.
Ok, so we are at the track and I am doing repeats. Now these repeats are not fast, but there are A LOT of them. I'm not going to share the exact workout because it's pointless to do so, what I want to explain is the process. So I started them out with a number in mind.
Before I go any further, let me say that I love the track. One strength I have as a runner is that I tend to run smart on the track, I seem to be able to dole out my energy smoothly and keep my splits consistent. I can do math in my head quickly so I tend to stay on pace.
Well, I started the first ones and they were about 9 seconds faster than the number we had in mind. Chuckie was quick to tell me that it was ok, the work was more about a "feeling" and neuromuscular development. So I progressed through them, hitting every one, slowly inching them a little faster by 1-2 seconds.
Half way through the workout is where Chuckie starts getting good. He tells me to close my eyes 90% of the way. Focus on my core, and moving my arms effortlessly. He had me relax everything that wasn't working. Suddenly this very analytical track workout started to shift.
Repeat after repeat I found myself loosing more of the technical and delving deeper into myself. And not philosophically, but physically. My focus became more and more dialed into every muscle that was moving, my posture, my footfall. To the point where the scenery coming in through my eyes was being phased out.
Chuckie had me pull down my hat, so it was over my eyes. My vision was obstructed to about 10 feet of the track, my gaze was unfocused and squarely into the underside of the brim of my hat. The track became visible only in the periphery. My focus was within, my core was completely engaged and I could feel myself standing upon my spine. I could feel my vertebrae lift, my jaw go slack. It was all encompassing and required complete focus, but not in a burdensome kind of way. It was easier.
The second to last interval I ran without looking at my watch once, but came in right in line with where I had been running. For the last one Chuckie asked me to not look at my watch, take everything back one notch, and come in 1 beat lower on my HR. I focused within, I pulled things back just a tad, stopped my watch at the line, and saw 10 seconds slower and 1 beat lower. It was the final confirmation.
NEVER have I ever gone through such an experience on the track. Half the work was completely analytical, and the other half was the opposite. It was a Zen experience. I would never have taken the risk on my own to progress through the work in that manner. It was due to the gentle coaching on Chuckies part; the millions of "good jobs", the little tip here, and the little talk there. When he coaches, he is 100% committed to us, and he is completely in the moment of the workout with us. He must have walked across the center field 50 times that day, talking the whole time.
I came home from that workout a little high. I was on a cloud. He had left me with some great advise too. He said, you can tap into that feeling on all your runs. Even the easy ones, warm up, get into your mode and float through race pace for 1/2 to 1 mile and then pull it back and cool it down. Going to that place inside of your runs only helps to develop and reinforce the neuromuscular effect.
This gave me a lot of food for thought. It opened up new possibilities.
Tuesday I suited up for 90 minutes and wha-lah, 15 minutes in I'm in my zone and I'm conscious of my core and my arms and my cadence and breathing. I found it easier to go to "that place".
Yesterday, again, boom, I tapped into my Zen place again and cranked out 4 miles at IM race pace with a peace and calm. I have to tell you about this one too.
We did this run off a pretty challenging bike and PIC was with me too. She gets to run in little doses due to her recovering PF, so after a bit her and Chuckie were in the car following me while I was running. This is how great Chuckie is. I had the full escort for my run. I'm cooking along, doing my Ommmm thing and they are at every turn, Chuckie is out taking pictures as I run by, and Michelle is handing me water bottles. They were "there" for me in every way possible and I saw them about 20 times over 4 miles. I feel so spoiled by how well I was treated. I don't think most pros are as personally coached as I am. And it helps...plain and simple.
So for today's run I was intrigued. It was 2 hours and I was meeting a friend who was getting in her last IMLou longish run. She had a set pace to run and it seemed like a good pace for me. I kept wondering when all this work was going to start catching up to me, when was I going to start feeling like it was "hard"? We had a great time and when she left me I continued with the pace no problem. I got back to the car and saw that my heart rate was 5-10 lower than normal at that pace. Again, another superb run.
It's been five days and while my rational brain says that not all runs can feel great, some new piece of me says "Why not?" If you can get into your zone, if you can relax and go Ommm with your body and your mind, maybe a much higher percentage of my runs can be done in a place of peace, calm, and focus. I've never thought about running like this, and while it all feels very new, it feels very promising as well.
Chuckie says that this is what getting efficient and having economy of movement feels like. I'm thinking he's right!