A couple of weeks ago I went to Boston for a Road Runners Club of America coaching certification seminar. This is the second of a series of posts about my experiences. I wrote the posts as I was going through the classes, but I haven’t had time until now to post them. The previous post can be found here.
The family and I had been staying out on Cape Cod so to drive in to Auburndale, just outside of Boston, was pretty easy. I got up early and drove the hour and a half to Lasell College where the class was being held.
The certification session was set up in one of the campus auditoriums. In the room, rows of long folding tables were arranged end to end with chairs facing the front. An enormous projector screen was erected on the stage welcoming the 30 or so people who had shown up. We all milled about finding seats and stockpiling the free snacks and Dunkin Donuts coffee.
It felt pretty odd to be taking a “class”. I’ve been out of college for over 17 years and to have to sit down with a notepad and workbook was both intimidating and exciting. Exciting because I was learning something new and doing something I’ve wanted to try for a long time, but intimidating because I didn’t really know how my Lyme-brain was going to work in this situation. I sometimes get easily overwhelmed when a lot of info is thrown at me all at once.
And so it begins…
Warren and Patti Finke were our instructors. Right away I was very surprised at their age. I’m guessing, but, based on some comments they made about past races and other activities, I’d say they’re in their very late 60s or early 70s. Not that there’s anything wrong with elder folks teaching a coaching certification, but I was expecting young, tan and healthy-looking fitness instructor types. Still, if you check out their bios you can see that they, especially Warren, know their shit when it comes to long distance running.
They jumped right in with Patti doing most of the talking and Warren sitting there nodding along. I thought for a moment he might fall asleep.
They had us go around the room and do three-minute bios on ourselves. Most people were either like myself — somewhat accomplished, self-taught coaches or group leaders who wanted to take things to the next level — or runners/athletes who simply wanted to know more. There were also a couple of Physical Therapists there who wanted to better understand running and runners. They both said they figured they should come and try to understand running a little better since, at work, they had to spend so much of their time listening to runners whine about their feet, ankles and knees.
A semester of human physiology in four hours
After getting acquainted, the first half of the day consisted of going over the different energy systems that power a human body in motion. This was great because it’s one of the aspects of coaching that I know a little about, but want to really understand better. Unfortunately, the way the material was presented made it really hard to follow. Endless Powerpoint slides that were either full of bullets that were too brief or charts that were too complex and small on the screen to read.
I became increasingly thankful that I had been recently working my way through Runner’s World The Runner’s Body: How the Latest Exercise Science Can Help You Run Stronger, Longer, and Faster (Runners World) by Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas (aka the Sport Scientists). If I hadn’t, a lot of what Patti covered would have completely gone over my head. Looking around I could see that others were having trouble absorbing the info too. Lots of furious note taking; basically writing down everything she said without really knowing what was important.
Sidetracked by shoes
Lunch turned out to be interesting. In the morning, I had randomly chosen a seat next to James, the Lasell College Cross Country coach, and his assistant, Chris. Over pizza we were chatting about XC and coaching when I noticed James was wearing a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. A conversation on minimal shoes ensued and we were soon out in the parking lot digging through James’ car. He had a demo pair of the yet-to-be-released New Balance Trail Minimi that he wanted to show me. I’d read about them, but hadn’t seen them in person yet. They look great! Nice and flat. As soon as they’re released to the public I plan to pick up a pair.
Meso, macro and hard/easy
After eating, we regrouped to go over the RRCA’s approach to training. Patti, now with the help of Warren, laid out their mathematical, methodical and somewhat conservative training framework. In a nutshell, this consists of developing plans around long term goals that incorporate long training blocks called “mesocycles”. Each mesocycle, in turn, consist of a series of four “microcycles” — base building, sharpening, taper/race and recovery. The microcycles are further reduced into daily training plans that breakdown into alternating hard/easy days of running.
Experience had taught me that this was the way to structure training, but the manner in which the meso and macro cycles are devised and planned out had never been explained. This framework was very helpful in assisting me, an exceedingly visual person, create a mental picture for how everything fits together.
Wrapping up day one
End result? Well, it did take most of the day, but I finally felt confident that I had made the right choice in signing up for the session. I left looking forward to tomorrow.
Some people made plans for dinner get togethers, but I took off and checked into the Westin where I had made a reservation. I was pretty wiped and, after a day of doing nothing but talking about running, was desperate to take a run myself. I looked on DailyMile.com as well as MapMyRun.com, but couldn’t find an easy and suitable route so I ended up in the hotel gym sweating it out on the dreadmill. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but certainly better than nothing.
Up next, day two…