Coach Craig – Follow Me on My Annual Plan

New year, new annual training plan, and some new, crazy goals!

I want to begin this post by being clear that I am not really into sharing the nitty gritty of my own training. I tend to cringe when I see such posts on social media (unless they are part of a private group — that is totally appropriate!) My ego, especially the part related to my athletic accomplishments, has been beaten into submission, and I have no desire to earn anyone’s admiration via my latest workout or race finish. Don’t get me wrong, I feel my own sense of deep, deep pride when I do follow through and accomplish any goal, but my self-promotion days are long gone.

Well, kinda. I have this personal coaching side-gig that I have been growing, more or less “organically,” for the last, oh gosh, maybe 20 years?! I would like to keep developing this practice, as it brings a ton of satisfaction helping other athletes accomplish their goals, but at the same time, I am not fishing for more clients, as I am more or less at capacity. So what’s up with this then?

I remember my mentor, Danny Dreyer, talking about the concept of a practice many years ago when I first delved into learning about and teaching running technique. Danny explained that a practice involves gradual progress over a lifetime. A commitment to learning over a long period of time. I immediately connected his words to my previous indoctrination as a teacher and researcher in graduate school; the hermeneutic circle is a context many of us live in without really thinking about it. We engage in education and become more knowledgable, and then interact with others in some type of teaching capacity (actual classroom teaching, coaching, ministry, guidance counseling, sales team management, etc.) And if we see what we do as a practice, then we also keep engaging in more learning. Most of us blend the learning with the working, but sometimes we get to take sabbaticals, or even “go back” to school (or go forward?)

That aside is partly my answer to “what’s up with this?” I am a teacher and a coach, and at the age of 51, with a combined experience of something like 50 years of both, I have to admit that I am not sure where one job title ends and the other begins. My lifelong practice is ultimately coaching, whether I am in a college classroom or at a track. I take proven concepts and teach them to others, testing them out, discovering their nuances, and creating my own unique methods for getting ideas to stick in brains, and getting brains to fire the right synapses to the right nerves. Teaching communication skills in a classroom is not all that different from teaching someone how to sprint faster, if you’re looking at it from a certain perspective.

So I am going to launch this new project where I will share my experience of following my own annual training plan. I am hoping a few people will find it interesting or valuable enough to follow along. The overall goal is to teach/coach others about how training plans work, how they relate to goals and help us work toward them methodically. It is also to share the nitty gritty; the struggles, doubts, aches and pains, new plateaus, perfect moments on the trail (because I know they are out there waiting!), and any other curiosity about the process. I would like to demystify things. Debunk some myths. Show that the coach doesn’t always know everything, because he is always learning.

There are coaches out there who get angry at people who don’t think they need a coach. I recently read a fascinating thread about this in one of the many coach communities I am part of online. “What do you say to someone who doesn’t think coaching is worth their time or effort, or who thinks they can find whatever they need online?” You might think I would share the clear bias in that question. I am a college professor, so I certainly hate the internet, right? Not at all. I think we should all find as much information that we can about anything we choose to invest our time in, before calling an expert. There is a ton of valuable information available to all of us, and yes, a lot of it is garbage, but part of being a thinking adult in 2022 is having the ability to discern credibility, while testing out we read, watch, and hear for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong — coaching is incredibly helpful, but I would rather have a student, athlete, or client that is coming to me with informed questions than one that just wants to be told what to do. I also believe there are people who do not necessarily need a coach, depending on their own specific goals. If your primary goal is to run a xx:xx.xx in your next 5K, then sure, hire a coach. But if your goal is partly to learn about yourself, learn about bio-science, training and performance, while chipping away at your 5K time, then maybe you should go the DIY route. Of course, this is coming from someone who, as a novice carpenter, chooses to do all his own home remodeling, which does not always go so well, so again, be a thinking adult and use your own judgement!

Here are some screenshots of my annual plan. The first is the annual overview, which is absurdly complicated. You can pour over it and bask in its overly technical, obsessive compulsive glory, if you want. The second shot is Microcycle 1 (a microcycle is a weekly plan).

You can see that my plan for the first week of this annual plan is very sparse. I share this to emphasize that the plan is a work in progress. The crazy, complicated overview is more or less set, and serves as a guide as I build out the weeks. My race goals are taking shape, with some commitments. But an annual plan has to be dynamic (ever-changing and evolving). What happens this week informs next week. What happened last month informs adjustments to this month. Always assessing and adjusting.

I also share Microcycle 1 to emphasize that I am starting out from 0. This might be a detail that encourages someone to follow along. If you are curious about how a 51-year-old coach/athlete will navigate going from a fairly sorry state of affairs, to running/hiking a 30-Mile mountain trail race in September, and possibly the Batona 55-Miler in November, well jump on board! It is sure to be a wild ride, if not just funny.

Here are my goals for the year:

  1. Zero Injury (this is always my top goal)
  2. Finish Breakneck 1/2 Marathon in under 5 hours. (Previous mark is 5:57)
  3. Finish Shawangunk Ridge Trail 30-Mile
  4. Finish Batona 55-Mile

I have no time goals other than for Breakneck. The Breakneck time might sound off, and before you think I am way out of my league for a 1/2 marathon, that race is considered one of the toughest in the country. It climbs five peaks, with one involving some moderate, four-limb climbing skills.

My training for these events is a little unconventional. I hate wasted work or miles, so I am very specific about what I am doing at any point in the process. I want to train my body to alternate from walking to running to walking, which I have learned is different than simply training to run non-stop. Mentally and physically, the changing of speeds and intensities involves some specific brain work. The first and only time did Breakneck, four years ago, I was in great walking shape, and was only comfortable running about six miles. I cramped up badly in the last 3 miles, and that added at least 30 minutes. Even before the cramping, it was the single hardest thing I have ever done (much harder than the iron-distance triathlon I did in 2007). The only reason I got through it was because a very-loved extended family member passed away a few days before the race, after a lifelong battle with a disease that should have taken her as a child. Every time I thought I had to quit I just thought of her. I am sure I will automatically be thinking of her again this next time, but I definitely want to have some more training supporting me as well!

My plan will include a lot of body weight training and hill climbing.

One thing I have learned over the years is that weight loss and training never mix. You simply cannot make significant physical gains if you are denying your systems the calories they need to function optimally. That said, the training will suffer with too much extra weight. Put simply, my joints will endure more stress, and it will take more blood flow to get oxygen to muscles, if I am carrying extra weight. With that in mind, I will be dropping pounds during the first two moths of the training plan. 15 to be exact.

I will try to focus on specific topics in future posts. I will also work on video versions.

Thanks for following, and feel free to share comments and questions!

Coach Craig

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