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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I'm fired as your running coach

This is a post about finding an appropriate mentor. 

Now, you might think that as someone trying to find a mentor in endurance (and to some degree that is *all* of us), you might want to find someone with as much experience as possible, with a great record, who makes this all look easy. 

I'm here to tell might not.

The easiest way for me to explain this is why I'm fired from being any of your running coaches.  For ever. Seriously.

First off, I've been doing it too long. Not only too long, but not in a "thoughtful" way.

I'm more than happy to share what I've done in the past, or what I think is an appropriate program for someone wanting to start running (see recent post here). I keep running logs that track mileage, time and other training details, and I've always written up my "race stories".  First in a scrap book by hand, and later here on this blog.

But, I've *never* spent anytime writing up the types of articles and analysis you are accustomed to seeing here on the blog for endurance. We can contrast this with my blog (the one you are reading right now). In fact, I would be hard pressed to expound any further on my previously linked article - give me a couple of years and there's some editing I might want to do....but unlike endurance and horses, there is NOT an infinite amount of thoughts and ideas and half formed notions floating around in my head.

Part of the issue may be that I have one body for this running thing, and I never get to have a clean slate again.  However I *do* get to have multiple horses and *will* have a clean slate to work with.  So, it is very much worth figuring out how to do endurance better at all stages. 

By not "thoughtfully" running from the beginning, I have forgotten how it feels to be a beginner runner. I remember some of the highlights (and "lowlights") from my early running days but if you don't do *something* to capture the essence of being a newbie - such as a real time blog where you write about the good AND the bad openly and honestly, a journal, a social group, or some other active/engaging medium - eventually you *will* forget as you accumulate miles and years.  On this blog I have always been extremely honest and open about my attempts at the sport of endurance and horses in general. The combination of thinking about what I'm doing and the writing about what I'm doing imprints the now on my brain a little more strongly, and I can hold onto it for a little longer into the future. 

I love both riding endurance and running more than any sane person can imagine.  But I love them differently. 

I love endurance for the way it requires me to put together the puzzle pieces from dozen of different specialties.  I love figuring out what each individual horse needs for performance - nutritionally, metabolically, physically, and mentally.  I adore tweaking little things in management and observing impact.  Developing communication between 2 species that achieve great athletic things, and watching people change. Once aboard the horse, I love how it makes me live in the moment and put aside other things.  Talking about the future and "what ifs" when it comes to horses, riders, and the sport of endurance is EXCITING and I could do it for as long as you could let me talk. I actually enjoy it when things don't go exactly to plan because I feel there are always lessons learned and it makes such a good story.  Blogging about my horse journey and helping other endurance riders is a MAJOR point of enjoyment in endurance for me because it compliments what I enjoy most about endurance. 

I love running because of the way it makes me FEEL when I get done with a good run. I love that during a run is one of the few times I can turn off my brain and allow myself to day dream and use my imagination. I like seeing results such as PRs.  I get a great satisfaction from achieving goals and competing against myself.  I love how STRONG and capable I feel while I sprint. I love what it does to my body and mind and consider running the cornerstone to my physical and mental well being.  If I'm running, it seems like everything in my life clicks into place.

Can you see the difference? A coach and a mentor are not exactly the same thing, but for the purposes of this discussion, I think it might be helpful read the above italicized paragraphs with the word "coach" instead of "mentor" in mind.  Which paragraph sounds like it was written by a coach? 

The endurance one.

The reasons for running are immensely personal and do not intrinsically lend themselves well to helping others around me achieve success.

Which person sounds more like someone you want for your mentor? You could easily make my running paragraph into an "endurance" paragraph (I love endurance because of the way it makes me FEEL when I get done with a good ride.....blah blah blah).

Considering my successes and failures in both sports, there's no doubt that I'm fully capable of getting someone started in either sport and teaching the basics. In both sports I constantly seek new knowledge and I've had measurable improvement that I'm proud of in both. 

But which sport would I be the better mentor in? Absolutely endurance.

This is why at last Wednesday's New Year's race where I ran the 10 miler, Funder fired me as her running coach.  Funder (I thought about calling you the generic "the friend" but decided you could stand the public attention....) ran the furthest she had ever run. Quite an achievement!  Even knowing that this would be her furthest run EVER, did it occur to me check and see whether she was tapering? Or whether she was planning on refueling 250-300 calories per hour of running for the run that would undoubtably take longer than 90 min?  Or any of the other million details (bring extra safety pins, remember the lube, what's your hydration plan, do you know how to drink out the paper cups while running, etc.)? I'm a great running friend. I promise! I just make a horrible running mentor :). And I'm learning there's a distinction. 

Her officially firing me is what prompted me to ask myself the question: why do I make such a bad running mentor? And I hope this end-of-a-very-long-day rambling post about that question perhaps highlights some mentor qualities that you hadn't considered.

So, when you are seeking out a mentor for endurance (and everyone should have a mentor IMO!)  or any other sport keep this in mind. Not everyone that has done a sport for a long time, or done well in the sport is suitable as YOUR mentor. Depending on *how* they ride endurance they may or may not be able to remember how it was to do endurance when they were at *your level*. Depending on the person, this may or may not be important. Someone might be a good resource but that doesn't mean they are a good mentor.


  1. I'm pretty sure *I* fired you as her coach but I don't want to scroll through 29304728695 messages to prove that ;-) Hahaha, Love this post! such great points!

  2. I re-hired Mel yesterday. I mean, she didn't even laugh at how slow I did that 10k!

    You're spot on for all the reasons I love endurance, and all the reasons I'm growing to love running (or having run, I only enjoy it when I'm finished).

    And I think you're right about the importance of keeping records. I don't want to blog my running, it's too pitiful and a sideline to my main passion, but I wish I'd kept some kind of record from the beginning, and I'm going to start tracking my progress somehow. I mean, I think I started running as a goal unto itself last summer, but in less than a year I've forgotten when I started and just how bad I was. I don't think I deliberately ran a solid mile in my life before Washoe Valley?


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