30 March 2016

From the P-Train to the O-Train

Caveat emptor - I am not a real coach.

Which may pose some real issues given that I am primarily a self-coached runner.

Over the last couple of training seasons I've been trying to work with a semi-modified version of the training plans available from the Old Mutual "Do Great Things" Training Centre.  The guides available via this web portal are geared towards those who are preparing to run specific races in South Africa (which clearly I am not ... at least not until such time that I apply to the Comrades Marathon) and are developed in consultation with accomplished ultramarathoner Norrie Williamson.  I do use the qualifier "semi-modified" as I tend to tinker with plans, usually adding in workouts to accommodate the group sessions that I run with my beloved RunNinjas.


As our group normally has a 'workout' style run (e.g. fartlek, hill repeats, tempo) on Wednesday nights and more of a relaxed social run on Saturday mornings I decided that I would sneak my weekend speed work (which typically appeared on the training schedule for Saturdays) in before the 9 a.m. group run.  While not expecting anyone to join me I didn't want to exclude any of the RunNinjas so I put out an open invitation to the 7:15 a.m. "pain train" (as my buddy Steve affectionately called it), later to be known simply as the "P-Train".

Who knew that there would be other people crazy enough to tack on a solid workout (e.g. last weekend's 8x1000m @ 10k pace) ahead of a 10k easy run?

I've been blessed with the company of many great, fast and focused runners like Mike, Rad, Steve, Bill, James, Mark and Robert.  These guys all make me look bad, but at least trying to keep up with them forces me to draw from deep inside the well.

Which is where this story begins - and perhaps ends.

While it's been a great time every Saturday morning, the last week my body has been providing me with some unwanted feedback - as in I haven't been able to hit the paces that I've wanted for some key workouts (e.g. a 10k time trial and a 150 min. long run in particular).  This has elevated my level of concern as I began to wonder whether or not I'm treading a bit too close to the overtraining (let's call it the "O-Train" just to keep it all cutesy-wootsie) threshold.  

The thing is that while I feel like I can begin to check items off in the "Underperformance" category I'm not sure that many of the indicators are in play for me ... yet.  Of course I don't want to just keep on plodding down this track and eventually begin to recognize more and more of these symptoms showing up in my day-to-day existence.  Again, it's a fine line between pushing your boundaries out further (I've written before about training, recovery and supercompensation here and here) and stretching the elastic to the breaking point ... because once a runner has really crossed over into overtraining territory, it can be a long and arduous road back.

So maybe it's time to smarten up.  I may have been sabotaging my own training gains by pretending that I don't need to dial back as much as I probably do.

What's even funnier is that next Monday night I'm presenting a mini-workshop to the RunNinjas on essential training principles and periodization.  

Me, the non-coach who's booked a ticket on the O-Train but honestly doesn't want to take that ride.

Hopefully I can share some running wisdom while applying it to myself at the same time!



  1. The O-Train is serious s***, it's always better to dial back! With only 18 days till Boston, take it easy, you're ready!:)

  2. Thanks for the encouragement Anna! I know that I'm pushing myself (e.g. I'm running the ATB race this Sunday!) in anticipation of tackling the 7-stage ENDURrun this August. Hopefully I'll just keep tiptoeing on this side of the O-Train tracks!