First a moment of honesty.
I didn’t think I needed a coach. I was an athlete on and off for years. After college, I played some club lacrosse and when I moved to Texas I started running. When I trained for the Alamo Half Marathon, I didn’t need a coach. While getting ready for Elkhart Lake, I didn’t need a coach. When we decided to do Steelhead 70.3, I didn’t need a coach . . . or so I thought.
Creating the workouts necessary to compete in any race is difficult. Running races leave some room for judgement, especially if you aren’t planning on a podium. Run during the week and on the weekend complete some long distances. When we trained for the half marathon, the mornings would be great for running and by the time we were done with long runs, I would be so wrecked that I would spend the rest of the day napping or just lounging around.
For Steelhead, I took a similar approach and tried to create my own workouts and hold myself accountable. This DID NOT work. My training was disjointed and favored things that I liked to do. If I had scheduled a swim and I didn’t feel like it, I would go on a run and forget about the swim. Leading up to Steelhead, I think I had only accumulated a bit more than a mile or so in the pool. MISTAKE.
When Emily proposed getting a coach to help out, I wasn’t immediately hip on the idea. In fact, even after I had the coach helping me for a few weeks, I still wasn’t sure. What follows is what I see as the benefits of having a coach.
Do You Need A Coach
I don’t think that everyone needs a coach. Some people are able to hold themselves accountable and are able to put together training plans to follow. I am not one of those people.
If you are athletic and committed, a coach may help you to focus on the right workouts. A coach may help you get faster. A coach may add that little bit of extra motivation you need to finish in the top quarter of your age group vs. the middle.
What I found helpful was that my coach helped me find the holes in my plan. He put me in the pool more often than I would have on my own. He pointed out my weaknesses and helped me to overcome those weaknesses. The month prior to Steelhead, I logged 1.4 miles in the pool. The month prior to Austin, I logged 4.5 and the month before that, 8. I was ill prepared to jump in the water at Steelhead and it showed enough that the volunteers saw fit to take me out of the water (there was a matter of being kicked in the face).
But my coach helped me with that. He helped me plan a race around my ability.
Which brings me to my next point. Do you have a discipline that you don’t excel at? A coach is likely to help spot that deficiency and work with you to overcome it.
I am a poor swimmer, even with the finish at Austin I still probably look like a drowning cat. That said, I was confident during the swim. The voices in my head told me that I couldn’t do it, but my coaches voice overruled my thoughts and I was strong enough to finish. When I wrote up my post-race email to my coach, I speculated that if I had the proper training going into Steelhead that the kick may not have stopped me. It might have been an annoyance and I may have needed to stop for a minute or two, but I don’t think that the kick would have rendered me useless in the water.
During the Austin swim, I took a few kicks, I was put in a head lock, and I had a muscle cramp that had me stopped for a few minutes. But these didn’t effect the outcome of my race like they did 3 months earlier. I was able to roll with it and keep going.
My coach had me swimming on the outside, not on the buoys. This was important for me to stay out of traffic because I am slow. I swam around a 2 minute hundred at Austin, but there were folks whizzing by me. Staying out of the way helped a great deal, even though a few other people had the same plan and I still was put in a little discomfort.
Should you be doing more? I should have been.
I thought that I was getting a lot done. But that wasn’t the case. I posted a chart from Garmin on Twitter a while back. And I will share the updated chart here. Can you tell where I started working with a coach? I can. My bike distancse were a far cry from what they should have been and it is obvious.
Even with all of this training, the Austin bike course kicked my butt. This information and knowing that Austin hurt me, I am better prepared (as is my coach) to get me ready for my next hilly race (I’ll share what it is soonish).