Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So Do Washing Machines

You know the story…it’s Christmas Vacation month here at F.M.S!

Frances: Talk about pissing your money away. I hope you kids see what a silly waste of resources this was.
Audrey Griswold: He worked really hard, Grandma.
Art: So do washing machines.

There is nothing more deflating than putting in the time and effort of training for the big race only to come up short of your goal on the race day. If you run and race long enough, you’ll experience both the thrill of PR’s and the disappointment of poor race performances. It’s part of being a self-taught, coach-less athlete. Races are mirrors that reflect back your preparation, strategy, and training. You may not like what you see but - and this is the important part - YOU own it.

When you plan smart, train hard, and execute on race day, there is no one to thank (besides your spouse and support crew – do NOT forget that) but yourself. You did the research. You put together the plan. You did the training. Finally, you ran the race. To me, this is the ultimate thrill. It’s me against the watch. Man vs. Machine. Or Man vs. Self? Someone call a philosopher.

If you’ve visited this corner of the internets before, you are familiar with my anti-coach diatribes for the amateur athlete. The number one reason I promote self-coaching is because of the feeling I get when I cross the finish line. When I look at that clock and realize that I just blew the doors off a PR, I’m overwhelmed with pride, happiness, and a deep feeling of accomplishment. My plan worked. I did this. Likewise, if the race doesn’t go to plan, who’s to blame? Well, the kids for one. And maybe that guy over there. And the snow and rain. And who measured this course? But deep inside, I know it’s all me. Something didn’t work with my training and preparation. There’s no one with which to transfer my success or blame. If I don’t like the post-race reflection, I need to analyze the image presented to find the flaws.

I think you earn a deeper, more meaningful appreciation of your self and the sport when you coach yourself. Now, I have nothing against those wanting to take the short cut by hiring a coach. That’s fine. Everyone chooses their own path. Certainly, competitive, semi-pro or pro runners would be expected to have a professional coach. But for the weekend warrior runner – the equivalent of the pick-up hoops guy or softball guy – why would you bypass the true joy found in the sport of running? I’ve learned more about myself through the trial-and-error process of preparing for races than I have through any other activity. It’s not about the miles; it’s about the journey of finding your own way.

Sure, like an old washing machine, I might clunk around for awhile working out the kinks in a training plan. I consult books, magazines, blogs, and fellow runners for tips. There’s a wealth of free information available to you at your fingertips. I follow the simple maxim “Listen to everyone; follow no one.” Sometimes I open the washing machine lid and the clothes are still full of soap. Sometimes the colors stained. And sometimes I left gum in my pocket.

It’s not enough to train hard. You must also train smart. Make adjustments. Check the mirror. Listen to your Inner Art but don’t let him have the last word. If you’ve hired a coach for some reason, listen to your Outer Art, in that case. But, please, don’t let the Outer Art rob you of your personal journey to your running goal.

Because sometimes the clothes come out of the old washing machine crisp and clean and perfect. And the only person to congratulate is the one staring at you in the mirror. That’s when you feel a deeper level of satisfaction!

Happy trails.

Sorry for the mixed metaphors of washing machines and mirrors. I couldn’t decide which so I said ‘why not go with both? They’ll never notice.’ And you didn't, did you?!


Andrew Opala said...

all right damn you ... 11 weeks of coaching, 40 seconds off my 5k PR and 5 minutes off my 10K PR ... I'm firing my coach. Why should she get all the credit!

Jamoosh said...

I certainly mostly almost barely yet totally agree with you. But riddle me this: how many weekend warriors do you know who get up at 4:30 on a Wednesday morning to shag grounders or shoot hoops?

Xenia said...

"Shag grounders"? Jamoosh has some interesting extracurricular activities.

So which of Art's quotes is going to be the inspiration for your next post? I vote for: "What is it? A letter confirming your reservation at the nuthouse?"

Thomas said...

As someone who has been self-coached for the last 6 years and recently got the offer of free coaching help, I can assure you that this post is full of shit.

*Ever helpful*


Jill said...

Awk, Don't listen to Andrew!!! Coaches ROCK!!!

Elizabeth said...

I agree. I do just fine without a running coach, and I think my marathon PR of 4:45 proves it. Move over, Shalane.

John at Hella Sound said...

I don't know about the whole coached-versus-self-coached debate, but I will say: your line "Races are mirrors that reflect back your preparation, strategy, and training." is genius. True dat, son. true dat.

Julie said...

Hey there Nitmos,
This was a great post:) I totally agree about the whole training being a special and unique journey for all of us. I love your comparision about the washing machine....so true!

How has the weather been in Michagan? Better than in Minnesota I am sure:) Less of the white stuff:)

Take care!

Nick said...


I am in 100% agreement with you!

Dont get me wrong I am not anti-coach, hell it was my coaches that got me where I am today. They taught my my BASE and I took it from there!

I also love to coach. However when I am coaching I try to teach in a way that tells them, this is my suggestion, if you feel like you want to need to do more or less then do it. Let me know what is working or not working for you. When we are done, take what I have taught you and grow on it.

And you are SO SO right, when doing it yourself. It feel 100 times better when you succeed and yes 100 times worse when you fail, but I love every minute of it!

And my vote is...... We needed a coffin...I mean tree

Vava said...

If I may be allowed to do so I would modify your very good maxim to read: "Listen to everyone; follow no one (unless they are cutting the wind for you, in which case use them like a snot rag until they no longer serve any purpose other than to be passed with authority and snickered at)".

Has a certain ring to it don't you think? Though it's a little on the long side, I will admit.

Vava said...

That being said, my ankle is my coach. I can't do anything without it's say-so.

Stupid joint...

The Sean said...

Coach or not, you have to own your steps, the ultimate result is yours. Likewise I bandit the internet resources, use personal experience and knowledge of self to mold what works for me at the time.

Gotta pay attention, not a "coach", to find success!!

Jess said...

What an awesome post. I agree you have to find your own way with your running whether or not you have a coach!

JennyMac said...

I am clearly such a jr varsity runner compared to you but I think these wise words apply to runners on all levels.

Love this: It’s not about the miles; it’s about the journey of finding your own way.

And I tried to reply to one of your comments but your email is not linked to your blogger profile. Link it? Pretty please?

BrianFlash said...

I love the experimentation required with finding your own way. A coach might help skip some of those steps, but the journey is the fun - not necessarily the destination. Particularly my destination which is purely in the middle of the pack.

Robin said...

I love the mystery of blending various plans together. And by mystery, I mean "crapshoot" wondering if it will work. And when it does, I'm genius. When it doesn't, it's time to google some more!

Reluctant Runner said...

Trolling your own blog, Nitmos. You oughta be ashamed. ;-)