A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Grand Slam - Am I Contradicting My Coaching Philosophy? Maybe, But Maybe Not

Yesterday, I took the trip to visit one of my clubs in New Jersey at Donaldson Park (Raritan Valley Road Runners). The club was in the third race of four Summer Series races. Those races are one of the biggest foundations of the club since its founding. I'm glad that the course has moved back to its original place in Donaldson Park where it belongs (Donaldson Park, in Highland Park, NJ, underwent a complete overhaul for several years, focing the series to Buccleuch Park in nearby New Brunswick.

While I was there, I got into a discussion with a couple of people there about the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning I was doing and it got me thinking for the rest of the night.


My philosophy, and my coaching that reflects this philosophy, is to gear up for the big races, but always build in a good amount of time to rest after the racing is done. This way, it promotes longevity and minimizes all those injuries that seem to come with intensive training.

Up until now I always erred on the side of safety.

In my opinion, a race as long as an Ironman or a 100 mile race deserves special attention because these races tend to break down the body significantly. These races are also long enough to wear down the soul a bit too. Take a look at the people who finish these long races and you can tell by their faces that they've been through a bit of an ordeal in their race. They waged their personal battles during the race, and they won. But it took a lot out of them. You can definitely tell they need a bit of rest before they can train hard again.

I strongly recommend to my athletes a good 3-4 month rest before tackling another one of these long races again, not just to get their bodies strong again, but to get that mental edge back again. Otherwise they might suffer a huge mental burnout and opt not to race again.

Looking at my schedule, one can see that I might not be practicing what I'm preaching. I just had one of the toughest races in Western States that really tested my mettle in getting to the finish, and now I have another race coming up in 10 days (Vermont 100) which might require another huge battle to get to the finish line.

So, two 100 mile races in 3 weeks. Or how about the entire Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, four 100 mile races in 10 weeks?

In one way, this is an incredibly stupid thing I'm doing. LOL.

Doing four of these 100 mile races in 10 weeks definitely raises my chance of sustaining a significant injury during the series, so I have to be especially careful about myself in these races.

And me pushing through foot pain in the last 40 miles of the Western States 100 doesn't help things, that's for sure. I'm really walking a tightrope between sustaining a significant injury and getting myself to the finish line intact.

But in another way, I still will uphold my philosophy in building in rest, but after the Grand Slam is over. Since the Grand Slam is incredibly taxing, I do believe that, instead of the customary 2-3 months of easy recovery I recommend to my athletes, I will be extending that rest to 4-5 months (and beyond, if I find my body and mind still not 100%).

Remember that it's very important to get that rest in after your season is over. Everyone needs it, even those who specialize in short 5k races. And if you ever find yourself in a very busy season where you 1) have a string of long endurance races in a very short number of weeks (i.e. the Grand Slam), or 2) have a busy summer season of triathlons that you will be doing, with practically one every week, or 3) have one huge "A" race that you intend to give 110% to, remember that rest ALWAYS comes afterwards.

This is big, because I've seen so many endurance athletes my age sustain permanent injuries and drop out of competition permanently.

Give your body several months active rest (low volume, 100% easy pace, cross-training strongly recommended) after your big season or races, or your body will force you into rest...permanently.

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