My new running coach is definitely not a psycho killer

Two weeks ago, I drove out to Prosper, TX and met a guy I found on Craigslist.

Stories that include the last seven words of that sentence usually take a dark turn. But so far, this relationship is going well.

Here’s the deal: the guy is a PH.D student in exercise physiology and a researcher at a thermoregulatory lab at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Presbyterian Hospital who advertised personal coaching on Craigslist for $45 a month.

I had nothing to lose (well, except maybe my life if he turned out to be a serial killer the night I met with him at a rural high school track) for trying.

OK, this begs some questions, I know, like Why were you surfing Craigslist in the first place?

It was right after El Scorcho 50k, at which I had a painful if amusing experience, while I was recovering and not running (read: slowly slipping into the madness that awaits my still self) that I started thinking about my past few marathon experiences and getting glum.

Let’s consider New York City 2010: I worked my ass off. I amped my training to 60 and 70 mile weeks. I spent hours every week in Bikram yoga classes. I ran specific speed drills and tempo runs that conventional wisdom said would produce a 3 hour 20 minute marathon. I didn’t start out too fast. I did everything right and ran a 3:33.

Now, don’t get me wrong — 3:33 in New York with its bridges and crowds is all good. I was happy. I had fun. But deep down there was the nagging feeling that, even having tried my damnedest, I failed, and by 13 minutes, to meet my goal. That feeling eats at you and can continue to plague you if you are not able to redeem yourself.

(Let me stress: it’s not the time itself that plagues me, but the inability to reach a goal despite my best efforts. Had it been a video game I poured my time and effort into, I might have turned into the female version of King of Kong guys.)

And season after season, through no lack of effort, I have been unable to make my body do what I want it to do. I’ve suffered some injury setbacks, but I was healthy at El Scorcho, which offered an unpleasant reminder of what failure despite training well feels like. I dread going through it again. So I started obsessing. I bought some more running books and read all kinds of stuff online, much that I had already read. I came across a name I hadn’t heard before. Coach Hadd. I whispered, “yes” when I read part of his bio.

Unwilling to believe that despite being full of piss and vinegar, logging as much as 100 miles per week of training, and having enough grit and determination to stop a locomotive he would never race faster than the average Joe, Hadd quit work, closed his home, and put himself through grad school. He was on a mission to find out why. Graduating totally broke, owning only a pair of running shoes and a motorcycle, Hadd knew why he was destined to never make a single podium, but he didn’t like it. Hadd could not stand to see someone doing something badly – yet with all his heart – and not want to do something to help. Past the point of doing something for himself, he became a teacher.

The first thing Hadd would do with his runners is gain intel regarding their shorter distance times — mile, 5k, 15k, half marathon — and if shorter distances didn’t relate properly to longer distances based on equivalence tables (McMillian calculator-type charts), then, he determined, something was wrong with the runner’s training.

This struck a chord with me because my marathon time of 3:30 doesn’t relate with my 5k time of 20:37 or my 15k time of 1:04, for example.

So, that’s it! I am going to contact this Coach Hadd and see if he can help me. Problem: he’s dead. So I started looking up running coaches and there are surprisingly few available. And the personal coaches who are around are too expensive for a recreational runner to justify. So I turned to Craigslist, where you never know what you might find, and cheap.

The answer to the next obvious question is, No I did not die when I went out to meet the Craigslist Coach at a remote high school track.

And in fact, we are really making strides (sorry for that) and I am very excited about the weeks and months ahead. Even if it doesn’t work out, marathon-time wise, I feel as if I am giving myself a new challenge, and that keeps me entertained.

Coach Rivas’ first questions to me after I emailed him and outlined my goals were something like this: what is your 5k PR? 10k? Half marathon? I filled him in and he told me I could get much faster at the marathon distance.

I asked him if he’d ever heard of Coach Hadd and he said he has studied him closely and uses his methods. Oh yeah. Match made in heaven.

He told me to get a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor.

I met him for a five-minute time trial at a track near where he lives in Prosper. He looked at my maximum heart rate and the distance I covered over the five minutes and, within 48 hours, wrote me a prescription for my first month.

It consists of two days of speed or interval training per week plus daily runs of 60 minutes at a medium pace and one day of slow pace, wearing heart rate monitor at all times. No days off. I just completed the first week. Here’s the whole unedited version of this  month’s workouts. I will keep myself and anyone who cares (you know you are among the nerdiest of running nerds, right?) posted regarding progress:

Aug. 5 – 11th

Mon. 10min wup + dynamic & static flexibility +12x400m at 92 seconds w/ 92 seconds recovery + 10min cdown.

Tues. 60min at 8:47 pace

Wed. 60min at 8:47 pace

Thur. 10min wup + 6x6min at 6:50 pace w/2 min recovery + 10min cooldown

Fri. 60min at 10:15 pace

Sat. 60min at 8:47 pace

Sun. 60min at 8:47 pace

Aug. 12-18th

Mon. 10min wup + dynamic & static flexibility + 6x1200m at 4:50 w/ 4min recovery + 10min cdown (6:30 pace)

Tue. 60min at 8:47 pace

Wed. 60min at 8:47 pace

Thur. 10min wup + dynamic & static flexibility + 6x6min at7 7:15 w/ 1min recovery + 10min cdown

Fri. 60min at 10:15 min/mi pace

Sat. 60min at 8:47 min/mi pace

Sun. 60min at 8:47 min/ mi pace

Aug. 19-25th

Mon. 10min wup + dynamic & static flexibility + 12x400m at 92->90 seconds w/ 92 seconds recovery +  10min cdown (start with first 4 at 92 seconds then next 4 at 91seconds & last 4 at 90 seconds)

Tue. 60min at 8:47 min/mi pace

Wed. 60min at 8:47 min/mi pace

Thur. 10min wup + dynamic & static flexibility + 6x6mins at 6:50>6:40 w/ 2minutes recovery + 10 min cdown. (start first 2 at 6:50, next 2 at 6:45, last 2 at 6:40)

Fri. 60min at 10:15 min/mi pace

Sat. 60min at 8:48 min/mi pace

Sun. 60min at 8:48 min/mi pace

Aug. 26- Sept 1 st

Mon.  10min wup + dynamic and static flexibility + 12x800m at 3:15-3:05 w/ 3:13min recovery + 10min cdown (first 4 at 3:15, next 4 at 3:10, last 4 at 3:05)

Tue. 60min at 8:48 min/mi pace

Wed. 60min at 8:48 min/mi pace

Thur. 10min wup + dynamic static flexibility + 6x6min at 7:00 w/ 1min recovery + 10min cdown

Fri. 60min at 10:15 min/mi pace

Sat. 60min at 8:47 min/mi  pace

5k race


9 thoughts on “My new running coach is definitely not a psycho killer

    1. Angela, I cringed when I saw the 7-day a week thing, but I can’t say anything. I said I’d do whatever he suggested. I assume once I add in long runs and doubles (yes, those are forthcoming) I will get a day off here and there!

  1. I can’t wait to hear about your results. I feel that I have gone the same road as you. 3 years of let downs with awesome training. That makes the races hurt that much more. I am excited for you.

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