Disclaimer: I received online coaching from Olympic Marathoner Jared Ward and his team at Endure Strong to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.
Let’s face it. I am worse than bad when it comes to training for races. The thing is, I simply enjoy participating in them, but I really don’t care much about my time. However, I’m not getting any younger, and completing long distance races isn’t getting any easier. So when the opportunity to receive online coaching from Jared Ward and his team at Endure Strong came up, I jumped at the chance.
Who, you might ask, is Jared Ward? He is a 30 year old distance runner who qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics, where he came in sixth place in the marathon (and first place for U.S. men) with a time of 2:11:30! He was also the first place U.S. men’s finisher at the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon. That right there is a pretty impressive resume, but you can read more about him here.
Given my history of not training for races, I have tossed around the idea of hiring a coach just to add some accountability into the mix. But since my work and travel schedules can be very hectic, I never thought working with a coach would be an option for me. As it turns out, working with an online coach was the perfect solution. With online coaching, I had 24-hour access to not only my training plan, but also to the online forum where I could ask questions, post comments, review group calls, etc. Even though I wouldn’t expect an immediate response in the middle of the night, it was a nice option to access the platform at any time, day or night, when it worked best with my busy schedule.
When the call came out for BibRave Pros to apply, there were a few criteria. First, it was preferred those opting in had busy schedules that made traditional coaching programs difficult to do. √ Check. I do not have a regular schedule when it comes to anything. I work as a nurse practitioner in an inpatient hospital setting. Since we are a 24-hour operation, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, my schedule varies from week to week. I work weekdays, weekends, days, nights, holidays, 8 hour shifts, 10 hours shifts, 12 hour shifts…you get the picture. I also own a busy consulting business where I travel fairly frequently, and am typically gone four or five days at a time. I have a house, a husband, a family, and a blog! My 90-year old mother lives with us and although she doesn’t need a tremendous amount of physical care, she does need a lot of help, and it can be time consuming. People often ask how I do it all. My usual answer? Ineffectively.
But I digress. The point being, I easily met the first criteria. The second was to have a big goal race coming up, preferably somewhere around the end of summer and no later than the first week of September. √ √ Check check. I had several ‘big’ races on my calendar at the time I opted in, and have since added more. The timing worked out that I would make the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon on July 21st my ‘first’ big goal race and then continue training for the Chicago Marathon on October 13th and the New York City Marathon on November 3rd.
Once everyone was chosen to participate, we received an e-mail from Andrew Webb, who is Jared’s partner in coaching and our primary contact at Endure Strong. We received instructions on how to set up an account with Final Surge, the online platform we would be using to choose our training program, log our activities, and communicate with other participants and the coaches. The process was easy. Program options include level of experience (beginner, intermediate, advanced, or elite), duration of the plan (12 or 16 weeks), peak mileage within the plan (20 – 30 weekly miles for the beginner plans, 35 – 45 weekly miles for the intermediate plans, 55 – 75 weekly miles for the advanced plans, and 85 – 105 weekly miles for the elite plans), and goal race distance (5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon). The plans also include options for cross training and strength training each week.
I seriously contemplated choosing a beginner plan just because of the more manageable weekly miles, but after looking through the different programs, I chose a 12-week intermediate half marathon training plan with 35 peak weekly miles. To be honest, I didn’t necessary think I would hit my planned miles every week (spoiler alert: I didn’t), but it was the option within the intermediate category that had the lowest miles, so that is what I went with. I plugged in the date of my July half marathon and that put Day 1 of the plan at April 28th. On the plan’s schedule for that day: 2 easy miles. On my calendar that day: The London Marathon. What could I do? I canceled my flight to London.
Psych. Of course I didn’t. The day after the marathon was a scheduled rest day, and then the following day was a 2-mile easy run. I contacted Andrew and asked him what I should do. He advised I take a few days off, and in fact could take the rest of the week off if I needed to. I wound up taking Monday and Tuesday off (we flew home from London on Monday), and then I did a 2 mile walk on Wednesday, a 1 mile walk on Thursday, a 12-hour work day on Friday, and then a 2-1/2 mile walk on Saturday.
I won’t, of course, go through my entire training calendar here, but the point is, these guys get it. They have busy lives, complete with jobs and families, and they work their training into their schedules as best they can. Things come up. We do what we can.
The program was great in that every evening I would get an e-mail reminder of what was on my training schedule for the next day. I loved getting these daily reminders as an incentive to get my butt out the door. I would say on average I hit my goal weekly miles about 2/3 of the time throughout the 12-week program. That’s pretty good for me.
One of the best features of the program is the biweekly coaching calls with Jared and Andrew. Because of my work schedule I was unable to participate in most of them live, but by the following morning they were available to watch on the Final Surge platform. These calls included specific topics along with Q & A sessions where participants could get advice directly from the experts. What I liked best about these calls is that many of my own questions were posed by other participants, giving me the answers I needed. I also had access to coaching calls from outside of my own training period.
The Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon was last month and I am happy to say although I didn’t hit a PR, I did beat my previous half marathon time by 14 minutes! I’m continuing with Endure Strong and I am becoming more disciplined about my training as the weeks go by (read: I am taking the very hilly NYC Marathon course VERY seriously!) I switched to a beginner plan for my marathon training because the peak weekly mileage goals are more realistic for me. As I continue using the program, I am learning more about myself as a runner and I am finding ways to fit my training into my hectic schedule. The Final Surge online platform makes it very easy to lay out a plan that is manageable and to make necessary adjustments along the way.
Have you used an online running coach? What was it like for you? What big races do you have coming up this year?
* * * * * * * * *
On Sunday, November 3rd, I will be running the New York City Marathon as a charity fundraiser for Team in Training, an organization that helps The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) support cutting-edge research projects in the most promising areas of cancer research. If you’d like to contribute to my fundraising efforts, you can do so by clicking on the link below. Any donation, big or small, will help and is greatly appreciated! Want to join me? You can still register for the NYC Marathon as a charity fundraiser for Team in Training! Use code NYCBIBRAVE to have the $100.00 team registration fee waived (you still have to raise the require funds).