Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Bowerman and Buffaloes

This post is part of the Team Element summer series. To find other team members, see our Element Endurance Team introduction

Triathlon, tennis, touch football– no matter the sport, I love reading about it. One good thing about extra rest is extra time for one of my favorite guilty pleasures – curling up with a good sports biography. On my most recent trip to Barnes & Noble I decided to spend my hard earned cash on the two running biographies with the best looking front covers: Kenny Moore’s Bowerman and the Men of Oregon and Chris Lear’s Running with the Buffaloes.

I admire great teams, and I figure if someone writes a book about a team, it must be great. More often than not, I find great teams have great coaches. And I find it especially entertaining when a coach can collect a rag-tag group of individuals and win big a la Miracle or Braveheart or last week’s episode of Glee.

I’m not saying Bill Bowerman’s Oregon track teams of the 1960s and 70s or Mark Wetmore’s 1998 Colorado cross country team were a bunch of has-beens. But I can’t imagine the men on either team would have been nearly as successful without their respective leaders. And I believe their lessons are applicable to my own triathlon training.

Moore says in training there are only two questions: What should I do, and how much should I do?

Bowerman’s distance program was based on a series of interval days, long runs, and rest days, totaling around sixty miles per week. The key was rest – both between intervals and between workouts. Bowerman wanted his athletes to finish workouts “exhilarated, not exhausted.”

Based on mileage alone, Wetmore’s program looked very different. His athletes often ran close to 100 miles per week, ideally done “in singles.” Translation? Really long runs. That kind of mileage averaged out to a 14+ mile run every day! But not everyone did mileage like that. Freshmen did much less. And even seasoned athletes were pulled from workouts if Wetmore sensed them struggling.

My major takeaways from both books were the ideas of rest and individualized workouts. Though each coach had a “typical” workout style, neither was afraid to modify a workout to meet a specific athlete’s needs, especially if the athlete needed more rest. An unhealthy athlete is not a fast athlete!

Unfortunately, I learned about the whole rest and recovery thing the hard way. But the more I think about it, the more I know my recent break was a good thing, and I need to continue taking my recovery time as seriously as any workout.

Fortunately, I am doing great in the individualized workout area. Just like I rely on the good folks at Element Endurance to guide me in creating customized energy bars, I rely on El Diablo to help me with customized workouts. Even though I’ve had some decent race results, El Diablo knows I’m a freshman in the triathlon world. And while I’d like to be doing both Wetmore-esq huge volume and Bowerman-inspired fast interval workouts, I need to work up to that. So we’re starting slow, and evaluating each workout before moving on to the next.

"Stress, recover, improve, that’s all training is. You’d think any fool could do it."

That’s my favorite Bowerman quote. It makes me laugh because it makes me realize I still have so much to learn! But right now my biggest problem is what to read next…do you think I could find any training tips in Twilight?

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