Being Pushed

I like to think I’m hardcore.

See? This is not for wimps.

But sometimes, I need to be pushed.

Not out of a plane, necessarily, but in general. Especially when it comes to running.

I will always feel incredibly grateful for being able to train with Coach Cane leading up to my first marathon. I don’t know much about running, but I know more now than I did back in April.

I followed Coach Cane’s training plan exactly. The most I ever strayed was doing a 3-mile shakeout run instead of a 4-mile one on a random Sunday because I had a massage to get to. Sorry, Coach.

But now Coach Cane is a little busy raising a child and stuff, so I’ve tried not to pester him with too many emails regarding my training for the Las Vegas Half Marathon in December.

Luckily I have speedy runner friends who are happy to step in temporarily, drop what they’re doing mid-day and email me speed workouts. Thank you, Coach Kretz.

Here’s the deal: I’d love to PR at the Vegas Half, which means beating my National Half Marathon time of 1:44:48. There’s a tiny piece of my brain saying, “You can totally do it, Ali, you beast,” and there’s a much larger piece of my brain saying, “You’re insane. Hahaha. Idiot. Running that fast in March was a fluke. You haven’t run that fast since then, and you’ve had a nasty Crohn’s flare-up since you finished the marathon back in September. You think you’re going to PR that race? Why don’t you focus on another type of personal record, like ice cream eating or something you know you’ll dominate.”

My brain sucks.

I’ve doubted myself and my racing performances a lot since March. I really do feel like I just had a great day in D.C., got lucky and banged out a nice race. I worry that I will never do that again.

But other people disagree. One person, especially, seems to think that I can, in fact, go fast again. And he’s made it his mission to push me to a PR in December.

I miss Coach Cane.

Oh hey, Coach Brian. Doesn’t he look mean?

When I was working with Coach Cane, I got weekly training plans emailed to me, including speed workouts, distance workouts and other things that I had a lot of questions about. I would email Coach Cane after most of my runs letting him know how they went and telling him if I hit my splits or not. Usually I did. Sometimes I didn’t. I never obsessed over it too much.

But I also did all of my speed workouts alone — just me, the Central Park Reservoir (completely flat and perfect for speed training) and my trusty Garmin. We made an OK team.

Today I realized what I was missing during those speed workouts: a mean, motivating, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer running mate to have by my side and to push me when I want to stop.

Because when I ran alone and wanted to stop, I would stop. Sometimes for water, sometimes to shake out my legs, whatever. Today there was no stopping.

Brian and I headed to Central Park to cover six miles of speed: a two-mile warm-up, then three progressively faster miles, followed by a one-mile cool-down.

It's finally fall in NYC!

The catch: I didn’t get to wear my Garmin. Brian confiscated it. I called him so many awful names this morning and it’s amazing we’re still dating. (Brian, please shoot me an email to confirm that we are still dating. Thanks.)

So he wore my watch to track our time and I went out clueless. He told me to just stay with him. He’d keep us on pace.

Naturally I hated relinquishing control. Have I mentioned that I really like being in control? I never knew what our mileage was or what our pace was. I just ran next to him, cursing him for wearing my watch and running fast and pushing me. How dare he?!

I know this is a good strategy, though. I focus so much on what my watch says all the time, and if I see a certain pace pop up I freak out. I never really push myself I guess.

Coach Cane once included a note in a training plan. It said that my Wednesday recovery run should be done no faster than a 9:30 pace. “If you can go any faster than that, it means you didn’t work hard enough the day before.” I remember hitting 9:30s, and faster, no problem. I guess I hadn’t worked hard enough the day before. I didn’t push it.

Now I’m ready to push it.

Brian and I got through the warm-up — my stomach kicked into overdrive at one point and I made a pit stop, but was happy I needed to stop during that point, and not later in the run — and then we picked up the pace.

I listened to music and focused on staying next to Brian. He wouldn’t tell me what pace we were doing, which was annoying. I refused to trust him and I yelled some stuff. “Just tell me how fast we’re going!!!!” He wouldn’t though. I’m sure our fellow Reservoir runners could tell we’re in love.

Finally, when I thought we must be just about done because my legs were feeling the workout, Coach Brian The Pusher said, “OK, we’re going to pick it up for the last mile. Ready?”

I’m fairly certain my response was something along the lines of, “What??? We haven’t been ‘picking it up’ this entire time? Why are you ruining my life? How fast are we going? TELL ME. I hate you. I love you. Let’s go. Don’t talk to me.”

I started to trail behind him just a bit, but I stayed on pace, still having no clue what our speed was. Brian kept yelling, “half a mile to go,” “quarter mile to go,” “two tenths of a mile to go,” and I was like “I hate you now, I hate you more now, this is awesome.”

And then we were done. It was time to cool down.

Brian high-fived me, and was all proud and stuff.

Today's splits. OK.

Speed workout complete.

So now I just need to be able to hang on to those paces for 13.1 miles. Daunting? Yes. Doable? Probably. Maybe. I don’t know.

Fred Lebow thinks I can do it.

Stellar hairdo today, Ali, really. You can't see it, but I was wearing a scrunchie. I couldn't find regular elastics and I love the 80s.

I cursed Brian throughout the run for keeping our pace a secret. I told him I wanted to know how fast I was going so I would know whether that was a sustainable target for a half marathon. But he told me during the cool-down that he just wanted to push me a little to convince me that I can actually run a 7:12 mile. Maybe not 13.1 of them, but he seems to think I am capable of getting faster.

And then we sweat-hugged.

And now I will admit that I kind of can’t wait to do it all again.



0 Responses

  1. Can’t you just re-read Coach Cane’s speed work emails? And apply it to the Half? And then again for the full Marathon in the Spring? Since you already have the blueprint, can’t you just re-read and re-do? I think you can. You are great Ali!

  2. Hey Ali, my blog site is Everyone in college called me Allie, not Alex. I answer to either haha. I’m still figuring out how this blogging world works and making time to add pictures ect. Have a nice night.

  3. I love that you’re writing about speed workouts now because my goal, now that I finished my first marathon is to get faster. I have the distance/endurance part down, now speed…… I like doing speed intervals where I can just run fast for a set amount of time, but without a track, telling me to run 800 maters in a certain time bewilders me. I would essentially have to stare at my watch to figure out when I got to 800 meters and how do I estimate the speed I need to reach to cover the distance in the prescribed time?! There is a weird kind of cinder track in Central Park on the upper west side — it is not quite a quarter of a mile around — there’s some story that the park’s planners couldn’t make it a full oval because they had to preserve some giant tree that was in the path of a full oval track. It’s kind of nice up there (I went up there with a NYRR running class), but it was kind of a quiet path to get up there, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable going up there alone, but maybe you and Brian can check it out. When my class went up there, there were definitely people doing speed work outs.

    I’m so happy for you that you have Brian to push you. We all need a little push sometimes. 🙂

  4. AWESOME job on those splits! I like Coach Brian’s style. Even though he pushed you hard, something tells me all those cupcakes and other treats he brings you more than makes up for it. 🙂 Also, like I said before… I think your problem is in confidence, not speed. I know you have a sub-1:44 in you! And you are going to rock that half marathon next month!

  5. Annnnd this is why I want my boyfriend to run with me. He’s stubborn and hates running, but I think I convinced him last night to at least run a 5k together. He’s over a foot taller than me, and his stride is about three times as long as mine, so I think to think of running with him as a challenge!

  6. I lovethis post! It’s so true and it reminded me to start pushing myself again. Running is so mental and having “someone else wear the Garmin” can really make you fly.

  7. I’m a recent reader, non-commenter, but I had leave my thoughts here. This is a great post! I think the need, want, but fear of being pushed is why I don’t have a running buddy. I assume I can push myself hard on my own, but like you, I’ve often looked back at workouts or missed days and thought I could have done more. Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and get a buddy faster than me. 🙂

  8. I think he had a great idea stealing your watch, although I’m sure I’d feel the same way as you in that situation. I’ve been trying really hard to do more speed workouts, and let me tell you, it is definitely tough! You are a rockstar though, and your splits today were also rockstar! You can soooo do it girl!

  9. I definitely need someone like that in my life too:) Relinquishing control is hard to do, but is a good practice at times as well! I do hope you two are still dating 😉

  10. My husband (Also a Brian) rarely runs, but he is training for our Thanksgiving race in CT! So, needless to say, he’s controlled some workouts! When I was in my taper he wanted to go faster, and I just went along with him. He chose the route because “He doesn’t get to run much”. Relinquishing control is very difficult to do, but it’s so fun to run with a love!

  11. This was hilarious! My bf is my coach so I can completely relate. And he’s going to help you find your inner badassness!! 🙂 Keep up the great work.

    But, umm, seriously who still owns a scrunchie? hehe!

  12. what a great coach Brian is! And Megan! And amazing speed workout – you should feel great about that. I think an HM PR is definitely in the cards for you in Vegas. Also, that picture of the bridle path makes me sad because I want to be running on it with you. I am urging my IT band to heal as fast as possible. Keep you posted…

  13. yayayayayay! i’m happy that you had a good workout this morning. if you’re interested, i could make a HM training plan for you. nothing crazy – just some ideas for workout types, paces, long run mileage etc. let’s discuss!!

  14. I think Brian is a keeper! You two are awesome together! Plus I just want to say you are my favorite blogger! Keep it up!

  15. Running by feel is such an important skill to learn. It’s not comfortable and sometimes it’s insanely disappointing, and it took me waaaay too many years to get it right, but it is what has made an overall better athlete. Teaching yourself to push and push hard and knowing that you’re not going to hurt yourself or die is so freeing. You can totally do this Ali!! You are going to kick ass in Vegas!

  16. I ran my fastest half (1:43:54) in Staten Island a few weeks ago. I woke up late, had zero preparation, and was slightly hungover….however all of that paled into insignificance compared to the fact that I had forgot my Garmin!! I ALWAYS run with it. Even if I forget to charge it I’ll still wear it as it’s like a comfort blanket to me. However the feeling of simply running by feel was pretty liberating. I miscalculated a little towards the end so ended up struggling the last mile or so (around mile 11 I got a little over excited and ran a 6:50 mile!) but it really opened me up to the idea of running without my GPS, particularly if you want to try and keep up with someone pacing you. I’d definitely recommend trying it more often.

  17. You guys are awesome. That tempo workout sounds brutal and great all at the same time. At least he’s pushing you and not just giving you the answers you want, it makes you push harder! Great job Ali!

  18. Running with faster people/people who push you during tempo and speed workouts is so helpful. I think it is especially helpful for tempo workouts! Sounds like a great run 🙂

  19. 7:12?!?! Are you kidding me?? You are freaking amazing!!! And I loved every second of this post because I imagine I would have had the same reaction. Totally makes me want a running coach. In fact, I feel like you should just come to Phoenix and be my running coach. Can we make that happen? 😉

      1. Deal! As another runner/blogger in Phoenix, I’m totally down for this! (undecided if I’d take the pool/drinks route or the run) but either way I’m down 🙂

  20. 7:12!! Very hardcore! I need to learn from this because I have no idea how to do speedwork. I usually just go out and run what feels really fast with no warm up or cool down but I’m sure that’s not the most healthy. Good luck with the rest of your training and keep being pushed!!

  21. Ya, I definitely need a pusher. Must shorten he gap between my family finishing the turkey trot and my finish…. If I get to them and the donuts/bagels/muffins are already gone, it’s going to be a sad sad time. Yea that’s right, its all about the food 😉

  22. Um AMAZING! Those miles are freaking awesome! I bet it must have been so awesome to have Brian there pushing you andm motivating you. I think he is a keeper.. a stellar fellow for Fellar! (That was over the top, cheesey, I know).

    You are going to crush your PR!

  23. Wow, what an awesome BF for doing that for you and to you!! That is amazing and he will be a great mini coach Cane 😉 and BAD ASS on those splits. damn girl! (and brian!)

  24. There are many times I think that I would push myself harder, if I had someone pushing me. I will think that I going as “fast as I can” when in reality I could probably go faster. Sometimes I will do speed sessions on the treadmill, just to test my limits.

  25. Wow, I have really similar experiences while running with my husband! When we first started running we used the couch-to-5k program and I would constantly ask “how much time is left” and he would never tell me! I would yell at him and say “just TELL me!” I told him that I wanted to know to motivate myself not because I would moan and groan (even though that did happen every once in awhile). Even now he wears our Garmin so I really never know how far we’ve gone or what pace we are at, he will usually tell me when I ask now but sometimes he keeps it a big secret all to himself.

  26. Great post! I run so much better without my Garmin staring me in the face! I always freak out when I see fast numbers and then I convice myself I can’t run that fast and I should slow down.

    Keep up the great training and you will definately PR in Vegas! Also, didn’t Brian just start runnning? How is he so dang fast already?

  27. Does your Garmin have a heart rate monitor? I feel like when we run knowing what pace we think we should do and see the instant pace on the Garmin we hold ourselves back. I haven’t done it because I hate wear my heart rate monitor but I think running to keep your heart rate in target zones may be a more honest way to do speed work and push yourself. Just a thought for another thing to obsess over.

    Sounds like you have a great boyfriend/personal trainer though.

  28. You are most def. hardcore (i love the skydiving pic – great form!) and hurrah for an awesome workout. Having someone there to push you to prove to yourself that it IS possible is just what you need, and with more speed/hill workouts, 13.1 7:12 miles are definitely in your future!

  29. You can absolutely conquer the sub 1:44!! Sounds like you have a great group of people around you giving you just the kick in the pants that you need. 🙂 Here’s to both of us killing our half P.R.’s in December!

  30. Here’s an idea! I am sure you saved all of the old emails from Coach Cane.. why don’t you back track and use them as your weekly workout plans leading up to the half? Obviously cutting the long runs shorter, but it would be great (repeat) guidance for speedwork and an overall schedule. Good luck! (Nothing against Coach Brian of course.. he seems awesome)

  31. Having a coach is great, but having an IN PERSON coach is exactly the push you need! So glad Brian is so committed to helping you PR and that he understands speedwork and Garmins so well.

    Also — you might curse me for having the best, most precise memory ever — but: “I followed Coach Cane’s training plan exactly. The most I ever strayed was doing a 3-mile shakeout run instead of a 4-mile one on a random Sunday because I had a massage to get to. Sorry, Coach.” — False. You ran something like 15 on a day you had 14 if I am not mistaken.

    Dori never forgets. My elementary school friends love this aspect of me. You might hate it.

  32. Love this post because I love “running blind.” I LOVE having someone be the “wearer of the garmin or watch.” I’ve always done better without one.

    I wouldn’t discount yourself so quickly. Marathon training is hard and a lot of times you hvae to sacrifice speed for strength. Its one of the reasons I don’t love the marathon, but love the half. I feel like with halves you get the best of both worlds – you can chill it out, take slow, then you rock out the show to quote one of my idols, Hannah Montana.

    I think you will have a fabulous time in Vegas – both running wise and enjoyment wise.

    P.S. Jan is pissed.

  33. I think you got a good boyfriend there- someone who will push you into the best shape of your life! Sounds like a perfect match.

    Have you ever done 400 or 800 repeats on a track with rest in between? Those are my favorite speed workouts. What you just did- tempos- are so hard for me but they work so well. Super impressed! I believe in the sub 1:44!!!!

      1. Ali: It’s not near you, but there’s a track on East 6th and the FDR drive (East River Park). I’ve never been to it, but it’s part of a city owned park. I know that a bunch of runners that used to run with the Paragon Sports group go there on Wednesday nights during marathon training. Maybe you and Brian can check it out on the weekend some time.

  34. Congrats! I don’t have any fancy training help, either a coach or a watch that tells me how fast I’m going, so I pretty much just go as fast as I can for as long as I can. And no, I’m not in any shape for a half marathon. But I like to run, so I’ll keep doing it. I was excited to watch the half marathon because I thought about how close you are to it. And yes, I know you don’t know me, but thanks for writing, because I feel like I know you, which is great, because most of my friends hate to run, and I can use you for inspiration.
    Good luck tomorrow keeping up the speed!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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