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Alan Webb's Final Workout

Alan competed in the final cross country race of his professional running career at the 2013 USATF Club Cross Country Championships, held in Bend, Ore. Photo courtesy of Michael Scott. 

Alan competed in the final cross country race of his professional running career at the 2013 USATF Club Cross Country Championships, held in Bend, Ore.

Photo courtesy of Michael Scott

In the fall of 2013, Alan Webb asked me to coach him. Honestly, he didn't so much ask as he was desperate and had few other options. We'd been friends for a long time, I was coaching his wife, Julia, and he was done moving his family around the country for his athletic pursuits. I was local, available, knew him and enough about training to warrant his confidence.

He had plans to transition from competitive running to the triathlon. But first he wanted to break 4 minutes for the mile once more, as a farewell. He chose the Millrose Games at the Armory, the site where he first broke 4 minutes as a high school senior. 

He had 6.5 months to prepare. But there was one condition. Alan only wanted to run 3 days per week. To callous himself for the triathlon, he desired to incorporate a hearty dose of swimming, cycling, and strength & conditioning work into this training. And he wouldn't sacrifice the much needed time in the pool and on the bike he needed for running. 

He didn't break four. He ran 4:06.11 in his final professional race. 

I take full blame. That has always been my personal rule of coaching. I call it the Coaching Faustian Bargain. When the athlete succeeds they, rightfully, deserve 100% of the credit and when they don't — the coach takes 100% of the blame.

Alan's final workout was 2 x (6 x 200m @ 31 - 29 w. 200m recovery jog) and 400m recovery jog between sets. The session was drafted to freshen him up. He always felt great after running quality 200m reps.

It was a cold winter morning in Portland. It was just me and him at the track that day.

Alan took 75 minutes to complete his warm up. His warm up sequence included pre-run drills, hurdle mobility, easy running for 20 minutes, dynamic drills, aerobic activation, a few 100m strides culminating with a handful of 30m fly sprints. He was thorough and meticulous. He clicked off the first 11 reps all at 30-high to 29-mid. He looked smooth and felt crisp. 

Before the final rep I encouraged him to give it some gas. He replied, "No, I've done more than asked my entire career. Today, I simply want to do enough. I'll run 29-flat and call it good." 

What I saw next cemented his greatness.

He stepped to the line. Set himself. Readied. And click. He started his watch and I started mine. Off he went. Moving swiftly, powerfully, yet controlled and within himself over his final 1/2 lap. 

He crossed the line. I stopped my watch as he did. He came jogging over. I had a huge grin on my face. 

"Twenty-nine-point-zero-zero. Impressive. Helluva way to go out," I offered. He sharply corrected me, “I had 29.01. Not perfect, but close enough. And I can live with it.”

Much like his running career. 

 

Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. //

jm

Jonathan Marcus