Leading into an Olympic Trials qualifier — Dawn Grunnagle

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As I prepare content for this site, I look back through old training logs and emails and I try to find anything that could be helpful and beneficial to coaches looking to improve their athletes, looking to learn, or looking to share their experiences. That’s what this site is for me…an opportunity to analyze what I’ve done as a coach, continue learning as a coach, and share the experiences I’ve had as a coach.

One of my proudest moments as a coach is when Dawn Grunnagle crossed the line at the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon in June of 2014 in under 75 minutes…the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon standard. Our goal for two years had been hitting that qualifier…and on that day we did it.

But, I think for coaches looking to learn from it…you can find out a lot about CHAMPIONSHIP runners from this email a week out from the race…

Dawn,

Hey! Great job today – I know you aren’t happy with the result, but it is only 3 sec off of last year and this year seemed like you had a bit more emotional stress going into this week…
 
You have to be confident in the work that you’ve put in. This was a RUST-BUSTER. That’s why I was all for ‘racing’ it. Harry had mentioned maybe going a bit easier, but I wanted to shake off some cobwebs since we have not raced as much. 
 
You got in 10k today hard; that’s the best workout you could have done. 
 
This week we relax and let the training take hold. Got it? 
 
Trust the work you’ve done, and be confident in your taper this week. The hay is in the barn. 
 
Sunday:
20 min shakeout before or after travel. Let this be an emotional de-stresser. Let this be the run that you shakeout all of the worries. 
 
Monday:
30 min easy – YES, THAT’S IT. You are coming back from travel, the work is done, this is a planned down day. 
 
Tuesday:
Race Day Warm Up (I have no problem wearing the uniform too) + 2 miles at goal pace (5:40/mile) + 10 min easy jog + 4 x 200 cruise/200 jog + 5-10 min easy cool down. This is a dress rehearsal; pre-race nutrition, race day warm up, even wearing the uniform and racing shoes if you want!
 
Wednesday:
30 min easy 
 
Thursday:
20 min shakeout before or after travel. 
 
Friday:
Pre-Race shuffling
 
Saturday:
Game time. Sub 1:15:00. That’s 5:40s. You’ve trained to do that. 
If you can’t tell from the email…Dawn had raced a 10km the Saturday before the half marathon. It’s a home-town race for her and a very important stop along her yearly racing calendar.
At this point in her career, as proof from her sub 75 minute time a week later, Dawn was in the strongest aerobic fitness of her life…and we had high expectations for this 10k race. BUT THE 10K WASN’T THE GOAL. The half marathon and getting the OT qualifier was.
But, I think the most important thing you can learn from this email is two-fold…
1. Great athletes have a short memory. Dawn went from a ‘poor’ race to a career-defining race in just a week. That takes guts. That takes grit. That takes a short memory.
2. Don’t overthink it on race week. We did probably 100-120 minutes TOTAL of easy running the week leading into the race…and one very minimal workout of 2 miles at goal pace and 4 x 200 meter repeats just to get the legs turning over. This might have been the easiest training week of Dawn’s career…
The more I write on this site and review things that have worked for me and my athletes in the past, the more I see how much we need to keep things simple…and how important it is to have TOUGH athletes.
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