Friday, July 9, 2010

Running with the Buffaloes

Reading Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear is like, well, running with the Buffaloes. Specifically, the 1998 University of Colorado (Buffaloes) Men's XC team. The star of the 1998 team, Adam Goucher, is not the hero of the book. Neither is the coach, Mark Wetmore. The hero, if indeed there is one, is really the training. Lear organized the book like a really detailed training log interspersed with short biographical segments of Wetmore and the varsity runners, including Goucher. But there is too little detail of the personal lives and thoughts of the runners to get to know them. In this sense, the book differs from Mark Halberstam's The Amateurs, a short but wonderful tour of the mind of America's elite singles rowers. How can reading about 3 months of training be at all exciting? By elevating the training to be the protagonist of the story, my emotions at least rose and fell with the successes and failures of the training. I was eager to follow the progress! Indeed, the buildup to the climax - the 1998 NCAA Division I XC Championship - was made truly exciting by these ups and downs. The downs included the frequent bad days of the overworked runners, the pile (upon pile) of injuries, and worse (no spoilers here). The bad days and plague of injuries were the result of Wetmore's training philosophy, which can be summed up as 100 mile weeks in mostly singles with 4 hard runs per week. Given the competitiveness (and high testosterone) among the 18-22 year old male runners, even the easy days were rarely easy. But the many, many downs were somewhat balanced by the ups, which largely consisted of faster times in specific training runs and some successes in the occasional races leading up to the NCAA Championship. But the training was specific for the final race, so the results of the early races, including the conference and regional championships, did not and could not take away any of the excitement from the climax. So how did the Goucher and the Buffs do at the '98 Champs? You'll have to google the answer or read the book. I'd recommend the book.


5 comments:

  1. Loved Running with The Buffaloes and have read it twice. Will have to check out The Amateurs.

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  2. Insane hah. Can you imagine doing 100 mile weeks in singles? Regardless, I'm sympathetic with the philosophy and it sure produces results.

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  3. Yeah, those guys are beasts. I can only do the high mileage weeks with really slow running. Amazing how they hit triple digits with plenty of the speed in there as well.

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  4. I haven't done 100 mile weeks with singles, but have done it on the 3-4 speed workouts a week plan with easy days really not being that easy. I think that that are better uses of my time now than I had available a decade ago.

    I should reread that book, it's been over 5 years since I last looked at it. I wonder if my perspective has changed yet.

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  5. Blaine - that's how I feel getting over mid 50s:I have better things to do with my time! That said, I wish I had the free time in the winter that I do for summer. I would ski 20+ hrs/week!

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