Written by: Michael Vowell, Head Coach of Falcon Youth AAU
I was taught a long time ago that truly successful people don’t just evaluate their failures, but also dissect their successes. That makes great sense because if you do something successfully, even if it was by accident, why not learn as much as you can about it so you can replicate, to the best of your ability, that success. As a coach of a small track and XC club, I want to help my athletes discover where successes were missed and why the failure happened. While better technology is not the “silver bullet” it does help me to ask better, more informed questions to my athletes. That is where the COROS Training Hub has become an essential part of the Falcon’s training and running.
Ease of Use
Let me explain how COROS has helped me. First, before I put my whole team on COROS watches I was trying to gather information from multiple digital platforms and the old school stop-watch paper notes. It was a headache and a time-suck! The training hub put all my athletes in one place and allowed me to group them by running level and ability. I could create plans for my team, easily drag and drop them in and then customize the training for each individual runner. The ease of use, the current and relevant data on each athlete, and the intuitive nature of the training hub made setting up training easy, fast, specific, and accurate.
Customize Training For All
Utilizing the Training Hub, I have been able to personalize training for individual athletes that vary in age, speed, and abilities. We all know that while some things in running remain the same, no one athlete runs a race the same way. The information from the Evolab on the Training Hub has given me the tools to plan well and the feedback from the data on the watch has given me the ability to ask better questions about where a runner’s strengths were at and where they might have fallen apart on the training or race. Last, the Training Hub and data have helped me to ask questions to the runners that the data just can’t give me an answer for. For instance, I had a 13-year-old runner hit a 4:28 on a time trial in the 1500 but then on race day struggled to cross the line at 4:40. I could look at the data and compare the time trial and the race and see that almost everything was similar from this athletes heart rate before, during and after to the temperature of the race but yet there was a definite slow down – for no apparent reason. I knew this was not going to be an issue relating to something physical but something taking place in my athletes thought structure. With this information I began a series of conversations with this athlete about what was going on and could better understand how to coach him for race day.
Watches on Athletes
My athletes love using the watches. Let me make this caveat, they don’t all initially love it and some of my runners who were brought up under the “run-by-feel” model struggled initially. However, once I explained to my “run-by-feel” athletes that the watch just makes sure their feelings of running a sub-5 mile pace are legitimate feelings, they got the picture and made the adjustment. And, as a coach, I try to incorporate variable approaches to understanding pacing, but I would be lying if I did not say most of our successes as a club has come from runners who have relied on their watch to guide their pacing on race day.
Data to Improve Race Performance
Like many coaches, I have my fair share of athletes that on race day go “fast to fade.” It is frustrating but understandable when it happens. I get it, race day nerves take over or fear of falling back from the pack and a runner just goes out too quick.
Improving a 3k by 23 seconds!
One of my runners, Sofia, was that kind of athlete who went from fast to fade and it was hurting her on race day. In practice, I programmed conservative starts into her watch and made her start checking her pacing every 200m. Not everyone has to agree with me but if you are 4 seconds too fast on your first 200m of a 3k and then 8 seconds too fast on your first 400m then there is a real good chance you are not going to finish well. My coaching practice has been to get my runners to make contact with mid-pack by the 200m and then get to their race pace by the 400m. It took a few weeks but Sofia started to master the art of a conservative start and steady pacing so that she was passing up more runners in the middle section of her race and finishing faster than how she started. The single greatest result was at the Junior Olympics in 2022 where she shaved more than 23 seconds off of her 3k time and got a new season’s best!
National Championship Through Proper Pacing
The other athlete that I will mention is Hazel. She is a 12-year-old runner, and she swears by her watch. If you watch any of her race videos on Milesplit you will see her constantly checking her pace. We found out at the Junior Olympics this year that an entire team has given her the nickname “watch girl.” I found that nickname to be very appropriate and maybe have a meaning beyond what they intended. Because Hazel, is always on top of her time and aware of what she can and can’t do in any race. And at the Junior Olympics, she proved to everyone she was in fact the “watch girl.” She refused to go out fast with the pack on the 1500m but stuck to her pacing and moved steadily from back to front until she finished in 1st place with no one even close to her and finished with a season’s best of 4:53. In the 3k, she did the exact same thing moving from the back to the front and just pacing the lead pack until she knew it was time to make her move. When she made her move it was big and fast and she took first place with another season’s best of 10:37.67. Then again in the 800m at the Junior Olympics, where she did not use any pacing plan because in Hazel’s words, “the 800m is fast and I just have to go at a 10 out of 10 until it is time to go at a 12 out of 10” she still knew what pace she could do and could not do. The result is that she fought for first place until she knew she could only defend second place and get a new season’s best of 2:20.00. There is no doubt that Hazel is “watch girl” and she will tell you that the key to her success this year has been knowing her pace in real-time.
EvoLab for Longterm Success
Beyond the races, pacing, and data, there is the Evolab. This tool has been of significant importance to me, especially with my High School athletes. I have some incredibly hard-working and fast High School runners. And they all want to compete at the highest level. The Evolab has helped me to know when, where, and how much to push them with minimal risk of injury. This tool also gives the athletes fresh feedback on their current workouts and training load.
The COROS adventure has fulfilled in my coaching what I was taught early on, “evaluate the successes as well as the failures.” I feel like I am more equipped and knowledgeable about each of my athletes and that in turn is helping them to continue to succeed and compete at the highest levels of competition.