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Letters to Coach Weber ...

A collection of questions I have been asked and answers I have given

(... great for finding out whether my coaching services might be right for you).


I encourage EVERYONE to see a doctor before altering their diet, taking a supplement and/or performing athletic, fitness or other strenuous physical activity. It is your responsibility to evaluate the accuracy, completeness and usefulness of any information, instruction, opinion or advice contained in the content of the Coach Weber website.

Scott Weber


 

00.   Hey Coach ... "Your website is so old-school.  What's the deal?"

Yep,  I'm a coach, not a web-site designer.  I first put this website up back in the 1990s.  I just wanted to put up some basic material that would introduce me to athletes beyond those who knew me in Colorado.

I add some stuff periodically, but still, my intent is not to offer some jazzed up presentation, but simply to say:  "I'm Coach Weber.  I love this sport and I've been a runner since the 1960s and an ultrarunner since 1986 and continue to actively participate in the sport even now at 60 years of age.  That said, more important than my own participation and accomplishments, is that I have successfully coached ultramarathon runners since the late 1980s and it's my passion and profession.  If you want to run your first ultramarathon or want to improve what you are already doing at the ultramarathon distances, then I might have something for you."  

I suppose some day I'll hire someone to spruce things up on this website, but for now if you want some flash you need to go elsewhere; if you want 'no-nonsense, skip the gimmicks, let's train smart and then race smart' coaching ... well, I might have something for you.

01.   Hey Coach ... "Do you only coach elite runners?"

On the contrary, while I went through several years in the 90s where that was my focus, I came to realize that I most enjoy helping runners of average talent who are moving up from the marathon and are aiming at their first 50 miler; or, who are moving up from 50 milers to their first 100 miler.  From time to time, I'll still coach a top-ranked runner, but it is more the exception than the rule these days - my most recent elite runner was a gal who won the USA National 24 Hour Championship in 2009.  

Give me a student of ordinary ability who is eager to learn, is in good health, can comfortably run a marathon in under 5 hours ('comfortably' means this effort did not result in a trip to the emergency room or take months to recover from) , has 10-14 hours per week to devote to training (to include both strength and endurance training), is disciplined, has 6 months to work toward the goal, and has a sense of humor ... I can pretty much guarantee I will get that person to their first 50 mile finish line.  The same goes for runners moving from 50 milers to 100 milers.  Bottom line, success, for most aspiring ultramarathoners, has less to do with talent, than with hard work done with control and a well-designed long term plan.   

02.  Hey Coach ... "Do you only coach Leadville runners?..."

Over the past 20 years I coached runners for all the ultra distances from 50K to multi-days for events both in the USA and abroad.  Whatever the distance or location of the ultra event, I am ready to help.

03.  Hey Coach ... "Do you only coach ultramarathoners? ..."

Yes, only ultramarathoners or those folks that are making the step up to the ultramarathon.  When you've knocked down the marathon and are looking for more ... well, that's where I can help ... or, you're looking to better your best ultramarathon performance ... that's what I do.

04.  Hey Coach ... "I haven't even run a marathon, but I want to do ultras ... can you help."

On occasion, I will take on a project like this.  If I sense a highly motivated healthy person, who will commit to a year's program of moving from sub-marathon distances to ultras ... and I would only agree to a 50 miler as an ultimate goal for that first year in this case ... then yes, I could help.  Let me stress this is a very special situation and this path is not for everyone.  It is something that needs to be carefully considered, planned and executed to be successful.  Allow me to add that I am not a coach who simply tells everyone the old "You can do it" thing in order to sign up a new coaching client.  I will give each coaching candidate my appraisal of what I think is possible based on my 20 years as a student of ultramarathoning.  Am I always right?  Of course not ... but, odds are I'm a whole lot closer than the coach who sells/promotes the idea of "everything is possible" (I wish that was true ... but, it's not).  My philosophy ... push at your current limits ... but don't be delusional; nor, expect others to entertain your delusion.  (A sure sign of that is a whole lot talking and not much running).  My best advice ... develop a sequence of goals that lead to something most desired but currently beyond your limit.

05.  Hey Coach ... "I'm broke ... what does coaching cost?"

I've got bad news for you.  Ultramarathoning (to include going to races) is expensive when you consider entry fees, travel, and gear, just for starters.  Add a crew?  More expensive.  Even with being creative and frugal, ultramarathoning is an expensive hobby.  First figure out how you're going to be able to afford the luxury of ultramarathoning ... and, it is a luxury.  Then, if you are so inclined, figure out whether you need, and can afford, a coach.  I have two programs:  $275 a month or $60 a hour.  Now, if you use my coaching program like many people use their gym membership (like, they never go), then any money is a waste of money ... it would be better spent on an upgrade to a larger couch (not a coach), a 87" TV and/or membership to the Pretzel of the Month club ... things that might actually be used.  However, if the athlete is truly serious about 'bettering their best', communicates well and executes the plan built from that communication, then the coaching fees will prove to be money well spent.  I like to think my coaching fee saves my athletes money.  DNFs and trips to the emergency room for post ultra recovery are expensive ... and tend to erode the family's support for future ultramarathons.

Perhaps one more comment on coaching fees.  Coaching ... real coaching ... takes time.  I tend to spend about 2 hours per week working with each of my clients.  Two hours per week is what it takes to write, review and adjust the training and to provide carefully considered feedback as well as respond to the client's emails and perhaps talk on the phone with him or her.  Now at times, it takes less, but often it takes much more ... especially at the beginning, and then later, as we prepare for new races or distances.  At $275 per month, this works out to $35 an hour.  I'd like to think is quite reasonable in light of the services and experience I provide.

06.   Hey Coach ... "Do you require a long-term contract?"

No.  That said, there are no quick fixes nor miracle programs here.  It takes time to get results.  The reason I do not require a long term contract is that if the athlete fails to meet the requirements of my program - keeping an up to date training log; doing the miles as assigned; following instructions; and all the things that predict success at their chosen goal race - I will want to end the contract as soon as possible, not have to work with that client for months on end due to a long term contract.  My contract also allows the client to end the contract with but a 30 day notice and a final payment of $275; other than that, we work month-to-month towards the chosen goal.  I must meet the client's expectations just as the client must meet mine ... it's a win/win situation when organized like that.

07.  Hey Coach ... "How does the coaching work?"

Once we establish where you're currently at with your fitness and training, and we have established a goal, then I will develop a training plan for you. The idea is to get you from where you're at right now to where you want to go.  I tend to think in 4-week blocks of training.  Those blocks of training build toward your goal event.  Once a 4-week block is completed, then, the next 4-week block is developed (this helps the client to know what is coming up well in advance and to plan their time accordingly or to let me know of obligations which will require moving some of these planned training sessions to another day or week).  I always provide an individualized  day-by-day training schedule at the beginning of each training week.  This training schedule is delivered by email - usually on Mondays - a rest day for the majority of my athletes.  Along with the training schedule is feedback on the past week's training.  To that end, every one of my athletes keeps a detailed training log that is accessible to me on a daily basis.  From time to time, I like to talk with an athlete on the phone ... sometimes more ground can be covered that way.  My goal is for the athlete to know what to do on a daily basis and where we are heading.

08.  Hey Coach ... "Some programs are less expensive/more expensive than yours ... what's the deal?"

I cannot speak for other coaches nor what they offer.  For me, I provide only premium, personalized training programs for the ultramarathon.  No assistant coaches are used, nor canned computer training programs.  Each week I typically provide two hours of coaching for each of my athletes.  This includes reviewing the training log each week (sometimes daily), providing weekly feedback on the training, developing day-by-day personalized workouts, as well as addressing all aspects of the ultramarathon to include goal-setting, race selection, developing a yearly race schedule, race day strategies, gear, hydration and fueling, crew preparation and more.  I like to think of my coaching program as 'complete' ... even if you know absolutely nothing about ultramarathoning ... or think you know everything ... we will find how to 'better your best'.

09.  Hey Coach ... "Are you going to hit me up to buy a bunch of crap ... vitamins, chi power meter, fund-raising, etc?"

Sorry, I had to include this. ... I see so much of this nonsense going on among some VERY prominent coaches.  When you hire me to be your coach, be assured I have nothing to sell you except my coaching advice.  If I recommend a product like a flashlight, water bottle, book, race, or the like, it is because I like the product, have used it myself, and think it will be right for you ... not because it is the latest fad or because it is a multi-level marketing 'opportunity.'  I also do not do any arm-twisting with fund-raising ... when you hire me to be your coach, you are hiring me to improve your fitness, pure and simple.  Whether you decide to run for a cause or not run for a cause is none of my business nor part of our athlete/coach relationship.  Everyone contributes in their own way to bettering the lives of others, it need not be through running.

10.  Hey Coach ... "How do I know if I am ready for ultramarathons?"

One indicator that I use when considering prospective clients (who have never run an ultra), is their ability to run a marathon without being trashed and/or needing the 'Runners World' recovery formula of 1 week for every mile in the race (a bit of paraphrasing there, I know).  I won't take a client who has not been consistently training at or above 40 miles per week without problems. I won't take a client who does not agree to work up the ultramarathon distance ladder: basically, run some marathons before you take on the 50K;  run some 50Ks before you take on 50 miles; run some 50 milers before you take on the 100s; and, run an easy 100 (or 24 Hour) before you take on a 'monster 100' like Leadville or Western.  Being successful at ultramarathoning (that is, getting 'em done without terrifying yourself, friends and family and/or becoming a frequent flyer at the emergency room) is all about the progression of distance, duration and difficulty both in training and in racing.

A bit more on the subject ... I think a person has to have the time to train in order to be ready to move up to ultras.  While there are exceptions, I find that 70 miles a week is a comfortable average for running most peak season ultramarathons.  Now, one builds up to that 70 miles per week level (in my program it takes 6 months to build from 40 miles a week to 70 miles per week) ... but, ultimately 70 miles per week average is about right.  A 70 mile week, for most runners, is a significant commitment.  If one averages 9 to 10 minutes a mile in training, that's a good 10+ hours of running per week to get that 70.  Toss on top some core training, recovery stationary cycling, getting to and from the trail ... it's a significant chunk of time.  Not everybody has that amount of time for any number of reasons.  Can you do it on less?  Maybe, maybe not ... but, I'm not signing on as your coach.

I should say that for the average ultramarathoner it is not necessary to run 70 per week (or more) year round.  There is a progression of training distance and duration leading to the peak event.  Generally, being at peak mileage levels 3-4 months before the event is a good ball-park figure.  

11.  Hey Coach ... "I'm a 6 hour marathoner, do you think I could do a 50K?"

50Ks are a great place to 'dip your toe' into the ultra pool.  If you can run a 6 hour marathon, without undue distress, then you can probably finish a 50K, on terrain similar to the marathon, in the usual 50K time limit of 8 to 9 hours.  Hydration, fueling and electrolyte replacement will be important 'add-on' skills in that move up to the 50K.  Make sure that you gain those skills before stepping to the line.

12.  Hey Coach ... "I've never done an ultra.  I want to do Leadville ... under 25.  Can you help?"

I've had coaching clients go from ultra novice to 'Big Buckle' at Leadville in less than a year, but those folks brought significant athletic talent and experience to the table.  They also listened, executed, learned, communicated, trained and raced with great precision and dedication during the lead up months to Leadville.

13.  Hey Coach ... "Do you have a favorite first-timer's trail 100 miler?"

Yes, the Rocky Raccoon 100 held the first week of February in Huntsville, Texas.  Especially, if the runner has plans for a more difficult 'goal' 100-miler later in the year.  As I've told many runners, Leadville is a poor choice for a first 100; better to get an easier one done first ... learn what 60-70-80-90-100 miles feels like in less complicated, less demanding ... more forgiving ... conditions than the heat of Western or the altitude of Leadville.  The Umstead 100 in North Carolina in April is also a good choice for first-timers.

14.  Hey Coach ... "What's your take on strength training for ultrarunners?

To paraphrase Eddy Merckx, the great cyclist, "To be a cyclist, you must ride the bike" ... so, to be a runner, you must run.  But, beyond running, and not in place of it, a runner can do much more to reduce the chance of injury and concurrently improve running performance by following a regimen of cross-training to include resistance training, flexibility training, and non-impact cardiovascular training.  Can you finish or even win big-time ultramarathons without doing anything more than running?  Probably.  But, will you still be short of your best potential performance? Probably.

What's my favorite strength workout for ultramarathoners?  Hillwork.

15.  Hey Coach ..."Speed training for ultras?  Do I need it?"

Depends how slow you are.  Now, all kidding aside, I tend to structure training plans based on a goal event and goal time for that event.  I think about what the race pace will need to be on the various sections of that course in order to meet the goal time.  With that in mind, I put together a series of goal workouts that challenge the runner to run at 'race pace' for longer and longer periods of time and distance.  For instance, a key summer workout for a Colorado runner aiming at a 28 to 29 hour Leadville finish, will be to do 50 miles on the Leadville course in 11 to 12 hours quite comfortably.  For a Badwater runner, I might ask him or her to do a 50 miler in max heat, preferably on the Badwater course, about a month before the event, at race pace.

One problem that many ultra runners develop is 'one pace/one strategy' whatever the distance ... whether it is the Fluffy Bunny 5K or the Hardrock 100.  It is important to develop a series of gears and run/walk patterns that allow the runner to delay fatigue, ascend and descend, and 'make time', 'put a hurt on' the competition when the time is right.  To that end, I include traditional intervals and drills in every runner's program.

16.    Hey Coach ..."Are there any athletes you'd prefer not to coach?"

Yes, there are athletes who I prefer not to coach ... 'the uncoach-ables.'  I am pretty good at sorting these folks out in our initial conversation concerning coaching, but occasionally this uncoachability only manifests itself after a month or two.  I don't like to fire a client, but I will.  This happens rarely - once or maybe twice a year.

I expect an athlete to keep a on-line daily training log that is descriptive, accurate ... and honest;  I expect an athlete to follow the training and racing program;  I expect an athlete to hydrate and fuel intelligently;  I expect an athlete to maintain or improve upon their health;  I expect excellent communication skills ... and of course, paying their coaching fees on time.  I can say that when these things are done, good things always happen ... always.

17.    Hey Coach ..."Favorite quote?"

No one favorite, but here's one I like regarding races:

"There is always someone faster or slower than you, but they may not have showed up on that day...".


I encourage EVERYONE to see a doctor before altering their diet, taking a supplement and/or performing athletic, fitness or other strenuous physical activity. It is your responsibility to evaluate the accuracy, completeness and usefulness of any information, instruction, opinion or advice contained in the content of the Coach Weber website.

Coach Weber


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