Unstructured Training Leads to Adventure and Results
By DJ Quinn
David Roche has a unique approach to running: “Some days I run 10 miles at a 5:20 pace, other days its 10 miles at a 9:20 pace”(which still sounds pretty fast to me!). This unstructured philosophy has led to a string of impressive results: the lung-busting Hyner View 25k, and the Rothrock 30k Trail Challenge, both of which David won by 17+ minutes; and 5th place in the Montana Don't Fence Me In race against a loaded field of competitors; and have him sitting in 5th place in this year's Mountain Cup standings.
Of course this is not surprising for the 2012 USA track & field 10k trail champion. David credits his fiance and unofficial coach, Megan Deakins, for much of his success. “I used to have a general plan, with track workouts and everything, until I met Megan and saw her approach. She just runs.” In fact, while she doesn’t have the national championship to match David, he says Megan is actually the faster runner and the results speak for themselves. She put nearly 18 minutes into her nearest competitor at last weekends Earth Conservancy Half in Pennsylvania, quite impressive considering the number of elite challengers. Even more, she also raced the Montana Don't Fence Me In alongside David, and finished 1st overall among women setting a course record along the way, to go with a growing number of course records, as well as a road half-marathon PR of 1:16.
Although they currently live on opposite sides of the country (David lives in Washington D.C; Megan in California), they still manage to run together several times a week when they can, oftentimes staying together for the warm-up and cool-down, while going their own ways for the runs themselves. When asked how they manage workouts, David says, “I think the key for couples is to leave ego at the door. Relationships and training runs are not competitions and its all about no-strings-attached support.” Megan agrees, “When you are perfectly happy to run through 90+ minutes with just mutual stomach gurgle, that's when you know you have found true love.”
While neither David nor Megan like to set concrete goals when it comes to racing, they both are high in the standings in the Mountain Cup series, and have just accomplished one major goal of qualifying for the U.S Mountain Running Team. Which means, they will be traveling to Italy later this summer to represent Team USA.
Meanwhile, both were impressed by XTERRA Mocanaqua (Earth Conservancy Half), their most recent race. David says, “XTERRA is amazing! Both Megan and I loved the venue, the people, and the vibe. We are hoping to compete at XTERRA Nationals, and possibly even Worlds this year!” Megan adds, “ XTERRA Poconos was my first XTERRA race. It was incredible! From the incredible volunteers, to the precise trail markings, to the combination of technical climbs mixed with runnable, flat sections, I enjoyed everything about the race.” There is some evidence however, that David and Megan may be almost human despite their near-superhuman race results. When asked about her goals, Megan says, “I've decided that for myself, formal running goals are stupid. In January, I had laid out a whole bunch of running goals complete with track PRs and the hopes of running a road marathon for an Olympic Trials Qualifier. A week later, at 7PM, when it came time to hit 6 x 1 mile on the track after waking up at 5AM and standing in the anatomy lab all day, I instead went home, ate a pint of ice cream and crossed off every goal on the list. I am not good enough, and my medical career and family life are too important to justify running for anything other than fun. Now my running goals are the following: adventure, go up, love the experience, celebrate with ice cream and beer. Hopefully, those informal goals will take me to some pretty amazing places.”
That, of course, is the true beauty of the unstructured running philosophy: It's all about running for fun, and enjoying the journey. So how do we normal humans accomplish this same goal of fun mixed with our own awesome results? David sums up his mentality: “Trail racing isn’t about competition with other people so much as it's about competition with yourself and the terrain. XTERRA and some of the other races provide this extremely exciting opportunity for self-exploration, and exploration of amazing places. Also, it provides an exciting opportunity for beer with friends. Which is what I'd say is what trail racing is all about. In conclusion, my goal is to have beer with friends in really cool places!” Sounds like more XTERRA races are in their future.