The New Normal
For this act of his career Webb has handed the reins to Schumacher, the former University of Wisconsin coach who has coached a group of the country’s best distance runners at Nike’s corporate headquarters near Portland, Ore., since 2008. “Alan has come in with an open mind to work really hard,” Schumacher says. “Where that takes us, I don’t know. And I don’t even know if I really care what the end result is … It is an opportunity to help Alan continue in the sport and chase down his dreams and goals. That is the only thing I am concerned about.”
Although he was hindered a bit by some nagging pain and soreness over the winter, Webb has so far been able to keep pace with Schumacher’s stacked group. “He brings a rare intensity to each session, so he is always ready to work hard,” says Solinsky. “We have had to remind him that we do not try to hit home runs everyday in workouts like the hard and fast workouts milers do regularly, rather we try to consistently put the ball in play and keep men on base. The baseball analogy aside, he has since gotten used to our medium hits for workouts rather then real hard sessions.”
A normal training day for Webb begins at 7 a.m. when he wakes up and eats a peanut butter sandwich and a banana. On hard workout days, he’ll drink a cup of coffee, otherwise he doesn’t seek a caffeine buzz. The group meets at 9 a.m. for morning runs, often followed by a core strength session. That block can stretch until noon, when Webb breaks for lunch, then takes a nap. “If I don’t get that rest time, it makes the second session really hard,” he says. The afternoon consists of a second run and any necessary physical therapy.
He’s also keeping a stricter diet, often bypassing steaks and chops in favor of lean and veggie-based meals, like tabouli salad and gnocchi with white beans and red peppers. He’s also frequently forgoing dessert.
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“I’m conscious of the fact that whenever I’ve restricted myself, it always ends up in disaster and that’s when injuries happen to me,” Webb says of his diet, which includes trying to eat less meat and more veggies. Ideally, he is in bed by 9 p.m. or at the latest 9:30 p.m. For now, Julia cares for Joanie during the night.
Webb’s goals at the longer distances are to qualify for U.S. championship teams and better his already solid PRs of 13:10 in the 5K and 27:34 for the 10K, times he set in 2005 and 2006, respectively. “If I want to be in the top three in those events, I am going to have to run faster than those times,” he acknowledges. “If I am going to be one of the top three marathoners, it depends on the course and weather, but I’ll have to run under 2:10.” Whether he can excel in the longer distances like his high school counterparts Ryan Hall and Dathan Ritzenhein remains to be seen. To get there, Webb has upped his weekly mileage from 75 to 100 — something he has never done on a consistent basis — while juggling workouts. He’s bolstered by the deepest training group in the U.S. and has access to everything he needs on Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., campus. He appears set up to succeed if he can retool his mind and body into someone who paces himself through a string of miles rather than hammering just one.
“I am not a slacker,” he says. “But the guys in this group work just as hard as I ever did. It didn’t surprise me at all. It’s what I expected.”