“What are ya doin’, boy?!”
It’s that voice, a bark really that snaps one into reality no matter how many miles one has run.
“This ain’t Hollywood! I don’t see Paris Hilton waiting for your autograph!”
No matter the plea, his voice, slurred yet cutting, gives no quarter.
“I don’t care. Get up there. Go get him. He’s not better than you!”
CHUCK HOBBS is a coach’s coach. He used to be only known for his own running talent, and his ability to inspire others to higher performances. But that has changed. “Running and cycling are still hugely enjoyable.” His coaching ability is based on his athlete’s performances, he says.
One tends to forget he has a regular, real job. After all, it’s so natural for him to be yelling at you. And it’s not really yelling as much as…scolding? I’ve seen athletes cry, and still, he will tell them the sad, terrible truth about their athleticism, or lack of it. But as cold and hard as he sounds, he can also be understanding, away from the workout. “He is definitely an odd-duck with a very dry sense of humor,” say one of his athletes. “Overall, he is definitely not the life of the party or the center of attention. But still quite amusing. Having a thick skin comes in handy around Chuck.”
“I am really a pretty tolerant person,” Hobbs says.
The year I won the Crosson Dannis overall title, I would look specifically for Hobbs before races went off to get last minute instructions. Insightful, wise, he didn’t mince words about the task that had to be done to win. To Hobbs, there are no friends on the start line. Further, he strongly professes in a “take no prisoners” approach to racing. “Shake hands after the race; buy ‘em dinner if you want. But if he’s slow, you beat him!”
KATIE PAULSON is one of the over a dozen athletes Hobbs coaches. He began formally coaching her in March 2005. She has done several Ironman triathlons this year, all under his tutelage. “Despite his off-handed, flippant remarks, I truly believe that of all the coaches in town, he’s the one most truly concerned with the well-being of the athletes. And I’m not just talking about the athletes he coaches. All athletes. He will make a suggestion on a ride or at dinner to anyone. Whether they pay attention and actually consider his comments, as terse as they may be, that’s up to them. That doesn’t mean his suggestion wasn’t a good one. One of the best things about Chuck as a coach is that he gets out and actually rides with us. He’d ride every weekend and anyone is welcome to come along. He is always tossing out nuggets of knowledge, coaching along the way whether they want to hear it or not! He’s not one to sugar-coat the truth either.”
Hobbs was born in Washington, DC, February 4, 1958. He has a sister and two brothers. His mom is a mortgage loan officer, while his dad is a retired business products executive who plays golf and poker.
He grew up in DC and, later, the Atlanta, GA area graduating from Peachtree High School, in Dunwoody. Hobbs was raised to be quiet, respectful, and to attend vacation bible school. (He attends St. Thomas Aquinas with DAVID DOZIER and other runners.) At a young age, Hobbs was interested in knowledge. “I loved the DC area museums, The Smithsonian, monuments, and zoos.” He also loved trains and boating. (His grandparents had a place on Chesapeake Bay.) Growing up, his hero was his dad. He says his “grandmother would tell us nothing has changed.” Except, now he says his heroes are both of his parents. “That’s gender equity.” He also admires his brothers and sister for raising normal kids. “It ain’t so easy anymore.” While he enjoyed reading, he was most scared of dying.
Until he was 14, Hobbs enjoyed “all the team sports,” especially tennis (1980 Academic All-American in tennis). “Then I had to pick.” (Hobbs says he was also chosen as one of the Outstanding Young Men of America, “but mostly stayed out of jail and off the street.”)
At Texas Wesleyan College, now a university, Hobbs met BRADLEY GARDNER, (known as “The General” to Hobbs), a local DFW runner. By 1982, Gardner had begun to run for exercise. “The General had already started with running, so I had to give it a try. I needed to find something that could be done in smaller time windows than tennis and [that] I could do on my schedule. It is the purest sport. The Tour d’France is the hardest cycling event, but running is the hardest. It is just a refreshing way to stay decently fit. Yes, even in these Dallas temperatures.”
Hobbs first race was a baptism of sorts, the 1982 Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. It’s still his favorite race, along with the Hood To Coast Relay. “Peachtree because it’s a classic. There were probably a dozen great races around the country that were the backbone of the road racing circuit. Bay to Breakers, The Crescent City Classic, (Two of the best post-race parties, period.), The Tulsa 15K, The Bix 7, The Steamboat 4 Mile, The Lilac Bloomsday, The Utica Boilermaker, The Philadelphia Distance Run, The New Times 10K, and The Gasparilla. But The Peachtree was the championship, and it’s just that hard. Always held on July 4th. It’s also a good reason to go visit [my] folks. The Hood To Coast Relay because it is great fun. It is a bit of stress pulling all together, but fun to compete so hard as a team. Doing this race is fun. Doing this race right is a real high.”
Other races Hobbs recommends are the Austin 3M Half Marathon, The Duke City Half, The Tulsa Run and The Twin Cities Marathon. “The Boston marathon is the greatest long distance race in the country, although Peachtree is my favorite. Even though the qualifying has become simpler, the history of the race, the knowledgeable crowd, and the fast field make it something all runners should experience if they can. If you don’t know why you run, after you finish Boston, you will.”
Hobbs was just getting started in ’82. He began upping his miles and his times began coming down. At his best in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, he was running 90 miles a week or better, achieving times of 16:18 in the 5K, 33:29 in the 10K, and 1:15:48 in the half marathon.
But through it all, the only injury he ever sustained was a stress fracture in his toe. “Of course, the obligatory minor muscle strains. That’s all.”
While training, Hobbs thinks of “How are the dogs doing? what is Michelle’s level of effort?” While racing, he thinks, “How’s my breathing? Stay relaxed? Keep working.” According the world of Hobbs, most good runners are not hard to inspire. “I don’t think any of the good runners have this problem. Their problem is not doing too much. It’s being sure to do the right thing.” He says he doesn’t have to inspire himself at all. “It’s something to look forward to.”
Many times, you will find him running with one of his seven dogs (Levi Junior, Casey, Levi, Mallory, Gnash, Murphy Mitchell, and Lumpy Taylor) on Rowlett trail at dawn on Sundays.
He believes in being consistent in his training. “If you want to be any good, you have to be somewhat consistent in your training.” His schedule nowadays includes cycling.
Hobbs coaching beliefs hold that “human performance is comprised of the physical and the mental. People are capable of more than they think they are. Recovery is underrated or worse, unplanned. Don’t make the easy days too hard or you will go easy on the hard days. Anyone can write a program, but only a few will work to find the balance that is best for each athlete. You define your goals, and I will help you get there. The broader the base, the higher the pyramid can be. Adaptability and intensity are keys to success on race day. Training should be fun. Sometimes easy, sometimes hard, but always fun.” Though he has always coached runners for track and distance, he began coaching triathletes in 2004 when an athlete wished to do her first triathlon, shockingly, at the Coeur d’Alene Ironman Triathlon; a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, and finishing with a 26.2-mile marathon. The finish time for AMY HELM was 11 hours, 52 minutes for the 140.6 mile race.
One athlete listed Hobbs’ strengths as really paying attention to the athlete, providing phone, email, and face-to-face interaction, as well as reasons “why” the athlete should do particular workouts, with replies to questions in less than an hour. His weaknesses: “sarcasm, dry-humor and in-your-face truths can really put some people off.” Though all consider him a friend, some feel they don’t “know” him.
Paulson: “Personally, I have no doubt that I’ve become a better athlete because of his influences. I’ve had one prior coach, on-line. But didn’t follow the program very precisely and although I improved, I can’t attribute it to her coaching as much as I could to just being early in my career. I likely would have improved with or without her help. But, with Chuck it is different. He coaches me COMPLETELY different than he coaches his other athletes. He takes the time to know what buttons to push with his athletes. Some are coaxed along and others he pushes harder. He is very sarcastic with me, has high expectations, and lets me know that. He is very strict in what he puts on my training schedule and if I start messing with it. I’d better be sure to get his approval first or expect to get berated, not to mention, have a poor performance. But, he is awesome when it comes to rearranging your training schedule when life gets in the way! It’s definitely a give-and-take relationship. I know he reviews my training logs on a regular, almost daily, basis. He will email me about why I did a certain route or what my effort level was for a certain day so he can gain insight as to how my body is handling the current training block.”
“Yes, I know he hasn’t done a triathlon, let alone an Ironman. And, God-forbid, he isn’t even USAT certified. Yes, I also know he’s gruff and opinionated and probably isn’t the right coach for everyone, but, he’s a good athlete and the right coach for me!”
Hobbs is adamant about not becoming certified because of the cost difference. To be a USA Cycling Certified Coach, one has to pay $455. To be a USAT Certified Coach the cost is $30 and one has to travel to Colorado Springs. “It’s the principle of it,” Hobbs contends. “It’s rape!”
He also has definite opinions about the state, and support of racing and competition in Dallas. “What has happened in Dallas and elsewhere is that the runners from Dallas’ competitive heyday are now in masters or have quit. That depth of talent is missing. There are more runners now, but not nearly as many good ones. Look at the average times in races now, from 5k to the marathon. They are slowing. Running is hard. There are other things that are easier to be good at. Probably similar to other non-Mecca locations. Boulder, Eugene, and other training Mecca’s are probably always going to have a better pool of talent hanging around and doing it right.”
As a result, Hobbs feels the competition is deteriorating. “As I said, the depth is not there. The times bear that out. A woman running 16:05? That’s above average for running two miles now. Like I said, running is hard. And even though I find it very rewarding, people are doing other things. Dauthlons, triathlons, cycling. Duathlon and triathlon times still seem to be trending downward (poor coaching notwithstanding). I do think the level of participation in running in Dallas is high. But I have no data to support that. Which is good. Just learn the right way to do things before you get good at them. A few idiots can make White Rock Lake a mess on weekends.
“We are lucky to have White Rock Lake. And Fort Worth is lucky to have the Trinity Trail. Without those two things, we would be much worse off. James Thruston in Dallas and Ricky Cox in Fort Worth are obviously committed to keeping running alive in the summer months when the make-a-buck promoters go into hibernation. The local running stores provide plenty of support to the running community. There are plenty of reasonably close trails to run on as well. These are under-utilized, but who can pass up a nice slab of concrete? If you call yourself a runner, you better hurry up and run on the trails before they turn them all into home sites.
“As for races, I don’t know. As the number of runners grew, the number of races grew as well. The good runners knew to pick their races, and that they could only peak for so long to make the races work for them. The fun runners picked the races that gave the most stuff. There are a lot of worthy causes but if the promoters got together and really tried to reduce scheduling conflicts only good would come of it. It’s too bad some of the old races don’t exist anymore, but it’s also good to see that some of the older races are still the best. Turkey Trot, Cowtown 10K.”
Now that Hobbs bikes (he began competitive cycling in 1994, currently races for Team Las’Port), he has sustained a few minor injuries. “A few crashes that fractured small bones, nothing that ever popped through the skin.” He has competed in bike road and stage races in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. His favorite races are Fort Davis Hammerfest, Tri-Peaks, Tour de Anna (Arkansas), and Rouge-Roubaix.
The man has many years of racing behind him with some great memories. There was the time he went to the San Diego Marathon to compete with a team, “with a fun group.” The temperatures were soaring. The team had rented a house for a week, and instead of doing the marathon, threw their running shoes over the telephone lines outside. They did compete as a relay and won second. “And then spent a couple days watching the X Games.” There was the time he did Hood To Coast on a weeks notice, after a Baylor race cancelled. “The logistics became even more challenging, but these things do work out. Keeping the team on track through some pains and strains was rewarded with a few best times along the way. Winning did not sink in right way, not until the mental and physical fatigue went away after a dip in the Pacific and some margaritas.” Helping his friend Gardener to a sub one hour finish at The Tulsa 15K is also high on his list, as well as face plants on the Lake Grapevine trail, and finishing his sponsor’s, Team Las’Port, training camp 125 mile ride on the last day.
Ultimately, he is a student of the sports of running and cycling. He will readily tell you he doesn’t know everything, but he will tell you in the next breath where to learn what it is you need to know.
Over the years, he’s worked with / tutored/ encouraged/ or coached JENNIFER JOHNSON PRIM, JASON BEREND, AMY HELM, MICHELLE BOYER, KATIE PAULSON and many others.
His plans this year are undecided. “Who knows? With me and Michelle [Boyer] getting a house earlier this year my focus has been on the house. Shreveport has a nice trail race this fall.” Hobbs is already training for next year, hoping to “just do some good training so I can race well in 2007. I love the Fort Davis [cycling] stage race. There is a new bike race in Waco this year. There are some challenging races in Louisiana and Arkansas as well as east Texas and the Hill Country. There are some trail races I would like to do; the one in Tyler State Park is good. And Huntsville. And Mary Ann Miller’s race in Oklahoma should be better attended. Again, sorry, there’s no concrete.”
His future goals include, “helping all the athletes I coach to attain their short and long term goals; to keep reminding them there is no limit to their potential.” Personally, he is tough on himself, too. His own goal is “to not suck until I’m at least 60. I’m as healthy as ever. It might just take a bit longer to recover. The real thing here is to help people who really want to try to be good, to improve. There are so many more wrong ways to do things than there are right. I can’t look at your performances and figure out if the Dow Jones is trending up or down? It’s not that you aren’t trying, it’s that you are going about it wrong. W. Edwards Deming was right. People want to do well. It’s the process that constrains them.”
Outside activities aren’t the only thing Hobbs does. Believe it or not, he also enjoys macramé, civics, and cleaning house, as well as visiting Cuquitas restaurant, The Allman Brothers, and “anything on 95.3.” He’s also a serious sports fan sure to catch all the games.
He and Michelle Boyer have been a couple for well over a year and regularly attend events together, ending each other’s sentences, and complimenting each other’s personalities, perfectly.
He says believes in everyone being active. “Activism. Being involved in something, anything. Too many people are just going through the motions, trying not to offend anyone else and be so correct they are zombies. John Mellecamp said ‘You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything at all.” And that is what is going on with a lot of athletes. They get on a bandwagon and are oblivious to their feelings and performances. You have to take an interest in what you are doing and not go through the motions, or life will pass you by. Let your passion show. Improve yourself every day. And vote, dammit!”
His voice echoes in my mind. “What are ya doin’, boy?! This ain’t Hollywood!” I smile and run faster.
Chuck Hobbs Workout Schedule
Monday AM run with the dogs 40 minutes, Norbuck Park
(Now that me and Michelle are so close to Norbuck Park, to not take advantage of that would be moronic. Sorry, dirt and hills this time. Since Levi Junior and Casey don’t know pace, this is pretty much a tempo run.)
Monday PM ride 75 minutes at the lake on time trial bike, White Rock Lake
Tuesday AM run fartlek or tempo run usually with group he trains, Park Cities YMCA
Tuesday PM bike intervals with students, White Rock Lake
Wednesday AM run with the dogs, 24-40 minutes
Wednesday PM ride 90 minutes
Thursday AM run with the dogs 40 minutes Norbuck Park
Thursday PM ride 75 minutes intervals possible
Friday AM run with the dogs 24 minutes Norbuck Park
Friday noon 60 minutes on time trial bike
Saturday summer: bike race or rally
Saturday off season: long group ride
Sunday ride 8:30 AM with south Richardson Bike Mart group
(I believe Jimmy Flowers and Eric Jackson started this ride. This ride is for all abilities and new riders are encouraged to show up. I kinda look after the ‘back of the packers’ and give a bit back to the sport. If Michelle is training for anything long, my weekday running volume may increase if I have to play pacer.
(Is that legal?).
CYCLING TIPS FROM COACH CHUCK HOBBS
- Continue working up hills.
- Smooth, steady cadences; not really stressed much at all. Very efficient.
- When you are seated, you will find it easier to climb if you slide back a bit on your seat and put your hands on your bullhorns (on your tri bike) or on the tops of your bars (on your road bike).
- Sitting up will allow more air to get into your lungs, and pushing back on your seat will give you more leverage.
- Work on pushing down from 11 o’clock to 4 o’clock (the downward part of the stroke seems to be the easiest).
- Really pull back with the heel from 4 o’clock to 8 o’clock.
- Once you make it over the hill, recover quickly and get back after it.
- Keep these thoughts in mind as you do hills on your daily rides.