Friday, January 30, 2015

Saturday Stories UMass Lowell's Top 6 Alumni Distance Runners

 Today, Saturday January 31st, is the annual George Davis night track and field alumni event at UMass Lowell and that got me thinking about the history of the little, not so little anymore, college in the scrappy city that I went to.  UMass Lowell has had only two directors of track and field and cross country in the programs history.  First was George Davis and he passed the torch onto Gary Gardner in 2003 and he remains in charge today. I am one of a lucky group of athletes who had the opportunity to run for both of these men.

 George started the program from scratch in the early 1970's and built it into a regional and, in division 2, national power.  The school and the program are in a stage of great change and growth.  I recently met up with fellow alumni Ruben Sanca for run on campus and I had to look closely to find the UML I remembered amongst the seemingly dozens of new multi million dollar buildings.  The track and cross country programs jumped up to division 1 last year and are really just beginning that transition that takes place over four or five years.

  Now you may be wondering why I chose to do a list of top distance ALUMNI.  I'm guessing you know why I would focus on the distance running tradition given my own predilections and those I assume of anyone reading this blog. The Alumni part is more self serving.  Simply I get to be on the list.  If I did top athletes based on performance while in school I would not be anywhere near the list.  My name is not on a single top 10 list indoors or out at UML.  The school has had literally hundreds of All Americans.  I was not one of them.  There are dozens of athletes from the track program who are in the schools sports hall of fame.  I am not among them.

 Also I would actually have to you know do real research to do that list versus basically doing this on off the top of my head. Never underestimate my laziness.

  I have decided to not make this an ordered top 6.  I instead have decided on a King and his court jesters format.  I went back and forth on this more than I care to admit but in the end I'm pretty set on this.  These are athletes from different era's and with different focuses it is hard to put one in front of another with the exception of Bob Hodge, who should be recognized as above the rest, it would be very hard to place one runner above another.  Also I realized there was a possibility I might have to rank Ruben above me on the list.  I don't think it would have come to that but he has made an Olympic team so the possibility was there.  Now it isn't that I don't like and respect Ruben.  You have to understand he was an athlete at UML when I was a coach.  On top of that I think now that we are training together more an important part of our dynamic is him wanting to show once and for all that he is better than me and I think it would be a disservice to him if I were to do anything that might take away from that motivation.

  So without further ado here we go the king and his jesters….

  The King. Bob mother @#$%ing Hodge. Aka Hodgie-San.  A true legend of the early days of professional road running.  Bob has a website and you owe it to yourself to check it out it goes into far greater detail than the pittance of info I will give you hear and it has some great stuff from and about other great runners.  In fact I found my first Canova schedule, one for Rodgers Rop, off of his page and used it to design my marathon debut training!

  Bob has a lifetime marathon best of 2:10:59 run in a battle with New Zealand legend and Olympic Silver Medalist Dick Quax at the OTC marathon in 1980.  He also finished 3rd at the 1979 Boston marathon in 2:12:30 finishing behind only immortals Bill Rodgers and Toshito Seko.  If that was all he had done Bob would be at the top of this list.  Instead this is just the short quick description of Bob that is most often given.  Lets take a few paragraphs to look at what is left out.

  Bob qualified for and competed in multiple world cross country Championships.  Competed on the track in Europe had PRs in the 13:40's and 28:20's on the track.  Broke 29 for road 10k's on a regular basis and ran 47:26 for 10 miles as well as mid 32's at the Falmouth Road race multiple times.  Bob was also a two time USATF national road 20k champion and national road 10k champion.  A real road warrior Bob was a regular in the lead packs of the major road races of the early to mid 1980's but his real top performances generally came in the marathon.

  In 1982 Bob won the Beppu marathon in Japan.  Think a marathon on the level of Houston or Twin Cities in the USA and followed that up with a 2:11:52 5th place finish at Fukuoka in the fall of that year.  Fukuoka at that time was like if you rolled London and the world championships today into one race.  It was really where the best went.

  Later on Bob would finish 6th at the 1986 Boston Marathon and 7th at the 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials.  In fact in 1986, a 'comeback' year for him after a year of semi-retirement Bob would run 3 marathons in the 2:14 to 2:15 range and considerate them all conservative efforts.

  Perhaps though one of the best ways to sum up Bob for this list is that at the 1984 Olympic Trials in rather warm weather Bob, who had dug himself into a hole by failing to properly recover from a workout effort 2:17 marathon he had run a couple months prior to qualify for the trials, struggled to a 2:18:10 18th place finish.  He was upset enough with this effort to basically decide on what would thankfully be a temporary retirement.  The rest of the guys on this list would be pretty happy with a 2:18:10 18th place finish in an Olympic Trials.  It might not be our best day but it wouldn't be too bad either.  For Bob it was grounds for retirement!

  Now for  the jesters in chronological order because why not.

 Vinny Fleming.  Vin was a couple year's older than Bob and they ran together at UML. Yes I know it wasn't UML back then, deal.  Vin was the division 3 national champion in cross country while at UML, yes they were d3 back then stop trying to get me off topic!  In 1977 Vinny finished 5th at the Boston marathon in 2:18:37 about 10 seconds in front of the much more famous Tom Fleming.  This was Vin's most striking performance.  He would continue to compete at a high level for anther decade though I don't think he ever went the professional route.  I know he worked for New Balance for a stretch but I don't think he ran for them.  There is a great picture of him at the New Haven 20k in the lead pack.  It is him, Bob Hodge, Bill Rodgers and Joseph Nzau the first kenyan to break 2:10 in the marathon.  Vin has on running shorts and shoes, that's it.  Everyone else obviously runs for a shoe company. Photo here

  Vin was the 1983 USATF, yes I know it wasn't USATF back then again stop trying to get me off topic!,  National 25k Champion.  Given that he was a good but not world beating runner in his era results for Vin are tough to find but I know along the way he won the 1982 USATF New England track 5k in 13:55.5 and ran under 60mins at the New Haven 20k.

  Dave Dunham- My wife likes to make fun of my somewhat encyclopedic memory of distance running  stats. Dave makes me look like I'm not trying.  He has a great blog Dave was probably the best in college of the men in this list, including Bob.  He also has certainly the most varied career of all of us.  Dave Qualified for two Olympic Marathon trials, 1992 and 2000.  He was a serious force on the New England road racing scene for more than a decade and is the most successful running in the USATF-New England Grand Prix history.  He was in fact utterly dominate in what could be considered the most competitive era of the mens open section of that series.  Yet for all this Dave's love of the sport has always been focused outside the main stream.  A multi time winner and course record setter at the mount washington road race.  He was a national class runner who moved to make USA mountain running teams before it was cool.

  Some stats on Dave.  His personal bests include 2mile - 8:52, 5000m - 14:08, 4 mile - 18:47, 5 mile - 23:27, 10k - 29:17,  half marathon 1:05:02, marathon 2:19:28, 50k - 2:57:36. The 50k was an American record at the time but it was later not ratified because the course was, wait for it, 50meters short.  I'm sorry but 50m over 50k is not short it is the hair on a knat's ass and doesn't matter. It is like someone telling you your mile best isn't legit because the course was 16centimeters short.

 The thing is these bests are sort of asides with Dave.  The real impressive thing about him has always been how prolifically he races and races well.  Not only in terms of the quantity of races but in terms of the variety of those races.  He is as likely to have run a great track 5k as a incredible mountain or ultra race.  He has probably raced multiple times in a weekend more than anyone you could ever hope to meet and he seems to be showing no signs of slowing.

  Daves best finish at a USATF marathon championship was 10th, in 1999 and he finished 20th at the 1992 Olympic Trials.

Dennis Simonaitis- I have a confession to make I didn't know what order to put Dave and Dennis on this list.  I know they ran at UML together but I don't know who was older or younger.  When I was at UML Dennis had the indoor 5k record, 14:11, Dave had the outdoor record 14:11.  One can imagine some of the workout battles!

  Dennis was one of the great 40+ runners in american history.  He qualified for the 2004 Olympic Trials marathon with a 2:18:52, after he was 40.  His best times after the age of 45 are 5k-14:45, 8k-24:14, 10k -30:08.  I only bettered one of those last year!  Not my best year by any means but I'm a DECADE under 45!

  As an open runner Dennis was damn good.  He ran 2:14:14 at the 1989 Twin Cities marathon and had track bests of 28:38 and 13:46 and competed on the track at the 1988 Olympic Trials.  He also ran competed in the 1992 marathon trials.  I don't know if he was at the 1996 trials but if he was I feel super guilty about not qualifying for the 2012 Trials because UML would have been represented at the 1980, 84, 88, 92, 96, 00, 04, and 08 trials.  Which would make me the loser who broke the streak.  So hopefully he didn't qualify for 1996.  Yes that is how my brain works.

  Nate Jenkins.  That is me.  I have PR's of 2:14:56, 1:04:14, 29:32, 23:26, 4 miles 18:50, 5000m- 13:56, 3000m- 8:08.  I represented team USA at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in the marathon. I was ranked 8th in the USA in the marathon in 2007 by track and field news.  I finished 7th at the 2008 Olympic Marathon trials.  I had a 2:15:28 marathon debut. I qualified for 2 USATF indoor national championships in the 3000m.  I hope that I will improve on and add to these credentials over the next few years.

  Ruben Sanca- Ruben has a great blog as well, , As I mentioned above Ruben ran at UML while I was an assistant coach there.  He is the first athlete on the list to be entirely coached by Gary Gardner during his time at UML.  Though given that all the major distance records at UML have been shattered over the last few years one can assume this list will have to keep growing in the coming years in order for me to be able to keep myself on it.  Ruben is unique on this list in that he has duel citizenship.  He went to high school in the USA and is a citizen but he was born in and retains citizenship with Cape Verde.  He has represented Cape Verde at the 2011 World Championships in the marathon and at the 2012 Olympics at 5000m and he has set at least eight Cape Verde National records at distances from 3k to the marathon.

  Ruben's personal bests include 3k-8:07, 5k 13:56, 10k 29:57, half marathon 1:05:24, marathon 2:18:43.  He also ran 2:19:05 at the Boston marathon last year.  Not too shabby for the youngest man on the list which also makes him the most likely to do more to improve his resume than the rest of us old farts.  I mean I admire Bob Hodge but if he sets a lifetime best in the near future I'm going to be wanting to see some drug testing done.

  So all and all you have quite a little list here from a small little school that gets all its athletes from a very small circle.  In fact I am pretty sure that I grew up farthest from UML of the entire crew.  It was a full 45 minute drive from my house to my dorm!  It will be very interesting to see what the current and future athletes are able to do now that the program is so much better support and the level of incoming athlete is getting much better.  At the same time to any of the whippersnappers who are there now who are planning on taking me down remember two things.  One I am the one writing the damn list so I get to be on it forever. I may add you but the list will just get longer.  I set the minimum standard for entry and I plan on setting it at such a level that I get to stay part of the party.  Second well just reread what some of these guys did.  Pretty bad ass.  You are young and may not appreciate yet how hard some of this stuff is, I know I didn't at your age, but with time and miles you will gain a respect for just how good these performances are.

  Finally if you have any info or corrections on any of these fellows please let me know with a comment or email and I can update/fix this.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fartlek Friday "The Golf Ball Workout"

  If you live in New England like I do than it will be a good long while before you can take a crack at this one but though I have only gotten to do it a few times it is one of the most fun and challenging sessions I have done and I really do love it.

  This is a UMass Lowell workout.  George Davis created it, as far as I know, Gary Gardner still uses it, again as far as I know.  We used to do this session once a year and only if you qualified for nationals in cross country as a team.  It was a perfect hard session a week to 10 days out from nationals because it wasn't very long, 12 to 15 mins, but it was very fast and hard.  It becomes basically a surging time trial.

  Now as a Umass Lowell workout we must start with it's contradictions.  You play with a tennis ball not a golf ball.  Yes I know what the name of the workout is.  I guess back in the day they originally did the workout with golf balls and it was a damn disaster.  Kids diving in ponds trying to find sunken balls mid workout in November.  Not good.  Tennis balls however were easier to decorate for quick identification, and they float.

  This is a team workout.  You need at least two people to play.  We always did it as a competition to see who's team could finish first.  This part is not needed but it helps!  We would do the same 10 or 12 holes on a local golf course that would let us on course for workouts in the very late season, say staring in November.  Our set up had you doing 5 or 6 holes and then making a long run between two spread out holes in the middle.  You could set this up with more or less holes and play with the order to adjust the workout to what you think your team needs.  I know Gary has the ladies team do a shorter version as they are getting ready for 6k, not a 10k at nationals and they tend to be a lower mileage group than the men.

  How the game is played.  Everyone has a teammate.  Uniforms are encouraged- I did it in a shirt and tie one year- but you know regular gear is ok too.  Every team has a tennis ball.  It should be made easily identifiable from other teams tennis balls.  If it isn't your in for chaos after the first throw.  The rules are simple.  You lay out a course and every team needs to know it in advance or you are going to need a lot of volunteers on course to keep people in the right places.  Each team is trying to finish the course as fast as possible.  You can not carry the ball more than 3 steps, except between holes.  You must alternate throws with your teammate.  YOU MUST WALK ON GREENS AND IN SAND TRAPS, failure to obey the last two rules result in disqualification.  Failure to obey all other rules will result in you being called a cheater by the other teams.

  Ok you start on the tee and throw the ball towards the fairway and your teammate runs and on the fly picks up the ball and throws it further along, you meanwhile are sprinting like a mad man to get past said teammate and repeat the process.  Finally one of you will toss the ball up on the green.  You both now putt.  That is to say you walk on the green still alternating turns and tap the ball until it goes in the hole.   I'm unclear if it is officially ok to tap the ball while it is still rolling though for the record I always did.  I may have been cheating.

  Once the ball goes in the hole you grab it and WALK off the green.  As soon as you are off the green you sprint like a mother to the next tee and begin the process again.

  Now if the ball goes in a water trap we always had two options.  Option one was find a coach who had extra balls.  This option meant certain defeat.  Option 2 was get your ass in the pond.  Mid November or not every respectable athlete took option 2.  I have seen both a very nice shallow dive that lead to a sort of dolphin like move coming up under the ball straight into a throw as well as a very well done cannonball to break through a half inch of ice on a particularly cold afternoon.

  I have also made some very not graceful splashes myself over the years.

  Anyway it is a crazy tough surging session that is a great time trial type fartlek practice for cross country racing.  Great workout, great team building, great way to get arrested if you don't get permission from the Golf club first.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Throw Back Thursday Marathon Debut Training Cycle December 2005 to February 2006

  In the fall of 2005 I was an unknown regional runner who had never run a marathon with personal bests of 14:31, 30:37 and 1:07:28 by the end of the coming winter I would run 1:04 and 2:15.  What happened?  Why was it possible?  This is the story of what I did, why I think it worked as well as it did.  What I think I did wrong that could have made my first marathon even better.

  As a reader of this blog you know I can't make any story short and in keeping with my normal form I'll start this story long before it really begins.  I had a lot of injury trouble in college but finally got healthy for my senior season and first year of grad school.  My second year of grad school I began to experiment with training based on Lydiard's books.  The problem was if I did a 12 week base and got hurt the last week and missed two weeks I would basically go back to the beginning so the long and the short of the next 18 months was that I ran a huge amount of volume but I didn't do much else.  Over this period I averaged around 135 miles a week and had weeks as high as the mid 170's.  I regularly did strides and some tempos.  My 22 mile long runs and 18 mile medium long runs were weekly staples and regularly run very well, in the 6:00 per mile range.  However the reality was I was running a lot but not really training at all.  Though it would be years before I knew the difference.

  In the fall of 2005 I had put together a season of what I knew from college which was good work but in retrospect I am disappointed I didn't experiment more just from a learning and expanding my horizons perspective.  That fall I was targeting the USATF Club cross country championships.  I had some decent runs and set a few small PR's in the build up but nothing earth shattering but I hoped with a taper from my huge volume I would run a great race at nationals.  In the end I for a few reasons was flat on the day and raced stupidly and paid heavily running one of my worst races of the fall and finishing 85th while a few guys I had finished around a couple weeks before at the New England championships finished in the top 20.  I was crushed and pretty much ready to give up my half baked ideas of making anything of myself as a runner.  I was also broke and I ended up racing again the next weekend for a bit of cash and on a snow covered but flat cross country course running totally alone I ran a 29:00 6 mile.  This was at that point probably the best race of my life and I ran pr's for 4 and 5 miles en route.  This convinced me I had screwed up my taper but didn't inspire me that I could make the breakthrough I had been hoping for.  However my college coach, and current boss, at Umass Lowell, Gary Gardner talked me off the ledge and talked me into planning my debut marathon for the early winter.

  I chose to use a specific training block that I seen on Bob Hodges website from Rodgers Rop.  It was my first introduction to Renato Canova's training.  It would change my life.  I am not a complete idiot so I adjusted the paces of the Rop schedule based on his fitness during that phase, 1:00 flat half / 2:06 marathoner, for my paces.  I however didn't think that perhaps a guy on that level my recover from a similar effort much better than a middling piker like myself. I would also learn later that a Lydiard base was not the best set up for a Canova specific phase.

  And so I made mistake number 1.  I spent one of the coldest Decembers in Lowell's history doing a four weeks of Lydiard base work.  This meant my mileage was good but the only quality work I was doing was a few light 10 mile tempo runs at about 5:30 pace.  My 22 mile long runs were under 2:12 and so they were great fundamental long tempos but by December with a goal marathon in mid February I should have been doing special work and my 10 mile tempos were not bad for moderate paced tempos but that is hardly a main session for this period in a marathon build up.  Now I think these two sessions had a lot to do with why I survived the training to come at all and why I managed the breakthrough I did but they certainly where not the ideal build up I needed.

  My specific work got off to a bit of a slow start after a bit of a niggle in my ankle had me starting the Rop training a couple weeks later than I had planned on January 4th.  At that point I had done a handful of solid 22 milers and 3 or 4 10 to 12 mile tempo runs with none faster than 5:27 mile pace average.  I had also done one set of short hill repeats.

  On January 4th I jumped in head first with a special block.  I didn't know it was a special block, I thought it was a marathon specific workout but anyway you slice it it was the hardest thing I had ever done.  Read all about it here

  It was a great workout but I was not prepared to do it and I was completely wrecked after it.  Four days later I tried my first moderate effort a 20 mile long run up in Hanover, NH before the UML kids got rolling at the Dartmouth relays and I barely slipped under 7min pace.  It was a 144 mile week and a pretty good heads up for what was to come.

  A couple days later my legs started to come back a bit and I managed a 21+ mile run in 2:02:02, about 5:45 per mile.  A decent effort normally but still tired from the special block this was a pretty hard run for me.  It also set me back in terms of recovery and I was pretty flat after.  A few days later on January 13 I was scheduled to do another block.  I did the first 10k of the first session in 34:07 and I knew I was done so I cut it there.

  Three days later with my legs back under me I did my first truly specific session.  Though Canova would call it a moderate effort for me with my lack of a proper set up phase it was a savage effort.  After a 10min warm up I did 15 kilometers at about 80 to 85% marathon goal pace, 6:00 mile pace. Then I did 5k of 1min hard, with 1min moderate recovery, I covered that 5k in 16:57.  From there the next 10k was set to be at marathon pace.  I ran 33:09 which was dead on my goal marathon pace.  I was targeting sub 2:20 which was the Olympic Trials A standard, 33:09 is 2:19:52 pace.

  Knowing what I know now about how these session impact me I'm surprised I could run that fast after the 1/1 stretch which always puts me in a huge hole.  If I were doing this session now I would make it 5k longer and take 5k moderate after the 1/1 before the mp running.  Still this was great work and the effort, if not the pace, was dead right.

  The next 5k were at a moderate pace to recover and I too easy, 20:37, before cranking out a last hard 5k in 15:57 which was pretty close to what was really going to be my marathon pace.  In reality I should have been able to go under marathon pace at this point in the workout, with a proper build up to it you can go real hard here but for me with my build up to run even at marathon pace after over 20 miles of good work I was pretty well done.  I finished with a 10min cool down for  a grand total of about 25 miles.

  This was a very good workout but again I was completely wiped out by it.  A few days later I was trying to defend my GBTC track 3k title.  It was the biggest race I had won at that point and I was dead determined to try and defend my title.  I was so exhausted I remember my foot shaking violently as I tried to put on my spikes after a 3 or 4 mile warm up and some strides.  Still despite feeling like I had barely enough energy to jog I managed an 8:28 3k which was my second fastest at the time.  Not impressive by any means but a great sign of the strength I was building.

  The weekend after the 3k I was racing the 3M half marathon which was my first real travel race and I had only got a spot in the field thanks to the help of my training partner at the time, Sammy Unberhagen, and I was desperate not to embarrass myself or by extension him.  So I took it pretty easy that week.  The only workout I did was a 3 mile tempo run at half marathon pace on the Reggie Lewis Track in 14:44.  I had planned to run 5:00 pace which was a good bit faster than my PR from the fall but I knew I was getting fit and that the track was a lot flatter than the BAA course I had run that PR on.  Still I was surprised how easy the pace felt and I got faster with each mile and was never tired.

  At 3m, a very fast course I had a break out day.  I went out nice and smooth for the first 2 miles in a large pack at 10:00 and then the pack sped up and I did to and sort of just continued to go with whoever was moving quickest in the group up to 10 miles.  I passed the 10k in a new PR of 30:25 and I was sort of just running along wondering if I was dreaming.  At 10 miles I just let it all out and ran the last 5k in 15:00 which was the second fastest road 5k I had ever run and a completely mind blowing effort to me.  I ended up in 9th place in 1:03:44.  A time that seemed like a dream to me.  In the week after the race it came out that we may or may not have been sent the wrong way in the 7th mile and we might have cut 160 meters from the course.  To me this really couldn't have mattered less.  I still often list my half PR as 1:04:14, adjusting for the missed distance, just to avoid people thinking I'm using a bogus time but the reality was my PR going in was 1:07:28 the difference between whether I had finished in the high 1:03's or low 1:04's was nothing compared to the fact that I was minutes faster than I had been a few months before.  I had gone from a regional hack to a guy who could finish top 10 at a fairly major US road race and I was pumped.

  Still I was not without my own fears.  When I got back to Lowell Gary set out trying to convince me that I needed to go out at 2:16 pace in my upcoming marathon debut but I was so tied up in the idea that just slipping under 2:20 was the best a middling talentless guy like myself could hope for.

  Things were not helped when the following weekend I tried my first set of alternations.  With no previous attempts at this workout I tried to jump into it right at its final and hardest incarnation.  On top of that it was quite windy on the track.  The results were predictable.  My goal was 20k of 1k at 3:00 with 1k recoveries at 3:20.  I survived only 7k after which I collapsed to the infield.  The comment in my log shows my confidence was not good.  I mention it was super windy but add that I'm sure the workout was too hard anyway.  I'm not sure if I was trying to convince myself or sure up my argument for Gary that I was not ready to go after a mid 2 teens time.

  Regardlessly Gary is no fool and was playing me like a fiddle and in another week or week and a half he had me on board for a 1:08 target split at the half marathon.  Gary is good at dealing with athletes eccentricities and knowing what approach works best with different athletes and I was no different.  It was funny because I had been working for him a couple years and run for him for a year before that so I had seen him at work and talked to him about it many times.  So on one level I knew he was playing me and shaping my focus and yet on the other hand I went into the race with a new level of confidence.

  My last two workouts went off without any hiccups.  The canova schedule I had didn't include a taper for a marathon so I took the off handed solution the UML sprint coach tossed out when I was trying to come up with a taper plan and running it by Gary.  He said why not just take a taper from a program from any marathoner who always tended to race to the full end of their fitness. It was a bit to simple for my thinking but then it wasn't an all bad idea so I used a Pete Pfitzinger's taper.  I mean I think in 20 or so professional marathons Pete had one bad day.  The guy was a sure thing on race day.

  Ten days out from race day I did 3x 1600 at about 5k pace with 2mins rest, 4:35, 4:36, 4:38.  It was odd to run that fast and that short but I felt strong if a bit uncomfortable with the quicker paces.  Four days out from the race I did 2 miles on the reggie lewis track in 10:21.  Right around my new goal marathon pace.  It felt like a walk.  Still I was no fool 24 more miles is a very long way with a lot of unknowns.

  In Austin things started off a little funky.  An ice storm had gone though and the bus to the start wasn't getting there and people were throwing fits, finally we found out they had delayed the start and it would be alright.  At the start they had put out salt and sand on the course but in places it was so thick it was easier to run on the ice.  We started with a long zig zagging loop out of the FreeScale parking lot and a deer found itself surrounded by runners on a parking lot Island.  It ended up jumping through the crowd  and causing quite a stir. It made the national news shows.  It was very surreal.

  The first mile I was in the lead pack.  It felt like we were crawling.  We were, 5:23.  The leaders took off like someone had slapped them across the face at that split and I was in a big chase pack that included the Moulton twins and Sammy who was running the half marathon and pacing me.

  In fact after the lot of us nearly wiped out on our first bridge crossing, we were all running off the sand because it was so thick and the ice had cleared up, but on bridges it was still in full force.  So at each bridge Sammy would run out in front of the pack and test the footing.  Nearly wiping out each time.  But also giving us the warning to either hop on the sand or be very careful in crossing.

  So we rolled on in a big group with me getting more giddy at each split with the effort feeling easy, other than a side stitch that came on around mile 10.   Splits 2- 5:09 (10:33) 3- 5:10(15:44), missed 4, 5- 10:09(25:53), missed 6, 7- 10:15(36:08), 8-5:06(41:15), 9-5:04(46:20), 10- 5:05(51:25), 11- 5:06(56:32), 12-5:10(1:01:42), 13- 5:06(1:06:49)

  At this point Sammy and a couple other half marathoners broke off to finish in a parking lot on our side we quickly took a turn in the opposite direction.  With the lose of the half marathoners I quickly realized our pack was down to the Moulton Twins and I.  We passed half way in 1:07:24, try to remember my half marathon best at the start of this cycle was four seconds slower than that.

  Just after the half marathon Casey Moulton asked Pat and I how we were feeling, we both answered something to the effect that we felt fine except for bad side stitches.  Casey responded "it's 28 degrees! Stop drinking water!"  It worked! I struggled through the 14th mile in 5:13 by that point the stitch had finally relaxed.  I could barely contain myself and I ran a 5:01 for the 15th mile and stretched away from Pat and Casey.  I held it back a bit in the 16th mile, 5:05, and then really put my head down and drove hard into one of only two uphill miles on the course, this the harder of the two and ran 5:08.

  At this point the reality of what was going on started to hit me and I was passing people pretty regularly.  Not big stars or anything but the types of runners I knew and admired, 2nd tier Kenyans etc..  I let it go, I knew you were supposed to wait until 20 miles but I felt great and just pushed on.  Not increasing the effort but also not holding back.


   The 20th mile was largely down hill with a short steep climb at the end I ran my fastest mile of the day, 4:57.  I was at 20 miles in 1:42:22.  I was too tired to do much math but I knew my goal pace was about 32:00 for 10k which would be a mid 2:14 finish and that I could run pretty close to 38, which was slower than training pace, and still get under the Olympic Trials B standard.

  I distinctly remember the 21st and 22 miles.  They were the hardest thing I had ever done.  During them I caught up to Josh Ordway and the Moulton Twins caught back up to me and we formed our own little pack.  Both splits were 5:08 and I had this thought/feeling that this is what the last 10k would be like.  I was going to be running as hard as I could and about as hard as I ever have but I would keep clicking off the 5:08's.  This is how the end of my specific workouts had felt so I was prepared. Or so I thought.

  If I had done a proper base and a full specific phase I'm sure that is what would have happened.  Instead after 22 miles I was out of glycogen or very close to it.  Our pack stayed together and it felt the same but the 23rd mile was a 5:15.  I tried to push things and get us back on task in the uphill 22 mile.

  I hit the watch at the 24th mile split 5:45!  I actually laughed!  I knew damn well I was out of glycogen.  But I also came to this race to accomplish one impossible life goal qualify for the olympic Trials.  I had nearly 10mins of buffer room so I knew I would get that goal and the rest was just experience.  The 25th mile we turned around and headed back down hill in the opposite direction from where we came.

  I tried to open up but my legs were fairly non-responsive.  5:15 was a big improvement and I started to think maybe it had just been a bad patch.

  Casey and I pushed away from the other two.  Shoulder to shoulder for most of the mile with Casey putting a bit of distance on me in the last bit of the 26th mile.  This battle got me a not impressive 5:28.  Aerobically I had recovered some and I thought I could muster a sprint to catch and pass Casey.

  At the moment after the 26th mile I went to the arms and dried to drive forward.  It was like nothing I had ever experienced.  Nothing happened.  I was like a sputtering engine.  The will was there, the lungs were there, but nothing happen.  I was confused.  I tried again..

  Nothing!  There was no way the legs were done.  I just push forward to the line.  Pure ecstasy!  2:15:28!  It was beyond anything I had dared hope.  I would find out later it was the 32nd fastest debut in USA history at the time.

  It was the greatest break through of my life and the first time I had ever done anything like that.  The real change had been made in the cold workouts of January but in many ways my running life can be broken down into two parts.  Before my marathon debut and after.  Things had changed.  I had changed.  A new path was in front of me.

  I honestly believe as great as this breakthrough was it could have been better.  If I had done a proper base I would have been able to do more specific workouts.  If I had done a few more specific sessions I have no doubt my ability to burn more fat would have caught up with my aerobic fitness and I would have been able to keep knocking off 5:05 to 5:10 miles for the last 4 miles instead of crawling in like I did.  This thought was not in my head in the weeks and months after the marathon but it would be put there the next fall by Canova himself but that as they say is a story for another day!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Workout Wednesday Marathon Specific Super Compensation Blocks

  These weeks workout Wednesday is marathon specific super compensation blocks.  This are some of the hardest, and most effective, workouts I have ever done.  These workouts should only be done once or twice during a training cycle and should be done during the specific phase as they are the top of the block cycle and one of the last steps in building your race.

  In terms of training I break things up into three phases. Fundamental phase for the start, this phase is optional if you are quite fit.  Next is the special phase where you focus on building your threshold and mechanical strength while starting to shift the workouts to match your goal event.  Finally is the specific phase where you focus the vast majority of your workouts on building your specific effort.  I do not make a hard distinction lines between the three phases they each sort of meld into each other.  So there are points where if you asked me are you in specific or fundamental training and I wouldn't be able to say definitively.  I'm just in mid transition and some of the workouts have progressed fully to special and others are still in the fundamental stages.  Now this can be taken to far.  If you are getting within 4 to 6 weeks of your goal race and you are not clearly and completely in the specific phase and your training isn't easily identifiable as specific work you are not setting yourself up for the race success you deserve.

  Some workouts are done only in a certain phase or if they are included in the other phases it is strictly as a fitness maintenance workout with no goal of increase part of your fitness. Other workouts are done across the phases, this is the case with super compensation blocks, they are just adjusted through the phases to accomplish adjusting goals.  In short early on in a training cycle the goal of the workout is to build the strength to do harder workouts in the next phases and it is in the final phase that the workouts are finally targeting specific race performances.  I will in the coming weeks do post on the matching fundamental and special phase blocks that build up to these marathon specific blocks and I will do blogs on blocks for other events as well, so fear not if this workout isn't the type you need the others are coming.

  The idea behind all super compensation blocks is that you do two hard but not incredibly hard workouts in the same day.  Either of these workouts done alone in a single day would be hard but not your hardest.  Doing two in one day is really quite taxing.  The key to this and all blocks is that you do take the day or two before them a bit lighter than you would before a normal workout and even more so that you really go easy in the days after to fully absorb the effort.  If you don't recover from this carefully it is just a great way to break yourself down and end up at best exhausted and underperforming and at worst hurt and not competing.   This holds true even if you feel great doing the session or the days after.

  A cautionary tale to make my point.  If you read Bob Hodge's old logs on his website he talks about running the Houston Marathon as a workout in his build up to the 1984 Olympic Trials. He needed a qualifier and used it as a 3/4 effort to avoid having to impact his training too much.  Running quite easily he ran a 2:17 low.  It felt easy so he really didn't curtail his training at all afterwards.  However ever so steadily from that point on he started to get very run down and beat up and by the time the trials came around a full out effort only netted him a  2:18 time.  Now I realize a marathon isn't a super compensation block, well except that it is.  We just don't all have the chance to get in a good marathon at the exact right time of our build up, or  have the discipline to keep the effort below full out in a race situation.

  Still the basic concept is the same break yourself way down in a way only a huge volume of work can do.  Than take it easy for a bit to fully recover and absorb a huge amount of improvement from a single session.  Still even if the session is easier to do in the form I'm going to describe it is not much less dangerous and if you don't respect it you will get burned by it.

  The workout itself.  In the morning you head out and do a light warm up.  Then for most people you do a 10k light tempo at only 85 to 90% of marathon pace.  This is not hard at all.  Frankly it is just here to tire the legs a bit and burn up some glycogen.  Next after a short rest you do 10 to 15k at marathon pace.  I generally do 10k.  In fact I couldn't imagine doing more than 12k but I have seen examples of people going as long as 15k.  Any which way you do it the first session is now done.  You will be tired but not broken.  A short cool down and it is time to wait for the PM session.  For athletes who really struggle with running out of glycogen in the marathon, i.e. hitting 'the wall' around 20 to 22 miles.  I have heard it suggested that you avoid carbs between the AM and PM session and only eat veggies.  I'm ok with that but have never myself done that.

  In the PM session you simply repeat the morning session.  As you warm up for the PM session you will be certain you can't possibly finish the session but you will be ok when you get into the hard efforts.  Profoundly fatigued yes but able to keep pushing on.  So you must keep pushing on.

  For athletes who still find they are not able to finish a marathon strongly you can eliminate the 10k at the slower pace and do 15k to 20k at marathon pace for the whole am and Pm session.  This is much tougher as the volume is similar to the regular workout but you are doing 3 to 6 more miles at marathon pace in place of the 10k at the much slower pace.  I'm not a great workout guy myself and I very much doubt I could do better than 15k at mp and repeat in the PM but again I have seen training logs of other athletes who have done 20k at mp in the am and than again in the PM.

  This workout is soul crushing.  You will have breathed heavier in workouts but you will not have been more tired at the end.  It will leave you tired for days.  However if you do respect it and allow yourself to fully recover you can make a breakthrough in your fitness with a session like this.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tempo Tuesday Marathon Specific Tempo Runs

  The thing that confuses me the most in this world is the misunderstanding of how to prep for a marathon that prevails in the United States.  I'm specifically talking on the elite level.  Internationally marathon training has been steadily evolving since the 1960s and best practices have come to the front. These best practices reached Kenya and Ethiopia around 2000 and the results of that have been a massive leap forward in what fast marathoning means.  Here you want to interject that the Kenyans were already the best marathoners in the world in the 1990s.  This is true but if you compare the times they were running than to now and the amount of winning they were doing it is quite clear their has been a major jump in their performances. Mean while the times in the shorter distances have remained fairly steady. Don't forget the world record through the 1990's and early 2000's was held mostly by a Brazilian and then a Moroccan who would become American. The 10th best Kenyan marathoner in 2014 ran 2:06:22, the 100th fastest performance was 2:09:45.  In 1998 the fastest Kenyan marathoner was 2:06:53, the 10th best was 2:08:52. The 100th fastest performance was 2:14:20. (All these stats are from ARRS )

  Thing is in the same time from you do not see a huge shift in overall running performance.  Now some of this is money there is less money on the track than in the 1990's but there was always huge financial incentive in the marathon.  The big change is how the athletes are preparing for the marathon. Yet here in the United States MOST, very important not ALL, people are not even preparing specifically for the marathon as well as Bill Squires had them preparing in the late 1970's and early 1980's when he represented probably the best marathon program in the world.  Since then other coaches have picked up the ball and moved it forward.  These changes mean for the well prepared athlete the marathon is no more a crapshoot than any other distance event.  Sure you can get sick or hurt on race day, just as you can for a 10k but if you are fit and properly prepared and not hurt or sick you should run well unless you do something incredibly stupid. However this is not the case.  Again and again I read about US athletes with really incredible PB's from 5k to half marathon blowing up in the final miles of the marathon to run very much slower than the 5% slowdown that should be about the average from their respective half marathon bests.  Why? The short answer is glycogen. The reason is they are not training in the way the best in the world are to teach their body to burn more fat at marathon pace so they do not run out of glycogen so that their marathon performance is limited by their aerobic fitness instead of fuel.

  In the late 1980's the US 10k record holder at the time Mark Nenow who had a 27:20 best and years of huge miles under his belt debuted in the marathon and only ran 2:14 and change.  After which he somewhat famously said 'I use to have no respect for a 2:14 marathoner now I am one' or something close to that.  Now at that time with the information available a consistent sub 28 guy blowing up in the marathon was an understandable thing.  Particularly when muscle fiber types are considered but in the US this same basic thing still happens again and again. Yet nearly every African star who moves up runs somewhere between well and great in their first go at the long race and then quickly ascends to the top of the world class heap.  This has not always been the case.  They too used to often crash and burn early in their careers and some would never develop into high class marathoners.

  So after my four paragraph intro why is this happening?  The shortest answer is specific workouts.  Most old school programs call for zero to 3 workouts in the two months before a marathon that are really focused on marathon paced running. This is for all but a very few athletes grossly inadequate.  They do not teach there body to burn more fat.  They feel strong for 18 to 22 miles and then suddenly their day is over and fight though they may they start running splits they normally only see on easy training jogs.  I can list athlete after athlete with fast 5k to half performance who has suffered this fate but the point is not to call out individuals but to address the problem whole sale.

  If you are not doing at least 6 to 8 marathon specific workouts during the two months prior to a marathon you are not training for a marathon and you are inviting glycogen depletion and failure.

  A marathon specific workout is not a workout run at half marathon pace. It is NO faster than 102% of marathon goal pace and no slower than 105% marathon pace.  Today I'll discuss two types of marathon specific workouts both of which fall into the category of the marathon specific tempo run.

  I will in this post and five additional separate posts on marathon specific long runs, marathon specific intervals, marathon specific blocks and marathon specific alternations , discuss all the types of marathon workouts that I am aware of and use but the marathon specific tempos are two types of marathon workouts that should be in your bag of tricks.

  The first type of marathon specific tempo run is the tempo run at marathon pace.  This workout shows up in many marathon programs.  Hansons very famously does a 16 mile or 26 kilometer run at marathon pace in their specific phase. This is wonderful but I can't tell you how many very serious runners I a talk to after a poor marathon who when we discuss their training it becomes clear that the only run they did at marathon pace was one 15 or 16 mile tempo at marathon pace.  One workout does not a successful race make!

  For some athletes this type of tempo makes of the vast majority of their specific work and they can be very successful.  Meb Keflezighi notably does pretty much a weekly marathon paced tempo of 10 to 18 miles as the corner stone of his prep for his marathons and do not be fooled by his comparatively slow personal best in the marathon.  Meb's career choices in the marathon were not the sort that put him in the fast races with any consistency and to think that a man who has nearly a dozen top 5 finishes at world marathon majors, wins in Boston and New York as well as a 4th place in the Olympics and an Olympic Silver medal to his name is anything but truly world class is a folly. Still for many athletes the specific tempo alone will not be enough to teach their body to burn fat over glycogen. Just as there are many ways our brains learn there are also many ways our bodies learn.

  Tips for success with marathon paced tempos.  The workout itself is very straight forward.  You run on a course as similar to your goal marathon course as possible at the pace you believe based on your other race performance and workouts is a reasonable goal marathon pace.  If you plan to attempt a slightly negative split in your marathon than you should attempt the same in these tempos.  I suggest starting fairly short in your base phase, say 6 to 8 miles, but even if you don't do this you should be running around 10 to 12 miles for these sessions during your specific phase.  The key with these is to always run the pace you want to run and to go as far as you can manage.  Each time you repeat the workout try to go further than the last time you did it. Ultimately getting to 16 to 18 miles.  As long as 20 is ok for people who are in a very low mileage program and therefore are working out quite fresh but some of those people may be able to push past 20 miles in a workout but this is a bad idea as you are likely to basically run your race in the workout and not really recover from it and find yourself over trained and exhausted on race day.

  The second type of marathon specific tempo is run at 5% slower than marathon speed for around the time or distance of the marathon.  So here you are focused on running very quickly for the full distance of the marathon.  This has three major impacts on your fitness.  First you show the body that you want the glycogen to last 26.2 miles or 2hours 20 minutes whatever it is.  Second you build specific muscular endurance for the marathon.  If the most your legs have ever run fast is 15 miles asking for another 11 on race day can lead to a catastrophic muscle failure.  The other cause of a something like that is if you run on very different terrain in training than what you race on. Third and finally these sessions build huge aerobic strength.

  As with the specific paced tempo I suggest you start some of this work in your base phase with shorter 12 to 20 mile runs at the pace and with full distance runs at slower paces starting with doing long runs of 20 miles plus at an easy effort and working down to as fast as 90% marathon speed by the start of your specific training phase.  Once in your specific phase I would not suggest more than one or two of these very long hard efforts. Though notably the Japanese often do many more than that.  It is also very uncommon for a Japanese marathoner to run a second marathon under 2:10 despite the fact that well over a 100 of them have done it once.  I'm not saying that is the only reason just that the Japanese in general are willing to work too hard. (Given my personal reputation you can imagine if I'm saying they may train too hard just how hard some of these guys are training)  This run is again a steady tempo run on terrain the same or slightly hillier than your goal race run at 95% of marathon pace.  For a goal of 2:15 (3:12 per Kilometer/ 5:09 per mile) take your goal time convert it to seconds- in either kilo or mile form- and multiply by 1.05 to get your pace in seconds. For those who don't remember middle school math this is how we find percent increase!) so for out 2:15 guy the goal pace is 3:21 per k or 5:23 per mile.

  The draw back to this session is recovery.  There is very little mechanical difference in your stride at 95% marathon pace and full marathon pace. This means it is a great specific muscular workout.  It also means there is very little difference between how beat up your legs are after this session and after a marathon.  You MUST recover well after this expect a few days of very light jogging and expect a reduced training load for 1 to 2 weeks after it.  Khalid Khannouchi regularly used long runs like this as part of his training and he would only do a long run every other weekend because they were so hard.

  Well now that you armed with two new marathon specific workouts I hope you will begin your transition to a new marathon runner one who need not fear the glycogen wall at 20 to 22 miles.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Training Blog January 19 to 25, 2015


AM 52:04 on Trails with Uta, bit icy, around 7.5 miles

PM 4.5 miles and strides with Melissa total 5+ miles

XT whartons, YTI


PM 4+ warm up with Melissa, strides, regular 10 loop doing 1min hard, 1min moderate.  Covered my regular 10 loop in 54:54.  The first mile was 5:56 the last mile was 5:18 total 14++

XT whartons, YTI


PM Regular 10, 67:08, no strides needed to go to bathroom! total 10

XT whartons, YTI


PM 2 mile warm up with Uta, 14mins, dropped her off and did strides. Moderate progression regular 10 loop, 54:43 (5:43, 5:41, 5:31, 5:21, 5:24, 5:34, 5:26, 5:25, 5:27, 5:07) felt super easy would have liked to go a bit faster over the last couple miles but I had to go to the bathroom really bad so it was what it was. tot. 12.5 or so.

XT whartons, YTI


AM Dale 5 solo, 35:37, tot. 5+

PM trail 52:02 with Uta, who was hammering! some ice but not bad. then 4 strides after tot. 8.5 miles or so

XT ankle drills, whartons, YTI


10AM at Ruben's Gym. 3+ warm up 22mins, switch shirts and do whartons. then 0.5 miles back on the treadmill in 4 minutes. Then 4 miles at 5:18 pace, 1/2 mile in 2:55, 3 miles at 5:12pace, 1/2 mile at 2:55, 2.5 miles 5:10 pace, 1/2 mile 2:55, 1/2 mile at 2:55, 2 miles at 5:07 pace, 1/2 mile at 2:55, 1 mile at 5:04, 1/2 mile at 2:52, 1/2 mile starting at 4:49 pace working down to 4:40 pace.  total of 15.5 miles in 1:22:16 (5:18.5 pace including rests) I felt really good on the last rep like there was no limit to how fast I could go making me think I was not aggressive enough with the early paces.  as always the treadmill was set to 1% incline. total 19+ miles

XT ankle drills, whartons


AM road 7.8 miles solo, roads bit sloppy but not bad, 51:10, tot. 8-

PM 5mins on some shitty touch screen treadmill waiting for curves to open up. Then 40mins on curve with 4 strides mixed in to the last 5 mins. total.  On the curve I averaged about 6:35 pace.  I have come to believe that your aerobic effort on the curve is about 1min per mile faster than the pace.  So this would be 5:35 AEROBIC effort.  Now I wouldn't go out and run 5:30 pace the day after a hard workout but that is because the legs get pounded. On the curve the push off is sort of a longer slower thing.  Tough to describe.  Anyway I think of it as an added bonus to how it helps with my shoulder positioning and posture. total a bit more than 7 miles

XT wharton, YTI, 10 pull ups on assisted machine


96 miles for the week.  struggled getting to bed early enough to get up a 5 for the morning runs.  Strides most days which by winter standards were pretty good.  Two very nice moderate 10 mile workouts and one very nice special phase marathon workout.  All told more than 36 miles this week under 5:30 pace. Taking that a step further if you look at the 7 days from last Sunday through this Saturday I did more than 66 miles of work at 5:45 per mile or better.  I'm starting to feel very strong and I'm getting very excited about the marathon prep.  The coordination is still a work in progress but I'm steadily working along and I feel good about it. 
  I get a bit of a fitness test next weekend at the Super Sunday 5 mile.  I'm not sure what to expect.  I ran 24:22 last year, totally solo.  I was actually pretty fit and I think if I hadn't had a bit of a cold that week that kicked my ass I would have had a shot at 24 flat or better.  I'm feeling super fit right now but I have done very little quicker work.  I do the mona every other week and I did the 1min fartlek this week.  I could see myself really struggling to get comfortable under 5:00 pace and running mid 24's or worse and feeling like I could do it again a few minutes later.  On the other hand If I have done enough strides and quick stuff to get comfortable at a quicker rhythm I am so strong I could really see a good time.  I have a lifetime best of 23:26 as much as I would love to get that I very much doubt I'm in shape to do that in a rust buster. However I have only run under 24 a couple of times and I would really like to slip under that mark.
  I have two races planned for February.  The Super Sunday 5 mile this weekend and the USATF-NE 10 mile toward the end of the month.  If they go just ok I plan on running the New Bedford Half marathon which is fast by New England standards but has a couple tough hills and if you get a head wind from 6.5 miles to 9.5 miles, which are perfectly flat, the course is pretty slow.  If you don't get that  head wind it is a pretty quick but it is a bit of a roll of the dice.  It is a good course to tune up for Boston.  However if I run very well at either Super Sunday or the 10 mile or both I will likely try to go to the Shamrock Half  marathon in Virginia beach which is really very fast.  I like the idea of going down there because my half marathon pb is weak and the 1:05 half marathon b standard for the trials is very doable so on a quick course I could knock out one or both of those goals. 
  So that is where I'm at right now.  Hope you are doing well and avoiding the flu and other winter issues!

Sunday Long Run "The Rothlin"

Viktor Rothlin was the top non-african at the 2008 Olympic Marathon where he placed 5th.  A very interesting athlete who had his first success in the marathon and never had much success in the shorter distances but who steadily improved over the 2000's and eventually won the Tokyo Marathon in a then course record of 2:07:23 and won a bronze Medal at the 2007 World Championships.  A look at his PR's also high lights why he appealed to a guy like me who lacks speed.  Viktor's bests 3000m-8:00, 5000m 13:40, 10000m 28:22, half marathon 1:02:15.  All good times for sure but none that would have come close to ranked in the top 10 in the USA last year.  In fact the 3k and 5k times would generally not rate in the top 30 or 40 in the USA.  Yet he pretty routinely ran under 2:09 in the marathon and medaled at a world championship.

  Vicktor was also one of the early athletes to be pretty active in posting some of his training and information online and it was striking even early on before he was a world class player to see how it was different from what the people I had read about before or knew personally or by connection were doing.  Like Canova's stuff it was more involved.  There were tons of specific workouts and longer workouts.  It seemed in comparison the athletes I was aware of were just running a lot and hopping it worked out.  Rothlin and the athletes coached by Canova seemed to me to be TRAINING not just running.

  This particular workout is one that appeared very regularly in Rothlin's training.  It is usable in the base or specific phase of marathon prep and is also a great workout for anyone who is looking to get very strong for 5k to half marathon.  I generally use it as base phase marathon workout.

  What it is.  This is a long run in two parts.  First you run 20 to 25 miles.  Rothlin generally did 40 kilometers, which is just shy of 25 miles.  You run this part at about 80% of marathon pace, for non-marathoners that is about 60% of 5k pace.  To find this pace you find percent increase on pace.  For example if your marathon pace is 6:00 per mile you find out how many seconds that is (6x60=360) and multiply that number by 1.2 to find a pace 20% slower than marathon pace (360x1.2=432) Then convert back to minutes and seconds by dividing by 60, no calculators on this last step because you want the remainder that is the number of seconds a decimal answer will just be confusing as shit. (432/60= 7:12 per mile).  A person using their 5k time would go through the same system just using 1.4 in place of 1.2 and 5k pace in place of marathon pace.

  You will find this pace is not very hard.  It is basically on the quick end of what your normal training pace is if you run high mileage and middle range for low mileage runners.

  The second part of this session is where you get tough.  You do either 10x1k repeats with 2mins rest. Or 5x2k with 3 mins rest.  The rest is nice and long but honestly it isn't your breathing you'll have trouble with at this point, it is your exhausted legs and the kind of rest you need for them involves a good nights sleep.  You run these repeats at half marathon to marathon goal pace so they are not very fast but it is 10k of volume after you have already run in excess of 20 miles so you will end up with over 30 miles for the session and you will be doing some very fast running at the end.

  What is does.  This session will teach your body that you want and expect it to produce fast running after it is very exhausted and after it has expended a huge amount of glycogen.  It is likely your body will learn to burn less glycogen at your rep speed as it will be in a bit of a crisis state after the long run part and will be naturally trying to conserve as much as possible.  It also builds great aerobic strength.  When you are as tired as you are after a 20 to 25 mile run at a decent pace you are basically not able to push your body to a super anaerobic state so you end up having to run these reps with aerobic power. This is GREAT because you can't 'force through a session that is too fast by leaving the target range of effort and getting super anaerobic.

  Can you do this with a shorter run before the reps or with less reps.  Say 5x1k or 3x2k?  Yes to both.  Particularly as a half marathon workout or a tough long run for college runners targeting a cross country 10k.  Running 10 to 15 miles and then doing the reps can be great.  Is the session going to help you for the marathon in that form?  Not directly but certainly it could be done like that early in a phase to build to a full session and other marathon specific sessions.

  Obviously this workout isn't for everybody, it is pretty rough, but it is a great session and a nice build up to the Kenny Moore long run that I'll write a post on in the future.  So if you are fit enough to do this and would like to be fitter be bold and give this one a go.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fartlek Friday 1/1 fartlek or 'Kenyan Standard'

  This weeks fartlek friday is one of my favorite general fitness and/or half marathon workouts.  I call it the 'Kenyan Standard' because it seems every time I read a training log from a Kenyan or someone who has been training in Kenya or read an article about someones training in kenyan they invariable at some point do this fartlek or something very close.

  This fartlek is the definition of simple but don't mistake that for easy.  When you get to where you can knock this one out and just keep your training rolling like it was just another normal workout you are getting into mean shape.

  What it is 1 hour, give or take of 1min hard, 1 min steady, which I would say is on the quick end of your normal training pace or a bit quicker.  This means you are going to do 30 mins of hard running and with full one minute recoveries a strong runner will often end up running 5k pace or even faster for those one minute reps, particularly if you do a session like this regularly.  This builds enormous muscular endurance.  If your not sure why you need that or what its impact on your racing is I want you to think of high level 10k or half marathon you have scene or read about where the big guns drop some crazy fast last mile.  I'm not talking about the flying last lap, though that is part of it too, but I'm talking about someone dropping a 4:20 for the 13th mile of a half marathon.  To have that pop when you are TIRED is to have max muscular endurance.

  Because the rests are run relatively quickly you also are going to have a pretty quick pace and by extension get in a moderate long tempo as well.  Based on how I have run 52 to 54 mins for 10 miles like this on flat course I can imagine that some of the top guys could cover close to 20k in a session like this, which would be a 4:50 mile average.

  Now you don't need to be that fast to take advantage of this session but you had best be used to long hard workouts.  If your normal workout is 12x400 and you go out and jump into a session like this and you will wish your mama never met your father the next morning!

  This session is for the endurance minded athlete it works great as a half marathon workout as an endurance bent 10k workout or as a workout to maintain general fitness during marathon training.

  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Throwback Thursday My 2nd First 5000m

In college I spent much of my time injured.  As such my development was slowed, both in terms of my fitness and in my learning about running and racing.  So it was that on the Umass Lowell spring break track trip my Junior year to San Diego I was set to run only my 3rd track 5000m.

  This trip was a great time and as any New Englander will tell you the chance to get away to warm sunny weather in the late winter feels like a new birth just when you are ready to give up.  It was a wonderful week but as I approached the 5000m I was racing that weekend I was even more focused and concerned than usual.

  I had been healthy for my longest stretch in a few years and I was feeling fit.  I had super high goals for the spring season we were about to start.  These out of touch goals had run into a road bump as George Davis, the long time Umass Lowell coach, had laid down the law.  I was going to run this 5000m smart and by his rules.  If not I was going to get kicked off the team.  Now George kicked guys off the team pretty regularly and he would usually let you back the next season but as a guy who was rarely healthy I couldn't afford to lose a season just now that I was getting healthy.

  Now before you get thinking good old George was out of line you need to understand I am not the most coachable guy and back in my youth I lacked the self control to keep my objections to myself and think about something for a bit.  I was a know it all and ready to tell everyone.  George also felt, pretty much correctly, that my stubbornness was the reason for my injuries.  I think he saw this race as a chance to take control of my training and get me to start listening to him.

  Whatever the reasons the rules had been set.  I had a 15:40 track 5k best and I was going to try and break that but I wasn't going to go out and try to run the 14:35 I wanted to go after.  It was made very clear the first two miles would be no faster than 5:00.  When I pushed for some flexibility the response was "if you got through the mile in 4:59 you best enjoy the rest of your race because it will be your last one in college."

  Now I have one heck of a good sense of pace but I played it safe and hit the mile in 5:02.  I was pissed.  Conditions were perfect and two guys had blasted out in 4:40, the pace I wanted to be running!  Here I was stuck jogging 5min pace.  Every race I had ever run to that point was a test of will from the gun.  In my real first 5k I had hit 800 in 2:17 and the mile in 4:38 en route to a 15:40 you can imagine how bad some of those final laps were!

  I still felt strong and easy, I was breathing heavier sure but this was no acid bath of pain, as I hit 2 miles in 10:02.  I took off like I was shot from a gun desperate to get as much 'lost time back as I possibly could.  Soon the familiar acid was coursing through my veins but there was something new… A strength, a feeling of power and speed.  Instead of fighting to stay on my feet I was driving to the finish.  It was exhilarating.

  Still I was not running nearly as fast as I thought I would.  I ran a bit under 4:50 for the third mile and set a large PB of 15:22 but I had not run close to the 4:40 pace I had thought I could hold the whole way even off the much slower 5:00 per mile start.

  Instantly, even before my vision had come back following those last acid soaked laps, I knew what George had been saying was true.  When you go out too fast in a race and you fail all you really learn is that you aren't ready to go that fast.  You don't know what speed you could go.  However if you go out a bit too slowly you can look at your speed in the late stages of the race and see very clearly about what you could run in a perfectly paced race.  You also tend to finish much closer to your best possible time then if you crash and burn.

  I also had learned a lesson that was for my future development much more important.  George was smarter than me.  I should listen to him.  Was he infallible? No of course not but was he a great coach who could teach me if only I let him? Absolutely. It was time to stop being a thick skulled ass and to open my mind.

  This later lesson would be invaluable over my running career.  Not just in how it pertained to George. But how it pertained to running in general.  I learned to look to all those who had ideas.  To TRY new things and see if they have merit.  There is no need to do everything you are told but you should give everything some play.  You should never discount an idea out of hand particularly if it comes from a source that has had some success.

  This was not the first thing I learnt from George.  It wouldn't be the last thing but this lesson may have been the most important that I received from him.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Workout Wednesday 400/400 Alternations

  I have talked on here about a few types of alternations.  If it isn't clear yet they are my favorite type of workout by far.  They are the best of both world option that takes the best bits of tempo runs and intervals and meld them into a one amazing session.  Perhaps more importantly though is you learn to recover at a fast pace.  I don't know why but recovering at a quick pace is the one thing I have found that leads to the biggest improvements in fitness.

  This specific workout is a great introduction to alternations.  It is simple.  It is adaptable and it is hugely effective. It can be done off the track but I would say it is easiest to complete it on the track. Like alterations sessions it is a continuous run.  The main measure of the session is how fast your average pace is.

  The how..  Run 400m at a faster interval pace.  How fast can vary and we'll get to that. Then run 400m at a slightly slower pace.  Keep this up until you can't go no more.  Focus on two things.  First on relaxing while running the fast rep.  If you work to hard on the interval your day will be over very quickly.  Next focus on being as smooth and relaxed as possible on your recovery 400m while still hitting your pace.  Work too hard on the rest and again your day will be over very quickly.

  The distance.  Well in short as far as you can go.  Now how far you try to go should depend on your goal race.  If you are trying to get ready for a 5k you should only be doing 1 to 2 miles of these, rest included.  Aiming for a 10k then only 3 to 4 miles of these. Half marathon 6 to 8 miles. Marathon 10 to 13 miles.  Each time you aim to average around your goal race pace.

  Now how much faster and slower than pace should your effort and recover be respectively. This depends on what kind of runner you are.  If you are the kind of runner who can really fly on intervals easily you should start with faster reps and slower rests.  You could have a range of 15 to 20 seconds.  So let us say you were planning on a goal race pace of 6:00 per mile, 90 seconds per 400m. Then you could do reps as fast as 80 seconds and recover at 1:40.  For runners with less basic speed  you should try to have about 10 seconds between your fast and slow reps.  I often refer to this session as 70/80. This is because I like to run my fast laps in 70 seconds and recoveries in 80 seconds.  The tight range really forces you to recover at a very quick pace and this will enable you to recover and salvage races where you go out to fast but more importantly it will enable you to stay in control at a quick pace well into a race putting you in a position to make a long killing drive to the finish.

  If you haven't tried this type of workout it is high time you did and this one is a great entry point because it isn't a mentally challenging as some of the other type of alterations..  If you have been doing them for a time then you should try this one in a few different varieties. You will love it!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Official Return to the Marathon Announcement

  Drum roll please. I finally bought into my own recovery whole hog and begged my way into an elite marathon field.  It  has been nearly a decade since my last solid marathon, November 2007, so there was no guarantee anyone would let me in their race and there is also no need for me to coordinate this announcement with the race or any one else.  In short it is just me having fun pretending to be a pro.

  I will be racing the 2015 BAA Boston marathon on April 20th.

  I have never raced Boston though I have run the course a ton of times and actually lived just past the 21 mile mark for about 6 months.  The timing of the race couldn't be better and given that I haven't run a marathon since 2009 I was super grateful that they let me into the field.  Also my regular training partner of late Ruben Sanca is returning to Boston this year so we can prep on the course together and hopefully work together in the race.  That said it is not a race without concerns for me.  Boston with a tail wind is as fast as Berlin or Rotterdam but a tailwind and cool weather combine only about once every 10 years on average so the likely hood of that is slim.  In normal conditions the course is fair but not fast by world class standards and you can expect it to be a drag of 1 to 3 minutes in comparison to a very fast course, again i.e. Berlin, Rotterdam etc..  Also conditions can be very very challenging.  Very high temps or strong headwinds can make the course very slow.  This means my goals for the race will have to be not solely time based. I really want to run fast so I am hoping for good to great conditions but I feel more robust conditions improve my chances of finishing higher up in the field.

  What are my goals for the race?  At this point I'm not 100% sure.  I am currently viewing 3:10 to 3:12 per kilometer in perfect conditions at my goal marathon pace.  That is 2:13:37 to 2:15:00.  For comparison going into the olympic trials I would have targeted 3:06 to 3:07 per k as perfect flat course goal pace.  I lost about a minute to a minute 30 over the last 7 miles of that race to limping with my coordination issue but had that not happened I would have run a time for that rolling course that I would consider equivalent to running 3:06/07 pace on a very fast course.  In short I would argue the trials course was about 2mins slower than a real screamer of a course and most of the top runners comparable performance bear that out.

  On the upside from that goal I have not done any of the long work I'm currently doing over the last oh 5 or 6 years and I'm seeing very significant and very quick jumps in my fitness so I could see adjusting that goal pace down as I get to the specific phase.  If I make this jump it could work out incredibly well as with Fernando Cabada, Nick Arciniaga and Jeffery Eggleston in the field this could create a very rare chance to get in a good group running 2:10 to 2:11 pace if I'm fit enough to go for that sort of time.

  On the downside the conditions may be such that my goal pace needs to be much slower on race day regardless of fitness.  Also I'm not sure what kind of group I'll have to run with in that sort of no mans land.  Many of the 2:12 to 2:18 set will likely run LA as it is the USATF championship this year and with the Americans currently in the field likely to be out at 2:09 to 2:11 pace and the lead either running tactically at the same pace or running something much faster it is possible a pack behind that pace is going to be slim pickings.  Now there is a great group of young locals who have run in the 2:17 range some of whom may be running Boston and depth in the US is really coming back so it is quite possible these type of guys many of whom have already achieved B standards either in a marathon or half marathon may be going out more aggressively in search of an A standard 2:15 or better and that could create a nice group but at this moment I don't know.

  My final concern is that my mileage now is much lower than when I was previously training for marathons.  Given my lifetime base I do not fear this will hurt my conditioning but I do have concerns that I may not be as tired doing workouts as I was when I was doing them off 140 plus miles a week now that I'm running more like the low 100's.  This could mean that workouts that off 140 indicated fitness to run say 2:15 only indicate fitness to run 2:17 now.  More objectively I actually think I'm more tired now because of a full time job and family commitments but that doesn't stop me from considering this as a possible complicating factor.

  So on this day, Monday January 19, 13 weeks out from the Boston Marathon I feel that if I can run either 2:15 or better OR finish in the top 15 runners I should be thrilled at this stage of my comeback, while working full time and not being a spring chicken anymore. Those goals may change a good bit in the coming months but right now that is where my head is at.

 Now there will be some family pressure to do better. Melissa's grandfather Tony Sapienza finished 4th in the 1958 Boston Marathon and was also working as a teacher at the time.  I have tried to explain the sport has gone professional since then but basically Melissa qualifies that as whining and not having a positive outlook.  She says she will settle for me winning enough money to buy a woodway curve, which would take one hell of a run.  Uta thinks I should win because she always wins and I should follow her example.  So we'll have to see how things go and if I wilt under the pressure.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Training for January 12 to 18, 2015


PM 2.5 miles warm up with Uta, the dog, strides, started what was supposed to be 90mins at 5:50 to 6:00 pace but as I was coming up on 30mins the temp dropped and the roads went from wet to ice.  I have been on icy roads many times but I have never had them ice under my feet like that.  I could still run, I have good balance, but I couldn't run 6:00 pace, I said I have good balance not that I was a freaking ice hockey star or ballerina! I decided to run straight home as some of the cars were sliding and round and getting hit by an out of control mercedes is not high on my to do list. so after 5 miles in 29:30 I ran the next 4 miles at about 7 min pace.  Total 12 miles

XT ankle drills, whartons, YTI

This is Uta back in the summer


AM solo 4 miles 29:10, very cold a little too cold for Uta, total 4

PM road 9, first 4 with Uta in 28:30, rest solo, 1:00:33, followed by strides tot. 10

XT whartons, YTI


PM on treadmills with Ruben, don't judge it was cold and dark and I'm pretty sure Wolves are repopulating the greater Merrimack valley.  25mins steady on 'mill 4 1/4 miles, bathroom trip and some whartons,  back on 'mill for 3/4 a mile at 6min pace and then did 6x1.5 miles at marathon pace(5:07) with half mile recoveries at 5:56, covered 11.5 miles in 60:40 (5:16) pace 2 mile cool down easy. (as an aside I always put the mill at 1%) total 19.5 miles

XT whartons, YTI


AM dale 4 solo, 29:57, tot. 4

PM road and trial 55mins with Uta, light snow, footing in woods was ok, Uta gets really charged up for this so I was just doing my best to keep up and not fall on my face, tot. 8++

XT whartons, Ankle drills, YTI


PM 4.5 miles with Uta on trails, lets say this was more than a little faster than I generally warm up. dropped her off, bathroom, 1.5 more miles solo, strides.  Then started what was supposed to be a Moneghetti fartlek(2x90s, 4x60s, 4x30s, 4x15s with equal rest run quickly) at 11:47 I forced to make an unplanned jump in the woods, 2mins in there to the second- I didn't stop the watch, then going again I accidentally added an extra minute rep when I got into the 30second reps I realized what I had done and made up for it by dropping two 30 second reps.  When I was running I averaged about 5:08 pace. I wasn't hurting that bad I just couldn't make myself go, not surprising two days after Wednesdays session. 2 mile cool down tot. 12+

XT YTI, whartons


AM on curve treadmill (manual) 45mins steady, 6.76 miles, then 4 strides with 1min after each for 5 more minutes running. total 7.55 miles 

PM 48mins on trails with Uta, getting a bit icy but that did not slow Uta one bit.  I had one run in with a tree but other than that it was good.  We covered a bit under 8 miles but the effort was certainly better than 6:00 pace.  That dog loves her trails! tot. 7.5+ 

XT ankle drills, whartons, YTI, pull ups on assisted machine- I know weak sauce but I still can't do pull ups. It is embarrassing but what can you do I'm still a work in progress. 


AM early with Ruben. Out and back on roads from my place in North Andover out to Haverhill, not much for flat running but able to keep it to rolling hills much easier than last weekends course. Plan was first hour at 80%mp (6:00 to 6:10) then 30mins faster then 30mins faster than that.  We just ran by feel and it was a great run.  We talked the whole way but both admitted the legs were getting tired at about 17 miles.  We stopped at 20 miles in 1:55:02

As you can see much faster than last weeks long run but it actually was a much easier effort.  Weather was much warmer and the hills were much more rolling versus ass kicking last weekend. In terms of coordination I was fighting to hold the shoulders back in the last couple miles but not before than which is a huge improvement over two weeks ago when I was really working hard on holding my shit together from 8 or 9 miles on.   total 20 miles


104 miles for week. Three good sessions and one aborted one thanks to New England weather.  Very happy with this week.  The two sessions that really mattered, the mp session which was supposed to be 6x7mins at mp with 3mins at 6:00 fartlek but because of ice and cold and dark we changed to a treadmill session and the long run went really well.  It is very early but the strength is improving a ton week to week and my coordination continues to march forward.  Not that I don't have moments of struggle and my shoulders and thoracic area are still weak as you can see with the pull ups but I'm really feeling myself getting in the groove.  What makes me excited about this is that I still have time on my side before I am actually racing a marathon. 
 Speaking of which I finally pulled the trigger and I will be announcing my marathon tomorrow.  This will be a very ghetto fabulous announcement as it has been the better part of a decade since I ran a decent marathon so the only person making or caring about said announcement is me but I like pretending I'm still a pro so tomorrow will be marathon announcement day!
  Hope you had a good week!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Long Run Basics

   The long run is one of the standards of almost any running program and like intervals there are an infinite number of ways you can adapt it for your current needs.  I am in no way trying to cover all the possible long runs here but instead I want to put some basic info on how you can use them, how long they should be, how often you should use them, what you can expect to improve by doing them.

  The long run is a very subjective thing.  For me my normal recovery run is 20 kilometers, about twelve and a half miles.  For my wife a 12 mile run is certainly a very long run and she treats it as such in her training cycle.  It is important to remember that all training is relative.  Heck even miles don't mean the same thing to different people.  Frank Shorter famously did a weekly long run of 20 miles or two hours, whichever came first which was almost always the 20 miles.  Most runners I have coached couldn't imagine running 20 miles in 2 hours.  You just can't convince me that running 20 miles in 2 hours is the same as running 20 miles in 4 or 5 hours.  Frank Shorter did not wake up Monday morning nearly as beat up after his 1:58 20 miler the day before as John or Jane Jogger is going to after a 4 hour 20 mile run. Just the extra time on the feet has a huge impact on the difficulty of the task and the amount of time you can expect it to take to recover from it.

So what is a long run? For me I consider the long run to be the longest run you do in a micro cycle, for most people a week.  This means I put no preconceived notion that a long run must be at least 5 or 10 or 20 miles.  A long run is a run that is longer than your normal training distance.  So for me today that is say more than 18 miles or so.  For me at age 16 that was 7 miles or more.  It all depends on where you are now.

  So how long should your long run be?  That depends most directly on two factors what event you are training for and what your current weekly mileage is.  If your goal event is not a marathon than you should keep your normal long run to around 20% of your weekly mileage.  These means unless you are running around 100 miles a week you shouldn't be knocking out the famous weekly 20 mile long run.  Remember the same folks who made that famous ran 13 times a week and well over 100 miles a week. It is folly not to adapt 1 part of a training program but adapt all the others. If you run half as often, 6 to 7 times a week and half as much, 50 to 60 miles a week it makes sense your long run would be half as long.

 For the high school student and weekend road warrior focused on 5k and 10k races who is running 40 miles a week you are looking at a long run of only about 8 miles.  Does this mean that you can never run further than 8 miles?  No it just means you are probably putting too much emphasis on your long run as part of the training cycle if you are knocking off a 12 to 15 mile run every weekend and that it is likely taking away from your training.  One of my least favorite quotes in running is "long slow miles makes long slow runners" but like all oversimplifications it has a grain of truth to it.  If you put too much effort into running long and slow when you goal is to run a quick 5k you are not going to be happy with the results.

Now if you are focused on the marathon you can push the long run out to about 25% of your weekly miles.  So for the adult looking to run a marathon on about 40 miles a week you can get out and do 10 miles for your regular long run each week.  Again this does not mean you should never go longer but outside of the marathon specific phase, which I'll cover in a marathon specific long run blog, you shouldn't be regularly exceeding that distance by very much.

  How often?  I mean if you plan your training weekly you inherently are going to have a long run every week.  One run has to be your longest.  That said I don't think you need to make a place to do a run of 20 to 25% your total volume every week of the year if you are getting ready for 5k to 10k races. Too often it is seen as a fall back and a standard of training.  "I need my weekly long run"  To which I reply why?  If you reply I need it because so and so does it or that is what runners do.  Well than no.  If you reply I need it because I'm in my base phase and/or I'm trying to greatly improve my aerobic endurance right now than yes right you are get off your butt and grind that sucker out!

Remember you should always have a reason for your training.  I spent years unable to run more than 15 or so miles at a time, less than 15% of my weekly mileage, because of a nerve issue in one of my legs and I ran most of my pr's from 800m to 10k in this period without any long runs.  Could I have run faster with long runs?  Yes. Would it have made me massively faster over 5k or 10k? No.  There are in fact other workouts I would have much rather been able to do than a weekly 22 mile at moderate effort.

  Now that said at that point in my running career I had years and years of high mileage and long runs under my belt and I do think that those workouts done years before my best racing had an impact getting me to that level.  If I had been unable to long runs from the start of my running career do I think I would have run as fast as I have at this point for 800m to 10k? Absolutely not and that ignores the events that it would help the most the longer races.  Which brings us to…

Why do long runs?  When we talk about long run workouts, i.e. long progressions, long tempos, specific marathon workouts, semi specific long marathon tempos etc… they are workouts with very specific fitness gains but when we talk about the just go out and run for 2 to 3 hours at a moderate effort what you are doing is building basic endurance.  This can be a finite area to improve in but it is an area that almost all runners could use to improve.  Long runs can be replaced with generally high mileage but I honestly feel when you are in the stage of your running where you are trying to build up your basic endurance,  I'm talking to you high school and college runners as well as post grads who haven't run say 25,000 miles in your lifetime yet, a good long run can in one day do as much to improve your general endurance as a full week of mileage without a long run.

Now if you are past that level and have a well built endurance base the moderate long runs need only be done here or there when you aren't doing long workouts to maintain aerobic fitness and muscular endurance but it really shouldn't be a focus.  If however you are still a developing runner who hasn't banged out years of big miles regular long runs can be a key tool to quickening your aerobic development towards its full potential.  Since real success in running is most directly tied to your aerobic ability that makes it a pretty powerful tool.