Coach Joey's Corner: Being Realistic

Training Update 4/8 to 4/14

Monday

o   AM: 30 min alter G run at 60% body weight, 4.1 miles

o   PM: Pool run—60 min easy-ish

Tuesday

o   AM: 35 min bike

o   PM: Pool run—10 min warmup, 16 x 90 sec hard/60 sec easy, 15 min cooldown

Wednesday

o   AM: 30 min alter g at 65% body weight, 4.1 miles

o   PM: Pool run—60 min progression

Thursday

o   AM: 30 min bike

o   PM: 50 min bike

Friday

o   AM: Alter G workout at 60%: 12 min warmup, 10 x 2 min hard/2 min easy, 10 min cooldown

o   PM: 40 min bike

Saturday

o   AM: 75ish min outdoor bike

o   PM: off

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 65ish min outdoor bike

Some Thoughts

On Monday I got another x-ray and then saw the doctor again on Wednesday. The xray showed some new bone formation at the second metatarsal, which suggests that there was a stress fracture that is now healing. Based on her exam, my doctor thinks it’s about 80% there. I’m still walking around in a boot and slowly ramping up the alter g intensity and body weight percentage.

This Friday I tried a workout on the alter g. It went fairly well and my foot did ok, although it may have been slightly irritated for the rest of that day. I was pretty cautious with the pace, but aerobically it felt ok. Unfortunately, my legs are still pretty sore 3 days later! Hopefully they start to bounce back quickly.

Being Realistic

This morning I came into work thinking I’d have the Boston Marathon up on one screen, write this blog post on the other screen, and somehow get some work done in between. Of all those things, I managed to watch the Boston Marathon. Given that it was pretty exciting, I don’t feel so bad about that!

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This photo was definitely stolen from the Boston Athletic Association. Poor Lelisa…

The problem with my plan for this morning, like Dathan Ritzenhein’s plans to win Boston (that’s kinda mean, I’m just kidding!!!), and Newman’s love for Elaine on Seinfeld, is that it was completely unrealistic. And now here I am scrambling to get this done before a 2pm meeting and starting my actual work at 3pm. It’s going to be a long day.

Unfortunately, many people set unrealistic goals with their running, and I’ve definitely done this as well. The problem with unrealistic goals is two fold. First, you’re likely to be disappointed. Disappointment is not fun, and eventually running becomes not fun, and then you end up not wanting to run very much. And that’s no fun.

The second is that your unrealistic goals are likely to translate to unrealistic training plans. Instead of focusing on things like consistency, learning to settle at faster paces, and recovering well, you may try to overdo it with the intensity and neglect all the other important components of a good training program.

It’s tempting to be overly optimistic in this age of social media status updates because people will egg you on and “encourage” you along. And nobody likes a realist who focuses on the next tangible step. But consistently taking the next step, small as it may be, will ultimately allow you to complete the marathon of life.

And with that cheesy sentence I think it’s time to call it on this post. Besides, it’s almost 2pm 😊.

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Please enjoy this creepy picture of Newman and Elaine.

Coach Joey's Corner: Ramble On

Training Update 4/1 to 4/7

Monday

o   AM: 45 min bike

o   PM: Pool run—20 min easy, 20 x 30 sec stride with 1 min easy in between, 20 min easy

Tuesday

o   AM: 30 min alter G run at 50% body weight, 4.1 miles

o   PM: Pool run—10 min warmup, 15 min steady, 3 min easy, 10 min hard, 3 min easy, 5 min very hard, 10 min cooldown

Wednesday

o   AM: 75 min bike

o   PM: off

Thursday

o   AM: 30 min Alter G running at 55% body weight, 4.1 miles

o   PM: Pool run—15 min warmup, 10 x 2 min on/1 min off, 15 min cooldown

Friday

o   AM: 45 min bike

o   PM: Pool run—40 min easy

Saturday

o   AM: 30 min Alter G run at 55% body weight, 4.1 miles

o   PM: Pool run—15 min warmup, 4 x 12 min hard with 3 min easy in between, 10 min cooldown

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 60 min bike

Some Thoughts



tenor.gif

Another solid week of cross training with some more alter G running. The foot is very slowly getting better, and an alter G run at 60% this morning felt almost totally fine. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we can mix in some running on the road.

At this point I’m not really holding out hope for any races or having any concrete expectations for the immediate future. I’ll continue to train hard in whatever form that may be and focus on transitioning back to running. I feel like I’m in decent shape, but I’m not sure how that will translate to running-specific fitness.

When I first got the stress fracture, I was a little bit devastated. It felt like my dreams were being (stress) fractured. I also really questioned whether or not I’d have the motivation to cross train very hard. So I’m pretty pleased with how much work I’ve put in the last few weeks.

The difficulty with cross training is that it’s objectively much harder than running in every sense of the word. First, you can have harder days more often with something like pool running, since there’s no impact that your muscles need to recover from. It’s also very boring, which is mentally taxing—you’re stuck on a machine or moving at 0.5mph in the pool. But even though it’s definitely still boring and tough to do every day, I’ve managed to get somewhat into the routine of it, and putting in all the exercise definitely keeps me feeling good.

I’ve always thought (and still do think) that any good running program should be sustainable. One thing that helps is keeping 4-5 days a week easy. Add in some company and it’s really just a social hour (or two) each day. A couple workouts a week, especially if they’re only moderately difficult—the best type of workout!—is also quite sustainable. Sustainable training allows you to be consistent, which allows you to keep improving. And this refers to both mental and physical sustainability. But if a mentally weak person like me can put in all this boring cross training, perhaps the mental component is very adaptable.

Still, I’m very much looking forward to getting my daily social hour back.

Coach Joey's Corner: Alter G and Marathon Trials

Training Update 3/25 to 3/31

Monday

o   AM: 40 min bike

o   PM: Pool run—10 min warmup, 12 x 3 min hard with 90 sec easy recovery, 12 min cooldown

Tuesday

o   AM: 70 min outdoor bike

o   PM: Pool run—40 min easy

Wednesday

o   AM: 40 min bike

o   PM: 11 min warmup, 25 x 1 min hard/1 min easy, 11 min cooldown

Thursday

o   AM: 30 min Alter G running at 70% body weight

o   PM: Pool run—67 min easy

Friday

o   AM: 49 min outdoor bike

o   PM: 45 min elliptical

Saturday

o   AM: 30 min Alter G run at 50% body weight

o   PM: Pool run—13 min warmup, 8 x 5 min hard/1min easy, 11 min cooldown

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 60 min elliptical

Some Thoughts

Another week of cross training in the books. Since this injury is taking longer to recover from than I’d hoped, I’ve scrapped the “tentative racing schedule”. I’m not sure I’ll be ready to come back for a spring marathon. Right now, the goal is to just keep grinding through the cross training and slowly transition into running.

To that end, and with the guidance of my sports medicine doctor, I’ve started to incorporate some running on an Alter G treadmill—a contraption that allows you to run at a percentage of your body weight, thus lessening the impact. I tried 30 min at 70% on Thursday, which seemed to bug the foot, and then 30 min at 50% on Saturday, which wasn’t perfect but was acceptable. I’ll try that again tomorrow.

Here’s what an Alter G looks like.

Here’s what an Alter G looks like.

In last week’s post, I talked about running for post-collegiate athletes. Specifically, I addressed some of the barriers that keep good collegiate runners from continuing to train after college. One of those barriers is a lack of goals, with the exception of the Olympic Trails in the marathon. So today I’ll talk about that.

The US Olympic Marathon Team Trials

In general, each country at the Olympics can have three representatives per Track & Field event (the marathon is part of T&F). To select its “team”, the US Association of Track & Field hosts the Olympic Trials. The Olympic Trials consists of a track meet held a couple of months before the Olympics, plus a marathon held ~6 months before the Olympics. The top 3 runners in each event will represent the US at the Olympics, provided that they’ve also met the Olympic qualification standards (which are sometimes the same as the trials standards anyway).

For races held on the track (i.e. everything except the marathon), the number of people who qualify for the Olympic Trials is quite small. This is by design (i.e. tough qualification standards) because a) only a handful of people actually have a shot of qualifying in each event and b) you can only fit so many people on a track at one time. In the marathon, however, b) does not apply. You can fit plenty of people on the road. For this reason, and also because of the Olympic standard in the marathon, the US Olympic Trials qualification standard is relatively lax. A lot more people can qualify in the marathon than in the other events.

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More lenient qualification standards mean more people can qualify for the marathon than other Trials events. Can you spot the former Nashvillian in this photo???

Thus, instead of just the very elite competing for a spot at the marathon trials, hundreds of people have a chance to qualify. But since the qualification standard is quite challenging for most people, qualification is still considered a respectable accomplishment. The trials standard is just tough enough to push most former collegiate runners, but not so tough that only a few people can achieve it.

And so, hundreds of people (including me) try to qualify each Olympic cycle. We modify our lives, put in the mileage, and give this everything we can. Of course, this is kind of arbitrary goal. What’s so special about running 2:18:59 versus 2:19:01, especially when neither time will really give you any shot and finishing top 3 at the trials (you need to be able to run sub 2:12 to even think about that). But aren’t most goals, especially in running, pretty arbitrary anyway? Even so, it’s nice to have a target to shoot for and a goal to keep you going. And if I only end up running 2:20, or even if I never PR again and have to live with my measly 2:21:51, I’ll still be glad I went for it and proud of what I accomplished. But it would be cool to be able to say you’re an Olympic trials qualifier and compete with the nation’s best 😊.

Of course, you have to have an intact foot to do all that. So right now I’ll focus on grinding away in the pool and on the bike.

 

Coach Joey's Corner: Post-Collegiate Running

Training Update 3/11 to 3/24

Monday

o   AM: Pool run—15 min warmup, 10 x 30 sec hard/60 sec easy, 10 min cooldown

o   PM: 45 min bike

Tuesday

o   AM: 45 min bike

o   PM: Pool run—17 min warmup, 10 x 3 min fast/60sec easy, 10 min cooldown

Wednesday

o   AM: 70 min bike

o   PM: off

Thursday

o   AM: 30 min bike

o   PM: Pool run—15 min warmup, 16 x 90 sec on/60 sec off, 10 min cooldown

Friday

o   AM: 60 min pool run progression, 5 min cooldown

o   PM: 45 min easy bike

Saturday

o   AM: Pool run—20 min warmup, 4 x 10 min hard/2 min easy, 10 min cooldown

o   PM: 54 min easy outdoor bike

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 64 min outdoor bike

Monday

o   AM: Outdoor bike—20 min warmup, 20 min steady, 20ish min cooldown

o   PM: 33 min elliptical

Tuesday

o   AM: off

o   PM: off

Wednesday

o   AM: 80 min easy outdoor bike

o   PM: off

Thursday

o   AM: 45 min bike

o   PM: Pool run—10 min warmup, 8 x 4 min hard/60 sec easy, 2 min easy, 6x60sec hard/60 sec easy, 12 min cooldown

Friday

o   AM: 20 min warmup, 12x3min hard/90sec easy, 9 min cooldown

o   PM: 35 min outdoor bike

Saturday

o   AM: 90ish min most very easy bike (with runners)           

o   PM: off

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 60 min bike

Very Tentative Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16 (1st in 49:14)

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Some Thoughts

Das Boot

Das Boot

“Omg, what happened?!” –Approximately 253 people over the last couple weeks

It’s been a long two weeks, and a very busy last week, which is why there was no update. On the bright side, the foot seems to be getting better and other than a couple minor lapses, the cross training has been going well. It still sucks, to be sure, but you can get used to anything, right? On the not so bright side: I’ve missed a whole lot of good running weather, this has already taken longer than I was hoping it would take, and I’m sure I’ve still lost some fitness.

Anyway, today I thought I’d write about a somewhat random topic that I’ve been thinking of writing about for a few weeks.

Post-collegiate running

When I was a sophomore in college, after training mostly solo for a year, I walked on to the cross country and track teams at Duke. Running in college was a great experience: twenty instant new friends who all liked the same thing you did, free gear, laundry service (!!!), access to trainers/masseuse/unlimited Gatorade, the opportunity to travel for races, etc.

Another very striking feature of collegiate running, especially at the D1 level, is the depth of quality. There are so many fast runners. If you ever think you’re getting good at running, just find a semi-competitive collegiate race that allows “open” or “unattached” entries and run it. The humbling effect is instant and effective. On my team alone, which was good but definitely not the best, there were times when we had multiple sub-4 min milers on the team. Also, guys (not me) running mile repeats in 4:40 on a not-flat trail was just a regular Wednesday. And when I was in peak shape, able to run a 10k around 5 min pace, I was only 9th/10th man on the cross country team. The 8th man was a good bit ahead of me, and 7th was completely out of reach. A middle of the pack runner at NCAAs would probably beat me by well over a minute in a 5k, and probably be halfway done with dinner by the time I finished a 10k we both ran.

A young Joey struggling for survival in the wild.

A young Joey struggling for survival in the wild.

So where do all these fast people go? Unfortunately, many who are not at the very very top simply quit running competitively after college. In my opinion, this happens for a few reasons.

1.       The difficulty increases while the motivation decreases. Access to teammates to push you in training and the aforementioned perks disappears overnight. Also, any running you do post-collegiately is simply for you—you’re not running to better your team and no one is counting on you. Also, most collegiate runners have already trained very hard. It’s difficult to keep this level of training up (or increase it) in order to keep improving.

2.       There are far fewer goals to train for. In college, you’re always trying to qualify for the next meet, beat specific competition, or even just move up within your team. After college, there’s pretty much none of that. The only goal is improvement for improvement’s sake. Still a worthy goal, but not quite as motivating. The one exception to this is the Olympic Trials in the marathon, but that’s a topic for another post and doesn’t really help milers/5k guys.

3.       The support is gone. Coaches, financial support (other than scholarships, which are unfortunately somewhat rare) like free shoes/gear/travel, strength trainers, gym, etc all go away.

Anyway, hopefully that somewhat incoherent list illustrates the point: many talented runners stop running at the age of 22/23. The ones that do keep running at high, but not professional levels are generally those that love running for its own sake, and/or have a good setup somehow.

I think both apply to me, but since I talk about the former like every week, I’ll briefly talk about the latter. One huge help is running for a race team like NRC’s. I promise this post is not sponsored 😊. I just really appreciate their support, which includes gear, a team atmosphere, and access to perhaps the greatest mind in Nashville in Lee Wilson:

Lee, the greatest boss of all time.

Lee, the greatest boss of all time.

Seriously though, I’m pretty sure the having the race team (or at least my presence on it) hurts the store more than it helps. My theory is that Lee (and Beth and everyone else involved) just loves running and supporting runners who are still trying to compete competitively.

I’m also blessed in Nashville to be in the company of a few other runners who are still training hard and are around my level. As a result, the majority of my runs, including workouts, end up being with company, which is a huge help.

As a grad student, I also have access to the Vandy rec and Vanderbilt’s best sports medicine doctors and physical therapists. And a nice pool to do all my injured pool running in. So basically I’m pretty lucky to still be running and randomly have all these nice things.

Anyway, this is getting way too long so let’s call it there. See you next week, hopefully with at least a little running under my belt!

Coach Joey's Corner: Injury, Cross-Training, & Fighting until the End

Training Update 3/4 to 3/10

Monday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 37 min elliptical with 10 x 1 min hard, 2 min easy

Tuesday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 30 min bike

Wednesday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 38 min pool run

Thursday

o   AM: off

o   PM: off (some PT/stretching)

Friday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 60 min pool run

Saturday

o   AM: 45 min bike plus 30 min core class  

o   PM: 60 min pool run with 1,1,1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1,1,1 min hard with 1 min easy in between

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 90 min outdoor bike (23ish miles)

Week Total: Something

Very Tentative Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16 (1st in 49:14)

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Some Thoughts on Injury, Cross Training, and Other Stuff

Two weeks ago, I sat in a meeting staring at my watch. The meeting was going long, even though we started early. Too early to do the 20 mile run I had planned. I still had to run 20 miles, and shower (if I could extend my already late hotel checkout), and pack and catch a flight. Of course, I could’ve just postponed my Saturday long run to Sunday, but Saturday was the plan and I don’t like deviating from the plan. So as soon as it was acceptable, I bolted out of the meeting back to the hotel so I could start my run. I got it done.

Sometimes I like to look at my weekly mileage graph on Strava. I like making sure my training is consistent: A gradual increasing in mileage at the beginning of each season coming up to a relatively plateau during peak training. It looks something like this:

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I’m trying to paint a picture of someone who’s a little obsessive about this—are you getting that? If so, you can imagine my horror at being diagnosed with a stress fracture in my foot on Tuesday, putting an abrupt STOP to my nice training buildup so far this season.

Since then I feel like I’ve gone through all the stages of grief. I’m training to try to accomplish a pretty low probability goal. And that’s if everything goes perfectly well. But now, what’s the point? Shouldn’t I just try to enjoy life a little instead of trying to force something to happen that’s almost definitely not going to?

So I stayed up a little late, did other things, didn’t worry about recovery or anything like that for a few days. Let me tell you, the benefits of being a regular person are not many. At some point on Thursday or Friday, the switch flipped. Maybe it was the realization that even when it’s not your day (or season?) you should keep fighting to the end anyway. Or an email from my coach that got me a little riled up and motivated again: “it just depends how badly you want it”. Maybe I actually enjoy putting in the work every day, even if it’s sometimes boring, and an injury to a very small part of my body (only a tiny portion of one foot is affected) really doesn’t limit my ability to exercise, even if I can’t run. So I decided I’d do at least an hour of cross training a day, and hopefully significantly more than that on most days.

I used to have this attitude that no matter what I do when I’m injured, I’m going to lose a lot of fitness. But I think that’s the wrong attitude to have. Consider Filip Ingebrigtsen, who got a stress fracture in his foot (we’re like brothers!) in 2015 and cross trained 4-5 hours a day to stay in shape. The result? He won the European Championships in the 1500 meters in July 2016:

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Those 4-5 hours a day paid off.

I have a friend and former NRC Race Team teammate (until he moved away ☹) who always seemed to bounce back really quickly from injuries. He’d be injured at one point and it seemed like a month later he was beating me in races! I’ve always just assumed he was talented, but I know that he also cross trains very seriously when he’s hurt.

The other day at the pool I met a running friend who was there swimming, and he told me of a woman he knew who qualified for the Olympic trials in the marathon despite having to pool run up until 2 weeks before the race!

Obviously I’m drawing inspiration from random anecdotal evidence here, but the point is that I’ve decided to change my attitude on cross training and give this a shot anyway, even if it likely won’t happen.

So expect a nice update with some solid work every day next week. And maybe even a post that is little bit less of a random rant!

 

Coach Joey's Corner: How to Run a 2:21 Marathon in 5 Easy (ish) Steps

Have you ever wondered what it takes to run a blazing fast marathon in 2:21? Coach Joey has been there and done that and has laid out 5 easy steps to getting there. Or at least making yourself a faster and better runner. Read more after his training week recap!


Training Update 2/27 to 3/3

Monday

o   AM: 10 at 7:10 pace with 8 strides

o   PM: 4.7 at 7:24 pace

Tuesday

o   8 at 7:22 pace

o   5.5 at 7:23 pace

Wednesday

o   AM: 3 mile warmup, 5 x mile with 2 min jog rests, 2 mile cooldown. Goal was 5-6 reps in 5:00ish. Splits: 5:03.9, 5:01.5, 5:00.3, 5:00.7, 5:01.1

o   PM: 5 at 7:43 pace

Thursday

o   AM: 9 at 7:20 pace

o   PM: 5.6 at 7:29 pace

Friday

o   AM: 8 at 7:24 pace

o   PM: 5 at 7:28 pace

Saturday

o   AM: 18.8 at 6:29 average. Plan was 14 easy, then 5 from 5:30 to 5:teens, then 1 easy. My foot has been a little achy lately but not concerning. But it got really bad during the 19th mile and I had to stop. Has been hurting and a little swollen since. Hopefully this doesn’t set me back too much. Anyway, splits: 5:29.1, 5:26.6, 5:21.1, 5:18.7, 5:15 pace till I had to stop. Too painful to cool down.           

o   PM: off

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: off (still hurting, maybe slightly better)

Week Total: 90.4 miles

Now Very Tentative Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16 (1st in 49:14)

·         Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9 (almost definitely not doing this one)

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Some Thoughts

Wednesday was tough, but I was happy to get through it. Saturday also felt kind of tough but got a little easier as it went. The injury is really what’s on my mind now though. I’m hoping it’s not a stress fracture and I can get back to training soon. Although I’m kind of concerned that it is. I will try to figure that out this week.

Even though I may be very injured, today I’ll write about something I’ve wanted to write about for a while. Maybe next week I’ll talk about how I deal with injury! Anyway, I hope you enjoy:

How to Run a 2:21 Marathon*, **, *** in 5 easy (ish) steps

*If you’re a guy. The female equivalent is 2:47 according to my friend/training partner Nick who used some online calculator. Thanks Nick.

**Technically I ran 2:21:51, which is really almost 2:22. But I think executing the below steps a little bit better (even just step 5) would’ve resulted in 2:21:low.

***Individual mileage may vary (haha, get it???). This is what worked for me. If you are very talented you may run much faster. You may not even need to follow the steps, although the marathon is a beast so it will probably still require some effort. If you are less talented you may run slower or have to follow the steps for longer. But if you follow them you will run fast.

Ok, let’s begin.

Step 1: Dedicate yourself completely to your goal. If you really want to do this, you’ve got to be serious about it. Get ready to make some life changes. Running is now a priority, so you’ll have to arrange the rest of your schedule around it. You’ll probably miss out on some social outings, especially those that begin (or end!) after 9pm. You won’t have much time for other hobbies. You’ll have to do things that seem annoying and maybe even unnecessary. You can still have a life outside of work and running, but many things will be somewhat restricted. I think the end result—or, really, even the pursuit itself—is worth it. If you don’t, that’s ok! We’ll see you next week 😊. Otherwise please proceed to step 2.

“The marathon is my only girlfriend. I give her everything I have.” –Toshihiko Seko

“The marathon is my only girlfriend. I give her everything I have.” –Toshihiko Seko

Toshihiko was a little extreme, but you do have to be committed!

Step 2: Run often. At a minimum, 9-10 times a week. 12 would be better. This has many benefits. First, it makes it easier to run the necessary high mileage (that’s “The Secret”, remember?) required to get in good shape. But there are also other intangible benefits, like for example constantly reminding yourself of Step 1. There’s something about running every 12 hours that keeps you focused on your goal. Lots of thinking about running.

 

Step 3: Keep the ball rolling. This is a Tinman saying (a coach who’s all the rage these days). I used to think it meant doing workouts that were within yourself so you could nail them every time, which is also good. But what it really means is doing all of the necessary extra stuff to keep you healthy and able to train. For example, I do physical therapy exercises like hip/core/hamstring strengthening for 15-20 min a day, 5ish times a week. Plus some dynamic stretching before and after at least 1 run a day. It’s also extremely important to recover well. For me, that means a recovery drink (I prefer chocolate milk) after hard efforts and making sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Running a sleep “surplus” rather than a deficit or just getting barely enough is ideal. I think this Step is very specific to the individual runner. But the point is to do what you need to do to keep you healthy and recovering well so you can absorb all the training.

 

Brogan Austin, one of Tinman’s athletes, won the US Marathon Championships last December

Brogan Austin, one of Tinman’s athletes, won the US Marathon Championships last December

Step 4: Train like a marathoner. In addition to step 2, we need to add a little bit of hard stuff. For the most part, this shouldn’t be too hard. The first part of the season should include workouts that aren’t super marathon-specific. You just want to build general fitness here: fartleks, hill repeats, tempo intervals, etc. Later in the season, you can add more “extensive” work (that’s a term my coach likes to use, and I like it so I’m stealing it). This means long runs with big chunks a little bit slower than goal marathon pace, long intervals or tempos at goal marathon pace, and some moderate long runs as well. You need to train your legs to run at marathon pace when they’re tired—whether that’s cumulative fatigue from the mileage you’re running or because you’re running that pace near the end of a long run. Anyway, there are many ways to skin a cat and of all the steps, the details of this one may be the least important. Just add a couple hard days a week including some long stuff to get your legs ready to handle a marathon. And a healthy dose of strides doesn’t hurt either.

 

Putting it together: Steps 1-4. Before we talk about the final step, I just want to paint a picture of what this might look like. A typical weekday involves waking up, stretching, running, getting ready for work, work, come home and do 15-20 min of PT/strengthening, second run, make/eat dinner, clean up/relax a bit (maybe some additional stretching if you need it), sleep >8 hours and repeat. Weekends allow a little bit more time to be a normal person, but don’t neglect recovery, especially after a weekend long run. Is it a lot? Yes. But once you get in the routine it’s pretty manageable. Then you’ll be ready to execute step 5.

 

Step 5: Run the race. First, it’s helpful to choose a race that’s on a fast course with good competition. Running in a pack is easier than running alone. Early on, it’s very important to settle. Have an extremely low tolerance for pain early in the race. At some point, it should feel like a regular long run. Do not waste any unnecessary energy, and do not concern yourself with running goal pace right from the gun if it doesn’t feel natural. It’s a long race, ease into it. Try to get to 20 and still have some left, then you can start to push, gradually turning up the heat as you go. Trust the training you’ve done. If you’ve completed the steps then you are ready. Enjoy the experience. You never know whether or not you’ll get it again.

Coach Joey's Corner: The Trial of Miles; The Miles of Trials

Training Update 1/28 to 2/3

Monday

o   AM: 5.8 at 7:28 pace

o   PM: 8.9 at 7:19 pace with 8 strides

Tuesday

o   10 at 7:17 pace

o   5 at 7:27 pace

Wednesday

o   AM: 3 mile warmup, 4 sets of 4 x 400 with 1 min jog/walk between reps and 3 min jog/walk between sets, 2.3 mile cooldown. Goal was 72-72 on the first three of each set and sub 67 on the last one. Averaged 72.3/66.4

o   PM: 4.8 at 7:58 pace

Thursday

o   AM: 10.8 at 7:25 pace

o   PM: 4.3 at 7:40 pace

Friday

o   AM: 6 at 7:29 pace

o   PM: 5.1 at 7:17 pace

Saturday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 20 miles at 6:36 pace. 12 easy, 4 miles of :30 hard/2:30 at 6:15 pace, 4 miles easy

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 8 at 7:27 pace

Week Total: 100.1 miles. Solid week, but I was struggling for a lot of it. Wednesday’s workout was much harder because it was quite rainy, and after that I might have forced things too much with the mileage. But I’m still alive so that’s good.  

(Almost) Final Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16 (1st in 49:14)

·         Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Some Thoughts

This was a decent week coming off of the 15k last Saturday. I thought Wednesday would be pretty manageable, but on somewhat tired legs and in pouring rain it was a struggle. Luckily I had two friends there to pull me along/occasionally drop me. Managed to get some good mileage in overall though, so I think this would be a good time to let you all in on The Secret.

What’s The Secret?

What’s the secret to becoming a good runner? Is it barefoot running? Eating kale? Playing good music on your iPod? Or maybe it’s having long legs or doing strange exercise. Perhaps you should run as hard as you can twice a week, or run 5ks every weekend, or do some high intensity interval training, or get a fancy GPS watch.

Unfortunately for many confused people, none of those things are the secret. I think John Parker, author of Once a Runner, describes it best:

“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.” 
― John L. Parker Jr., Once a Runner

once a runner.png

 This is pretty good book.

 That’s right, the secret to becoming better at running is….running! In fact, if you take a look at the running logs of many serious runners (you can do this exercise on Strava, just let me know if you want some recommendations of good follows!), you will find one common theme: consistently high mileage. The exact number may vary—some people run 80 miles a week, others do 140—but you won’t find anybody crushing the marathon off of 30 miles a week, or taking days off on a very regular basis, or being inconsistent with their training. Consistent mileage over time breeds success in distance running. Accepting this fact is the first step to becoming a better runner.

Of course, there are many ways to skin a cat. There are two runners I follow on Strava, who both qualified for the Olympic Trials last December at the California International Marathon. One of them ran 100-110 miles a week with some very solid, impressive workouts mixed with lots of easy runs at 1-2 min/mile slower than marathon pace. Leading up to the race, it seemed very likely he would qualify. The other runner ran up to 150 miles a week and up to 3 times a day! His workouts were generally much less impressive, and some of his easy runs were more than 3.5 min/mile SLOWER than marathon pace! Leading up to the race, it seemed like he was a long shot to qualify. And yet, he punched his ticket to Atlanta just like the other guy.

The object of today’s post is not to talk about which approach, if either, is best. Rather, I want to illustrate that while the details can vary wildly, there is a common theme. Both men ran what most would consider high mileage, they did it consistently, and they did it for a long time. They went through the trial of miles!

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Unfortunately, this reality doesn’t sell running magazines. In our quick fix, consumerist society we want results quickly with minimal work. So when some article comes out saying you should run hard intervals 3 days a week and take the other days off, people gobble that up. And to be fair, training like that will give you a quick fix—you’ll improve somewhat rapidly over a short period of time. But then that’s it. There will be no long term, consistent improvement. You will not reach your potential.

Of course, if reaching your potential isn’t your goal, then you can just do whatever you want! And for many people that’s the case. Or maybe they do want to reach their potential but just don’t want to accept the work that’s required. But really, it’s not so bad! All it takes is a decent time commitment and a good attitude. The rest is mostly easy running with just a little bit of hard stuff mixed it. So, are you ready to accept the trial of miles?!

Coach Joey's Corner: Turning Up the Heat

Training Update 1/28 to 2/3

Monday

o   AM: 8.7 at 7:05 pace with 8 strides

o   PM: 5.7 at 7:29 pace

Tuesday

o   AM: 3 mile warmup, 4x1600 with 1 min jog rests, ½ mile jog, 4 x 400 with 400 jog, 2 mile cooldown. Goal was 515 down to sub 510 and 70-72. Splits: 515.3, 513.5, 510.5, 506.3; 71.5, 70.7, 71.1, 69.9.

o   PM: 5 at 7:38 pace

Wednesday

o   AM: 11.8 at 7:13 pace

o   PM: off

Thursday

o   AM: 7.7 at 7:35 pace

o   PM: 5.1 at 7:35 pace

Friday

o   AM: 4 at 7:27 pace with 6 strides

o   PM: 5 at 7:37 pace

Saturday

o   AM: 2.5 mile warmup, 15k (1st in 49:14), 3 mile cooldown

o   PM: 5.4 at 7:40 pace

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 8.1 at 7:28 pace

Week Total: 93 miles. Slight mileage dip for the race.

(Almost) Final Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16

·         Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Some Thoughts

I’m happy with this week. Tuesday’s workout actually felt kind of rough, especially since I did a very similar workout two weeks ago that felt pretty easy. That was maybe related to the cold that started on Wednesday and is ongoing, although much better now. Then the race went surprisingly well. I wasn’t super optimistic going in because of the cold/uncertainty about where my fitness was. But I raced well (there were 5 of us who ended up within 32 seconds of each other) and I’m very pleased with the win and the time considering it’s a tougher course and still early in the season. It’s nice to know I’m starting at a good place.

joey.jpg

 Had to work for this one.

With the first race of the season I’ve been thinking this past week about a special skill in racing:

Turning up the heat

At the beginning of a distance race, the name of the game is being conservative and not wasting unnecessary energy. But at some point in the race, and this could happen quite gradually, you have to transition into work mode. It’s the switch from low pain tolerance early on (which keeps you relaxed/conservative) to high pain tolerance late in the race. It’s something I’ve definitely struggled with, but want to develop a little more each time I race.

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The thing I struggle with is this. I can either go out aggressively and be mentally in the game from the gun, but then slow down a little bit at the end because I started too fast. Or, I can start conservatively and not get caught up in the emotion of the race, but then I often settle into conservative mode and never turn it on. The few times I’ve been able to transition well have been some of my best races.

And so I keep working on this skill. And if you want to maximize your potential when you race, I think it’s a good thing to focus on. But of course, you don’t want to overdo it:

joey 3.png

Can you tell I like Seinfeld??

Coach Joey's Corner: Learning to Settle

It’s Monday! And that means it’s time for Coach Joey’s Corner! Check out his weekly training recap and how to learn the art of settling.

Training Update 2/4 to 2/10

Monday:

  • AM: 8 at 7:09 pace with 6 strides

  • PM: 5 at 7:32 pace

Tuesday

  • AM: 3 mile warmup, 8x800 with 200 jog rests, 2 mile cooldown. Goal was 2:30-2:35. Splits: 2:33.6, 2:33.8, 2:31.5, 2:32.4, 2:30.7, 2:29.8, 2:31.1, 2:29.1 (average 2:31.5)

  • PM: 5.8 at 7:30 pace

Wednesday

  • AM: 8 at 7:18 pace

  • PM: 4.8 at 7:50 pace. In pouring rain and flooding. Should’ve run on the treadmill!

Thursday

  • AM: 3 mile warmup, 10 x 45 sec gentle downhill strides, 3 mile cooldown. Avg 4:18.4 pace (4:27.3 Strava grade-adjusted pace)

  • PM: 5.6 at 7:52 pace

Friday

  • AM: 8 at 7:18 pace

  • PM: 4 at 7:19 pace

Saturday

  • AM: 20 at 6:39 pace.

  • PM: off

Sunday

  • AM: off

  • PM: 7.9 at 7:10 pace

·         Week Total: 96.5 miles

Tentative Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16

·         Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Decided about a week ago to run hot chocolate, which should be a good rust-buster before the half. The plan is to decide for sure about Grandma’s sometime this week!

Some Thoughts

Another solid week in the books. Nothing super impressive, just good consistent training being added to the bank balance. Tuesday was a little bit faster but still very in control, and Thursday was basically just glorified strides, but it was good to get some turnover in and keep the legs awake. I was also pleased with Saturday. The slowest of the last 15 miles was 635, and it all felt pretty comfortable. Really, there’s nothing that impressive about running a bunch of miles 60-70 sec/mile slower than marathon pace. But the reason I was happy with this is that I felt I really settled into the pace. And do you know what a big part of racing well at long distance is?

Learning to Settle

Consider Eluid Kipchoge, the greatest marathon to run the face of the earth. No, really. Look at the picture below and consider Kipchoge:

kipchoge.png

Source

Kipchoge is pictured here dueling in out late in the 2015 London Marathon with former world record holder Wilson Kipsang. Another former world record holder, Dennis Kimetto, has already succumbed to the quick pace and is back in third at the time this photo was taken.

Note the calm demeanor of Kipchoge. You’d think that dueling with the world’s best might put some strain on your face, but great racers are great at relaxing and settling into the race. Let’s consider a more extreme example.

Take a look at Matt Centrowitz in the 2016 Olympics, where he ended up winning gold in the 1500m. Unlike the marathon, when you’re running a race less than a mile long you’ve got a lot to worry about—position, timing of moves, and usually a ferocious kick. But in the midst of all this chaos, Centrowitz seems to find some calm:

centrowitz.jpg

Source

Of course, having the right genetics and essentially being bred to win gold medals probably helps more than the calm look on your face, but the point here is that if you want to race well in distance events, you’ve got to learn to settle.

And if you can’t even settle in training, how do you expect to do it during a race? One good place to settle is a moderate workout or long run. Instead of worrying about hitting exact splits or trying to turn the workout into an effort that’s harder than it needs to be, practice settling. Get comfortable at the pace you’re running. If you learn to really get comfortable during a steady long run or even an interval workout, you’ll have a much better chance of not being overly antsy during a race. And especially in the marathon, any unnecessary energy you waste early on will really come back to bite you in the last 10k.

I feel like I should go on, but maybe it’s appropriate to just settle with what I’ve written so far 😉. Until next week…

Coach Joey's Corner: Risk vs. Reward

“ . . . nothing is certain. But such is life. But when you care about something, you try to make it work anyway.”

Welcome back to Coach Joey’s Corner where Joey Elsakr provides us with glimpses and insight on his current training, while also waxing philosophical on life and running.

Training Update 1/28 to 2/3

Monday:

o   AM: 8 at 7:12 pace with 6 strides

o   PM: 6 at 7:34 pace

Tuesday:

o   AM: 3 mile warmup, 4x1600 with 1 min jog rests, 2 mile cooldown. Goal was 515 average and working down a little. Splits: 515.9, 516.1, 511.9, 507.5.

o   PM: 5 at 7:29 pace

Wednesday:

o   AM: 8 at 7:13 pace

o   PM: 5 at 7:33 pace

Thursday:

o   AM: 2 mile warmup, 10 miles steady/slight progression, 1 mile cooldown. Goal was 615 down to 545 pace. Ran 613 down to 541; 557 average.

o   PM: off. Vacation!!!!

Friday:

o   AM: Vacation over. 4.9 at 7:33 pace

o   PM: 7.1 at 7:43 pace

Saturday:

o   AM: 20 at 6:44 pace with 8 strides in the last 3 miles

o   PM: off

Sunday:

o   AM: off

o   PM: 7.9 at 7:26 pace

Week Total: 94.4 miles. Since this is the first week of training updates, I’ll recap how I got here. I ran the California International Marathon on 12/2. The week that after I ran 3.3 miles. Then 27.9, 47.7, 63.5, 74, 81.1, 89.1, 95, and then this week.

Tentative Racing Schedule

  • Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9

  •          Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

  •        Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Still haven’t settled on Grandma’s, and I may add a couple more races, but this is the plan for now and will be finalized soon!

Some Thoughts

This was a decent week that wasn’t too flashy. A lot of easy running (my easy pace tends to be about 2 min/mile slower than marathon pace) and a couple moderate workouts. The mileage may seem a like a lot to some, but it’s something I’ve gradually built up to and is not a major stressor. So really, it wasn’t a super difficult week, which means it’s a good excuse to talk about an important concept in running.

Risk and Reward

Consider the reward vs risk graph below.


reward.gif

 Source: https://www.welshpiper.com/risk-vs-reward/

Like many things in life, I think the running risk/reward curve looks something like that. The main driver of risk here is increased training intensity. Reward is increased fitness/faster times. As you can see, the difference between sitting on the couch and running a little bit leads to rapid increases in fitness with minimal risk. Training harder leads to substantial increases in rewards while adding a decent amount of risk. But towards the end of the curve you’re essentially adding large amounts of risk for minimal increases in potential rewards. By definition, none of the reward is guaranteed (since it all carries some risk), and it becomes less and less certain the more you move along the risk axis.

Alright, that’s probably enough math talk for a Monday. What’s the point? In running, like in many other areas of life, it’s all about optimizing potential rewards and risk. Yes, you can go out and run marathon pace on all your easy runs with a couple killer interval workouts each week, but you’re adding a lot of risk and really compromising your chances at any reward. You’re also probably doing something that’s not sustainable long term.

For me, I gain momentum by executing every workout as planned and putting in good mileage each week. If my workouts were substantially harder and I could only execute 60-70% perfectly, it would be easier to get down on myself. And it would be adding risk. And it wouldn’t lead to substantially more potential reward. The key, in my mind, to being a successful distance runner is consistency. Too much risk can compromise consistency through injury, lack of motivation, etc. But nailing manageable workouts back to back to back results in a nice compounding effect with excellent results over time.

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I’d rather be crushing it on the blue dot than just surviving on the red one.

The other thing about risk is that it can be mitigated. If you really want to be successful, you can take additional steps to prevent injury and make sure you’re getting the most out of training. I touched on this last week, but the essentials are staying ahead of injuries, taking your recovery seriously and getting enough sleep. This last point is extremely important if you actually want to benefit from your training.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed. Consider Galen Rupp. The man has every Nike resource available to him and he lives for running like Kramer lives for merlot.

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And yet, he had to have surgery to repair his Achilles. So nothing is certain. But such is life. But when you care about something, you try to make it work anyway. And if you want to make running work, then it’s essential to learn how to manage and mitigate risk.

Until next week!