Saturday, February 28, 2015

Acupuncture and why I use it.

  It is no secret I have had a lot of injuries over the years.  My current injury prevention and treatment plan is my most successful and I have been running basically injury free for the last 16 months or so. (full discloser I jinxed myself and after writing this my right plantar facia tightened up and I had to take a day off for it) My system has three basic arms.  I do yoga to prevent injuries and keep my body limber, balanced and strong.  I do specific exercise to target my problem areas, specifically my thoracic spine to fix my posture and eliminate my coordination problems and finally when something hurts and it shouldn't and to help with opening up the thoracic spine I get acupuncture done.  I'll eventually write about all of these but today I'll focus on the acupuncture first because generally if someone is reading a blog about injuries it means they are injured and are looking for treatment and not prevention.

  I have tried everything over the years and each modality of treatment has its advantages but I have consistently been shocked by how quickly and completely acupuncture can fix a problem.  In the year or so after my back surgery I would fairly regularly 'throw my back out.'  Basically I would get spasms in the muscle and for days I could do very little and even breathing was painful.  Other treatments would help but it was slow.  Melissa suggested acupuncture.  I was skeptical to say the least but I'm always open to trying anything.  I make my judgements based on results.

  I struggled into the office and dealt with the awkwardness of having someone stick you full of needles.  After a bit more than an hour I was told I was done and I got up.  I was 95% better!  I couldn't believe it.  I said this to Tricia, the acupuncturist, she was disappointed and put me back on the table and applied more needles.  Ten minutes later I was 100% better.  No pain, no tightness, no weakness.  I was floored.

  This same experience has been repeated now many many times.  I now also go to acupuncture to help improve my posture and thoracic spine control and strength to continue to get past my coordination problems.  This process is slower but still very helpful.

  I still see Tricia Beretz, She was the first person I went to because at the time she was the only certified sports acupuncturist in Massachusetts.  I'm not sure if she is still the only one but there certainly aren't many and she has always done such a good job I haven't felt any need or desire to branch out.  Obviously this info is of no use to you if you are living outside eastern Massachusetts as I know many of you are but for those who are closer maybe I can shorten your search.

  For those who don't live near me start with a google search for certified and licensed practitioners.  I would avoid physical therapists doing dry needling.  They receive far less training and my personal experience with it was not only disappointing in terms of results but actually quite painful.  Also they have a rather high rate of injury in comparison to traditional acupuncture.  I am aware some people have had great success with dry needling, Josh McDougal has used it as a corner stone to his comeback to running, so I'm sure some of them are doing a very good job.  I just had a bad experience myself, have read a few horror stories and am concerned about the lack of training in comparison to what acupuncturists get.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fartlek Friday: Recovery Fartlek

  This weeks fartlek friday is a little something different.  Instead of focusing on a hard session we will look at a session for recovery.  Most of us just go out and slog around at a slow pace on our easy days.  At best we may do some strides after an easy or moderate jog.  However if you look at the programs of some of the most successful runners in the world you will see things like easy fartlek and 20 kilometers with short variations for speed.  These sessions fall in places where a workout wouldn't be possible or advisable, the day before or after very hard sessions or races.  So what do they know that you are missing?

  Running well is a game of speed.  It has long been known that in running speed kills all those who don't have it. Yet still so many of us, particularly those who fall into the weekend warrior or regionally competitive groups do very little fast running.  In a normal week we do maybe two workouts, a race and a few strides and that is a great week.  Many times we may go days or even weeks with all or nearly all our running at paces ranging from 1 to 3 minutes per mile slower than our race pace.

  Then we watch with awe the best in the world and wonder what they have we don't.  The answer is strength with speed.  Most who chase the best possess one or the other or only some of each.  Now some of the difference between you and the lads and lasses in the Golden league has to do with Momma and Poppa.  Lets be honest not every guy has the genetics to run 13:00 and not every gal can be a 15:00 monster.  Still much less of the gap between you and them is genetic, or illicit chemical use, than you think. The two biggest differences I see are one the huge efforts expended to build aerobic power through fast steady running, IE various types of tempo and progression runs, and two huge amounts of relaxed FAST running, SPEED.

  So often we use fast and hard as interchangeable terms.  The thing is they are not at all interchangeable.  The biggest lesson I learned in my years is fast is not hard and hard is not fast.  Sometimes they happen together but they should largely be trained separately.  If you want to be a speed demon you need to be able to run very fast while you are relaxed.  If you want that you need to PRACTICE running fast while you are RELAXED.

  One of the ways of doing this is to run fast on your recovery days.  Note fast not hard.  A great way of doing this is to slow your recovery run pace down a little bit and mix in some short quick burst of speed.  Not at a max sprint, not killer drives but pleasantly fast accelerations run only long enough to feel quick and not long enough to get tired.  Between these flashes of speed you should have long breaks.  More than recovery you should be really stretching it out.  This is a run with some quick spurts not a workout with long rests.
  This session should be as long as your normal recovery run and done on as pleasant a route as you can find.  I imagine it in a cool forest on soft pine needle trails or running around rolling fields in the english country side.  I actually run it in 15 degree weather on a heavily trafficked loop dodging cars and fearing for my life around every 12 foot snow bank covered corner.  But not everything is ideal and in my mind I drift to that pine forest and I'm just killing it!

  After a few times of doing this you will discover you can often recover better with a session like this than with a regular run and over the long haul this extra relaxed speed will go a long way to improving your muscular endurance and efficiency making you one who kills with speed rather than one who is killed by it.  Ok full discloser this workout alone is not going to change your world but it can be one piece to the larger puzzle of finding the path to unlocking your full running potential.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Trials of Miles. Guest Blog by Melissa

Today's blog is by Nate's wife, Melissa Donais. She is a nurse practitioner and runner, who prefers 5ks to marathons.

"The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals." -Hal Higdon

He came stumbling through the door like Rocky Balboa at the end of a prizefight. I had expected something like this, but I still wasn’t prepared for it. “Melissa!” He yelled in a garbled, distraught, exhausted voice. I ran downstairs to him, concerned that something was wrong, beyond the expected exhaustion.
“Where’s Ruben?” I asked.
“You gotta go get him. He didn’t make it back. I can’t drive.” He collapsed onto the couch.
“What? Where is he Nate?”
“Up by the church.”
The church was about a half mile from our house. Ruben couldn’t make it back from the church? I grabbed some juice, anticipating that poor Ruben’s blood sugar was likely even lower than Nate’s right now, and hopped in the car. At the same time I dialed my mom’s cell phone.
My brother was up visiting from Saratoga this weekend and my parents, Nate, and I were planning on having dinner after Nate’s workout. I had called my mom earlier in the afternoon and warned her that Nate’s workout was unlike any workout our running family had ever heard of, but she didn’t seem to understand. “That’s okay, honey, we’ll pick you guys up so Nate won’t have to drive.” Now my parents and brother were on their way to our house. My mom answered the phone, and in a rushed voice I said “Ruben didn’t make it back. You gotta help me find him. Nate left him by the church.” My mom said they were right by there and would start looking.
Meanwhile, I circled the rotary by the church, scanning the sidewalks and peering over snowbanks looking for Ruben. I didn’t see a soul. I drove up the street a bit, still no Ruben. It was dark, and about 18 degrees out. I knew it wouldn’t take long before hypothermia set in for Ruben. I called the home phone.
“Is Ruben back yet? I can’t find him.”
“No. He’s not at the church?” Nate’s words were slurred from hypoglycemia and exhaustion.
“No, Nate, he’s not at the church. You let your friend die on the side of the road and just ran home yourself? Where the hell is he? You left him at the church?” I demanded in frustration, as I feared we might be making a trip to the hospital, all because these two geniuses decided to attempt a “special block” and run two insanely hard workouts, totaling 36 miles, in a twelve hour span. It was stupid. It was just stupid. And this stupidity could lead to some serious health consequences.
I drove down Great Pond Road, thinking maybe Ruben tried to make it back to our house but missed the final left turn onto our street. No Ruben. Then my cell phone rang. My mom, “We’ve got Ruben.” Thank God.
I arrived home to a shaky and cold Ruben. Nate wasn’t much better. They took showers, my brother and dad checking in periodically because we were afraid they would faint. Then they both collapsed on the couch, huddled under blankets. We ordered food and they slowly, over a couple of hours, improved mentally and physically.
Later my parents and brother would tell me they drove past the church, and my brother noticed something on the steps of the church. He jumped out of the car, ran up the steps, and sure enough, saw a man curled up on the steps.
“Ruben?” he asked.
No answer.
“Ruben? Ruben? Nate sent me. I’m taking you back to Nate. You must come with me.”
Ruben, mumbling, reluctantly got up off the steps. In his cold exhaustion he had somehow convinced himself that curling up on the church stairs would be warmer than waiting on the side of the road.
This is the life of marathoners striving for greatness, following the Canova system of training, where specificity is king. If you want to run a marathon in 2:11 (I mean, who doesn’t?) then you better run an ungodly amount of miles at 5 minute mile pace, and you better not take much recovery between those miles, because you’re going to have to string 26 of them together on race day. Sounds simple enough. It’s the doing that’s hard.
There’s a lot of glory that comes with greatness, and a lot of respect and admiration for the journey towards it, but what most people don’t understand is the day after day fatigue and pain experienced by the journeyman, and what no one even considers is the worry and frustration experienced by the caregivers. It’s very easy to say that you’ll support your spouse no matter what, and it’s an entirely different experience when you’re living with someone who is trying to run 140 miles a week around a full time job (you don’t want to see our house; it will be a mess until the end of April).
You never know what to expect. A run goes well and you breathe a sigh of relief. He will likely be cranky, hungry, and tired, but the run went well. Phew. The run goes bad and you get a call on your way to the gym, you’re turning your car around and finishing the dinner that’s in the middle of cooking on the stove while your spouse heads to a 90 minute Bikram yoga class because his foot feels tight.
Yoga ends as you’re ready to head to bed and your spouse finally arrives home. You haven’t seen him all day. But you can tell by the look on his face that things are not good. “Boston’s over. I’m not doing it. If I miss a workout now it’s all over.”
All because his foot is tight. I sat him down, massaged his foot, used a guasha tool to break up fascial restrictions, and sent him to bed (he refused the “hell bucket” of ice treatment). In the morning I kinesio taped his foot before he left for work.
You end up walking on eggshells, praying for good runs, and doing your best to provide reassurance when the runs don’t go well. I mean really, I sought out every possible fix for his right leg/loss of coordination injury, do you think I’m going to let a tight plantar fascia prevent a successful Boston run? No way.
It’s been hard for me and I’m not putting in the miles. The cult classic novel, Once a Runner, referred to “trial of miles, miles of trials.” All runners think they understand what that means but I think few truly do. The trial of miles is a man, injured for seven years, who has undergone multiple extremely painful nerve tests,  a (very risky) spine surgery, and countless hours of physical therapy to crawl his way back to a sport he loves above all else, to get just a chance to run his heart out and be healthy on the day. It’s a man who is dedicated to his full time job, and consistently running over 100 miles a week around it. A man who still finds some time to cuddle with the dog and kiss me goodnight, despite trying to make the impossible possible.
It is nothing short of amazing, and it is the culmination of years of work and hope. We have days when we feel we are losing the fight, but on the good days the dream lives. It’s so easy for others to look in and criticize, but only the few who have tried to live this life will understand the day to day drudgery and the tiny hope for glory.

I never comprehended what went into making a great marathoner. Now that I know and I have lived it I have so much awe and respect for my husband and for those great marathoners who came before him. They are part of an elite group of people who have more will and guts than most of us. No matter what happens in April, the dedication to his dream, the solving of his longtime injury puzzle, and the insane training (that he loves and missed during his injury) that he accomplished are real victories. I am so proud of Nate for fighting the good fight.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tempo Tuesday: Making improvements and breakthroughs in all tempo training

  Generally I talk about specific workouts in this space but today I'll talk about some more general tactics that you can use across all your tempo runs to make improvements in those workouts and by extension your general fitness and racing.  For me I put all steady running faster than regular training and longer than a  mile or two into the category of tempo training.  This could be something as short and fast as 2 miles at 5k pace or as long and slow as 27 miles at 80% of your goal marathon pace.  All are designed to improve your aerobic fitness, though in many different ways, and all can be improved using some of the same tactics.

  To me the most important thing about a tempo run in training, really any workout in training, is not how you run it the first time but how you run it better each successive time.  Good running is after all in its simplest state all about getting better.

  I have done a ton of work over the years and one thing I have seen in my running and others again and again is if you take your tempo run and just try and run it faster each time out at first you are able to do so but in general you are not running it better you are just running it harder and soon enough you are running as hard as you can and your not going much faster.  In short you stagnate.

  The key is to instead increase distance at the SAME PACE.  So you go out and do a 3 mile tempo run at 5:30 per mile.  The next time out you should aim for 4 miles on the same course at the same pace.  You will find that you are able to fairly quickly find yourself running twice the distance at the same pace and your effort when going by the original distance is much lower than when you started.

  After you have increased the distance a good bit say 50% to 100% longer than the original distance than you go back to the original distance and run it faster.  You will find the effort is not increased.  In fact often it is less.  Through cycles like this you can make very big gains and make them very consistently.

  However sometimes you will still stagnate.  In these cases there is one more trick to try.  In this case you run a fast finish.  So at one point I was trying to build up to an 8k to 10k tempo run on the track at 3:00 per K.  Thing was I was stuck at 5k to 6k.  I built up to that well. I was doing some other work but I was stuck.  So what to do?  I ran an 8k tempo run where I ran slower than I had been for the first 5k, in my case 16:00 so 3:12 per k. That is about 5 to 10% slower than goal pace and then I finished at or faster than my goal tempo pace, in this case I ran the last 3k in around 8:50.  So 2% or 3% faster than pace.  Even if it is dead on pace that is ok.

  The results?  Next time out I ran 8k in 23:56.  It isn't a sure fire thing but sometimes the reason you are stuck is you really lack the endurance to run the later part of the run at that past and this can specifically target that weakness.

  Finally sometimes the answer lies outside the specific workout.  If these two tricks don't work and you are still stuck it is time to work on other types of workouts to build up your abilities around your tempo run.  Most often either intervals at your tempo pace or 5% faster for the volume you wish to run for your tempo or as much as 50% more volume this can improve the muscular endurance and efficiency.  Second is to run a longer tempo at a slower pace to build the aerobic endurance and efficiency.

  Hopefully you can use this to get the most out of your tempo runs and reap the improvements you deserve for your hard work!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weekly Training Blog February 16 to 22, 2015 Vacation!

I was on vacation this week which meant I had a lot more time which basically meant I slept a lot more which was wonderful!  This week off also saved my first specific workout as we had a blizzard last Sunday when the workout was scheduled and I was able to move it to Monday because I didn't have to work.  Now I also did some vacationy things like eating out and a few trips up to Maine.  Melissa, my wife, has to schedule her time off from work about a year in advance and we have been going to Hawaii each winter during February vacation but I put a kibosh on that this year because the two long flights in a 9 day period tend to undo any recovery you could get during that time and I wanted to be able to get as many hard workouts in as possible during my time off.  Given the winter we are having Melissa giving up a trip to Hawaii to escape from the 2nd coldest and soon to be snowiest winter in Massachusetts history is a pretty huge sacrifice, all because I basically was being very picky and specific about my training plans.  She is super supportive so the least I could do was go along for a few day trips.  The eating out is about my favorite thing so no sacrifice on my part there.


PM COLD! 16 degrees but windchill well under 0.  With Ruben. 3 mile warm up to Merrimack College 5k loop.  Loop was in real bad shape in terms of footing.  Only the 4th K was pavement.  The rest was a mix of packed ice, loose snow, ice and a bit of slush.  There are 12 turns on each loop and they were all very challenging.   The plan was 30k specific workout.  10k at 80 to 85% of mp, 5k of 1min fast 1 min moderate, 5k back at 80 to 85%mp, 5k at mp and 5k max effort.  In the end we only did 25k as footing really beat up on the legs and it meant that though we were on pace in the first 10k our effort was greatly in excess of the proper effort which you can see by how fast the 4th K was on each loop.  The full run was continuous but I'll break it down below by section

10k at  80 to 85% of mp- 35:56.5 (4th k was 3:20 and the 4th k on the second loop was 3:20 again) This means that we were probably running 33:20 effort or faster as really the 4th k felt easier than the other k's)  
5k of 1min fast/1min moderate- 16:39.19 (4th k was a 3:05) 
5k back at 80 to 85% mp- 18:09.51( 4th k was 3:23)
5k at mp- we just went about as hard as we could we knew with the footing there was no way we were going to get down around 16:00 we ran 16:45.34 (3:10 for the 4th K)

Total this was 1:27:30 for 25k, 5:37 per mile pace, though I have no trouble believing the footing alone cost us 60 to 80 seconds per 5k loop.  So 5 to 7 minutes overall.  Never mind the cold and all the extra cloths we were wearing.  No cool down on this one as Melissa and Uta were nice enough to pick Ruben and I up at the finish. Total 18.5 miles 

XT whartons, rubberbands


AM road 7, shitty footing, cold 10 degrees real feel 2. 47:26 total 7

PM road 7, same loop, same conditions except temp all the way up to 20 and real feel up to 8, balmy! total 7

XT whartons, rubberbands


AM 3 mile warm up, 19:45, skipping warm up, light drills, 4 strides, 20k of 1k/1k alternations on Merrimack College 5k loop. In bit better shape than Monday, 1st and 4th k were clear footing, 2nd and 5th were about the same and the 3rd was a bit better but the turns were still real bad.  Temps were about the same as Monday. Which means wearing a LOT of cloths which adds to the effort.  In an ideal world my goal would be the fast k's between 3:00 and 3:05 and the recovery K's around 3:20.  This was not ideal.
4k-3:21.0 (13:02.2)
5k-3:15.5- yes that was an 'on' k (16:17.7)
7k- 3:05.9(22:50.5)

 Those splits look all over the place but really if you compare the same K's on each loop to each other they are much closer than you think.  IE the 4th k hard reps were 3:01 and 3:04 and the recoveries on that K were 3:21 and 3:24.  On the 5th k, the slowest you see the same relationship 3:15.5 and 3:17.0 for the fasts and 3:37.7 and 3:41.2 for the recoveries.
 3 mile cool down total of 19+ miles

XT skipping warm up, light drills, whartons, rubber bands


AM road 10k, first 4.2 with Uta, then 2 miles solo, objectively speaking this was one of the most beautiful runs I have ever been on. We were running just at Sunrise and the orange glow of that through the freshly coated snow on the trees and reflecting off the fresh few inches on the ground.  However I'm pretty much finished with winter and it was very cold and I was slipping all over the place.  On the plus side Uta was able to enjoy it for its beauty and seemed to have a great time. total 6.2 miles

PM road 7, 46:15, not as snowy but still a couple of icy snowy miles road out front of the house was clear enough for me to do some strides which was very nice total 7.5 miles

XT whartons, shoveling, rubber bands, YTI


AM Super cold wind chill 15 to 20 below zero, wind was very heavy and very steady. 2 mile warm up and strides then did a 10 mile moderate progression run on my regular 10 loop(rolling)
 Footing in 5th and 7th and 8th miles was very bad.  The last 2 and 1/4 miles were pretty much into the wind the whole way and it made them VERY hard.  I had hoped to run them at 5:20 pace for 8 and 9 and about 5:00 for the last mile.  I'm sure the effort was there but the pace was not!  
1-5:49(into wind)
2-5:46(into wind)
5-5:35(footing and uphill)
6-5:34 (uphill)
8- 5:43(footing, hill, wind!)

 After this run Melissa asked if I was alright.  I basically threw a fit in response.  This is not normal for me. In my defense it was REALLY cold and REALLY windy.  Still Melissa had a pretty good laugh about my little fit later. total 12.5 miles

PM on curve treadmill- I had had enough of the outdoors for one day. 15 minute warm up, 10x20 seconds hard with 1minute jog breaks. Sort of simulating short hill reps giving how the curve works. total 4.5 miles

XT whartons, rubberband, 


AM regular 10, cold 12 degrees, -6 degrees windchill, footing a bit better than yesterday and sadly this was a good bit warmer than yesterday too. 66:47, did strides after total 10.5 miles

XT rubberbands, whartons


AM 3 miles warm up on treadmill, with 4 strides at 12mph mixed in.  I also jacked up the mill to 2% instead of 1% because it seemed a bit easy like perhaps the grade was off a bit or the floor not flat. 7 miles at 11.8mph- 35:35, losing coordination so I hoped off and did whartons, got back on 45 seconds later and did a half mile in 3:30 felt ok so I did 3 miles at 12mph, 15:00.  I had the shoulders back on and Melissa was on the Mill next to me and said my shoulders looked good.  I really have been struggling to hold coordination on the mill.  I think it may have something to do with how I don't really use my glutes and hamstrings much on it.  But I'm not 100% sure. total of about 14 miles

XT rubberbands, whartons, shoveling

 107 miles for the week but the real story is that with the strides and workouts more than 100 kilometers of that was at a workout effort.  Just a huge amount of quality work.  Really a great week of work.
  I was scheduled to race the USATF-NE 10 mile champs but really didn't want to deal with the snowy roads getting out there, though I have since heard they weren't that bad.  Anyway I played it safe. If I had raced this next week would be much lighter but with just the moderate workout today I'll keep it rolling through next week.
  Hope you are doing well and for those of you who are as sick of winter as me I hope the weather treats us a bit better in the coming weeks.

Sponsorship!! Team Skechers!

  I am super excited to announce that I will be a Go Elite Ambassador for Skechers Performance Division.  I have been training in Skechers since last April and I'm really happy to have their support in my return to the marathon this April.

  Currently I'm training and racing primarily in the GoMeb Speed.  These are actually my favorite shoe of all time.  Light flexible and with a great fitting upper.  They are not for everyone as they certainly are a light weight flexible shoe but for me they are perfect!

  The other shoes I mix into my routine are the GoRun Ride 3 and the GoRun Ultra.  I use the Ride 3 for most of my easy runs and as my second favorite behind the speeds and the Ultra work great for when the footing isn't very good which means over the last 6 weeks they have been getting a lot of work.  So in the snow lately they have been getting a lot of miles.  They are one of the most durable shoes I have ever run in.

  If you are interested in more information about Skechers performance on Facebook
  or instagram = @SkechersPerformance or twitter @SkechersGO

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday 8 years and 2 months

  On December 22, 2006 I completed a 20k marathon targeted alternation session.  It was, at the time, the best workout I had ever done.  A few weeks later I would do a similar session, though slower because of a very tough wind, and in the final effort I would lose the coordination in my right leg.  It was the beginning of the longest hardest injury battle of my life.  Yesterday, February 18, 2015 I completed a 20k marathon targeted alternation session without losing coordination in my right leg.  It was the first time I had successfully done so since this workout more than 8 years ago.

  I thought as a celebration of sorts I would write a blog about that last workout, so to speak.

  In December of 2006 I was training with a new fury after meeting Renato Canova and having him explain what I was doing wrong and how some simply changes to my base would lead to big breakthroughs in my marathon performance.  So far it was going pretty well.  On the 22 the weather was extremely nice for the time of year, temps in the 30's basically no wind and the track at Umass Lowell was clear so I decided to take my second attempt at a 20k alternation session.  My first attempt had been a fail in my build up to my first marathon where I lasted only 7k and collapsed exhausted.

  After a 3 mile warm up and some strides I set out to try and do 20k on the track alternating between 3:00 fast K's and 3:20 recovery K's.

1k- 3:00.5
2k- 3:19.8
3k- 3:00.0
4k- 3:21.8
5k- 3:01.3 (15:43.2)
6k- 3:20.9
7k- 3:00.4
8k- 3:20.7 (25:25.0)
9k- 2:58.6
10k- 3:20.3 (31:43.8)
11k- 2:59.6
12k- 3:21.2
13k- 3:00.1
14k- 3:21.0
15k- 2:58.2 (47:23.9)(15:40.1 last 5k)
16k- 3:21.4 (50:45.2)
17k- 2:58.8
18k- 3:20.7
19k- 2:58.2
20k- 3:20.2 (1:03:22)

  That is 5:05.9 pace for 12.4 miles, 2:13:40 marathon pace.  I was so pumped!  I was scared to death of this session because it had killed me just two weeks before I had run a 2:15 marathon.  In other words in the best shape of my life this workout had chopped me down like it was nothing.  Now I had crushed this workout and I knew I was reaching a new plain of fitness.  Looking at the training I was doing leading up to this I was obviously ready.  I had done a very windy 6k tempo run at 3:00 per k, 16x400 in 65 seconds and a few 23 mile runs at 5:40 pace in the two weeks before this session.  Still alternations are a different beast and to be able to jump into 5:20 recoveries was really quite something.

 Two weeks later on January 5th I would do 20k on the track of 2k fast and 1k slow.  The effort was the same and with the two weeks improvement I'm guessing without the wind I would have been able to average the same paces which would have made it a crazy fast 20k around 1:02:00 but with the wind I ran 1:04:42.  In the final 2k effort I lost control of my right leg.  I had no idea what it was.  Frankly I was running as hard as I could and I didn't think that much of it.  More of a just 'wow I'm going so hard I'm losing control of my legs.'  I had no idea the trouble to come!

  Yesterday I was on the road, we are not having a nice light winter, like back in late '06 early '07, this year so the track is buried under untold feet of snow. I also haven't done the speed work needed to be ready to really get the speed out of the fast k's.  As such my overall time was much slower 1:06:23.  I was thrilled.  From the beginning I have had far and away the most trouble holding coordination in alternations.  This is why they were not included as part of my build up to the Olympic Trials in late 2007.

  In fact over the last few years I basically haven't been able to do more than 10k of alternations and really more than 8k has been very unusual.  In my notes I wrote in planning back in the fall I put completely 20k of alternations without losing coordination as equal difficulty to completing a full marathon race without losing coordination.

  So though the college students standing at the bus stop at the Merrimack college gym had no idea why  the crazy guy who just came hammering around the corner was pumping his fist while gasping for air it was a well earned fist pump.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tempo Tuesdays: The Hard Progression Run

 I basically do two types of general fitness progression runs moderate and hard.  Lately I have been doing a lot more moderate progressions but over the course of my running career my single favorite workout is the hard progression run. Like the names suggest the difference is in the effort level.  To be honest the effort throughout most of the run is the same it is just that at the end of the hard progression run you keep accelerating until it gets very hard and you can't keep increasing the pace anymore.

  The length of this workout is entirely at your discretion.  I would suggest that for 5k runners you want a run of at least 20 to 30 minutes for the 10k you want 30mins to 1 hour.  For the half marathon 45 to 90mins.  For the marathon, if you are using these as a general fitness workout you should stick to the 1 hour to 90 minute range but if you do want to make it more specific you can extend them out over 2 hours.

  The idea is simply enough start out running a bit faster then regular training pace and steadily increase the pace a little bit at a time until you are running just about as fast and as hard as you can.  If you do these workouts enough you will find that your body reacts to getting tired by picking up the pace.  You will find yourself coming apart in a tempo run and hitting faster and faster splits, which only quicken your demise but it is neat all the same.

  I think most often people pick a normal training run route and pick up the pace each mile or kilometer.  This is fine but I suggest a different plan.  I would strongly advice you pick a loop, the length of which is not important it can range from 1/10th to 1/3rd the length of the progression you plan on doing.  Personally I like to pick a loop that will have me taking about 5 to 8 loops for my whole workout.  This loop does not need to be measured.  The terrain should reflect your goal race terrain.  Next make sure the loop is one that you will not have to stop.  IE no intersection crossings- at least not ones with traffic- no train tracks etc… Ideally a trail loop with good footing is available but right now there is ninety something inches of snow on the ground here so if you experience similar situations then you to will have to find a road area.

  The reasoning for this is simple. The idea of a progression run is to be constantly increasing the pace.  It is hard to know if you are really doing this if the terrain is different.  On a 10 mile loop comparing mile 1 to mile 5 is often apples to oranges.  However if you do 7 loops of 1.35 miles or whatever each loop is they are each exactly the same so you know if you run each loop faster than the one before it you are correctly increasing the effort.

  So you have your loop.  You run the first loop at about or just a little quicker than your normal training pace.  (I would do a warm up before this but I can't run much under 8 or 9 minute mile pace without a warm up but I have been running over a 100miles a week with some pretty darn good consistency since Bill Clinton was President and that doesn't come without a price).  On each loop you increase the pace from the lap before.  How much?  As long as it is faster than the loop before you have done your job.  Don't over complicate.  Just don't increase too much or your workout will end up being a lot shorter than you planned.

  Each lap you get faster until you reach the final lap where you should steadily accelerate over the whole lap trying to finish at a full kick sprint and around a maximum effort.  If you find yourself at a point where you know you can't run the next lap faster then the lap you are currently running then the workout is over.  You need to just hammer to the end of the loop you are running.  DON'T slow down and try to salvage. The lesson of constant increase of pace is more important.  So your planned 90minute progression run ends up only being 45mins.  That is ok.  It is still a good workout.  It still taught your body what it needs and it has steadily increased the pressure on your heart and the amount of acid your body had to process out of the blood.  Also you did your fastest running when your legs were at their most tired.  Next time you will pace yourself better and do the volume you want for the workout and that too will be the successful learning of an important lesson on understanding and controlling your own body.

  A few words of caution and guidance.  Don't pick a loop that is too short.  If you want to do a 1 hour profession run and you run around a loop that takes about 3 minutes to run you are setting yourself up for failure. It takes some crazy pace sense to only go 1 or 2 seconds a lap faster each lap. So what invariable happens is you drop 10 seconds or more on one lap and after you do that a couple times you are running crazy fast and you are done.  Frankly if you are running the first loop at 3 minutes at a nice steady pace it is unlikely you are capable of running that loop all out under 2 minutes.  Better to do a loop that is a little longer and give yourself a bit more time and distance to play with.  I also pick a couple spots on the loop to use as pace checks, not too many though as you mostly want to be focused on feeling smooth and covering the ground quickly.

  Next make sure the footing is good.  This is not the time and place for technical trails or tight turns.  You want a nice steady effort and fancy footing and breaking hard and re-acclerating are not conducive to that.

  When to do this workout?  This is a great base phase workout for all distances.  It is a great anytime workout for half marathoner and marathoners.  This is also a great workout for maintaining aerobic fitness in the specific phases for 5k and 10k runners.  Also it can be used as an aerobic focused specific workout for the 10k and cross country.  Anything 5k or shorter and something this aerobic is not going to be very specific.  You would be better in that case doing a portuguese surge,

  This session will build the physical and mental ability to run relaxed at a quick pace and to make a long hard killing drive to the finish of a hard race.  Doing it once is nice but done regularly this workout will reinvent you as a runner.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekly Training Log February 9 to 15, 2015 Recovery


Mid Day- 48:16, around 10k on roads in snow storm, first 4.2 with Melissa total 10k

PM Bikram yoga (90minutes hot yoga)

XT whartons, rubber band exercises, shoveling and yoga


AM Bear Hill 4.2 with Uta, snowy. total 4.2

PM Regular 10 on snowy roads, 68:58, roads very bad this was actually a pretty good effort, I think perhaps a bit too good. total 10+

XT whartons, rubber band 


PM on treadmill with Ruben. 3.5 warm up, with 4 "strides" of 15 seconds at 12.5mph, 13mph, 13.5mph, 14mph respectively. switch shirts do whartons. goal was 6x2 miles at marathon pace.  Very tired so didn't figure that would happen.  1/2 mile get up to speed then 2 miles in 10:15, 1/2mile in 2:50, 1 mile in 5:06. Stopped just tired as shit.  Ruben manned up for 5 reps.  I did 3 miles cool down total 10.5 miles

XT whartons, rubber band


PM 50mins in snow storm with Uta, the dog, at least she was having a good time.  total around 8 miles we were moving pretty good.

XT whartons, rubber band


PM On curve treadmill (manual) 3.3 miles warm up with 4 strides, 25mins, Moneghetti fartlek on curve (2x90, 4x60, 4x30, 4x15 with matching rest) 20 total minutes covered 3.55 miles, my best on the curve before this was 3.46 two weeks ago.  This was only 5:38 pace but a very good effort.  The curve is much slower than regular running.  At the end of December I did this session on the curve and only covered 3.25 miles.  To put this in perspective I ran around 4:57 pace on the roads a week or two after that.  I have dropped my time on the curve by 32seconds per mile since then.  I doubt it transfers directly but the improvement is still very very good.  20 minutes cool down ended up with 65minutes on the curve and just under 10 miles 

XT whartons, rubber band


Spent the morning shoveling and breaking up ice jams on roof. This sucked.

1pm road 7.8 solo, very poor road conditions for most of run, 52mins total 8-

4pm road 10k, 46:19, first 4.2 with Melissa and Uta, roads very rough shape tot. 6+

XT whartons, rubber band


had first specific workout scheduled but pushed it to monday because of Blizzard

AM 50mins steady on Curve and then 5 strides with 1min breaks between them total 8 miles

PM road 10k solo very very cold total 6,2 miles 

XT whartons, rubber band, pull ups on assisted machine


  Not an impressive week at all. Basically a recovery week after the bit special block last weekend.  It was supposed to end with our first specific session but we'll be suffering through that in sub zero wind chills on some poor footing this afternoon because it is better conditions then during a blizzard yesterday.  The weather in New England is never helpful but it has sort of been becoming a bigger pain every few days for the last month or so.  I'm hoping it starts to move in the other direction over the next two weeks or so.  The biggest difference between training now, with a full time job, and the good old days is that it is very hard to deal with curveballs like the weather.  Luckily I have February vacation this week so I could bump the run to today but now as we get into the specific phase I really don't want to be doing modified 'effort' workouts and that is what snow storms generally force.   Hope things are going well for you!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Long Run "The Kenny Moore"

  Kenny Moore is largely remembered for as a writer but just how great he was as a marathoner is often forgotten.  He had a lifetime best of 2:11:36, set in 1970, held the American Record in the event before a fella named Frank Shorter came along to break it.  He finished 4th in the 1972 Olympic Marathon, one of two he competed in.  Kenny had some of the more interesting marathon training I have seen.  Coached by Bill Bowerman who made each athlete an experiment of one rather than fitting guys to his program.  Kenny was not nearly as exceptional at the shorter distances though he was an effective runner he was truly world class in the marathon.

  This long run was one that Kenny would do in his marathon build ups.  It is super hard and should not be attempted unless you are very fit.  It is a great session for both the aerobic system and for teaching the body to burn more fat while running marathon pace.

  Kenny would run 30 miles, not a typo, at about 7min pace as a consistent 2:11 to 2:13 marathoner this can only be described as a very easy pace.  After 30 miles of very easy running he would run 6 miles at 5:00 pace, his marathon pace.   This workout is not the most intensive you will ever find but it is one of the toughest extensive type workouts you can do.  You will completely run your tank dry on this one for sure.

  Most people will not be able to just go from regular long runs and traditional workouts to completing this session.  I would suggest that in building up to this session you should do at least one 30 mile long run in advance of this session.  Also you should do a "Rothlin" long run,

  Finally you may have to do the 6 miles as a 10x1k or 6x1mile at marathon pace the first time you do this session.  Frankly you have to be quite close to ready to run your marathon at goal pace before you can succeed at this session so it isn't worrisome if it takes you a few workouts to build up to completing this session.

  Why do this workout?  The 30 miles of easy running burns the vast majority of your glycogen stores and tires you out muscularly, mentally and emotionally.  In short it simulates the kind of exhaustion you can expect late in the marathon.  When you shirt gears and start trying to run marathon pace your body is very aware that its glycogen stores are very low so it will automatically try to run the pace as efficiently as possible, meaning burning as much fat as it can.  Once your body learns it can run a pace on more fat it will likely run that pace that way in the future.  This will enable you to avoid the dreaded "wall" where you run out of glycogen and are reduced to training pace in the final miles of the marathon.

  So if you are getting ready for a marathon and you are really fit why not give the Kenny Moore a try.  Just be sure you have plenty of time to recover.  You don't want to be doing a hard 36 mile workout a couple weeks out from your marathon.  That would be a recipe for disaster.  However 3 to 6 weeks out this may just be your secret weapon to fly by "the wall" to the finish.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday Stories My Road 10k Personal Best

 In the Summer of 2010 I had long been beaten down by my coordination issues.  I still had a shoe contract but I had done little to keep it.  I was however, despite having very strict limits on what I was capable of doing in terms of training because of the coordination issues, quite fit.  I had qualified for and competed in the USA indoor track championships that winter and I had run a couple of my fastest 5k's earlier in the year, a 13:56 in January and a 14:01 in June.  However my training lacked direction or focus.

  In fact in late May I finally got health insurance thanks to my wife, Melissa, and my focus was going to various specialists in hopes of finding a solution to my troubles.

  Most of my years of dealing with the coordination issues I give myself grades ranging from D's to F's on how I chose to train.  Mostly I was true to my stubborn ass self and just tried to force the long tempos and the similar workouts that I love and that I knew worked.  Frankly, however, they were guaranteed failure because of the coordination issues. Somehow despite knowing this I only had a few cycles where I got out of my own head enough to make a nice rational decision to experiment a little bit so that at the least I would learn something and at the most I might actually improve a bit in spite of my issues.

  This stretch of time, leading up to my 10k road best, was one of those rare times I made some good choices.  I had no intention of racing much that summer, again my focus was getting my leg fixed, so I hadn't tried to get added to any races.  My hope was to spend the summer getting healthy and come back in the fall cured and ready to get back on the horse and run the way I knew I could.  That was generally how I have viewed every cycle for the last few years.  I would be hopeful whatever treatment I was currently doing would fix my leg and the next cycle I could get back to the marathon.  Generally this was a disaster for two reasons.  First the treatment never worked so the 'next phase' never came.  Second I would do a marathon base phase of which I couldn't complete many of the most important workouts.  This time however I decided to try to follow basically a Joe Vigil base phase based on his 'Road to the Top' book.  I would have to make some adjustments as I couldn't do the long moderate tempos and I would have some trouble with some other workouts but really they were very small tweaks.

  Starting at the end of June I was doing 2 week cycles.  Each week had 3 to 4 hard or moderately hard sessions.  I was still running full time so I also was trying to do a bunch of Dan Pfaff general strength work for cross training, that is the stuff John Cook's athletes do.

  In each two week cycle I would do something like this

 Monday 10x400m at 10k pace ~69 or 70 with 100m jogs, for the last 400 I would do a 500m so that I would cover 5k on the track continuously in one session.  The reps were easy but I kept the jogs pretty quick.  I would cover the 5k in 15:30 to 15:55.  I'd do an easy run for a second session.

Tuesday Easy double generally 10 and 7

Wednesday 8x1k at around goal 10k pace or bit slower, 2:55 to 3:00.  It was summer and very hot and I didn't want to work hard on these.  I would take 400m jogs in about 1:45(7min pace) for rests which would mean I was running under 5:30 mile pace including the rests. I would do an easy second run

Thursday Easy double generally 10 and 7- most weeks I had a doctors appointment this day- or would be getting x-rays or mri's.  I don't remember if I was purposely booking these on this day or if worked out that way.

Friday I would do a 5k tempo run on the track or around the Phillips Academy fields in the morning, 14:50 to 15:00.  Not hard. Sometimes very hot. That was about as far as I could run around threshold pace without losing coordination.  I would do an easy 7 in the afternoon

Saturday Easy double and some drills followed by max speed 2x100m.

Sunday I would do a fartlek on the grass at the Phillips Academy fields and just go until I lost coordination.  Some weeks this was only 10k, one week I went 24k.  The soft grass helped me hold coordination.  I know now that was because the soft slightly uneven surface was preventing my ankle from locking up as much as it would on a harder surface.

2nd Monday easy double generally 10 and 7

2nd Tuesday I would try to do 10x 1600 at half marathon to marathon pace with 400 jogs in around 90 to 100 seconds.  Often I would have to stop on the jogs to stretch to keep control of the leg. I would run these around 4:55 to 5:00.  It was often very hot.  If I had to stop it would be because of the coordination.  I would do an easy 7 mile in the afternoon

2nd Wednesday easy double generally 10 and 7

2nd Thursday I would generally do 30x100m in 14/15 seconds "on the minute" which is to say I ran a watch constantly without it stopping and I started the first on 0 the second at 1:00 the third at 2:00 and so on.  So if I ran a 100 in 15.0 I got 45.0 for rest.  This session for a middle distance runner can be an aerobic war for a marathoner it is just a lot of strides. Great muscular work.  If you do this and it is hard aerobically you need more aerobic training and you should take longer rests on this session because it is all about building the strong muscles to stay smooth while running fast.  I would do a second easy run.

2nd Friday easy double generally 10 and 7

2nd Saturday I would try to get through a 10k progression run on the Phillips fields generally the coordination held.  This was sometimes as fast as sub 32 with the 2nd half in the low 15's. PM an easy run.

2nd Sunday an easy double. generally 10 and 7.

  I went along like this for a couple months and I started to realize I was actually quite fit.  Scott Douglas from Running Times where I had my blog at the time suggested I jump in the Beach to Beacon 10k last minute and said I could stay at his place.  He got me contacted with the race people and I was added to the field.

  I ran with Scott the night before the race on the course and I remember we passed Lee Troop, 13:14/ 2:09 Australian Olympian who currently coaches, among others, Laura Thweatt, going in the other direction.  Now Lee was 39 at the time and not having the best year but he looked so Goddamn perfect.  So smooth I just remember thinking 'what the hell am I doing out here that old guy is going to kick my ass tomorrow on the memory of the runner he once was.'

  Now quickly approaching 39 myself I feel bad about thinking of Lee as an old guy but then at my current age, 34, I often feel like the old guy at races in terms of the contenders for the win so I guess it is what it is.  Still the point or points remains.  I was not in the best place mentally and I am not one of those guys who looks the part at all.  I actually remember being a coach at a middle school while I was on injured reserve in college and a teammate who was working with me was doing some high knees drills to demonstrate them to the kids and the high school coach said something to the effect of how amazing he looked and what an athlete he was.  Then he stopped and said "I suppose you look the same though."  I just answered "no".

  The next morning Scott drove me down to the start area and I found my way to the invited athlete tent. There was a great field assembled for the race.  I did my easy jog warm up, actually running with NYRR head Mary Wittenburg who I have always really liked talking to for a stretch then I just tried to find a spot to do some strides. Gun was up and the mile split was real fast, 4:32, but Scott had warned me that the first mile seemed to be about 10s fast and the second 10s slow so I just held effort and let the groups start to form. I hit 2 miles in 9:22, Scott was right! By this point the lead pack was away and I was running with Ben True, yes he has gotten a lot better since then, we hit 3 miles at 13:58(4:36) and the 5k in 14:29.  Ben who had a stated goal of 29:00 really took off on the downhill 4th mile and I knew if he was going to run that time he was going to have to get some time because the last mile is very tough.  I ran the 4th mile in 4:49, not good, but my overall split was 18:48 which was good for me so I just needed to keep it together.  I calmed my mind, pulled myself together and realized I wasn't actually hurting that bad.  I dropped a 4:44 5th mile hitting 5 miles in 23:32 which was equal to or a bit better than my 8k PB of 23:26.  As I was coming up to the 5 mile mark Pat Tarpy caught me.  We went back and forth a bit but then we started to climb and I just tried to hang on to him. He got away a bit but there is a short steep downhill and I caught him there and we then turn and go up the last short steep climb.  I used all my reserves to hang with him up that. to the 6 mile mark. 28:35(5:02).  This split was much slower but given the hills this was actually a good mile.  Pat drilled me on the last .2 which is a perfect gradual downhill for a sprint finish. I ran 29:31 which was the fastest last .2 I had ever run by quite a bit.

  At the finish Pat stopped and doubled over.  I was going into the dark a bit and didn't notice him that is until I ran into him.  He was not happy.  I always got the feeling I annoyed Pat a bit.  Can't blame him.  He is a quiet guy and I don't shut up.  He is a much better runner than I but he never got the press he deserved and I'm more than a bit full of myself and have received far more attention than I ever deserved.  Crashing into him after a hard summer road 10k could not have helped things.

  I would end up never progressing the training of this cycle to a specific phase because I would start getting spinal injections and other minor procedures in the coming months leading up to a major low back surgery that would 'half' fix the coordination in January of 2011.

  I would guess based on how most people's times at Beach to Beacon compare with track times that this was about a 28:45 to 29:00 track effort.  I would guess that if I had been able to do the full cycle as Joe designed it I would have been in much better shape by the mid-fall.  If I ever do a 10k season again I will likely use Joe's book to go after it.  In addition to being one of the nicest and most inspiring people you will ever meet Joe Vigil is a genius who can flat out coach.

  Looking back at this schedule the only two adjustments I would make if I were to get a chance to redo this again are, one, include the 30k fundamental paced tempo runs that Joe puts in them.  At the time my coordination obviously wouldn't allow it at the time but they really add a huge aerobic boost to the training.  Second I would do strides on all the easy days.

  If you are looking at this training for guidance the three things I would keep in mind.  First this is high level training and there is a lot of work in a given week so beginning runners or low mileage runners would have to adjust the volume, not only in terms of mileage but in terms of the workouts as well. Second the EFFORT is important don't get caught up in the pace.  None of these workouts were very hard, they shouldn't be, they were controlled base phase aerobic efforts.  You need to adjust the paces based on your fitness not on what you want to run down the line.  If you hammer these sessions as fast as you can you won't be training the right, aerobic, systems and you will break down and not see much improvement anyway.  Third the real thing that makes this training exceptional is the variety of systems being challenged and improved in balance.  Far to often we run but we don't train.  This is training.  You are sprinting, running race pace, a bit faster, a bit slower, running tempo work doing muscular work all in balance and all very regularly.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fartlek Friday Hammer the Hills

  It was a bit of a right of passage to do a hammer the hills fartlek when I ran for George Davis at UML.  He had a loop that was less than 5 miles long and had seven or eight hills.  There was a great variety from short to long and shallow to steep.  The toughest hill was the last one and in true George fashion there was a two way stop you had to run through, the unsafe way, half way up.  George used this as a staple in athletes returning from injury before letting us back in with the wolves and as a great workout for someone who wouldn't be able to workout with the rest of the team on a given day.  Simply it was a workout without any way to measure it objectively it was strictly a workout based on effort.  Beyond that it was a workout that was sure to get a great effort and really start toughing you up.

  So what is it?  Super simple.  You just hammer every time you go uphill.  I really like to be a stickler about this.  I mean a two stride bump in the road and I drop two hard strides.  You run at your regular pace between runs.  On a loop that is largely flat this is a nice moderate run with a few nice hard efforts to open up the system.  On a very hilly loop this can be one of your hardest sessions.  I would do this on a 1.5 mile loop in the Phillips Academy Sanctuary that is basically a loop around a valley so it has two killer long climbs each loop.  Six or seven loops in there and I would be DONE!

  When to do it?  First I'm a huge fan of fartlek and hills most anytime as a workout on a day when the main plan may have fallen through or as the second workout for the week.  Second this is a great bread and butter session if you are preparing for a cross country or hilly road racing.  You can adjust the distance of the fartlek depending on the the distance of the race you are preparing for.

  Goal Race   Fartlek distance
5k                    3 to 5 miles
8k/10k               5 to 10 miles
half marathon    8 to 15 miles
Marathon            10 to 25 miles

  What are you trying to accomplish with this workout?  First anytime you do hills you are building your muscular strength.  With this workout specifically you tend to get long breaks so you are working on flushing out latic acid completely which makes it a great transition workout between base work and heavy anaerobic work for 800 to 10k runners or early in cross country season.  This is also an awesome session for building mental fortitude.  It is real easy to get motivated for and not intimidating but you really have to dig down to get a good effort on tough hills later in the session.


  You can run faster, as fast as fundamental tempo run pace, on the stretches between the hills to make this a specific prep for a race strategy where you plan to hammer the hills.  This makes it a great aerobic session and really forces your body to flush out a lot of acid at a quick pace on the recoveries.

  Another option is to do this on your long runs.  This can be a great first step towards some of the hard long workouts I and others advise for the marathon.  

  A variation on the long run is to find a place with real long climbs.  One summer I lived near Northfield Mountain in western Massachusetts and it has a ton of trails.  I would do my Sunday long runs up there.  I often would push the long uphills, 1 to 3 miles, and just recover and fly on the long downhills.  It was ok if I found myself completely hammering quads burning and gasping for air at 7 miles into a 22 mile long run because I was going to recover on the next downhill but it really can build the mental fortitude as well as the aerobic and muscular endurance.  This session was almost like doing a series of uphill tempos with 10 to 20 minute easy running breaks between them.  I'll tell you I never ran better on hills than I did the fall after I spent the summer doing those runs!

   So the next time you are about to skip a workout because life got in the way or whatever and you are about to just head out for your regular old training loop MAN UP and Hammer the Hills!!  You will sneak a workout in where you would other wise have just a regular training run, you will be tougher for having done it and chances are you'll have a lot of fun in the process.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Don't Want To Be Someone Who Can't Live Up To What I've Already Done

"I don't ever want to become someone who can't live up to what he already done." - Brent Dennen.

 I hate that line.  I hate it because I have become someone who can't live up to what he has already done.  It is more then that though.  I made a gamble.  That's a lie.  I made a decision a long time ago.  I made the choice that I would make myself into something.  I would do by myself through a force of will that I was born with and by using my self honesty and intelligence to find the direction to direct that will.  It sounds simple.  I guess it is but it was also brutal.  For it to work it had to all come down to me.  There could be no blaming anyone but myself.  In some ways it was a masterpiece from the pile I did what couldn't be done, but only moments after finding the sunlight I slide back to darkness and failure.  

  That failure could only belong to one person.  It was mine and mine alone.  Each day I was unable to find my way back to fix what I had broke was another failure.

  I am a man who can't live up to what he already done.

  The above is something I wrote a while back.  It sums up in a way how I have felt since my failure to return to the marathon in the last 7 years.  It isn't that I have spent every day of the last 7 years feeling like a failure.  I am aware that there is more to life than just running.  Still there many times when I couldn't help but feel like a failure.  I had work so hard for so long to overcome so much failure to reach the point where I was knocking on the door of being the runner I had dreamed of being for my whole life and then one strange little injury that wouldn't go away and I was suddenly done.  I could see things I should have done to avoid the problem before it started but for my life I couldn't fix it.

  Now nearly as suddenly as I find myself with a small crack in the door and a chance that I may yet be a comeback kid.  Heck even if I don't successfully get through racing a marathon I have been able to train for one and that has been an act of joy.  I love these long enduring workouts.  My whole life in some ways was a build up to the type of training I did for the Olympic Trials and it was an act of joy. Now over the last couple months I have been able to return to those runs and workouts and that joy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Progression Runs for the Beginning Runner

 This is an extension on my blog about tempo runs for the beginning runner.  In that blog I suggest that the beginning runner should be doing a 15 to 20 minute tempo pretty much once a week throughout all their training seasons.  I also mention that a progression run of similar length can be added in once a week as well to vary the stimulus a bit and to increase the aerobic training stimuli in the micro cycle.

  In the tempo blog, , I go off topic a bit and talk about the overall focus of a training plan for the beginning runner so I won't rehash that here.

  The progression run will take a bit of work to teach to new athletes who have a natural predilection to going out too fast and fading.  However the work you put into teaching this workout will pay off two fold.  First the fitness gains can be huge.  Second it teaches the athlete not to go out too fast in races and other sessions and how fast and strong they can be if they run with control in the early stages.

  I suggest using a flat loop less than a mile in length.  It can be a bit longer.  You can have the kids run in groups or entirely by their own effort.  Set up RULES.  This seems odd but if you don't some kids just will not go out slow enough.  The rules are simply.  You have a goal distance.  IE the goal is 4 laps.  Rule 2 if an athlete does not run faster on a lap their workout is over. This will cause an athlete to not complete a workout or two but the lesson is well worth it.

  I suggest the athletes run the first loop at about their normal training pace.  Just knowing it is a workout will suck them into going a bit quicker than that which is actually ideal.  The next lap only needs to be faster.  A second or two is fine.  This is not a workout that needs to be overly structured.  Each lap needs to be a bit faster than the last and the final lap should be run as fast as the athlete can manage.

  Some athletes will increase in fairly even increments and only go a bit faster on the last lap.  Some athletes will increase only a bit each lap and then finish with an incredibly fast last lap.  Both of these are fine.  In fact if you have a group of similar level athletes training together you will likely get a mix of these type of efforts depending on who is 'leading' the pack and that mix is awesome.

  For the beginning athlete these runs should not be very long 15 to 25 minutes.  You need not adjust them to progress them.  They will adjust themselves by finishing faster and faster and with time and regular tempos and strides in their training programs as well you will see their starting "baseline" pace increasing significantly as well.

  You will see big gains in general fitness with sessions like this but the most noticeable effect you will see is that as your athletes tire in races their bodies will respond by actually increasing the pace.  They will mentally and physically learn how to make a long killing drive to the finish that particularly in high school racing can be absolutely devastating to their competition.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tempo Tuesday Marathon Pace Tempo Run

  This week we look at the marathon paced tempo.  This is one of the staples of so many programs and it is a great workout to increase your aerobic fitness not just for marathon racing but also for events all the way down to the mile.  Though this is for many runners the focal point of their marathon specific work I don't like it as much for that purpose because though it is a great session for the aerobic demands of the marathon it falls short for most runners in terms of teaching the body to burn fat over glycogen and specific muscular endurance.  Still it is a great workout that should be part of the marathoners program for sure and can be a secret weapon for athletes who focus on the shorter distances.

  The marathon paced tempo run is exactly what it sounds like a tempo run at your goal marathon pace. Depending on what point in your program you are at this run can be 8 to 16 miles long.  Some runners who are very good at getting big efforts out in workouts might even push it out to 18 or 20 miles.

  As I mentioned in the build up this type of run is a staple of many marathoners.  Particularly american marathoners.  The Hansons group very famously does a 26.2, right around 16miles, kilometer marathon paced tempo run as part of their marathon prep.  I would say the most zealous and successful practitioner of this workout is Meb who does one pretty much every week during his marathon prep.  He starts them at about 8 miles long and builds the distance over the cycle and has run them as long as 18 miles.  It should be noted though that he has had very successful marathons off build ups that only reached shorter distances.  Most notably his longest marathon paced tempo before the 2012 Olympics where he finished 4th was only 12 miles.

  Why this workout works.  It is a great aerobic session that teaches the athlete to stay smooth for a long time. It builds great muscular as well as aerobic strength.  By going slower than threshold pace it allows you to run at what is still a very quick pace for upwards of an hour, maybe even approaching two hours.  This type of work also does great things for building mental endurance and strength.  For any runner regardless of goal race this session is a great way to massively increase aerobic endurance, mental fortitude and practice staying relaxed at a quick pace.

  How to progress this workout.  Like all tempo runs I encourage you to increase the distance before dropping the pace.  So set your goal marathon pace, be realistic.  It is not your current 5k or 10k race pace! Remember if your training goes well you can always adjust the pace later.  At the start you should try to run about 8 miles.  Focus on being as even paced as you can, the exception to that being if you are preparing for a hilly marathon in which case you should do your tempos on a comparably hilly course and your effort should be even but your pace will obviously fluctuate.  Also remember it is always better to start a bit slow and finish strong than to go out to fast and slow down.

  The drawbacks on this session.  To often this is the only marathon specific workout in a schedule and for most runners it simply will not fully prepare them for the demands of the marathon. Don't get me wrong there are athletes for whom this is exactly enough. Meb is probably the greatest marathon in American history.  Athletes like Brian Sell and Desiree Linden are no slouches.  BUT there are as many stories of athletes who have done a great marathon paced tempo in training or multiple marathon paced tempos in training and have not come close to that performance on race day.  Ask the Hanson guys for every guy that ran 5:10 pace at their 26.2 dress rehearsal and ran that pace on race day as well there was another one who ran with them on the training run and crashed on race day.  Prior to the 2008 Olympic Trials Josh Rohatinsky reportedly ran 5:02 pace for 20 miles on the trials course itself.  I was limping next to him at 22 miles in the Olympic trials when he ran out of glycogen.  There is no question in my mind he was in better aerobic fitness than I was.  But he ended up behind me in the results because he had not trained his body to burn less glycogen and more fat at race pace.

  So for sure get out there and start getting after these runs but I would advise that you do need to do some other types of more extensive workouts as part of your marathon specific prep.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Training Blog February 2 to 8, 2015 Special Block


AM 35mins with Uta, the dog, and Melissa in the snow. total 4.3 miles
XT whartons, YTI


AM on treadmill 3.5 mile warm up with four 15 second blocks at 13mph(4:36pace) for strides, quick bathroom trip and a shirt change, 1/2 mile  to get up to speed then 7 miles of alternations 1/2 mile at 12.4mph and 1/2 mile at 10.7mph- 36:27 for 7 miles, 5:12 per mile. lost coordination and stopped.  I have a very hard time keeping my shoulders back on the 'mill.  3 mile cool down total of 14 miles

PM Bear hill 4.2 with Uta, 30:08 total 4.2 miles

XT whartons, YTI


PM regular 10, 65:56, felt pretty good but roads were sloppy, total 10 miles

XT whartons, YTI


PM on treadmill, 3 warm up on treadmill with 4 "strides" of 15 seconds at 13.5mph (4:24pace), 1/2 mile getting up to speed then, 10 mile progression run starting at 10.7mph(5:36) down to 11.9mph (5:04mph) 54:17- big fight with coordination, again I really struggle on the treadmill- I keep looking down at the darn screen!! 1.5 cool down total 15 miles

XT whartons, rubber band, YTI


PM road 8, 54mins footing not so great total total 8 miles

XT wharton, YTI, rubberband

9AM with Ruben,  all outdoors 20 degrees, 3.2 warm up 23mins, big of light drills, couple of strides, 10k moderate tempo around lightly rolling merrimack college 5k loop- goal was 34:00 ran 33:09.

Footing ok but we had to be very careful(slow) on all the turns(12 on loop) and there was about 100m that was quite slushy/slippery.  Still this felt very easy.

3mins rest

10k at marathon pace- honestly I thought given the footing, the rolling course and the temps if we could run 32:00 I'd be thrilled.  Before we started the loop Ruben said he would be happy with anything with a 32 in front of it.  We ran 31:29 and it felt very good and controlled.

2.5 mile cool down back to house 17mins total 19 miles

4PM 2.5 mile warm up, light drills, strides, 10k moderate tempo, again goal was 34mins, again we exceeded the agreed upon speed limit like Rubes. 10k in 33:20

It was amazing how easy this was.  Don't forget we are starting this with more than 21miles in our legs including more than 20k of running at a good clip.  Also footing, rolling hills and the very cold temps. Really felt very relaxed.

2mins recovery with light drills

7x1k on roads with 2min rests
1- 3:02
2- 3:03
6- 3:08
7-3:12- completely bankrupt. called it. 
Ruben continued on for 3 more reps.  I jogged in the last 3k while he did it.  I would catch up to him and send him off on his next rep.  To be honest not being able to do the last 3 was a rookie mistake on my part I had only eaten 6 pieces of toast and two things of tea all day.  Just not enough fuel for a run like this with all the extra miles of warm up and cool down.

2.5 mile cool down- by now I was in a pretty bad way but we headed home- NEVER do a marathon block with a cool down.  I should have had Melissa waiting for us. I didn't. It was stupid.  I have been bankrupt of fuel like this a couple times.  You struggle to think straight and feel very hopeless and just want to stop.  Also we were soaking wet and it was very cold, 20 degrees.  With about a mile to go Ruben ran out of fuel to.  He wanted to stop, I couldn't get him going again.  He walked a bit but it was obvious he was done.  I told him to wait and I ran the last mile to the house.  I was so gone I couldn't drive. Melissa went out and found Ruben.  I was supposed to go out to eat with Melissa's extended family instead they got us takeout and helped us get our whits back about us.  We kinda ruined their night.  total 18 miles 

XT a good bit of light drills(a skip mostly), whartons, rubber bands.


PM 36mins of snowy road jogging with Melissa- she took it easy on me. total around 4.5 miles.

XT whartons and rubberband.

97 miles for the week. Two good normal workouts and one GREAT special block.  Even not being able to run the last few K's at the end this was an awesome session.  To be able to run that fast that easily in the PM is really great.  The way it went confirmed our monster aerobic strength down to about 5:05 pace but the lack of speed on the 1k's, really should have been about 3:00 shows we do need more half marathon paced work to round out the special phase.  I really think though as strong as we are a few good alternation sessions should do the job. 

  A single session like this is a double edged sword and the key to super compensation is to recover from it.  My father in Law was all worried that training like this would get us sick or hurt.  He was exactly right to be concerned.  If you try to jump back into your regular runs after something like this and it is like setting a time bomb in your system.  You will break down.  If you are really strong a couple easy days will do if not you may need much more.  After my first I needed a light week.  I felt pretty good today but I won't workout again until the middle of this week and I'm quite strong.