MacMillan: Speed Work for Marathoners

Most folks don’t associate shorter interval workouts with marathon training. Greg McMillan has written a great blog post on the case for short, fast workouts when training to run longer distances. The primary benefits being:

  1. Short, fast repeats improve running economy and marathoners need running economy too.
  2. Short, fast repeats break the monotony of training.
  3. Short, fast repeats allow you to train faster than marathon race pace which makes marathon pace seem easier.

My current training includes the occasional set of 200s, 400s or 800s. I agree with the benefits Greg lists in his article. It’s certain that short, fast repeats by themselves haven’t made me a faster runner (it’s hard to isolate a particular type of training and its benefit) but they’ve certainly been part of the toolkit I’ve used.

The blog post goes into a lot detail about why and how to include speed during marathon training along with sample workouts. Read the full article here:

Quick Recap: Runners Coaching Class

This weekend I attended the RRCA Runner Coaching class in Minneapolis, MN. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the material and blown away by the knowledge and experience of our instructor. I’m really glad that I made the investment in time and money to attend.

To start, the curriculum that the RRCA has put together was great. It covered the gambit of topics from the demographics of running and running trends, physiology, periodization of programming, workout design and application, injuries and more. Even if I never do anything with this certification, the insight that I gained into my own running and my own coaching relationship was well worth it. One of the more interesting exercises was working with classmates to develop a marathon training program for “Robin”, a fictitious case study runner. It was great to be able to take the knowledge we gained over the two days and then put it to practical use.

The most important thing I learned was that the topic is too vast to cover in two days. There’s so much of the material that we didn’t have time to cover in depth, so much of running and runner coaching that isn’t in the material and so much practical experience to be gained that it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to come out of the weekend course as an “expert”. Instead, everyone has a good basis of knowledge and an idea of where to go to find out more. I’m excited to dig into a little bit more depth and see what else there is to learn.

RRCA Coaching Certification

rrca_cert_coach_logoThe last six months have been a journey and a bunch of great new experiences from a running perspective. I’ve set my sights on a lofty goal (a Boston BQ, which for me means running a marathon in ~3h10min) and I have been working with a local coach to help me achieve it. I’ve also spent a lot of time reflecting on what motivates, energizes and inspires me. We can’t all expect to get everything we need out of just what we do from 9-5, what our hobbies might provide us or even the relationships that we have with others as important as each of those on its own might be. We have to continue to grow in all of these different facets of our lives. So in the vein, I’ve decided to sign up for an upcoming Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) Coaching Certification Course. Not because I have any expectation of doing this as my “gig” but because I want to continue to stretch myself.

There’s so much I feel like I can learn about my own running through this and also gain a clearer understanding of the feedback and guidance I get from my own coach. I also hope to be better prepared to give guidance and encouragement to the two budding high-school age runners in the house. Even if nothing ever becomes of it, I think it’ll be an interesting investment of time to hopefully learn something and see running in a different way. The first step, gaining my certification in First Aid/CPR/AED, is already complete. In a few weeks, I’ll venture to Twin Cities, MN and spend the weekend geeking out with other runners. Who knows where this might lead? That’s the interesting part.



Long, Long Run


The Run Woodstock Hallucination 100K is about a month away. Which means that last week was my longest run of the training plan that I put together. 40+ miles seemed like a long way when I was putting the plan together and I can tell you that when I ran those 40 miles last Friday, it was every bit as long as I thought it’d be.

I was in the woods by 7:15 for an out-and-back down the Tecumseh trail for about 20mi. I had 2L of water in my pack so that was about as far as I figured I could go without needing a refill and I was right. Then I planned on a loop of the Three Lakes Trail and a loop of the Low Gap trail. Miles 20-30 felt pretty good and so I thought making it to 40 miles for the day would be pretty straightforward. That last 10 miles, though, wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it’d be. The last 5 miles were a challenge from a combination of the heat and some GI issues. I’d had a sip or two of my recovery shake after 30mi because it sounded good but I think that may have contributed to the sour stomach.

Pretty or not, it’s done and I learned a few things. Now it’s time for a 26 miler, a couple of sub marathons and a final 10mi run before the final taper week into the race. I’m a little nervous about my GI comfort for the 100K but am happy with my energy level and how comfortable I felt even after 40 miles. Recovery was not an issue at all. Having a spare set of shoes and socks felt great. I’m taking that one with me to Woodstock.

Lost In The Woods

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.23.37 PM

Ran 20mi at Morgan Monroe on Saturday, managing to squeeze in my long run between MrsRoudy‘s ribbon cutting ceremony and a few days off to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle. It’s a bit of an undertaking to drive 45min each way to run, but there’s just something about being in the middle of nowhere with nothing but trail shoes on your feet and a hydration pack on your back.

Felt great today…legs were a little tired but nothing unusual. I have 26mi next weekend without the luxury of being able to run them in the woods.

What makes a runner?

There is an interesting dichotomy of feelings associated with beginning “to train” for a goal race. We poor running addicts (gluttons for punishment) don’t really ever stop running and so it’d be easy to imagine that all of the days and miles blend together. An outsider might never know the difference between “just running” and “training” but there is one. It’s hard to explain but there’s something about sticking a flag in the sand 3 months from today and proclaiming your intention to do something crazier than you’ve been crazy enough to do before.

On one hand, there’s the fresh hope and the feeling of starting over with all of your past running transgressions forgotten. On the other hand, there’s the weight of all of those future miles, long runs and early mornings weighing heavily on your shoulders. We chose to lace up our shoes everyday anyway. I suppose that’s what make a runner a “runner”.

Racing to Training

The Summer Night Trail Marathon on Saturday was a a good run. I felt strong the entire race despite some nagging glute and foot issues going into the race. It had been awhile since I ran a nighttime race and I was using this as experimentation for the Hallucination 100K at Run Woodstock in September. It starts at 4PM on Friday and you run through the night and finish the next day. Beyond the occasional stumble over a root here and there, I didn’t really have many issues with running in the dark. I’m sure sleep deprivation adds a whole other interesting element, though.

So this week I’m easing back into training mode. Without a scheduled race until September, it’s all about running what’s on the schedule. From what I can tell, many folks take a “the more mileage, the better” approach to training for these long ultra distances. I really struggle, though, maintaining a balance between running and the rest of my life. Running is supposed to make living more fun and interesting, not burden it with stress and obligation. So I’m probably under-training a bit for 62mi but I’m confident that with my cross training and the right mental approach I’ll be able to finish strong. It’s not like I’m a favorite to win the thing outright, anyway!

What do you want?

May was a busy month as far as running goes. Two half marathons on either side of a 50k which most people would consider the perfect ingredients for a “suffer sandwich”. I felt great during all three races and PR’ed in two of them. I am signed up for the Eagle Creek Night Trail Marathon this weekend so I had a couple of weeks to reverse taper and get a decent long run in the book in preparation. We also did the “Murph” workout on Saturday at CrossFit which involves a 1mi run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another 1mi run.

Which is the probably the proper amount of background required to understand where this particular post is coming from.

This morning at CrossFit, I was struggling with Hang Power Cleans. The coach was patient (as always) and provided equal amounts of advice and encouragement. During the conditioning work, I remarked that I just felt like I was out of gas. He replied, “Well, what did you do yesterday?” The look I gave him was all the response he needed and he just started chuckling out loud. I finally fessed up to a 20mi bike ride just to “shake things” out. “So you ran 13mi on Friday, you did “Murph” on Saturday and you rode 20mi on the bike yesterday and you are wondering why you’re out of gas?” he asked, rhetorically, of course.

This single interaction exemplifies where I’m at with my training, my CrossFit and my running right now. I’m capable of doing a lot of stuff. Overdoing it all the time doesn’t help anything and actually makes both my running and my gym work suffer. Instead, I need to focus my effort and give myself a rest when it’s due. Sounds easy enough, right? To focus requires you to know what you want to get out of it all – something for me which is not easy at all.

So I found myself leaving the box today asking myself what I wanted and not having a particularly good answer. Yet.

Dances With Dirt 50K Recap

I ran the Dances with Dirt Gnaw Bone 50K on Saturday and finished in 5:54:03. That was a PR for me by 25 minutes so I’m obviously very happy with it. There wasn’t as much rain preceding the race this year so the course was in much better condition than last year and that made things easier for sure. Though I think the change in my approach to my training also contributed significantly to shaving so much time off of last year’s finish. My nutrition plan worked well and I felt strong the entire time.

When I went back and looked at my training mileage in the 3 months preceding this year’s race and compared that to the 3 months preceding last year’s race, I ran about 30% less miles this year than last year. I’ve added 3-4 days of CrossFit training every week and I seriously believe that the combination of strength training and less mileage has made me a much better runner – especially on tough trails. I’m really happy with where I am at right now and finding that I look as forward to my time in “the box” as I do to my time on the road.

2015 500 Festival Mini-Marathon

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 9.52.34 PM

The race “strategy” was to just see how it felt and go with it. I’m supposed to be tapering and have a 50k next weekend so there was no need to prove anything today at the 2015 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. MrsRoudy and Haewon, having recently run a marathon or three between then them, were just planning on taking it easy. Surprisingly, I felt really good.

25 seconds off of a sub 1:40 net time, I crossed the finish line of my 6th 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. With the exception of a couple of slower miles (#9 and #10) and a somewhat slow start, today was a PR by 2 minutes. Makes me wonder what I could do if I were running on fresh legs and focusing my training on a specific goal. Who knows, maybe a sub 1:40 time should be what I shoot for next year?