Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Runner Profile: Sean Napier



In the fall of 2018, I started coaching Sean Napier.  Sean came with a good background of solid running and workouts under his belt.  At the time he had run around 19:10 for 5K, 38:54 for 10K, and 1:06:35 for 10 Miles at Cherry Blossom.  He was determined to get better, and he was very motivated.  However, he needed some structure as he got more into racing, and to also learn how to run the longer distances of half marathon and marathon.  His first race I trained him for was the 2018 Richmond Half Marathon, where he ran a strong 1:25:58.  Then, 2019 was a breakthrough year for Sean.  He lowered his half marathon PR to 1:24:27 at the Shamrock Half Marathon in March.  Then, in April, he ran 1:03:06 at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler (9.96 miles), to beat his previous best by over 3 minutes.  A few weeks later, he took a minute off his 10K time to run 37:55 at the Pikes Peek 10K.  To finish the spring, he ran a PR at a small 2 mile race in 11:31.  Over the summer, we extended from the spring to work on his speed and he was able to cut his mile time down to 5:11.  Then in the fall, he made a big jump in the 5K by running a 17:45 at the blazing Clarendon Day 5K.  His 6th PR of the year came at the Army Ten Miler, where he ran a 1:02:34, in which during the race he had to stop and stretch a tight hip flexor.  Sean also finished his debut marathon in 2019, running 3:05 at the Philadelphia Marathon.


In 2019, Sean's performances enabled him to get onto the MCRRC racing team.  These were some big jumps he made.  There are several things that contributed to these improvements.  He is super gritty and determined.  Sean remained consistent throughout the year and was able to build into each cycle from his last, so he continued developing from previous gains.  The biggest improvement I saw in him was the development of his workouts on the track and his aerobic capacity.  Maximizing aerobic power can improve more quickly, while endurance takes longer.  Endurance improves over a longer period of time, and as we age we get a lot better at it if we continue to train.  After the marathon, Sean got a bit beat up and had to take some recovery time, but he is training well again this spring and doing solid workouts again.  I think it is a good thing he can't race right now, as he needed some time to get back into training and rebuild himself for his next season.  He does plan to do some time trials, but it isn't quite the same as racing.  I definitely see Sean improving his 1 mile - 10K times, but as he ages he will get even stronger in the half marathon and marathon distances.  Endurance improves over a longer period of time.  It requires patience and persistence.  I am confident Sean will make some big breakthroughs once the racing season resumes.

The summary of Sean's potential is that he is a long distance runner.  Going less than 5K is going to be his hardest racing in a way.  But we will work on that this summer and try to improve his mile time a bit more.  I myself am not a miler, but getting my mile time down to 4:20 has helped me maximize the races I am much stronger and better at.  So we need to work on our weak points - to a certain point, until it doesn't make sense to continue working in that section and move on to other things.  That's my job.  But on the other end, I have seen many runners do too much of one thing and not varying up the distances they focus on.  Running a marathon every month in my opinion is not a good idea, unless you do ultra marathons and use marathons as long runs or workouts for your 50-100 mile race.  But even then, you have to be careful.  Sean is a very good example of someone who has worked on nearly every race distance.  In fact, we might have overreached a bit by throwing in literally every distance during the entire 2019 year - anything from 1 mile to the marathon!  The marathon I think he had just enough to get in a solid debut, but there is plenty more there.  I think Sean's best strength is his determination to improve.

Sean's current PRs, all in 2019:

Mile: 5:11
2 Mile: 11:31
5K: 17:45
10K: 37:55
10 Mile: 62:34
Half Marathon: 1:24:27
Marathon: 3:05:56

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Racing Shoes: 2010 to 2020, the Evolution of my choice in footwear


As you can see above, I have raced in a lot of different shoes.  And these are only some of the pallet of racing shoes I have used over the decade!  As I have evolved my fitness and speed over the last decade, I have consistently switched shoes over time to match up with my performance.  Regardless of shoes, in 2010, I was quite a different runner than in 2020.  The goal has always been to see how fast I can run, and as I have gotten faster, I have made changes to my footwear.  The reason is the body changes when it is running faster.  A great example is how I used to race in the DS Trainer - a much heavier shoe (still lightweight compared to most) than racing flats I would use later on.  Below, I write out what I ran in these shoes, and additional details about the shoes as well.

2010
Asics DS Trainer


The DS Trainer was the "supportive" racing shoe I would use to give me a bit extra muscle so that my feet wouldn't take too much of a beating from road racing.  Its category was technically light stability.  It was a bit heavier, but it was more efficient for me at the time.  It had a bit extra stiffness to it that worked well for me combined with just enough cushioning to protect from the pavement.  During this time, I was trying to get under 5:30 pace for 10 miles, and as close to that as possible for the half marathon.  I was able to run 5:25 pace for 10 miles.

PRs in shoe:
10 Miles: 54:16
Half Marathon: 1:12:57  

Photo: 2010 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
54:16


2010 - 2011
Mizuno Wave Musha


The Mizuno rep at Potomac River Running approached me one day and gave me a pair of the Mizuno Wave Musha to try on.  I tried them out in the store on the treadmill and they felt like a really nice supportive shoe but without the bulkiness of the DS Trainer.  The Musha was still light stability like the DS Trainer as well - except it was lighter and more responsive for faster running.  It seemed like the right direction for me because I was becoming too efficient for the DS Trainer - almost like the shoe would be holding me back.  Mizuno uses a unique wave plate in the middle of the shoe that is very responsive.  The idea actually isn't far off what is today's Nike Vaporfly shoe.  The difference is the cushioning of course, and the plate is a plastic material instead of carbon fiber.  But it felt really responsive, and I instantly loved them.  I felt they would strike the perfect balance of support and lightweight.  I ran some mega big PRs in them.  I also was training much better though - I was starting to make big jumps in my intervals.  The biggest jump in my racing was the half marathon, taking over 4 minutes off my PR in one year.  I became a new runner in 2011.

PRs in shoe:
10K: 31:26
10 Miles: 52:54
Half Marathon: 1:08:39
Marathon: 2:37


Photo: 2011 Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon
1:08:39

2012
Mizuno Wave Ronin


Mizuno became a big brand to me.  After my success in the Musha, I wanted to try a neutral shoe that had the same cushioning and similar weight.  Enter the Ronin.  The Ronin, to date, is one of my all time favorite racing shoes.  It struck the perfect balance for the marathon distance, and I raced really well in it from anything between 10 miles to the marathon.  I think at this point I was also more comfortable to race in a neutral shoe.  I have never over pronated, but as I started to run faster, the neutral shoe worked more in unison with my faster feet.

PRs in shoe:
10 Miles: 51:44
Half Marathon: 1:09:30
Marathon: 2:35

Photo: 2012 Philadelphia Marathon
2:35:09

2012 - 2013
Brooks T7 Racer


While I enjoyed the Mizuno shoes, I also tried Brooks out because I was on the =PR= Elite Racing Team, which was sponsored by Brooks.  The Brooks T7 Racer was awesome.  It was actually a bit lighter than the Ronin, but was a durable workhorse shoe that brought me some very fast times.  I never PR'd in it, but I got close and ran some really good races in them.  Ultimately, I felt Mizuno worked the best for me (I just really loved the wave plate!), but I am not saying the Brooks T7 was not an enjoyable shoe!  I also used the Brooks T7 in my debut US Half Marathon Championship in 2012.

PRs in shoe:
Half Marathon: 1:08:51

Photo: 2013 Shamrock Half Marathon
1:08:51

2011-2013
Nike Zoom Victory Track Spike



Contrary to the road, on the track, I had always used lightweight racing spikes.  The Nike Zoom Victory was the perfect spike for me in 2011 to plan an attack on the 15:00 5K barrier.  It took me 3 tries: 15:13, 15:11, and then finally 14:58.

PRs in shoe:
Mile: 4:26
5,000m: 14:58


Photo: 2011 MCRRC Midsummer Night's Mile
4:27

2012-2014
Mizuno Wave Universe


As my times continued to drop on the roads, I began to experiment with lighter weight shoes.  I was used to my lightweight track spikes obviously, which don't have any cushioning, but they were not meant for the road obviously.  Bill Bowerman invented the Nike Waffle for his runners at Oregon with the goal to have them run in something as light as possible.  Extra weight was unnecessary to carry.  I began to look at what would be the lightest racing flat I could use on the road.  The Mizuno Universe was an astounding 3 ounces...the same weight as my track spikes!  This was more than half the weight of my Ronin.  So this was also a risky move.  I felt like the maximum I could race in this shoe would be 10 miles (in the Ronin I would race a minimum of 10 miles).  But even that may be pushing it.  I ended up having to make a tough decision between the Ronin and the Universe to compete in the 2012 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  I went with the Universe, and although I PR'd with a 51:57, my feet felt pretty bad and I had some bad blisters afterwards.  I concluded that 10 miles was a bit too far to race in this shoe.  I did feel though, that this shoe could extend up to 10K.  I ended up using it at Pikes Peek, and broke 31:00 for the first time.  The shoe seemed to go maximum 30 minutes for me.  For 10 mile races, however, I went back to the Ronin.  The following fall, I then lowered my personal best at the Army 10 Miler to 51:44 (harder course than Cherry Blossom too).  So I learned a lot by using this shoe by understanding weight has its limits if it sacrifices too much cushioning.

Interesting fact: My 10K PR today still remains from the Wave Universe.
 
PRs in shoe:
10K: 30:43 (current PR)
10 Mile: 51:57

Photo: 2012 Pikes Peek 10K
30:56

2013-2014
Mizuno Wave Ekiden


The in between sweet spot was found in Mizuno's Wave Ekiden.  When I found out about this shoe, I was super excited.  It had the lightweight advantage that the Universe had (just a little bit heavier -  close to 4.5-5 ounces), but also just a little bit more cushioning.  Could this hold up for me in distances up to the half marathon?  In 2013, I ran the Army Ten Miler and PR'd again in 51:35, and my feet felt fine.  I got a bit scared to use it at the Richmond Half Marathon, so I used the Ronin for that to run a 1:09.  But I then decided to give it a go at the 2014 Houston Half Marathon, which was host to the US Half Marathon Championships.  Perhaps my body was ready to use the shoe for the 13.1 now, whereas I held back from using it at Richmond.  I was also really fit for Houston, and it was the perfect opportunity to drop a new PR.  I ended up running what still is one of the best races of my career, finishing in 1:07:29 for 56th in the US.  It was my first time under the 1:08 barrier.  The shoe was perfect for the distance.  I felt amazing that day.

PRs in shoe:
10 Miles: 50:57
Half Marathon: 1:07:29

Photo: 2014 US Half Marathon Championships, Houston, Texas
1:07:29


2014
Mizuno Wave Hitogami


The Ronin was unfortunately discontinued by Mizuno.  I was pretty bummed out about this.  However, they introduced a new shoe called the Hitogami.  It basically replaced the Ronin, so the weight and feel was similar.  I really enjoyed this shoe, although I definitely liked the Ronin better.  I didn't run any PRs in this shoe, but it was nice to take the win at the 2014 Annapolis 10 Miler, and I took 4th in the Navy/Air Force Half Marathon.  I missed the Ronin, though.  Mizuno also changed the Ekiden and it wasn't what it used to be.  I was beginning to be at a loss with shoes.  In 2015, I moved away from Mizuno for an opportunity to run for a shoe company.

Photo: 2014 Annapolis 10 Miler


2015-2017
Saucony Type A


In 2015, I got the unique opportunity to run for Saucony.  Saucony used to have a program called the Saucony Hurricanes.  It was a mid-level sponsorship program that had qualifying standards to achieve such as 1:09:00 in the half marathon.  It was a unique way to connect athletes all over the country.  I was able to meet a lot of different runners in different championship races held by USATF.  We got singlets, all kinds of apparel, and plenty of shoes.  It was awesome!  Unhappy with Mizuno discontinuing the Ronin and changing the Ekiden, this was a perfect opportunity to switch brands.  I got a shoe called the Type A racer.  It had a bit more cushioning to hold up for the marathon, but it was only 5-5.5 ounces.  It was an amazing shoe that I ran several PRs in.  It wasn't that much heavier than the Mizuno Ekiden, but could go farther.  On January 3, 2016, I was one of 60 men recruited to run in Jacksonville, Florida, for an elite half marathon race set up by Richard Fanning.  The race was set up for a chance to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon (in the half marathon) to run the 1:05:00 half marathon standard.  While I didn't qualify, I ran a superb PR of 1:06:50 in the half marathon.  After I ran 1:06, I began to really focus on the marathon distance.  I wasn't sure how much faster I could go in the half, so I wanted to begin applying my faster paces to the full marathon.  In 2017, after 5 years, I got back into the marathon (the last marathon I did was in 2012 - a 2:35).  I started back at the longer distance with a 2:32.

PRs in shoe:
10 Miles: 50:32
Half Marathon: 1:06:50
Marathon: 2:32

Photo: 2016 Jacksonville Half Marathon
1:06:50

2016 - 2017
Saucony Endorphin


Saucony came out with its own version of the Mizuno Universe shoe.  The Endorphin was the lightest racing flat I have ever used.  I couldn't believe how much better it felt than the Universe though.  It had a lot more traction.  I raced in it in any distance from the mile to the 10K on the road.  In this shoe, I ran an awesome road mile race called the Loudoun Street Mile in Winchester, VA.  I ran my current PR there of 4:21.0.    

PRs in shoe:
1 Mile: 4:21 (current PR)

Photo: 2015 Loudoun Street Mile
4:21


2015-2018
Saucony Endorphin Track Spike


With the same weight as the Nike Victory Track Spike, the Endorphin Spike was the exact substitute I would need to continue to get faster on the track.  In 2015, I lowered my personal best in the 5,000m to 14:49.  Then, in 2017, I ran my all time best 5,000m at the Elite Swarthmore College Meet, finishing in 10th place in 14:39.  Unfortunately after 2017, Saucony discontinued its sponsorship program.  It was quite disapointing.  Nevertheless, I continued to use the Saucony Endorphin Spike for track races.  In 2018, I qualified and ran in the Portland High Performance 10,000m, also running my best time on the track of 30:55.  It was a really cool experience running in a Pro meet.  But, for road races in 2018, unattached to Saucony, I was beginning to look for other options.  A few weeks later, I banked off the fitness from Portland and raced the Peachtree 10K/USATF 10K Championships to try out a new road racing shoe designed by Nike.

PRs in shoe:
5,000m: 14:39 (current PR)
10,000m: 30:55 (current PR)

Photo: 2015 Swarthmore College 5,000m
14:49

2018-2019
Nike Vaporfly 4% (Part I)

No longer attached to Saucony, I was looking for new shoes that could possibly work better for me.  By 2018, I had begun to hear about the Vaporfly.  One thing that initially held me back from getting the shoe was actually the weight.  This sounds funny I know because of how light it is....but it is a full ounce heavier than my Saucony Type A Racer (5.5 ounces), and over 2 ounces heavier than my Mizuno Ekidens (4.0-4.5 ounces), and over twice the weight of the Saucony Endorphin (but that shoe is really just for 10K or shorter).  Why would I run faster or better in this shoe?  After understanding the brilliant combination (not just the carbon plate - but also the zoom x foam that is so lightweight but cushiony) that Nike used to make this shoe so good, it made sense to me to invest in it.  The benefits of the shoe offset the added 1-2 ounce weight for me.  I saw a few opportunities.  1) Impact and Protection.  Why not get a shoe that would help reduce the stress on the body from the pounding of the pavement?  After all, a lot of runners from the 70s have had trouble running later because the footwear beat up their bodies.  Why not have shoes that could extend the life of our running more?  2) Speed.  The carbon fiber plate combined with the lightweight Zoom X Foam seemed to be a better combination to run fast than having a lighter shoe without as much responsiveness.  The best racing shoes are all about having the best response.  The better a shoe responds, the better and faster we can run.  But the Vaporfly doesn't work for all runners.  It is made for very fast racing, and some slower runners may not benefit at all or might get injured even running in it.  We have to run in what is efficient for us.  A 1:05 half marathoner (under 5:00 per mile) is completely different than a 2:05 half marathoner (9:30 per mile).  If they both wear Vaporflys, you would see multiple big differences in how they move in the shoe.

I never saw this shoe as a cheating shoe as some people call it.  It's still just foam and carbon fiber.  The material carbon fiber has been around for decades.  What's new is the brilliant idea of Nike combing the 2 materials of Zoom X Foam and Carbon Fiber.  Shoes are made to help athletes perform better.  Otherwise we would all run, jump, and sprint barefoot.  The first Nike track spike was better than other spikes.  It's not like the shoe has an engine in it doing the running for you.  If it truly did all the work (like a car does - the engine takes us to whatever mph we decide by pressing on the pedal), then we would all run the exact same time as Eliud Kipchoge - effort would not exist.  Kipchoge was the best runner on the planet before the Vaporfly.  He is still the best runner on the planet with the Vaporfly.  The world record by Dennis Kimeto was 2:02:57 in Berlin, run in Adidas (no carbon plate in it).  Kipchoge's world record, also in Berlin, is 2:01:39, run in the Vaporfly.  Let's say for argument's sake that Kimeto is on the same exact level as Kipchoge (which clearly we all know who would be the best of these 2 athletes).  If Kipchoge had run in Adidas, then given the same ability, he would not run faster than 2:02:57 on the same course.  So, even if the above were true, Kipchoge gets an extra 1:18 off his marathon time in the Vaporfly for "cheating."  If we label that 1:18 improvement of time as cheating, then what about when the world record in the marathon by Abebe Bikila was lowered by over 3 minutes when he went from barefoot running to shoes?  Isn't that cheating as well, if we define it this way?  The way I've looked at it, it was just the next best racing shoe for me to use.  Just like when I switched from the DS Trainer to the Mizuno Wave Musha (for the reasons I explained above).

So, a few weeks after I raced the Portland Track 10,000m in 30:55, I gave the Vaporfly my debut race at the Peachtree 10K in Atlanta, also known as the 2018 US 10K Championships.  I ran 31:09 to finish 27th in the championship.  It was awesome racing in the Vaporfly.  They felt great and that's what told me it was the right shoe for me.  After Saucony discontinued its sponsorship, I found my new favorite racing shoe and returned to Nike.  I only used to run in Nike in High School and College.  Everything came full circle.  The only thing I didn't like about the Vaporfly was the upper material - which changed during the second half of the year.

PRs in shoe:
10K: 31:09

Photo: 2018 PeachTree 10K/US 10K Championships
31:09

2018-2019
Nike Vaporfly 4% Knit (Part II)



The Vaporfly 4% Knit is currently my all time favorite racing shoe.  The fit was exactly what I was looking for.  I tend to obsess a lot over tying my shoes before races.  The knit material eliminated that problem as it felt like a sock around the foot.  It also felt a smidge lighter than the original 4%.  The toughest PR of mine to beat was 1:06:50 when I ran in Jacksonville 2016.  I thought I would never run faster.  In November of 2018, at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon, I finally beat that time, running 1:06:37.  The fall of 2018, I had some big breakthroughs in my training.  In October, I did a 20 miler in 1:47, the fastest I have averaged in training, which I also did in regular training shoes and not my racing shoes.  So I knew I was very fit and would drop some big times.  I almost ran 2:17 in the marathon in December 2018.  I went through 20 miles in 1:45, but couldn't quite hold 5:15 pace the rest of the way.  I ended up running 2:25:05, a PR.  But then the biggest breakthrough of my running career happened.  I dropped a gigantic PR of 1:05:25 at the 2019 Houston Half Marathon, averaging 4:59 miles for the first time in that distance.  It is currently the best performance of my career.  I am working on transforming that performance to the marathon.  If I can do this, I believe I am capable of a 2:15 marathon.

PRs in shoe:
10 Miles: 49:54 (current PR)
Half Marathon: 1:05:25 (current PR)
Marathon: 2:25:05 (current PR)

Photo: 2019 Houston Half Marathon
1:05:25

2019-2020
Nike Next %



So, obviously I loved the Vaporfly 4% Knit, but when Nike came out with the Next %, I figure I'd give them a try.  I ran some really good races in these.  I repeated my 2:25 Marathon PR again at the Houston Marathon in 2020, which I think I needed to get another mid 2:20's in before making that jump to a new level.  I have started to feel more experienced in the marathon.  I also ran a 1:06:18 half marathon in the Next %, my second fastest half marathon time ever.  But overall, after racing in these shoes, my all time favorite racing shoe is the Vaporfly 4% Knit.  This year, I bought another pair of Vaporfly 4% Knit, which I have yet to use.  As of now, the COVID-19 has put racing on hold.  I am curious to try out the new Alphafly, but it doesn't look as appealing to me.  It looks a bit over engineered in my opinion, and just too much shoe maybe.  Perhaps it might be too bulky for me as well.  I always want to make the best decision on what will work for me, and that's what you should do too, when choosing racing shoes.  If Nike does not continue to make the Vaporfly 4% Knit, I may have to switch to something else.  It is a possibility that I will go back to Saucony, once they release the Endorphin Pro, a competitor to the Vaporfly 4%. 

But for now, I just miss racing and running fast.

PRs in shoe:
5K: 14:41 (current PR)
Half Marathon: 1:06:18
Marathon: 2:25:14

Photo: 2019 Parks Half Marathon

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Runner Profile: Louise Kelley

Finishing 2nd in the US for age 55-59 twice in 2019, Louise Kelley had high hopes for the 2020 Track season.  She was going to compete in the World Masters Championships held in Toronto in July 2020...


One of the most knowledgeable runners I coach is Louise Kelley.  Louise is not only a Silver Medalist in the 2019 USATF 1500m Outdoor Championship for age 55-59, she is also a physical therapist who has helped several of my runners.  Her website is https://kelleypt.com/.  At an earlier age, Louise was a 35 minute 10K runner.  Now, at 55 years young, in the age 55-59 category, she was the Silver Medalist in the 2019 USATF 1500m Outdoor Track and Field Championships.  She was also the Silver Medalist in the 2019 USATF Indoor Track and Field Championships 1 Mile, as well as the Bronze Medalist in the 800m.

Louise' PRs (age 50-59):
800m: 2:37 (2019)
1500m: 5:23 (2019)

We began working together in the winter of 2017, when Louise started to compete in womens championship races for age 50-54.  In 2018, she was 5th in the 800m (age 50-54 category) in the USATF Indoor Track and Field Championships.  At the time, she ran 2:46.  Now, she has run nearly 10 seconds faster.




Coaching Louise is an enjoyable process, because she knows her body well.  Being a PT gives her an advantage to help prevent injuries.  Still, I have to be mindful of how far I can push her without over-training her.  In between track sessions, she takes an easy day of running, and a complete day off.  Having 2 days between hard sessions has been more beneficial for her.  We started working on the 800m, but eventually I convinced her to try the 1500m/mile.  She has bounced between both the events since and the 800m helps her leg speed for the 1500m.  Her best performance to date, in my opinion, is her 5:23 1500m at the 2019 USATF Outdoor Nationals (equivalent to about a 5:45 mile).  She was also 2nd in that race to Lorraine Jasper, 5:22.46 to 5:23.07.  Shortly after USATF Nationals, Louise made the trip to compete in a big masters meet in Toronto.  She ran her new PR in the 800m there, in 2:37.

With these races under her belt, we were really excited going into 2020.  We have been working on everything from her aerobic capacity to her sprint finish.  Thanks to Silvia, Louise has had someone to chase during workouts.  The way I work this out is while I will have Silvia do mile repeats in 5:40's, Louise will do part of that interval such as 800s or 1Ks with her.  She also will sprint next to me for part of a straightaway during a 4:40 pace mile I am running.  I tell her, "See!  You can sprint with me at this pace on the straight - just think of that when you are trying to out-kick someone!"  Her sprint is improving, but there is more to improve and I am learning a bit more about sprinting as a coach (I am currently taking a new certification - stay tuned for updates!).  Even though it is a very small portion of the race, the alactic energy system of sprinting can make the difference of winning a race for an 800m-1500m like Louise.  Even in the half marathon, we can learn to use this system (only several seconds worth) at the end of a race.  I was able to out sprint a few competitors at the end of a 1 hour 5 minute half marathon in Houston, even after consecutive 4:59 miles.  It was probably the last 75 meters of the race.  You only want to do this at the end of a race.  You can see the switch to the sprint on my Garmin Data here:







Louise and I planned out her 2020 schedule, which focused on peaking for the World Masters Championships held in Toronto of July 2020.  She was going to compete again in the US Indoor Championships, and the Outdoor Championships.

Unfortunately, the World Masters Championships have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 (insert cusswords #$%&^*@!).  The 2020 USATF Masters Championships have not been cancelled yet, which are also held in July.  While pretty much all of Louise' season is cancelled, we are balancing developing her as an athlete now in what I am calling an off season.  As a coach, due to COVID-19, I have had to really look at things with a different eye with my athletes.  I've shifted my mentality now to using this period as an off season opportunity to work on development.  There is always opportunity.  During the racing season, we can't work on all aspects of development.  We have track meets, road races, etc.  Races, in a way, have a lot of benefits, but we also must balance development with racing.  As a coach, I constantly work on balancing these two.  I have athletes race a certain limited amount each year in order for them to get all the necessary aspects of development in.  There are also periods where we should race more, and when we should race less.  Typically with Louise, I will shut her season down after a few fun 1 Mile road races during the fall.  She will take a few months off from racing, and then resume in January with something low-key.  The winter is more of a base building phase for her, as it is cold out and she won't be able to run as fast.  Her biggest time of year is From March - July.  With that all being cancelled, it is difficult to not get excited about upcoming meets.  But we are training.  We have just needed to shift things to a new paradigm.  My goal for Louise right now is to get her stronger aerobically, but to also get sharp/work on her sprint speed and I am hoping we can do some "simulation" runs, or time trials this spring.  These I feel are important because while they are not races, they are hard efforts that are a step towards a race.  The body and mind respond to stress and rest.  Races are also a form of stressing and pushing the body in a different way than training is.  If we do not stress the body enough, it will not respond or develop.  But also, if we do not rest it enough, it will not adapt to the training we put it through.  So while we are unable to race, I have to figure out a way to stress the body without over training it.  When we have little or no races, we are susceptible to over training because we think that we have all this opportunity now, and we tend to do too much.  This is because during a race week, we do little to no workouts at all.  But some races I like to train my athletes through, so that they aren't able to go "all out" on race day so that they don't sacrifice their development, especially in the early season.  The best example of this I can recall is when Silvia ran a 65+ minute 10 miler in February of 2019 (the RRCA 10 Mile), and she felt terrible (weather was terrible and course is really hard).  I also trained her through that race.  I said to her, "throw the time away, effort is what matters and this race is not an opportunity to run fast-it is actually GOOD you didn't run that fast here." Then, when I rested her at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, she took full advantage of her fitness and ran 59:34 (59:48 converted from the 9.96 mile course), a gigantic new PR.  She also PR'd in the Half Marathon (1:20) and 10K (36:51) that spring.

Obviously for the big peak races, I rest my athletes.  But also one of the best things we can do is resist racing too much, because we can get some really great development in!  Now is a great time to do that and I am excited as I continue to coach and train Louise this spring.  It is my hope that the consistent work we are doing now will pay off when racing season resumes.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Up Until January 19, 2020


Houston, Texas.
Sunday, January 19, 2020.
It was my last shot to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon.

The standard was 2:19:00.  Perhaps the closest I got was when I attempted it at the CIM Marathon in 2018, going through halfway in 1:08:41, and 20 miles in 1:45:09 (5:15/mile - 2:17 marathon pace)...these were the fastest 13.1/20 mile splits I ever have run during a marathon.  After mile 20, all I needed was a 33:50 last 10K.  After going through 68:41 for the first half....I even thought I could go close to negative splitting my 2nd half and running 2:16 or something, I felt so comfortable.  I still do think I can run that fast on the right day.  Something special was starting to show there.  But it wasn't all there yet.

I had some really good races in 2018, finishing 6th in the world class Army Ten Miler race in Washington, DC.

Also, leading up to CIM 2018, I ran a new PR at the time of 1:06:37 at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon (2 months later at Houston I would go on to drop 1 minute and 12 seconds off that).


Back to CIM 2018.  Exactly 35 Kilometers (close to Mile 22) and 1:55:05 into the race, I was running just ahead of the mighty GRC runner, Kieran O'Connor. 

Shortly after Mile 22, I began to really struggle and desperately try with all my strength to hang on to him, but he started to pull away.  Kieran would go on to qualify for the Olympic Trials 23 minutes later.  23 minutes.  That's all I needed.  I would go on to finish the rest of the race in 29 minutes.  I was 6 minutes, 5 seconds off qualifying....and I lost it all in the last 4 miles of the race.  This race, I feel, is the closest I ever got.  It was a big PR for me (2:25:05), and despite not qualifying, it actually seems as I age the marathon is slowly beginning to catch up to my other shorter distance race times.  I've gone from 1:17, to 1:16, 1:15, 1:14, 1:13, 1:12, 1:11, 1:10, 1:09, 1:08, 1:07, 1:06, to now 1:05 in the half marathon.  I've experienced morphing my body and mind to the transition of sub 6:00 pace running to sub 5:00 pace running.  I used to race 10 miles in 52:30, I have now extended/doubled the distance of that pace to the full 20 miles in 1:45.  Could I double a 1:07-1:08 half?  I think so.  But it takes time to develop.



After years of being at this sport, I ask myself:  What is my potential?  What am I really capable of?  What am I really trying to do?  Am I really trying to qualify for the trials?  Is it about the trials?  Or is there something else beyond that?  Why do I keep going?

A BIG JUMP

7 weeks after running CIM 2018, I made a big breakthrough in the best race of my career so far.  The Houston Half Marathon on January 20, 2019, was my first time averaging sub 5:00 pace for the half marathon distance, finishing in 1:05:25, at a 4:59/mile pace, at age 35.  This was unbelievable, but at the same time believable to me.  I could recall countless workouts of running sub 5:00 miles like clockwork, thinking why couldn't I average this pace one day in a distance of 10 or 13.1 miles?  And then it happened.  This race told me a lot more was there in the marathon.  It was a big validation for me to keep going.  I flew that day.  It is the best race of my career thus far.


Following Houston in 2019, I ran some more good races that spring.  I won the RRCA Club Challenge 10 Miler in miserable cold rainy conditions.


I placed 7th in a big elite field at the DC Rock and Roll Half Marathon, running 1:07:45 on the somewhat challenging course.  Then in April, I ran Cherry Blossom in 50:26 (9.96 miles), and shortly after that I won the Pikes Peek 10K.





But after Pikes Peek, something was off.  My right foot started to bother me.  In May, I developed plantar fasciitis in my right foot, and had to withdraw from competing in the Ottawa Marathon.  However, I got things going in the "right" direction with the help of my friend Tom Stott- he had helped me in late 2016 when I had the same injury in my left foot.  The right foot wasn't nearly as bad, so I was able to recover pretty quickly.  I made a smart decision not to race Ottawa.  Tom and I then agreed to run the Grandmas Half Marathon, which I finished in 1:08 - a slow time for me, but a good confidence booster that I was able to race healthy again.  I trained well over the summer.  I won a few more low key races such as Riley's Rumble Half Marathon, and the Going Green Track Meet 2 Mile and 1 Mile.  As I transitioned from summer to fall, I placed 2nd at the Annapolis 10 Miler.









The Fall of 2019

By the fall of 2019, I had returned to my form.  I won the Parks Half Marathon.  

After Parks Half, I competed in the stacked Clarendon Day 5K as well as the 10K double, only 45 minutes apart (from finishing the 5K to starting the 10K).  I ran a road 5K PR of 14:41 to placed 5th, and came back in the 10K to place 3rd in 31:26.






Shortly after Clarendon Day, I won the DCRRC Capital 20 Miler on a hot and humid morning.

I took October off from racing.  In November, I returned to Indianapolis, to place 21st in a very deep field at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon, setting a course record for my age group 35-39 (66:18).  In Indianapolis, Silvia and I had the awesome opportunity to meet Deena Kastor.  Earlier in the year, Silvia found herself running alongside Deena during the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, where she ran 59:34 for the 9.96 mile course (59:48 converted for 10 miles).  Deena helped push her that day so we got the opportunity to thank her for that in Indianapolis.  In Indianapolis, Silvia ran her current best for the half marathon, 1:20:24.


So in December 2019, the plan was to go for 2:19:00 once again at CIM.  But something wasn't quite the same this time as 2018.  Unfortunately, it was not as good conditions as the year prior-the temperatures were a bit too high.  I still went for it, going through halfway around 1:09:10, and 20 miles in 1:46, but fell off the pace quickly, and had to drop out at 24 miles.  It just wasn't there, the conditions were too warm for me and my body wasn't ready to execute.  Thankfully, I was at least able to cheer for Silvia as she finished in a strong 2:48 to match her PR in not as ideal conditions!  I regained my thoughts after the race and decided I still had a marathon in my legs.  So the last attempt I had was Houston 6 weeks later.  It would be hard to bounce back so quickly, but I figured I'd go for it.

Chevron Houston Marathon
January 19, 2020

The weather in Houston, although windy, was thankfully much more ideal temperatures.  I went out smart, building my pace throughout the race.  I came through the halfway mark in 1:09:15.  At 14-16 miles, I was unable to maintain my pace and had to adjust.  I think it was a tall task to come back in 6 weeks to try to attain sub 2:19, and my body could only do so much to recover and bounce back.  But despite falling off the pace and struggling with some strong headwind, I stayed steady at a bit slower pace.  But I never really crashed.  I just wasn't recovered or ready to run faster.  At Mile 25, my favorite person in the world was cheering for me.  I saw Silvia jumping up and down with so much energy and I tried to take some of that to put into the last mile.  I did the best I could, and finished in a respectable 2:25 to match my PR.  It was my second time crossing the line in 2:25.  However, I noticed some differences.  It was my fastest last 10K ever run in a marathon (38 minutes, which still needs a lot more work - I would like to get that down to somewhere around 32-35 min).  But the wall wasn't as bad this time.  It seems I am starting to be getting a better handle on the marathon, though it has taken time for me.  I was also chasing a standard that had its own time frame...I also have my own time frame.  What's exciting is that I ran a strong marathon that was not quite up to my potential, but gave me more experience to have a few 2:25s under my belt now.  Not a stellar performance, but solid.  I still have more work to do to get things to line up.  At some point, the body adapts.

I didn't really think about going for the Olympic Trials until I started to get pretty fast during the year 2011.  Back then I had set PR's of 1:08:39 in the half marathon, 31:26 in the 10K, and 15:13 in the 5K.  I knew I had a long way to go though.  I continued to focus on getting faster.  I needed to get faster at the 5K, 10 Mile, and Half Marathon first.  I also focused on attaining the 2016 half marathon olympic trials standard of 1:05:00.  By 2016, I had run 1:06:50 for the half marathon.  Interestingly, I now have run 1:05:25 in 2019, but the standard was moved to 1:04:00.  Needless to say, I've gotten pretty damn fast at the half marathon, running 4:59 pace for the 13.1 mile distance.  I think I can go 1:04, but I also notice a switch in my mentality of focusing more on the marathon now.  I believe that as I age, the marathon has started to come more naturally my way.  I am happy I have worked on my shorter distance times to help me have every tool necessary.  And I think I can continue to improve in those still.  But I am becoming more and more experienced at the marathon now, and really focusing on applying all my acquired skills and strengths to this distance.  Houston 2020 was my last shot to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon.  But it wasn't my last shot to qualify for the Olympic Trials.  Perhaps there is another.  At the end of the day, I just want to see how fast I can run, as I continue to improve each year.  The real goal isn't the trials.  It is to be the absolute best I can be.  Whatever that ends up being.  So far in my career, I stand with the PRs below.

PRs:

1 mile: 4:21 (2017)
5,000m Track: 14:39 (2017)
5K Road: 14:41 (2019)
10,000m Track: 30:55 (2018)
10K Road: 30:43 (2014)
10 Miles: 49:54 (2019 split)
Half Marathon: 65:25 (2019) top performance
Marathon: 2:25 (2019 & 2020)



As I look back to what I have run up through January 19, 2020, there are uncertain times ahead due to COVID-19.  It makes me appreciate all the amazing races I have run so far in my career, and to look back at some awesome experiences and memories.  These experiences are also what my athletes have achieved.  Coming up, I will post about some athletes I've coached and their accomplishments.  They deserve some shout outs and recognition!