Friday, September 18, 2020

About Coach Sloane

 Chris Sloane has been running for 23 years, and coaching for 10 years.  Chris has competed in over a dozen US Championships, including a 27th place in the 2018 US 10K Championship, 34th place in the 2016 US Half Marathon Championship, and a 1st place for his age group 30-34 in the 2016 US 15K Championship.  Chris has run 65:25 for the half marathon (4:59 per mile), currently his best distance.  Although he is continuing to pursue the marathon, in which he has run a 2:25 twice.

Chris grew up in Gaithersburg, MD, and has been running for over 20 years.  Originally a soccer player, Chris got cut from the high school soccer team and decided to give cross country a try.  As a freshman, he made the varsity team at Quince Orchard and competed through his senior year to finish 12th in the Cross Country State Championship.  After high school, Chris went to Virginia Tech where he made the cross country and track teams as a walk on.  At Virginia Tech, Chris was coached by Ben Thomas, who is now the University of Oregon Distance Coach.  Chris learned a lot under Thomas' training, and applies a lot of what he learned to his coaching today.  Chris' high school coach, Seann Pelkey, always saw Chris as a strength runner, and Thomas helped bring out Chris' potential for longer distances.  Although Chris ran PRs for 3K, 5K, 8K, and 10K at Virginia Tech, he felt there was a lot more in him after finishing his collegiate career.  

Following a break from running to finish his architecture degree at Virginia Tech, Chris realized he needed running in his life and felt a burning desire to compete again and perhaps do better in the longer distances.  During college, Chris did run a half marathon in 1:16 and a marathon in 2:38.  They gave him insight on what his potential could be in those distances.  Chris got back into his running in 2007 but was out of shape, and needed a kick in the butt to get back in gear.  He joined the Georgetown Running Club and trained with them for a few years.  He returned to his old form, and he started running PRs.  Chris then switched club teams because of his job working at Potomac River Running Store (=PR=).  In 2011, Chris had a big breakthrough year - he ran PRs in the mile, 5K, 10K, 10 Mile, Half & Full Marathon.  In 2012, he qualified for his first US Half Marathon Championship, held in Duluth, MN.  Although he had a disappointing race, he came back in 2014 to finish 56th in the US Half Marathon Championship, in a time of 1:07:29 (held in Houston).  Up until this point Chris had coached himself.  As Chris got to a pretty high level in his running, he began exploring other opportunities.  In April of 2014, following a 19th place in the US Mens 10 Mile Championship (hosted by Cherry Blossom), he made a trip down to Greenville, SC to visit Greenville Track Club Elite for an opportunity to run for a pro team and for Asics.  Although Chris was impressed with the overall visit, something in him told him it wasn't the right thing to do.  It was a tough decision to make.  Back at home, Chris found out =PR= had a coach for a new team name called DC Elite, who was Roland Rust.  Although Chris had been training himself up to this point, he felt he needed a mentor to guide him to the next level up from where he had gotten to.  Chris felt he was at a point where it was very difficult for him to improve.  Roland taught Chris through a Lydiard style approach, and Chris tested his body to the absolute limit, pushing his mileage higher than ever before.  Chris had to learn additional ways to push his body besides what he learned in college.  He trained in Florida - running intervals in brutal heat, and ran 120 miles/week.  There was a lot of success, and in 2015, Chris was ranked the #2 runner in the DC area, behind Chris Kwiatkowski who was a pro that ran for Oregon training under Centrowitz.  Chris went head to head with Kwiatkowski at the 2015 Lawyers Have Heart 10K, where they were together until the final mile.  Chris also finished 2nd in the 2015 Rockville Twilighter, losing only to an Ethiopian.  In 2015, Chris signed onto the Saucony Hurricane team.

Start line of 2015 Rockville Twilighter

Finish of 2015 Rockville Twilighter

2015 Lawyers Have Heart 10K, chasing Chris Kwiatkowski

There was some frustration Chris had too - he was unable to finish a marathon under Roland's training - and later on Chris believed he was a bit over trained going into the marathons he attempted.  It wasn't Roland's fault, as both Chris and Roland were trying to push Chris to a new level.  Thankfully, the results showed in other races.  In 2016, in what is one of the best performances Chris has run to date, he was recruited to take part in an Olympic Trials qualifying attempt in Jacksonville, Florida, for the half marathon (1:05:00) standard.  Although this was a long shot for Chris, he wanted to improve his monster PR of 1:07:29.  60 elite men were recruited, and Chris finished 40th among them, in a time of 1:06:50.  It was a personal breakthrough for Chris, as he really never thought he could ever run 5:05 miles for the 13.1 distance.  The first half of 2016 was very successful for Chris.  He placed 17th in the World Class Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and was 9th American.   He also was the 1st place 30-34 year old in the US 15K Championships, and placed 34th in the 2016 US Half Marathon Championships.

Chris places 34th at the 2016 US Half Marathon Championships

The second half of 2016, however, Chris developed bad plantar fascitis in his left foot.  His second half of 2016 was derailed, and Chris and Roland agreed to depart (respectfully - they keep in touch).  Chris concluded the mileage was pushed too much.  (So for those of you who think higher mileage without intensity is injury proof, think again!)  While Chris had gotten to a new successful level in his running, he needed to rest and heal for a while.  The second half of 2016 he did not race, and ran minimally during the fall.  Chris unfortunately also lost the Saucony sponsorship he had.  He needed to reset and begin again.

In 2017, Chris returned to self coaching, and slightly decreased his volume of training (but not dramatically).  It worked.  It took a while to get back to fitness, but by spring Chris had returned to his former self.  He set a new 5K PR, won the Crystal City Twilighter 5K, and outkicked pro Nike runner Andrew Bumbalough in the US 10K Championships in Atlanta.  He was also 2nd in both the Annapolis 10 Miler and Parks Half Marathon.  In 2017, Chris was once again ranked #2 in the Washington DC area by RunWashington Magazine.  Most significant that year however, would be that Chris met his now-girlfriend Silvia, who he started coaching in 2017.  That fall, Silvia won the Baltimore Marathon.  During that time, the city was going through some really rough times, and Chris saw the power of Silvia's inspiration as women on the streets cheered for her during the race.  
The 2017 Baltimore Women's Champion, Silvia Baage

Chris places 27th at the 2017 US 10K Championships, Atlanta, GA
Chris was ranked #2 in 2017 by RunWashington

But even after the success Chris had in 2017, the next few years were a breakthrough for Chris.  

In 2018, Chris ran one of the best races of his life, finishing a stellar 6th place in the World Class Army Ten Miler in Washington, DC.  He also placed 27th in the US 10K Championships, and competed in a pro meet in Oregon for 10,000m.  He traveled to the UK, competing in the elite field of the Great North Run and started next to Mo Farah.  He joined the MCRRC racing team, and both Chris and Silvia were awarded runners of the year for MCRRC in 2018.  Towards the end of 2018, Chris chipped off a bit of his half marathon PR, running 1:06:37, before running another PR of 2:25:05 in the marathon to finish the year.

Chris races in Washington, DC to place 6th in the Army Ten Miler

Then, in the beginning of 2019, Chris ran the fastest half marathon race of his career, a 1:05:25 at the Houston Half Marathon, averaging 4:59/mile.  Chris personally feels this is his best performance of all time.  In 2019, Chris won 7 races (one of them the Parks Half Marathon, another was Pikes Peek 10K).  He also set a course record for age 35-39 at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon, in 1:06:18.          
Chris races a 1:05:25 PR at the 2019 Houston Half Marathon

Heading into 2020, Chris decided to give the 2020 Houston Marathon a shot at qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials.  Though he went through the halfway mark in 1:09:15 and on pace for the 2:19:00 qualifying time, Chris was not able to hold onto the pace for the last 10 miles of the race, and finished in 2:25:14.  Nevertheless, he was proud of the effort as it was his second time running 2:25 ever.  He considers this his best marathon because it was a bit windy and not as good conditions as when he first ran 2:25:05 at 2018's CIM.  

To date, the 2020 Houston Marathon remains Chris' last race since Covid-19.

Chris and Silvia are entered in the 2021 Houston Half Marathon.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  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.