2021: An Introduction Speeders and Boston Bound
I hope 2021 is off to a great start for you. Before I launch into my long winded annual message, I wanted to take a quick moment to tell you just how much you all mean to me and how much I deeply miss seeing and cheering for you in person each week. Wednesday and Saturday mornings coaching you, are definitely among the top things I have missed the very most during the pandemic. The highs you give me each week are irreplaceable!
And, before starting, I also wanted to take a second to reflect on the roots of these two wonderful groups and review the concepts that are at the heart and soul of what fuels our engines. I know it’s a long message but I do hope you will take some time to sit down and read my thoughts.
Over a dozen years ago, both the Speedsters and Boston Bound groups, each started with just a handful of like-minded folks with two simple goals: they were looking for some company and some coaching guidance to prepare them through the winter for either the 10 Miler or the Boston Marathon. Who would have ever dreamed that those two groups would eventually grow to close to 1000 in size and, even more significantly, spawn countless deep, personal, lifetime relationships?! And for me personally, this amazing experience with you over the past fourteen years, has truly been one of the best things in my life, as I absolutely love not only coaching you but, even more rewarding
From the get-go, the heart and soul of the two groups has been a positive push and pull attitude, in encouraging one another to improve. I have always strived to create a culture of comeraderi and positivity...one where every single person, from the very fastest to the very slowest, feels not only motivated but also equally welcomed, included and valued! And like a classic high school cross country and track team experience, I am always doing my best to have you truly enjoying, not only the training and your personal improvement but, even more importantly, one another’s company. Obviously with COVID, those group settings are not currently possible but many of our other core values are still very much in place.
Here are some of the keys and the nuts and bolts, in no particular order, of what makes us tick…
Here are some of the keys and the nuts and bolts, in no particular order, of what makes us tick…
Prior to the pandemic we would meet every Wednesday morning at 5:30 outside the UVa track, where we would regularly have upwards of 75 folks join us each week. This is where the deep friendships are hatched, as we break into pace groups each week, which immediately places you with a tighter group of folks with similar ability, within the larger overall group. This is without a doubt my single most favorite morning of the week! But, due to the pandemic, we are, obviously, not currently meeting as a group, which I miss terribly. We will return to these weekly group runs once the pandemic has passed but, in the meantime, I’m still sending you workouts so you can continue to train for a variety of events I have planned for you this Spring, including our new RaceFest 2021 Series (next up Sugar Hollow Frostbite Four Miler) and a mid-March certified full and half marathon.
In keeping with my goal of re-creating the joys of a high school team experience, we have always had Captains. Harry Landers (BB) and Leah Connor (Speedsters) have been wonderful Captains, as they keep the communication going and, even more importantly, help to make our newcomers feel welcomed and everyone engaged in the game. They send my weekly out to you on Sundays and they alert you to any important updates and changes throughout the week. I’m truly grateful for their wonderful ongoing volunteer help.
The best two ways to get me are, either in person (my favorite) or by text. Due to the pandemic, I’m meeting folks outside (yes, even in the cold...dress accordingly) with masks on and, oddly enough, it’s been working really great. I have an email address but, due to the busy nature of my daily routine, I’d prefer to use text as a quicker means of communication. Thanks for understanding. I strongly encourage you to get in touch with me about ANYTHING you have questions about, from trying to figure out a pace goal or shifting a workout around due to family or work issues or not understanding the specifics of a workout. I especially want to hear from you ASAP if you’re noticing a new ache/pain or you are feeling extra fatigued. It’s critical that you get in touch with me within 24 hours of noticing a new pain, especially if it’s only on one side of your body!
And speaking of communicating, your Captains and I consider our weekly Sunday email message to be one of the main lifelines of our group’s culture, as it’s a consistent way for us to stay in close touch. Each Sunday, I try to break the message into two parts: A. News, updates, celebrations and tips. B. The weekly workouts in detail.
It usually takes me 3 hours to compile the email message and workouts and so I encourage you, even if you’re not in training for anything, to at least read the first part, as a way of staying connected with your fellow teammates.
From time to time, I’ll also send a video message with updates and tips.
*AHR and POE:
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, these two acronyms are the keys to the kingdom! Follow them, like all of the best runners in the world do, and you will not only greatly reduce the risk of injury but will also, over the long haul, enjoy your daily running experience that much more. AHR (Aerobic Heart Rate) is the pace that you should be running for anywhere from 70-90% of your total weekly mileage. It’s the pace you can REALLY comfortably run and talk at, which I coined as “conversational pace” back in the early eighties, and should be somewhere in the 130-145 heart rate range. For marathoners and half marathoners, your AHR is about 60-90 seconds/mile SLOWER than your targeted race pace and for all other shorter distances, your AHR is at least 90 seconds to 2 minutes slower. But, rather than solely relying on the numbers from your heart rate monitor and Garmins, I’d prefer to have you use your sense of “perception” in constantly monitoring how you feel. If the effort starts to feel uncomfortable and you begin to hear yourself breathing at a more rapid rate, you’re simply running too fast for that given moment in time. Key take-away: So, your actual AHR PACE will VARY based on terrain, weather and fatigue (sleep, stress) BUT your PERCEPTION OF EFFORT (POE) of comfort should always remain the SAME!
Fact: The number one cause of injury, for runners, is fatigue, as the more tired you are the less efficient your mechanics are! So, please, constantly be monitoring “how you feel”. Anytime you’re feeling fatigued, immediately take a day or two off and give me a shout ASAP.
I’ve now been coaching and learning from you, my athletes, for over 40 years and, after experimenting with many different iterations, I have found that the following 5 day weekly template works the best for my athletes (if you prefer 4 days, then drop the Sunday run...want to go to 6 days? Then add Tuesday to the mix). Each day serves a purpose, with your recovery AHR days actually being the most important, as they recharge your battery. Run them too quickly and you will be heading to a path of self destruction. Here’s the core of the 5 day plan:
-Mondays = 3rd longest mileage day of the week. Usually all at AHR but may, from time to time, include some faster paced miles in the middle. Almost always includes surges, either on hills or flat, where you focus on using your core (upper body) to lift your knees and drive your legs. These are NOT sprints but faster paced controlled surges that help to strengthen your core.
-Wednesdays = 2nd longest mileage day and your “speed” workout day, where you actually run faster than your race goal pace (hence the term “speed”). Always start with a warmup of at least 1-2 miles, followed by “dynamic” drills (Leah and Harry will be sending you a video). Then make sure to run your first few “repeats”, whether it’s a fartlek out on the road or a track workout, at a slower more deliberate pace than what you’re aiming for the overall workout. All of this easing in process is to allow your body to properly and safely warmup, specifically your hamstrings, Achilles and calves, which are always much tighter and more vulnerable to injury after sitting or sleeping! Always finish out your Wednesday speed workout with a slow 1-2 mile cooldown, followed by some static stretching or foam rolling.
-Thursday = shortest day (along with Sunday) of the week and serves as a shakeout run to help keep your fibers loose the day after a speed workout. Better known as a “recovery” day. Foam roll!
-Saturdays = Longest mileage day of the week. I like to alternate each Saturday with either an extra long and deliberately slow AHR run or a moderately long “pace” run (some folks like using the word Tempo but I prefer “pace” as that’s so much more specific as to what I’m aiming to have you accomplish). Always drink and use nutrition during these longer more depleting runs and follow them, within 20 minutes afterwards, with chocolate milk, a banana or an energy bar. This helps to enhance your recovery.
-Sundays = Recovery day (same as Thursday). Foam roll!
*A TYPICAL TRAINING CYCLE:
I like to use the following basic blocks when building your training cycle: A. Base mileage, where we work on building your weekly mileage to its upper limit. As boring as it can be, all of these miles should be run at your AHR. This phase usually lasts about 6 weeks. B. After your weekly mileage is no longer climbing and has stabilized, comes the Strength phase, where I introduce hills, Fartlek, surges and some “pace” work into the AHR mix. C. Fine Tuning comes next, where I lengthen your pace work and introduce longer speed repeats, especially on the track. D. Taper Time comes about 2 weeks out, when I begin to lower your weekly mileage, the distance of your long run and the overall intensity of your workouts. E. Game Plan time is in the last few weeks leading up to race day, when you sit down with me (and your training log/journal) and we look over your complete body of work to see what is now the best game plan for race day. This is one of my favorite aspects of coaching! F. Post race Recovery is the single most important, yet neglected, phase as it safely and properly preps you for your next cycle.
There is no other phase or part of any training cycle more important than recovery! The more consistently you build recovery into your weekly, monthly and post cycle regimen, the less likely you will be to experience an injury and the better you’ll “feel” and the more you will enjoy your running! So, each week you have several recovery days built into your program (all days except Wednesday and Saturday); then every fourth week you will drop your normal weekly mileage by at least 30% (so, if you’re normally at 35 miles, you’d drop to around 25); and, finally, every cycle ends with a long, post-race recovery period.
As old fashioned and outdated as it may seem, journaling is the best way to not only record all of the important specifics of your training (how you feel, pace of your first half mile versus overall pace, eating regimen, etc.) but also a great way to monitor and trace the origins of a potential injury or fatigue crash…or, better yet, be able to track what led to running and racing successes. Paper journals are the best, as you actually put pen to paper and really digest how it’s going as you write. It’s what all the great ones do! Plus, it’s fun to look back at your old journals to see what worked and what didn’t during any given cycle.
There are so many versions of cross training, that one can get confused as to what’s best for them. As a longtime coach, I like to simplify it by defining cross training as “the most efficient way to enhance your primary activity”. And the key is to make sure that your cross training doesn't actually tire you, so that it ends up taking away instead of enhancing your primary activity. In your case, when in training for a single or series of long distance races, your “primary” is running. So, the most effective way to help you improve your running is to work on your flexibility and your core. As runners, we are notoriously tight and weak in the core, which mainly comes from our sitting lifestyle. A five to ten minute DAILY regimen of sit-ups, pushups, planks, balancing exercises and upper body hand weights can have a lasting, positive influence on your overall running efficiency and greatly reduce the risk of injury, WITHOUT “tiring you out” for your running!
*BASIC DAILY PILLARS:
Having a solid training plan is only part of the path to running success. Less sexy but equally important daily things like proper hydration (at least 60-70 ounces/day), sleep (at least 7-8 hours), foam rolling and proper nutrition (you are what you eat) are still critical to the success of your overall running plan.
Closely monitoring the total mileage on your shoes is one of the most underrated and neglected things in a runner’s repertoire. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that close to half the injuries I see are from “dead” shoes. My recommendation is 300-350 miles of running use for those training for a marathon and 400-425 miles for those in training for shorter distance races. And, use your shoes for “walking around”? Then drop that running mileage in HALF!
As always, please, please feel free to text or stop by with any questions. Quite often my athletes will say “You’re so busy, so I don’t want to bother you.” Ironically, it’s actually the other way around, where I’m bothered if you DON’T get in touch with me! So, please call on me with anything!
Let’s make 2021 a truly special year!
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