Friends, it has been a long time since I have written a blog post! After Boston, I took a break from stepping on a starting line after running several races in a short amount of time. I knew in May, I would start another marathon training cycle, and finally worked on my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), which is NOT easy. This July, a new 8 hour endurance run directed by 2 local fabulous females was created and as much as I wanted to enter, I knew jumping on the start line was a bad idea for several reasons based on my goals. I’ve enjoyed the races from the perspective of a volunteer this summer and I believe this has helped me stay focused on race day (and healthy!).
A year ago, I ran the Erie Marathon as an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A few years ago, running a marathon alone was a dream, and not until I met my tribe did I even feel Boston was a possibility. 2017 Erie will always hold a special place in my heart for so many reasons – it’s the first marathon I asked someone to coach me, I was blessed to train with several running friends over a hot summer, Mario traveled to run with me and friends drove 5 hours one way just to surprise me on the course. And, in the end, I got my BQ: 3:25:24!
Here I am, 1 year later, headed north to run the Erie Marathon once again. This time, we have a small group (including my husband!) striving for PRs, trying to improve their Boston qualifying times or chasing the unicorn for the first time. Race day isn’t quite here yet, but the 2018 Erie Marathon experience has already proved to be just as memorable for me. Jeremy gave me the opportunity to help create the group training plan and a number of us have been able to meet before dawn at least twice a week to train together. Through social events as well as our runs, we have grown closer as friends. The positive attitudes are contagious and being part of a group training for a common goal is inspiring and motivating. We’ve shared both successes and struggles with one another since we began this journey in May. I am very excited to see how race day goes for each of us! Sad to tell you no runner tracking is available, so you’ll need to wait until we have reception to post results. Although it is sad to see our training cycle come to an end, I feel once we cross the finish line this bunch will not dissolve – I see many more early morning runs from Dunkin Donuts in the future!
Since I already acquired a BQ time earlier this year (Shamrock and Boston), I am chasing my marathon PR which was set at Erie last year. I feel I’ve learned something new each time I’ve run a marathon and I’m hoping I can pull it all together for #5 and execute better. Let’s see what happens! 🙂
What comes next is still mulling around in my mind. After doing a little bit of everything since I returned to the racing scene, I feel my heart is calling me in a certain direction. I have some big decisions to make in the near future and I can’t wait to share what’s next!
Even after witnessing the wild weather which occurred during JFK 50 last year, the seed was planted about possibly running an ultra. Last December, I was out at a winery celebrating a friend’s birthday when the topic arose (obviously alcohol-induced). At this point, it still sounded crazy and I still wasn’t quite sure I’d really consider entering.
Fast forward to the spring. Through several group runs and races, Sara and I became great friends (as did our families). Ads for JFK kept popping up on social media. Mario signed up for his 2nd, then Jeremy for his 3rd. Would I really try to run 50 miles? So far, I had only completed 1 marathon. Was I really considering doing almost double? Unsure how the conversation came about, all I remember is a message between Sara and me: “I’ll do it if you do it” (and no, this time the conversation was not fueled with any wine). That night, we filled out the form and hit submit. We were in.
Over the next few months, I think we both bobbled between excitement and “what the hell did we sign up for?”. Knowing we would have each other to run with I think made the task seem a little less overwhelming. Over the summer, I racked up miles training for my marathon and Sara worked on building a base as well. Now, if you read my post on crewing Yeti, you’ll know Sara joined Josh for 43 miles! Unsure how many she ran vs walked, but she still did 43 miles. Amazing. After Yeti, I knew she would have no problem with JFK.
Once Yeti was over, we started to look towards our race. We planned to head up to the course and tackle the trail portion one Saturday morning. I emailed the race director with a few questions and looked up the maps since we had never been to the area before. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot, we were already a bit discombobulated, haha! Out of the car and we weren’t sure where the trail started – sheesh, what are we in for? We asked another runner in the lot and felt better after he said he had no idea since it was his first time there as well. Blind leading the blind is not a great way to start. Another duo of runners were gearing up and thankfully they pointed us in the right direction. And, off we went!
The two of us were having so much fun, running through the trails, chattering away. We came to a road, crossed and kept going up the asphalt. We continued up this looooong incline forever, switching off between walking and running until we reached the top. And came to a dead end. Crud, what now? I remembered reading a post about a runner who asked where to go at the top, thankfully had cell service and was able to pull up the information on my phone. We circumvented the tower and started back on the trail….until we came to an intersection. Now, the two of us are no girl scouts, so we had to make a decision of which way to go. I again tried to use my phone and we headed to the left. Chattering away again as we ran through the woods – we kept saying, this is so much fun! And then, we ran into the other runners….coming toward us from the opposite direction. Navigators, we are not. So, we turned around and followed them back the way we just came and settled back into our pace. Happy to say, the rest of the run was great! We ended up with 15 great miles and headed to refuel at Panera.
We decided to head back out again, this time adding on more miles on the C&O. One of our goals was to run the trail correctly this time. Once again, we parked in the lot and we started off to the trail…or so we thought. Somehow we ended up in tent city! Laughing at our awful orienteering skills (Sara – unsure if we are cut out for Barkley!), we quickly found the trail and were underway. When we crossed the road this time, we found the trail we missed on the last run (woohoo!). The trail became fairly rocky and we ended up speedwalking much of the first couple miles. About halfway through, Sara tripped and came up with minor scrapes but that girl kept on trucking! So glad Sara is an easy person to be around; always positive, never panics and is just as determined as I am.
Once we finished the trail and came to the Weverton lot, we met John who was going to run on the C&O with us. We changed out of our trail shoes, fueled, and set off again with John this time. The sun was out and it was a little unseasonably warm for late October. We kept hydrated and ran onto the C&O through Harper’s Ferry. What should be a beautiful running route, especially during the fall, ends up being a tad boring after the miles of trail. We realized on this part of our run when coming to a complete stop; you shouldn’t try to go back to running right away. Definitely need to ease in; walk a bit before taking off. We ended up doing a marathon and John did 12. Another great training run.
We hit the trail one more time this past weekend and we are glad we did. Since our last run, many more leaves had fallen off the trees which make the trail a little more challenging. We are happy to share with you this time, we did not get lost at all. About halfway through, I was running along chatting and then WHAM! I was flat on my face. Brushed myself off and we continued on; no injuries. A few more miles and our last training run was finished. Almost 3 hours and 13.5 miles later, we came out of the trail and began walking towards the car as if we had just jogged a mile.
As we headed back to pick up my car at the start, we decided to check out where the race begins and the course leading up to the trail. As we drove down the street, we once again were reminded of the intensity of this race. The road leading to the Appalachian Trail is one long giant hill! Unsure if was a good or bad idea to go see what the start has in store for us. Oh, what an adventure this will be.
Now it is race week. Did we get in enough long runs; enough miles? Not as many as I would have liked to, but there are only so many hours in the day. I know we will finish – even if we are crawling or Sara carries me on her back. We are still excited and still wondering, “what the heck did I sign up for?”. 50 miles is FAR!
Tune in next week for my race recap – hopefully I’ll be able to type after 50 miles!
Update: did you read yesterday’s post about fear? After publishing, I worked with 2 clients who both decided to move forward, not be frozen by fear and go after their goals! Exciting!
Today kicks off my November series discussing the crazy world of ultramarathon running – from crewing to training to racing!
Part 1 is long…kick back and relax!
To be honest, being out of the running world for so long, I somehow missed hearing about the ultra world. To me, if people wanted to run long, they ran marathons. When I first started running with Jeremy, he told me about his awful 1st time experience at the JFK 50 miler in 2015. He described how he felt, how he had come to terms with quitting after the marathon mark (technically making him an ultra runner) and how he continued on thanks to some running friends. Listening to his story, it certainly didn’t seem like he’d do it again. Yet, a couple months later, he shared how he signed up again. 2016 JFK went a little smoother; which seemed to cause him to seek out a new, crazier challenge – the Yeti 100. Here I was, still thinking it was crazy people ran 50 miles, now 100? Who are these crazy running friends I’ve met? So, you can read here how Jeremy and Josh talked each other into not only entering the Yeti 100, but attempting to finish under 24 hours to be rewarded with one of these fabulous belt buckles. Race was on the calendar and of course, the rest of us jumped on board to help crew/pace J+J, not quite knowing all what we got ourselves into. The Virginia Creeper trail is 33 miles from point to point and the race would go out, back and out again. Seven aid stations were set between Abingdon and White Top and we decided to travel to each one for as long as our runners needed; giving additional aid and someone to run alongside them providing company, maybe distraction from the discomfort and a mental pick-me-up as needed. Sara created a spreadsheet to help the rest of us have some sort of idea of when each of us could jump in and how many miles we would run, based on the run/walk strategy created by Sanders and Ilnicki.
Showing up at the starting line in the dark with all the other runners, support crew and friends was very exciting. I felt like we were part of a crazy cult. A few words were spoken by the race director and off they went (and so did we!). We were all worried before the race we wouldn’t have cell service for GPS; thankfully this didn’t pose a problem. We easily navigated from stop to stop (most of the time) to await our runners. Each stop, we listened to our runners’ needs – we were ready and waiting with food, water, extra clothes/shoes, headlamps, jackets, etc. One of the important tips I would tell an ultra crew it to make sure you eat, sleep and drink as well. In the 24-30 hours we were out on the course, I think maybe the most rest any of us got was 1 hour. Yes, we aren’t running nearly as far as the racers, but the ultra still takes a toll on you. We had been surviving on bars, PB&J and other snacks, but Mario, Sara and I knew we needed some real food before we jumped in as pacers. The options between two of the aid stations didn’t bode well for running after eating – fast food and gas stations. However, we found a Kroger and ran in to see what ready-made healthier food we could find. We headed towards the deli and AHA! The sight and smell of a rotisserie chicken caught my eye (and nose!). I think Mario and Sara thought I was crazy, but they quickly agreed the chicken sounded better than a pre-made sandwich which had been sitting in a cooler all day. We added a few snacks to our order and out to the car we went!
Lisa and Mario hiking down from one of the trestles.
We pulled up to mile 33, crossed the bridge and noshed on our food as we awaited the guys to complete their first point to point. Some runners had already dropped out, or were considering to drop out at this time. The guys had been way ahead pace, and I knew we were concerned they were going too fast up front. However, they looked strong coming into the turnaround point. No pacers were allowed to join until right around mile 42, so Jeremy and Josh stayed together until then. At this time, the weather was pretty warm – the guys were sweaty and I was hoping they were hydrating well. First pacers, Vernon and Mario jumped in from Alvarado to Damascus, a 7 mile jaunt. As we waited by the caboose, we saw Mario approaching with Jeremy – unfortunately Josh and Vernon were not with them. Thankfully, we had a pacer assigned to each, so we keep moving forward with the plan. We heard Josh was hurting and hoped to see him along the way. I was slated to hit the trail with Jeremy around mile 56. I confess, I did not look at what elevation we would be gaining in the planned 10 mile run when I agreed to this pacing slot. Jeremy came down the trail with Jen; we refilled his water and checked his other supplies and off we went. The trail was beautiful; the surface was softer than I expected and the natural surroundings were just stunning. Unsure how Jeremy’s mental state would be at this point (especially hearing about his 50 mile experiences), I was quite surprised. He was in the game. Funny to hear him still processing the fact he was running 100 miles. For the ascent to White Top, we started off with switching off running and walking – and as we went further, we definitely started to be walking more. I encouraged Jeremy to eat and drink. He was hydrating well but he was starting to walk a little crooked. He tried to eat a waffle, but his stomach was not wanting food. I started to worry a little as we continued our trek as day turned into night. We talked about getting some liquid calories if he wasn’t able to take in much solids and climbed the last couple of miles. When we came to White Top (mile 66), he was definitely still feeling a bit off but downed a mug of soup. After more Nuun refills and adding another layer, we headed out of White Top. Literally, it was all downhill from here. I kid you not, there must have been something magical in that soup because Jeremy was on fire! The combination of calories and a descent gave him the ability to run and run much faster! Seeing bobbing headlamps coming at you and exchanging words of encouragement to others helped the miles click by. All the way down to mile 69, Jeremy was still in a great mental state. He was tired and hurting, but was so positive to everyone in the race – I think the reciprocal positive energy kept him moving forward. We cruised into mile 69 where Lisa would take over. I could not believe we had been running together for over 3 hours – it was so peaceful and therapeutic, I just felt in the zone and had no idea of elapsed time. At this point, I switched teams. Mario and I jumped in my car and headed back to White Top to see Josh and Sara. When they arrived, Josh was in bad shape. Shivering. Tired. Hurting. As he struggled to add layers, he was having difficulty so I jumped in to assist as Sara helped him with other tasks. And then the tears came. As a friend, I felt heartbreak. As a runner, I understood the mental anguish and the physical exhaustion (somewhat since I definitely have never pushed myself this far…yet!). As part of the aid crew, I worried about his well being. Seeing him hurt, I hurt. Internally, I struggled thinking maybe I should say, “Josh, you’ve made it 66 miles. You are an ultra runner. It’s okay to quit.” But, I didn’t. I knew he would know if it was time to quit. He sipped down some broth and just like I had seen about an hour or so before, a magical change!! Sara and Josh took off down the hill and when we saw them at the next stop, he was doing great! Mario and I drove between stations, aiding as needed and catching a few Z’s (I did not – Mario fell asleep so quickly and snored so loudly). The exhaustion were starting to get to us. We missed Sara and Josh at one station and we quickly drove to the next. In my somewhat tired state of mind, I ended up at the wrong station. Crap. What to do? We quickly made a decision and I think I took a year off Mario’s life with my NASCAR-style driving on curvy country roads. We sailed into Taylors Landing with fingers crossed they’d be here. THANK GOODNESS! There they were, at the tent – eating and resting. Whew, minor crisis averted. Off Mario and I went to the next stop and then onto Damascus. At this point, it was about 2:40 in the morning. We had cell service again and had a few updates on Jeremy. He was plugging away still and expected to reach his goal of sub 24 hours – AWESOME! At this point, we realized we would have enough time to make it to the finish line to see Jeremy cross and then make it back to Alvarado for Josh and Sara. A quick coffee stop for Mario and we met up with Lisa and Vernon at the finish line. Yeti is not your typical finish line. No big blow up arch, throngs of people, after race parties. No, just a couple dozen people waiting in the dark; anticipating bobbing lights coming down the dark path. We didn’t have to wait long. Jeremy and Jen came around the corner. So freaking exciting. He crossed, got a hug from Jason the race director, received his TWO belt buckles and sadly, that was that. Check off the box. 100 miles in the books. Wow. Unfortunately, at this point, I needed to get ready to head back home and Jeremy needed to go relax/chill/shower/sleep, so the crew split up to get Jeremy home and get back out to see Josh finish (in a little over 25 hours!). Before I finish with a few thoughts from the other crew members, I wanted to share a few tips if you are considering being part of an ultra team: – Make sure you are part of the plan prior to the race. Know what is expected from you. Pack food for yourself and extra clothes. – Be ready for the plan to change on the fly. Remember: the goal is to get your runner safely to the finish line. Focus on them and their needs. Communicate clearly to everyone involved of any changes. – If you can, take a power nap. You will be exhausted and a few minutes of shut eye can help work wonders. – Have fun! Yes, it was a long day. Yes, I was tired. But, so many fun memories were made. – Celebrate with your runner! What an accomplishment! Without further adieu, here are a few comments from the crew: Mario – “Good experience. I recommend anyone thinking about doing an ultra to crew first, so you can see what is like to run an ultra and what to expect when your time comes. I will do it again any time.” Vernon – “What is it like to pace a runner for 100 miles? I thought the runner would be the one tired, hungry, exhausted? Little did I expect that all of those would apply to me, they person occasionally running/walking and just riding around in a car chasing our runners. But with that said it was an experience unlike anything else I have ever been part of. Watching 2 guys run 100 miles was truly inspiring. From the highs to the lows these guys pushed on and finished! An accomplishment a small percentage of the population can say they have. If you ever decided to pace I recommend the following. Plenty of layers of clothes, plenty of food, lots of good spirit, and the mindset that you won’t sleep. You will go through many of the same highs and lows the runners are experiencing. But the reward will be amazing!” Sara’s Story (Josh’s wife): “Being a pacer for Josh was one of the best experiences, and I would do it again in a heartbeat! When Josh signed up for Yeti, I knew right away I wanted to pace. The week leading up to the race, thoughts started flooding my head with the responsibilities of a pacer – can I physically do it and would I be able to watch him struggle, and not encourage him to stop? I actually googled tips – the dos and don’ts for pacing an ultramarathon. Some takeaways were – Do you know you can handle the distance, checking in on nutrition and hydration, don’t talk the runner’s ear off, offer moral support, don’t complain… Tip – Review the course map! I learned the day before the race, that I had signed myself up to pace Josh going up Whitetop, gaining ~ 3,000ft in elevation. My stomach was in knots.. Could I do this? The morning of the race was a whirlwind, the race started around 7:30 a.m., and Jeremy and Josh were off on their journey. No time to waste or worry, for the first 41.9 miles the guys could not have a pacer. We had 2 vehicles driving to each waypoint to crew the guys. At every stop, I would carry a bag full of Josh’s preferred snacks, med kit essentials, shoes and clothes. After mile 41.9 they would pick-up pacers until the end of the race. Mile 56 is when I would be joining Josh, at this point I knew he was in rough shape, it took him about 80 minutes to run 4 miles. And, Jeremy had gone ahead with his pacer. As I waited for Josh, I started to strategize what I needed to do – head lamp, sandwich bag full of potato chips and water to fill his bottles. When I met up with him at Taylor Valley, it was dusk. He stopped briefly to sip on some broth, then we were off. All of a sudden it was dark, I was able to get a recap of his day and state of mind – no bueno. He picks on me now, but I honestly repeated a handful of phrases for the entirely of 43 miles – “you’re doing great, excellent job, proud of you, and I love you!” My thought was don’t talk too much but those phrases will let him know I was okay. At this point you can tell we were climbing, he couldn’t even run. I kept thinking one foot in front of the other. We basically walked the 10 miles up to Whitetop, and it was freezing! And, I had to use the restroom but it was too far away. We were suppose to switch pacers at this point but I wanted to stay with him. Josh hit a tough point, it was hard for me to swallow. Miraculously, he stood up and off we went. And, I didn’t get to use the bathroom! I kept it to myself, I was shocked he was moving onward. Josh found his inner strength, and we picked up the pace going down the hill. I was pumped! The next 33 miles was a remarkable accomplishment for Josh. Eventually, he would lose some of the momentum he found leaving Whitetop and his body started to become tired. He stubbed his toes a million times and fell twice. I kept reminding him how cool this experience was, in the woods of VA, running in the dark of the night together to chase the 100 miles. Over the course of the night into morning, I wouldn’t let him rest much at the waypoints in fear his body would totally cramp up. When we hit Mile 80 in Damascus around 3 a.m., I started to become sore and tired, but refused to stop pacing. We carried on, it was a 7 mile jaunt to the next way point. We ran, stopped, walked and repeat. He fell asleep on me twice!! I just kept on reminding him, he could sleep at the finish line 🙂 We made it to Alvarado then to Watauga Trestle – the last point before the finish. The sun was coming up, it was breathtaking – absolutely beautiful. Josh started to change gears and we were running again knowing the end was near. We passed about 8 runners. When we closed in on the finished line, we booked it down the hill, and all I remember is stepping aside and watching Josh cross the line. It was incredible.” Read Josh’s story here. Next up, is a recap of a great ultra event I was able to attend with Josh and Jeremy – stay tuned!
Although my marathon training plan includes a mixed bag of runs – long, easy, speed training, hills – there is one that generates maximum force. Hills!
When you think of a hill workout, I’m sure you think of a workout like this one.
Run up hill, jog down, repeat.
And, I’ve done those….but….
Coach’s prescribed workout for me yesterday consisted of 10 x 1 minute downhillrepeats. Jog up and barrel back down.
Sounds easy – just let gravity do its job right? Not.
My upcoming marathon is pancake flat. So, why do I even bother with hills?
Currently, I am in the strength period of my training plan which includes a variety of hill-based runs. Running hills help build strength, increase VO2Max and of course, tackle hills more easily.
What happens when you run downhill? The muscles in your legs elongate and actually generate more force than when running uphill or on level ground. Running hard downhill also produces more impact on our bodies – joints, bones and muscles. Training on hills helps the body to adapt to the force, repair itself and in turn, become stronger.
Strengthening the muscles used on downhills easily translates into faster paces on anytype of terrain.
As you descend down the hill, it is important to work on quickening your cadence and shortening your stride to have better control over form. Stay off your heels and don’t brake!
Planning on running Boston 2018? Add this workout into your regimen to ready your legs to tackle the 4-mile downhill in the beginning of the race.
Add in the downhill workout early in your training plan.
Choose a hill that’s less than a 10% grade.
If you can get on a softer surface, do it. Otherwise, it’s okay to hit the pavement.
Start with 5 downhill repeats and work your way up to 10.
Use rocks or chalk to help you count your reps!
Result? A great workout, fun stats and killer quads!
A few months ago, I discussed the mental battle many of us feel when running whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner. A friend read my post and mentioned I should read How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald.
So, during a cold winter weekend, I downloaded a copy and curled up on the couch to gather some knowledge about the mental game. I knew this book would speak to me, but I wasn’t prepared for the negative emotional effect.
I’ll admit the beginning of the book was tough for me to read. To be brutally honest, I was pissed off. Sometimes reading the truth and admitting previous self defeat really sucks.
In college, I felt like that athlete who “pulled up lame”. I was tired. I had lost interest. My passion for running was at a low. I’ll confess I claimed a fake injury once or twice during a race when I couldn’t hang. So many life changes had occurred when I was in college and some days I felt I was just a lost ship at sea. Or maybe I just stopped trying.
For years, my goal was to use my running talent to earn a college scholarship. Looking back, once I achieved this major feat, I don’t recall setting a new goal. No goal to win the 800m at ACCs or qualify for NCAAs. Did I stop dreaming? Was I just happy to settle and have college athletics be my final destination? Unsure.
I’ve strayed – back to the story.
This book is a collection of stories about athletes who share their experiences; their battles and the coping mechanisms they have used to conquer the beast within themselves. I especially enjoyed reading about a runner named Jenny and her disaster of a race at 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Later, you find out her married name – Jenny Simpson – who was just in the most recent Olympics.
Upon finishing this particular chapter, I thought, “thank goodness”. I am not the only one. This fierce battle between mind and matter even happens to the best of the best.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone into the area where running is HARD is difficult for everyone. During a typical 5K, you have at least 3,000 steps to conjure up many thoughts – good or bad. And the bad tends to scream much louder than the good.
Since finishing the book, I have utilized a couple key tips while racing.
Embrace the hurt. Accept the fact that some of your run/race may be tough.
One of our local 5ks ends with a windy, gradual uphill about a half mile long. During the race, I knew it would be in front of me soon. I told myself, accept the challenge; yes – it will hurt. But you WILL run the hill and you will be finished soon. Fitzgerald mentions bracing yourself for a tough race or workout can boost performance by 15% or more.
Preparing yourself for the inevitable helps.
Also, reading and being reminded your brain is going to try to quit before your body is ready to give up. Studies show although you mentally feel you cannot take another step, your muscles are not at maximum effort yet. Mind over matter or matter over mind??
I encourage you to read this book if you’ve ever engaged in this mental war while running. You can admit you do – it’s more common than you think.
Whether you are an elite runner or a recreational jogger, I’m sure your mind has tried to make you quit before your body was ready. Arm yourself with a few coping tools and next time, you’ll be prepared to power through!
Now years later, my passion has been reignited and I’m back to racing. I feel as though I’ve been given a second chance to give it my all.
From here on out, and especially when I toe the line chasing that BQ, I will I ask myself, “How bad do you want it?”.
Although once a seasoned and competitive runner, returning to running after 1.5 decades was intimidating. When I was younger, I regretfully never kept a running log of workouts, which would have been great to help create a skeleton training plan. Now, older and out of shape, I had many worries. How do I start? How much is too much? Am I going to get hurt?After researching online, I decided to start with a popular couch to 5K run/walk program which definitely helped me as a beginner.
Prior to training for a full marathon, I Googled the heck out of marathon plans. Let me tell you, there are a LOT of sources to choose from and also a variety of training levels on each plan. Taking into account what I knew would be feasible for me, I created a patchwork plan sourcing information from about three different sites. My goal was simply finishing the marathon, so I chose what I felt would work best for me to achieve that goal.
During my early searches, sites for running coaches would often appear. When thinking of coaching, I would just think of high school sports or elite athletes. Honestly, I was unaware adults were hiring running coaches. As I set my sites on looking to qualify for Boston, I began to consider having someone tailor a specific and personalized training plan for me. I enjoy creating my own plans for shorter races, but the marathon is a whole new ballgame.
My prior experience with coaches has varied from bad to good to best. The best running coach I had was in high school – he tailored the workouts to my needs (my body didn’t respond to traditional long distance workouts), he listened to my aches and pains, reined me in when needed and we communicated well. I’ve also been on the flipside with a coach I didn’t connect with – and honestly, I never performed my best (fault on both sides). Once I decided to have someone help guide me to BQ, I knew it was essential to find a coach that would mesh well with me and my goals.
One of my training partners just happens to be a Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach. Today, Coach Jeremy of RunningDad.com takes on questions I posed to him regarding coaching runners.
Who do you want to coach? Beginner/competitive runners? Would you coach kids?
Coach Jeremy:I have coached brand new runners and Boston qualifiers. No matter the experience level, I enjoy helping my athletes establish goals and plan toward meeting and exceeding them.
With beginners, it is all about getting started and building off of each run, in a controlled manner. Doing too much, too fast, is the leading cause of injury for new runners. I collect as much feedback as I can from the athletes to either push them out of their comfort zone when necessary, or pull the reins when necessary.
With competitive runners, it is all about goals and staying focused on those goals. There can be a lot of outside interference that can impede the path to those goals. My job is help navigate those roadblocks and determine the best way to reach the targeted outcome.
I would love to work with coaching kids on their running. I have coached kids in all sports as my sons work their way through rec and travel sports, but I have not coached kids specifically at running. It is my goal to establish a kids running program under the Running Dad Coaching umbrella.
What is your coaching style like?
Coach Jeremy:I would describe my coaching style as flexible, fluid, and fun. My athletes are not professional runners. I am not a professional runner. Work and family takes up a lot of time. I understand the time crunch and help my athletes establish a routine that works for their lifestyle. As opposed to finding an online training plan or one from a book or magazine, I cater each workout to the individual. Based on feedback from each run, I may change the upcoming workouts to best suit the athlete and what they have happening in their lives. I interact with each of my athletes and we have fun. Whether it is sharing a funny story from a run, a personal achievement outside of running, or just chatting about life in general – I try and keep my athletes happy and the training fun.
What can an athlete expect from you when hiring you to coach?
Coach Jeremy: Accountability. I care how my athletes are doing in their pursuit of their goals. I am invested in their success and share in their failures. I treat our relationship like a partnership. We are in it together to reach our goals. Having a coach that is invested in your success is a great motivator.
What do you feel makes for an effective coach/athlete relationship?
Coach Jeremy: Communication is the biggest part of a coach/athlete relationship. I feel that the runners I have the most communication with are the ones that are constantly making the most progress. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of what will work best for my athletes and their lifestyle. Like any relationship, communication is key.
Why should someone hire you as a coach?/What should a runner look for in a coach?
Coach Jeremy: A runner should hire me to coach them to help navigate the path to their goals. I started from scratch, with no coach, just with a goal to lose weight. I made a lot of mistakes. I was often injured. I had no clue what I was doing. Then I hired a coach. My coach spent more time holding me back, than pushing me to my limits. That was a good thing, for me. I have come a long way, and I like to share what I have learned. I derive a lot of pleasure from helping people reach their goals. I feel my style of coaching gives an athlete someone they can trust to keep them on track and prevent injury.
I am always trying to learn more about getting the most out of my running abilities. I share what I learn with my athletes and also learn from what they find works the best for them.
When looking for a coach, I recommend finding someone who will take a realistic look at your goals and discuss what it takes to get there. If your ideas and philosophies don’t match up, move on. It is an ongoing relationship, and you need to be comfortable with the person that you have asked to help guide you in your running.
Give me your greatest strength in coaching and your greatest weakness.
Coach Jeremy: My greatest strength in coaching is my experience. I went from couch potato to ultra marathoner. I learned a lot. I love to share that knowledge to help others.
My greatest weakness that I am still working on is time management. I would love to dedicate more time to my athletes – to be able to actually run with them if they are local – to be able to be available for phone calls or video chats throughout the day. But with work and family, coaching is not my main focus; not my all-day job. I do the best I can and someday hope to be a full-time running coach.
What are your qualifications?
RRCA Certified Running Coach (Road Runners Club of America) CPR Certified
Boston Marathon qualifier multiple times
Sub 3 hour marathoner
Multiple ultramarathons – up to 50 miles and training for a 100 miler
Competitive times for my age group
How do you measure success?
Coach Jeremy:Success for me as a runner, and as coach, is to find a way to navigate life’s path without hitting the wall. Always moving forward, even if it requires a few steps back to find a new route. Roadblocks for runners can be injury, losing the drive to set and reach goals, or an unforeseen situation that keeps us from running. Every time I lace up my shoes and step out the door, or see an athlete complete a workout I prescribed, I see those as successes.
What made you want to be a coach?
Coach Jeremy: People had told me that my own personal transformation and successes as a runner were an inspiration to them. That made me feel really good about what I was doing, I decided I would like to help other people find their own successes and healthier lifestyles.
What is your favorite workout?
Coach Jeremy: On the track, I am partial to Yasso’s 800’s. These are 10×800 meter repeats with an equal amount of rest time between each round. They give you comparable numbers from each time you do them, so you can judge your progress by looking back at previous workouts.
Off the track, long slow runs with friends are hard to beat.
Coach Jeremy & Team Running Dad after the 2015 Richmond Marathon:
2 Qualified for Boston!
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to tell us more about you and why we should hire a running coach.
Be sure to visit RunningDad.com to check out a plan that might work for you whether it be monthly coaching or working towards a half or full marathon. I am fortunate he lives in the same city I do; but Coach Jeremy is able to coach you no matter where you live via apps, phone/web chats and more.
I am nervous, yet extremely excited to work with a coach to help guide me to a (hopefully) BQ time. I’ve selected an early September marathon, so look for BQ training updates to begin in early May. Game on!
The distance doesn’t seem to matter – 5K up to a marathon – the battle is always the same. Mind over matter or matter over mind?
Some races I feel like my own counselor:
Me 1: Man, this is hard; maybe I should slow down. Me 2: Why would you slow down? You feel great. Stay strong.
Me 1: Oooh, my IT band is kind of nagging. Me 2: Your IT band is just fine; keep up the pace.
Me 1: Are we at the next mile marker yet? Why hasn’t my watch beeped? Me 2: Woohoo, halfway mark; almost there!
We train physically; but do you train yourself mentally?
No matter if you are a novice or seasoned runner, I believe the mental battle always rages on. Thankfully, I do feel the little voice inside of you shouting negative feedback can be trained to be softer and softer.
Running is 90% mental and the rest is physical.
Whether you are running short or long, the mental aspect is always there. I feel once you start running longer races (half marathons, marathons and ultra), you have a lot more time to think about what you are doing and once fatigue starts to set in; you could easily start to struggle.
Let’s explore a few strategies to help you work on your mental game:
1. Visualization. Knowing what is to come can help prepare you mentally. Get a map of the course and try to run or drive prior to your race. Watch for changes of elevation and places where you can run the tangents. Using this knowledge and visualizing yourself on the course will help you strategize where you can use your strengths along the way.
2. Find a running mantra. Consider finding a short phrase which inspires, motivates or relaxes you. Practice using your mantra during tough training runs. When your brain starts shouting negative thoughts at you, repeat your mantra to maintain focus. Even at the starting line, I have a specific set of words I run through internally to ease the starting line anxiety.
3. Stop worrying about everyone around you. Run YOUR race. It’s no surprise; I am highly competitive. Seeing my competition on the line can spike my heart rate and increase my anxiety. However, I remind myself to run my race. I cannot race harder than I train and if I run my own race, to my best ability, the results will come.
4. Prepare yourself for the worst. Creating a couple of goals (Goals A, B and/or C) can help you stay positive. If you have just one goal and start to miss the mark, negativity can set in and you may not have a reason to keep pushing. Having a secondary goal can help; especially if you encounter the unexpected (blisters, cramps, GI issues, etc.).
Find something that works for you and start training that brain! Already training that brain? What works best for you?