Friday, December 2, 2011

What do you do for your first WINTER WORKOUT?

Runners are often in a bit of a dilemma about when to start workouts and what harder workouts to begin with after their fall marathon or half marathon. These first few workouts should be used as springboards into winter training and should be positive experiences to build workout confidence. A couple of questions you have to ask yourself before beginning that first winter workout is, "Do I even feel like doing the hard workout and am I ready mentally and physically?"  That extra pressure to rush back into structured workouts leads to a lot of long faces and questions after the first few workouts.  Runners usually end up with sad faces after those first few strict workouts where they are trying to hit specific times end badly. Don't fall into that timed workout trap.

Would love to hear about some of those first workouts that allow everyone to ease themselves back into training after their marathon or key 1/2 marathon.  It is pretty much a given runners do not need to go to the track for that first workout so let's look at some ideas for workouts for the roads. A progression run is a simple workout based solely on effort, you do not have to be tied to or pressured to running a certain time - just try to run a solid effort to finish off the run with each mile getting faster.  Or what about just running a negative split on your LONG RUN for the week. Another example of a safe first workout idea might be to do 5-6 (3) minute faster pickups within your 6-10 mile run every couple of minutes of the run.  After the confidence is there from these mini-harder workouts it is time to really get down to business, but skipping over these first few EFFORT workouts and confidence builders gets many runners into trouble.

If you keep things simple and take the pressure off of yourself in those first few post big race workouts you will be more happy with those first few weeks of training. Until that time comes for timed workouts listen to your body and just go the workout route that is all effort based until you have the confidence to really get after faster workouts or moving them to the track.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Have you raced an indoor 1/2 marathon lately, how about a 5k?? What about a marathon?

The 2012 Icebreaker Indoor 1/2 marathon and Marathon are fast approaching and are set to go off the weekend of Jan 20-22.  There is also a 5k and a very fun but yet totally competitive marathon relay.  All the races are at the Pettit National Ice Center in West Allis, WI on the 450m oval and race spots are filling up fast so check it out.

The atmosphere, time of the year, and overall race buzz this weekend creates is amazing in the city.  You can feel the electricity in the building as the races are going on and all the action is right in front of you. It is great to see fan clubs of runners being able to cheer on mom, dad, or family memeber the entire race.  Another great part about the weekend is that wherever you are in your winter training there is a race for you.

There are no excuses to not be doing something hard or of quality in January because the Midwest weather is tough. Get to the Pettit Center for the Icebreaker race weekend.  If you have a chance check out the Pettit Center before race weekend to get a feel of the race surface and know what racing shoes you will be wearing on race day.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Found another Running Movie - Across the Tracks

I came across a running movie the other day about two brothers who run the 800 in high school -  Across the Tracks. Brad Pitt stars as a determined straight laced runner trying to get a track scholarship to Stanford and his brother played by Rick Schroder, who was kind of naughty in the beginning of the movie, is trying to get his life back on track .  The movie is full of cheese but overall has a good message and the director even goes so far as to get 400m race splits right during the races. You know in some movies the director tries to fake times but not in this film. The runners did not go out in 45 seconds and end up running a 1:40 800m so that was kind of interesting that there must have been a runner advising these scenes in some way. If you have some time check it out, there is some language in the movie but overall a pretty solid message and a good watch.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One last workout before your key 5k/10k/ or 1/2 marathon. What would it be?

There are many factors both positive and not so great that have to be factored into what you do for your last key workout before your peak 5k, 10k, or 1/2 marathon. How many runners actually take the time to weigh the factors of workout volume, pace, rest, workout environment, workout surface (roads/track), and what you have done before & after the workout in terms of mileage and recovery?  What about the history of the workout a runner is doing before that key race?  For example has this workout worked in the past, have you recovered from the effort, and have you taken away the confidence you needed to run your peak race well 9-10 days later?   Sometimes the last key workout turns into a nightmare and then what?

The next time you are setting up your last key workout before a race write the workout down and let it sit for a day or two so you can think about it.  Come back to the workout and go down the list of positives that will make the last key workout the best you can roll with preparing you for the final race.  If there are any "X" factors or questions on the workout you should not even begin the workout - fix those concerns before you begin. An example of an X factor is an uncertain outcome.......can I even complete the workout at the goal times?  Or does the workout volume make sense for the race distance I am running?  Or what if the weather does not cooperate on the day you want to roll the workout, do you have a backup plan?  If you want to run fast you have to plan, these workouts don't just happen with luck.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Still Fast after 40!

A huge congrats goes to ThunderDome's own Kathy Fodor from Northport, NY who raced last weekend in Syosset. Kathy rolled to a 2nd place overall finish in her 5k racing to a 18:41 finish time. Kathy is a great example of sticking to a training plan and seeing the big training picture of stacked months of running. Kathy's 18:41 was 40+ seconds faster than a couple of 5k's she ran in just July and August.  Plus when you are as fast as Kathy is, at 44, there is not usually that much room for improvement or time drop in a 5k!  Think of that zone you get into when all of a sudden things begin to click after slogging around for 2-3 months. Many runners do not get to that point because they stress themselves out by not seeing instant results.

Overall consistency, not the glamor workouts, or seeing how many workouts you can cram into a week is going to pay off in the end. Those right away results do not come after a month or two of training but end up down the road in positive workouts and races. For Kathy this 2011 year of totally solid race results has been 8-9 months (the pic on the left is from a 5k in March of this year so from 1947 to 1841) in the making of just solid mileage (35-45 a week) , workouts, and consistency.  Congrats again to Kathy and hopefully very motivating for everyone to get out there these winter months for the spring/summer race payoffs.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Simple Suggestion

If you look like this picture when you start your first mile of your daily training runs there is a problem!  With everyone always fighting to get in their runs around busy lives, there are certain daily running habits that can help maximize your training and keep you healthy. A simple suggestion on your everyday runs is to use your first mile as an ease into the run mile/a warmup. That suggestion sounds so simple but many times runners are going from their desk, car, or getting up in the morning and jumping right into the run.  Those pre-run settings are asking for injury trouble. It does not matter if you run your first mile in 10,9,8, or 7 minute mile pace, you always see that the 2nd mile is faster without any more effort. Plus that slower start is solid practice of negative splitting your runs, workouts, and eventually races. Try it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Milwaukee Area racing weekend - The Fall Classic Run 5k & 10k

Sunday October 23 is the Fall Classic Run 5k & 10k in Menomonee Falls, WI. The Fall Classic Run is surprisingly one of the few 10k's in Wisconsin. The unique part about this race is the challenging and scenic race course, be ready to take on the hills of Menomonee Falls. I mean how many pancake flat races can you run in one year---get out and try something new. The Fall Classic Run creates a race environment around each runner having a fun experience. Be sure to stick around for the post race raffle prizes and unique race and age group awards.

Monday, October 17, 2011

ThunderDome's Keith Mulhollon rolls to title in Des Moines

Over the weekend Keith Mulhollon raced in the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon. Keith placed 15th overall and raced to the overall Master's title with a time of 70:53 (5:24 pace) on a windy race day.  Up next for Keith is the USA Track & Field Club Cross Country Championships in Seattle, WA in December.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lakefront & Twin Cities Marathons --Congratulations to the Performance Running Outfitters race team

Many times there is a black hole of team running for the post collegiate and all runners wanting to continue their training and racing.  By this I mean local Milwaukee runners can easily just get caught doing everything on their own both in their training and racing. One of the most fun parts of running is the camaraderie of seeing fellow teammates on the start line and sharing those race experiences and goals with teammates. 

The Performance Running Outfitters race team gives runners the opportunity to race with a team again. Trae and Jessica Hoepner own Performance Running Outfitters, a speciality running store, with locations in Brookfield, Shorewood, and Oconomowoc and are huge supporters of the local running scene. Their support with their race team affords the opportunity of local runners to get out there and compete with and for a team at a high level.

Here are the PRO team members race performances from the LFM and Twin Cities Marathon.
Nick Szezch - 2:22:1-Lakefront Marathon Champion.
Marek Kotrly - 2:35:23-LFM Master's Champ
Matthew Kruger - 2:39:08
Mike Treder - 2:43:56
Emmanuel Hess - 2:55:50
Nic Olson - 3:05:16
Kevin Meunier 3:09:21
Diana Widmer - 3:09:42
Tim Huntington - 3:14:33
Nicole Horst - 3:18:41
Corina Canitz - 3:19:01
Michelle Meier - 3:29:50
Lori Kotrly - 3:36:19
Michael Kranz - 3:37:21
Scott Duty - 3:45:30
Kim Petak - 3:55:47
Dean Gruber - 3:56:50
Cami Meunier - 4:08:29
Rachel Huntington - 4:47:56
Derek Chappell - 5:18:34
Twin Cities
Nick Seiske - 2:41:33
Neil O'Brien - 2:56:29

Monday, October 3, 2011

Awesome Lakefront Marathon Day for ThunderDome Running athletes

Yesterday was the 31st annual Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee, WI and with the weather cooperating and the work put in over the past few months ThunderDome Running was ready to roll.

Marek Kotrly, 40, from Brookfield, WI, raced to a 3rd place finish in 2:35:23 a personal best and was the top overall Master's finisher. Marek used almost an unbelievable last 1/2 of the race to run his best marathon ever.  He used a huge negative split running the first 13.1 miles in 78:47 and then coming back 2+ minutes faster over the last 13.1 miles in a split of 76:30 to clock the 2:35 3rd place finish.

Cheryl Myszka carried out her race plan perfectly running a time of 4:30:10. A couple months back Cheryl's goal was to run 5 hours but she put in the work and ran a great 10:19 mile pace at Lakefront. Cheryl also carried out her race plan perfectly being patient early on running the first 13.1 miles in 2:19:31 and then came storming back in 2:10:39.

Congrats to Cheryl and Marek. Next up for ThunderDome Running is the Chicago Marathon Sunday, Oct 9.

Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 Lakefront Marathon, Milwaukee, WI

This sports weekend around Milwaukee is amazing with the Milwaukee Brewers opening their NLDS series, the Badgers play Nebraska, Packers trying to go 4-0, and the 2011 Lakefront Marathon Sunday.

ThunderDome Running has a solid group racing Sunday at Lakefront. Just wanted to wish Cheryl and Marek good luck on Sunday. Looking for great weather, fast times, and a fun event.

With the Chicago marathon coming up just (9) days out, we are full into sharpen and rest mode for that group.  Fall is absolutely the best time to run, train hard, and get out there and race.  ThunderDome athletes have a lot happening over the next month with the Lakefront Marathon, Chicago Marathon, and New York City Marathon all on our racing radar and calendars.  Good Luck to everyone.

Monday, September 26, 2011

New World Record Set Sunday in Berlin

Patrick Makau of Kenya raced to a 2:03:38 World Marathon record in Berlin.  Check the New York Times race recap along.  Great Britian's Paula Radcliffe was back to form as well racing to a 2:23:46 and at 37 ran her first marathon in just 2 years.

photo courtesy of Wolfgang Kumm/European Pressphoto agency

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Great Cow Harbor Run 10k race report

It was a great race weekend at the Cow Harbor 10k in Northport, NY. The race course as usual was totally tough with the rolling hills but that is part of the challenge and fun of it and the weather was perfect in the 50's. Two course records went down. The men's side saw Mo Trafeh blister a 28:17 taking down Ryan Hall's course record and in the woman's race Janet Cherobon-Bawcom raced to 32:26 also a course record.  Up and down the top 20 the competition was fierce as Will Fodor (the elite race director) put together the best elite race field in the history of the race -- packed with Olympic Trials qualifiers, Pan Am games participants, and future Olympians all lining it up.  Check out the race recap here.
 photo courtesy of Steve Pfost
ThunderDome Running was well represented in the race and showed up huge. Kathleen Fodor ran an awesome race placing 2nd in the master's division in a blazing 39:52. Laura Fitzgerald stepped up and ran well when it mattered in a solid 48:38. I have to mention I had a crummy day grinding out a 31:34 placing 12th, but was happy with the effort--so move on from there.

2012 will have a ThunderDome Running race field trip to the small island town of Northport. Plans are in the works for a group to make the trip to the 35th annual Cow Harbor 10k.  Please check back or email for further details.  This is a race you have to do one time in your life. After the race you can head into NYC (Northport is just an hour train ride/drive from NYC) or make a trek to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY. A great weekend of running, travel and fun.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Best Road Race Ever - The Great Cow Harbor 10k in Northport, NY

This weekend Saturday Sept 17 is the 34th annual Great Cow Harbor 10k in Northport, NY. This is one of the most fun and challenging races you will race.  Many runners measure themselves against the clock far too often, but the Cow Harbor 10k race course is a race where you can line it up and just compete.  By that I mean you have the opportunity to compete against a stellar competition - up and down the 5600 runner field - and you have the opportunity to compete against the most challenging hills you will ever see within a 10k race course.

The small island town of Northport's streets are are always lined with cheering running fans and the amazing scenery along the course is enough to distract you just a bit while you try to even split this race.  Up and down the race organizers and volunteers make this a top 100 race in all of the United States. I would rank it in the top ten though!  I have had the opportunity to race in Northport 6 out of the last 7 years.  It is just one of those races you have to experience one time the atmoshere and race buzz is very cool. Get the Great Cow Harbor 10k on your race field trip plan in the future.  Tackle one of the toughest 10k courses in the US and if you are lucky you will get to line it up and race against Olympians Ryan Hall or Deena Kastor in any given year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ThunderDome Running's own Keith Mulhollon finishes 2nd in USA Master's 15k Road Champs!

The ThunderDome Racing team was in action last week with Keith Mulhollon from Lake Geneva, WI racing his way to a runner-up finish in the USA National Master's 15k road championship. The race was in Buffalo NY and featured a challenging rolling course.  Keith ran a solid time of 49:06 at a 5:17 mile pace clip.  It was one of those races where the initial race plan we set up went out the window early on as the race was full of surges and slowdowns.  Just a crazy race overall, but a race that if you are not fit and ready to roll in can go array with all the surging.

Keith is a great example of someone who is able to balance family, a career, and high school cross country/track coaching, all with his running. He is on of the top Master's runners in the United States right now, and it gives us all hope that you can still be fast and roll races even with hectic days.  All set on Keith's fall racing calendar is the Master's USATF National Club Cross Country championship race is Seattle, WA on December 10.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Running Movies

I came across a running movie the other day on Showtime with Michael Douglas starring. It was called Running. Never heard of this movie before kind of cheese, kind of inspiring, kind of motivating but worth a watch.  Check it out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A new Record for ThunderDome Running PR's

It was an awesome weekend for racing. Temps. and humidity were ideal and it is that time of the training where things just start to click.  Over the weekend ThunderDome Running had runners racing in Washington, Connecticut, New York, and right here in Milwaukee, WI.

 Alex Burlingame had the biggest lifetime PR over the weekend in his 10k in Washington, he raced a 2 minute PR in 41:52.  Alex is rolling towards the Chicago marathon on October 10.  Frank Silva from CT raced a 5k PR over the weekend in 20:24, Frank is training towards hitting a Boston Marathon qualifier with a spring 2012 marathon.  Kathy and Patrick both rolled 5k PR's at the Irish Fest run here in Milwaukee in times of  24:09 & 20:49 respectively and are racing Chicago in a few weeks.

Congrats to everyone!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Welcome to the Show - Keith Mulhollon - joins ThunderDome Racing

It was a busy week for the ThunderDome Running race team.  ThunderDome added one of the top Master's runners in the United States to the race team - Keith Mullhollon from Lake Geneva, WI.  Keith and I traveled to Cedar Rapids to race in the CVRA 5th Season Races - the Alliant Energy 8k. It was a stacked field and temps/humidity were high, but hey you know what you are getting when you line it up to race on July 4 in the midwest.

Keith raced to a 23rd place overall finish and won the male master's top spot racing a solid 25:41 8k.  I ended up running 24:49 and finished 16th overall.
If you are interested in joining the ThunderDome Racing team please feel free to email us at

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Little Running Math Problem/Contest...Help!

Runners like to be precise and not cut corners really in anything we do.  You know before GPS/Garmin's or Map My just sometimes kind of had to guess on your route distances hoping the routes were the actual distance you logged for like a couple of years before you had a true measurement.  I just got back from vacation and some altitude training in Crested Butte, Colorado at 9000 feet where I did a 400m (or close to it) workout where I finished feeling guilty.

I was able to get in some fun and tough training in the mountains of Crested Butte, CO. The town had an asphalt track at the high school which was perfect because there were a couple of races coming up on my race schedule so I wanted to get in something quicker even though it would be more challenging at altitude.

The workout was 12 x 400m on 60 seconds rest.  During the warm-up I had the GPS/Garmin out to kind of make sure the track was pretty close to 1/4 mile (not an exact measurement either but that is all I had to go by), with the first measure I found the track turned out to be short on the regular markings on one lap being short of 400m so I added on a bit just to make sure the distance was covered in each interval and began the workout.  The workout ended up going well and was happy with the effort and result ending up averaging 66.3 per repeat.  I was suspect about things though so I re-measured the track after the workout and my interval markings ended up being about (16 feet) short/under 1/4 mile per interval for the intervals I ran.

The blog question of the day and your chance to get some free swag (ThunderDome T shirt) is as follows.  With the intervals being 16 feet short of an actual 1/4 mile, how many meters on each repeat did I actually do when converted to meters? Was the workout like 12 x 390m or 12 x 375m or was it pretty close to 400m based on the 1/4 mile distance compared to a 400m track interval?  I am looking for the actual meter repeat distance......first correct answer wins. 

Good Luck

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our Featured Runner...a Seattle Rock n Roll 1/2 marathon PR

Big props to ThunderDome Running's own to Alex Burlingame from Washington who raced a career 2 minute 1/2 marathon PR over the weekend. Alex ran a 92:34 (7:03-7:04 mile pace) in the Seattle Rock n Roll 1/2 marathon.  The negative split lives on as Alex rolled the last 3 miles of his race in 6:58, 6:49, & 6:49!!!

I can easily say that Alex is in the top 5 all-time of ThunderDome Running's workout kings.  That workout drive is one thing but you always wait for that fire to equal a fast race time.  After working with Alex for 4 months, he really got a chance and made the most of his fitness to see the those workout results equal race results.  Congrats.

With a steady increase in mileage and those lung blasting workouts Alex is setting things up for later this year. He is hitting the Chicago Marathon Sunday October 9 looking to roll another PR of sub 3:13.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Great US Road Races - Top 10 All-Time

This week ThunderDome Running is heading to Cutlerville, MI for the 21st annual Brian Diemer Amerikam 5k run. This is a run that I first raced ten years ago when a friend of mine Robert Hyde, a former Calvin college standout in the 10k, called me and told me about the Diemer run that he had just taken over the reigns as race director.  I have tried to make the field trip back every year since 2001, because Robert has taken the race to a new level each year.

The Diemer run has everything you look for in a race. The Diemer Run has superior race leadership, it is well organized, it is a community backed event raising money for the Guiding Light Mission, and has a blazing fast PR type 5k race course along with a fast field to test yourself up and down the men's and woman's races.

The most unique aspect of the race is that if you beat Brian Diemer in the race you win yourself a donut post race. This is no small feat as Brian Diemer, the Calvin college Cross Country and Track coach for the past 24 years, is a former USA National Champ in the Steeplechase and Olympic games medal winner in the Steeplechase in 1984 at the LA games.

If you ever have a chance to jump in the car and check out a new race that is not a half marathon or marathon check out the Diemer 5k run you will love it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Race Weekend - Welcome to the ThunderDome!

It is a huge weekend for ThunderDome Running as we have runners racing all over the US. 

Kathy, from Northport, NY is racing the NYRR New York Mini 10k now in its' 40th year and is held in Central Park. This years race is dedicated to late running great Grete Waitz.

Jim and Jeff are racing the Bellin Health 10k over the weekend in Green Bay, WI. The cool part about this race is Frank Shorter and Bill Rogers are also lining it up to race this year as they have in years past so you can throw down with the best.

Renee, from Wisconsin, has a busy running weekend - racing (3) relay legs on the Ragnar Relay series 200 mile 11 person relay race from Madison, WI to Chicago.

Frank is hitting a 10k this Friday in CT. The Niantic Bay 10k. Race #2 for Frank in one of the biggest ThunderDome Running training comebacks of the year!

Finally my wife Erin and I are running the Brian Diemer Amerikam 5k race in Cutlerville, MI.  This is one of my all-time fav races and will have a preview blog piece on the race tomorrow before heading out.

Good luck to everyone!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Running

Here in Wisconsin there has been no transition from winter to summer with the temps, we pretty much went from 30-40's to 80+ degrees.  This type of shock to the running system is rough.  Runners go from easy 10 mile winter runs to summer 10 mile runs at the same pace that undoubtedly leave everyone totally wiped out due to the heat.  When you throw summertime racing in the mix the higher temps/humidity really play mind games along with the physical side of things as well.

I think if we all accept a few factors and training modifications our running mental state and confidence will not suffer during the summer training months of June, July, and August. When you look at your own running the average mile pace that it normally took you to run 5-10 mile training runs in winter/spring may be slower by 15-30 seconds per mile in the summer because of the heat.  Who cares. Let's just accept that as fact and not try to force it or stress about pace so much in the summer.  For workout days do not go out and be stubborn when it is so hot/humid if you can avoid it and press for fast times when it is 90 out, because your workouts & interval times will most likely be slower with way more effort. Then the mind games come into play again asking yourself questions like, "I thought I was in shape, " or "I did that same workout this winter way faster."

Be careful in your summertime race schedule and along with that your summer race plans & goals. If you are racing a 5k you might just have to pull back 5-10 seconds a mile to maximize your race effort or if racing a half marathon pull back as much as 20-25 seconds a mile.  Everyone is different in the way we handle they heat, but there is no way around logging the miles and racing in the summer so just do it smart and you will not be stressing so much.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Inspiring Running Movie

I caught a running documentary/movie over the weekend on ESPN classic called Running the Sahara. It was about 3 runners running across Africa.  The film turned out to be very inspiring and motivating.  It is pretty amazing to see what the runners endured and accomplished on their journey. Check it out if you have a chance sometime.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Bad Warm-up....What Does That Mean? Nothing.

The crazy part about running is how much physical effort we all put into training. Logging miles on cold winter days, rainy days, 100 degree days the work is still put in the bank.  That type of training and effort is awesome, but how many times has the mental side of running gotten in the way of your race goals with just thinking negative thoughts.  More specifically when you felt cruddy on a race warm-up have you lost it mentally and already been beaten?  Maybe we all forget how much physical prep and work has to be put in to get to that point in time where you are one hour away from a big race.  A sub par warm-up I have found to be an awesome way to center your thinking.  Control what you can control and to get your focus back on your race strategy and goals. If your legs feel like crap then you do not have to worry about how your legs are going to feel race already know that after the warm-up your legs feel like garbage so move on.  That is out of your control 45 minutes before the gun goes off.

Back in March of 2004, I raced in the USA 15k road championships in Jacksonville, Florida. The Gate River Run is the largest 15k in the United States and is definitely a top notch race if you are ever looking for a racing field trip (there is a 3/4 of a mile uphill at the 8 mile mark though).  For me the winter of training for me had gone as planned before the 15k, but during the warm-up before what was my biggest race in some time things began to fall apart. I got stuck running with a guy who would not stop talking about himself like he was Pre.  Our warm-up pace was like 10 minute mile pace (normally I go 7 minute pace), and to top it off with the slower than normal pace my feet were not too far off the ground so I caught my toe and tripped and fell.  After I tripped I sprinted away from that joker. Plus on top of it all my legs felt like crap. For some odd reason it felt like a knife was stabbing the side of my heart, I had never had that stabbing feeling before and never since but it hurt like hell.  That is where the all thoughts need to turn to race strategy and that is what I ended up doing.  Control what you can control.

I knew from past experience that USA road championships go out crazy fast so I was ready for that even after all the garbage that went on within that last 45 minutes before the race. I was not ready for a cannon false start where 25 front line runners (including me) raced off the line for 10 seconds only to be called back and then told to continue. A crazy start, I do not think I got my first mile split!  The first 5k saw the leaders out in 14:10 my split was around 14:20, I finally caught my breath through the 10k in a road PR (29:20) to that point.  The legs felt awesome to that point even after the circus warm-up act and having tired legs. The last 5k was tough with getting out pretty fast and with that 3/4 of mile hill at the 8 mile mark but hung in there for a top 5 finish in 44:25 for what turned out to be one of my better races on the roads.  After all the garbage that transpired 45 minutes before the race that all led up to a  happy race.  I never again question how my legs feel in the warm-up or what other negative stuff happens before the race. I am actually worried when my legs feel great during a warmup. Anyone else ever feel like that....that worries me??

Monday, May 9, 2011

One of the Greatest Inventions the Running World

If there is one running toy you ever spend $10 on it should be this one. The Palmassager by the Pressure Positive Company is amazing. I bought one of these 10 years ago and the tool has helped with a sore achilles, hamstrings, a sore lower back, and slight case of plantar fascia over the years. Another benefit of using this tool is when you have tired legs full of garbage after a long run or hard workout you can work that junk through your legs to aid in recovery like getting a sports massage.

The easy part about this tool benefiting your running is that you can use it anywhere/anytime. I found the massage tool totally easy to travel with to races even using the Palmassager after my warmup if I had a tight hamstring that needed work.  Go out and buy this today.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Perfect Workout Partner

Before you hit a hard workout you need to make sure you are mentally and physically ready to roll. Hopefully you have enough calories in you but not a full stomach.  Bust out the light weight trainers and hit the 5hr energy and you will be ready.  That all is great advice but the one missing piece from a successful workout is the perfect Ipod song playlist. Running purists will scoff at this but do not dismiss it without trying it. You may even set a workout PR because that is the power of music.

My favorite workout Ipod line of all time was by Willy Kaul an 11 time All-American and former D3 National 5k & 10k champ. Before a workout where we were looking to do 3 miles at 4:55-5:00 mile pace, 2 miles at 4:45-4:50 pace and 1 mile at 4:35 pace all on 2 laps jogging rest was..... "You know I am going to have my Ipod on during the workout...right?"  I guess that meant do not talk to me until the cooldown.  Then I knew Willy was as serious as I was, there were never any outside distractions or games when I worked out with Willy. Just before each interval he would reach down and tap the volume one time and right then I knew there was no fooling around on pace or effort. It had to be there.

For setting your playlist you need to factor in about a 15-20 minute jog warmup followed by 15-20 minutes of stretching and strides. Basically you have to fill 45 minutes with around 10 songs pre-workout with some music that is going to be just enough to pump you up but is still holding you back just a bit because you want to save the pump music for the 45-60 minutes while you are doing the workout.  Those raging 12 workout songs are going to help you hit workout splits. For your Ipod or Mp3 player make sure to title the playlists accordingly for each workout so you know what works.

Here are some pre-workout warmup suggestions soft enough but setting the table to fire you up.
Cinderella - Gypsy Road
Aerosmith - Sweet Emotion
ZZ Top - La Grange
Nirvana- In Bloom
The Offspring - Self Esteem
Sponge - Plowed
Monster Magnet - Powertrip

For the Workout the Playlist has to work as hard as you do.
Judas Priest - Living After Midnight
Slipknot - Psychosocial
Metallica - For Whom the Bell Tolls
Motley Crue - Kickstart My Heart
Rage Against the Machine - Bulls on Parade
Buckcherry -  Lit Up
Beastie Boys - Sabotage
Alice in Chains - Man in the Box
Smashing Pumpkins - Cherub Rock
Sum 41 - Fat Lip
Black Label Society - Overlord or Fire it Up

If you had (1) song to listen to before the Biggest workout/race of your life.....what would it be?  If your initials are A.N. or R.M. I will not be debating this topic with you. Go out and get a music player.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A running/training Quiz.

This training dilemma has come up at least one time in every single runners training from 5k's to the marathon. Today I want everyone today to take this running quiz and decide what you would/should do.

Let's say you are 16-17 weeks into a 20 week training plan where you are looking to peak or run your key race around weeks 19-20. Up to this point training has been going great and you have hit all your weekly mileage goals, key workouts, and have logged your long runs.

Here is the training situation that in one way or another has come up for everyone:
The previous week you slogged home the last half of your Sunday long run and those tired legs are now spilling over into the next week and you notice early on that your legs are again sluggish on Monday through Wednesday's normal day runs. I don't mean just a little bit tired you are running 30 seconds slower per mile with a ton more effort than all other training runs up to this point. You know something is not quite right but what do you do at this point?  We will rule out that the tired legs are not due to lack of sleep, nutrition or stress.

What are you going to do Thursday your planned workout day with tired Legs? (QUIZ TIME)
1. You could pretend nothing is wrong and attempt to complete 100% of the 13 mile workout where 8-10 miles were to be at goal half marathon/marathon race pace..with this plan you are pretty much saying nothing is potentially wrong and you will be fine it is just a rough patch of training.
2. You could begin the workout and if things are not going well pull the plug on it/stop and try the workout next week...but complete the rest of the week's mileage as scheduled.
3. You could be cautious and admit there is something not quite right and bypass the workout entirely and just run 1/2 the mileage each day you had on your training schedule the rest of the week. (the last 4 days)
4. You could because you know your key race is in only 2-3 weeks try to put a stop to the tired legs by taking off Thursday-Sunday and get (4) full days off of running to hopefully save your key race and tired legs...and resume training as scheduled next week after the mini break.

That situation/quiz hopefully makes everyone think a bit.  This is why Olympian Kara Goucher has Alberto Salazar helping her through these rough patches. Or American 10k record holder Chris Solinsky has coach Jerry Schumacher to tell him to take a day off and what did 8 time USA Cross Country National champ Pat Porter do when he had his pre-workout meeting with coach Joe Vigil going over all potential options.  You will not find this individual training advice in online training programs or books.

Post your comments and thoughts.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston Marathon 2011 & Matt Larsen's Final Boston training blog

We check in with Matt Larsen for his final training update before the 115th running of the Boston Marathon today.  You can follow the live action of the race today on Universal Sports.  Good luck to to everyone racing today, the Boston weather is predicted to be amazing with a tailwind on top of it.

I don’t have any exciting workouts to post about as I get closer to Boston but am excited to race as I get closer to the big day.  My intent in training was to put three solid weeks of running in once the track season started. The final three weeks leading up to Boston would be down weeks, less with the intent of tapering and more with recognition of the fact that I would take days off if time was unavailable on meet days.  I’ll give you the rundown of the workouts/runs that I ran and I’ll give you my mindset heading into race day.

4/02- Trail Breaker half- My intent was to run marathon pace (6:00 per mile) early and close a little more quickly as from about three miles out.  Well, things did not go well, and I only got about 4 miles in at marathon pace.  I did not find a groove and shut the race/workout, whatever you want to call it, down early.  I warned you in my first post that you might see this as a theme surrounding my mental weakness.  The fact was that I did not have it on this day and pulled the plug pretty early.  I’m not going to lie and say that this did not shake my confidence, but at the end of the day, I’ve always been pretty good at justifying rough days, and historically, I have shaken them off and bounced back relatively well.  I hope that is the case this time around.  The final time was about 83 minutes for the half or about four minutes slower than I plan on going out for the first half on the big day.

4/03- 10 miler with Mr. Thull- Our intent was to run easy, feel good, and dodge the bad weather- Mission accomplished.  The legs felt very good on this day, and there was no evidence that I had done anything remotely close to racing the day before.  I took that as a pretty good sign. 

So that is about all I have for workout related stuff.  I am very excited and also a little nervous for my third marathon.  The other marathons that I have run have gone completely differently.  In 2002, I was very fit for me coming off of a summer of 70, 80 and up to 90 mile weeks.  I ran the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee, went out hard, and faded badly…. really badly and finished in 2:47.  Man, did I feel good early, and then everything went bad from blisters, to nipple chaffing, to me having a pity party and throwing an 8 minute mile in there somewhere.  Anyway – I wasn’t mentally prepared for and didn’t know what to expect in the race.   

More recently, in 2009, I ran the Chicago marathon.  I was coming off of a summer of 40 mile and 50 mile weeks and had to start the race toward the back of the start line.  In this marathon, I also raced with a training partner, Bart, and things went about as well as I could have hoped.  I ended up negative splitting to a finishing time of 2:50.  This race went so much more smoothly because I respected the pace and didn’t get ahead of myself.  Heading into Boston, I don’t have the same type of fitness that I had in 2002, but most of my training is well ahead of where I was in 2009. If things go smoothly like they did in 2009, I think this can be a very positive experience.  The plan is to be patient.  We’ll see how it goes. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Featured Runner of the Week - Dave Romano

ThunderDome Running works with runners of all abilities all over the United States.  Each runner has their own awesome story within a story getting to the starting line of their goal races by the way they balance work, family, and training.  This week the ThunderDome Running featured runner is Dave Romano from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Dave just passed his one year running anniversary beginning jogging 1-2 miles on the treadmill last March/April 2010!  He has raced several shorter distance races but had not tackled the half marathon distance. I have no idea if Dave planned it this way, marking his one year running anniversary;  but Dave jumped right into the fire by racing a half marathon over the weekend the Garden Spot Half  in New Holland Pennsylvania.  Dave raced to a 58th overall place out of a field of 506 runners in a time of 1 hour 43 minutes and 40 seconds.... over a crazy hilly race course.

Dave is a perfect example of how runners make their own breaks and racing opportunities by putting in the work. Dave's typical training schedule has (4) total weekly runs ranging from 4-6 miles with a long run being built back up again to 11-12 miles on cross training days he is in the pool.  With the 4 running days and 2 days of swim work Dave's total mileage is currently around 25-30 miles a week with summer plans of working towards a long run of 14-15 miles and total weekly mileage climbing to 40+ total miles.

Having the opportunity to coach and work with Dave has been great and a lot of fun. I think we can all learn from each other in how to approach race week and finally stepping to the line race day and wanted to share with everyone Dave's first half marathon experience. For everyone our race days play out like mini movies each time we all make that journey to the starting line for a key race. Dave's keen perspective and prep for his race makes up for only being in this running game for about a year. Check out Dave's race journal.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Best of All -Time Races (Martian Invasion of Races)

The ThunderDome Running racing team took a little field trip to Dearborn, Michigan this past weekend for the 6th annual Martian Invasion of races.  Over the years I have probably raced more times in Michigan than in Wisconsin. The racing community and the road race scene in Michigan is amazing.  This weekend I jumped into a 10k.

Running Fit presented the Martian Invasion of Races with the opportunity to race a 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon relay, or full marathon Saturday April 2.  To pull off that sheer number of races on a single race day morning takes a ton of work and organization, but the Michigan racing community did not disappoint.  The race organization was top notch from the police dept, to the race volunteers, to the support from the city of Dearborn. There were aliens all over town!

I think the best part about the Martian racing weekend is that the race organizers realize there can be something for everyone that raced from beginners, to seasoned veterans, to elite runners.  That is what I love about Michigan races.  The race had the charity arm but also had a prize $$$ purse. The race host hotel had a pre-race/post-race breakfast that had more food than many finish line spreads. I cannot think of anything better than finishing up a tough race and getting to reward yourself with a huge Belgian Waffle.

If you get a chance jump on and checkout the menu of Michigan road races, and hopefully you can make the quick trip to try a race outside of your home turf.  A big thank you to Running Fit for putting on  the Martian Invasion of races and to Ian Forsyth the elite race director.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Top Secret Training - Matt Larsen #3 Boston Marathon

The road to the Boston Marathon is now down to 3 weeks for many area runners. Matt Larsen checks in with how his training has gone over the past few weeks.

 Since I posted last, I have started coaching track. With this transition, I’ve made some slight changes to mileage and how I approach mileage, but I’ve still tried to stick with the same basic plan of attack in training. My primary focus has still been on one workout per week and one long run per week.  Recently I’ve noticed that in a typical week, either the workout or the long run will go well (but usually not both).  I’ll give you a few of the highlights and low lights of training, along with showing you my creative approach to chasing decent mileage while coaching high school girls. 

3/09/11- Pettit party- The plan was to run a three mile warm up followed by 5 miles at 5:30 and a 3 mile cool down.  I was coming off of being sick the previous week, but I was cautiously optimistic that I could find a groove.  On the drive down, I thought about my love hate relationship with Pettit Center running.  Overall, I love having the Pettit Center as a place to escape the nastiness of winter training.  I love running into old friends who are getting a workout in during the holiday season. And, I get a kick out of how the Pettit almost becomes like a trusty watering hole for the run-aholics who spend countless hours logging miles and miles and talking shop.  My love for the Pettit Center usually lasts through late January and early February, but as spring rolls around, and the weather is still crappy, I get impatient with dodging people, running in circles, always having dry skin etc. 

As  I warmed up for the tempo, I still reflected on the Pettit season coming to an end, and I saw what I thought was a sign about the night’s workout- I saw a lady grooving along on a run in a pair of jeans.  This awesome display had to mean that I would have a great workout that night.  I hate to disappoint you guys, but even with such a rare sight as an athlete maximizing her potential in denim, I still had a letdown of a workout.  I got through 3 in 16:30 and pulled the plug on the tempo run.  I chalked this rough workout to getting over illness- no worries- I still woke the legs up a little bit. 

3/12/11- I had a 50 minute run with 1 minute pickups every 10 minutes scheduled with the fit members of our ladies team, and they gave me a good run.  I followed that up with a 50 minute run with Coach Olson after practice. This has become one of my new ways of chasing mileage.  Both runs went well and the company was good. I was pretty hungry by the end of the run, however, and felt a little like bonking in the end. 

3/13/11- I needed 19 miles to get 70 in for the week, but I settled for 17 and a 68 mile total.  I ran with Eamon on a hilly course and felt a little run down.  I attributed the fatigue to the first week of track.  I was pretty run down for the remainder of the day, but was pleased that I was able to maintain respectable mileage. 

3/16/11-The weather was great, and I was meeting up at Hart Park with Matt and Eamon to run 3x2 miles with about 4 to 5 minute recovery in between.  I felt run down and was not excited about the idea of doing a workout.  I tried to wimp out and talk these guys into any easy 13 miler, but to be honest, that also seemed like a lot of work.  With feeling flat, I tempered the expectations to 5:40 starting pace with an opportunity for a pace increase as deemed doable.  We rolled the first 2 miler in 11:17 on the Parkway as we dodged some snow and mud.  I felt crappy and was almost longing for the flat Pettit Center that I had been cursing one week earlier.  The next repeat was run back toward the track on the Parkway.  We covered 2 miles in 10:57, and I was still a little fatigued.  I talked the guys into running the final repeat on the track and let them know that I would cover one mile for sure and assess the situation from there.  We went through and a mile in 5:25, and it felt pretty comfortable.  I completed the total 2 in 10:48 and felt much better on this than I did on the first two repeats.  I was very satisfied with a long day of work and a decent workout.  I got home to fill out a couple of brackets. I picked a risky final four of VCU, Butler, Kentucky, and UConn (hoping it would turn out well).  Then I went to bed. 

3/26- Plan was to get in 10 total for the day.  We had a meet, and I decided to run 5 before it and 5 after.  I got out the door at 6 am for a really cold 5 miler.  About 3 and a half miles in, I tripped on a blade of grass, but with a cat like reflexes, I executed a very smooth log roll and transitioned back into the run.  I hope that someone was able to see this display of agility as they started their Saturday morning.  Coach Olson, Irvine and I ran a nice five mile after a good meet for both our guys’ and girls’ track teams.  It was cold. 

3/27- Plan was to get in 20 with Matt and Eamon at a reasonable pace. We average just under 7 minutes for the first 10 and just over 6:30 for the second ten.  I felt smooth through about 16, but felt like I had to work for the last 4 or so miles.  I spent the remainder of the day on the couch watching to see how the NCAA picks turned out. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Race Week Workouts

Is there a magic formula for doing just the perfect race week workout?  There may not be an exact formula for the ideal race week workout, but there is a smarter way to train race week. The race week workout is important to stay sharp and to hopefully add just that little last bit of confidence going into your big race. Many times runners fall into the trap of doing too much just so they can feel at ease that they are fit and ready to go for their race.

For example let's say you have a 10k race on Saturday?  What day of the week should you be doing your race week workout? What kind of interval/workout volume should you log? What about pace of the workout?  Some general direction I can give is to make sure the workout is not too close to your just completed Sunday long run or previous weeks' race. The best day to do the race week workout would be Tuesday and as a backup day on Wednesday.  This should allow for enough recovery on both sides of the Long Run and before race day that week. It would be great if your workout goal would be to hit race pace splits, but make sure to give adequate rest between intervals. If you normally take 60 seconds rest in between 800m repeats race week take 2 minutes. If you normal volume of workout mileage is 4-5 miles drop that to 2.5 or 3 miles so you can still get in the work to stay sharp but not overdo it.

Error on the side of taking "too much" rest and doing "too little" volume and you will be fine for your weekend race.  Make sure to give yourself that best chance to race well and this does not come from doing 20 x 400m or some type of time trial the week of a huge 5k or 10k race.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Extra Recovery - Without a Day Off

There are times in your training that you just "can not" take a day off but you are tired and want max recovery before your next run possible.  Examples of this might be if you have to keep a running streak alive or if you have a training week where your mileage is too high to miss a day of running. 

There are a couple of different recovery tricks that you might want to try and still be able to log miles. Try splitting your 8 mile run day to a 4 mile run in the AM and a 4 mile run in the PM.  That way you still get in the mileage for the day but the training is split into what is supposed to be two baby easy runs. Another really good recovery trick so you can get around 36 hours of recovery time before your next run is to run in the morning one day and the following day of training log your mileage at night. That way you do not miss any mileage and you max that recovery time without having to take a day off.  This trick works especially awesome by doing your Sunday long run in the morning and then logging your Monday mileage at night.

Those two options sound very simple, but you would be surprised how many times I hear of runners just slogging through the same mileage every single day at the same scheduled time of the day.  Weekly schedules are tough to re-arrange but maybe first try these recovery tricks in your Saturday and Sunday training schedule.  You will recover much faster and get rid of stale running legs.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Boston week - wrap with John Zupanc

As you can see by John's Boston Marathon racing history snapshot today you have to be ready for anything when you step onto the line. It is OK to adjust pre-race goals based on weather, be a tad more patient early, or hopefully just get out there and roll.
 John's Boston Splits

1981  49 and NW winds cross to tailwind perfect day
2:27.11 A big pr by 5 minutes
205th place
This was a dream marathon, everything went perfect.
1985  75 to 78 with cross to tailwind HOT
2:27.13 Felt I was in shape to run 2:22 my pr at that time but had to adjust to heat
18th place
There was basically no one to catch over the last 10k, suffered but not like most.

1987  50 and nice
2:24.46  My best Boston time
36th place
This is probably a more typical half marathon split for me, close but not even

1994  Sunny, 53 and tailwind
2:35.56  I was 41 and my best masters time at Boston
143rd place
I was pleased with this effort

2004  75 with 84 at the finish, HOT, and a strong wind swirled around
3:05.49  I run better than most in the heat
476th place
Happy to survive

2007  A big NorEaster with rain all day, strong swirling winds and 45, COLD
3:12.41  I was very conservative early to not die in the cold, big negative split
Not sure of the place but an example of the extremes you can get at Boston

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Boston Marathon Race Course w/ John Zupanc - mile 14 - finish

Today is the 2nd part of the Boston Marathon course preview/review with John Zupanc. It is the 3rd part of the ThunderDome Running Boston Marathon series with Zupanc.

The first of my Boston gauges comes at mile 15.  From 15 to 16 miles is a rather long steep downhill that I monitor to see if I can respond to a downhill with a faster mile split.  I do not try to attack the downhill but see if I can actually move down it faster.  If I cannot respond with a faster mile I know the last 10 miles will be a struggle.  A sad thought but realistic.  I am constantly digesting feedback from my body through out the race.  I always keep up positive thoughts, even in tough spots.  In any marathon I have always gone through bad stretches and good stretches, I expect it and am ready for it.

The next gauge is immediately after this downhill.  From mile 16 to mile 17 is an equal uphill over the interstate and up to the Newton Fire Station.  If I can keep close to my 13 to 15 mile pace, essentially within 10 seconds or so, through that uphill I know it can be a great day.  In the old days when I was racing under 2:30, I knew there was less than an hour at this point and I would begin the long push to the finish at mile 17.  But now as a 3-hour guy I wait until 18 or 19 miles to begin that push.

Basically from mile 16 through mile 21 are a series of hills, about one per mile, which culminates with Heart Break Hill.  I never found that any one particular hill was a killer but that the combination of more uphill over these five miles is what grinds on me.  My goal is to make it through this stretch within 10 seconds of my goal pace.  Here is where you can really start to see racers coming back to you and that can be a huge motivation.   The distinctive wear from the early miles comes back and the mental game of reeling in the masses is a lot of fun.   During this five mile stretch I am pushing it for the first time in the race.  And in reality it becomes a push to the finish.

The crest of Heart Break Hill is 21 miles and a steeper downhill looms ahead.  This is my last Boston gauge.  If I can respond favorably to this downhill with an increased pace and maintain this momentum through 22 miles I am on my way home.  The course makes it way around a reservoir lined with, weather permitting, party happy Boston College students.  Just past 22 miles the course takes a left turn onto Beacon Street.  It is a long straight stretch with a gradual downhill throughout for the next 2 plus miles.   The famous Citgo sign seems a tiny spec in the distance that marks the 24.6 mark for the course.  I have rolled through this section with the confidence of a great finish and it is awesome.  But this long two-mile stretch has also been a death march that seems to never end.  A marathoner’s fate has been sealed prior to this point but the ramifications are felt here.  I always get a kick out of runners that say “I was on pace through 20 miles and then I just died home”.  Anyone can “get through” 20 miles but the fact is that the marathon is a 26.2-mile race.  This runners was not on pace through 20 miles, instead they were not patient and therefore out too hard.  And they felt the ramifications of those too fast early miles in the last 10k.  It is not possible to put time in the bank in a marathon as a reserve for later.  The withdrawal rate over the last 10k far exceeds anything you may have put in the bank in the previous 20 miles.

The last two miles continue along Beacon Street to mile 25 that includes a small but annoying little up down.  The course turns right on Hereford Street, a gradual uphill, then a left to the finishing gradual downhill straight of Boylston Street.  It is a long last stretch packed with screaming spectators.  The number pickup and expo is at Hynes Convention Center that is on the corner of Hereford and Boylston.  So you get a chance to see the finishing straight on Boylston when you get your number.

I always grind out the last four miles of the marathon with the same thoughts.  Basically I am talking to myself through each mile:  “ok you have the bridge loop left, you can do this”.  The bridge loop is a four miler in Oshkosh that I have probably done hundreds of times.  At three miles I am telling myself “you are at the first bridge, you will make it” or “twenty minutes, you can push for 20 minutes”.  At two miles it is simply 8 laps on the track:  “two miles left in a hard tempo run, one lap at a time”.   And finally at one mile to go:   “seven minutes, you got it, keep grinding, you do this all the time”.  Even on the best of marathon days the last four miles is very tough.  Racing is never easy, expect to suffer and therefore you will be prepared for it when it happens.

I hope this helps you to not only a successful Boston, but to any successful marathon.  Be patient, stay positive, and grind it home!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Boston Marathon w/John Zupanc - The Race Course through mile 14

Today John Zupanc checks in with a Boston Marathon course preview/review of the first 14 miles. Zup has raced the hills of Boston 19 times over the years with a personal course best of 2:24:46 coming in 1987. Check back tomorrow for the running of the 2nd half of the Boston course.
Racing the Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon course offers some unique challenges.  As a point-to-point marathon I have already discussed some of the logistical anomalies that exist before the race even starts.  The over-riding theme for any marathon, and Boston is no exception, is patience:  patience in your training, patience in the days prior to the race, and patience during the race.

When I get into the correct starting corral, I like to make my way to the far left side and as close to the front of the corral as possible.  I do this so that when the ropes drop to allow for moving up to the next corral that I move with this.   And by being on the far left side I feel less claustrophobic.  Because I am no longer in the front corral there is a delay between the gun and when I actually start to move.  At first it is a squishing forward movement, then a walk, to a jog, and finally to running.   I find it much easier to maneuver and avoid the idiots by being off to one side.  I choose the left side because of the slant it provides and because most people naturally like to hug the right side.  I know that later I will be predominantly on the right side so this gets me a different slanting early.  Depending on where you start will determine how long it takes you to get through the walk, job, and then run process.   Do not waste mental energy, or physical energy, during this time period by becoming impatient.  Do not press the pace during the opening miles to make up for any time you may feel you have lost.  There is plenty of race ahead to get this time back.

The opening four miles is predominantly downhill.  This is especially true in the first mile with a long steep downhill to get over anxious runners out too aggressively.  I make every effort to relax and let the opening miles just take me to a comfortable pace.  I check my watch for each of the early miles just to make sure I am not out below my pace.  I will pull back if I am faster than I should be and not worry if it is a bit slower.  I enjoy the crowds on the sidelines and keep an eye out for various other runners that catch my attention.  I look for bright colored singlets or distinctive wear that will be used for pace and motivation throughout the race.

At about 4 miles the course starts to flatten out a bit but always seems to have some rolls.  The course moves through the small towns of Ashland (4m), Framingham (6m), and Natick (10m).  I look forward to the lake on the right hand side of the course at around 9 to 10 miles, just before Natick.  At this point I should be in a nice groove, moving along with the field.  I do not look to be “racing” anyone at this time but keep on eye out to see if I am catching any of the distinctive wear mentioned above.  There is a nice downhill uphill combination just prior to the screaming crowd of Wellesley College women found at 12 miles.  It is unbelievably loud and definitely wakes you up.  The reverberations are a reminder that I am about to get to the 13.1-mile mark just ahead in downtown Wellesley.

It can be difficult but I do everything to try not to dwell on the fact that I am only half way done.  I know that wiser folks than I say the first half of the race should just glide by like a training run, “easy”, but I think that over simplifies things.  There will be moments that test you in the first half but overall you must feel in control.  I have raced over 55 marathons and maybe 5 felt “easy” over the first 13.1 miles.  If things are going well for me, I know that I can even split any marathon including Boston.  My best Boston races (really all my break through PR races) have been when the last 10k and the first 10k are pretty close.  From 13 to 15 the course is pretty flat.  I make every effort at this point to stay on the pace but not push the pace.  Again patience is the key to success.  No matter how great I feel at this point it is too early at Boston to put the hammer down.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Boston Marathon Blog week with John Zupanc

John Zupanc recently retired in December after coaching Cross Country and Track & Field at the University of Wisconsin Oshkohsh for nearly 30 years leading the Titans to four NCAA DIII Cross Country team National titles along with two Track and Field team National Championships.

Zupanc is a veteran racer of 19 Boston Marathons with number 20 coming this April. He has run a Boston PR of 2:24:46 and is a model of consistencey racing the challenging Boston course with 5 sub 2:30 efforts -- along with an outstanding 2:36:56 clocking as a 41 year old Master's runner. With Boston placings of 18th, 36th, and 50th Zupanc has gone into Boston fit, but there are more factors to consider before stepping to the starting line.

Nothing beats experience in road racing especially in the marathon and here are some race weekend tips that Zupanc has learned over 19 years of Boston Marathon racing.
Every major marathon has some unique aspects and Boston is no different.  Boston has the usual Expo for race packet pickup.  It is huge, of course, and generally I spend as little time as possible at these things.  There is just too many people and too much standing around on my feet. 

The morning of the race you have to stand in line to catch the school busses at Boston Commons to the start line in Hopkinton.  You are assigned times to get there but generally it is better to go earlier than later for a couple of reasons:  the line is shorter (it can take about 45 to 60 minutes to queue up to the busses), you do not have to fret about getting to the start on time (I have twice been on a bus that got “lost”) and you get a better camp location at Hopkinton High School.  The busses usually start at about 6:30am for the 10am start and 20,000 plus people have to get a ride to the start.  It is quite the operation.  Generally it takes about an hour from departure at Boston Commons to Hopkinton.  Be prepared for no bathroom the entire long and bumpy ride.

Once you get to Hopkinton High School you have to wait outside for the duration.  I have been in all sorts of weather from hot to cold and rainy.  You have to be prepared to sit around for at least 2 to 3 hours.  In the old days of the noon start you had even more time to sit around and contemplate the run back to Boston.  They do have baggage busses for your things but they want those packed and on the proper bus about an hour before the race start time.  Your bags are assigned a specific bus based on your bib number.  You have to pack your stuff in the bags they provide and you pick them up at the finish line according to your race number.

I like to get to Hopkinton early so I can get into one of the doorways to the high school so I am at least out of the rain, muddy/wet ground, or out of the sun.   I have a list of things I bring to the start (all this is carried onto the plane….I never check any bags…that is another Boston story) and most of it I leave in Hopkinton.

1-A cheap $2 air mattress from WalMart to use as a soft and dry place.

2-A cheap $1 fold up plastic rain poncho, again WalMart, in case it is raining to keep me dry while I wait in the assigned start corral until the race starts.

3-A complete assortment of throwaway clothes:  shirts, pants, socks, stocking cap, regular hat, gloves, and shoes.  I do not put on any race gear until the last possible moment especially if it is raining.  I wear the throw away clothes until about 5 minutes prior to the race if necessary.

4-A complete set of clothes to be used at the finish.  I pack this up the night before and have it ready to give to the baggage bus without having to be uncomfortable while I wait.  Do not put anything valuable in the checked bag, you hope you will get it at the finish but ….no cell phone, no wallet, no music device, nothing vital.

5-I do pin some money on my race stuff just in case something weird happens along the way.  I have never had to use it.  You do get free subway transportation with your number!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Running Routes - Get One

Here are my top 4 rules to running routes.

1. Make sure you have at least one running route that includes some hills.
2. Have at least one route exactly measured and where traffic is not an issue.
3. Have a winter & summer set of routes. 
4. Have a totally hard route so when your running friends come and play you can roll them.

I am open to a debate on the other side of this rule, but I really think that when runners run "on time" without a set course they run slower.  If you have a set course where you know exactly where you are headed, where the hills & turns sit ; you will get into a better rhythm and run faster.

When you set out to explore and just run around town on time it is easy to fall asleep, which is good, but not if you do it every single day of your training you are not running as fast as you should probably. For example on Monday I ran my normal 10 mile Miller Park route with a ton of hills in it for 10 miles at 6:25 pace without much effort, I followed that run up Tuesday with a brilliant 10 mile run at 7:19 pace "on time."  Mentally on Tuesday I was counting down every single minute which sucked too.

Your homework is to get out the door and make up a route you will be able to utilize and help get your training where it needs to be. I have stepped out the door and made up specific routes that I ended up using for ten years based on exactly where I ran that very first day. I had no idea I would be running those same routes for ten years.  Maybe I should have put more thought into planning but the routes seem to work.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Top Secret Training - Matt Larsen # 2

5 Weeks out from the Boston Marathon
In the last few weeks, I tried to stick with the same recipe. Some things went pretty well, and I had a few instances where I wasn’t as tough as I would have hoped. Life got in the way of my mileage goals following the workouts I posted on 2/15 and 2/16, and I ended that week mileage in the 30s. Last week, however, I hit the highest mileage in recent memory at 73. I’ll give you the low and highlights of the past two weeks.

2/20- long run- The plan was to do a shorter long run 14-16 miles. I woke up late and headed to the couch. During my extended time on my couch, I put thought into getting hydrated and having something small to eat prior to the run. I also then thought about running at Pettit center instead of running outside in the freezing rain. After about six hours of contemplating a run, I recognized that laziness won in the battle of lazy man vs. the driven athlete. The next battle soon became showering vs. not showering. Not showering won this battle. This was my laziest day of 2011. In the past, I would have been upset at myself for my lack of work ethic. I was coming off a pretty good stretch, however, and I had planned for a down week…. Just not this much of a down week

2/22- Pettit workout-The plan was to run a three mile warm up followed by 3 miles at 6 minute pace, 600 meter jog recovery, 3 miles at 5:50 pace, 600 jog recovery, 3 miles at 5:40 pace, and finally a 3 mile cool down to end things. I ran 3 miles at about 6:02 pace and jogged my recovery. I started rolling the second 3 miler and recognized that I was dancing around people in the Pettit and getting a little frustrated. I was riding solo on this workout, so I didn’t have my trusty pace cars…. It made a difference. As I grew impatient and sensed a third 3 miler wouldn’t happen, I tried to finish the 2nd three miler strong. I ran the last mile hard and glanced at my watch when I finished to see a split of 5:39 and a total time of 17:15. (I had hoped for and expected a better effort) I ended up doing my cool down and didn’t worry too much about the down day. I have been frustrated about workouts like these in the past, but I realized this time that I was a little optimistic to think I could do this on my own. I am also coming to the realization that even workouts that don’t turn out great can, in turn, give great fitness benefits.

2/27- Long run-Plan was to roll twenty with the first part outside and finish the last three a little faster in the Pettit. This time I had a partner in crime, Matt Thull, and that helped. We ran 13 outside slowly through some slop. We then ran 7 indoors and dropped it down a little in the end. I ended up finishing the last 2 miles in 6:20 and then 6:14 respectively. It felt pretty good and it was nice to have a Sunday that was a little less lazy than the previous Sunday.

3/2- Pettit Workout- The plan was to run 4-5x 1 mile repeats at faster than 5:20 with a 3 mile warm up and cool down. I had the benefit of Eamon M as a pace car and former college teammate Jeremy Burks also joined in the fun (Jeremy has been in his own very good groove runs and cross trains as he has had injuries related to heavy miles). The plan was to run 79s to 80s on the first quarter and see how 5 teens to 5:20 felt. We ended up running a 5:13, and it felt very good. Jeremy went on to do the rest of the workout on his own. It felt good to run with him again. Eamon and I ran the second repeat in 5:12 and this one felt a little more challenging. The 3rd repeat went out identical to the first 2 (I am very impressed with Eamon’s ability to pace). Coming into the second lap, I thought about how the workout was going well but that running wasn’t that fun. I rolled through ¾ in the same amount of time as I had run on the other two 3:54 but the effort was a little more. I then threw a surprise attack at Eamon as I accelerated on the final quarter….. I also said to him under my breath “this is my last one.” With about 200 to go, I thought I had gapped Eamon and looked over my shoulder to the right. He was right next to me- I hadn’t gapped him. We were heading toward the finish, and I, being the gentleman that I am, let Eamon have the step toward the finish line. We finished in 5:05. Eamon ran one more in 4:57. I would have done another one, but I didn’t want to make Eamon feel bad. I actually felt pretty good about the workout, but don’t have a great explanation regarding stepping on the gas to end the workout one repeat early. I am pleased, however, that the pace is getting a little faster.