Thursday, April 16, 2015

Run Smarter. Consider the Source!

You don't have to hire a coach to train smarter.
"Get a Coach... Or At Least Think Like One" 
Just don't take advice from those that have done nothing, or done it poorly, or repeatedly get injured, or make the same training mistakes over & over.

I hear and read so much bad advice being thrown around by runners who aren't experienced enough to be the "expert" they think they are.   Some runners think that their training plan, nutrition and shoe choice is BEST for every runner. NOTHING is further from the truth.

A competent coach isn't an expert because of a certificate on the wall.  Good coaching comes from years of experience coaching a variety of runners of all abilities.  The "art of coaching" comes from a base of training knowledge & basic training plan templates coupled with the experience and anecdotal evidence of developing runners of all abilities.  

Greg McMillan of McMillan Running, one of the top coaches around, sums it up well in "You (Only Faster)":
"When I started coaching I used published training plans, mostly from Arthur Lydiard, with my first athletes.  Soon, I began to modify these plans based on what I was seeing in the athletes and my new athletes benefited from these experiences.  I certainly have my overriding philosophy for each race distance but it's just more artistic in how I apply this philosophy to each athlete." 

  • Each runner is different.  Cookie cutter plans are a good guide, but you must learn to identify which methods work best for you and adapt accordingly. 
  • If you keep getting injured, especially the SAME injury, you are doing it wrong!  Repair the root cause of the injury.  "Runners Are Dumb"
  • Seek out experienced runners & coaches for training advice.   "Experienced" doesn't necessarily mean fast.  Experienced means someone who has been able to stay consistent and reach their own personal peak performance. 

Coach Kevin is a 35+ year runner, an RRCA certified running coach & the National Coach for the St Jude Heroes & Team McGraw
Follow  him on Twitter Facebook

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Evaluating Your Race Performance

You just completed your goal race.  Whether it was a 5K, triathlon, marathon or ultra... the post-race
analysis is crucial to your ongoing improvement as an endurance athlete.

Don't make rash judgments on your performance in the first 24 hours post-race.  Let the emotions (positive and/ or negative) settle down.  Then do an honest self-evaluation.  What made the race a success?  Did you hit your goal time?  Was it a PR?  Did you complete a distance for the first time?  Was finishing the ultimate goal?   Was your performance good considering race day conditions?   Was your race day focus good/ bad?  How was your training... really?

What went wrong?

  • Did you go out too fast?   This is the #1 error.  Most runners go out too fast.  Proper pacing takes a tremendous amount of discipline & patience.  You learn this in training. Marathon Pacing Made Easy 
  • Did you pick a goal that did not realistically reflect your current fitness?  What evidence from your training did you use to pick your racing goal?  Was it sound and scientific?  Or a wild guess?  Breaking Through the Wall
  • Did your ego/ impatience/ adrenaline get in the way?   Happens to all of us.  Don't compare your fitness, results or race pace to anyone else.  Focus on YOUR race. 
  • Did you stray from your nutrition/ hydration plan?  Sometimes we just forget to eat and drink. Many runners do not take the opportunity in training to figure out exactly what works for them.  Marathon Nutrition Tips
  • Did you think that lingering injury would magically disappear during the race?  Did you think the rules of injury/ recovery don't apply to you?   Runners Are Dumb

What went right? 

  • You hit your goal performance?  If so, document everything in your training log and your race recap so you can repeat the formula next time.  You obviously did many things right.   You stayed injury free.  You can tweak things with each training cycle as goals, fitness and experience change.  But you have the basic blueprint for your own personal success.
    Average weekly mileage
    Injury prevention methods
    Race goal & strategy

What would you do differently?  Whether you judge the race "great" or "poor", there are always
things to tweak for the next training cycle and race.

  • Do you need more race specific pace work?
  • More/ less speedwork?  Running Fast to Race Fast
  • Tempo runs? 
  • More/ fewer long runs?
  • Clean up your diet to get close to ideal "racing weight"?  Every pound helps.  Racing Weight
  • Find the root cause of your injury and FIX it.  
  • Listen to credible sources of training & racing advice?  
  • Find a training group.  There are many advantages to groups: advice, camaraderie, distraction, safety.  
  • Hire a coach to avoid many of the basic training and racing errors.  Get a Coach (Or At Least Think Like One)
Learn from your races.  Don't make excuses. Don't keep making the same mistakes.  

Coach Kevin is a 35+ year runner, an RRCA certified running coach & the National Coach for the St Jude Heroes & Team McGraw
Follow  him on Twitter Facebook

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CSE Running Form Workshop: Learn To Run More Efficiently

The Can't Stop Endurance Running Form Workshop is aimed at helping endurance athletes learn to run more efficiently, smoother, lighter... and faster.    I feel there is a real need for runners to be aware of their form flaws and improve those weak spots.  I do not believe in a total overhaul of a person's bio-mechanics.  I do believe we can all make the most of our personal bio-mechanics to run smoother, faster and less prone to injury.   I have attended three different running form clinics in the last 10 years.  I gained valuable lessons/ self-evaluation that I use on a daily basis on my runs.  Those lessons have helped me reduce injuries and run more consistently year after year.

This 90 minute clinic focuses on a few key areas:

Body Awareness
Running Posture
Learning to Lean
The goal of the clinic is to smooth out your natural bio-mechanics, reduce heel strike and hopefully make you less injury prone!

The session starts with an overview of body awareness, positioning & posture. Then we incorporate those ideas into moving forward.

The clinic ends with personal form evaluation and feedback.

Comments from some of our attendees:
"The clinic allowed me to focus on more than just running farther or faster. I hope to be able to continue to work on what I learned so I can run injury free"

"I was amazed at how focusing on two simple things like lean and cadence helped my form.  I can't wait to see the results from focusing on those two ideas!"

"Loved the small group 1:1 attention.   Simple approach."

Sign-Up Instructions: Click on the link to check for scheduled dates:
The Workshop fee is $85.00.

The workshops are limited to 6 participants to allow for personalized attention.
Group workshops are available for teams, clubs, etc.

Coach Kevin is a 35+ year runner, an RRCA certified running coach & the National Coach for the St Jude Heroes & Team McGraw
Follow  him on Twitter & Facebook

Monday, August 18, 2014

But I'm Doing The Best I Can. Really?

A running friend sent this to me from Seth Godin's marketing blog, but it applies to endurance sports as well!

Doing the best I can ... is actually not the same as. "doing everything I can."
When we tell people we're doing the best we can, we're actually saying, "I'm doing the best I'm comfortable doing." 
As you've probably discovered, great work makes us uncomfortable.  
~ Seth Godin

As a runner, and a human, I use plenty of excuses to explain away poor performances.   I am very good at "letting myself off the hook!   Granted, in the big scheme of life, most of us are doing the best we can to get through the day and take care of our responsibilities.

But when it comes to achieving peak performances we are not doing the best we can.  My training log does not lie.  It is the proof of the work I have, or have not been doing.

Getting stuck in your comfort zone is fine.  Sometimes.  It is a calm place.  Low expectations, low stress.  If you are content in your comfort zone, fine.  But stop complaining about not reaching your desired fitness level, racing weight or racing goals.

Am I doing the best I can?  Or am I in my comfort zone?? It is a decision we get to make.  Every day.

Coach Kevin is a 35+ year runner, an RRCA certified running coach & the National Coach for the St Jude Heroes & Team McGraw
Follow  him on Twitter & Facebook

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Breakaway Bardog 5K Free Entry Contest!

Love a grassroots race?  How about a downtown Memphis course with lots of swag, post race food, beer
& live music? Now add in great door prizes, a dunk tank AND a meatball eating contest??
And the clincher?  

Don't miss the 5th annual Breakaway Bardog 5K on August 17th.  

You can win a free entry into this year's race courtesy of Breakaway Running and the Bardog Tavern.   
Breakaway is our great local running store.  
Bardog Tavern is a "runner-friendly" local pub downtown that also serves as the "clubhouse" for the Salty Dogs Running Group.  

Register here: RacesOnline

If you are already entered you can win an entry for a friend... because runners are awesome! 
Enter to win a free entry! How?  There are several ways.  Yes, if you do all three you get three chances to win. 
  1. Go to the CSE Facebook page and share the post about this contest.
  2. Go to the CSE Twitter feed and retweet the post about this contest.
  3. Leave a comment on this post telling us why you love running in Memphis.
Coach Kevin is an RRCA Certified Running Coach, National Coach for the St Jude Heroes Program & Team McGraw.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Germantown Half Marathon Course Preview

The Germantown Half-Marathon is a popular race on the Memphis and southeastern race calendar. With a  $6,400 prize purse the half-marathon draws a competitive field of 1500 runners with another 500 in the accompanying Mayors Cup 5K.  After 16 years the race has established itself as a well-managed race with great amenities and a fast, but challenging course.   The race directors take good care of their runners:

The race starts at 7:30am at the Germantown Athletic Club (GAC), 1801 Exeter.  There is plenty of parking at the GAC and the shopping center just south of the center.  Arrive early in order to park, walk to the GAC and then make the short 1/8 mile walk to the start line on Neshoba.   

The course is challenging due to the hills in the first few miles and the final mile, but there are minimal turns and plenty of downhill and flat road to make this a fast course if you approach it with the right strategy.  

Miles 1 - 5:  The first hill, on Kimbrough, starts out as a "false flat" just past the one mile mark.  It then climbs steadily for a mile before pitching up in the last 500 yards as you approach the stoplight at Dogwood.  Hold effort on this stretch but don't be afraid to let your pace drop a bit.  Relax and don't stress over that mile 2 split.  There is a nice long downhill after you turn left on Dogwood that will allow you to get back on pace and make up any lost time.  Going too hard up this hill can make the final miles more difficult.   By the time you get to mile 3 you should be back on your target pace.   Just after mile 4 runners turn left on Forest Hill and enjoy a slight, 3/4 mile downhill to Wolf River Blvd. where they turn right and pass 5 miles.

Miles 5 - 10: The next 5 miles are on Wolf River Blvd with two quick detours through parks.  This stretch of road offers few turns or hills so runners can really dial in their pace and effort.  If it is a windy day this is where you will feel it.   The next race landmark is Houston High School and Houston Levee Park. Runners turn in at mile 6 and make the one mile loop around the park.  The halfway mark is inside the park and when you exit back onto Wolf River Blvd you are headed towards the finish with less than six miles to go.   Take the opportunity in the park to reassess your form, nutrition and pace.  Get ready to tackle the second half of the race. The next 3.5 miles on Wolf River Blvd. and Farmington Ave. are flat and require runners to stay focused and on pace. The quick loop through Cameron-Brown Park ends with a short steep exit back onto Farmington.   The incline is less than 20 yards so just get up the incline and get back on pace.  Runners soon reach mile 10 and begin the final 5K.

Miles 10 - Finish: A gradual false-flat greets runners at mile 10 all the way up to the Kimbrough intersection at mile 10.5.   You are too close to the finish to relax now so just keep pushing.  Turn right on Kimbrough and get ready to attack the final hills in the last mile.  After two left turns runners are heading south on Brierbrook. Just after mile 12 runners are greeted by the most challenging part of the course.  The hills are not overly steep but there are several rollers that will test runners, especially those that started out too fast. Be sure and save a bit of mental and physical fortitude for the finale: the 400 yard hill from Exeter and Farmington to the finish line.  

*Course Records: 1:14:12 Janet Cherobon, 2010, 1:06:02 Michael Green, 2005  

For half-marathon training tips: Conquer The Half-Marathon    

Coach Kevin is an RRCA Certified Running Coach, National Coach for the St Jude Heroes Program & Team McGraw.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jackal Trail Marathons race report

Jackal Trail Marathon, June 22, 2013
Backass Jackal Trail Marathon, June 23, 2013
Jackson, TN
Sunny, 90+ degrees
Trail: This trail, near Union University, is in great shape and heavily shaded for 90% of the 3.7 mile loop.  Mostly dirt single track.  Roots, some small hills, lots of twist & turns.  This is another great, grassroots ultra from Run It Fast.

Normally I would call this a stupid idea.  Running two trail marathons back-to-back in 90 degree temps in June makes no sense.  But, as runners, it is what we do.  When Josh Holmes, at Run It Fast, announced this race I knew it would be a perfect training block heading into the Leadville Trail 100 in August.   The cornerstone of ultra training is big double long run weekends.  The Jackal races were an hour from home and put on by a great grassroots group of runners.  Sometimes, running is stupid, and so am I.

Jackal Trail Marathon, Saturday: I approached day one as a normal weekend long run.  Pacing and fueling would resemble a 50K much more than a standard road marathon.  No pre-race stress or time expectations.  Just run, fuel and most of all, hydrate.   The goal for the first 3 laps (7 total laps) was to run under control, keep my heart rate down and hydrate. In a small trail race, the field quickly separates and it is highly likely that you will run for hours on your own.   I was able to run for a bit with Josh, the race director and Run It Fast founder.  Then we caught up with JV, a fellow Memphian and talented runner, who ended up 2nd overall female.  The conversations made for a good distraction as we rolled through the laps with surprisingly steady splits. Finish time: 4:48. 8th overall.  No cramps, no blisters, no falls.   The day unfolded the way I wanted: a normal, uneventful long run.

Recovery:  As soon as I finished I drank my GU Brew Recovery/ protein powder/ Amazing Grass Green Superfood/ Udo's Oil recovery drink.  The goal was to get re-hydrated and refueled as much as possible in order to have the best shot at a good run on Sunday.  I put on my compression socks and dry clothes and made the one-hour drive home.  Along the way I picked up a veggie sub for lunch and two bags of ice for my ice bath.

Backass Jackal Trail Marathon, Sunday: Day Two would be run on the same trail, but in the opposite direction.  When my alarm went off it felt like the movie "Groundhog Day".  Same breakfast, same gear, same drive to Jackson, same venue.   Race strategy would be the same: run under control and hydrate!   The goal of back-to-back long runs is to run on tired legs and battle the accompanying mental and physical fatigue that would surely arrive in the later miles.  Legs felt good and pace was steady through the first three laps.  I was feeling a hot spot on my foot so I changed shoes at the aid station.  By focusing on a quick shoe change I failed to properly hydrate.  In addition to drinking a whole 20 oz bottle (with a GU Brew electrolyte tablet) each lap I was drinking an additional half bottle of water at the aid station.  Skipping this extra water caught up with me on lap 4.  My bottle was empty early in the lap and I felt "dry". No cramps,but sluggish.  The hills felt a bit steeper and the pace a bit slower.   I made sure I paid close attention to my hydration the rest of the race.  I was able to run most of the day with another fellow Memphian and "Can't Stop" runner, Courtney. The distraction was good, but it did get very quiet as we both managed our own internal struggles.  (Courtney ended up 1st overall female)  The late race fatigue showed up and I went to the "dark place" a few times in the last 10K.   I wasn't distressed though... that is the exact feeling I wanted.  I needed it to get hard and I needed to work on my mental and physical stamina.  Again, no cramps and no real problems, other than the expected fatigue.  Stay calm, just keep moving.  I was ready to be done by the time we started the final lap.  Just keep moving and in 45 minutes I could stop... and sit down.   I ended up finishing in 5:10, 8th overall.

Fueling: One bottle of water with GU Brew electrolyte tablets every 45 minutes, one S Cap per hour, one GU energy gel every 90 minutes, a few bites of boiled potato at the aid station.

My legs were fairly well crushed on Monday, but I made the point to get out for an easy 4 miles.  The big mileage weekend had been a success.   It provided a good confidence boost that Leadville training was on track.  The lessons:

  • A long race in 90 degree heat is a hydration contest.  Just keep drinking.  And never pass up a chance to top off a half empty bottle, even if you don't think you will need it.  
  • When it gets hard...and it will get hard... focus on the basics: form, fuel, hydration.  
  • If you feel a blister, chafing or other such issue... take care if it early before it derails your day.  
  • Aggressive recovery:  ice, compression, refueling... works!

Run Smart. Train Hard. Race Fast. 
Coach Kevin is an RRCA-certified Running Coach.  National Coach ~ Team McGraw, National Coach ~ St Jude Heroes.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Consistent Runner

Attention runners and endurance athletes:   There are no secrets to peak performance.
It is really basic: Run smart, train hard, race fast.
The big key to prolonged success is... consistency!

There are many "shortcut" training methods that will, in the short-term, reap fast performances: training too fast for current fitness, running every run too fast, improper recovery, over-training, etc.   But these methods typically lead to injury, fatigue and athlete burnout.

I am much more impressed with a runner's streak of injury-free training, than I am with any other meaningless mileage statistics.

What do you mean by the "consistent runner"?
It is not just about running regularly.  We need to be consistent in all things that lead to better, faster injury-free running.

Consistent Nutrition:  Do you eat a regular diet of fast food, processed food, soft drinks?  Why handicap yourself with a terrible diet?  Don't deprive yourself of a treat now and then.  But soft drinks?  Totally worthless to the endurance athlete.   Be aware of what you are putting in your body.  Nothing tastes as good as a PR feels!

Consistent Sleep: Put down the iPad, turn off the tv, go to sleep.  Our biggest gains in fitness come during recovery, and sleep is essential.  Be sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep on a regular basis.

Consistent Maintenance: If the foam roller keeps your IT Band happy... don't skip the foam roller! When we feel good we ignore our daily preventive maintenance.  Only when we get injured do we pay attention.  Avoid injury and doctor's offices by listening to your body and paying attention to your particular weak links.

Consistent Base Endurance: Train, Race, Recover  Repeat.  It is that simple.  The long breaks from running cause our base endurance to erode.  We have to start over from the beginning to get back to racing shape.  Maintain a year round long run.  I like my runners to run at least a 90 minute long run every two weeks, even in 5K season.  That deep, consistent endurance base will translate to better performances at all distances.

If you can't get to the starting line fit and healthy... you can't ever reach your finish line goal!

Run Smart. Train Hard. Race Fast. 
Coach Kevin is an RRCA-certified Running Coach.  National Coach ~ Team McGraw, National Coach ~ St Jude Heroes.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Swampstomper 50K 2013 Race Report

Swampstomper 50K, Shelby Forest, TN – 1/13/13 
photo by Jessica Grammer
After a soggy start to January, the trails at Shelby Forest were expected to be a sloppy, slippery mess.  Somehow, they were dry and in excellent shape.   A dry trail and nearly perfect running weather removed the possibility of external excuses for poor performance.  I was just beginning to build my mileage so the race would be a good indicator of January fitness.  My plan was to run aggressively (for a 31 mile race) and then hang on.  Not ideal race strategy but I wanted to test/ push my mental and physical fitness as I head into the winter ultrarunning season.   There are parts of the trail that are somewhat technical due to roots, holes and hills.  There are other parts that are faster and very runnable.  I wanted to survive the trickier parts and push the runnable sections.   
The Start - The race begins with a half mile of paved road before hitting the trail.  As we entered the woods I was in good position behind a group of four.   I knew all four were faster than me but I tried to keep them in sight.  By the time we hit the Red Loop, at mile 3.5, the group was out of sight.  This was probably best because after a fast start it was time to focus on my own pace.  Bjorn, a great training partner, had come up behind me and we would spend the next three hours running together.  The Red Loop…  usually referred to as the ----ing Red Loop… is a 3 mile loop with some of the most technical, steep climbs in the area.   This is best approached in survival mode.  Just get up the hills with heart rate under control and down without falling and getting injured.   
Halfway - Bjorn and I hit the 25K mark in 2:45.  That is a minute faster than I have run that loop.  I was feeling good and under control.  Stomach was in good shape and no problems with my feet or legs.  I was on pace for a course PR but I knew I would give up some time in the second half of the race due to the aggressive early pace.   I wanted to run steady, stay under control because I knew that last hour was going to hurt.

One Hour to Go – At the Group Camp aid station, if all went well, I knew I had an hour or so left to run.  I had just been through my toughest stretch of the race.  Bjorn and I got separated at a previous aid station and then he took a wrong turn, which cost him some time.  I would run the final two hours solo and would visit the dark place a few times.   I have been trying to experiment and tweak my nutrition to get rid of some GI distress that has popped up in some previous long races.  My stomach was pretty good but I felt it rumble a few times.  I don’t pay much attention to mileage or pace per mile in trail ultras.  I try to focus on the mile in front of me.  And I love the countdown.  One hour to go… 45 minutes to go… 30 minutes to go… especially when I have a good race going.  I was paying the price for the aggressive early pace.  My legs were getting very tired and my stomach was on edge.  I had to pull out all of the tough love:  just keep running… it hurts because it is supposed to hurt… it’s hard because you are running your best time ever on this course… just keep pushing… what story do you want to tell?   It got really hard.  But it was all worth it due to an 8th place finish and an 8 minute PR for this course.  I ran the second half in 3:00 for a finish time of 5:45. 

  • To run fast you have to be aggressive, but not reckless.  I was borderline reckless in the first 30 minutes.
  • I am finding that simple sugars, water and S Caps are the key to a calm stomach that doesn’t bloat and get upset.   I think my GI issues stem from too much sugar at once and not enough plain water to help my stomach absorb the sugar.  This is especially a problem when running at race intensity.  It is not as much of an issue on my long, easy training runs. 
  • Walk the walk – when it got hard I gave myself the same speech I give my runners.   
  • Runners are awesome – the spirit and camaraderie on the trail is such positive mojo.  Friends, runners I know by sight and total strangers all rooting one another on to the finish. 

What’s next?  Jackass 50K and Sylamore 50K in February and the Mississippi Trail 50 Miler in early March.  Lots of great trail miles to come!

Run Smart. Train Hard. Race Fast. 
Coach Kevin is an RRCA-certified Running Coach.  National Coach ~ Team McGraw, National Coach ~ St Jude Heroes.  He also writes the Memphis Fit blog