Don’t Trade Your Passion for Glory

“So many times it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive”

The above words, popularized by the movie Rocky III, are something you should strive to live your life by, be it your career, your hobbies, etc. Morals should never mix with dollars.

When we started the Endurance Project a few years ago, it started as an idea to create a mindset/lifestyle, not a business. Nearly 4 years later, that still holds true. In the beginnings, the entire purpose was to get people active and to help them reach their fitness/life goals, by way of coaching and motivating them into realizing that all dreams are possible, with a bit of hard work. Since then, very little has changed. While we don’t currently have a centralized group the way we did in Hampton Roads, we have continued to grow globally, with current athletes in 26 states, as well as several countries.

There has been countless people question why the Endurance Project charges “so little”, in regards to coaching and consulting and, the truth is, it’s NEVER been about the money. When we lived in Va. Beach, there were other local coaches there charging 3-5 times the amount that we did. While I understand that many of them are/were trying to turn a hobby into a business, the Endurance Project remains focused on our passion being the core of what we do. In fact, many of our members have been grandfathered in from back when we charged nothing for coaching and consulting. They were friends and ‘family’ first.

Of the 60+ athletes that we coach, there are nearly daily correspondence with all of them, be it via text, messenger, or email. Rarely does a day go by that we are not interacting with our clients. To us, they’ve never been a number, and most certainly have never been a dollar sign. In fact, most of them are an extension of family. Just this past week, one of our members who was coming into town to race, stayed at our house, went to dinner with us and even helped in taking care of Lillie for two days. Why? Because she is a friend, more so than a client.

As our numbers continue to grow, and as more and more athletes seek out Endurance Project membership, my biggest fear is having to turn people away because we are no longer able to handle that personal connection with every single one of our clients. Because of that, we are entertaining the idea of bringing on regional coaches to start their own satellite Endurance Project.

At the end of the day, we’ve always considered the Endurance Project to be a brother/sisterhood and not a business. The USMC always say “Once a Marine, ALWAYS a Marine”. That is exactly what we hope the Endurance Project is, or becomes. Long after a client is no longer seeking out individual coaching, we hope that they take what they’ve learned with us and spread the knowledge, by way of starting their own little clan of merry athletes.

Life has a way of sometimes being difficult and tough but, it seems that those tough times are far more enjoyable when you have the strength and support of your peers, friends, or family. There are far too many people out there who want to discredit your success, belittle your achievements, or discourage you in becoming better than they are. Those are the reasons that the Endurance Project was created. Our primary focus has been to build a team of members that are focused on the overall success and mission of the group, not their own individual success. If you don’t get as excited about your teammates success as you do your own, then I can assure you that the Endurance Project is NOT the group for you. We don’t do narcissism here and, we don’t encourage selfies😉

While athletic coaching and consulting is what we are sought out for, we’d like to think that, after some time, our athletes stay with us more so because we have helped them conquer other obstacles in their life rather than just tackling a training program.

So, while we continue to grow, it looks like we are going to need more forks to share the pie. This is not my group but, OUR group. You’re a member, I’m a member, we are members. #DWEPstrong

 

How Tough Is The Barkley Marathons?

So, for almost anyone who has been involved in or around the ultra running world for any length of time, chances are you’ve heard of the Barkley Marathons. Though it’s kinda been a bit of a “hidden jewel” for years, the recent documentary Barkley Movie has begun to shed more light on this crazy and mysterious race.

Personally, I read about the Barkley back when I was still in the Navy. Long before I had ever ran my first ultra, my first marathon, or even my first half marathon. Even back then, I thought it sounded rather interesting and intriguing.

Though I have only heard about the course and the mystique of the race from acquaintances I know who have done it, or those I know who have ran parts of the course, I’ve always wondered how tough it really is?

This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Barkley Marathons. Over the course of these 30 years, only 14 people have finished, though there has been one 2 time winner and this year’s winner, Jared Campbell, become the only 3 time winner.

The race itself is labeled has a 100 miler, broken up into 5 x 20 mile loops. However, if you ask those who have done even one loop of the race, they say it’s closer to 25-28 miles per loop, totaling 120-130 miles and boasting 60000 feet of elevation gain (yes, you read that right..supposedly there is 60k of elevation gain, not just elevation change).

From second hand chatter, as well as the documentary and various articles on the internet, most participants say that aside from the climbing, it’s the orienteering and contention with the famous saw briars that make Barkley so tough.

Unlike your typical 100 mile race, Barkley has no aid stations (outside an occasional water drop), and is one of very few where the course is not marked. To navigate the “course”, one must use actual land navigation skills to find various ‘check points’ out on the course, that are comprised of the runner having to rip pages from a book that correspond with their bib number, to ensure they actually hit the checkpoints and don’t cut/cheat the course. This year alone, I saw a couple social media posts from actual race entrants who were “timed out” on the first loop because it took them several hours of searching to locate one of the books. So, as you can see, it takes more than just physical ability and skill to become one of the very few finishers of Barkley.

So while there is no doubt in my mind that Barkley is both physically and mentally demanding, is it as tough as it looks or sounds?

Now, before most of you roast me and scoff at the fact that I would even ask such a question, please continue reading.

Barkley

So by looking at the list of finishers, you can see that it took nearly 10 years before Barkley got it’s first finisher. After Mark Williams became the first finisher, it was another 6 years before the next finisher(s) completed the race. In 2006, not even one person finished the 3 loop/60 mile “fun run”. In the 30 years since it’s inception, only 6 of those years have had even one finisher.

By pure numbers and statistics alone, it would be safe to assume that Barkley is hands down one of, if not THE toughest races on earth. But, is it?

Here we go!!

So while the number of finishers are quite small, so are the number of entrants. Every year, only 40 entrants are allowed into the race. Of those 40 entrants to toe the line, only a handful from those 40 even believe they can complete the ‘fun run’, let alone the entire distance. If you watch the documentary, even one of the co-founders of the race says something to the effect “every year, you have those people who show up that have no business being here”. If you ask me, that number is far greater than is told.

Of the few people I personally know to have attempted Barkley, all but one of them have never stood a chance. Despite a race that boasts 60k worth of elevation gain, I often see those who toe the line not having done barely any incline or strength training to prepare them physically for such a demanding course, let alone the land navigation skills it takes to find those damn books. Many of the entrants love the mystique and appeal of the Barkley but, it seems that most are grossly under trained and unprepared. While toeing the line is an accomplishment in itself, the vast majority never had a chance in hell to finish it.

Hell, just recently I have had several friends and acquaintances take on the Barkley Fall Classic, a race that does 30-ish miles of the Barkley Marathon course. Of those friends/acquaintances, 2 have finished and 9 have DNFd. With this event being 2 years old, there have been 264 finishers and 213 who have DNFd. Personally knowing the training of several of those entrants, I can say for sure that majority of them were grossly unprepared. When you fail to prepare, you have to prepare to fail. In my opinion, far too many people go into those mountains with 1.) lack of respect for the course and 2.) lack of specific training and preparation needed to even have a fighting chance.

Now, aside from those toeing the line who probably shouldn’t be, there has only been a small number of top tier ultra runners who have even attempted Barkley. Whether it is the quirky registration process, the lack of prize money or bling, or fear, we’ve yet to see the biggest names in ultra heading to Frozen Head State Park. As of now, there has been not one woman finisher and to my knowledge, only a couple to complete the 60 mile fun run. So, with all the badass women out there, you’re telling me this race is so difficult that none of them can finish, or, has there just not been enough badass women to enter?

Of the very few finishers over the years, you’ll note that those who have finished, have been those who have done fairly well in other tough events like the HardRock 100 or the Hurt 100, etc.

Essentially, to have even a snowball’s chance in hell of finishing the Barkley, it looks like you better be capable of going well under 20 hours for a flat course 100 miler, and even then, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to handle the rigorous climbing that smacks you in the face at Barkley.

Now, having never actually set foot in those mountains that host The Barkley, I have driven through and around the area and, that terrain is just gnarly and unforgiving. I have no illusion that my name will ever be on the list of Barkley finishers, however, I can say with confidence that I know how to train for it and how to train others for it. So, while it is a bucket list race for myself, as well as a few other Endurance Project athletes, I personally have already started the foundation building of what it will take to finish that race. While the registration process itself seems to be quite the task, rest assured that if I ever get to toe the line, I’ll be prepared to go the distance. There is no way in hell I’d ever go there knowing that quitting was a high likelihood.

I know every runner to toe the line at Barkley has had their own WHY and, I commend anyone who has even taken on something so daunting. Whether they have finished or even completed 1 loop, to be a part of something so tough and so mysterious, they have been part of a very very small group and, that in itself is something to be proud of.

So, until I can be a part of that group, by way of finish or DNF, I’ll just have to dream of those mountains, and train for them the best way I know how.

To read more about the craziness of Barkley, check out the link here Barkley and, checkout the documentary that was linked above (it’s now on Netflix by the way).

Congrats to those who recently took part in the race this past weekend and big congrats to the winner and only 3 peat champion, Jared Campbell!!

 

The the Sm-ART of Recovery

Lately, I have been noticing that far too many athletes are on the injured reserve list, and or on the verge of injury or burnout. Some of them close friends, some clients, others just athletes I know through running and obstacle course racing.

So, before I get all high and mighty about what you’ve been doing wrong and why you’re in the situation that you’re in, let me first say that, I have been there, more than my fair share.

Blame it on youth, luck, or divine intervention but, there was a time in my teens and early 20’s when I could train hard and race hard, with not so much as a sore muscle. This was long before I knew anything about proper care and maintenance of the body. In those days, I put in plenty of miles, while fueling my body with Ramen noodles and gallons of beer. I partied all night and anytime I could string together 3-4 hours of sleep, was a good night of rest and recovery.

Then, I got out of the Navy at 22 years old, took a job that had me traveling and working tons of hours. In the blink of an eye, 7 years went by and I put on nearly 80 pounds. Over that time, it’s obvious that my mileage and fitness eventually became non-existent. At my worst, I was sitting at 218 pounds, drinking daily, and puffing on the cancer sticks. I had went from gifted and talented runner to a useless blob.

This trend would continue until around 2010, when we moved to Virginia Beach and I started a new job with no travel, linked up with an old Navy buddy who got me back into training, and joined a local running club.

Those first few months were HARD!! My heart and my ego wanted to keep up with the top runners in the group but, my body wasn’t what it use to be and it wasn’t able to. The first couple of months hurt, and hurt a lot! But, if I’ve ever been one thing, it’s stubborn. I kept showing up for the group runs, I put in miles on my own, I started biking 26 miles round trip to work everyday. It wasn’t long before I was coming back around to my old self.

I had joined the group in June 2010, and by November of that same year, I was toeing the line of my first marathon. While many veterans in the group told me to just run to finish, my pride and ego wouldn’t allow that. In typical fashion, I was going after a goal and, was going to either get it ,or, go down in a brilliant flame. Not many people who haven’t ran in several years decide to go for a Boston Qualifier in their first marathon but, that’s exactly what I did. Despite “hitting the wall” in glorious fashion, I stumbled in with a Boston Qualifier and 38 seconds to spare!! BUT, I paid for it!

Riding that high from having a great first marathon, I did what nearly every runner does, I got right back to it. I started upping my mileage and pushing the intensity. I was hungry!! I went from running around 50 miles a week, up to around 80ish, over the course of 2-3 months. Sure, I had a few warning signs of sore or tight muscles but, I was otherwise invincible…..right up until I wasn’t! On the warm-up of our weekly Thursday night tempo run, I was leading the pack at a casual 8 minute mile pace. We were just about to finish up the warm-up and get down to business when, BAM!! I felt like somebody had shot me in the leg. My achilles felt like it had been ripped in half. I sat on the curb and waited for a fellow runner to go back for his car and come pick me up. I couldn’t even walk. I was devastated.

Though i might be stubborn, I’m not entirely stupid. While I couldn’t run, I was determined to keep my fitness. So, I started doing A LOT of aqua jogging and rollerblading. Since I couldn’t run 20 feet without pain, I went all in with other means of fitness. For three months I continued to rehab the achilles, all the while still maintaining my fitness. Then, as if by a miracle, one day I woke up and had no pain and was able to run again!!!

This time though, I had learned my lesson and took it slow and easy, right? WRONG!! I ditched the roller blades, gradually cut out my pool sessions and within no time, I was back running strong again! I was breaking new PR’s left and right! Over the course of the next several months, I ran 3 marathons, a 200 mile relay, 60+ miles a week, racing some distance or other almost every weekend. Sometimes two races a weekend!

Our weekly group workouts were getting bigger and faster! New guys were joining the group and our workouts were becoming practically races. I loved leading the pack and thrived on the push from the group. One particular doozie of workout I designed one night for our weekly track session was 6×1 mile, with the first 1200 at MRP, with the last 400 at or near mile race pace. On the second to last one, I felt a slight twinge in the achilles but, nothing major. On the last rep, I really put the screws to it, running my last 400 in 58 seconds!! I was on cloud nine!!

The next morning, I went to get out of bed and couldn’t bare weight on my left leg!! The achilles had become so inflamed and tight, i couldn’t walk! WTF????

This setback was particularly a heart breaker. Here I was, just a few weeks out from running the Shamrock marathon with Team Hoyt, the race in which Tim Brown and I were to qualify for Boston together so that we could run along side Dick and Rick Hoyt.

From January to March, I got Graston treatment, electro stimulus treatments, went through a myriad of PT strengthening and rehab exercises. While it slowly got better, I was limited to only 5 miles a week of running but, I again used rollerblading, biking and a ton of aqua jogging to stay in shape. As the marathon date drew closer, the achilles was feeling much better but, I hadn’t done anything of a long run to really test it, unless you count a 28 mile rollerblading session.

So with achilles taped for caution, Tim and I toed the line of Shamrock, needing a sub 3:10 in order to get us to Boston. With the achilles holding up, we came in at 3:09:29!

It was THAT particular injury that completely changed my way of thinking and training. After Boston that year, I started relentlessly pursuing ways to properly recover and rejuvenate from hard racing and training cycles.

Aside from getting regular massage and Active Release Technique sessions, I started doing self massage and maintenance daily. I began incorporating regular strength and mobility sessions and, I focused on finding the root cause of my achilles problem (which turned out to be excessive toe off and overly tight/knotted calf muscles, as well as weak and unstable hips).

Something else I started to do, was to become less and less obsessive. On days that I felt a tweak or pain, I either took the day off from running and or found another means of training that wouldn’t exacerbate the problem. I also started giving myself more recovery time between hard training efforts or races. To quench my racing thirst, I started running more with Team Hoyt, or pacing my wife or friends. Instead of always having to push the pace, I started becoming me comfortable with sitting back and having fun with others.

As one of the head members of the running group, I started incorporating more strength and all around conditioning into our group workouts. Many of us started doing other things beyond just running. We got into OCR and switched up our overall training methods.

Knock on wood, I have had no significant injury or set back since that last achilles issue.

While I personally know how easy it is to be consumed by the training and racing bug, I hope that my examples can help you in knowing when to back off and recover. In every major sport in the world, athletes have a season that they train and compete at a high level, then they back off, rejuvenate, and let the body repair itself before coming back again for the following season.

Sadly, as amateur and recreational athletes, most of us never do that. In running and ocr, we are always chasing that next PR or that next racing high. We continue going and going for months, or even years, without ever allowing the body to catch back up and rejuvenate.

Despite what we believe, the body is a finely tuned machine, just like any other. In order for it to operate at it’s optimal levels, it must be fueled correctly, maintained regularly and, after a certain duration, rebuilt. Just as you get regular maintenance on your car after certain milestones, the same holds true for your body. You only have one, so treat it the best you can.

Don’t let pride and ego override health and well being. Fit isn’t necessarily healthy and, the efforts it takes to be extremely fit, usually take the body outside of homeostasis.

It’s completely fine to take long breaks between races, or to change up your training so that you improve on one physiological component, while the others are allowed to recover and repair themselves. Nobody says that you have to completely take off, in fact, that’s only recommended when you’ve completely trashed your body to the point that complete down time is the only way to allow it to rejuvenate itself.

The biggest hurdle to overcome in your training and racing endeavors is, the 6 inches between your ears. You have to be smart enough to know when to push, and when to back off and come back to center. All the PRs and finish lines in the world aren’t worth doing long term damage to your body. You can save yourself lots of wear and tear by being smart.

In closing, remember, if it’s no longer fun, if it’s becoming more of a burden than a pleasure, then it’s no longer worth it. If it’s forced, it’s wrong.

Take care of your bodies and let your brain do the reasoning, not the pride or ego.

Where The Hell Have You Been??

“Where the hell have you been, bro?”

This was  question I had received a few days back from a fellow running friend/DWEP athlete.

As I pondered this question for a minute, it gave me time to reflect on all the places I have been these past 13 months.

In the running or OCR world, it seems that if you aren’t regularly racing or talking about upcoming races, the world tends to forget about you and move along it’s merry way.

For the 5 years living in Virginia, there was very few, and I mean VERY FEW, weekends in which I wasn’t racing and or being at a race to support fellow friends, training partners, or clients. It was fun, a lot of fun but…..

Then, with better opportunities, came change. Crystle and I moved to Rhode Island at the end of 2014 and immediately, our lives became a whirlwind again but, in a much different, more productive, more positive way.

As we left behind many good friends in VA, we also left behind a whole spider web of deceit and drama.

While in Virginia, we thought we were happy, and we were but, things needed to change. So, with us both landing new jobs, we set out on a different path, to create our own way. A way that we’d been trying to create in Virginia but, that wasn’t the time, nor was it the place to do so.

So as 2015 went by quicker than we could blink, the new found positive energy just kept snowballing and snowballing as the year went on.

Right away, we both fell in love with our new jobs/careers and, we finally had time to fall deeper in love with one another. Then, out of the blue, amazing started to happen. In late winter, an opportunity for me to finally land my dream job of coaching high school happened. In March, I took over as head outdoor track coach for Mt. Hope High School, which also led to the head coaching position for cross country and indoor track as well.

Just as I landed the new coaching gig and didn’t think things could get any better, we found out that Crystle was pregnant and that we’d be welcoming our little girl into the world by the end of the year.

As winter faded into spring, we began our search for a new house. No apartment any longer, no living with Crystle’s parents for the time being. Finally, we were going to have our own place so that when Lillie arrived, she too would have her own home. In early June, we found the house perfectly suited for us, in an amazing neighborhood, on the ocean, and very conducive to all of my training needs.

During the preparation of getting our new house and prepping for our little bundle of joy, something else happened.

DWEP EXPLODED!!! I am not sure I could pinpoint the one driving force that made this happen but, I believe it was because I could finally fly!! No restrictions, no challenges, no competitive egos to obstruct the path any longer. The plans I had always had for the Endurance Project were the same in Rhode Island as they were in Virginia but, the difference now was that I was finally unshackled and unrestricted to grow it the way I had always wanted and to see it develop into what I had always envisioned.

During just a few short months over the summer, DWEP was getting new clients rolling in almost daily. All of a sudden, it seemed that the word had spread and the plan was shaping up like I’d always dreamed. When looking back on it now, I believe much of this success happened because I was able to let go of some of the things that was holding me back, I was able to cut away the negative energy and finally remove the rocks that were covering up the roses beneath.

But, what about my racing? Well, I did race a decent amount during the year and, did quite well in all of the said races but, it was different now. I was too pre-occupied with all the other amazing things going on in my life that, I kinda forgot about the racing and training. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was still training hard all year for World’s Toughest Mudder but, I think the spark was gone. I still had every intent of going into WTM in November to try and reclaim the team title with Team Spartan Wolfpack but, in October, the powers to be changed those plans.

As WTM grew closer, it was becoming all too real that the date of the race was way too close to the due date of Lillie’s arrival. So with heavy heart, I had to make the decision to back out of WTM so that I was there for Crystle during those last few weeks of pregnancy. Not to mention, I didn’t want to be in the middle of the Vegas desert, knowing that I could possibly miss the birth of my first child. NO WAY!!

Oddly, as this was all happening and I was bummed about missing the race, something strange happened that would have likely made the race an epic disaster had I went through with it.

While out on a training run with my cross country kids one day, all of a sudden my breathing become extremely labored, my heart rate went from 130 to 180 (on an easy 8:30 pace effort), and I felt like I was going to pass out. I actually had to stop and walk the last mile back to school.

From there, it got worse and more frequent. I literally couldn’t run more than 400 meters without feeling like I was going to pass out. Now, even though I was still wanting to train, I couldn’t!!! To say I was freaking out, would be an understatement.

For the first time in my life, I was actually scared and worried. I had no clue what was happening and I had no clue how to fix it. Crystle was getting worried too because, she’d never seen me this frazzled. My whole life, I’ve been an inner fighter. If I am sick, hurt, injured, etc., I don’t show it. I just trudge on. But, this was uncharted waters and I wanted answers.

So, right away I went to see a doctor that only I would be able to fully trust with my health. He was an accomplished marathoner and a retired Naval Medical officer, a Captain who had served 30 years. From the moment I spoke with him, he knew that I wasn’t coming in to talk about the sniffles and that my panic was genuine.

Within the span of a few weeks, I got blood drawn 4 times and had it tested for everything from Lyme’s Disease to thyroid disease and everything in between. I was put on antibiotics but, nothing helped. The Doc then scheduled me a stress test. Now, here I am, someone that’s in the top 5% in regards to physical fitness and, I couldn’t last 8 minutes on the treadmill at an incline of 5% and 4mph. Hell, a month before I was cranking out hour long stints at 20-40% and barely breaking a sweat. Now, I have what appears to be the fitness of a dead person. During the initial stress test, the Doc actually abruptly pulled the plug because my heart rate had went from 124 to 176 in the matter of two seconds, without even any change to the stress being applied. WHAT THE #$%% IS GOING ON?!?!

While Crystle was fearful that something bad was happening and my health and life were at stake, all I could think about was “how is this going to impact my racing and training”?

After the stress test, I had 3 separate cardiac echogram tests done, a very extensive cardiac MRI, a pulmonary function test, a respiratory function test, and some more blood work.

Aside from being mildly deficient in vitamin D, the results weren’t showing anything that could seem to be causing my issues.

I continued TRYING to train but, could barely get 20 minutes in, no matter how easy I went. Then, Crystle, as well as my friend Michelle, suggested that maybe it was just anxiety and stress with all the changes that were happening in my life.

This made no sense to me, at all!! I was always the guy who thought that anxiety was just in the head and was for the weak. I was not the type of guy who could succumb to anxiety. But, I also wasn’t the type of guy that was going to go on barely being able to run a quarter mile without feeling like I was going to blackout. So, as much as it sucked to swallow my pride and ask the Doc about possibly prescribing some anti-anxiety medications, he too thought that anxiety might just be the culprit.

So, here were are a few weeks later and, I am reporting that things are coming back together. The main thing is that Lillie is healthy and that she brightens my day, everyday. She is my instant anti-stress medication. But, I’ve also started taking real anti-anxiety medications and, though I only take them before workouts,  I am again training with some vigor and, so far, I’ve been doing really well and the training has been going great. So much so that, I’ve been able to do some pretty intense workouts these past couple weeks and am having little to none of the previous symptoms/issues that I was having before.

To answer the original question, THAT is where I have been!

But, now that it appears that I might be out of the woods, that fire is starting to glow again. I have some big races planned for the year and, in fact, I am going to throw the spikes on tomorrow to run an indoor mile. It likely won’t be pretty because, I certainly have lost some fitness during all these weeks of inconsistency while trying to figure out the problems with my health. It might be a 4:30 mile, or it might be a 6:00 mile but, if I can get through it, then that will be my measuring stick going into this year of training and racing.

So, with 2016 already starting off with a full head of steam, I have no doubts that it’s going to be a great year! BRING IT ON!!

To Win, is To Withstand

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place… and I don´t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it. You, me or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But ain’t about how hard you hit… It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward… how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That´s how winning is done. Now, if you know what your worth, go out and get what your worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying: You ain´t what you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain´t you! You´re better than that”

 

With 2016 kicking off a few days ago, there was no doubt that there would be countless resolutions to be made, just like any and every other year. Some of those resolutions will be kept, most won’t.

Truth is, most people are lazy, scared, too self conscious or, a combination of. The common person is scared of what their peers might think, what society might think, what family might think. They might want to change but, they are too worried about what criticisms those changes might spark from others.

A person might want to change their physical appearance and get in better shape. One might want to start their own business or change careers. Maybe go back to school and chase that dream job but, fact is, most are too scared to try. They find any excuse along the way because, frankly, they are too concerned with the possibility of failure.

The truth of the matter is, EVERYONE who has ever tried to do anything noteworthy, has failed at least once, often they have failed multiple times but, the one thing they didn’t do was to let a failure here, or a setback there, derail them from eventually reaching their goal.

Nowhere can this be observed more often than in running. I doubt there are too many other endeavors where a person can fail more often than they succeed, yet, still chase their goals and dreams with such vigor. Running also exposes the types of personalities that are out there and shows an individuals true character.

You have those who go out, train their asses off, show up and crush races more often than not but, from time to time, they also tank hard. Recently, one of my longtime running friends trained her ass off, went to the starting line in great shape but, had an awful race (by her standards and expectations). But, rather than make up countless excuses, she simply shed a few tears, dusted herself off, and is now back on the horse training for the next race.

Then, you have those who are the exact opposite. They race and train for the recognition and the accolades. These types will all too often have a bad race and, rather than take any blame or point to areas they needed to improve, they just make up excuse after excuse to try and avoid the pressures of what others might think of them.

Point is, these are just running examples but, these type of personalities carry over into every other realm of life too. Many will walk over others to try and get to the top, while the most successful ones are smart enough to know that they can’t see the top, without standing on the shoulders of giants.

So, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, are you going to make your life or, allow life to make you?

As they say, “fortune favors the prepared” but, it also favors those who go out and get what they want, stopping for nothing. They don’t create excuses, they create solutions, even after having failed. The reason those types can succeed, even after failure, is because they can always go back and pinpoint the reason they failed, then fix that issue and move on, so as to avoid repeating the same failure. They don’t pass blame or point fingers, they find their own glitches and rewire them.

Learn from your mistakes, learn from failure, take constructive criticism as a way to correct your discrepancies, don’t be so sensitive, realize you aren’t perfect and, at all costs, KEEP MOVING FORWARD!!

 

 

The Future of The Marathon: Strength Does Matter!!

If you are a follower, supporter and or, even a critic of the Endurance Project, you’ll know that I am a huge proponent and advocate of strength, endurance and, power. I believe these 3 components make up the core of putting together any solid training plan, be it running, or any other sport, especially long distance endurance sports, such as the marathon. I do not shy away from regularly pushing my views, findings and successes from this type of training. The training is unorthodox but, when programmed properly, I believe it can be very, very effective.

The weekend before last, I, like many other runners and running coaches, had several friends and clients that were running the Chicago marathon. By way of social media, I saw several post race photos of friends with this other runner, who I’d later learn was a young runner by the name of Patrick Cutter. Now, what exactly was/is significant about this Patrick kid? Well, on the surface, nothing! When seeing his race photos, he looked like like a fit young man, even maybe Marine Corp-esque. So what stood out with this kid?

2:40:45!!!

Those five digits comprised the accumulated time of the marathon that Patrick had just completed. Two hours, forty minutes, forty five seconds, ran on near even splits, with the half split being 1:20:10.

Ok, so what’s so amazing about that?? I mean sure, there were plenty of other runners in Chicago that morning who had ran 2:40 or faster, right? True, true…in fact, there were 194 other male and female runners who finished ahead of Patrick but, I’d love to see the statistics on how many of them were over 150 pounds or, better yet, how many of them you suppose were over 180 pounds?

That’s right, Patrick ran a very impressive 2:40:45 marathon, doing so with a body that would likely look more suited to see in the finals of the Crossfit Games. Right away, that caught my attention and, so I reached out to Patrick to get a little more insight from Patrick and how he trains, his athletic background and, where he sees his future going with the marathon.

The following Q&A is the verbatim exchange between Patrick and I in the days proceeding his awesome performance in Chicago.

1.) How long have you been involved in distance running and, what is your athletic background?
I’ve been a runner to some capacity since I was a sophomore in high school. I was a sprinter/middle distance and the longest run I did was the 1000 during an indoor meet my senior year. It wasn’t until about 4 years ago did I start running longer distances. My first marathon was less than 3 years ago. I grew up playing football, basketball and baseball. During high school I played 4 years of football, 3 years of outdoor track, 2 years of indoor track, and 2 years of basketball.
2.) So, based on the race photos I’ve seen, you “look like a big dude, for a runner” – At your recent Chicago marathon, how much did you weigh when you toed the starting line?

I guess you could say I have an unusual build for a marathon runner. But it works for me! I actually weighed in at the Doctors office a few days before Chicago and my weight was at 182 lbs.

3.) Rumor is, you’re big into strength training. Could you walk us through what your weekly strength routine looks like and, could you tell us how you believe that supports your running, rather than hinder it?
Just like running, I’m more about quality than quantity. I only run 50-70 miles a week which is a far cry from what most people that run a 2:40 marathon are doing. Same goes for weight lifting. I hit the gym 3-4 times a week and try to keep my workouts no longer than 30-45 mins. Having more muscle on my frame helps me especially with going up hills. I just feel healthier being the size I am. I feel stronger as the race goes on. I don’t feel like my body is breaking down.

4.) So, as we all know, there are two different camps in the marathoning world, the high mileage, run only camp or, the lower mileage camp that also includes plenty of cross training and strength work into their running routine. Which are you and, what does your typical weekly MPW look like when leading up to an A race marathon?
I’ve never been a runner who runs super high mileage. Even when I first started out I was only 35-40 MPW. I see a lot of runners who run 90+ MPW and then burnout in a race and fall way short of their goal. In the past several training cycles I have hovered around 50-67 miles and only one time have I ever hit 70+ MPW..which was my peak week for Chicago. Quality beats quantity every time no matter what it is. Being from New York, training through winters are brutal. Sometimes I’m forced inside and will use the treadmill. If it’s an easy run day possibly the stationary bike or elliptical.

5.) So, you just went 2:40 in Chicago, which was substantial PR. Can you tell us what, if anything, you did differently leading up to Chicago vs. your previous marathons? Also, when was your first marathon and what has been the rate of progression in all your marathons since? In your first marathon, were you the same size and build as you are now, or bigger/smaller?
I surprised myself with the 2:40 in Chicago. I actually had on 2 pace bands, 1 for 2:42 and the other for 2:39:40. If I had any doubts about my ability to break 2:40, I wouldn’t have had the 2:42 pace band. So, I mean I wasn’t sure I could do it to be honest. I mean trimming off almost 5 mins from my previous PR set back in Boston in April is no joke. The biggest thing during this training cycle I did differently than previous ones, was running much more workouts at goal marathon pace and faster than marathon goal pace. I don’t think I was prepared in previous races for the pace I would have to hold for 26.2 miles. Anyone can run a great first 20 and then most hit the wall. I typically do my long run on legs that aren’t fully recovered. It simulates how you will feel in a race. Too many people want to do their long run on fresh, 100% recovered legs. My training has helped me feel strong in miles 1-26.2. Not just the first 20! The first marathon I ran was the Hamilton Marathon in Canada in November 2012. I went in thinking a BQ would be no problem. Boy was I wrong. I pretty much did my training all wrong as I was a rookie to the marathon world. I finished in 3:11! I was so disappointed and seriously questioned if this was something I wanted to continue. Quitting was not an option I figured so I went back to the drawing board. I really wanted that Boston Qualifier! Since my first marathon, I’ve gone 2:59(Buffalo), 2:58(Rochester), 2:55(Disney), 2:58(Boston), 2:51(Wineglass), 2:46(Disney), 2:45(Boston), and 2:40 in Chicago. With the exception of Boston 2014(I passed out at the finish line with a 103° fever) I have ran faster in each marathon I have raced. What’s crazy is I may only be around 3 lbs lighter now than I was 3 years ago. Considering I’ve ran almost 7,000 miles since then, it’s pretty awesome!

6.) In your mind, do you feel that you could be significantly faster in the marathon, IF you were to cut weight and change your body into the more traditional long distance runner build? Do you think your size and build are holding you back from your true potential in long distance running?
I actually get that question a lot and would be lying to you if I didn’t ask myself that same question! Do I think I could be faster if I dropped 50 lbs? Of course. I mean when I look at the people who beat me in races I have yet to see someone who outweighs me. No joke. I’ve had seasoned marathoners who run impressive times tell me I would easily be a 2:32 marathoner if I dropped weight. Quite honestly though, I like being different and showing others out there that you can be a solid marathoner with a muscular build. With the progressions I’ve made over these past 3 years I don’t think it’s holding me back!

7.) Now that you crushed Chicago, what does the future of marathoning look like for you? Do you plan to continue trying to lower your marathon PR and/or plan to move onto ultra marathons, or get faster over shorter distances?
My next Marathon is Disney in January! I have a goal of 2:38 there. I am never satisfied so I will always be looking to improve my time! One day I hope to be running under 2:30! Being only 26, I have youth on my side as well! I’ve had a lot of people tell me I should get into a 50k. At this point, ultras just don’t seem like something I want to tackle. I won’t say never…but at least for right now and the next several years I’ll hold off on those! I would love to improve my other times I have only done 4 halfs, 3 10ks, and 2 5ks. My times are decent, but I would love to get faster! Marathons will always be my #1 favorite distance!

To get an idea of what I am talking about, here are a few pics of Patrick during the race. NOTE: Look at all the other runners surrounding him in the one photo. Most of those guys are giving up at least 25 pounds to Patrick, with none of them looking like they could get through a set of ten push-ups.

Patrick2

Who says you have to be a waif to run?

So, where am I going with all of this? To put it simple, you don’t have to fit a mold or, pigeon hole yourself into following the crowd and believing one type of training is best. For years, many a running coach and or advocate, have kept their runners away from strength work or cross training or, anything else that didn’t revolve around accruing more and more mileage.

The beauty, from what I gathered from Patrick is that, he was never really steered down a “one size fits all” path, had he followed the traditional marathon crowd, who knows where he’d be. Sure, he might be a bit faster but, chances are more likely that he’d have gotten injured as well.

As the current state of the fitness industry hinges on the “all around”, “functional”, “real world” fitness trends, for once I can actually thank Crossfit for something. Though I’ll never really support the typical programming of Crossfit, I will say that their motto of “being prepared for anything” has really peaked my interest. Sure, maybe a guy like Patrick will never be as fast as the “specialists” of the marathon but, for an “Average Joe”, I find it much more impressive to be really good at multiple disciplines and skill sets, than it is just to be a one trick pony. Hell, even one of my most accomplished marathon friends, who is currently seeking the Olympic Marathon Trials standard, has shied away from the super high mileage that they once lived and died by. Even going as far as hiring a new coach who has cut their mileage by over a third, and has added in strength and other cross training, in lieu of the high mileage program that they had been on for years. Currently, that particular runner is also doing just as well or even better than from previous marathon training cycles, all while staying injury free too.

The funny thing about this particular blog post will be, seeing the rebuttal that is going to come from the old school traditional marathoners out there, majority of which have never run a 2:40, mind you. They’ll decry that “there is no such thing as junk miles”. Well, I’ll put it point blank, if anyone ever says that to you, they are the last person you want to listen to about running. Those type of people only say that because, they need to justify most of their useless time spent.

Point is, there are many roads that lead to Rome and, it’s especially easy to get caught up going down the traditional high mileage road, in regards to training for a marathon. I hope whatever you decide to do with your training, you program with an open mind and don’t get caught up in what the old goats out there tell you. Most of them have been too scared to shy away from the crowd, thus, they only tend to get as far as the crowd, sometimes, not even as far.

As we become more knowledgeable in how best to achieve overall fitness, I believe you are going to see far more emphasis on all around strength and conditioning. Sometimes, you have to be the one willing to buck the system and stop following the crowd. It’s easy to say that one modality works best, when it’s the only modality being used on a large scale. That is where high mileage comes from. In my opinion, it’s merely an old wives tale and, because it’s never really been challenged to any degree by any large numbers, of course it is the BEST way. That is until those willing to try something new come along and prove it wrong, or maybe not wrong per se but, less than ideal.

Train smart and, run on!

If you’re looking for anymore detailed information on the training principles of the Endurance Project, please feel free to contact us and find out how we can get you to any PR you’ve envisioned. #DWEP #DWEPfit #DWEPstrong

Knowing Your Limits

I’m sure I’ll catch some flak for this post but, hey, who am I to sidestep my real thoughts and feelings on a subject? Besides, I think some people really need to hear it.

Sometimes, it’s perfectly fine to JUST SAY NO!

With the latest extreme endurance events popping up all over the place these days, more and more people are signing up for races and events that they are in no way prepared for. Never was that more evident than this past weekend at the Spartan Beast/Ultra Beast in Killington, Vermont. This would be my third year taking on that mountain. In 2013, I did the Beast with my wife. In 2014, I took on the Ultra Beast. This year, I again took on the Ultra Beast.

Regardless of how the course has changed the past 3 years, one thing remains the same, the carnage! Every time I have stepped on that mountain, I have seen thousands of people who just have no business being out there, period! Yes, I am all for pushing outside your comfort zone and I am all about challenging oneself but, to what point?

Personally, I do not see the glory in putting yourself in an extreme state of stress, just for a possible medal. I actually view it as somewhat disrespectful to the toughness of the event when, someone signs up for the race, finds out they are in way over their heads, then makes up a million excuses as to why they skipped obstacles, skipped their penalty burpees, blame the race venue/directors for their own poor planning. “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail”.

It seems that these days, everyone believes they are this remarkable and amazing athlete, just because they have the ability to pay for and register for any race of their choosing (for the most part).

Not that my voice matters that much in the sport but, I have voiced my opinion numerous times that I believe certain races should have criteria that must be met in order to register. Maybe you need to run X time over Y distance in a race and prove it. Maybe you need to do X number of Y type of races in order to register. I am utterly amazed how just anybody can sign up and register for some of these races, without having proven they’re capable of handling it.

Every year, you have people going on social media and complaining because they didn’t meet a time cutoff and were pulled from the course. To me, that is crazy!! Sure, you didn’t quit but, you failed to prepare, thus, you should be prepared to fail. If you don’t make the cutoffs (which are quite lenient), then you didn’t train like you should have and, need to train harder next year and maybe give it another go.

This doesn’t just include OCR’s though. For me, this includes marathons, ultra races, etc. Unless you have a disability of some sort, there needs to be minimum requirements to participate in such events, in my opinion. What are those requirements? Well, i think there needs to be a progression over certain distances and I think there needs to be standards met, so that it proves your commitment to achieving the next rung on the ladder. Before being able to register for a marathon, I feel as though one should have to run a sub 2 hour half marathon first. To sign up for an ultra, I believe one needs to have had run a sub 4:15 marathon first.

For new clients who want to be a part of The Endurance Project, I have them do an initial questionnaire. In this questionnaire, I am looking for past athletic involvement, current fitness, short and long term goals, timeline to achieve such goals, availability to train, etc.

If anyone has come to me and said, “I just want to complete this distance”, then I usually try to convince them that we need to first focus on something smaller, then work our way up so that they can give their best efforts. Aside from getting the most out of an athlete so that they can reach their own max potential, I am most concerned about keeping the athlete injury free, as well as design a program for them that will still be fun and exciting, not arduous and burdensome.

Social media is starting to ruin athletic achievements. Gone are the days where people work their asses off to accomplish something. Now, you basically just pay the money, toe the line and, “see what happens”. Aside from Boston, Western States and a few other events, there isn’t much in the way of having any prerequisite performances to prove that you are capable of such a feat. People doing these extreme endurance events with chains around their neck, cinder blocks on their shoulders, etc. If you want to make the race “harder”, then run it faster. Stop beating yourself in the fucking ground just so you can look like a “badass” on Instagram.

Though it isn’t as glamorous or Facebook worthy, I have far more respect for an individual who is willing to train their ass off for months or years to accomplish a certain goal. To me, foolish pride is not noble or respectable. This serial “racing” that people do, just to get a medal and a t-shirt, doesn’t impress me in the least. What is impressive is, an individual who trains hard in order to perform their best, not just to sign up, week in, week out, to complete an event.

Yeah, yeah, i know…we all do this for different reasons and it’s #WhyIRace but, lets be honest, pretty much all of us want to do well and to do our best, right? I see the same individuals on social media, complaining about how their times are regressing and how they were so much faster a year ago, two years ago, etc. They just “can’t seem to figure out” why their performance is declining, all the while, signing up for long distance events nearly every weekend, often times running 2-3 events per weekend.

Hell, I had a guy message me a few weeks ago about how he has a goal of “getting on the podium” at a Spartan Race and then asked if I could help him get there. When I told him that I could help him but, he’d have to stop racing so much and actually train, he said “well, I don’t know if I can do that”. Ok, well, then I’m not the coach for you and, you’ll never see a podium as long as you’re continuing to beat yourself up, for no real reason other than to be told how BEASTLY you are.

So, I close with this. Set a goal(s). Make them short and long term and attach time frames to them. Compile a training program and or hire a coach that will make your goals achievable. Respect your body and understand that it’s a finely tuned machine that needs quality attention.

Remember, if you don’t give your body the rest and recovery it needs, your body will take it on it’s own, whether you like it or not, often in the form of injury or over training syndrome.

Think about the big picture, not just the instant gratification that you can post all over social media. Get the best out of yourself.

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good, to go for the great”

F#$% BEASTMODE!!!

I have no clue where the words BEAST and MODE came together to become one of today’s most famous hashtags but, if you’re using such a term to describe your workouts, then it is likely that could be the greatest factor in why you’re seeing no significant improvements and/or even some regression.

You see, when training for a goal, you MUST be methodical in your approach. The way to eat an elephant is, one bite at a time. Meaning, that in order to achieve your greatest potential, you must set your sights on small incremental mile stones that all add up to the end goal.

When you see an Olympic champion standing on the podium, all you see is the amazing achievement and the medal that is draped around his/her neck. What you don’t see is the years and years of the daily grind. You’re not seeing the early morning training, the early to bed on a Friday night, the sacrifice of fun and good times, the clean and calculated eating habits, etc.

Everyone has a goal but, not everyone is truly willing to work to obtain it. Or should I say, “not willing to work smartly”.

This is where the word BEASTMODE pisses me off! ANY idiot with a functioning body can go out and crush themselves a couple times per week, or even daily, for a while. It takes no thought, no intelligence, no understanding, to go out and put together a handful of hard exercises that will have you lying on the floor, dripping in sweat, gasping for air. The REAL work is done by the individual who can train consistently for weeks, months and years, steadily chipping away up the mountain until eventually, they are at the top.

The problem with the latter approach is that, it’s not glorious. Most of that kind of work is not social media worthy. While BEASTMODE is the flashy Ferrari, SMART training is the old trusty VW station wagon. They are the classic examples of the tortoise and the hair.

Speaking of BEASTMODE, what the hell does that even mean? Though I don’t regularly hangout with others members of the animal kingdom, I’ve never really heard of other “beasts” just walking around and going fucking crazy everyday. How often have you heard of a gorilla chugging down his pre-workout mix and then going and crushing a hardcore workout? When’s the last time you heard of a lion going BEASTMODE on all the other jungle dwellers?

3 and 4 workouts a day don’t make you a beast, it makes you stupid. Especially when those workouts do nothing to progress your training toward your end goal. Pushing yourself so hard in one workout that you are essentially useless the next day, is NOT beast mode, it’s ignorance and ego.

When you’re designing and structuring your training, you should ensure that the workouts and efforts are geared toward that end goal. If your goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, 4 hours on your pogo stick isn’t likely going to help get you there. If your goal is to deadlift 3 times your bodyweight, 3 hours on the elliptical isn’t going to produce that goal, EVER!!

When you hear the old adage “practice makes perfect”, it doesn’t mean practicing one thing will produce great results in the other. Tiger Woods didn’t become a great golfer by playing catch in the backyard with his dad. This means that your training needs to target specific systems so that it warrants the desired adaptations that will eventually lead to improvements in that particular area.

If I were to define BEASTMODE, it would look like this;

BEASTMODE – the practice of wearing your body out and generating massive amount of stress, for no reason.

What’s worse about this new BEASTMODE mentality, which is essentially today’s version of the NO PAIN NO GAIN mentality that plagued the 80’s and 90’s, is that it’s so condoned and supported by the layman social media jockey.

Worse than the actual person doing the particular workout are, those who will continue blowing smoke up the person’s ass by telling them how badass they are, how BEAST they are, how amazing, etc.

Call me crazy but, I’m not going to commend someone for pushing themselves to the point of getting Rhabdo. I’m not going to support someone for ripping layers of skin off their hands or, for completing a marathon when they were already limping to the starting line. Call it tough love but, I’m here to make people better, not congratulate them for being an idiot. Harsh? Maybe. But, people don’t learn anything when they are continuously enabled by everyone. Nobody changes bad habits or practices if those bad habits or practices are constantly glamorized. Crackheads don’t go to crack houses for rehab.

I am all about hard work and pushing oneself but, not to the point that it actually does more harm than good. Call me crazy but, crushing your body just to crush your body, is not admirable. It’s being ignorant!

Over the past few months, I’ve taken on several new athletes. The thing is, several of these athletes had been begging me for months to coach or to work with them and I refused until they made changes and showed that they were actually willing to train correctly. These were the BEAST MODE athletes who’d blow up social media with all their crushing workouts. I warned them for months what would happen. They ignored the advice until eventually, they were too over trained, too injured or too sick of seeing no improvement, despite their everyday soul crushing workouts. Now, after several weeks or months of restructuring their workouts, they are all progressing quite well.

Some of the most common types of feedback I get from my training is that “Wow, the training isn’t really as hard as I figured it would be” or “Wow, I’m completing these harder workouts with so much more energy and feel great the next day”.

Just yesterday, one of the Endurance Project members ran her longest run ever (16.5 miles), only to send me a text this morning to say “what’s the plan today boss, I feel great”. She’ll be toeing the line of her first Spartan Beast this coming Saturday and will be doing it with 0 lingering injury or fatigue.

On the flip side of that, I’ve had athletes who have progressed amazingly from one cycle to the next but then, tragedy strikes! They decide to go BEASTMODE!! For every 10 athletes of the Endurance Project who do great, there will be at least one who decides that our workouts aren’t enough, that they need to do more, MUCH MORE!! Instead of just doing the workouts as prescribed, they decide to run longer, run faster, lift heavier, add more volume, do everything with a 40 pound weight vest, because the enablers tell them to. By doing so, two things ALWAYS happen. 1.) They are removed from the Endurance Project and I stop coaching them after a few warnings. 2.) They are broken within a few months and are no longer performing even close to what they were on a structured program.

Like I said before, it’s often merely just ignorance that generates this BEASTMODE mindset. Many athletes truly believe that is what it takes. Generally, they don’t even know the damage they are inflicting, solely because they just do not understand the principles of training. http://coacheseducation.com/endur/jack-daniels-june-00.php

The simplest thing to remember is that, MORE is NOT always better. In fact, it’s rarely better. Everyone one wants that huge workout that they can get kudos from their peers from but, just remember this, you won’t get kudos from anyone when you’re standing on the sidelines because you’re too injured or too over stressed to play.

Pride and ego is a good thing but, it can also be your Achilles heel. Let the smart training mindset guide you through your everyday workouts, then unleash the BEAST during your competition. All the soul crushing workouts mean nothing if you can’t perform on race day.

Oh, and more thing!!! If you work out and don’t post it on social media, it DID still actually happen. Believe it or not, your fitness will get no better or no worse by whether or not you post your daily workout for the world to see.

Train smart, train consistent!

#DWEP #DWEPfit #DWEPstrong

Practice Makes Perfect.

Growing up, you’ve always heard “Practice Makes Perfect” and, as clichĂŠ as that might sound, it is 100% true. No matter your endeavor or discipline, the more you practice doing something, the better off you’ll be when you have to perform that task at your best effort.

It’s rumored that Michael Jordan use to take 500 practice shots per day in practicing his jump shot. Tiger woods would do similar feats in practice to improve every angle of his golf game. Hell, Michael Phelps coach would sometimes mess with his goggles so that he would have to learn to perform blindly if the need ever arose in competition (you might remember how that turned out).

So, as it is said, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”.

Nowhere could this be more true than with long distance running/racing, especially the marathon. It is said that “If you want to run well, run a lot”. Though you do have to regularly run in order to improve at it, I don’t necessarily agree with the high mileage thinking as do many running traditionalists but, I’ll save that debate for another blog. What we are going to discuss today is, the importance of efficiency and economy at race pace.

Based on observation of countless marathon performances, by myself, the athletes I coach, as well as many of my close friends and training partners, it is almost a constant that: the outcome of your marathon race, is nearly always closely tied to your best long run training performance(s).

If you look at a runners marathon training cycle and, you show me the best 2-3 long training runs of 15+ miles within that cycle, I can almost guarantee a prediction that their average pace for their marathon will be, within +/- 10 seconds. Meaning, if a runners best long training run came in with an average of 8:00 pace for 18 miles, their marathon pace is likely going to be within the 7:50-8:10 range based on what they finish their marathon in.

Though there are rare exceptions, doing countless miles at 8:00 pace will do you little good when you intend to race 26.2 miles at 7:00 pace. If you aren’t regularly practicing your MRP (marathon race pace), it will be very difficult to maintain that pace into the later stages of the marathon.

As you would expect, your body operates and functions differently at various intensities. The purpose of training at your various race intensities, is to develop efficiency and comfortability at those paces.

Many marathoners focus on covering X distance in training for their long runs (typically 18-24 miles) throughout their training cycle. As stated before, I am not going to get into the mileage debate in this post but, more so on the efforts and intensities of these long runs.

On race day, there are many things that can effect your exertion levels, be it a headwind, lots of incline or, most importantly, pace. Just as an automobile’s fuel economy and efficiency is effected by such things, so is the human body.

If you spend majority of your long training runs at paces that are substantially slower than your intended race pace, then how are you to know how the body will handle such a pace on race day? To understand this, you could make a fairly accurate analogy by noting your car’s fuel economy when driving at 60mph vs. 100mph. At what speed do you suppose you’ll consume the most fuel, as well as cause the most stress?

Many marathoners, especially newbies, believe that the dreaded “wall” is something that cannot be prevented and is just something that has to be dealt with. As per my observations, the “wall” is most often experienced by those who rarely touch on MRP during training.

The human body responds best to familiarity and routine. Eat some bizarre food you’ve never had before and, you are likely to be rushing to the restroom. Change your sleeping habits for a few days and see how tired you are until your body adapts. The same reason we get blisters, is the same reason we hit the wall in a marathon. It’s our body’s way of trying to respond to the stress that is being applied. But, what happens to that blister if you keep gradually applying stress to the same spot over and over? It calluses, right? Well, the same thing can happen with pushing back and or avoiding that dreaded wall in the marathon.

Simply put, THE WALL, is brought on by the depletion of fuel (glycogen). As the body starts getting low on glycogen, it begins to preserve the last bit of it’s stores for the “key components” of the body. Without getting too scientific on metabolic expenditure, it’s important to know that the brain, as well as other key organs, operate almost exclusively on glycogen (by way of glycolysis). The glycogen stores are most abundant in the muscles and the liver. When the body has used up all of the glycogen stored in the muscles, it does not draw from other organs or body parts to replace it. Because at this point in time (say as in the marathon) the body is in distress, it begins to run a self diagnostic test to assess what components of the body need to be taken care of first. So, when the body kicks into survival mode, guess what? Your brain and other vital organs are going to take precedence over the muscles in your legs. Long story short, the body is trying to survive and it doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your slipping marathon PR. It’s priority is to get you to stop whatever stress it is you are applying, so as to live to fight another day.

However, despite all of that, you CAN teach your body to operate more efficiently and burn less glycogen at various intensities. The trick however is, to teach the body into learning how to do that. Again, this is a separate topic for another day but, the body can be conditioned to burn higher ratios of fat vs. glycogen. Because of this, over time, you can teach the body to burn less of it’s precious glycogen stores and to go one step further, you can also teach the body to burn glycogen more efficiently at certain paces, such as MRP.

To do this though, two things have to occur regularly in training. 1.) you must start teaching your body to burn a higher ratio of fat vs. glycogen, by way of depriving it additional glycogen supplements during training. 2.) you must condition the body to operate efficiently at the pace you intend to run for your marathon.

As you progress throughout your marathon training, you should be conditioning your body to operate while taking in no fuel supplements while on the long run (no gels, Gatorade, etc.). As your body begins to get more efficient at preserving your glycogen stores, the next step would be to go one step further and, start picking up the pace on these long runs so that you are running at or very near MRP. As all of this adaptation comes together over the course of several months, the result is, a body that can operate more efficiently at MRP, without depending on the consumption of supplemental fuel. Then, as you get closer to your A marathon, you would start incorporating your planned race day fuel, so as it now acts like “high octane” during you key race simulation runs, as well as for the race itself.

Though this process takes a while to master, it is essential to running your best marathon. So, to summarize, you DO NOT want to wait until the marathon itself to get familiar with MRP. The more you practice this effort in training, the higher the chances of a successful marathon, where you’re not death marching to the line. At least every 3-4 long runs, you should be getting in a good portion (50-75%) at your MRP. As Bill Squires said “it’s the long run that puts the tiger in the cat”. More importantly, it’s the TYPE of long run that puts the tiger in the cat.

If you need more information on the details of DWEP Marathon Training, then us an email and we can put you on the right track for you next marathon.

Great job to all you who ran your marathons this past weekend and, good vibes and fast feet to all those racing this next weekend🙂

Is Running Really A Stress Reliever?

You often hear runners talking up that magical “runners high” or, talking about how they need a run to unwind and de-stress from their hectic daily life. What you don’t hear, is that running can be a stressful thing for some. Especially when they run for all the wrong reasons.

On the surface, running looks pretty calm and mild but, all too often, it’s a sea of calamity below. Not all, but many runners are of the narcissistic breed and, they use running as their “I’m so pretty” billboard. This is made even more evident  with the advent of social media.

Running, just like anything else, can become an obsession. A runners entire life and lifestyle can and, often does change, once they become a runner. 9 times out of 10, the results can be positive but, every now and then, the results take a turn toward Crazyville!

I can’t recall ever doing a race and worrying about who is or who isn’t going to be there. Maybe because I’ve been running for a long time but, I’ve just never really given much thought over who is toeing the line. I guess I’ve just never been scared of getting beat or worrying about whether or not I can place. For me, I like the adrenaline of racing and challenging myself and, once the gun goes off, it’s unpredictable and I enjoy that.

On the other hand, there are those who obsess over who is entering the race, what kind of times those others have run recently and, whether or not they measure up to their peers. These runners turn into stalkers and will go out of there way to cherry pick a race they know they can do well in. I know a runner who has run countless marathons and has qualified for Boston every single time, yet, has never ran Boston because they know they won’t make the headlines with all the elites and other fast runners who show up. To me, that’s so bizarre. I’d rather enter a race and get dead last, while getting dragged along to a great time by other top athletes. I mean, after all, these are just Lollipop 5k’s, not the Olympics.

Me personally, I’ve always tried to be as transparent as possible with my training, racing, goals, etc. You want to know how I train, I’ll tell you every detail and you can look at my training log if you want. Want to know what races I plan to do and what are my goal times? Ask me, I’ll tell you.

Though some are more private than others, I also try to get the athletes I coach to be in this mindset as well. Why hide? To me, setting a certain goal and putting it out there, holds you accountable. It gives you something to work hard for. It doesn’t have to provide pressure, unless you let it. If you have a goal and fall short, OH WELL!! Try to find out what went wrong and, move on. After all, it’s just a race and, believe it or not, life goes on. NO FEAR!!

Maybe because I come from a long time running background, I can say “it’s just running” but, for others, especially in the world where anyone and everyone can sign up for a race every single weekend, running becomes an identity. Whether they are on the podium holding up a trophy or, just getting tons of “bling”. For many, it’s not the aspect of the running itself that they enjoy but, the accolades and attention that can be garnered from it.

Some of my PR races are unknown because I ran the race as a “bandit” and or paced someone without actually having a bib. Unlike many, I couldn’t give a shit about my Athlinks account. Imagine this!! I have actually heard runners respond with this answer “Well, I don’t want that to reflect on my Athlinks account”, when asked why they don’t ever pace other runners who are “slower” than them. Are you kidding me??? You are worried about the possibility that a “bad race time” will show up on the internet for all the world to see?? Get real!!!

Growing up as a mid-distance runner, my goal was to always break the 4 minute mile. Clearly, I never got there. However, if the only sub 4 mile I ever ran, was on a dark track in the middle of nowhere, with nobody there to see it….I’d be no less happy than if I ran the same sub 4 in front of thousands of fans and spectators.

I’ve seen runners pull out of races, quit a race, and or make up countless other excuses when they are getting beat or are having a less than perfect race. You have those who consistently have “bad races” and, they blame it on everything under the sun. It was windy, there tummy ached, they had a bad nights sleep, yada, yada, yada!!

I make it a point with all my runners that, to always take responsibility for their races, good or bad. Sometimes, bad races just happen. With that said, if the individual is honest with themselves, they can often pinpoint the reasoning for a bad a race. Sure, a bad race sucks..especially if you don’t really know what happened. But, at the end of the day, it’s just a race.

So, with many of you all getting ready for an upcoming race, keep this in mind. Whether you’re running for a win, a PR, or just for fun, it’s just another day. A race, despite how worked up you get for it, is really just another run with a timer at one end. The results, good or bad, won’t make or break you and, it’s not likely that your future hangs on that ticking timing clock.

As my friend Tommy says all the time, “it’s just running”

Good luck to all those racing this weekend and next!!! Especially to all you #DWEP runners!