The Hay Is In The Barn!!!

“The hay is in the barn!”

Not sure where this saying comes from but, I had heard it a few times as a child and it is a quote spoken by Bill Bowerman in the movie “Without Limits”

Well what the hell does it mean? Simply put,  it is a phrase to remind us that we have done all the training we can do before the big race. We have made all the necessary preparations to ensure our success.  We have trained hard and no matter what training was or wasn’t done, it is all behind us now and we must get ready to toe the line and get down to business.

This is particularly true now that we are less than one week away from our respective half/full marathon that will take place next week at Shamrock.

In following with the aforementioned saying, there is absolutely nothing more we can do in regards to training, other than be smart, continue our tapering and let the body rest and recover, prior to our big race. One more track workout, or one more good tempo is not going to get your more fit over the next 7 days. At this point, any hard workout will do nothing but take away from race day.

From a scientific and physiology standpoint, a hard workout takes 10-14 days to be absorbed and adapted to by the body…so, doing anything hard at this point, will be of no use for race day.

Now is the time to consider getting all the other intangibles correct. Over the next 6-7 days, we must get our bodies best prepared to be in our best physical shape before out big race. This includes getting lots of rest, minimizing our physical output and anything that wastes or burns our precious glycogen stores. Now is the time to go a little heavy on the sugars/carbs to ensure that our glycogen tanks are topped off. If you put on a pound or two over these next couple days, no worries…those extra stores of glycogen will come in mighty handy late in the race.

This week, hydrate as much as possible. Do your utmost to get in a gallon of good fluids per day over the next several days. So that you don’t have to chug an entire gallon of water throughout the day, look to get fluids via your foods. Meaning, go heavy on the melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, citrus fruits from Monday-Friday (cut down the fiber the day before the race). Aside from hydration, eat foods high in electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium). Good choices here are lots of green foods, orange and yellow colored fruits/veggies. Try to stay away from processed foods, diuretics and excessive alcohol. If you are a big coffee drinker, try to ensure that you follow your cup of coffee with a cup of infused water (throw lemon/orange in all your water this week to jack up the potassium stores).

Try to ensure you are getting an additional hour or two of sleep per night and take naps throughout the day if you are able to. In regards to “training”, keep the frequency (days of the week) the same as your normal routine…just back off the intensity and duration.

If you are feeling tired and sluggish this week, remember, that’s a good thing!! After weeks and months of an an intense training plan, your body is essentially “detoxing”. You body is wondering what the hell is going on now that you have cut back substantially on your normal routine. This is normal, so relax and enjoy the down time!! This is not the time to panic…I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO PANIC!! You will be just fine!!

In regards to “carb loading” the night before the race….DON’T DO IT!!! Try to stick to the normal foods you would have been eating the night before a hard long run. Trying to cram your body full of carbs a few hours before the race is foolish. It takes your body a good amount of time to absorb and store the glycogen into your muscles. So, eating 6 plates of pasta 8-12 hours before the race will do nothing but leave you lethargic and likely looking for the porta-johns on race morning. Try to make your last BIG meal the Friday before the Sunday race. Then, on Saturday, try to eat generous amounts of smaller portions of slower burning carbs throughout the day.

On race morning, try to get up 3-4 hours before the projected race start time. So if race starts at 8:00am, try to get up by 4-5am. From the moment you wake up, starting trying to consume 150-250 calories of slower burning carbs within the first hour (whatever your typical long run routine was). By the second hour, try to repeat the same 150-250 calorie intake but now with some faster absorbing carbs. Finally, the hour before race start, look to get in 100-200 calories but, try to do this with liquid calories only (your sports drink, Tailwind Nutrition, a juice that you have tested prior to race morning, a shake, etc.).

During the race, try to consume 200-300 calories per hour of, something you have experimented and tested in training. Don’t grab gels and sports drinks from the aid stations, if you haven’t been using them in training. Go with what you know works for you!

Okay, so now with all the nutrition talk out of the way, the next couple things you should pay attention to because, even though they might seem small, they can add up to become serious issues over the course of 13.1/26.2 miles.

TANGENTS – If you have ever taken geometry, you know what tangents are but, how do they apply to running a race? Simply put, you need to take the shortest possible (legally) route during your race. When you are running against the clock, there is no need to add any more distance than necessary. The pics below will capture what “running the tangents” mean.

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PACING – This is VERY important!! Throughout all of your previous weeks/months of training, you have been practicing your MRP (Marathon Race Pace)…so, why would you abandoned that pace on race day? When the gun goes off, try to not get caught in all the excitement and hoop-la. If anything, run your first 1-2 miles at a pace of 10-20 seconds slower than goal pace. Use this time to get settled in and relax for the long haul.

Now that you have relaxed and settled into your pace, just try and get comfortable and run by feel. If your race pace is 9:00 per mile and at mile 7 your Garmin says 8:56 or 9:04, don’t fret! You should expect to have a +/- 5-10 seconds per mile fluctuation throughout the race. Whether you are running the full or the half marathon, try to stay loose and relaxed the 1st half of the race. The first half of the race, should actually feel really easy but, in the event that it doesn’t, again, don’t fret!! Sometimes, it takes a few miles to get into a groove..Use the first few miles to find this groove and try to avoid looking at the Garmin every 2 seconds. Look ahead up the road and just try to get into a rythm and relax.

Over the second half of the race, this is where you should require a bit more focus. The first half should of been “fun and games”, the second half however, should be “business”. If you are running with friends/training partners, you will likely be doing less talking over the second half vs. the first half. During these later stage miles, it’s time to find your individual mojo. This is the time you start reciting your mantras, playing mental games with yourself, picking off runners up ahead, singing to yourself or, whatever else it is that works for you.

The second half of the race, particularly the last 1/4 of the race, you will need to exercise the demons! This is when you get to find what you are made of…this is when you get to see how much fight you much guts, how much pain you can tolerate!! Whether you are running a 2:03 marathon or a 7:03 marathon or a 1 hour vs. 4 hour half marathon. If you are racing for your personal best, those last few miles are going to hurt!! Period! No need to sugar coat it! However, with all that said, when you cross that finish line, when you have met your goal, you’ll forget all about those previous shitty miles! You’ll be ecstatic and will somehow have a bit more energy left to celebrate your success, laugh and joke with your friends/training partners, drink beer and talk about how mile 11 or 24 punched you in the face and spit on you, yet you still triumphed!!

So, there you have it!! There are the final instructions (particularly for all you DWEP athletes). As said above, THE HAY IS IN THE BARN!! Nothing left to do but relax the next couple of days, get your mind in the right place, prepare all of your race day gear and then run your 13.1 or 26.2.

Ahead of the game, I just want to say that, it’s been a great training cycle and I have enjoyed working with you all so much! Everyone of you has put in some serious work and you have all come a LONGGGGGG way! I am already so proud of you and I know that you all will do great next Sunday! Just trust the training and believe in yourself!!!

In closing, remember this, YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE!!

Tapering and Fueling for the Marathon – Why both are crucial to your race day success!

With many upcoming spring marathons around the corner, many of us are starting to put the final touches on a long fall/winter training cycle. Here in the 757, everyone is gearing up for the annual Shamrock Sportsfest.

As coach of The Endurance Project I have over 20 runners who will be participating in the marathon this year, several of which are first timers. With the recent bout of snow we have had here, many of them are freaking out more about missing a couple of training days, rather than to worry about some even bigger concerns, TAPERING, NUTRITION and RACE DAY FUELING!!! All 3 of these topics are something that can bring the best trained runner to a slow and painful death march, if ignored or improperly executed.

So, lets take a look at all 3 of the above mentioned topics, in greater detail. Within these topics, I will provide some links and insight into scientific research but, will also provide samples of my own experiences and those I coach.

TAPERING – The word “taper” is basically a 4-letter curse word in the eyes of most runners. Just the thought of tapering brings bad thoughts into the runners mind. The typical runner, rather than think about all the GOOD things that that tapering is doing, they think of all the BAD. “Oh my God, I am going to get fat”, “I am going to lose fitness and I’ll suck on race day”, “I am going to go insane without working out/running”. These are just a few things that you will hear being said by the typical runner, as they enter into those last couple of weeks leading up to their race.

So what is TAPERING, exactly? Well, in the simplest of definitions, it’s the time spent at the end of a hard training cycle, that allows the body to recover and return to homeostasis, just prior to the day of the big race.

There are many, many, many varying views on how to taper, how long to taper, what to do or what not to do, etc.

With my personal experiences, as well as those I coach, I have found that a 20 day gradual taper has been the most effective. So how does this 20 day taper work?

Essentially, starting immediately after the last tough long run (3 weeks prior to the race), the runner begins to cut back on volume and intensity, but not frequency. In layman’s terms, this means that the runner will continue running the same number of workouts per week but, will cut back on the duration of each workout, as well as cut back on the intensity of SOME of the workouts.

So why this approach? Well, the body becomes very good at adapting to stresses and repetitive actions. Because of this, running/training becomes somewhat of an addiction. The body has adapted and become accustomed to the daily, weekly routine that you have been administering over the past several months of your training phases.

So, if you spent the past 24 weeks running 5 days per week, then continue doing so right on up to the race. The frequency of your running is not so much what you need to recover and regenerate from. It’s the intensity and duration that the body needs to start tapering from.

From 3 weeks out, I like to cut weekly mileage/duration by 20%. Then cutting an additional 20% from the 2nd week out from race day. Finally, cutting back another 20% the week of the race itself. Broken down, it would look like this.

A runner who had been averaging 40 miles per week coming into the taper phase would go from 40 miles, down to 32 miles, down to 25 miles and finally, would be down to 20 miles the week of the race (totally 46.2 miles when accounting for the race itself).

Now, the taper phase has several purposes, rather than just to allow the body a bit of time to repair itself from all the pounding you have been doing over the past several months. During this time, the body also needs to begin re-supplying its glycogen stores, as well as to start getting it’s pH levels back in order. Both of these areas will be discussed further as we discuss NUTRITION.

NUTRITION – When we talk about nutrition and running, most runners only give thought to two things, the carb loading dinner the night before and the buffet of race day gels and sports drinks. Very few think much further ahead of that.

Glycogen is a competitive runners best friend (especially on race day). What is this glycogen you speak of?

“In humans, glycogen is made and stored primarily in the cells of the liver and the muscles, and functions as the secondary long-term energy storage (with the primary energy stores being fats held in adipose tissues). Muscle glycogen is converted into glucose by muscle cells and liver glycogen converts to glucose for use throughout the body including the central nervous system”

Simply speaking, glycogen is the preferred and quickest form of fuel when it comes to moving your body 26.2 miles at a relatively quick pace. Granted, the body can be taught and “tricked” into burning fat at higher ratios, however, when the body is riding the line of aerobic/anaerobic, it prefers the glycogen over fat.

The problem is, the body can only store so much glycogen at any given time. Majority of it is stored in the liver and muscles. The liver CAN process and make accessible it’s glycogen stores to other organs within the body. On the flip side, the muscles CAN’T. Meaning, that the limited amount of glycogen in the muscle is a one time deal. If you run out of glycogen in your hard working quad or hamstring, those muscles can’t pull glycogen from your less active deltoid muscle. When it is gone, it’s gone!

This is where the word “bonking” comes into play. We’ve all seen what happens when a runner “hits the wall”, many of us having experienced it ourselves. When we BONK, one of two (or both) things are happening. The body is designed to survive and, will do whatever it has to in order to do so. So, when the liver is running low on glycogen, it will send the remaining stores of it to the “important” parts of the body (brain, heart, lungs, etc….you know, the ESSENTIAL components of the machine). The body doesn’t really care about your hamstring and whether or not you get your PR in the race. During this bonk moment, the body only knows that something bad is happening and it’s up to the liver to start distributing that glycogen where it deems is most important. Your muscles not being on the “essential personnel” list.

To avoid this from happening in a race and in order to preserve your very precious glycogen stores, you must 1.) Have  those glycogen stores topped off and at their highest concentrations. 2.) You will need to ingest additional forms of glucose (or other sugar) throughout the race, so that it can preserve the expenditure of your stored glycogen.

So how do you get those glycogen stores topped off? You start several days out from the race! Part of the reason for tapering is so that your muscles can start refueling and replenishing the glycogen within your body. During your training cycle leading up to the race, your body is typically always in some form of glycogen deficiency. Because most runners train on a daily basis, their glycogen stores are never at a 100%. During the tapering phase, the body can gradually start fueling up the glycogen tanks, so that on race day, they are their max capacity.

Starting from about 10 days out, begin consuming high carbohydrate foods. Ideal foods would be wholesome/clean types, such as fresh fruit and juices, vegetables (sweet potatoes are great), quality grains and legumes (quinoa, kidney beans, oats, brown rice, etc.). Avoid the “carb loading” the night before. If you wait until the night before the race to try and top off your glycogen stores, it’s too late!! Not only will you NOT top off the glycogen, you will also likely have a stomach that is none too happy the following day. The night before, go with the same type of meal you have been consuming prior to your long training runs.

RACE DAY FUELING – This is the most important of all!! Most runners, SHOULD have their race day fueling strategy already figured out, prior to toeing the line for the race. With this being such an important subject, runners should have been experimenting and practicing this during their training buildup phases.

Because every body is different, so is every GI (GastroIntestinal tract). Fueling strategies that work for one, will not work for the other. This is why it is very important to play around with your face day fueling while in training. During your training, at least once per month, you should be experimenting with your race day strategy. The best place to do this, is during your long run.

Now, even though everyone is different, the body does process things similarly. During running, the average person can break down about 1 gram of carbohydrate per minute of activity. Thus, 60 grams per hour or roughly 240 calories per hour (approx 25 ounces of Gatorade or 2.5 GU’s).

So, lets say you come into the race with 2000 calories worth of stored muscle glycogen (granted, this number will vary among runners and their size). Keep in mind, you will be burning a ratio of fat calories to glycogen. Your level of fitness and your training, will dictate the ratio of fat:glycogen burn. Of that 2000 calories worth of glycogen, only around 45-50% of it is for leg muscle usage (the rest being stored in the liver for allocation to other body parts/organs). So, of the total 2000, only about 1000 can be used by the leg muscles. Keep in mind that these average calorie burn rates do not take into account intangibles such as wind, elevation, altitude, etc. Those factors will signifcantly change the burn rate, so be aware of that if you are running a course that has elevation, altitude or windy conditions.

So, if you are burning calories at a ratio of 65% glycogen (carbs) and 35% fat, and assuming you are burning 110 calories per mile, you’d be burning approx. 7o calories of glycogen and 40 calories of fat (PER MILE). Based on the assumed muscle glycogen storage from above (1000 calories), you’d be emptying the tanks somewhere around  mile 15. THIS is why consumption of carbohydrate is important during the race itself. This is also another reason why it is important to experiment in training, so that you have a good idea of your caloric and glycogen burn rate, based on your specific paces, size and ability to process the ingested carbs on the fly.

Here is a formula that will provide a decent approximation of calorie expenditure

Weight in pounds divided by a kilogram (2.2 pounds). Example: 150 pound runner/2.2kg = 68.18 kg. Now take the distance of the marathon in kilometers (42.195) and multiply by weight in kilos (68.18) = 2,877 calories that will be burned during your race. Then, one step further you can divide the total calories by miles (26.2), giving you an approximate burn of 110 calories per mile ran.

Taking this formula a step further, we can create a range of glycogen burn based on the various ratios of carb:fat being burned, dependent upon your V02 max output and how it equates to the increased burn of glycogen over fat.

60% Vo2 max = 55% glycogen and 45% fat

70% Vo2 max = 65% glycogen and 35% fat

80% Vo2 max = 75% glycogen and 25% fat

So, with those 3 assumed Vo2 outputs (consumption), the caloric burn range would be approx. 1500-2200 calories, 700 calories difference. That is the equivalent of 6-7 additional gels or an additional 100 ounces of Gatorade to make up for the difference.

How do we avoid this CRASH, BONK, HITTING OF THE WALL? Well, we do it via a combination of efforts. 1.) We ensure that our glycogen stores are at their highest, prior to the start of the race and 2.) We continue to consume roughly 200-300 calories (per hour) of quick absorbing sugars throughout the race.

So what do you consume during the race? Most of this is more a matter of preference, as well as what you have been practicing during your training. Many runners will scout out and determine what gels, sports drinks will be provide on the course, and will practice taking the same products during their training. Other runners will carry their own nutrition (my preferred method, as well as those I coach).

If you are the type of runner who takes from the course, understand a couple of things. First, aid stations are set up and manned by volunteers. They supply what is available to them, with no understanding of your individual requirements. Often, aid stations will provide some form of sport drink (Gatorade, Poweraid, etc.) and many times these drinks are a concentrate. Meaning, the drink is made on the fly and, ratios of the water to product will vary. Another thing to consider is that in many races, you will have a X Sport Drink table at X mile, and then a WATER ONLY table at X mile. So, if you are relying solely on the course to provide you with your calories, you best hope they get it right because 2 ounces in one cup is different than 4 ounces in another cup (this doesn’t account for how much you spill on your face and down your race singlet). It is also worth noting that these aid stations may provide some sort of gel, chew, etc. No matter how tempting, if you haven’t used it in training, it’s best to stay away from it. The last place you want to be the second half of the race is, the porta potty!!

Another thing to consider is, your individual “sweat rate” and how quickly you are getting rid of your electrolytes. This will vary with temperature changes but, even in ideal conditions, every runner has a different burn ratio of their stored electrolytes. This is another key reason that you should be experimenting with calorie and electrolyte supplementation during training.

Now, back to the race fueling! So, if you are the type of runner who carries his/her own fuel, what do you use? Me personally, I carry my own fuel/hydration and use a ratio to which I have been training with. In the past several races I have done, I was making my own sport drink and it worked great. That drink was a combination of fresh juices + powdered electrolytes and amino acids.

Most recently, I have started to use a product called Tailwind Nutrition. This product has one of the best calorie to electrolyte ratios I have seen thus far. It also tastes great and is very gentle on the stomach (a huge thing to consider if your GI can’t handle the typical sugars found in Gatorade or GU).

I also use Homeostasis Electrolytes to provide my body with the balanced ratio of electrolytes, especially on hot days. (NOTE – I do not mix the Homeostasis Electrolyte tabs with the TailWind Nutrition.) Whereas the HE will provide all of your electrolyte needs, it does not provide any form of calories/energy. So, in training, when I am teaching my body to burn higher ratios of fat to glycogen, I consume only water and the HE tabs. When racing for periods of 2 hours or more, I go with the TW Nutrition.

Hopefully, now that you have at least an idea of what/when/why you should be fueling during the race, lets touch on the last fueling strategy, PRE-RACE BREAKFAST! Though this should be a no-brainer, this one little area could be what makes or breaks you from having a great race. The morning of the race, you should eat the SAME thing that you were eating during your long training runs. Now is not the time to take advantage of the free continental breakfast at the hotel, “carbo load” or try some delicious looking pastry. This is the time to stick to your boring routine of whatever it was you had been eating on your training runs. Good choices (provided you have been eating them prior to) include, oatmeal with honey and a banana, bagel with peanut butter, fresh fruit (the less fibrous, the better).

Depending on your sleep scheduling and the amount of time alloted from the time you wake up to the time of your race start, you should consider calorie consumption based on grams consumed per hour.

1 hour prior to race = 50 grams of carbohydrates, 2 hours = 100, 3 hours = 150 and 4 hours = 200 grams of carbohydrates. Meaning, if you eat 4 hours before your race, you’d try to consume up to 200 grams of carbs (800 calories). If you wake up late and only have an hour before the start, it’s going to be around 50 grams (200 calories).

As mentioned throughout this post, you must experiment with all of this, based on your individual needs. Don’t do what everyone else does!! Find what works for you and continue tweaking and fine tuning it as necessary. No matter what strategy you decide on, stick to it and ensure that it suits your needs. Be smart and practice, practice, practice your race day nutrition. The last thing you want is to be well trained and then make a judgement error come race day. All that training will have done you no good if, you are running to every porta potty you pass because you had too much pasta the night before or, you tried something new on race day!

As always, Happy Training and Racing!! If you have any questions regarding any content within this post, feel free to contact me for further explanation/detail/correction.

2013 December Athlete of The Month


So, as you all know, another year has come and gone and we have closed the door on 2013 and are going into the 3rd week of 2014. With lots of great training and racing behind us, it’s time to continue focusing on our future goals for this year. With that said, we still have one last accomplishment to share for 2013.


I know I am a few weeks behind but, I wanted to share with you The Endurance Project’s AOTM for December 2013. This recognition goes to Rob Wasinger, one of our hardest working and highest spirited runners.

Rob had been a member of our Endurance Project for awhile but had just been coming out and running with us every so often. It wasn’t until around August of 2013 that he started taking his running and fitness more serious. He came to me and asked if I could help him to get faster and to start chipping away at his current running PR’s, to which I agreed to coaching him full time.

Immediately, I cut back Rob’s weekly mileage. Instead of just going out and running with no purpose like he had been doing, we started adding quality workouts that served a purpose. Between changing his running workload and also incorporating a strength and core routine, Rob started to improve rather quickly.

Since working with the DWEP, Rob has PR’d his 10k, 8k and 5k (the pic below is of him breaking 20 minutes for the first time at the HOTD 5k. He took 2:36 seconds off of this same race from the previous year.).

Currently Rob is training to run a fast 1/2 or full marathon in the spring, likely Shamrock.  At the age of 47 years old, Rob is proving that there is still plenty of miles and PR’s left in those legs.

Here’s to an awesome year of training and racing, Rob!! Congrats on all that you have done thus far!


Understanding The Marathon and How To Beat It!

Oh the Marathon! A distance that has broken many a men/women. 26.2 miles is such an intriguing distance. It’s a distance that can leave a runner completely smashed. You can train and train for it, be in the best shape of your life and yet, anything and everything can go wrong. One minute you feel like you are flying and literally within the next minute, you can feel like you have been hit by a Mack truck. It’s not just a race of toughness, strategy and proper training, it’s also one of science too. It’s the one distance (excluding ultras) that requires you to understand your body on a much more internal and physiological level. In no other race does pacing become so important. In a 5k, you can go out too fast and yet can hold on and survive to the finish, losing merely a few seconds. Go out fast in a marathon and burn through your energy stores too quickly and, it becomes a death march that no amount of mental toughness can overcome. The body just shuts down, no matter how tough you think you are.

So what is this mysterious race that now draws in 100s’ of thousands of people each year? Why is it becoming increasingly popular and how can you achieve your best marathon potential?

I will spare you all the facts and history of the marathon and cut more to the chase of how to prepare and train for one. However, if you are interested in such material, here is the link that goes into greater detail


For years, the marathon was thought of as a race that was determined just as much by chance, as much as by training. Nearly anyone racing a marathon, thought that “hitting the wall” was inevitable and that it was just a matter of who could push through it and persevere on to the finish.
Today however, coaches and runners are starting to realize that the marathon can be raced and, is being raced, in the same fashion as the shorter running distances. Why is this? It’s because runners are now starting to treat the marathon just as they would any other distance. In order to be best prepared for a certain pace, your body must become very comfortable with that pace.

For years, the LONG RUN was considered the absolute staple in preparing for a marathon. It wasn’t and still isn’t uncommon for a marathoner in training, to go out and run multiple 20-30 milers in preparation for their upcoming 26.2. The mindset is that in order to run the marathon distance, the runner must become very comfortable running “near”, “at” or “over” the marathon distance. That couldn’t be further from the truth though!

In order to cover the distance, the body is better prepared if, the body has put itself through similar distances of what it will be asked to do on race day, right? Well, not really!
Lets consider the numbers of the marathon and break it down by various skill levels of runners. The IDEAL cadence of a runner is said to be 180 steps per minute (90 per foot) and that majority of the elite runners of the world, fall into the 175-185 range.

So, lets say that we have 3 different runners of different marathon ability (based on finishing time) and that all of them have a running cadence of 180 foot strikes per minute. With those numbers, a 3 hour marathoner would take 32,400 steps per marathon, a 4 hour marathoner would take 43,200 steps per marathon, a 5 hour marathoner would take 54,000 steps per marathon.

Huge differences huh? So, lets break it down a bit further. Lets say that each runner averages 40 miles per week in training over the course of a 16 week marathon training cycle. Of those 3 runners, lets have a 10:00 per mile average pace for Runnner A, an average pace of 8:00 for Runner B and an average pace of 7:00 for Runner C. Doing the math, here is what we get.
Runner A = 72,000 steps per week (or 1,152,000 over 16 weeks)
Runner B = 57,600 steps per week (or 921,600)
Runner C = 50,400 steps per week (or 806,400)

The difference in steps between Runner A and Runner C being 347,600. That sure is a lot more pounding, torque and impact forces on the body, huh? That doesn’t even consider the differences in caloric expenditure for the energy required to lift the body off the ground that many times and propel it forward.

So how would a “slower” runner decrease the number of total steps and drop their overall race times? Get faster, duh!! Sounds simple enough, right? But how would this take place?
For simplistic purposes, lets not get into all the physiological changes and improvements that are made with certain types of training (Vo2max, aerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, etc.) Lets solely discuss biomechanics!

Anyone who has ever ran much at all, knows that there is a “sweet spot” in regards to their perfect running gate and, it’s the spot where they are most efficient. It’s that spot where you are just “gliding”. Now, the problem with that is, though it may be the most biomechanically efficient spot, your under developed cardio, respiratory or musculoskeletal systems, will be the deciding factor as to how long you can maintain that level of effort and how long you can stay within that “sweet spot”.

So what does this have to do with the LONG RUN? Well, in regards to 99% of the traditional marathon training plans, it’s counterintuitive. If your goal is to run a 9 minute per mile pace for 26.2 miles, then what in the hell does a 20 miler at 10:30 pace do? One, it isn’t even covering the marathon distance (merely 76% of it) and TWO, it isn’t even close to the pace you are trying to sustain for a distance that is 24% longer. Why is all of this important?

Lets take a typical marathon plan where the runner does their long runs at 60-90 seconds per mile slower than their intended race pace. For every one hour of running, the differences between a 9:00 pace, 9:30 pace or a 10:30 pace, is (in caloric units) 744, 704 and 637. So, with the runner wanting to run a 4 hour marathon (approx 9:00 mile pace), that is a total difference of 428 calories between the 9:00-10:30 paces. What does that mean? Simply put, running those “LONG SLOW MILES”, does not teach the body to become efficient at all at race type pacing and in fact, a LSD run has a much different calorie burn ratio than that of a run that more closely mimics your race goal pace. Yes, you want to teach the body to burn fat more efficiently, which is what most people think they are doing with the LSD run. The problem with that is, most runners still eat before their long run and also take in calories during their long run, thus, never really teaching their body to make the transition of burning a higher ratio of fat to carbohydrate.

So should you totally eliminate the LONG RUN? Absolutely not! There are many a benefit to the long run, however, it’s the traditional method in which you would run the long run, that you should eliminate. An increased fitness level is more important and more of a deciding factor than is the higher volume or higher frequency of long runs. In a typical plan, the long runs are continually increased (usually on a weekly basis) before the body has adapted to them and before the body is capable of adequately handling them.
Let me explain in more detail of what I mean. Lets say you are training for your first marathon and are an intermediate runner (meaning you have ran many shorter distances but now want to tackle the marathon and run a faster time). For this example, you have a PR half marathon of 1:55 and would like to run a “sub 4:00 marathon”. How would you go about your LONG RUN scheduling and execution? Well, in traditional fashion, you would likely start out your first week of training at 10 or so miles and add 2 miles or so every week, until your reach your max of 20, 22, 24, etc. The problem with the typical style of increasing mileage is that, it doesn’t really allow enough time for the body to adapt in between the increase. You just go from 10 miles, to 12, to 14….for a marathoner who intends to run 10:00 pace for their long run, that is 20 minutes additional running tacked onto their weekly long run, with each uptick of 2 miles. To add insult to injury, the 10 miler on week one was likely much slower than goal race pace, yet the following week is 12 miles, then 14…before the body is really even callused or ready to handle the increase.

The more logical approach to this is, to let your body adapt to a stimulus, before adding another stimulus. The body, it doesn’t know anything about mileage. The body doesn’t know the difference between a mile, a yard, a kilometer, a foot, etc. What the body understands is frequency, duration and, intensity. It is similar to the “biological clock”. If not for an alarm, your body will wake up when it is ready to and when it feels that it has rested enough. Same goes with the running. The body needs to adapt to the 10 miler first, before jumping to 12, then to 14..etc, etc.

So what is the ideal time to allow for adaptation before introducing an increase? Though there are many studies that have been conducted, there is no exact amount of time, per se, however, it is said that 10-14 days is the average amount of time it takes for the body to absorb, adapt and respond to an introduced stimulus. With that said, lets take a 20 week marathon plan for example.
In a traditional plan, you might see the long run start at 10 miles in Week 1, building to 20 miles by week 12, then backing off for a week or two, before repeating the 18 and 20 mile runs again.

A more productive approach (in my experience, as well as all those I coach), a 20 week plan would look like this.
Week 1-3 (2 hours with % of MRP fluctuating)
Week 4 (1:45 hours at a slower steady pace..step back week)
Week 5-7 (2:15 hours with % of MRP fluctuating)
Week 8 (1:45 hours but a slower steady pace..step back week)
Week 9-11 (2:30 hours with % of MRP fluctuating)
Week 12 (1:45 hours but a slower steady pace..step back week)
Week 13-15 (2:45 hours with % of MRP fluctuating)
Week 16 (1:45 hours but a slower steady pace..step back week)
Week 17 (50% of goal race finishing time up to max of 2h and 30m, with 60% of duration ran at goal race pace)
Week 18 (A race up to 60% of marathon distance, ran at goal marathon pace or, a run of 70% of goal distance, with 50% at goal marathon pace.)
Week 19 (up to 55% of total distance, with 40% of total distance ran at goal marathon pace)
Week 20 (marathon race)

Using time vs. distance, this allows for all levels of runners to obtain the same quality of training, based on their own fitness levels. Lets take two different runners here, both the same age, relatively same weight and very similar resting and max heart rates. Now, the big difference is that Runner A is training for and capable of running a 3 hour marathon, whereas Runner B is training for and capable of a 5 hour marathon. Lets say that for their 20 mile Saturday long run, they both run at relatively the same percentages of VO2max, as well as roughly the same % of Max Heart Rate. Running at a LSD (Long Slow Distance) pace of roughly 1 minute per mile slower than their respective goal marathon pace, it takes Runner A 2 hours and 37 minutes to run 20 miles, while it takes Runner B, 4 hours and 10 minutes to run the same 20 miles. A difference of 1 hour and 33 minutes. So aside from the additional amount of time spent pounding the ground and taking thousands of more steps, Runner B also puts a greater strain on his cardio system and, will likely take greater time to recover from the 20 miles, therefore, never being as prepared as he should be for the following weeks workouts. Repeat this on a weekly basis and you can see why so many runners are beat up and are literally limping into the start of the race.

So if not the traditional long run approach, then what else?

First off, I am not here to say that long runs aren’t important because I do believe they are. But, I believe its the duration of the run that is most important, not the exact number of miles. In regards to miles, the only thing they improve, is possibly your psyche by reaffirming that you can in fact run a certain distance without dying (albeit slow!!)

In the past, it was thought that the traditional LSD was the best way to build those precious mitochondria (the power plant of the muscle) but, new research is showing that it’s the shorter, more intense workouts that build mitochondria at higher rates.

For any distance but, particularly the marathon, you should focus on 4 types of runs, based on where they fall into your training cycle and how they specifically relate to what it is you are trying to achieve. Each type of run works a different system and dials in on certain thresholds.

RECOVERY/REGENERATION – This type of running is meant solely to help speed up the recovery process from a previous days hard workout. This can also be light xtraining (aqua jogging or cycling being two of the better options). The intent with this type of workout is nothing more than getting the systems flowing and also to allow time for the blood pH levels to return to normal, before going out and hitting another hard workout. There should be no concern with mileage for this type of running. In terms of “what pace”, the pace is basically that of a true warmup/cooldown pace. About 60-70 percent of max heart rate.

Functional – This is the running that is down at “slower” than than your goal race pace and is around your aerobic threshold pace. This is that “sweet spot” pace that you can seemingly run forever without causing much stress to the body. In regards to “what pace”, this is that pace that is in the 50-70 seconds slower than 5k pace or the pace that corresponds to goal marathon pace to about 30 seconds per mile slower than goal marathon pace. Right around 80% or so of max heart rate.

Sub Pace – This running is the running you’ll do that works on extending your endurance relative to your specific race event. Since we are talking about the marathon here, the distances will obviously be shorter than race distance but, at substantially faster speeds, all the while falling back into marathon pace as a “recovery”. Any “speed work” or “tempo” work will fall into this category. For a marathoner, the paces most commonly associated with these workouts are 5k pace, 10k pace and if higher volume, more between the 10k-half marathon pace range. These paces will produce the highest percentages of max heart rate. Ranges of 85-100% here, depending on intensity, duration or combination of both.
Example workout;
5 minutes @ MRP + 10 seconds per mile
4 minutes @ half MRP
3 minutes @ 10k pace
1 minute @ 5k pace
10 minutes @ MRP

Entire set is continuous, with no breaks between any of the pace changes. Beginners would start with 1 set and build to 2, while advanced would start with 2 sets and build to 4.

Race Specific – This is the running that will be most closely related to your goal race pace. For marathoners, this pace will be in the range of 15 seconds +/- of your goal marathon pace. For instance, a 3:30 marathoner who is aiming to run 8:00 per mile pace, would be in the range of 7:45-8:15. This running is reserved mostly for long marathon tempo runs, a % of your long run (up to 75% of the long run) and also as a “recovery” pace in between your “sub pace”.

The importances of training at these various paces, are many. Regularly changing paces for different workouts, improves efficiency at your various race paces, improved biomechanics, Vo2, aerobic threshold, improved ability to process fat over glycogen and to teach the body to preserve glycogen for longer durations of training.

So, with all the above mentioned advice, the BIGGEST thing to take away from it all is, PATIENCE!! The marathon is a true patience race, both during the race itself and during the buildup in training. It may take 2, 6 or 15 marathons before you get it exactly right but, your chances of having the best possible marathon will be increased if you put yourself in the best possible situation to have a great marathon.

A good friend and training partner of mine, Kris Lawrence has ran 9 marathons from 2009-2013. During that time, she has consistently PR’d. Over multiple courses, across various terrain of the country, she has not regressed once. WHY you ask? Knowing Kris well, my opinion is that 1.) She focuses on 1-2 marathons a year, building all of her preparatory training around those two races, using everything else as training. 2.) She takes a considerable amount of downtime to recover and regroup after each of those key races, then, builds back gradually, NOT where she left off at.

To tackle the marathon, you have to be dedicated and committed, not just to the running aspect of it but, to all other complimentary aspects as well. There is no doubt that the marathon is tough, especially when trying to race it. With that said, set yourself up for a great race by starting on the first day of your training program. Go into each workout with the mentality that you would the race. Make each workout count for its intended purpose and know that EACH workout should have a purpose and not just be another slog of miles to pad the log book.

To help make marathon training more enjoyable, join a group, recruit other fellow runner friends to join you on those tough runs. Work on your weaknesses and also channel your strengths.

Remember, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle”.

So, as we are finishing out this year, head into 2014 with the best plan to get you that new PR and your most enjoyable marathon yet. If you need a plan or would like to try something new, contact The Endurance Project @

Tis the Season for Change!

So here you are, approaching the end of another year. Closing the door on one chapter of your life and, moving onto the next. As you reflect, 2013 may have been a pretty damn good year or, it may have just been another year, not that different from years past. Upon reflection, what do you plan to do in 2014, to make it an even better year, a better you?

As runners, we tend to get stuck in a rut, be it a good or bad one. We are creatures of habit and we prefer to stay that way because well, change can be scary. Change is something that offers no certainty and no proof of better days to come. We like to get caught up in our comfortable routine and it is there that we will stay for years to come, particularly when we have settled for what that routine offers.

For runners, this is all too common. We get caught up in our consistency of being consistent and the idea of change just might mess that up and, that scares the shit out of us! For years, you have run the same consistent times in your 5k, your 10k, marathon…..You have found a little hole that you are comfortable with and you have climbed in and built a home. Each week, each month, each year are nearly mirrored images of the ones previous. Sure, you change up a bit of the structure here and there but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the same ole tempos, speed work, long runs, blah, blah, blah!!!

Nothing changes, nothing varies and you never improve. You keep telling yourself, the next race, “I am going to PR”…I am going to do better but, you never actually do. You spend weeks and months training for the next race, only to find that the next race was another let down. You had such high hopes and they just didn’t play out the way you wanted. So, what do you do? NOTHING!! You go right back into the same routine, going through the motions like a zombie…and so it goes, on and on and on!!!

So what are you to do?? Well, here are some ideas to get you out of that funk and get you moving in a positive direction.

1. Embrace a change – Instead of fearing a change in your routine, embrace it. Don’t be scared to find innovative ways to improve upon your current training. Doing so might just allow the little bit of tweaking you need to get over that hump and discover the best you that you can be.

2. Variety – take a look at your current training and see what is lacking. Find a way to mix it up. Instead of doing the same runs, week in and week out, substitute other means of training. This could be a change in the types of runs you do or, by throwing in some new cross training. Throw in some swimming, a weekly bike ride with some cyclist friends who are non-runners, etc., etc.

3. Become a part of something – Find a local running club, group, or gym and, join them. Finding like minded individuals can be a huge bonus. Having others around to push you, motivate you and break the monotony, may be just one little change that can make all the difference in the world.

4. Get outside your comfort zone – Sure, you have no problem getting out the door and running most days of the week, if not all 7 days of the week but, how often are you really pushing yourself? If you are only running for the sake of running, to log miles and give you a reason to eat that piece of cake, then don’t expect much improvement. Once you have maximized your current fitness, doing the same routine over and over only provides a maintenance effect and does not cause any need for adaptation. In order for the body to make continuos improvement, you must constantly apply small amounts of stress so that the body has a reason to adapt and come back stronger after having adapted to the stress. Doing so will require you to get outside your comfort zone. It’s going to mean that you will have to push yourself a bit but, if you consistently do so, you will continue to see small gains that will, in time, turn into BIG gains and big improvements.

5. Don’t fear regression – when starting a new training plan, realize that it will take several weeks to start seeing any meaningful results. During this time, you are likely to see a bit of regression as your body makes the necessary adaptations to the new changes. You may be a bit more fatigued than what you were use to, feel as if your running has gotten worse, etc. Think of it like detox. If you have basically been doing the exact same thing for the past X amount of years, then your body has gotten dependent on the routine and has grown callused. Once you cut off the callus, there is new skin beneath. The same goes with training. Once you have outline your new plan, give it 6-8 weeks minimum. Your new routine may have you waking up earlier to get in a run before work or, it might include “two a day” runs, maybe some new strength work, etc. Whatever the changes are that you have made, the body needs time to adjust and adapt to a new routine and new levels of stress.

6. Focus on your weaknesses – Maybe you have always been a horrible hill runner, a good marathoner with a less than impressive 5k time, maybe your diet is horrible or you stay up too late. Whatever your weakness, find ways to improve upon them. If hills are your nemesis, implement some hill training into your plan. Throw in some speed work to bring down that 5k time. If you stay up late and eat whatever you want, go to bed an hour earlier and clean up the diet. Little changes and improvement upon your weaknesses, can pay huge dividends in getting you to the next rung on the ladder.

7. Give back – As a human being and as a runner, it is your obligation to give back when you can. As a runner, this can mean many things. This could be volunteering for some races, pacing a friend, become a part of a youth running mentorship program, etc. You’ll be surprised just how much you can gain by giving back to the community that you are a part of. Getting involved will open up so many doors and opportunities.

8. HAVE FUN – this one, particularly for the “Average Joe” runner, is likely the most important. Everyday life stresses with family, work, bills, etc., are bad enough, why make something you love become another stress? Take your running serious but, don’t take it serious! Meaning, running should not become something that owns you. If you have to miss a run for some other obligation, then so be it!! After all, it’s just a run!! One run won’t make you and one run won’t break you! Once running becomes stressful, then it also becomes toxic. Stay focused but, ENJOY THE RIDE!!

So there you have it! A few tips that you can take with you into the upcoming year. Set goals, work hard, stay focused, have fun and, KICK ASS!!

Enjoy the rest of 2013, have some great holiday down time with family and friends and, we’ll see you out there on the roads and trails, come 2014! Happy Holidays and Happy Training!

Endurance Project Athlete of The Month (November)

As you all know, over the past several months, The Endurance Project has been choosing an athlete of the month. The chosen individual is one who has exemplified all the things that go into making a great athlete. These chosen individuals are being noticed and recognized for their hard work, commitment, improvement, motivation, adherence to the core values of the group and their unselfishness to the sport.

Typically, we only choose one athlete each month, however, this month we were a bit torn and decided that we would have two Athletes of The Month!

With that said, let me introduce to you, Michael Leech


Michael and I have been working together since around June 2011, prior to the Endurance Project being created, when it was still just a vision. Because Mike lives up on the Peninsula and we usually only get to see him on races, his improvements always seem so drastic, be it by lowering his time, or dropping weight and getting more fit.

As mentioned above, Mike started running again in 2011 and was “serious” but, was still getting back into it after 10+ years of layoff. Improvements came and then plateaued for several months. Mike was running, but without much purpose. In fact, it was Mike who became somewhat of an Endurance Project “test subject”.  I myself had been working on some theories and ideas I had for training and was putting them into practice on myself, however, I didn’t really have anyone else who were regularly running the workouts yet. Mike, being the analytical and science driven guy that he is, was onboard with and supported a good majority of my “unorthodoxed” methods.

During 2012, Mike continued to improve at a steady rate, dropping 2+ minutes off his 5k times, going from 1:40 down to 1:27 in the half marathon and also running his first marathon, finishing in a great debut time of 3:29.

With an excellent 2012 behind him and with a bit more hunger, Mike came out swinging for the fences in 2013. With several months of structured training under his belt and a cleaned up diet/lifestyle, Mike became easily the most improved athlete in the group. Granted, he was running well before but now, Mike was starting to put the pressure on many local runners who never considered him a threat before. Before, he was “decent” but now, he was starting to work his way up the ranks and was consistently starting to hang with and or beat some of the top local runners of the 757.

His big debut race of 2013 was the Shamrock marathon in March. With a PR of 3:29 coming in, Mike was aiming for a 3:05 or better, in hopes of securing a Boston Qualifier spot for 2014. Running a great first half, Mike had some stomach issues over the second half, costing him some valuable time. But, rather than give in, Mike got tough and pushed through, finishing in 3:04:54 and getting that BQ spot.

After Shamrock, Mike started focusing more on “speed” and shorter distances over the summer, so that he’d have the power and strength going into the fall marathon season. During this time, Mike lowered his PR’s in the 5k, 8k and 10k, setting himself up nicely for a great fall half marathon and marathon season.

Fast forward to the months of October/November and  you will see that THIS is why Mike was chosen as an athlete of the month. Mike had chosen the Marine Corp Marathon as his “A” race of the year. Being a former Marine, this was a very important race for him for many reasons and he was aiming for a sub 3 hour marathon.

As anyone who knows that marathon, they know that it is the most unforgiving race, one that will have you feeling awesome one minute and then feeling like death the very next minute. From the gun, Mike just couldn’t really find his rythm and on a hilly and tough course, had to settle for a 3:02. Granted, this was a new PR of over 2 minutes for Mike but, it was off of his goal and he was not satisfied. Though he made no excuses, Mike had been taking on a full plate of work, school, home renovations, being a father, having a pregnant wife, etc. I told him that his marathon was not indicative of his current fitness and that he was ready to go faster and could still use some of his peaking, if done right.

So, with a two week reverse taper coming off the marathon, Mike jumps in a local half marathon to “see how he felt”. Mike promised me that if he didn’t feel right, he’d back off and just make it a casual run. Well, apparently he felt good and even managed the WIN!! Finishing in 1:22 and lowering his previous half PR by another 2 minutes. But, was he finished yet?? Of course not!! LOL

By way of getting a free race entry into the Richmond marathon, Mike says “I want redemption”. We talked about the rigors of running another marathon, just 3 weeks removed from his previous marathon. Again, Mike said that he would not “push it” at any point in the race and would just run based on what his body gave him for the day. Well, running relaxed and nearly identical splits, Mike got his sub first sub 3 hour marathon, finishing in 2:58 and dropping 4 minutes off his previous PR.

So, over the course of a month, Mike runs two marathons and a half, PRing them both and in the process, becoming part of the sub 3 hour marathon club. But, of course he isn’t quite finished yet for the year. To round out his breakout year of 2013, Mike will be running the Seashore 50k at First Landing State Park, before finally taking off a bit of down time over the holidays and then gearing back up for the 2014 seasons.

Aside from being an accomplished runner, Mike is also a great father, husband (soon to be welcoming a new member to the Leech clan) and friend. Being the unselfish runner that he is, Mike is often seen at local races, pacing youth runners and or other runners who are hoping for a PR. The past 18 months or so, it has been a pleasure to work with Mike and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this guy 🙂

Our co-athlete of the month is, Laura Burkett, who has been putting up some impressive training and racing these past couple months. Laura started working with the Endurance Project in May 2013. Laura is one of our “out of town” athletes, who does not live in the 757. Though Laura is a former ODU student, who frequently comes down and races many of the J&A races, she actually lives up in Fredricksburg, VA.

When Laura joined the Endurance Project, she was your typical runner. She had done lots of half marathon and below distances, had done her first marathon earlier in the year but, was starting to grow stale and not seeing much in the way of further improvement. She was running a good amount of mileage throughout the week but, none of it was with much purpose.

Immediately, I cut back her mileage by prescribing nothing but “time based runs”…Never giving her an exact mileage and never actually increasing the mileage on any particular run. At first, it was hard for her to wrap her head around time vs. mileage but after several weeks and unbeknownst to her, she was adding more mileage, without purposely doing so. Over the course of 12 weeks and without increasing the amount of weekly time spent running, Laura increased her total weekly mileage by 16 miles per week, without intentionally increasing the mileage. Meaning, she got faster as she progressed and by default, increased mileage when her body was ready to do so.

Luara’s first big race to see how her summer of training had been paying off, was the Crawling Crab half marathon. Going into the race, she had a previous best time of 1:45 for the half marathon. At Crawling Crab, on a day of unexpected heat and humidity, Laura kept it together and finished with a time of 1:41:05 (a PR of over 4 minutes). On a day that most runners wilted in the conditions, Laura ran strong and was among just a few runners who managed to PR that day.

Based on that performance, we knew that she was now ready to go after her “long shot” goal of getting a Boston Qualifying time at her “A” race, the Richmond Marathon, later the next month. In my mind, there was no doubt that she had the fitness to get that BQ but, it was a matter of convincing her own mind that she could do it.

3 weeks out from the marathon, I had one more planned long run for her. Because she had been getting nervous about not running any of the traditional length long runs that most training plans call for, particularly  the magical 20 miler, I wanted to create something that would prove to her that her fitness was there and the workout was designed in a way to keep her mind from thinking about the overall pace. The workout was broken up into intervals and she was given instruction to stop at either the 2 hour and 45 minute mark or 20 miles, whichever came first.

On the morning of that particular run, she was supposed to eat and fuel as she would on race day. This was the last gauging and simulation run. Well, needless to say, it worked. She got to 20 miles right at 2 hours and 40 minutes, with an average pace that worked out to be nearly just slightly faster than her goal marathon pace of 8:10 per mile.

Race morning at the Richmond marathon, it was chilly and raining. In the hotel lobby, Laura was a bit nervous and still seemed a bit unsure about the pace she needed to run. My advice to her was, treat it like any other long run. Go out with the 3:35 pace group and stay there until mile 18. If you still feel good at mile 18, pick it up and pad the clock a bit.

Laura executed the plan perfectly, running a negative split marathon and finishing in 3:33:32, good enough for a 22 minute PR (her previous was 3:55) and a Boston Qualifying time!!


Aside from being a very disciplined and talented runner, Laura is also going to nursing school and pursuing her other passion beyond running. Keep an eye out for Laura as she continues to achieve and improve upon her goals, running and otherwise. Next weekend, Laura will be capping off her 2013 year of racing with the Surf n Santa ten miler in Virginia Beach.

So there you have it, two awesome athletes, sharing November’s athlete of the month. What hard working athlete will receive the award for December?

Quality vs. Quantity, What is the difference?

QUALITY vs. QUANTITY, what is the best approach to training? This question, in my mind, will likely last for eternity or, until there has been enough success of one over the other, to turn the tide. My coaching principles gravitate more toward the QUALITY side of things, however, that does not mean that I do not have a place for QUANTITY. I will get to that later.

So where does these ongoing debates come from? Well, for QUANTITY, most of the common training plans, can be linked back to Arthur Lydiard (legendary New Zealand coach who worked with many Olympians in the 60’s-70’s). Though Lydiard prescribed many “long” runs at a “slow” pace, much of his training is misinterpreted by the “common folk of running”.

It has been thought that Lydiard preached mostly high, high mileage at LSD (long slow distance) and had very minimal amounts of running at “fast” speeds. Though that is somewhat true, the exact understanding of those terms are a bit misleading.

QUALITY – This training is typically understood as the “fast”, “speed”, “interval”, “tempo” type work that focuses on paces that are near, at or below your goal race paces. Legendary coach Mihaley Igloi is often thought to be the exact opposite in regards to his training principles, than that of Lydiard. For all simplistic ways of thinking and based on popular opinion (as incorrect as it may be), Lydiard is thought of as the “long slow distance” coach, whereas Igloi, is always thought of as the “short fast interval” coach. Granted, their principles were quite different it would appear on the surface but, when you start dissecting down a bit, were they all that different?

In my opinion, it’s the vocabulary and understanding that is the problem within the distance training world. It’s terms like speed, interval, anaerobic, V02max, tempo, etc., that give very misleading guidance to the type of running and how, what or why it should be done.
The terms are just that, they are words that are often associated with a certain intensity, duration, etc. What most runners don’t understand is that, they should be more concerned with WHAT system the workout is improving, rather than worrying about what it is called.

In the endurance running world, the word SPEED or INTERVALS are almost always thought of as hard, anaerobic, lungs burning, lactic acid producing, puke inducing workouts. Thus creating the misunderstanding.

Lets take the SPEED workout for instance. What does SPEED mean? Well, to me, it can have various interpretations and meanings. Speed is relative to whatever distance you are wanting to cover. Clearly, the speed needed to run an all out 400m will vary greatly from the speed needed to carry out a PR marathon. Therefore, I like to think of it all as “RELATIVE SPEED”. A 400 meter runner will run his/her speed workouts at the velocity in which they intend to race. Same goes for the marathoner and, any distance in between. There are big differences between maximal speed and sustained speed.

Now, this is where the QUALITY vs. QUANTITY debate gets to be a little tricky. This is where volume, intensity, frequency and duration all come into play. Because a coach can prescribe so many variations to the otherwise same workouts, there will always be a bit of misunderstanding by the runner, unless the coach specifically outlines the differences of each.

If I tell a runner to go out and run 6 miles on a Tuesday evening, that sounds pretty simple, right? WRONG!! This is where all those cookie cutter internet training plans go wrong. They prescribe an exact volume, without necessarily getting into it any further. A 6 mile “easy” run, prescribed to 5 different runners, would likely have at least 2 different interpretations. This is why it is important for the coach and the runner to be in tune, in regards to the parameters of each run.

If I prescribe a “sustained speed” workout to a runner, I do not want, nor do I care IF they CAN run it faster!! For example, if I give a runner a workout of 2 x 4 miles at marathon pace, with a mile recovery between, I do not care if the runner COULD run the 4 mile portions at near 10k pace. If they run the workout faster, that is not working on the system in which we are trying to develop. There is a time and a place for every type of run, so leave the pride and bravado at home! The same goes on the flip side of it, too. If I prescribe a 15 mile long run that descends in pace every 5 mile segment, I would not be pleased with a runner who decided to run a 20 miler at a slower pace. Each run and workout is for a reason, altering the workout will often retard the intended development of the particular system that we are trying to work.

So, what do I think about “mileage” or “long runs”?

Many people believe that I am totally against long runs and high mileage training, however, that is not completely accurate. Although I do prefer to start my athletes off at less mileage than the traditional plans, it does not mean that they will never build up their weekly mileage or the total distance of their long run.

Lets look at the two components in seperate instances. The “long runs” as found most often in the typical marathon training plan is understood as those runs that are 20 or more miles. So, why am I against those? Well, I am not actually! What I am against is the “set in stone” distance of those runs. With most runners, the only objective is to cover the distance (20 miles or 22, 24, etc.). Rarely, if ever, is there any significance put on the intensity or duration of the run, only the distance.

When most of these common training plans were written by the likes of Higdon, Pfitzinger, Lydiard, Galloway, etc., they were designed around elite marathoners and those that could run comfortably below the 3:00 barrier for a marathon. If an elite marathoner (one who could run below 2:20 for men) went out and run an “easy” or “relaxed pace” for 2 hours, they would likely cover 20 or more miles by “comfortably” running 6 minutes per mile pace.

Now, take “Joe the school teacher” or “Betty the soccer mom” with their 5 hour goal marathon (11:30ish pace per mile). If they are prescribed a 20 mile run, they will now be out there for 3 hours and 48 minutes as opposed to 2 hours. Nearly an extra 2 hours of battling the elements, beating themselves against the asphalt, depleting their energy stores and watching the form fall to pieces.
You see, elite level runners are elite for a reason. They have much more efficient running form (most of them), their biomechanics are much better and they have likely been doing it for a long time. Building up to a 20-24 mile training run over the course of 15 years of running, is certainly not as hard on the body as a newbie who is tackling their first 20 miler within a few weeks of picking up running.

So to recap, it’s NOT the distance that I am against, it’s the duration. If a marathoner capable of a 3 hour marathon is running 45 miles per week at an average weekly pace of 7:30 per mile pace, they will spend 5 hours and 30 minutes per week running, whereas, a runner who plans to run a 5 hour marathon is running 45 miles per week at an average weekly pace of 11:30, will end up spending 8 hours and 30 minutes running per week. A difference of 3 hours. Aside from the obvious difference in duration, lets consider the differences in efficiency and biomechanics of those two runners. Who do you suppose is putting more stress and “wear and tear” on their body?

Based on my principles and also my application to my own running, as well as those I coach. You are better served by trying to get those 12-16 mile runs faster over time and to get them where the pace is averaging rather close to your goal marathon pace, rather than slugging through 20 plus milers week in and week out at a slow trot. Keeping the duration between 2-3 hours, no matter your running ability, is the best approach to the long run. Beyond that, the laws of diminishing return come into play. Meaning, beyond a point, the negative impacts are far greater than any possible gain.

As the runner improves, they are able to naturally increase the distance, within the same parameters of duration. Meaning, if a runner were to run a 2 hour long run every other week, then as they improve, they will naturally increase the mileage within those two hours, without specifically trying to increase the mileage. Once the runner has plateaued at improving the distance within those two hours, then another 10-15 minutes can be added. Repeating this process up to 3 hours.

Now, with a bit more understanding on my thoughts in regards to QUANTITY, lets now discuss QUALITY a bit. As mentioned before, quality is often regarded as paces ran at faster intensities than that of goal race pace. Personally, outside of recovery running, I believe in implementing some sort of QUALITY into every type of run. With that said, the quality must be defined and must be specific.

A QUALITY tempo run might consist of several miles at a set range of threshold paces. A QUALITY marathon tempo run would be defined as a set duration spent running at marathon pace (+/- 5 seconds). Then there are the various interval paces that can be implemented into every type of run. Intervals can and should be inserted into a good majority of your running. This can be 10 x 1 minute pickups inserted into a 50 minute steady run. This could be 6 x 10 minutes at marathon pace inserted into a long run. The list goes on forever and their are countless and endless options to choose.

The problem with purely running QUALITY vs. QUANTITY is that most runners fall victim to a lack of understanding or self control. Just like with adding more mileage, adding more intensity can have it’s downfalls as well. Many runners will continue to push the envelope, trying to run the paces faster and faster for each run, until eventually, something finally gives. If I were to choose between what has the greatest risks, quality vs, quantity, I would say that quality, when done incorrectly, has the greatest risks.

The sure way to get injured though, is when trying to work on intensity and volume together. The approach I recommend is to start with gradual increases in strength, then intensity, then volume. Once you have started to max your current levels of strength, intensity and volume, then it is time to start back at the beginning and gradually add more strength, more intensity and then more volume. Repeating this natural and gradual progression, you can find your self continuing to improve for years and years.

Before going faster and or longer, you should at first be stronger. Strength is what will provide the speed, as well as provide you with the ability to sustain a set speed for a longer duration.

It should also be noted, that when a coach works with an individual, they should consider and inquire about that individual’s background. Aside genetic predisposition, the individual’s recent past can also be a huge factor in their running success. It is common to see a good soccer, field hockey, lacrosse players become a good distance runner, whereas other sports or lifestyles can produce other qualities.

Regardless of what method you decide to choose, be it quality or quantity, start it with a modest approach and allow your body to build and adapt gradually at a rate that it can sustain, without overly fatiguing or over stressing the body’s various physiological systems.

For additional thoughts, ideas, workouts, etc., visit the and take a look at some of our weekly workouts. You can also email me at for any additional questions or for consulting options. In the meantime, train hard, train smart, race fast!

Endurance Project athlete of the month, Sarah Clark

So, yes it’s technically the 2nd of November and October has come and gone but, I have been uber busy this past month and am finally sitting down with a bit of free time to update the Athlete Of The Month for October.

The athlete chosen for the month of October was, Sarah Clark. Sarah has made some serious progress the past several months, particularly over the past two.

Sarah came to me in late spring and asked if I could work with her and get her back on the right track. After a less than ideal marathon and an injury later, she was lacking motivation and direction. My recommendation was to start from the bottom and rebuild her. We would take where she was at and reconstruct, redesign and restructure everything she had been doing and would reshape her both physically and mentally. I conveyed to her that it would be a more gradual progression and that the biggest thing she would need, patience. I let her know that it would take about 3 months to really start seeing improvements and that the first 6-12 months would be a big push to work on her foundation and get her stronger before we pushed her harder. So far, it has paid off quite well.

Sarah started coming out to the DWEP track workouts, the hill workouts and immediately started working hard. At times, she would get a bit discouraged when she wasn’t able to hang with some of those who had been in the program a bit longer. These moments were when I had to remind her of patience and steady progression. Rather than get down for long, she just kept putting in the work, progressing gradually week by week.

During this time, Sarah expressed that she wanted to train with the rest of our Spartan group, for the upcoming Spartan Super on the Wintergreen ski resort..she also had signed up to do her first triathlon and was planning to parlay that into her first Half Ironman in August.

Then, in June, a little misstep and and a fall later, Sarah ends up with a broken arm..UGH! So, how does one train for an obstacle race and a triathlon, with limited use of their arm? This was certainly a training setback, but not the end of the world.

We made adjustments to her training so that she wouldn’t lose any fitness but, her technique and form for the obstacles and the handling on the bike might suffer. As would the swim.

Fast forward to August and the Spartan Super, on the slopes of the Wintergreen Ski resort! Everyone else in the world goes DOWN black diamond slopes but, Spartans go UP them! Having done several Spartans myself, I knew they were tough, after Wintergreen, the others paled in comparison. This was Sarah’s FIRST! I knew she had her work cut out for her. As her coach, I wanted to ensure that Sarah had the best experience as possible and I wanted to ensure that her nutrition was taken care of, without leaving it up to her to remember it. So, I recruited Chad Shroy (another DWEP member) to join me in pacing and crewing for Sarah. We went with her and kept her going the entire day.
Needless to say, she KILLED IT! I don’t think she really knows how proud we were of her. I had no doubt she would finish but, I had no clue she would perform quite so well, especially having just gotten her cast of the arm two weeks prior. No matter how tired she was getting, she kept on going and kept on pushing. Even with a few burpee penalties, she finished in well under 4 hours!! Very impressive for anyone, but especially someone running their first Spartan and on such a brutal course. Did I mention that she had to climb a black diamond on 3 occasions??

So, what next? Well, after a week or so of going “easy”, Sarah was back to the grind. She had only about 3 weeks preparation time to get ready for the OBX Half Ironman! For you that do not understand that lingo, its 70.3 miles worth of human locomotion! 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.

Due to the broken arm setback, Sarah had less than ideal bike and swim training time but, she had been staying conditioned and was certainly capable of putting together a great race. It was just a matter of convincing her that she could. She was nervous and stressed leading up to the race. She texted me frantically on various occasions and of course my advice was “It’s just a race” or “You can only do the best you can do”. These responses were in no way to make light of her race but, she needed to know that she was ready and that she was going to do great. Was this going to be her best 70.3 EVER? Hell no! But, it was going to be her best debut 70.3 and she was going to go hard, finish strong and learn from it.

So on race day, yet again, she surprised me a bit. I knew she would do well but, I was quite impressed with her resolve and toughness on the run. September in OBX is not exactly the ideal month for doing an endurance event because, IT’S HOT!! Running a half marathon for any reason in the month of September is tough enough, doing it after 1.2 miles of swimming and another 56 miles of cycling, the suck factor goes up about 50. With all of that stacked against her, she still pushed hard and ran a rather impressive half marathon split and put together a pretty damned good debut 70.3. I have no doubt that with more training and race specific training in particular, she will take an hour plus off of her next attempt at 70.3

Now with two of the hardest races of her life thus far behind her, it’s time to back off a bit, right? Wrong! With two weeks until the Crawling Crab half marathon, there is no rest for the weary 🙂

Going into Crawling Crab, I had not had Sarah on a half marathon specific training plan. Could she finish the race and run a good time? Of course! Hell, in comparison to being on the mountains of Wintergreen for 3 hours and 45 minutes and being out on the OBX 70.3 course for 6 hours and 48 minutes….less than 2 hours at Crawling Crab should be a cake walk!

Though Sarah had not been putting in the best half specific training, I knew she had a PR in her for this race. Going in, her PR was a 1:54 from two years ago. So the plan for Crawling Crab was for her to go out at 1:52 pace for the first 10k or so and then, if she was feeling good, drop the pace and go for broke. At the very least, I knew she could hold a 1:52 pace and still stumble to a new PR of over 2 minutes. Well, she did not disappoint!

With a fellow DWEP athlete pacing her, she managed to shave 4 minutes from her PR, finishing in 1:50:24! What’s even more impressive, she did this after having done her first 70.3 just two weeks before.

So now what? Well, as of today, Sarah is somewhat “taking it easy”. Of course this only means that she has no A races until the Shamrock marathon in March. In the meantime, she will be training and racing some “gauging and tuneup” races. In fact, she will be doing her first Spartan Beast (12+ miles) this next week, down in South Carolina. After that, Sarah is planning to run the Surf n Santa 10 miler with Team Hoyt, the Seashore 50k, VIFL 14k and perhaps a few other tune-up races for Shamrock.

Oh and did I forget to mention that aside from all her personal athletic achievements and pursuits, Sarah is also a New Energy POWER coach, a member of Team Hoyt Virginia Beach and is pursuing her degree as a Physical Therapist (already has completed her B.A in Exercise Science).

At the baby age of 23 ;), Sarah has her head on her shoulders and has big dreams and goals. With the vigor and aggressiveness in which she pursues her goals, there really isn’t much she can’t accomplish, if she so chooses.

If you want to continue following Sarah and her journey, checkout her blog, where she talks about training, racing and other life endeavors.

Endurance Project Mission Statement!!!

THE ENDURANCE PROJECT! What is it? What do we do? Why do we do it?

If you live in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and are an avid runner, outdoor enthusiast, obstacle course racer, fitness junkie, looking for a support group, etc. Then perhaps you have heard about the Endurance Project, if not, then you will 😉

WHAT IS IT? – The DWEP (Dennis Welch Endurance Project), was founded by me, Dennis Welch and my wife, Crystle. Our intent was to provide workouts that were geared to all areas of fitness and not JUST RUNNING, not JUST CYCLING, not JUST WEIGHT LIFTING..blah, blah, blah! Because we were heavily involved with many other local and non-local athletic groups (Hampton Roads Runners, Tidewater Striders, New Energy Power, Running ETC, J&A Racing, Final Kick, Team Hoyt VB, Ainsley’s Angels of America, My Team Triumph, and Spartan Race.), we wanted to create our own group that was non-exclusive. Meaning, we wanted to break down any walls of “segregation” amongst the local groups and build ourselves as a group that was ALL INCLUSIVE. Instead of having a Hampton Roads Runners meetup, or a Final Kick meetup, or, or , or….we wanted to have an and, and, and approach. We wanted to have a “one stop shop” that encompassed all groups and any and all fitness levels. A group where a 2:30 marathoner could share the same path as a 8:30 marathoner. A group where a stay at home mom could come out and join a collegiate runner, etc. Ultimately, we wanted a TEAM!!

So, over the past several months, that is what we have focused on, bringing together as many as we can, with one common goal. INCLUSION!! Having been involved with Team Hoyt VB, Ainsley’s Angels and My Team Triumph the past few years, our main intent with those groups, is to develop the mindset of TOTAL INCLUSION. So, using that motto as a springboard, the DWEP was created in order to give that total inclusion feel on an even grandeur scale. Under one giant umbrella, we wanted to find a way to include everyone and that is exactly what we are doing.

WHAT DO WE DO? To put it simply, we improve the quality of life. Perhaps that sounds a bit overly confident but, I truly believe that is what we do. Using fitness as the vehicle, we help to improve the quality of life, across many facets. How can I say this? Well, I can’t even begin to tell you how many positive messages we receive, saying “Thank you for believing in me”, “Thank you for helping me achieve my goals”, “Thank you for helping me lose weight”, “Thank you for having my daughter come out of her shell”……and the list goes on.

Throughout the week, we host group workouts, we get involved with groups like New Energy POWER and use the uplifting spirits of the kids to get other adults/coaches involved with the special needs community. Currently there is 9 DWEP members who are POWER coaches and, they love it as much as the kids do 😉

Over the past few months, we have also put together a team of OCR athletes (Obstacle Course Racing), who have been traveling up and down the East Coast, racing in as many Spartan Race, Tough Mudders, Super Hero Scramble races as we can get to. For the Wintergreen Spartan, we had 20+ athletes, all hanging together for the weekend, racing hard and having lots of laughs and fun doing it. For the Spartan World Championships in Vermont last month, we had 15 athletes go up for the weekend, all staying in the same house and all building closer camaraderie. In the future, we want to start weekend and week long camps that focus on group training, camaraderie and adventure.

WHY DO WE DO IT? Everyone wants to be a part of something. It is part of our evolution as humans, that we seek out others of “our kind” to bond with. We all enjoy being around others who share similar interests. So, aside from the physical changes that are seen or the improved athletic performances, we also work to change the whole body experience.

If you improve fitness, then ultimately you can improve all other areas in the quality of life. When an individual is confident in themselves, they can tackle almost anything. Through continuous support and encouragement, results begin to surface. Once results begin to surface, the individual becomes more confident and then can build upon those results and thus carry that confidence into all other facets of their daily life.

All my life, coaching/teaching has been my passion. I have always wanted to coach youth and teenage athletes but, I just love coaching in any capacity. For me, seeing the joy on a runners face when they cross a finish line, set a PR or complete something they never thought possible, is the driving force behind the passion. I want to help others enjoy fitness and sport in the way that it should be. Naturally, whenever there is a sport of sorts, there is going to be some degree of competition but, I do my best to minimize that as much as possible. Rather than competing against others, I want to teach in a way that you are only competing against past versions of yourself. Medals and accolades are a bonus, but shouldn’t be the inspiration behind your drive. Your pursuit should be to be as great as you possibly can and in the process, do what you can to make others great..even if that means making them greater than yourself.

As athletes and persons, we should strive to lift others up on our way to the summit. If your only focus is to get to the top, it’s an awfully lonely podium once you get there, if you have no one standing beside you.

To conclude, The Endurance Project is a group of positive and motivating individuals, who work together to achieve a common goal.

Stay tuned for upcoming events, youth programs, “beginner” programs and team socials. Oh and by the way!! The Endurance Project IS a democracy! We are welcome to any and all ideas/suggestions/recommendations/concerns, etc. So if you have something to add, please do so. We need more organizers and more minds to continue spreading the message and getting the word out.

Check out our current site calendar for upcoming meetups. I would like to add more social stuff to this as well, so please shoot me any ideas on that.

Change Is Good!

Today, I am posting about CHANGE and why something that should be so easy, actually is anything but, for most people.

The definition of CHANGE is this; “To make or become different“. So, now that we know the book definition of change, let me convey some of my thoughts on why it is so difficult for many.

1.) ACCEPTANCE – Everyone, regardless of what they may say and or outwardly express, wants to be accepted. People get comfortable within their “social bubble” and they worry that by changing, they will no longer be accepted by this said bubble. They have a fear of being an outcast or no longer capable of fitting in to the status quo of that particular group in which they seek acceptance.

2.) FEAR OF UNCERTAINTY – This is the big one, particularly for you runners out there. People tend to fear what they do not know how to combat. By nature, we as animals are creatures of habit. We get caught up in our safe havens and we are scared to branch out to see what lies beyond. We tend to eat the same things, drive the same routes to and from a location, get stuck in the same routine. As a runner, we constantly want to stick to a certain pace, a certain course, a certain time of day, etc. Do not get me wrong here, consistency is a good thing too, however, consistency will eventually lead to complacency and, complacency leads to plateauing and, plateauing leads to mediocrity.

3.) FAILURE – Most people are scared to FAIL!! It’s that simple. When you look at something new, be it a new training plan, a new job, a new diet, etc, etc., the initial thought is “CAN I DO THIS?” We get very comfortable in our routine and what we do on a regular basis, especially if that routine yields an above average result. Take a new training plan for instance. Regardless of how much success a particular training plan might have amongst one’s peers, the first thought is “Well what if it doesn’t work?”….”what if I regress”. Rather than being optimistic, the first thought is to be pessimistic.

4.) SETTLING – Once we get to a point and once we achieve that initial success, we settle. We settle with relationships, we settle with careers, we settle with diets, we settle with our lives and, everything in between. “This isn’t my dream job but, it pays the bills”. “This isn’t my ideal weight but, it’s way to much effort to lose the weight”. “I am not seeing any further improvements in my training but, I am not regressing so that’s good”. Whatever it is you are settling for, understand that there is always more out there to achieve. This is not to say that you don’t have a great life and that you aren’t happy with your life. This is just to say that, an additional rainbow or two or, an extra cherry on top, never hurt anyone.

So, with that to ponder, get out there and make some changes. Make the move to give up your Diet Coke. Make the change to add in some strength work instead of some junk miles. Wake up a half hour early and use that time to do something worth while.

Change doesn’t have to be drastic. A little here and a little there can add a whole lot of spice and flavor to your life.

Don’t be that person who is finishing out their life, only to wish they had made a change all those years ago. The time is now, make it happen!