New Year & ReNewed Purpose

Days like these start with a goal!

Days like these start with a goal!

There has always been something about turning the page to a new year that inspires renewal and resolution.  I would like to offer some thoughts about goal setting that may help you differentiate yourself from all of the other resolution runners and those overpopulating gyms for the next few weeks.

The Goal Has to Matter.  Be very clear with yourself about why this goal matters to you and why it will continue to matter after the initial inspiration and novelty wear off.  If you do not have at least one solid answer to this question you chances of success are zero.

The Goal Must be Exciting and Motivating.  It is amazing how willing we are to do many things that are hard and unappealing if the goal continues to be motivating and is the reward.  The initial motivation will ebb and flow, so the goal must be powerful enough to help you correct course over time.

Measure the Process and Habits.  While motivation may falter from time to time, habits will keep you on track.  Being able to measure the habits will help you through the tough spots.  You can measure training days, miles, hours, training or race pace, subjective measures such as how your feel or anything that helps you towards your goal.

Keep Moving.  Something is better than nothing.  When you feel beat down or life is taking its' toll, just do something.  Progress is not linear.  It is what you do during the dips that will make all the difference in the end.  Limit your losses and be ready for the next upswing.

Use Progress Reports to Correct Course.  Schedule progress reports along the way to identify what is working and what stays and what is not working that either goes or gets repaired.  You might even realize that you have been pointing towards the wrong goal and the destination needs adjusted.  These progress reports should be often enough you don't stray too far off course, but spaced out enough that you can spot trends and know what needs fixed.

Find a Mentor.  You take on some immediate measure of accountability once you tell the right person your intentions.  Find someone with the wisdom of things learned the hard way and can help you with what you don't know you don't know.  A good mentor should posses objectivity as well as wisdom to help you identify the obvious and not so obvious challenges and solutions along the way.

Are you ready to clarify you running purpose for 2017?  Contact Coach Matt Ebersole to set up a goal setting session today!

Quotes You can take the Distance

Noah Droddy finishing last year's Monumental Half high on optimism.  He carried this optimism out west to train in CO with Roots Running Project and made the Olympic Trials in the marathon and 10K.

Noah Droddy finishing last year's Monumental Half high on optimism.  He carried this optimism out west to train in CO with Roots Running Project and made the Olympic Trials in the marathon and 10K.

As I prepared to meet with a group of my runners to talk about their marathon and half marathon race plans, I wanted a new way to describe the spirit of a long distance race plan.  From there we can plug in their personally specific details.  I have described the thinking on race days as transforming from a pessimist, to a realist, to an optimist.  Here I offer a quote for each race segment that will transform you over the race distance.

"The Marathon can humble you." -Bill Rodgers 4 x NYC & Boston Marathon Winner*

Hang around the recovery area of a marathon or half marathon and one of the things you are least likely to hear is, "I should have started faster!"  Of the countless tales of marathon success and crash and burns I have heard, I don't think I have come across 5 people that told me their time or experience would have been better if only they would have hit the first few miles harder.  We know that your ever present effort gauge, perceived exertion, is MIA in high adrenaline moments.  That is why the common refrain of, "But, it felt so easy" is usually followed by the word, "until".  How about some real world evidence?  Maybe you've heard about the Boston Marathon and its hills in the second half?  The fastest time ever run on that course is 2:03:02 by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011.  Care to guess how much time he banked on the downhill first half?  He was actually 54 seconds faster over the hillier 2nd half and through the Newton Hills.  If someone with that speed on that course holds back early, it might even work for you.  This stage is usually the first 5-8 miles of a marathon and 2-4 miles of a half marathon.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?" -Attributed to Winston Churchill (among others)

Most of the nerves that accompany race week are due to the unknown factors of race day.  Will I feel good?  What is the weather going to do?  Is my calf going to hold up?  And the list may go on.  The early miles are like waiting for the conditions report.  If you manage to stay nice and comfortable (race relative) and control your effort, you will find if the things you do not control are in your favor.  I was a spectator at the Chicago Marathon in 2002 on a very cold and extremely windy day (even for Chicago).  In all of my wisdom, I remember thinking that no one will be running fast today.  I was very surprised when the reports from my runners started coming in.  It was a big PR day.  And yes, this was the day Paula Radcliffe broke the world record by a minute and a half.  By the way her splits were 1:09:03/1:08:15.  More negative splits!  Contrast that to last year's Chicago where the temperature felt OK at the start but soon became evident it was too warm.  If people did not adjust their plan accordingly and quickly, many miles of training went unrewarded.  Check in with your self early and often and see what the day offers.  If you are not sure, stay conservative early and gradually become more aggressive as the miles pass.  This segment can last until 16-22 miles in the marathon and 8-10 in the half.

"Quenton Cassidy moved out to the second lane, the Lane of High Hopes, and ran out the rest of the life in him."  Once A Runner -John L. Parker, Jr.

The perceived exertion that may fail you early comes back and can be trusted again later in the race.  As a matter of fact it becomes pretty hard to fool, late in the race.  There is a very trustworthy litmus test that happens every mile.  Did that mile seem to pass quickly and are you excited about the fact you only have 10K to go?  Or did that last mile seem to last 5K and another 10K might as well be Everest?  This is the time that if it is you day, your challenge is to stay focused and keep the gas pedal down.  It is a scientific fact that if you are running a great time and are passing people you will feel far less pain than going slower at a reduced effort.  One of the many benefits of your training is that you have come to believe in yourself and be optimistic about the effort you can give when it gets difficult.  This is the time to rely on that knowledge and cash in the time and effort you have invested in this race.  If despite your best effort and adjustments for the day, it is still not going all that great, you can still tap into the training runs that headed south early that you managed to survive.  You know you can get there.  Just keep fighting and moving.  This will lead to another better, faster day.   It is my hope that by starting as a pessimist and transforming over the miles into an optimist, that better, faster day will be your next race.

*Here is the rest of the paragraph from Bill Rodgers' 1980 autobiography he wrote with Joe Concannon. 

"When I say the marathon can always humble you, I mean that no matter what level you have reached, what medals you have won, or who you are, or no matter how many lesson you think you've learned, you can run into the most difficult situations in a marathon. I mean the ravages of physical fatigue and psychological despair.  It happens to beginners, it happens to the best marathoners in the world.  It's something we all have in common."

Bad Math

If my math serves we have 9 weeks to go before the Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon.  This is a good time to talk about some of the bad math you will want to avoid in these last 2 months.


At this point you should be in a nice training rhythm and most likely adding mileage at a gradual, but progressive rate.  The time to add new training components is gone.  If injury (or prevention) necessitates adding strength or flexibility that is fine.  Just apply your gradual and progressive rule to those as well.  This is not the time to add circuit training, boot camp, cross fit, etc into the mix.  Anything you add at this point should be focused on allowing you to keep up with your normal training load and not adding to it.  The additional stress that tips the scale towards too much can also be something completely unrelated to running that still requires time or energy.


There are many possibilities from which to choose, but perhaps the silliest thing runners do is to stop doing what is working.  Maybe it is lifting twice a week or stretching regularly, and things are going great, so they stop.  The thought is I don't need to do these anymore because things are going great.  Reducing some cross training or supplemental training may be necessary as the mileage goes up,  but keep doing it and stay in your successful training rhythm.


Most runners have the necessary amount of obsessive compulsive tendencies to be successful.  A missed workout or one cut short should bother you.  If that does not phase you, you will probably not get very far in marathon training.  However, doubling up on hard workouts or mileage to make up for what was missed is a sure way to miss making it to the start line.  I spend a fair amount of time helping my runners rework weeks by determining what we drop and what we move or replace with something else.  Take your frustration of missed training and use it to motivate you to plan better and hopefully avoid missing something later.

Balanced Equations

Remember in algebra 1 when you learned how to balance an equation?  Running, and all training for that matter, has to be a balanced equation between stress and rest.  As you increase weekly mileage and long run distance this balanced must be maintained.  Once that is lost your progress will slow with too much rest or you will fail to improve or worse, end up injured is the stress is too great.  If hard days get harder, the easy days need to become easier.  It is the rest from the stress that actually brings about the adaption and overcompensation to training.

Good luck with your math over the next 9 weeks and I look forward to seeing you in November!



Training Through the Ridiculous

Now that the weather has all of our attention, here are a few tips to help you survive the remaining high heat index days.

1) When a warmup is needed, keep it to the minimum required to be prepared for the workout.  Typically, we like to front load the days's mileage in the WU, but in these conditions it is taking away from the workout effectiveness.

2) As we do on race day, let's think of replacing water, salt, and sugar (if duration necessitates) in terms of an intravenous drip.  A little bit more often is absorbed much better than more at less frequent intervals.  Ideally, 6-8 ounces of fluid every 20:00.

3) Sodium is necessary for water to be absorbed.  Drinking an ideal amount is only part of the equation, we have to make sure it is being readily absorbed.  Those that have learned to use salt tablets or other sodium supplements have been enjoying better workouts and faster recovery.  A good starting point is 400-600 mg per 1 Liter (or 34 ounces) of water intake.

4) Pace will not tell the story so don't get too down on yourself for slow splits.

5) Blood gets redistributed to the skin's surface to help cool your body.  Additionally, dehydration causes a decrease in blood volume.  Combined, these require a faster heart rate to accomplish the same oxygen delivery.  Your HR will not correspond to effort as it does normally.

6) Because pace & HR are not very helpful right now, you will need to rely on perceived exertion, respiratory rate, and muscular tension to mange effort.

7) Remember your body does not care how far or fast you ran, it cares about stress.  You body may get more stress than normal even with a reduced workload and pace with a high heat index.  Use this physiological fact to alleviate any guilt for cutting a workout short.

8) If you are not feeling quite right or are exhibiting any symptoms of heat illness such as nausea, dizziness, cessation of sweating, stop and live to run another day.

9) As soon as the run is done, it's time to focus on recovery and that means re-hydrating.  A pre and post run weigh in are very helpful to measure how you are doing.  If weighing yourself is on your list of least favorite things to do, cheat.  Move the scale to a weight that you know is too high or too low, but gives you the net difference between pre and post run.

10) We live by faith during ridiculous weather.  Keep doing your best and despite all evidence to the contrary right now, you will find the work will pay off and when the weather breaks.


Hope & Insanity

Some time on the track may get your improvement curve moving in the right direction again.

Some time on the track may get your improvement curve moving in the right direction again.

Remember when you starting running and you were thrilled to make it a block and then a mile without stopping?  That led to your first 5K and then your first half marathon and then maybe a marathon (or beyond).  Running was sweet and simple.  The more you ran the better you became. 

At some point you found you had to add higher quality workouts to continue improving.  Then you figured out the awful truth that the better you got the more work it took to continue getting faster.  Eventually, you may have found yourself on a long-lasting plateau.

If you have plateaued and are still hopeful for improvement by doing the same thing that has ceased to be successful, you may have met the running version of the popular definition of insanity.  That is, continuing to train the same way that is no longer working, but still expecting progress.  Though I am addressing the more experienced and accomplished runners in this post, if you follow me to the end, there is a point for everyone. 

How do we get your improvement curve moving in the right direction once again?  Let's start with facing the fact that you will have your last PR.  Rarely do we know it when that happens, so let's go down fighting before we accept that you will have to find something obscure or truly insane for a new PR.

The tendency after a few marathons is to spend all of your training effort accumulating mileage and "threshold" quality.  For marathoners it is pretty easy to fall in love with mileage and threshold or stamina training because it is race specific and the benefits are great and improvement can be sustained for a long time.  Of course, this makes perfect sense, until the results dry up and you find yourself stuck.  

If you gradually raised your weekly mileage to a great endurance building level that has now peaked or been reduced by time, interest, or health, you are no longer likely to get adequate training stimulus for improvement this way.   You've found the magic of high end aerobic or threshold training and have utilized it through intervals, steady state runs, and sprinkling quality into your long runs to maximize your stamina.   That led to the rewrite of your personal record book.  But now, even the effectiveness of stamina training has seemed to stall.

This is where many long distance runners get stuck and the insanity creeps in.   If you are not going to run more miles, and you can't add more "threshold" miles with effectiveness, and your training pace has stagnated, or worse, slowed, what will bring the PR fitness?  Now that your performances are treading water, you will need to add or increase another ingredient to your training mix. 

We have established in previous posts that we can summarize training into 4 types, endurance, stamina, economy, and speed.  Now is a good time to more closely examine the third workout type, economy.  Let’s define running economy as the energy cost of running a given pace.  It’s true that all types of training result in improved running economy (at least for a time).  However, because we seem to have maxed out endurance and stamina you will want to focus on the most targeted ways to improve your economy.  Where you find yourself now requires a move northward into the world of faster running, heavy breathing and lactic acid.

It's time to reallocate your training resources and spend more energy on hard running.  So how hard are we talking about?  This is not the comfortably hard stuff that is so stamina specific. It is training above your threshold.   It's the kind of running that only happens when you mean it, the kind that is only fun when it's over.  If you ran in high school and college and spent time racing 5K to 10K on the roads before focusing on the marathon, you have done plenty of this training in the past.  Common economy training are intervals at 90% or higher and races of up to 10K.  

If it has been awhile these efforts will be shocking.  Oddly enough, kind of like long runs used to be.  In the right dosage this type of training can jump start your marathon specific training by raising your ceiling and nudging you to a faster pace for the rest of your training.  And here is the key.  With the right balance this will help your endurance and stamina training regain effectiveness.  

The lesson here for all is that the training mix that works best for you now will need to be reevaluated from time to time when goals change or progress slows.  The right reallocation of your effort can get your improvement curve heading back into the right direction pushing that last PR into the future.

Reshuffling Your Race Mix

Haile Gebrselassie (1658) had the best performance range in history.  

Haile Gebrselassie (1658) had the best performance range in history.  

To be faster or more competitive at your chosen distance you might start by becoming a better runner.  I know this sounds redundant and obvious, so let me explain.  If you consider yourself a half marathoner, think about how much of your year is spent working on improving the demands of other distances.  The two people you least want to have pull up alongside you at 10 miles in a half marathon are a marathoner that you know can hold a pace for hours and someone that just ran a great 5K because you know at the end they have a gear you don’t.  If you could combine the endurance and stamina of marathon training and the economy and speed of 5K training, you will be a better half marathoner.  You know when you do something new that it stresses your body in a different way and you can feel it.  If you are stuck in one type of training you may no longer feel that kind of stress and mild soreness that reminds you that you did something new.  That can mean you have adapted to your training and your benefits are no longer being maximized.

Below is a summary of the benefits of the four workout types for a middle distance runner and marathoner.  By reshuffling your training and racing mix you can have them all.  These do not just meet in the middle at 13.1.  We know from history that when middle distance runners started running higher mileage at points in the year to complement their speed, records fell and medals were won (Thank you, Arthur!).  We also know that the marathon was revolutionized when national and world record holders moved from the track to the road.  Running over your chosen race distance helps the race seem much shorter mentally.  After a few marathons a 5K seems to be over before you can blink.  Running below your goal distance helps race pace feel more comfortable.  Spending most of a 5K in the pain cave makes the early miles of a marathon seem like jogging.  At the world class level, once you’ve run 4:10 pace for 5,000m (sub 13:00), 4:50 (2:06+) pace does not seem that bad, even if it is for a few hours.  The marathoners all want these people to stay on the track until they are well past their prime.


Miler – The ability to recover.  Marathoner – Able to keep going.


Miler - The ability to stay aerobic longer into the race.  Marathoner – Able to maintain pace.


Miler – Lowers the cost of race pace.  Marathoner – Makes race pace more sub maximal and more comfortable longer.


Miler – Enables a wider variety of race tactics, such as surging, covering moves, and kicking.  Marathoner- Counteracts the biomechanical poison of high mileage.

Now the trick is to get the balance right at the appropriate time of the year to be ready to combine them all in the right mix on the most important days.  If you do this well, you will be the one they don't want to see with a few miles to go!


Haile Gebrselassie may have the best performance range in history.  #157 All-Time 1 Mile 3:52.39 in 1999, #2 5,000m 12:39.36 in 1998, #2 10,000m 26:22.75 in 1998, and #9 Marathon 2:03:59 in 2008.  Emil Zatopek (903) displayed historic dominance by winning the 5,000m, 10,000m and Marthon in the 1952 Olympics.

The Monumental Mile

If your running started in school it is very likely one of your first races was the mile.  You have also probably wondered periodically what you could run for that distance now.  Maybe you could run faster or maybe not.  However, there just are not too many opportunities to race the mile.  There is now!

If you are an adult onset runner, especially of the GPS generation, you may have never thought about racing a mile.  After all, why would someone pay to run one mile?  Good question.  Let's see if I can give you a few reasons to race the Monumental Mile.

1) It is one mile straight down Meridian Street finishing at the circle.  Traffic is shut down on what could be considered the main street of Indianapolis, so you can see how fast you can run one mile.  How cool is that?

2) There is a race for everyone.  There is a race for kids, masters, open, and even a community mile for the whole family.  And then the races are topped of with an elite mile.

3) You will recover much faster from a mile than a half marathon allowing you to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the circle on a beautiful June evening.

4) It is an easy measuring stick to duplicate to test your fitness.

5) The Mile is a great symbolic kick off to your training for other fall races.

Link to all the details!

Chasing Confidence

   Well founded confidence can lead to race day relaxation and monster PR's.


Well founded confidence can lead to race day relaxation and monster PR's.

The important spring races are close at hand.  As they approach, you have an undeniable need to prove your fitness.  Like any addict you need just one more workout of proof to tell you that you are fit and ready to run the goal time or win the race.  

Oddly enough the very act of proving fitness in training is on the short list of the surest ways to ruin your big race.  Your training should be a body of evidence with some highlights that demonstrate you are in the range of your goal.  Yes, hard training is necessary to accomplish anything worthwhile.  But when that leads to over training or equally damaging, racing in training, it is likely to lead to breakdown before success. 

Confidence is very fickle.  I like to remind my runners that a great workout shows you are fit and a bad one simply shows you had a bad day.  It does not mean your fitness somehow disappeared since last week.

Even better than reading your training log, running 3-5 races (maybe more for shorter distances) should also lend all the support to the viability of your goal.  Again, if those races do not offer the sought after confidence then it is time to reconsider what is possible for you right now.  Realize wanting a goal, no matter how deeply, does not mean you are ready or capable of doing it.  At least yet!

The most successful Olympic American distance runner in history, Frank Shorter*, said that there are two kinds of workouts; those that make us fit and those that demonstrate fitness.  He pointed out that if these two types get out of balance you are likely to become the fittest spectator on the course.

*Frank won gold in 1972 (adding to a 5th place in the 10,000) and silver in 1976 in the marathon. 

Get the Most from Your Long Run

Some PBT runners getting in a long run in AZ.

Some PBT runners getting in a long run in AZ.

Long runs are the cornerstone of marathon and half marathon training and are a regular component of your running week.  Because long runs are done with frequency and comprise a good percentage of your weekly mileage they warrant thoughtful consideration to make sure you are getting the most from them.  The two primary questions to be addressed are how far and how fast?  The focus of this post will be on how fast or more precisely how hard.  I prefer to think in terms of effort due to the many variables of pace such as temperature, wind, and hills among them.  Please refer to the effort to pace guidelines below.

As with other training questions, being mindful of your fitness and goal is important in determining the appropriate effort for your long run.  If you are training for a new distance, or it has been awhile, and the primary goal is to finish then an effort of 60-75% of maximum heart rate should allow you to continue to build endurance and be prepared for race day.  Staying toward the bottom half of the range for the early miles and increasing effort to the top half towards the end will usually result in relatively even splits.  This is also great practice for race day!

Those focused on a goal time or racing others over longer distances will need to add some additional stress to their long runs.  If you have been through a few marathon training cycles, think back to your first 20 mile run.  Remember the challenge and fatigue and sense of accomplishment?  It is not quite the same anymore is it?  The reason is that you have adapted to running that distance.  To race faster you will have to increase the effort to get the same training effect you got from those early 20 mile runs.

The logical question now becomes how hard is too hard?  Make no mistake, you can over do it and run too fast.  I like to measure this in terms of recovery time.  If it takes more than 2 days to recover and you are not ready for something of quality on the 3rd day, you probably over did it and should save that kind of effort for racing.

Another logical thought process is that if you used to average 7:30 pace you should now try to bring that down 5-10 seconds per mile.  Well, though it will probably happen, I don't care to think of it that way.  Many training runs and races are run off the rails by thinking about pace from the start.  I like to think in terms of adding more training stress to portions of the run.  

The options on how to do this are many.  Some of the ingredients you might add to your long run include continuous steady state miles (80-85%) or intervals (80-90%) at goal pace or faster, hills (80-90%), negative splits (up to 85%), or faster finishing miles (up to 90%).  Again, please see the guidelines below.

Really, the specifics are up to your imagination, but the primary objective is to get your legs to ask the same question they will late in the race with similar urgency, "What are you doing to me?"  Mixing these components with some relaxed long run miles in the same workout will keep the run from requiring excessive recovery time and minimize injury risk.   Sure, some of your long runs should just be nice and relaxed but with regular quality injections into the others you will be racing faster soon!

Effort to Speed Guidelines.  60-75% Jogging to comfortable running, 80 % Marathon Pace, 85% Half Marathon Pace, 90% 10K Pace, anything higher is fast and not something you can maintain for long.


Indiana Marathon Talent on Display

I love the Olympic Trials Marathon.  I suppose it is because it is what we could call grass roots elite.  The truly world class are joined by the runners that show up at local races and are a part of running communities across the country.  These are runners that for the most part have everyday real life responsibilities, like jobs and families, and are training at a very high level for very little pay.  They are doing it for the love of running.  That love may be for the competition, the challenge, the lifestyle, or the intrinsic rewards they get for being exceptionally good at something.  The reality is there is a very short list of runners that could make the Olympic team by finishing in the top 3 spots. 

This will be the largest Olympic Trials Marathon in history (the first women’s trials was in 1984) and makes a great statement about the progress of American marathoners.  In 2000, the US did not have enough runners that met the Olympic standard to send a full team.  With the number of runners that met the trials standard for 2016 serious thought has to be given to again raising the bar or maintaining a larger field.  Either way will demonstrate the amount of talent and drive our marathoners possess.

One of the many great things about running, and the Olympic Trials Marathon is no exception, is that many victories will be realized despite the fact that only 1 man and 1 woman will win the races.  Make no mistake everyone else would love to trade places with the winners.  But for many this will be the biggest stage on which they will ever race and by running their best on this day it will eclipse many days where they did finish first.

When you watch the Olympic Trials Marathon on February 13th it will be enjoyable to watch as the races unfold and see the winners break the tape and the teams determined.  But by taking a closer look you might be able to get a feel for all of the other running dreams that are realized that day. 

Here is a look at some of the runners with Indianapolis area ties.


Jesse Davis’s 2:18:02 is the fastest of his 3 qualifying marathons.  This is Jesse’s second trials marathon and will try to put a cap on an exciting last 3 months of running with a win at the Monumental Marathon and 5th place at the 50K World Championships

Noah Droddy broke through with a big PR at the Monumental Half Marathon and then took another 2:00 off of his best in January with a 1:04:17 in Arizona.  Noah is currently training in Colorado.

Kyle Jordan was an All-American in college in cross country and track before moving up in distance and qualified with a 1:04:58 at the Monumental Half Marathon in 2014.

Other Indiana Men

Zach Mayhew 1:04:43 (Bloomington), Dustin Betz 1:04:51 (Schnellville), Jacob Kildoo 1:04:58 (South Bend), all qualified at the 2015 Monumental Half Marathon. Aziz Atmani (Indianapolis) also qualified with a 2:16:09 in 2013 but is currently retired.


Whitney Bevins-Lazzara was an early qualifier in 2013 and improved on that time in 2014 in Chicago by running 2:40:12.  She has spent time at altitude and is now training in Houston and will be ready for a strong race.

Erin Vergara will be running her second Olympic Trials marathon and qualified with sub 1:15 halves at Monumental in both 2014 and 2015.  She moved up through the field as the trials race went on and finished 23rd with a 2:37:06 in 2012.  Erin is a strong and smart runner and will add to her many career highlights in LA.

Anna Weber had a breakout performance at Twin Cities this past fall running 2:38:14.  Seeing the work she is doing via her social media posts we may see another breakthrough from Anna at the Trials.

Other Indiana Women

Becky Boyle (Bloomington) was one that did not get to celebrate her qualification at Monumental 2014 until the standard was adjusted more than a year later and found out via Facebook.

Alissa McKaig (Fort Wayne) ran 2:31:56 for 8th place at the 2012 Trials in Houston and qualified with a 1:13:59 half marathon.

The Olympic Trials Field by the Numbers

“A” Standard 2:15(5:09/Mile) 27 Qualifiers (13%)

“B” Marathon Standard 2:19 (5:18/M) 59 Qualifiers (28%)

“B” Half Marathon Standard 1:05 (4:58/M) 125 Qualifiers (59%)

Total Men Qualified = 211

“A” Standard 2:37 (6:00/Mile) = 42 Qualifiers (17%)

“B” Marathon Standard 2:45 (6:18/M) = 156 Qualifiers (63%)

“B” Half Marathon Standard 1:15 (5:44/M) = 48 Qualifiers (20%)

Total Women Qualified = 246


Matt Ebersole coaches a wide range of runners including 8 Olympic Trials Marathon qualifiers in his coaching career.

Do Your Goals Fit?

    The right goal can get you out of a warm bed and into the cold for a Monday morning 12 miler before the sun rises.


The right goal can get you out of a warm bed and into the cold for a Monday morning 12 miler before the sun rises.

“It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than at the top of the one you don’t.”   -Stephen Kellogg

If you are setting goals you have an appetite for achievement.  This appetite will consume hundreds of hours of time and gallons of sweat so they better be worthy targets.  Here are some of the common problems to consider and avoid when setting and pursuing goals. 

Do Your Goals Align?

Are you sabotaging your own goals by setting so many they are in competition with each other?  Do you say you want to run a marathon PR while running a 5K every weekend and skipping long runs?  Do you want to run a fast half marathon but run a marathon 2 weeks before your goal race?  Getting clarity with your goals and recognizing if other races or training are helping or hindering you is obviously very important.  Upon further review you might realize what you say is your goal is really not the priority.  It is OK to change your goal to what is actually most important to you.  It is far less frustrating to figure this out sooner rather than later.

Adopting a Goal

The social aspect of running is a huge motivator and great reward for many runners.  However, a worthy goal that takes so much time, energy, and emotion to achieve has to be something important to you and not someone else’s goal you have adopted.  Find ways you can support others in their goals while not taking away these resources from what is most important to you.  You might find a supporting role rather than actually running the same race will be more helpful to your friend and you might even expand your social running circle by finding others with your same goal.

Pass or Fail Time Goals

The most common of these is a Boston Marathon qualifying time.  This is a great goal for many people because it is very clear and motivating and with the right amount of time and work most people can get there.  But before this becomes the immediate goal evaluating the evidence that you are in the performance range to run the time is very important.  Many good marathons that are great steppingstones to Boston get ruined by stretching for a few more minutes that are beyond one’s current fitness.  Sure, make it a goal but let’s find the evidence with other race performances before it becomes a pass or fail goal in your next marathon.

Poor Planning

The realities of real life and of the calendar must play a role in your decision making.  Evaluating family, job, and other real life responsibilities will have an impact or your ability to prepare. Ignoring them does not change that fact. Registering for a race before determining if you have enough training time is a sure way to be disappointed.  Charging towards a goal race and running through your body’s signs that you need more time to train will result in poor performance at best and an injury breakdown at worst.

Confusing Finishing and Performance

If you are planning to run as many marathons in a year as your travel budget allows it is very unlikely you will be close to your best possible performance in the same 12 months.  Both goals are fantastic but they are in competition with each other.  Last year one of my runners had the goal of completing as many half marathons as possible and she did a great job with it.  This year she is more concerned with performance and her training plan looks much different.

By giving your goals the thought and soul searching they deserve you can celebrate not only your victory but everything you gave to earn it.

How to Use a Pace Team

There are not many things that have ruined more races than being committed to a pace at all cost.  Pace is simply a measurement of effort.  We all know that some days are better than others in how we feel or in the conditions.  Yet, it seems on race day many will ignore this knowledge and go full speed ahead with goal pace despite suspecting and then knowing it is not going to be an A+ day.  This is the easiest way to go from missing a goal by a few minutes to a full blown crash and burn.  Amazingly enough there are many days when backing off a little early allows your body to come around to having a great day after all.  You know this happens during training so you know it can happen on race day.

So let’s figure out the best way to use a pace group to help you give your best effort on race day.  Remember there is no rule that you must start or even finish with you chosen pace group.  Use it for the part of the race you need it.  You might just need help holding back the first couple of miles or need someone to chase and pass towards the end of the race.  When in doubt about the pace stay relaxed and keep putting miles in the bank.   A few more miles into the race and you may now be confident your legs feel good enough and you have enough fuel to speed up and make it to the finish.

If you are not racing on the track it is unrealistic to think every split should be the same.  The elevation changes and even the turns of the course along with the wind and the timing of aid stations will dictate some will be faster than others.  Most pacers are running significantly slower than they race so it may take a mile or two for them to get in the right rhythm.  Trust yourself if it feels too fast and sit back and keep them in sight until the pace settles down.  Avoid any big moves to catch the group.  A comfortable pace is no longer comfortable after a big surge to catch up.

Remember you alone are responsible for your pace.  If it is too fast or too slow you need to adjust on your own don’t let anyone else determine your race.  It will be no consolation to have someone to blame if your race heads south because of bad pacing.  Run smart and run hard and good things happen! 

This year’s Monumental Marathon Pace Team is almost set.  We can use more help at 1:05 and 1:15 for the half marathon (the only half marathon pace groups) and 2:37, 2:43, 3:00, 3:10, and 3:20 for the marathon.  There are perks for being a pacer and even bigger ones for 2:43 and faster.  Please email me at if you are interested in learning more.

Race Day Homework

   Cassidy Menard cashing in her homework for a half marathon PR at Monumental 2014.


Cassidy Menard cashing in her homework for a half marathon PR at Monumental 2014.

As I write this there are about 9 weeks before the Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon.  Depending on the status of your training that may sound like a long time or not nearly enough.  In addition to the obvious training yet to be done in the last 2  months I'd like you to consider doing some homework on some very important but perhaps less obvious issues.  This review will be most helpful to rookies but also those at a significantly different fitness level than their last race at these distances.  I have also been caught a little close to race day debating such issues so those of us who should know better can also get caught off guard.


If you have a great training shoe and plan to use it on race day make sure the mileage is appropriate.  Enough miles to avoid any hot spots or odd problems that may occur between pairs of the same model and not so many you take more pounding than needed.  For most training shoes 100-200 miles is ideal.  Thinking of a lighter weight trainer or racing flat?  Do a long enough training run or race to make sure that the lighter is faster does not give way to a quad or calf beating that will slow you down over the last miles of the race.  


Be ready for a range of conditions including temperature, wind, and precipitation.  This includes what you might tie or toss during the race.  Of course Monumental will have perfect conditions and a tailwind out and back but just as an exercise for future races know what works and is comfortable after 1- 6 hours of quality time as the case may be for your race.

Nutrition - Race Week & Morning

You want to balance maximizing glycogen stores without putting on extra weight that can easily accumulate with reduced training and too much eating.  Know what and when you need to eat the day before to feel energized and fit on race morning.  You should know exactly what you will have for breakfast on race day.  It is best to find something you can supply and duplicate from your long training runs.  As important as what to eat is when you should eat.  Race morning butterflies may require a little extra digestion time.

Nutrition - On the Course

I have said often if we just had IV drips of water, sodium and sugar distance racing would be much easier.  Work on determining your personal IV drip.  How often and how much do you need to drink under race conditions?  How are you going to get your calories?  Gatorade and Carb-Boom are the official drink and gel of the Monumental Marathon so you might try these before race day.  Not only will you feel better and run faster with this plan in place you will also feel much less stress leading up to the race.

Race Plan A, B, & C

Having a good idea of your fitness level and how that correlates to you chosen race is a very valuable tool.  If you have a history of racing you might be able to look at key workouts to determine what to expect.  My preference is to predict races from races.  Racing once or twice between now and November 7 would be a good idea to test many of the items on this checklist.  How much rest do you need to feel sharp on race day and what nutrition plan works the best, for examples.  There are many equivalent performance charts available to translate what your race times at various distances might mean.  Knowing if you tend to get better as the distance gets longer or you strength is the shorter and faster races will help you adjust from the charts to your race plan.  When in doubt be pessimistic and hold back a little for the first few miles and speed up as you go.  Have at least plans "B" and "C" in mind for the uncontrollable variables that can occur for long races.

Do you homework now and be ready for the final exam on November 7th!


8 Great Reasons to Race Now

1) Most training paces should be based on current fitness.  If you have not raced recently you can take some of the guesswork out of your training by using a current performance.

2) Using an equivalent performance chart you can evaluate your progress towards the bigger goal.  Are you on track or do you need to adjust your goal to a faster or slower or time?

3) High intensity training boosts your running economy and getting a t-shirt and maybe even an award sure is more fun than doing it on your own.

4) Racing with regularity allows you to cash in your hard work more often.  If you wait for just one or two races a year and the variables do not cooperate on the right days you may not have much to show for all your sweat equity.

5) Make a shorter race part of a longer run.  Want to get great long run training effect without running even longer?  Go into a little energy and muscle fatigue debt and add miles of training effect to the same distance long run.

6) Support your local running community by participating in quality races.  No matter how good a race may be it will not last without strong participation.  Volunteering also counts for this one!

7) Many training partners and lasting friendships started by meeting someone at a race.  Running alone or in the same group is fine but occasionally meeting new runners outside of your normal circle can be great, too.

8) Expand your sense of the possibilities.  Be encouraged and motivated by what you see other local runners accomplishing.  If they can do it why can’t you?

IMM Training Plans: % of What?

Math Kid.jpg

Those registered for the Monumental Marathon or Half before July 1 were offered free training plans for their chosen race.  A question I have received from Daniel, Missy and others is in regard to the percentages assigned to the quality workouts.  An example workout is mile repeats at 85%.  The basic question was percentage of what?  The basic answer is percentage of effort.
We know that at specific percentages of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) different training effects occur.  Because oxygen consumption is a very elaborate and equipment intense thing to measure we can rely on heart rate due to the very close correlation.
Now I know I just lost many of you because you tried the heart rate monitor thing and hated it because you felt like you were always running too hard (or too easy).  Without going into more detail than the scope of this post I will bet you were using bad predictive numbers based on a bell curve formula.  If we know your actual maximum heart rate and plug it into the Karvonen formula we can get you some useful numbers.  For example a maximum heart of 185 and resting HR of 45 equals a reserve of 140.  If we multiply this number by 85% we get 119 and by adding back the resting 45 beats per minute we get a target HR of 164 and a target zone of 159-169.
Using the right maximum number and this formula help us arrive at a heart rate correlating to VO2.  It is also worth mentioning that significant dehydration will also drive up heart rate numbers due to the decreased blood volume level requiring more beats per minute to deliver oxygen.
I have used heart rate in my own training since 1988 and in my coaching since 1991 and have a great deal of confidence in the benefits.  However, I like it best as part of my "Effort Dashboard" along with pace, perceived exertion, aerobic pressure, and muscular tension.
Used in this context the issues with each of these measurement tools are overcome by their collective strength.


The Irreplaceable Training Benefits of Racing

In a recent post season review meeting, one of my runners expressed their realization that they would race better if they actually practiced racing as part of their training.  Exactly!  I have been amazed at the number of runners who assign no value to racing unless it is a marathon or half marathon goal race.  As this is the time many begin to refocus on preparing for fall it seems like a really good time to lay out the reasons that actually racing may make you a better racer when it matters most.

1) Improving Running Economy, the energy cost of running a given pace, requires work at and above race effort.  I know a t-shirt and a post-race Popsicle make this kind of hard work much more enjoyable than doing it in a workout.  How many times can you really put forth 10 kilometers of maximum race effort in training?  I would bet not many.

2) What happens when you pin on a race number?  Some people lose their minds and do things they know are crazy even when they are doing them and cannot stop themselves.  Learning what silliness may ensue after applying safety pins is a valuable lesson.

3) Learn to quiet the noise.  The ability to quiet the head noise and relax, focus, and push simultaneously takes game day practice and is an irreplaceable tool on the big day.

4) In-race decision making separates the fit and those that cash in their fitness.  You can count on something going awry on race day.  Weather, course, late start, bad pacer, misplaced aid station or mile marker and so many other things can fail to be ideal.  Knowing what works when plan A is no longer in play makes the most of what the day offers.

5) Big races present logistical challenges walking out the door or driving to the park do not.  How much time to allow to get to the race, for packet pick up, warming up, gear check, endless bathroom lines, chaotic starts, cheering fans, hovering helicopters, and the list that goes on requiring some live rehearsal so you can focus on the one thing that matters most -the actual race.

6) Racing tests your nutritional plan by requiring digestion with the added butterflies in the stomach, heavier breathing, magnified dehydration, and the additional energy requirements of maximum effort and increased distance.  The things that work well for lower intensities and shorter durations may need tweaking for your best performance.

7) Racing's purity is about finding your limits.  How fast can you get to the finish?  How hard can you push your competition before one of you breaks?  How hard can you go for how long?  Training prepares you for these challenges but only racing will give you the answers.

So how much should you race to get the full training benefit?  It will certainly vary but a good rule of thumb for an 18 week marathon buildup would be about 5 races (~1/2 Marathon, 15K or 10M, and 3 x 5K-10K).  For a 13 week half marathon buildup 4 races would be good (15K or 10M, and 3 x 5K-10K).  For distances shorter than a half marathon averaging a race every 3 weeks of varying distances would be great preparation.  See you at the races!

Is it Time for a Running Break?

“Running is a sport of passion and enthusiasm and a planned break allows for recovery and rejuvenation.”

Running physiology in its most simple terms is stress + rest = improvement.  Make no mistake that to be your best there must be a great amount of stress in the form of training quality and volume.  However, without the correct balance of rest your body cannot adapt to your work and at best you stop improving and at worst end up physically injured or mentally fried.

Most of your training week will be resting and recovering.  What constitutes rest will vary from runner to runner.    For many, a day off or an easy 3-4 miles will be an ideal recovery day.  On the elite level a low intensity 8-12 miles in the morning and another easy 4-6 miles in the evening for a 12-18 mile day will do the same thing.  Knowing how much recovery you need to get full training benefit from previous work and to be ready for the next hard session or race is very important to know. 

Let’s talk about longer periods of rest that you should consider once or twice a year.  Running is a sport of passion and enthusiasm and without these in abundance running is simply no fun.  A planned break of a week or two once or twice a year can safeguard against physical breakdown but perhaps more importantly allow for emotional and mental recovery and rejuvenation.  Much like the daily recovery ranging from a complete day off to an easy 18 miles these breaks may look a great deal different from person to person.

When planning your break identify how much of your running is for racing preparation, exercise, and mental refreshment from daily life.  Your break may still include some light running to maintain some level of exercise and the mental break from real life you need.  But by getting away from looking at it as training for a little while you will be ready to go back to work after the break.

While the specifics should vary for runners at different levels and psychological make ups, here is a recommendation for your annual or semiannual break. 

Week One:         Very little to no running.  Possibly include some light cross-training for exercise and not to replace your run training.  Take most days completely off.

Week Two:         Some light running but nothing you would consider “training”.

Week Three:      Mostly relaxed running bringing your mileage back up to the low end of your normal range.

Week Four:        Add some quality and get back to business.

You don’t think you need a break?  You may be right, but I encourage you to look at this perspective.  When you run a hard workout most would agree the next day should be easy.  It is not that you could not have run harder or longer but you keep it easy to recover and get the training benefit from the previous day’s work, but also to be ready for what is to come.  The same is true for the planned break.  You may not need it in May, but we want you to be ready for the long buildup to your most important race in the fall.  If that is 18-26 weeks away you may benefit from a break somewhere and now is the ideal time, not when you are building training momentum close to the end of the year goal.

How do you know if you need a break?  This is a good time to evaluate your history.  Do you find during long training periods your enthusiasm for the daily work and the big goal wanes and it begins to feel like a job and you just want to be done with the race?  Do you find you tend to drag little aches and pains around that inhibit consistent healthy training?  Are there people or things that have not gotten the time and attention they deserve?  If so, a break to reset mentally, get completely healthy, and to reestablish life balance is a really good idea.

Take What the Day Offers - Reducing Race Day Stress

With most of the important spring races coming in the next few weeks it may be a good time to simplify your focus to perform your best.  It is normal to think primarily in terms of time or place goals, particularly with races of importance.  The internal and external pressure that affixes to these expectations can be motivating or debilitating depending on your personality.  If you tend to let these goals and accompanying expectations become so heavy they inhibit your performance, I encourage you to simplify what you allow to run through your head during race week. 

By all means prepare your best with your challenging goals in mind but when it comes to race day focus on taking what the day offers.  Let’s take a quick inventory of what you can and cannot control.  This is a worthwhile exercise because the uncontrollable variables are what create most of the havoc in a runner’s mind on race day.

Let’s start with what can you control.  First and foremost you can control effort.  Effectively managing effort and energy expenditure will take care of pace and therefore the finish time.  It works best in this order and not as well in the reverse. 

Also, powerfully, you can control your thoughts and therefore your attitude.  When presented with bad conditions look with a positive attitude how you can make the most of the situation. For example, race day and the first really hot day of the year collide.  By recognizing the effect of these bad conditions you can adjust your expectations and move ahead of those unwilling to capitulate to the reality of the day.  Some of whom you otherwise have no chance to beat.

Lastly, with good planning most logistics are under your control.  Perhaps you know traffic gets crazy close to race time so you can arrive earlier and make sure you can be relaxed and ready for the start.

Variables beyond your control include weather, course, competition, and some logistics.  If the weather report includes words like “unseasonably” or “record” your time goal may be out window and starting on plan “B” or “C” as discussed earlier may save the day.

You can prepare for a challenging course but it is the exception and not the rule that a person has a faster time at the Big Sur Marathon than the Monumental Marathon.   Great preparation may even the courses to some degree but true mountains are hard to move.

If the bus for the Kenyan School for the Gifted pulls up to the start line you might not end up in the same place as if their field trip was at another race.  However, you might get pulled along to a personal best with a better competition level.

If the course cannot really handle the number of people running creating bottlenecks or any other unforeseen or uncontrollable logistical impediment arises your performance may be marred.  Deal with it the best you can on the run and then mark “less than satisfied” on your customer comment card.

With the big race approaching focus on what you can control and adjust for that which you cannot.  When you feel that race day panic creeping in remind yourself to run smart, run hard, and take what the day has to offer.

Increasing Your Training ROI

You are spending valuable time and energy on your training so it is wise to evaluate if it is giving you the best possible return on investment.  We can categorize any workout into one or a combination of four training types.  1) Endurance-The ability to keep going.  2) Stamina-The ability to maintain a pace. 3) Economy-The energy cost of running a given pace. 4) Speed-The ability to run faster than race pace.  I will start with stating the obvious but hang in there with me for a few more sentences and we will get to the less obvious and more valuable.  You can prioritize these in order from 1 to 4 for longer races and from 4 to1 for shorter races.  OK, with that out of the way let’s figure out the type of training or more specifically the right blend of training that will give you the biggest return on the time and energy you spend running.

Begin by taking a look at the requirements for your chosen race distance.  For the purposes of our discussion let’s say it is the half marathon.  The best half marathoners will incorporate and possess all of these training types and benefits on race day.  But let’s get back to you and how we determine your focus in training.  You may be able to evaluate what you already know about yourself or get indications from workouts, but the surest way is to race a variety of distances.  For a half marathon goal race I would like to see a 5K, 8 or 10K, and 15K or 10 mile race leading up to the half.  Plotting these on an equivalent performance chart will show you where the greatest opportunity exists.

If you struggle to make it to the finish without having to slow down very significantly or having to walk then endurance (getting to the finish) needs to be your focus.  This is obviously the primary task for beginners or veterans taking on a new longer distance.  Simply run more and increase the distance of your long runs.  Add another run or two or a few more miles to your week.  Remember the increases must be gradual and progressive.  For this type of training it is OK to run slower in order to run longer.

If you can get to the finish or can run way beyond 13.1 miles but find the last 3-5 miles are slower than the first 8-10 you have displayed either a poor race plan or a need for more stamina.  As soon as finishing is no longer in doubt and time becomes more important to you stamina training becomes key.  This is typically threshold training.  Which threshold you ask?  Pick one (aerobic, anaerobic, ventilatory, lactate, etc…) because they all tend to end up at about the same effort.  They are all in the sweet spot of high end aerobic training.  Longer intervals with relatively short rest or longer sustained steady state or tempo runs will do the trick.

You have found you can run forever and maintain a solid pace for a long time.  The problem is that at half marathon goal pace you find it becomes very serious business quickly enough you know you cannot carry that effort for 13 miles.  You now can either adjust your goal or keep working towards goal pace with an increased emphasis on economy training.  This is real work and much of it is done in that uncomfortable spot above the aforementioned threshold varieties.  This is typically done in intervals or shorter sustained runs at race pace or faster.  A great way to do this training is to run shorter races.  Something about a t-shirt and a cookie at the end makes this type of training more enjoyable.

You now have checked off the first three training types and everything is going great until someone in the pack throws in a surge and you are already in top gear and cannot cover the move.  Or worse, everything is going great and the finish line is in sight and then the train comes roaring past and you lose a few spots within meters of the finish.  You now have, yes, the need for speed.  Running at speeds you cannot maintain more than 15 to 90 seconds will improve biomechanical efficiency, recruit fast twitch fibers, and in most cases help learn to buffer lactic acid.  You may find that your genetic code will only allow so much improvement in this area and you need to spend a little time sharpening what you have but go back and increase your stamina and economy even more to minimize this weakness.

You will need to keep all four training types in the mix.  It is just that mix that can be adjusted for better results.  You can use the feedback from regular racing and evaluation of your training to compare your current endurance, stamina, economy, and speed with the demands of the most important race on the horizon to adjust your training for the greatest return on investment.

February Matters - Make It Count

Aziz Atmani, Indy's & PBT's 1st Mini Finisher in 2014

Aziz Atmani, Indy's & PBT's 1st Mini Finisher in 2014

Thinking about racing this spring?  If so, be sure to make February count.  If you recall last winter and all the cold days with bad footing due to the inordinate snowfall and slow melts you know it was a very trying period to train.  Fast forward to a beautiful day in early May and you would find me a bit surprised how much faster the times were at the Mini versus one year prior.  The weather in 2014 on race day was 55 at the start and 57 at the 2:00:00 mark compared to 60 and 65 the prior year, but that did not seem like enough to counter the earlier prolonged training conditions.  You can see the comparative numbers below but to highlight what happened was that up front the race was much faster.  It took 30 seconds per mile faster to make the top 20.  I sent the numbers for the top finishers to a few of my runners including Dan Ball my de facto statistician for Personal Best Training.  As usual he looked into the trend a bit further and we saw that the much faster race at the top quickly transitioned to a much slower race towards the middle and back.  You can take a look at the numbers and draw your own conclusions but these are mine.

To those that running is very important the weather was aggravating but something to be dealt with and overcome.  Therefore they were able to take advantage of better race day conditions and a more competitive elite field.  As we work through the finishers the importance of running begins to fade and common sense increases keeping many people from what they would have done with a more mild winter.

We know that consistency in training is one of the most unglamorous yet most effective predictors of success.  The struggle with bad weather highlighted this importance.

While one may be able to get “in shape” in 2 months, to be race ready or actually improve from previous years in 60 days is much less likely.  Already being in shape with 60 days to go and being able to train at a high level for that period is a whole different ballgame.

A longer training period allows for a gentler yet still progressive buildup.  This keeps training more fun and greatly reduces the injury risk of trying to compress 3-4 months of training into 2.

If you fall into the category of those that reduce or stop running at some point in November or December and combine it with a sporadic January & February you end up with more time off than time training since your last race in the fall.  This is rarely a recipe for personal bests.

With a much milder winter this year I hope your training is way ahead of 2014.  If not, start now.  Begin with consistency even if that requires indoor training on track or treadmill or even something else that is aerobic, uses your legs, and causes sweating and heavy breathing.  Get started now and enjoy the payoff when the spring racing season has sprung.

Here are the numbers for the top finishers from the 2 years.


10th/1:04:34/1:09:18 2014 was faster by 4:44/21 seconds per mile

20th/1:07:40/1:14:07 2014 was faster by 6:27/30 seconds per mile

50th/1:16:09/1:18:33 2014 was faster by 2:24/11seconds per mile

100th/1:20:32/1:21:43 2014 was faster by 1:11/5 seconds per mile

500th/1:32:01/1:31:16 2014 was SLOWER by 45 seconds/3 seconds per mile

1,000/1:38:03/1:37:03 2014 was slower by 60 seconds/5 seconds per mile

(112 places or 11% in that 60 seconds)

2,500/1:47:33/1:45:35 2014 was slower by 1:58/9 seconds per mile

5,000/1:56:53/1:54:41 2014 was slower by 2:12/10 seconds per mile

10,000/2:12:35/2:07:36 2014 was slower by 4:59/23 seconds per mile

20,000/3:00:41/2:40:26 2014 was slower by 20:15/1 minute 33 seconds per mile