Category Archives: Training

Posts about workouts and training.

Six Athletes, Six PRs, Five BQs with Run SMART Project Jack Daniels Marathon Training

All the ingredients of success were there. But what would happen on race day? I knew my six friends were ready to race well, but the results knocked my compression socks off.

Earlier this year, I volunteered to coach Tina, Karen, Chris, Mark, Natalie, and Cheryl for fall marathons. I delivered weekly workouts using the Run SMART Project VDOT Coach app and also posted the workouts on Facebook. Run SMART Project provided the Jack Daniels Marathon Training Plan and we set individualized VDOT training paces for each athlete using the VDOT Running Calculator, which is embedded in VDOT Coach. Then we got down to some serious training. We did a lot of workouts and long runs together and it was a blast.

Now I’ll introduce my friends and let them tell you about their training and racing experiences in their own words.

Steamtown 2015, 3:43:53, PR by 2:10 and first-time BQ

Tina (right) with Theresia, who paced Tina to her BQ & PR (Photo by Gwen)

Tina (right) with Theresia, who paced Tina to her BQ & PR (Photo by Gwen)

Total previous marathons: 16
Previous PR: 3:46:03 (Steamtown Marathon 2014)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: The program and the coaching were top notch.  All the quality workouts were comfortably hard, and I always felt good when I hit the pace (which didn’t always happen).  The VDOT O2 App was good and easy to use.  The training program prepared me better for my marathon than I’ve ever been prepared before, and of course having Tim as a coach made it so much better.

Race day: The two marathons I ran after putting in my 16 weeks with the VDOT program were two of the best and most well-paced marathons I have ever had.  I had nutrition right, and I never felt like I hit a wall and had to stop and walk (a first for me in marathons).  I ran my best time and my third best time after the 16 weeks of training with this program, and my body felt strong even towards the end, which is completely different for me!

Favorite workout: I loved the track work and especially the 800s.  I felt like they pushed me to work hard, but didn’t overwork my body.

I thought this was a great program. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to increase their pace for a marathon.  I never in a million years thought I would run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and here I am with a BQ after this program.  My first marathon (5:35) was almost 2 full hours slower than I ran Steamtown this year.  Thanks to the VDOT training program I feel much more confident about my overall marathon and my pacing, as well!

Steamtown Marathon 2015, 3:16:45, first-time marathon, PR and a BQ


Karen puts her track speed to good use in the final miles (Photo by Gwen)

Total previous marathons: 0

Training and coaching: I followed the training plans that Tim sent out weekly starting in June to prepare for an October marathon. I liked that there were two quality workouts each week and the focus wasn’t always on going as fast or hard as you can, but instead it was an achievable pace (Threshold) – not like the repetition paced workouts I was used to in college and high school. Because I was trained very differently in my school years (for a different distance too) I wasn’t sold on the Threshold pace right away. I remained patient and confident in trying an approach to training that was new to me – later finding out that the way I knew was “old school” or at least not geared towards marathon training.

Race day: Then came race day. I knew I was well rested and took it very easy the final week of taper as written in the workout plan. When I ran the marathon, I was pleased to see how great I felt! I maintained my predicted marathon pace or faster for the entire race!! Not just was it my first marathon, but I felt it was one of my best races ever because of how strong, fast, and confident I felt.

Favorite workout: 18 miles with 14 miles at Marathon Pace. It was a really hard one to complete but I like that it got me out there and practicing what my goal MP would feel like for this length of time. It was a nice long run that allowed me to not only focus on my stride and pacing, but also think through my race strategy according to how I was feeling in this workout. For example, I started out running in the 7:20’s and 7:30’s and I came to realize that I should stick closer to the goal pace calculated for me and to have patience. I exceeded my predicted time on race day and felt great.

On a final note, not only was the training plan so well thought out to the very detail, but Tim was so knowledgeable about the how and why behind every workout. I went to him with various questions throughout training to find out why we were running at certain paces vs. others or why we weren’t doing a certain distance as a repeat and how that specific training would transfer to the marathon race. He always addressed my concerns very professionally and educated me on the how and the why. He stayed true to Jack Daniels’ training approach and strategy. It made sense to me to hear his explanations and it helped me to further entrust in the training. I never doubted Tim or his recommended training, but instead wanted exactly what he gave me, a solid answer that made sense.

Steamtown 2015, 3:37:48, PR by 17:38

Chris bringing home a negative split (Photo by Gwen)

Chris bringing home a negative split (Photo by Gwen)

Total previous marathons: 4
Previous PR: 3:55:26 (New York City Marathon 2014)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: I loved working with a coach and being accountable. The support and camaraderie of running with others with the same goal encouraged me to take on a tougher regimen than I would have on my own. The VDOT Calculator was a great tool to set the right paces for the various workouts. It would be nice if the VDOT O2 App could link to Garmin or Strava, so it pulled in the run data automatically.

Race day: I was cautious through my taper and set a conservative goal, because I wasn’t sure what I would be able to do – I felt strong, but didn’t know how that would translate. I was able to maintain a comfortable pace through the first 16 miles and then gradually began to open it up. Busted through the wall with my fastest mile at mile 21, and cruised the rest of the way in. Was able to pull a negative split from 1st half to 2nd half. I think the mix of training and a solid nutrition plan really helped me have enough energy late in the race to maintain a strong pace. I had never done that well in the last 10k of a marathon before.

Favorite workout: Any of the Interval or Repetition pace workouts. I liked the feeling of going fast. It helped me understand what I could do at the top end. I think the most beneficial workouts were the long Marathon pace runs – learning how to maintain that pace in training really helped me handle it in the race.

Overall I’m very pleased in the results the Daniels’ method provided my first time through the program. I look forward to using it again and being able to apply what I’ve learned this time to improve even further and eventually BQ!

Steamtown Marathon 2015, 3:26:45, PR by 10:19 and a BQ

Mark (right) tearing it up on the way to a big PR (Photo by Gwen)

Mark (right) tearing it up on the way to a big PR (Photo by Gwen)

Total previous marathons: 4
Previous PR: 3:37:04 (New Jersey Marathon 2015)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: I don’t think I would have had the results I had at the Steamtown Marathon if it weren’t for the training program Tim put together. His words of encouragement helped a great deal. My goal was to beat my first marathon time by an hour. My first marathon was the Philly marathon in November of 2013. The VDOT O2 app was very useful. Having each of the workouts posted on my calendar helped me prepare for the quality sessions. Plus, scheduling my workouts with other members of our team was much easier having everything in one place. Would like to see an iPhone version of the calendar. Would be nice to be able to update your workout results on your smartphone.

Race day: I felt very comfortable going into this race. Last year I was a nervous wreck. Knowing that I had done this training helped give me the confidence boost I needed to achieve these results. My plan was to keep a pace of 7:50/mile during the race. I felt very comfortable with this pace throughout most of the race. When I hit mile 24, I started getting a little tired. But, I believe that was due to the lack of drinking & food intake during the last half of the race.

Favorite workout: My favorite workouts were the Marathon pace runs. I also enjoyed the hilly long runs. Doing this training with a group of people was awesome! It was great to see how everyone was so enthusiastic.

Chicago Marathon 2015, 3:34:41, PR by 1:25 and a BQ

Natalie takes the Windy City by storm!

Natalie takes the Windy City by storm!

Total previous marathons: 9
Previous PR: 3:36:06 (New Jersey Marathon 2014)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: I really liked the two quality workouts per week approach.  These workouts “forged” me to go out on days that I didn’t feel my best, but they paid off during my races.  Individualized attention and shared aspirations helped me define and meet my goals.  Tim customized the training plan for me because of my monthly marathon races. He is always available for any questions and provides great tips for injury prevention, nutrition, and fueling. Tim is amazing!  The VDOT O2 App was very easy to use and provided very accurate prediction on my races.  I forgot to wear a watch on my 10k race and I finished that race on the predicted 10k time from the VDOT O2 App, pretty amazing!

Race day: I had a great race despite the heat in Chicago.  The night before the race, Tim shared the heat adjusted calculator from the VDOT 02 App.  I went into the race to do my best, but didn’t think I would PR due to the heat, so I adjusted my goal.  I started out with the 3:45 pace group and hoped to finish with them.  I felt very good after mile 18 and went for a PR instead.  The last 6 miles of the race, all I could think of was the interval workouts Tim had us do, and I believe I ran my fastest 10k of any marathon during the last 6.2 miles.  I felt great at the end, a few volunteers from the race told me that they have never seen anyone so happy after running a marathon.

Favorite workout: 3×2 mile Threshold workout.

Marine Corps Marathon 2015, 3:38:33, PR by 8:13 and a BQ

Cheryl after MCM - One very happy running girl!!

Cheryl after MCM – One very happy running girl!!

Total previous marathons: 4 (All BQs)
Previous PR: 3:46:46 (Boston Marathon 2014)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: The VDOT O2 App was relatively easy, but I did have trouble with the cumulative miles, which Tim always kindly adjusted. The speed workouts definitely made the difference for me. Completing them gave me more confidence.

Race day: For MCM, I ran a faster and more consistent pace than in any of my previous marathons.

Favorite workout: Threshold workouts were my favorite, not for the fact that they were hard as hell usually, but seeing them on the calendar and thinking there is no way I can do this, and then completing them, sometimes a lot better than I thought I would, made me feel more bad ass and gave me the confidence to get through the tough times… kinda like knowing I could dig deep and get it done.

Despite my minor ankle set back and not starting from week one with the program, I think the whole plan/approach is great!!! Tim’s knowledge and guidance through the whole process was top of the line. I feel my PR is a direct reflection of this program and his expertise. I look forward to really concentrating on another PR for Boston 2016!! Thanks!!

I ran Steamtown with Tina, Karen, Mark, and Chris, and never had so much fun at a race. Karen flew by me at around mile 16 and it was a great feeling to see her passing everyone. Then Mark did the same thing at mile 23 and he was also flying past everyone in front of him. There were over thirty people running from our local running groups and we had a gigantic crowd cheering each finisher as they crossed. Chris came through with his huge PR and then we watched every second tick off the clock as we waited for Tina. Then someone saw her coming down the hill. Could she do it? She did. Tina finally got her BQ!

Mark and Tina after Steamtown (Photo by Gwen)

Mark and Tina after Steamtown (Photo by Gwen)

How to Run Steamtown Like a Champion: Q&A with Heidi Peoples!

“The marathon is a beast of a race, and training should not be taken lightly. It takes dedication and a strong commitment to training.” Heidi Peoples

Welcome to Heidi Peoples, 3-time Steamtown Marathon Champion, 2-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon with a PR of 2:39:48, and Run SMART Project private coach! Heidi has graciously agreed to answer training and racing questions from members of our local running groups here in the Philly area as we prepare for the Steamtown Marathon on October 11th, 2015.


Heidi’s wins at Steamtown came in 2008, 2010, and 2012 and she set the course record with her PR in 2010. While her fall racing plans are not yet set, she is considering several races that would provide an opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Trials for a third time. Steamtown is not a trials qualifier, but it is still a possibility as Heidi has twice run both Steamtown and the Philly Marathon during the same year. Heidi is also considering Chicago and New York as options.

Heidi joined the Run SMART Project coaching staff in 2011 and has many success stories coaching runners of all levels. You can check them out here:

We have scores of local runners who will be racing at Steamtown this year, and many of us are chasing PRs and BQs. I’m sure we will be hanging on Heidi’s every word as we gear up our fall marathon training plans in search of any possible advantage in training for and racing this speedy downhill point-to-point course in Scranton, PA.

Here’s the Steamtown Marathon course profile from the race website,

Steamtown Profile

Heidi’s post, Preparing for Downhill Races is an absolute “Must Read” for anyone racing Steamtown, Boston, or any other downhill course and it’s a great intro to our questions below.

OK, so let’s get started with the Q&A! The Facebook post below is how we first received the questions from our local runners. Heidi replied via email, and then we spoke over the phone to follow-up on a few topics and to talk more about Heidi’s coaching and her plans for the fall racing season.

FB Screenshot

The questions fell into three categories, Training for Steamtown, Racing Steamtown, and General Training Questions:

Training for Steamtown

Lynn: How do you do the downhill training for Steamtown or Boston if you don’t have those same lengths/miles of downhill to train on nearby?

Heidi: You have some options. You can also enter a half marathon with a similar elevation profile. Once or twice before the marathon, you can a drive to an area which does have a long length of downhill. Another, less time consuming, alternative is doing hill repeats over a shorter distance.”

Lynn: What type of MP (Marathon Pace) long runs do you do, and do you incorporate the hills at the end of them or do separate hill training workouts?

Heidi: For my long runs, I have also been incorporating hills, tempos, and speed – I focus on one of them when I train.   Incorporating hills into the long run is very helpful, especially finding a route with long downhills first. Scranton is full of hills, so my runs usually include them.”

Tim: Did you have a favorite “go-to” hill workout when training for your three Steamtown wins?

Heidi: “I have a nice 10-mile loop starting from my doorstep. It starts with a gradual incline, but has a significant drop, and finishes with a slight incline. I like to accelerate a lot on the downs, and make sure I am ready for the uphill at the end.”

Follow-Up: During our phone call, I asked Heidi for a few ideas on how to incorporate hills, tempos, and speed; she provided several examples:heidi.freihofers06

  • Incorporate a 3-mile tempo into a long run.
  • Do a 3x2k or 2x2mi tempo on a downhill stretch.
  • Do 3 x1 mi at Threshold Pace downhill.
  • Do 800 intervals on a shorter downhill stretch.
  • Mix downhills into a Marathon Pace workout.
  • Do 400 repeats at a faster pace.

On a week when combining a quality pace workout into a long run, the second quality workout of the week could be adjusted to be lighter, 2×2 minutes at Threshold or Interval pace during an easy run for example.

Racing Steamtown

We know there are some fast times out there to be had, but we want to do everything right to take advantage of that opportunity on race day:

Terry: How have you approached Steamtown’s course pace-wise – both in terms of plan and actual outcome?

SteamtownHeidi: With Steamtown the golden rule is do NOT try to bank time in the first half of the race. Even though the race begins with downhills and ends with a few uphills, it is best to keep an even pace. During my best Steamtown race, I felt like I was holding back for the first half of the race. Once I hit the 13.1 mile mark, I started increasing my pace.”

“For my first Steamtown race, the early downhill miles seemed too easy, so I ran a little too hard in the beginning, and felt the effects around mile 20. My second time around, I ran my marathon PR. I learned from my mistakes and ran very close to an even pace. When I run a race, I was told to visualize that I am running the distance I have left. For example, at 13.1 miles, I try to pick up the pace and become a half marathon runner, with a 10k left, I tell myself I am racing a 10k. This helps me focus on the distance I have left.”


Tim: Did you run negative splits for your PR? If so, by how much?

Heidi: “I do believe I very slightly ran faster for the second half – I think I was 1:20 at the half, but I am not certain of this.”

Tina: How do you plan for the hills at the end after running downhill for 20+ miles?

Heidi: As long as you have done your hill training and do not run the first half of the race too hard, they are not too bad. You will have a lot of crowd support along the way to help boost you up them as well. With each Steamtown I have done, I knew at the 18-mile mark whether or not it was going to be a good race.”

Laura: How do you fuel, during training, leading up to the race, and along the course?

Heidi: This really depends on personal preferences and food choice. There are several ways you can get the same nutritional values from food. I try to reduce my sugar intake a few weeks before the marathon. I focus on eating a variety of healthy foods and making sure I get enough protein to recover from long runs. During my long runs, I experiment on what type of nutrition I will do for the actual race – that way I am prepared on race day.”

“During a marathon, I drink at every water stop alternating between water and Gatorade/PowerAde. After every 40 minutes of running, I take a gel – my favorite is the vanilla PowerGel because it does not seem as thick as most gels. After the race, I focus on eating protein to repair and replenish my body.”

General Training Questions

We had a few great questions on getting back into racing shape after giving birth and on training in general:

Claire: Do you do any strength training or drills to stay injury free?

Heidi: “I did not do any drills until recently, but I do believe they help. High knees, jumping exercises, squats, and lunges are a few of the ones I do now. I have always incorporated core training focusing on each abdominal group.”

Marita: What helped you the most postpartum? What did you do to help you recover safely for you & baby?

Heidi: What helped me the most was continuing to run throughout pregnancy. I was fortunate to be able to run up until the day I gave birth with all of my children.   I never looked at the pace I was running or did any speed workouts, and ran for time. After giving birth, I really tried to listen to my body. Mentally, it was difficult not to run. I tried to return to running gradually, but as soon as possible.”


Tim: In your experience, what is the biggest change the typical recreational runner can make in their marathon training to get to the next level?

Heidi: The marathon is a beast of a race, and training should not be taken lightly. It takes dedication and a strong commitment to training. It also takes a considerable amount of mental strength. To get to the next level, runners must make sure they do their long runs and incorporate speed workouts. The biggest mistake I see is people allowing themselves a short period of training to prepare for the race.”

Follow-Up: During our call, I asked Heidi, “How long should an experienced runner rest after a marathon before starting quality workouts again, including someone running back-to-back marathons?”

Heidi replied that two marathons per year is ideal if you are racing them all-out each time. You can’t race all-out every month; micro-tears occur in muscles that may not be obvious, but they require adequate recovery. After a marathon, take two weeks off. Do non-impact training if you wish to continue with some type of training during the two weeks of rest following the race. Gradually get back into it.

Finally, if someone is interested in having you coach them for Steamtown or for any other race, how can they do that?

A HUGE THANKS to Heidi for sharing her experience and expertise in training for and racing Steamtown or any other marathon for that matter! I’m sure it will help many of us conquer the hills of Scranton this fall, and if you really want to take it to the next level, contact Heidi about private coaching!

Qualifying for Boston in New York City

Written by Jason Saltmarsh

Tim Jones and I have had the pleasure of running together a couple of times. The first time was an early morning training run around the University of Delaware campus. Then again, at the 2014 Gore-Tex Philadelphia Half Marathon as members of the Gore Running team. Tim is a great masters runner and a good friend. We’ll meet again in Boston next April. I can’t wait.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

Qualifying for Boston is something that defines distance runners. Even non-runners know that the Boston Marathon is something special. I live 45 minutes outside of Boston and around here it’s the only race that matters.

“Oh, you ran a marathon in New York City? Good fuh you. Whattabout Boston?”

That is word for word, exactly what the elderly librarian at the town library said to me the weekend after my first marathon.

New York City Marathon 2013

It was my first marathon. I was a rookie with no idea what I was in for that day. I walked around the city like a tourist the day before the race. I went out too fast and was ahead of pace at mile 13. I didn’t fuel with anything other than a drink of Gatorade or water at every other aid station. To put it mildly, I was in over my head.

Battling the demons at mile 21

Battling the demons at mile 21

By the time I reached mile 20 I was crawling inside myself and mentally detaching from the race and the people around me. I was introduced to a new kind of suffering that slowed my pace from 7-minute miles to 9-minute miles. My race photos show a determined face staring at the three feet of pavement directly in front of me. Every ragged stride was a small victory.

By the time I crossed the line the clock had reached 3:26:15. I missed my BQ by 11:15 (40-44). The Timex magnet with my official New York City Marathon time on it, would mock me from its place on the refrigerator for the next 12 months. I was happy to complete the distance but unhappy that I had sabotaged myself by running like a newbie.

New York City Marathon 2014

This was the race that qualified me for Boston in 2016. I was a savvy veteran this time around. I rested properly, I ate well, and I had a plan for my pacing and my fueling along the course. And, as a guest of ASICS, I also had an awesome pep talk from some of the best runners in the world.

This is why we do it!

This is why we do it!

Not even the record-setting 50 mph headwinds could keep me from reaching my goal. The blustery winds were so fierce that I literally ran sideways crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The temps were chilly too. This wasn’t a BQ kind of day.

But it was. I ran a great race and followed my plan. I crossed into the Bronx with my head held high and hurdled the wall that other runners crash into at that stage in the race. I fist pumped to the crowd and roared out loud as I ran towards Central Park. I crossed the line in 3:20:01 and beat my qualifying standard by almost 5 minutes (45-49).

Can You Qualify for Boston in New York City?

You can absolutely qualify for Boston by running the New York City Marathon. New York is 3rd on the list of races that qualifiers come from to get into Boston. The only two in front of it are Chicago and Boston.

Photo Credit

Photo Credit

Pros of New York City as a Qualifier for Boston

  • The Hype – New York City is one of the biggest and most celebrated cities in the world. On marathon weekend everyone is talking about one thing- the race. You can’t get that level of hype anywhere else. It’s like a running mecca. All out media blitz.
  • The Size of the Race – 50,530 finishers! I don’t care how fast or slow you are, you’ll be surrounded by people who will carry you to the finish. Strength in numbers!
  • The Crowd – The spectators are unbelievably awesome! You cannot imagine what it’s like until you experience it for yourself. Almost 26.2 miles of rock star glory. The only quiet times are on the bridges where it gets eerily quiet and your ringing ears hear nothing but breathing and footsteps – thousands of them.
  • The City of New York– I challenge you to visit this city and not get goosebumps. It is an amazing place. The NYRR and the city of New York roll out a red carpet for the runners to tour the city in a way that nobody else ever can. Revel in it.

Cons of New York City as a Qualifier for Boston

  • The Course – The course is pretty hilly compared to other marathon courses. The bridges will challenge you. Especially, the first one. But, the real kicker is the rolling terrain of Central Park over the last 4 miles of the race.
  • The Size of the Race – There is a downside to running with 50,530 other runners. You can forget about running the tangents and you’ll be forced to slow your pace around the aid stations. A tip from me to you: estimate your time a little on the quick side. This may help you start with a group that won’t get in your way too much during the early miles of the race.

The New York City Marathon is an epic race. Every marathoner should try to run it at least once during their running years. It’s the kind of race that makes for good rocking chair stories no matter what pace you run.

JaJason Bio Picson Saltmarsh
Editor at Saltmarsh Running

Jason is an RRCA certified Adult Distance Running Coach and competitive masters runner from seacoast New Hampshire.  Twitter | Facebook

Welcome to the Club! Running My First Ultra at The North Face ECSDC GORE-TEX® 50 Mile


 Saturday Morning, April 18th, 2015

We ran single-file over rocks and roots as we climbed the hilly dirt trail along the Potomac River at daybreak. There were hundreds of us and we had been running since five o’clock that morning. Now we were strung out along this trail that skirted the lush dew-soaked fairways of the Trump National Golf Course before careening off into the woods, taking us high above the river as the sun broke through the early-morning haze.trail pic

We crossed a few creeks, rock-hopping across one, doing a balancing act on a branch across another. I was caked in mud after having fallen into a boggy quagmire in the darkness during the early miles, but I felt great.

“I can’t wait to see what 26.3 feels like,” I said to the guy in the orange singlet running just ahead of me on the trail.

“You’ve never run farther than a marathon?”

“No.” I replied.

He complimented me on taking on a 50-miler for my first ultra and asked me about my running and training. I told him how I had just qualified for Boston at the Tobacco Road Marathon, and we talked some more before I dialed back my pace as he cruised ahead.

Another thing I remember about my conversation with the guy in the orange singlet is that he said he liked running with first-time ultra runners because it allowed him to experience the race through a new set of eyes. I remember the conversation so well because that guy in the orange singlet was none other than the legendary Dean Karnazes.

Can you think of a better way to experience your first ultra than to log a few miles with the Ultramarathon Man himself? You gotta hear the rest of this story, but first let’s back up to the night before the race.

Friday Evening, April 17th, 2015

Gore Associate Cynthia Amon and I were having pre-race pasta dinner at Macaroni Grill in the Dulles Town Center. Several months back Cynthia had invited me to run The North Face ECSDC GORE-TEX® 50 Mile Race as a guest of GORE-TEX®.

I would train and race in Merrell Ascend Glove GORE-TEX® Trail Running Shoes and Gore Running Wear®. I ran the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Half Marathon as a member of team GORE-TEX® and loved running and staying dry in my Saucony Ride 7 GTX® shoes all winter.  I was excited to be running in some new GORE-TEX® trail shoes.

“As soon as I got your email inviting me to run the race, I called you right away to say YES!”

“Had you thought of doing an ultra before?”

“I had been toying with the idea of running my first ultra this year. I was thinking maybe a 50K. But when you asked, it seemed like it was meant to be.”

I went on to tell Cynthia how I had been listening to Dean Karnazes’ book, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, during the three-hour drive from my home outside of Philadelphia. The book was great motivation, but Dean’s description of his first 50-miler also gave me a very healthy respect for the distance. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. I gleaned every bit of advice that I could and told myself I would “run with my heart” when things got tough.

I had already logged a sixty-five mile week this year and was averaging over fifty miles-per-week, so I was ready to run long. Could I keep running for fifty miles?

The Race Start

At two-thirty a.m. my iPhone buzzed and the hotel phone rang. I was already awake. I got up, got dressed, drove to the shuttle bus pick-up, and I was off to the starting area at the Algonkian Regional Park. I checked my drop bag and downed a few cups of coffee.race startJust before the race started we heard an announcement that got the hundreds of assembled runners cheering: Dean Karnazes was running the 50-miler with us!

My GORE-TEX® Shoes & Gore Running Wear®

I started training in my GORE-TEX® Trail Running Shoes, the Merrell Ascend Glove GORE-TEX®, as soon as I received them.  My peak mileage week, two weeks out from the race, was seventy-six miles. I ran in wet and muddy conditions and my feet stayed dry and comfortable.

gtx shoeSee the GORE-TEX® logo on the front of the shoe? It’s not just there to look pretty. Through my experience visiting the Gore plants and racking up over seven hundred miles in GORE-TEX® shoes, I’ve learned exactly what it means when you see that logo on a shoe.

First, the shoe is both waterproof and breathable. The GORE-TEX® membrane keeps water out and allows sweat vapor to escape. Gore works with the top shoe manufacturers to not only integrate the GORE-TEX® lining that keeps your foot dry and comfortable, but to help design the entire shoe to be waterproof and breathable. And they do this for a good reason: even though the end-product is not made by Gore, they still 100% lifetime guarantee the shoe to be waterproof, windproof, and breathable.

GORE-TEX® is in the most popular shoes from top brands including Asics, Brooks, inov-8, La Sportiva, New Balance, Salomon, Saucony, Scott, and The North Face.

The rest of my race kit was from Gore Running Wear®: the X-Running 2.0 Zip Shirt, X-Running 2.0 Shorts, and a Gore Running Wear® Running Cap.

me pre-race

The Race

After my time running with Dean, I continued to enjoy the beautiful views while running up and down the successive three-hundred foot hills along the Potomac Heritage Trail. My pace stayed mostly in the nines for the first fifteen miles, sometimes the high nines, and I hit ten and eleven going up the steep hills. Mile ten was my fastest of the day at eight fifty-five. Little did I know I wouldn’t come close to those paces running back to the finish on this same trail many hours later.

My TomTom graphic below shows the course and the elevation profile. When we arrived at Great Falls Park, we did three seven-mile loops before returning on the Potomac Heritage Trail. You can see those three loops in the center of the elevation graph below:

tomtom The Great Falls Aid Station was at the entrance to the three loops. Our drop bags had been transported to Great Falls and we passed through that aid station a total of four times at miles 15.3, 22.2, 29.1, and 36.0. This picture shows me as I’m approaching Great Falls for the first time, still wearing my headlamp:


I was cranking out close to a nine minute mile at this point. The picture below shows me on my second pass through the Great Falls Aid Station:

great falls aid station

Somewhere during the second loop, after I took this picture, I had run farther than I had ever run in my entire life. I didn’t hit a wall or feel drastically different, my legs just got more tired as the miles built up. I hurt, but the experience was still amazing. Here are a few views from the Great Falls loops:

river view 1

There was a little rock-hopping required.

river view 2

This picture is from the third loop, approaching thirty-six miles, and I smiled for the camera:


I drank Gatorade from the beginning, carrying a bottle with me. I refilled it with electrolyte replacement drink throughout the entire race. I ditched the bottle in my drop bag for two of the Great Falls loops. I also drank plenty of Coke, Mountain Dew and water. I ate four Salted Caramel GUs, a pack of Cliff Blocks, a few bananas, a few bags of potato chips, some Skittles, and part of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was harder to eat after thirty-six miles; after forty-one, I stopped eating but kept drinking.

The trek back up the Potomac Heritage Trail was hard. I focused on “turning it over.” I walked up the steep hills and drank a lot at the aid stations. Each mile took forever.

I fell hard with about two miles to go and slammed headfirst into a bank full of scrub, scraping up my knee and attaching myself to some more mud and dirt. It was time to just grind it out.

Then all of a sudden I was crossing the parking lot and turning into the chute, finishing with a wave of kids from the Karno Kids’ Race. How cool. The last mile went by in a speedy ten thirty-five as the old horse smelled the barn and was determined to fight off a trip to the glue factory.

finish pic

When I finished I felt a combination of euphoria and exhaustion and it was a good feeling. There was also a letdown, the kind you feel after being close to a group when it’s time to say goodbye. Everyone encouraged each other out there. Former infantry officer Brandon stopped to help me out of the mud when I fell in the darkness. Veteran ultra runner Eric encouraged me during the tough miles in Great Falls, and then found me to congratulate me after the race even though he had finished well over an hour before I did. Ben got me back on course when I made a wrong turn. There were people saying, “Good work,” and “How you doin’ brother?” throughout the entire race.

These GORE-TEX® Shoes Were Made for this Race

This was the perfect race for the Merrell Ascend Glove GORE-TEX® shoes. Or maybe the shoes were perfect for this race. Or maybe both. I was ankle-deep in mud and water many times during the race, and we ran the first part of the race through grass that was saturated in dew. My feet might have been soaked for the entire fifty miles if I was not wearing shoes with GORE-TEX® in them.

At the aid stations, I saw people sitting on the ground taking their shoes and socks off, draining blisters, changing socks, changing shoes. I didn’t need to do any of that. My footwear was not an issue. My double-knotted laces stayed that way from three a.m. until I got back to my hotel room later that evening long after the race was over. The outside of the shoes looked like they had gone through a tough fifty-miles, by my feet were dry and comfortable the entire day.

shoe comparison

A few more shots of what fifty miles of comfort looked like:

fifty miles of comfort

I’ve run in GORE-TEX® shoes since last fall and have been running outside all winter in snow, slush, rain, wind, and a lot of times in sub-zero conditions. In sharp contrast, last winter, when I did not have my GORE-TEX® shoes and Gore Running Wear®, I ran outside exactly once. That really says it all.

Welcome to the Club!

Cynthia met me after I finished, congratulated me, and helped steer me into some shade and into a seat. I would not have been able to do that by myself at that point.

sitting down

After a brief rest, we went to the awards tent and I picked up my Hoo Rag, the prize for my age-group win. My finishing time was ten hours and eleven minutes. Next I picked up the shirt that instantly became my favorite race shirt ever:

race shirt

Then we met up with Dean again. I told him how much I enjoyed meeting him and running with him. He congratulated me on my first ultra and said he hoped to see me in Boston in 2016. I thought that was pretty cool that he remembered our early-morning conversation, even after he ran with so many different people throughout the day.

dean k and me post-race

When I recovered enough to operate my iPhone later the next day, I didn’t waste any time tweeting my thanks to all involved for a GR8 first ultra. The first reply I received was from that guy in the orange singlet:

welcome to the club

I BQ’ed by 21+ Minutes with The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project!

My 2015 running goal was to qualify for Boston. Done. Thanks Run S.M.A.R.T. Project!


This past Sunday, March 15th 2015, I ran the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, North Carolina. I needed a 3:40 to qualify for Boston. After training with my Run S.M.A.R.T. Project Jack Daniels Marathon Training Plan since December using the VDOT O2 App, I ran a 3:18:53, over 21 minutes under my BQ time. This was my 7th marathon and it was very different than any of the other six.

What was different? I was passing people for the entire second half of the race and ran a 5-minute negative split. Mile 26 was my second fastest mile in 7:15. I finished strong. I started the race with the 3:30 pace group, left them at mile 9, then caught and passed both the 3:25 and 3:20 pace groups before I hit the finish line.

I’ve never experienced this kind of strong second half in a marathon. In my previous marathons, I faded during the last 10K. Even for my 2004 2:53:14 PR in Philly, I slowed by 20 seconds per mile after the turn at 20. During my one trip to Boston in 2003, I ran a 12+-minute positive split, dragging myself past the CITGO sign and down Boylston Street in 3:12:22 after hitting the half in an even 1:30. But this past Sunday at Tobacco Road was a different story.

What I’ve learned from training with The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project Jack Daniels Marathon Plans over the past year is that each workout has a specific purpose. My easy runs were easy and enjoyable and the hard workouts were very hard, but I never felt overtrained. Just the opposite: I felt confident that I could bring it all together on race day.

One of my favorite workouts was the combined Threshold & Repetition pace workout we did on January 31st. The screenshot below shows the workout in the VDOT O2 App:

threshold 1

I posted this on Facebook and we had a good group respond and join in the workout:

workout post

Here are the splits:


Another huge day was the bunched long run we did on February 6th, 24 miles in one day. We did 12 miles early in the morning and then another 12 after work. The second 12 miles started just about twelve hours after the first 12.  We also had a lot of interest from our group in this run.  The picture below was taken after the first 12, but we were still smiling at the end of the day with 24 miles in the books!

12 Miles Part 1

When I entered my 3:18:53 time into the VDOT O2 App after Sunday’s race, I was prompted to answer whether or not I wanted my VDOT number to be updated based on this race performance.  Of course I did! And I went from a 44.35 to a 48.42 and my VDOT badge changed from gray to yellow. Looks like I’m getting faster with The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project. I’m looking forward to Boston 2016!


These are not your Father’s GORE-TEX® Running Shoes!

GORE-TEX® has been in running shoes since the 1970s, but the current generation of GTX® shoes are not your Father’s GORE-TEX® running shoes.  Heck, they’re not even your older cousin’s GORE-TEX® running shoes!  Today’s GORE-TEX® running shoes are light and flexible, provide climate-controlled running comfort under all weather conditions, and are offered in customized designs in some of the most popular running brands and styles including the Saucony Ride, Brooks Ghost, Brooks Adrenaline, ASICS Cumulus, ASICS GT 1000, and Saucony Xodus.  I learned this and a lot more during my recent trip to W. L. Gore and Associates with fellow Run Bloggers Jason and Kate.

The three of us are members of Team GORE-TEX® and Team Gore Running Wear® for the upcoming GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon.  Gore Associate Cynthia hosted us for our visit to W. L. Gore plants in Delaware and Maryland last Friday to learn firsthand about the Gore Running products we’re using to train for the race.

Gore Associate Brandon, Me, Gore Associate Cynthia, Jason, & Kate

Gore Associate Brandon, Me, Gore Associate Cynthia, Jason, & Kate

It was an amazing day and I’m excited to tell you about it.  I’ll talk about GORE-TEX® shoes in this post and I’ll cover Gore Running Wear® in later posts.  Our first stop was the Elk Creek Plant where Gore Associate Kirk showed us how GORE-TEX® is designed into running shoes.  I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about GORE-TEX®.

Gore Associate Kirk Christensen

Gore Associate Kirk

Did You Know How GORE-TEX® Technology Actually Works and Why it is Unique?

GORE-TEX® is unique because it does not allow liquid water to penetrate, but it allows water vapor to escape.  How does GORE-TEX® pull off this magic trick?  The GORE-TEX® membrane has over nine billion pores per square inch.  The pores are 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, but 700 times larger than a water vapor molecule.  This means that GORE-TEX® running shoes can be designed to push out as much sweat and heat as possible while still providing 100% guaranteed waterproof protection.  GORE-TEX® is unique because it is breathable, yet remains impenetrable by water.

I was surprised when I ran through wet grass in my new Saucony Ride 7 GTX® shoes; I did not get the wet saturated-sock feeling I’m used to after a few strides through thick wet grass.  The grass was very wet, and I saw the water drops on my shoes, but my feet stayed completely dry.  I’m looking forward to running in the rain with these shoes.

Wet Grass, Dry Feet

Wet Grass, Dry Feet

Keeping water out is only half the battle in controlling the micro-climate around our feet.  We were all amazed when we learned exactly how much our feet sweat when we’re running.  Each foot can produce 250 milliliters of sweat during a full day of running.  That means that during a four-hour marathon, our feet alone can produce over eight ounces of sweat!  The unique breathable GORE-TEX® membrane allows our feet to breathe, preventing them from getting too hot, while letting the sweat vapor escape.

GORE-TEX® is in Many of the Most Popular Running Shoe Models

I was impressed by the wide selection of top shoe models that offer a GORE-TEX® option (they have GTX® in the shoe’s name).  The current crop of running shoe brands with GORE-TEX® includes Asics, Brooks, Saucony, New Balance, inov-8, La Sportiva, Salomon, Scott, and The North Face.  Most of these shoemakers offer multiple GTX® models and there are choices in the neutral, stability, and trail running categories.  Check them out at:

Saucony Ride 7 GTX

Saucony Ride 7 GTX

GORE-TEX® Running Shoes are Light and Flexible

The new GORE-TEX® running shoes are lightweight and flexible and still provide the maximum protection we expect from GORE-TEX®.  I had no idea that the addition of GORE-TEX® adds less than an ounce to a shoe.  The picture below shows the GORE-TEX® liner in the Saucony Ride 7 GTX® shoes I’m running in now.  The inside of the shoes are soft and flexible, provide a glove-like feel, and keep my feet nice and dry.



GORE-TEX® Running Shoes are Custom-Designed for each Application

Kirk explained how Gore works with shoe manufacturers to customize the integration of GORE-TEX® into each shoe’s unique design.  Gore works in collaboration with the shoe companies to ensure that every aspect of making a shoe waterproof is taken into account.  Gore specifies how seams must be sealed, and they require that the laces and threads used in a GORE-TEX® shoe do not wick moisture into the shoe.

One of the most interesting parts of our visit was our trip to the Gore Shoe Lab where we saw how prototype shoes are flex-tested to prove out each new shoe’s design.  Gore Associate Donna is demonstrating the Mechanical Boot Flex Test in the picture below:

Gore Associate Donna Purner

Gore Associate Donna

In this test, shoes are placed on electronically-instrumented foot forms that each contain a dozen sensors to detect leakage into the shoe.  The shoe is immersed in water and flexed repeatedly for up to 200,000 times.  Any leak is immediately detected.  If the shoe leaks, the shoe manufacturer must modify the design and then resubmit the shoe for further testing.  Here’s a video of the test:

To demonstrate how the sensors work, Donna simulated a failure.  Sure enough, the sensor display turned red as you can see in the picture below:

Mechanical Boot Flex Test Simulated Failure

Mechanical Boot Flex Test Simulated Failure

This test ensures that each custom GORE-TEX® shoe design is waterproof and stays that way for the lifetime of the shoe.

All GORE-TEX® Shoes Require the Same Standard Factory Testing from Every Shoe Manufacturer

Once a GORE-TEX® Running Shoe is in production, Gore requires manufacturers to test shoes at the factory using patented Gore test equipment.  The Leak Test Machine is used to test 100% of GORE-TEX® Booties before they are installed in shoes.  The Centrifuge Test is performed on selected samples of finished shoes during production.  During this test, shoes are filled with water and then spun at 30g to check for leaks.

Factory Tests

GORE Doesn’t Make the Shoe but they Still Guarantee the Shoe

You heard it right.  They guarantee other companies’ products.  It goes back to Gore’s commitment to “fitness-for-use.”  Every Gore associate we met during our visit spoke about fitness-for-use.  Gore is not satisfied just to sell a material.  They do not consider a job completed until the end-user is 100% satisfied with the product, even if Gore only provides an ingredient in that product.  And they have been backing up that commitment with their GORE-TEX® “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” promise since 1989.

The Perfect End to a Great Day

Near the end of the day we stopped at the W. L. Gore Retail Store at the Barksdale Site and checked out all of the cool GORE-TEX® products.  That’s when I got my new pair of Saucony Ride 7 GTX® shoes and I’ve already taken them for a spin or two.  I’ll post again with a report on the shoes once I’ve logged a few miles in the rain.

My New Saucony Ride 7 GTX Shoes

My New Saucony Ride 7 GTX Shoes

We finished with a tour of the Gore Capabilities Center with Gore Associate Paul, who gave us an overview of Gore materials and products including cables, medical implants, guitar strings, filters, military fabrics, fire and safety fabrics, Gore Bike Wear®, and of course, Gore Running Wear®.  Gore products have even been to the moon.  It’s pretty cool to know that there’s over a half-century of science and innovation behind my GORE-TEX® running shoes and I’m looking forward to training and racing in them.

Gore Associate Paul Bielewicz, Kate, Me, & Jason

Gore Associate Paul, Kate, Me, & Jason

You can check out my Gore Running teammates at:

Jason Saltmarsh

Kate McElroy

Thank You Run SMART Project for getting me back into Marathon Shape!

New Year’s Day this year found me overweight and out of shape after nearly a decade of decline following a string of running injuries.  I ran 2:53:14 at the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2004 at age forty-five, but in January 2014 I couldn’t hold a twelve minute pace for a full six miles.Race Pic w caption

At fifty-four and not getting any younger, I decided to lose the weight and get back into shape.  I changed my diet and the pounds started to melt away.  But I didn’t have a training plan for running.  I was just jogging slowly every day with no real direction.  I knew I wanted to race again, but I thought it would take at least a year of easy “base-building” before I could think about racing, much less running a full marathon.

Then in late February I found out about The Run SMART Project via Twitter.  After I requested an invitation to try out their VDOT O2 App as a beta user, Run SMART Project founder Brian Rosetti sent me the invitation and offered to provide one of the custom Jack Daniels Marathon Training Plans for me to load into the VDOT O2 App.  I found a local marathon here in the Philadelphia area, the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon, and selected the Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon Plan, which coincided with the June race date.  I was skeptical that I could complete a marathon that soon, but I was willing to give it a try.

Fast-forward five months:

On June 14 June 2014 after training with The Run SMART Project for 15 weeks I ran a 3:43:10 marathon in summertime conditions, several miles of it on rocky, muddy trails, and took second place in my age group.  Then a few days ago on July 4th I won my age group in a local 10K with a 44:11, an average of 7:07 per mile.  Here’s my VDOT O2 schedule from June and early July; the races are shown in red:RSP Screenshot 1

I still can’t believe I got into shape this quickly – The Run SMART Project turned me into a runner again and they did it fast!  I’ve won some nice prizes too:both awards

Here’s how I got started using VDOT O2 with my Jack Daniels training plan:

After receiving the link to the VDOT O2 App back in February, I logged-in and selected my Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon Plan.  Then I was prompted to enter a variety of information on my running history, mileage per week, recent performances, preferred days for long runs and days off, and information on my goal race.  Brian customized my plan and loaded my complete training schedule into the VDOT O2 App including my goal race.  He sent me an email letting me know the plan was ready and I started running and logging the workouts.  Here’s my training schedule for April:April-Training-VDOT-O2

The VDOT O2 App was very cool.  Every workout was pre-loaded and it was easy to click-and-drag workouts from one day to the next when I had to travel for work.  The training paces were pre-determined based on my Daniels VDOT number.  All I had to do was the running.

There were two major differences between training with The Run SMART Project and what I was doing on my own:

First, each workout had a purpose. I was no longer running every day at roughly the same pace; I was running very specific paces and each workout had a specific training purpose. Here’s an example of a threshold workout I did to sharpen up for my marathon later that week:Threshold

Second, I worked harder and rested more. The plan was built around quality workouts that were tailored for my goal race. There was a progression of long runs culminating in a twenty-miler, but there was also a significant amount of threshold pace work, interval pace work, and marathon pace work. By running this variety of paces and intensities, and then taking two days off every week, I got faster in a shorter period of time by running smarter than I would have on my own.  The work at faster paces built my confidence too.

It was a huge kick when I entered my 10K time yesterday and the dialog box asked if I wanted the VDOT O2 App to update my VDOT and training paces based on the race time.  I selected “yes” and my VDOT jumped from 43.23 to 46.24 and the circle turned from gray to yellow, indicating I had moved to a new level.  All of my training paces were automatically adjusted to my new VDOT and my predicted race times are faster, which is a huge motivator.

Now I’m training for the Philadelphia Marathon and I plan to continue training with The Run SMART Project to reach my goal of getting back under three hours.  It might not happen this fall, but I feel more confident that it is achievable, and I know I can get another BQ whether I break three again or not.

Saying a few well-deserved good words here doesn’t come close to repaying The Run SMART Project for what they have done for my running, but I would be happy to share my experiences with anyone who is interested in trying out the VDOT O2 App and I still have a few invitations to send out for the beta version.  Just send me a Twitter DM with your email address and I’ll send an invitation.

Thanks Run SMART Project!

Tim Jones

How The Run SMART Project Supercharged My New Year’s Resolution

PV TrailAfter ten years of gaining weight and running less and less, I made a 2014 New Year’s Resolution to drop the extra forty pounds and get back into marathon shape.  I ran my last marathon in 2004 and this year I finally decided enough was enough.

I started running in January and went on Nutrisystem in February.  So far so good.  I registered for the Pittsburgh Great Race 10K scheduled for September 2014 to give me a goal to shoot for.  Nothing too crazy, but doable.  Then maybe one day I would somehow get into good enough shape to run another marathon.  By the end of February I was making slow but steady progress.

Then everything changed.

In March, The Run SMART Project Supercharged my New Year’s Resolution. That’s when I started training with The Run SMART Project’s Jack Daniels’ 15-Week Marathon Plan and their VDOT O2 App.  My training and goals changed drastically overnight and everything I was doing immediately kicked into high gear.  Check out this RunKeeper graph of one of my cool Run SMART Project Workouts:

Interval ChartEmpowered by a world-class training plan with elite coaches to provide guidance, I gained more confidence in my ability to get back into shape and I set my sights higher.  I registered for the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon here in Philadelphia on 14 June to coincide with the Jack Daniels’ 15-Week Marathon Plan.  The Run Smart Project founder and coach, Brian Rosetti, sent me my training plan and then answered my questions with a very detailed email about his experience with successful masters runners.

I started doing quality workouts that I didn’t think I was capable of completing.  When I started running in January, I struggled to keep up a twelve-minute mile pace for five or six miles.  Last Wednesday I ran twelve miles at 7:54 per mile and could have gone a lot faster.  I’m still amazed at the progress I’ve made.  In a nutshell, the hard runs are harder and the easy runs are easier.

That’s the big difference.  When I was running on my own, I ran the easy runs faster than I should have and I ran the hard runs slower than I should have.  It was easy to pick the low-hanging fruit by running too fast on my easy days.  It was also easy to dial it back on harder days while I was still recovering from the “easy” days.  Wrong and wrong.

What I learned from the Run SMART Project is this: just because I couldn’t run a full mile at 7:06 pace didn’t mean I couldn’t run two or three minutes at 7:06 pace for six or ten reps.  And I was doing 400 repeats and other fast work.  All of a sudden I felt like a runner again.

I could not have scripted these workouts by myself.  I appreciate the knowledge and wisdom behind the workouts because I have long been familiar with the empirical nature of Jack Daniels’ training paces and the Run SMART project coaches are elite runners who have walked the walk.

Let me give you a few examples of my recent progress.

I did a 14-mile long run on 23 March.  Here’s the RunKeeper screenshot for that run:

14 MilerThis run felt good, but I was in new territory.  It was the longest run I had done in many years.  I was very tired when I finished and I really had to work hard to finish strong.

The next long run was 15 miles and was scheduled for 20 April.  Before I show the chart for that run, take a look at what I did between the two long runs.

Here’s the April VDOT O2 schedule and a summary of the workouts I did between 23 March and 20 April:

April Training VDOT O2

3/26 – Marathon; 9 miles at Marathon Pace 8:13

3/29 – Threshold, 5 miles at 7:36 BoMF 5-miler

4/2 – Easy, Marathon, Threshold; 1 x 1mi @ 9:06/mi, 1 x 6mi @ 8:19/mi, 1 x 1mi @ 7:36/mi, 1 x 3mi @ 8:21/mi, 1 x 1mi @ 10:43/mi

4/9 – Interval; 2mi warmup, 10 x 2min @ 7:06/mi with 1 min recovery, 2mi cooldown

4/13 – Threshold; 1.5mi warmup, 1 x 3mi @ 7:50/mi, 4 x 20 second strides, 3.5mi cooldown

4/16 – Interval; 2mi warmup, 7 x 3min @ 6:58/mi with 2 min recovery, 2mi cooldown

Now here’s the RunKeeper screenshot from the 15-miler:15 Miler

I felt great and had to keep myself from going too fast.  The last mile was a blast and felt easy at 7:45 pace.  There was a huge difference in how I felt in just one month.

I went a mile farther, it only took two minutes longer, and it felt much easier.

Then I nailed my 12-mile Marathon Pace Run on 23 April.  I wasn’t sure if I was capable of making the full 12 miles at the planned 8:05 pace.  It turned out that I had to keep myself from going too fast again and ran at an average of 7:54 mile pace.

12 Miles at MPHere’s my entry in the VDOT O2 App:

12 Miles at MP VDOT O2I’m looking forward to my upcoming marathon as much as I look forward to my hard workout days.  I am running easier on easy days and harder on workout days than I ever would have on my own.  And I’ve gotten into shape much faster after The Run SMART Project Supercharged my 2014 training!








The BoMF 5-Miler Race Recap and a Run SMART Project Threshold Workout

I had a great time at the BoMF 5-Miler on Saturday, March 29 in Philadelphia.  There was a lot to love about this race in the City of Brotherly Love:

  • BoMF is a great organization.  From their website, “Back on My Feet (BoMF) …uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living.”  BoMF understands the power of running and it shows. Pose
  • The race starts and finishes at the Art Museum of Rocky fame.
  • The race is very well run.  There were multiple options for packet pick-up and many volunteers working in each area (packet pick-up, bag check, results, food, etc.).  It was easy to park and a lot of fun to run.  Chip times were available immediately upon finishing the race.
  • Great people all around.  Small friendly vibe in a big city race.  There were several pre-race speakers including Scott Crossin, the Philadelphia BoMF Executive Director, and then BoMF member Kerry sang a moving rendition of the National Anthem before the race start.
  • Great support during the race.  Miles marked, water stations well-staffed, people cheering all the way.
  • An announcer added color commentary as we crossed the finish line.
  • Great swag including a nice lime-green tech shirt, a cool orange headband, and a great blue drawstring backpack.
  • Great soft pretzels that made me veer off of Nutrisystem long enough to scarf one down after the race.


I was en route on the Schuylkill Expressway at a little after six-thirty and was parking on the edge of Drexel University’s campus right at 0700.  As I walked across the Spring Garden Street Bridge, I stopped to take and tweet this pic:Spring Garden Street

Packet pick-up was quick and easy and I had time to take a run up the steps of the Art Museum to warm up.

Packet Pick Up

Then I had the pleasure of meeting a great group of runners from lululemon athletica near the Rocky Statue.  They were happy to take my picture, and then I took this picture of them:Team lululemon

They let me know that lululemon will have a cheering station at the Broad Street Run.

I continued with my warm-up run and remembered several races I’ve run that covered part of today’s course route, including three Philly Marathons and The Philadelphia Distance Run.  I stopped to take this great shot of the Art Museum before heading back to the start:A View of the Art Museum

This picture made me think of El Greco’s A View of Toledo.  Google it and see if you agree.

I moved to the back of the crowd after the opening ceremonies ended and got ready for my Run Smart Project 5-Mile Threshold Pace workout.  I was originally scheduled for a Threshold Pace Workout on Sunday; when I asked about a switch, Run SMART Project Founder and Coach Brian Rosetti adjusted my schedule and gave me the green light to use the race as the Threshold Pace Workout.  My Threshold Pace is 7:42 based on my VDOT value in the VDOT O2 Application (which is based on recent performances).  Here’s the workout in the VDOT O2 App:VDOT BoMF

I realized I forgot my headphones for RunKeeper audio cues, so I just started RunKeeper and tucked it into my SPIbelt.  I ran by feel, which is supposed to be “Comfortably Hard” for Threshold Pace.  It’s the pace you could hold for a one-hour race.  For elites that would be a Half Marathon.  For slower types like me, it’s closer to 10K pace.  I judge Threshold Pace by a feeling I get that is a signal that my legs will turn to stone if I go faster.  As long as I don’t go any faster when I get that feeling, I can keep the pace without stiffening up.

The Race:

Here’s the start from where I was:Start

I wove through the crowd and covered the first mile in 8:04.  I knew I was behind my 7:42 Threshold Pace, but didn’t know by how much.  From there I worked into what felt like Threshold Pace and ran pretty consistently for the rest of the race.

The second mile had a fairly sizeable uphill, but the difficulty was offset by cheers of encouragement from the tutu-clad lululemon team as we ran up the hill at the same time.  As I passed Memorial Hall, I looked down and saw the 10-mile marker for the Philly Marathon painted on the street.  How long it has been! Nearly ten years. I’ll be back!

The third mile was a speedy 7:15, but that was mostly because I opened up my stride and let gravity take me down the hill as I passed several groups of people, only some of whom immediately went right by me again on the flat.

I didn’t start to feel fatigue until the final mile.  To keep it going steady, I chanted this to myself: “trust your work, make it hurt, trust your work, make it hurt.”  It worked; I kept a good pace through the finish.

Here’s the RunKeeper screenshot of the race course:Runkeeper BoMF

And here’s my finish line photo purchased and downloaded from Cazillo Photography a day or so after the race:Copyright Gregory Cazillo, All Rights Reserved

This was a great race and a great workout.  There were 765 finishers.  I was number 93, fourth in my age group with a pace of 7:36 per mile.  The overall winners ran some fast times.  My only regret is that I couldn’t make it to the after party, but will make sure I do next year!  The BoMF 5-Miler is one of those great Philly Races that makes you want to come back again.

My Run SMART Project Marathon Pace Workout

I did my first Marathon (M) Pace workout on The Run SMART Project Jack Daniels’ 15-Week Marathon Plan this past Wednesday, March 26th.   My daily schedule in the VDOT O2 Application called for nine miles at M Pace, 8:13 per mile.  The graphic below shows my training calendar and the exploded view of the M Pace workout:

MP Workout

As the day unfolded, I had three doubts about being able to successfully complete the workout:

  1. First, I had to wake up at 0430 on Wednesday morning and then drive for four hours to work at a client’s location.  I didn’t get to bed as early as I’d planned and only got five hours of sleep.  I was tired by lunchtime.
  2. Getting enough carbs was my second concern.  I have been losing weight on Nutrisystem while increasing my training.  I have to work extra hard to make sure I don’t cut myself short on carbs leading up to quality workouts.  And it’s harder to eat right when I’m travelling.
  3. Finally, it was cold and very windy on the road along the Chesapeake Bay where I planned to run.  I walked out to my car at lunchtime and was hit with a frozen blast of forceful wind.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain a consistent pace, much less an 8:15 pace, running in that wind.  I didn’t feel confident about being able to gauge an M Pace effort.

There was a time when I would run an easy twenty-miler at 8:15 pace, but that was ten years ago.  It’s not easy anymore.  It will be again, but not yet.  As the workday drew to a close at 1630, it was time to erase the doubts and get the workout done.

CybexJust the thought of running gave me a shot of adrenaline and a second wind.  Scratch Doubt #1.  Thinking about the carbs during the day, I ate a few bananas (checking off two Nutrisystem Smart Carbs) and an extra Power Bar (38 grams of carbs, only 21 grams of it sugar) in addition to my normal Nutrisystem menu.  Scratch Doubt #2; I was carbed-up and ready to go.  To stack the deck in my favor, I bought a day pass at the local gym so I could do the workout on a treadmill.  Take weather out of the equation and Scratch Doubt #3.  Now I was psyched.

After I changed in the locker room, I did a set of pull-ups.  As I’ve lost almost twenty pounds, I’ve gone from being able to do one pull-up to being able to bang out six or seven.

I got on the old Cybex and did a slow warm-up mile, walking my way into a 12:00 minute mile pace.  Then I dialed in 7.3 MPH and tried it on for size.  It felt quick but manageable.  My breathing was fine, no respiratory discomfort, but it was hard to imagine going the full nine miles, if only because of the extreme boredom I was sure to experience.

After a few miles, I noticed several people were getting on the treadmill next to me, poking at the control panel for a minute or so, and then walking away.  I looked over and saw the letters “Err” on the display.  Just then a distinguished-looking gent in gray sweats and a cotton pocket-T did the same thing.  I said, “You might want to unplug it and plug it back in again.”  He said something I couldn’t understand, and kept hitting buttons. Oh well, I tried to help.

Then he walked away like the others.  But he turned right and walked along the front of the treadmills, and sure enough, he leaned down and pulled the plug just like I told him.

My old Cybex lurched to a stop and almost threw me over the console.  He was aghast and re-plugged me and apologized profusely at the same time.  I laughed and told him it was OK, that I needed a rest, and could he pull the plug out again in about twenty minutes?  He laughed and found the right plug for his machine and it worked.  He thanked me and got a few miles in and then headed off for the weight machines.

I was at about three and a half miles into the nine.  It was taking forever.  I was starting to feel some effort, but was still breathing easy.  I counted my cadence for a minute, and then recited the alphabet, which took a whole tenth of a mile.  I wasn’t any less bored, but at least now I knew I was taking 180 steps per minute and nearly 6.8 yards per letter.

By the halfway point, my legs were feeling stiff and tired and I was now counting hundredths of a mile.  After not running a lot for the past ten years, and getting ten years older in the bargain, I’m realizing that simply training my muscles, tendons, ligaments, and whatever else is holding me together is a bigger issue than getting into aerobic shape.  My legs were not keeping up with my lungs.

During the final three miles I remembered why, during the final miles of all five marathons I have run in my life, I have sworn never to run another marathon.  This wasn’t an idle threat I was making to myself.  I let twenty-five years go by between marathons one and two.  Now I was feeling that same dog-tired numb-legged feeling after only six or seven miles.  I soldiered on and was almost giddy when the end was in sight. Then I was done.  I felt a little dizzy and leaned on the old Cybex as it fell silent and I rested my head in my hands.

A voice jarred me out of my stupor; “You’re still here?”  It was the distinguished-looking gent back from his work with the weights.  I laughed and said, “Where were you when I needed you?”