Category Archives: Training

Posts about workouts and training.

Run As Hemingway Wrote

“I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast is one of my favorite books.  I always remembered what Hemingway said about writing, to leave something in the well for the next day.  He would stop writing when he knew what was about to happen next.

As I learned the correct pace for my long runs with The Run SMART Project’s Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon Plan, I recalled Hemingway’s writing habit and made a connection.  Replace the word writing in the above quote with running.  The connection is that long runs are not meant to empty the well of our running, that we should always leave something there in the deep part of the running well.

I didn’t understand this when I was training for marathons ten years ago.  I often left the well empty when I ran a long run.  My long run pace was too fast and I left some of my best races out on the trails.

According to Daniels’ Running Formula, 2nd Edition, I had it all wrong.  In Chapter 2 under the heading Training Zones, Dr. Daniels writes that long runs are done at Easy Pace, and that the training benefits of Easy Pace running are more a function of time than intensity.  Easy Pace is as fast as we need to go to get the desired benefits from the long run.  He writes that Easy Pace runs should be free from trouble or pain, should be run at a conversational pace, and are almost always enjoyable.

8541320D-0F22-4276-BA9E-D298CBC3C70BTen years ago, my long runs were not easy or enjoyable.  I was running them to rack up miles, and the faster the better.  I loved jotting down faster and faster times in my training log.

Not only did I lose the full benefits of the long run, I also couldn’t recover in time to do the faster quality workouts on the schedule.  So I skipped interval workouts and tempo runs when I was still recovering from the long run two or three days later.  I was practically running a race every Sunday without realizing it.

At the start of my last marathon in 2004 my legs were dead.  I grinded out a time I was satisfied with, but I know I should have done a lot better for the mileage I was running.

Since I started training with The Run Smart Project I have been training more as Hemingway wrote, leaving something in the deep part of the well.  I know now that going too fast defeats the purpose of my long run and leaves me dead for the workouts when I’m supposed to go fast.

In The Run SMART Project’s VDOT O2 App, my current VDOT is 43.23, which determines my training paces.  My Easy Pace is 9:15-10:11 per mile.  My marathon pace is 8:12.  So my Easy Pace is between one and two minutes slower than my projected marathon pace.

Here’s the map and graphs from today’s 14-miler:

23 MAR 14And here’s my run entered into The Run SMART Project VDOT O2 App:

RSP 23 MAR 14I stayed on my target pace and had to keep myself from going faster.  I enjoyed the run and when I stopped, I felt like there was something left in the well for tomorrow.  I’ll save the speed for Wednesday’s workout, nine miles at marathon pace.

Leave a comment and share your experiences with pacing your long runs!

The Running Jones


Run SMART Project VDOT O2 App Training Recap: Two Weeks Down and a Marathon to Go!

Almost three weeks ago I started using The Run SMART Project’s VDOT O2 Application as a beta user after learning about The Run SMART Project from @Raina_runs on Twitter.

I decided to sign up for a June Marathon and let The Run SMART Project take a shot at getting me into shape.

The training plan I selected to use with the VDOT O2 App is the Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon Plan, which coincided perfectly with the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon here in Philadelphia on June 14th.

I’ve referred to the Daniels Running Formula book for years, but it’s a completely different experience to have a training plan that was designed by Dr. Jack Daniels and custom-tailored for me by the coaches at The Run SMART Project.  I don’t have to be the expert.  My entire Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon training schedule, including my goal race, is loaded right into the VDOT O2 App.

I log in and get my workout every day.  Then after I complete the workout, I enter the actual data into the VDOT O2 App.  I’ve done four quality workouts so far:

  • 6×400 meters with warm up and cool down.
  • 2×2 miles at threshold pace with warm up and cool down, and a set of striders.
  • 12×200 meters in two sets with an easy mile in between, plus warm up and cool down.
  • A 12-mile long run (yesterday).

All these workouts have a specific training purpose.  The other days are easy pace running or rest.  I have not done 200s or 400s in years, and would not have been doing anything like this on my own.  And it’s working.

Until yesterday, I could not see myself running a full marathon.  I’ve run five marathons, but the last one was ten years ago.  Yesterday I felt like I took a quantum leap in fitness.  I ran my entire twelve miles at an average of 9:10 per mile, slightly faster than my target pace of 9:14.  I had to keep myself from going too fast.  I didn’t stagger in on dead legs a few minutes per mile slower than when I started as I had done on my last few long runs, which were at least a mile shorter than this one.  Yesterday I could finally see myself running a full marathon.

The screenshots below show the VDOT O2 user interface.  The gray shaded days are completed workouts; the blue shaded days are workouts to be completed.  My VDOT value is shown in the gray circle, and that determines my training paces.  It will be adjusted based on race times as I progress.  My goal race is shown in red along with my projected finish time.

I’ve added the red circle to show the detailed page that comes up when I double-click on a specific day.  That’s where the workout details are contained and where I enter my data when I complete a workout.

17 MAR RSP The VDOT O2 App is very easy to use and it is a great motivator to have your plan pre-loaded to allow daily progress tracking.  VDOT O2 is also very flexible.  I’ve adjusted it twice so far:

First, I had to switch one quality workout from Wednesday 3/12 to Thursday 3/13 due to travel for work.  All I had to do was click and drag from one day to the next.

Then I registered for the Back on My Feet 5-Miler in Philadelphia on 3/29.  I sent an email to The Run SMART Project Coach asking if the race could replace the 5×1 mile threshold workout that was scheduled for the day after the race.  I received an immediate response from Brian Rosetti, the founder of The Run SMART Project, letting me know that the change was OK from a training perspective, and had already been made in the VDOT O2 App.

So far so good.  I’m looking forward to that marathon!

The Running Jones

Forefoot, Sorefoot! Poking Fun at Plantar Fasciitis & My Attempt at Minimalist Running

There’s nothing good to say about plantar fasciitis.  To runners, it’s a pervasive scourge, a grim affliction.  I’ve been fighting plantar fasciitis since last summer, but I’m finally running successfully with it.  Here’s my story.

It all started when I decided that an important part of my born-again return to running, after riding a recliner for the past ten years, would be to finally achieve that pinnacle of running perfection, to be a true forefoot-striking minimalist runner.  The ultimate utopian ideal would be to achieve a state wherein my winged heels would never make even fleeting contact with earthly terra firma, and owning a pair of running shoes with anything resembling a built-up heel would be sheer and utter blasphemy.

I considered using an old pair of magical weightless golden shoes from the back of my closet that looked like this:


Instead of putting the ten-year-old Pumas back into the rotation, I bought a pair of Sacony Kinvara trail shoes with a 4mm drop that looked like this:


I took the Kinvaras out to the biggest hills in Valley Forge National Park, Mt. Misery and Mt. Joy, and ran eight miles entirely on my two forefeet.  It felt great.  I was nearing perfection.

The next morning it felt like someone had taken my feet and manacled them into a torture rack and turned the crank until they felt something snap.  I couldn’t walk.

And that’s how I got plantar fasciitis.  No question.  Self-inflicted when I decided that running on my forefoot was as close as I could get to heaven without having to die.

I rested for days and weeks and tried to run again.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t even walk when I got up in the morning.  I hobbled around and went downstairs sideways or backwards.  I even tried a pair of running shoes with some actual heels on them that looked like this:


Then I went back to running easy in the Kinvaras.  After a few months, the right foot got better; the left did not.  I would rest for several days then run four or five miles slowly.  And by slowly, I mean that people walking wandering dogs routinely passed me while I was out on these runs.  When I was finished running I couldn’t put weight on my left heel again for several more days.

I finally decided to see a podiatrist.  I like a doctor to be blunt and brief.  He’s seen a problem like mine thousands of times before.  I don’t like a chatty doctor with time on his hands who acts like my problem is unique and he’s never seen anything quite like it before.  That scares me.

So I was satisfied when my doctor entered the exam room abruptly and got right to business.  I described my problem.  He examined my foot, asked a few questions, and then laid out a four-pronged attack:

“I’m going to have you do several things.  First I want you in a different shoe.”

He was wearing the Brooks Beast himself.  He read the horror in my eyes at the prospect of wearing a motion control shoe and said that Brooks Adrenalines, a stability shoe, would be just fine.  I had avoided the ultimate comeuppance for a would-be forefoot-running minimalist.

The Adrenalines:


“Next, put a set of Superfeet in the Adrenalines.  Then you’re going to do calf stretches every day and I’m going to put you in a night splint that will keep your foot from dropping when you’re sleeping and it won’t hurt to walk when you get up in the morning.”

The Superfeet:


He said there were other weapons in his arsenal, but we would give it a month.  He prescribed some industrial strength anti-inflammatories to replace the Ibuprofens I had been tossing back like Skittles.

I asked him why everyone had plantar fasciitis and why no one could seem to get rid of it.  He said I was the fifth patient of the day he was seeing for plantar fasciitis and that he resolved it quickly in 99% of his cases.  The problem was that most people did not treat it properly.  He was confident I could beat it.

I felt great.  I went straight to the running store and got my new shoes and Superfeet.  The plantar fasciitis improved over the next month, but I was still hurting.  I went back to the doctor.

“You’re improving, but it’s still not acceptable.  We want to get you running pain-free.  There are two options.  Physical therapy or The Shot.”

“Is there a downside to The Shot?” I asked.

“Other than ten seconds of excruciating pain, no, there’s no downside.”

I asked if he could do it immediately.  He could and did.  It hurt just like he said, but only for about eight-and-three-quarter seconds.

Everything was great for a month.  Then I made the mistake of doing a warm-up stride at a frigid New Year’s Day 5K that turned out to be way too close to actual sprinting.  Hello my old friend!

Yes plantar fasciitis was back.

Since then I have been determined to outwait, outsmart, and outrun plantar fasciitis.  I have become clever like a fox.  I’ve started to run very slowly again for several of my runs each week.  I keep a quick turnover and a light stride.  Some days I walk instead of run to throw plantar fasciitis off its game.  I don’t do anything to give plantar fasciitis a new foothold.  I stretch, wear the splint at night, and take an occasional handful of Ibuprofens:


I switch back and forth between the Adrenalines and my Asics Gel-Neo33s, swapping the Superfeet each time, and I put them in on top of the original insoles:


It’s working.  I’m increasing my mileage every three or four weeks and running at faster paces.  The plantar fasciitis is still there, but it’s improving.  And one of these days plantar fasciitis is going to get tired of not getting any respect and just up and leave.

The lesson I learned the hard way is that a drastic change in running form shouldn’t be done overnight.  I might have read that somewhere and probably should have paid closer attention.  What was I thinking?

The Running Jones

This Workout has a Purpose! My First Week on The Run SMART Project’s Dr. Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon Plan

Dr. Jack Daniels says that the most important training principle is to know the purpose of each workout (see link at the end of this post).  Before starting The Run SMART Project’s Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon Plan, I couldn’t have told you the purpose for any of my workouts.

All of my runs ran to type.  And the type was neither hard nor easy.  I would start at 12:00 minute mile pace for a half mile and then gradually work my way down to 8:30 mile pace, ending up with a total of five or six miles.

What I’ve learned from using The Run SMART Project’s VDOT O2 App and my 15-Week Marathon Plan is that 8:30 pace is not my easy run pace (too fast), it’s not my marathon pace (too slow), and it’s not my threshold pace (way too slow).  What was the purpose of running all those miles at 8:30 pace?  Dunno.

The difference now is that easy is easy, hard is hard, and there is a purpose for every workout. That’s the best way I can describe the difference between what I was doing before I started my 15-Week Marathon Plan with The Run SMART Project and what I have done during my first week of the plan.

I am doing harder workouts, increasing my mileage, and taking more days off.  Workouts are workouts and rest is rest.  I started on March 4th with an easy run, and then I did 400’s on the treadmill this past Wednesday.  Today the schedule called for two intervals of two miles each plus warm-up, cool-down, and striders at the end of the run.  Here’s what my March training plan in the VDOT O2 App looks like:

March VDOT O2 Schedule

The details for today’s threshold workout are shown at the top of the page.  I recorded the workout using Runkeeper on my iPhone and set audible cues to tell me when to start each of the intervals.

Here’s the course I ran at Valley Forge National Park from Runkeeper:

2x2 LT Route

And here are the graphs of elevation and pace from Runkeeper:

2x2 LT

I put the red bars in to show the two 2-mile threshold intervals.  The thing that amazed me about this workout was that the VDOT O2 App projected my threshold pace at 7:42 based on the data I entered when I started the 15-Week Marathon Plan.  When I ran today by feel, using my perceived current one-hour race pace as the target, I hit 7:42 on the money for the second interval.  There were more rolling hills during the first interval and I did not hit the 7:42 average, but I still believe I got the intended benefit out of the first interval as my threshold effort would result in a slower pace on an incline.

Here’s the page in the VDOT O2 App for today’s workout:

2x2 LT Workout Detail

Here’s the complete entry in the notes section:

“Did this workout on rolling hills on loop around Valley Forge Park.  The first 2 mile interval had several uphill stretches and average pace was slower than the 7:42 called for by the plan, but I tried to maintain the LT pace feeling of one hour race pace. The second interval was right on pace and did not have as many hills.  Good workout without feeling like I totally killed myself.”

So far I feel like I’m making good progress following my Run SMART Project’s Dr. Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon Plan with the VDOT O2 App.  The marathon is never predictable, but I’ll try to stay consistent and hope to continue to report good success in weeks to come!

9 MAR Workout

(Follow this link,, and scroll down to this heading, Coach Jack Daniels: Most Important Training Principle, and then play the video.  You’ll hear Dr. Jack Daniels say that the single most important training principle is to be able to answer the question, “What is the purpose of this workout?”)

Starting to Train with The Run SMART Project VDOT O2 App!

I’m finally getting back into marathon shape!  It’s hard to believe, but I’m starting to make progress.  I’m dropping the extra weight and getting faster.  And now I’ve kicked my training into high gear!  How?

This week I signed up with The Run SMART Project as a beta tester for the VDOT O2 application and for Dr. Jack Daniel’s 15-Week Marathon Plan.  I also registered for the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon in Philadelphia on 6/14/14 as my goal race.

For a long time I have kept Dr. Daniel’s book, Daniel’s Running Formula, close at hand and I referred to it often back when I was in marathon training.  DRF helped me greatly, but in hindsight, I know I didn’t always stick to the correct paces to optimize the benefits of every workout.  For example, I believe I did my long runs too fast and then didn’t recover in time to do the other workouts leading up to my last marathon, Philly in 2004.

I’m looking forward to really nailing my training this time around with The Run SMART Project and the VDOT O2 app and blogging about the experience.

Here’s what’s happening so far:

I registered and signed-up for the Dr. Jack Daniel’s 15-Week Marathon Plan.  The interface was very easy to use and the graphics are very clean and appealing.  Then I was prompted to enter recent performance times, personal bests, and other pertinent data for customizing my training plan.  There was a text field to enter any information that I wanted the coaching team to know before tailoring my plan.  While I’m waiting for my training schedule to be uploaded, I entered my last week’s training runs.  Here’s how it looked when I was done:

VDOTO2 Combined View

I’m excited about seeing the colors change on the VDOT icon as my fitness improves.  Another feature I really like is that my goal race was automatically loaded into the calendar and my training schedule will focus on that goal:

Goal Race

I’ll post an update when I get started on the training program!

The Running Jones

Goodbye Treadmill, Hello Winter at Valley Forge

When George Washington and his Army endured heavy snow and freezing temperatures at Valley Forge during February of 1778, they were taking a respite from fighting, not from endless hours of plodding on a treadmill. But for me, driving to Valley Forge yesterday and slogging through five miles of snow and slush was a tactical decision that kept me on track with losing weight and getting back into shape. And there were a few unexpected history lessons along the way that made the cold and wet trek quite enjoyable once I got warmed up.

We had over a foot of snow and ice on the ground already, and there was more snow and rain coming down at about a quarter to twelve yesterday morning when I decided I couldn’t endure another mind-numbing run on the treadmill at the gym. The sun had been out on Friday, and if they had plowed the five-mile path at Valley Forge National Park, there was an outside chance it just might be runnable. I threw on my grey hooded sweatshirt and jumped into my Honda CR-V and headed down a slushy Route 23 to find out. The temperature on my instrument panel said 33 degrees.

As I approached the parking lot by the von Steuben statue, I saw a few cars. There were families with younger kids sledding down the small hill that leads toward the Grand Parade grounds. There were also a few people off in the distance walking along the path, which was a good sign. I got out of the Honda to take a closer look and saw there was only a light dusting of snow on an otherwise clear path. Nice! It had been plowed.

I started jogging slowly and took it easy on the downhill sections. As I neared the Washington Memorial Chapel, a woman passed me going the opposite way running at a strong pace. Then a guy ran by me like I was standing still. I was glad to see other runners out there. The path was slushy in places, but there was pretty good traction on the thin layer of fresh snow.

As I passed the main visitor center after about a mile-and-a-half, I saw a large crowd of at least fifty people standing around the log huts along the North Outer Line Drive. There was a voice booming through loud speakers telling anyone within earshot that the bayonet was the only weapon used when General Charles Grey attacked Mad Anthony Wayne’s camp in September of 1777.

As the mix of snow and rain started to soak through to my skin, I realized I didn’t have it so bad compared to being run through with a bayonet in the middle of the night in nearby Paoli.

A half mile further along the path there was another group of what I could now see were Boy Scouts gathered around also listening to a speaker, who was dressed in Revolutionary War clothing. He was talking about the role of African-American soldiers from the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. I stopped and walked so I could listen as I passed through the crowd.

The so-called “wintry mix” of precipitation continued as I plodded forth. There was yet another group near the National Memorial Arch as I proceeded along the South Outer Line Drive and onto the trail running adjacent to Wayne’s Woods. As I shuffled over an icy section of path to the four mile point near Artillery Park, I learned, again via loudspeaker, that the song “Yankee Doodle” was originally written by an English doctor to mock the American Troops.

As the dulcet tones of Yankee Doodle being played on a fife faded into the distance, I crossed Gulph Road and ran the final stretch of the slushy path along the North Inner Line Drive. I was wet and tired after taking well over an hour for my five-mile chug through the elements, but after hearing about Washington’s winter at Valley Forge during the entire circuit, I realized I was lucky to have it so easy.

Within a few clicks after returning home, Google told me that I had happened upon the 102nd Annual Pilgrimage and Encampment event which was attended by Scouts from across the U.S. and Canada. It seems these intrepid Scouts camped out for the entire weekend to better learn about what Washington’s Army had experienced all those years ago. And they didn’t let the weather stop them.

I guess it didn’t stop me either, but I can’t wait to get back on that treadmill today.

Have a great Sunday and good luck getting your workout in!

Is February Too Late for a 2014 New Year’s Resolution? Heck No!

My 2014 New Year’s Resolution: To lose 35 pounds and run a 10K in under 45 minutes.

My story: It’s February 2014. I’m fifty-four now. When I took up running in 2001 after I hit forty overweight and out of shape, and then worked my way up to running Boston in 2003, I promised myself I’d never get out of shape again.

But then I had a few injuries, and one cheeseburger led to another. Like Lawrence Block says, although running is addictive, not running is even more addictive. So, like Block’s burglar Bernie, I traded the running addiction for the more powerful addiction to not running. And here I am almost ten years later tipping the scales at two-hundred pounds, forty pounds heavier than the day I ran my last marathon in the fall of 2004.

I have tried to run off-and-on over these years, but was never able to go more than a week or so without getting another injury. Pulled calves, rolled ankles, pulled hamstrings, plantar fasciitis, etc. I finally decided to go slower and it worked. Now I’m into my sixth week of running consistently, mostly on a treadmill. I decided to go on Nutrisystem to finally lose the extra weight and get back into running races.

My goal is to run the Great Race 10K in Pittsburgh in September 2014 in under forty-five minutes. I’m not even close to being able to run at that pace right now, but if I can get to my goal weight of 165 by then, I think I’ll have a shot.