Category Archives: The Run Smart Project & VDOT O2 App

Post about workouts and training runs using The Run SMART Project schedules and the VDOT O2 application.

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!

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!


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?”

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

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?”)