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.
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:
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:
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:
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!