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)

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