2020 has been a challenging year for endurance athletes, leaving athletes with big questions like what next? and should I even bother? All of the race uncertainty has left many athletes feeling that they don’t want to invest in training if the race turns out not to happen. This can lead to frustration, burn out, and possibly throwing in the towel and de-training altogether.
At Startline Coaching, our recommendation is to think of the summer of 2020 as a unique opportunity to put some space in your life to:
A) Focus on family, new adventures, work, or other passions, but do so in a way where you maintain a productive level of fitness, strength, & mobility so that you can return to training in the fall healthy & motivated. For those you who fall into this bucket, Startline Coaching is offering a brand new ‘strengthen my base’ group training program that will keep you strong & robust while giving you time & flexibility to pursue other areas of interest.
B) Focus on a specific performance limiter. Rarely are we given the gift of time to make concrete progress on a key weakness in a truly dedicated way. The summer of 2020 is a rare opportunity to accelerate your athletic progress in a key discipline, such as biking or running, without the pressure of needing to prepare for a race. For those of you who are in this bucket, Startline Coaching offers individualized custom coaching programs to support you throughout the summer.
Runners often think that they should run a consistent mile-by-mile pace to maximize their race performance. However, it is not quite that simple. Anyone who has actually run a race knows that their pace for any given mile is impacted significantly by terrain; gravity significantly increases the energy demand at any given pace, creating fatigue and the need to recover.
A better approach is to aim for even energy pacing.
We all know uphill is harder than the flats. Too often athletes charge up a hill trying to maintain a close-to-target pace. Dr. Jack Daniels has produced some excellent charts that show the impact of grade on oxygen demand when using a treadmill. The chart below shows how much more oxygen consumption (V02) is needed to “maintain” pace as the grade increases. What is startling is how even a small increase in grade can dramatically change energy demand.
For example: If a runner holds 8:00/mile on a 2% grade, it will feel like 7:08/mile pace. This demonstrates clearly that trying to hold one even pace is detrimental to your race performance and that you will significantly overrun your pacing strategy (unless, of course, you are running on a flat course).
V02 27.4 Pace 10:00
V02 30.3 Pace 9:14
V02 33.3 Pace 8:35
V02 36.3 Pace 8:00
V02 39.3 Pace 7:30
V02 42.4 Pace 7:04
V02 29.7 Pace 9:23
V02 32.8 Pace 8:40
V02 35.9 Pace 8:04
V02 39.1 Pace 7:33
V02 42.2 Pace 7:05
V02 45.4 Pace 6:41
V02 32.0 Pace 8:50
V02 35.3 Pace 8:11
V02 38.5 Pace 7:37
V02 41.9 Pace 7:08
V02 45.2 Pace 6:42
V02 48.5 Pace 6:20
V02 34.3 Pace 8:22
V02 37.8 Pace 7:45
V02 41.2 Pace 7:14
V02 44.7 Pace 6:46
V02 48.1 Pace 6:22
V02 51.5 Pace 6:02
V02 36.6 Pace 7:56
V02 40.3 Pace 7:21
V02 43.8 Pace 6:52
V02 47.4 Pace 6:27
V02 51.0 Pace 6:04
V02 54.6 Pace 5:45
V02 38.9 Pace 7:34
V02 42.8 Pace 7:00
V02 46.4 Pace 6:33
V02 50.2 Pace 6:09
V02 53.9 Pace 5:48
V02 57.6 Pace 5:30
V02 41.3 Pace 7:13
V02 45.3 Pace 6:42
V02 49.1 Pace 6:16
V02 53.0 Pace 5:53
V02 56.9 Pace 5:33
V02 60.7 Pace 5:16
Excerpted from Jack Daniels Running Formula 3rd Edition
The key lesson from this analysis is this: when you hit a hill, slow down & control your effort, and similarly increase pace down hill. Always take into account the impact of gravity on your ability to perform. An effective strategy for the same sample 8:00 min pace runner, is to slow down to about a 9:14 min pace when running up a hill of 2% grade. As you can see above, the runner will still be consuming oxygen at a consistent V02 of about 35.3, with about the same energy cost of an 8:11 pace on flat ground.
When thinking about your next race, consider the terrain in your pacing plan. Taking an even energy pacing approach will ensure you do not overrun portions of the course forcing you recover. For the New Yorkers who read this blog, next time you are racing in central park and facing the northern hill, hold back as you climb and you will crest with strength giving you the opportunity to pass the many runners who climbed too fast and are recovering from going out too hard. Chances are that you will never see them again as you whistle by.
Moreover, this approach will delay the impacts of fatigue and will result in a stronger overall performance. Experienced racers know that hills wear down their competitors and the race is won at the end when the field has weakened. Nothing inspires more than having gas in the engine and passing competitors as the finish approaches!
A week ago, Startline Coaching athletes ran the Run the Blue Point Brewery 10 miler. This year, 16 athletes completed the race on long Island, NY and celebrated with a morning beer. The Blue Point Brewery always puts on a good show, with great food, a band, a warm tent and, yes, great beer. My thanks to #GLIRC for as always running a great race. This is the 10th year of the race and 6th time Startline Coaching athletes have been to the race.
This race is a team favorite capping off a 12 week run/strength training block before we move into triathlon training. We were 16/16 on completing the race with negative splits and many with significant improvements over the prior year. Developing speed and pacing control was a central theme over these past 12 weeks. You should all feel so pleased with your results.
I am often asked by athletes about breathing technique for running. I’d like to address this with a three part answer:
Principally breathe in and out through your mouth. During exercise, we are most concerned with Oxygen delivery to the lungs and blood stream and Carbon Dioxide expulsion from the lung and blood stream. Your nose can certainly participate, but the most effective method is to enable the biggest airway. Solely nose breathing is restrictive and decreases O2/C02 exchange. You have a big hole in the front of your head to draw in & expel air, you should use it!
Belly Breathe. Chest breathing is also restrictive and does not make full use of the capacity of your lungs. Breathe in and out using your diaphragm vs. top of your chest. Your belly will expand along with your lungs enabling greater lung capacity.
Adopt a 2-2 breath pattern. Most runners seek to achieve 180 steps/minute cadence as they run. A 2 steps inhale 2 steps exhale pattern has the benefit of enabling the greatest amount of O2/CO2 exchange and works well for paces up from EZ/Endurance runs to 10k/5K. Only during the finishing kick would you find yourself breathing with the more extreme 2-1 or 1-2 breath pattern. Note: For long EZ/Endurance runs, you should also periodically try a 3-3 breath pattern. This is not because a 3-3 breath is optimal, but because if you cannot hold a 3-3 pattern you are running too hard for the purpose of an EZ/Endurance workout.
Enjoy your running and check in on your breath as you run. I personally advocate running without music or other distractions. Yes! I can hear the whining and complaining from here, but this approach will allow you to stay in tune with your body and its physiological responses to exercise stress, and also toughen you mentally for racing. Your breath is a key physiological indicator and guide for pacing control. Listen to your breath and don’t shut it out. Your breath is a fully redundant pacing feedback system and, if you are in touch with it, it will no longer matter if your Garmin malfunctions or the battery dies – not that this ever happens.
Few things strike fear into the hearts of athletes than the dreaded run time trail that a coach has placed onto athletes training calendar. There is no question that these efforts are really very tough. They are also extremely valuable by providing insight into each athletes speed potential & athletic improvement. It is direct feedback to both coach & athlete on improvement. Moreover, they allow more accurate setting of training zones so training can be targeted more effectively.
This week, Startline athletes face their first Run TT test session of the training year. It is a preliminary test to capture where they stand today so that base training begins on a firm footing. Here is guidance for them and others undertaking these tests.
The test is simple. After a good 20 min warm-up and some pre-race facilitation drills and dynamic stretches, run as quickly as you can for 30 minutes. The goal is to cover as much ground as possible. Here are some key tips:
Time trials are your fastest sustainable effort without injury. This is not the be all and end all run effort you will ever do. No good is ever done by running past your ability to absorb the effort. While the test is to see how fast you can run, it makes little sense to do yourself a mischief.
Go out a little slower than you think you can run. A time trail does not really start to reveal itself in terms of perceived exertion until 4-5 mins into the run. Too often I have seen athletes fade about 4-5 minutes out. It is better to negative split and learn from that for next time. An overly explosive start followed by a fade is much less meaningful. Close hard is my best advice, just as in races.
Use the same time, protocol, and route every time. To create meaningful data that shows progress over time, you need to do your level best to replicate your time trails. Be sure to be fairly well rested. If done in the morning, always do them in the morning. If evening, stick with that. Follow the same warm up routine. I like to use the same routine for races as well. If you intend to race with a wrist based HRM, then use that in the time trail. Finally, run the same route. Of course, there are many variables you cannot control that will vary between TT efforts, but by minimizing variation you will be able to see change in performance more clearly.
You get better at this over time. Just like racing, time trials take practice and, with time, become increasingly manageable. Focus on the process, and understand the relationship between perceived effort, pace and duration vs. the absolute performance. This is especially true if you are new to doing these kinds of tests. Focus on mastery and if you have a bad test, move on. Trust me another test is coming in 4-6 weeks. Over time, you do learn to suffer and as every athlete will tell you, your ability to manage suffering is central to every race effort.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. The old adage that which gets measured improves does apply here. You must continually reassess for two reasons 1) to ensure training zones are reflective of your fitness and performance and 2) to ensure that your training is delivering results. While performance improvement is not linear, a regular TT ensures that both you and your coach have time to reflect and be purposeful about next steps. I like to retest athletes every 4-6 weeks.
For more details on setting heart rate & pace training based upon run time trial efforts checkout this article from Joe Friel at Training Peaks.
The weather is starting to turn frigid and Thanksgiving it is going be well below freezing for Turkey Trots in much of the northern latitudes of the US.
There is nothing more exhilarating than being outside in the cold, feeling the clear air and bright sun on your cheeks all while feeling toasty warm in your outfit. The key is of course how to stay toasty warm.
Here are some basic guidelines for exercising in the cold:
Head – Much of your body heat is lost through the head, so a quick way to minimize the loss is through a head protection – Hat or balaclava on very cold days. If you are working hard & over heating, the quickest way to vent that heat is to rip off your hat & stuff it in your pocket. Bring a dry second hat for after workout so as you cool down, you can put it on and stay warm.
Hands – Gloves always – As you cool, blood is drawn away from the periphery to warm the core. Your hands are quite sensitive to cooling, and don’t retain heat well. On very cold days with high wind, the risk of frost nip is high. Keep them covered even if you are shedding layers elsewhere. On the bike, gloves must be wind-proof.
Base layers – A high quality base layer that is snug against the core of the body is essential. Never use cotton. There are many technical long sleeve garments for the cold, but basic camping long underwear tops are cheaper and quite serviceable for running as well. Still have & still use them after all these years.
Tights – For the run, mid weight & for the bike windproof and heavier weight.
Mid layer – Personally, I am a fan of fleece vests. They allow venting from the pits while focusing on retaining heat near the core. Keep the core warm and blood to the periphery. Unless you are running hard, I would wear a mid layer always even if it feels a bit hot. Too hot is uncomfortable. Too cold is miserable.
Outerwear – Priority #1 is something windproof. From there, there are two considerations: 1) Outerwear for the run must allow substantial venting; and 2) Outerwear for the bike is best when it traps the heat more effectively.
Shoes: It goes without saying running shoes are what you need to run. Your choice is based upon terrain and type of runner you are. For the bike, good quality fully windproof booties to cover your bike shoes will deliver good service until the temperatures drop below freezing. When it gets really cold, I wear a full cycling boot.
Coach Peter’s winter run kit
Castelli Skull Cap and/or Sugoi balaclava and/or Running Buff
Craft Base Layer or SwartWool base layer or REI camping base layer
Generic Fleece vest
Pearl Izumi – running jacket with detachable arms
Sugoi Midzero running tights
Coach Peter’s winter cycling kit
Coach Peter’s winter cycling kit
Castelli Skull Cap and/or Sugoi balaclava and/or Running Buff
Craft Base Layer or SwartWool base layer or REI camping base layer
Castelli Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey (Optional)
Castelli Pro Cycling Jacket
Showers Pass Crosspoint Wind Glove (late fall)
Pearl Izumi PRO AmFib lobster glove (winter)
Pearl Izumi Amfib Cycling Tights
Castelli Bib Shorts
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB MTB Shoe Cover (late fall)
Lake MXZ 303 Winter Boot (winter)
Comment back with any suggestions you might have on fall/winter gear. Would love to hear your suggestions.
Keep running & riding. Go to spectacular places! Be like this Startline athlete and go above the snow line.
Photo Credit: Larry Rosa photography – Strong like bull camp 2018
This weekend’s NYC Marathon was quite windy and blustery. The impact of the wind is easy to under estimate. Studies have shown that the energy cost differential of running outside (even on a still day) vs. indoors on the treadmill is significant. This is because you are developing a headwind outdoors vs. running in still air on the treadmill. This leads to the scientifically supported recommendation from coaches to increase the treadmill to a 1% incline to simulate outdoor running.
That said, if you have a blustery day like yesterday the impact is even more significant. At points, runners would have faced 8+ mph winds, add in an average pace of 6-7 mph and everyone is pushing into a 14 mph headwind. If your day yesterday was tough, this may be a very good reason. The energy cost differential, while perceived as sustainable early in the race, will cost you dearly toward the end of the race unless you account for it in your race strategy.
All cyclists know the advantages of slippery bike shapes, deep section wheels, and reduction of frontal surface area on race performance and cycling economy. Moreover, at higher speeds the wind resistance impact curve gets steeper and steeper. It is not a linear relationship. Finally, a vertical runner in loose running clothing is far from an optimized aerodynamic shape.
So what does this mean? Hide in the lee of the pack as much as possible to reduce the impact of a windy day and get used to running closer to others in training. Channel the cyclist in you and be tactical about where you are in the group throughout your race. Hide behind the tall runners, make moves when the wind is with you and not against you and preserve your energy for when you most need it, which is at the end of the race. It’s fun and engages your mind throughout the race as well.
Such a fun day for the first group training session. Weather was cool, sun was out. The key focus early in training is to strengthen connective tissue, build muscle, and do some aerobic conditioning.
The aerobic system can be developed fundamentally by time on your feet. This can be done very effectively at 60% of HR Max. To maintain & develop your aerobic engine, the bulk of your training plan should be relatively easy in effort. In addition, at easy levels of effort, the strain on your connectivity tissue is reduced and recovery is substantially easier, which reduces overall injury risk.
Squats, lunges, planks & bridges introduce load to the musculature and connective tissue. Over a course of 4-6 weeks, consistent body weight strength work will make you a stronger and injury resistant athlete.
Combine 4 short, 10-min runs with multiple sets of strength work and now you have a formidable, time-efficient workout that works everything you need to begin to set your running base and improve your durability as an athlete.
Be efficient with your time, stay out of the gym at least for now, and enjoy the fall weather. Bask in the glory of being outside during the changing seasons with your friends.
I had the pleasure of meeting & listening to the legendary running coach Dr. Jack Daniels PhD at the #BrooklynRunCo this morning. It was particularly fitting on the eve of the #NYCMarathon.
As endurance athletes, we must meter out the energy we have, specifically glycogen, across the entire duration of the race. The energy consumption curve at higher paces/intensities is significantly steeper and grows steeper as we increase pace. The result is that all too often marathoners burn out in the later miles, struggle to complete, and positive split.
Dr. Daniels’s sage advice is to hold back in the early miles no matter how good you feel. Conserve your energy reserves, and reduce the fatigue impact of the race. This strategy sets you up for a strong close and negative split even when the back of the race has more challenging terrain. The world’s best marathoners all negative split because, even at the ferocious paces that they run, they are all going out easier than they can run and intend to run.
It’s happening – 4 days to go. Get your shoes on and laces tied for the off season run/strength program. The team will meet at Connecticut Muffin on the corner of Prospect Park West & 15 St. in Brooklyn. On site registration is at 7:30 am or register now so you can sleep in a bit more.
Workout begins at 8:00 am! First work out is 30-40 mins of EZ running interspersed with body weight strength exercises. Come and have some fun in the park!
Off Season training begins in 3 weeks! After a few weeks off from structured training and some well earned rest, it is time to get off the couch and get moving again so not all of your fitness gains from last season are lost.
The fall is a wonderful time of year… The temperatures are cooler and you can introduce focus blocks into your training to improve on personal limiters. During the race season, the focus is on race specific preparation, but the fall allows you to step back, be disciplined and address gaps when you don’t have so many competing priorities.
This year, Startline coaching is offering two off season programs:
11 Week Run/Strength program:
Improve your run speed potential – Complete a focused run program with speed work aimed at a higher intensity 10M or 10K. You have to run faster to run fast.
Lack flexibility and constantly plagued by niggles & injuries that slow down your season progress. The program focuses on strength development & stretching to improve your durability and range of motion.
Struggling with your swim form – Complete a swim progression focused on technique, endurance, & pacing control. Increase both the frequency & yardage that you swim, and receive specific form correction from a coach in a small group setting. Hold your best form for longer!