A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Friday, January 11, 2019

UTMB in 2019, And...Ironman Training?

So, I got into UTMB.

Yep, that race with Europe, the mountains, running for days and nights and all that.

Uh oh...

I'm not sure if fate was smiling at me or having a practical joke at my expense. Hopefully I won't end up like that guy above.

I think I would have to be standing most of the time to make progress to the finish, right?

At least the race is a bit out of my way of my triathlon season. UTMB is in late August. Ironman Ireland is in June, and the USA Triathlon Nationals are in the beginning of August. I can fill July with some local triathlons too.


Training? Will still be the same. Sort of.

Then again...

Seriously though, I think only two or three trips to Mt. Tammany might be the way to go here. I need to be a fast road runner for triathlons, so I have to primarily practice my speed on the roads.

I will do a lot more local trails though, for general all-around off-road fitness. I figure some loops at Sourland Mountain with some of the guys at the club gearing up for Naked Bavarian and Bear Mountain will help. And then there's some new additions:

Sassquad Racing and Running

Fueled by Doughnuts - Wayne Pacconi

Both of these groups seem to have some nice local trail runs each week, which is nice.


Truly though, training won't change that much. There is a plan here, and I know I can do very well in each one of the big races that I do, including UTMB.

Off for a 6 mile run now. On roads. Hasta La Vista!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

I'm Going to UTMB!!!

I won the lottery! Third time is the charm. I'm glad the Fates have given me this one more opportunity! I'll be training hard for this one!

Wish me luck!!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Triathlon Has Tier Pricing, Ultrarunning Has Lotteries

I dabble in both ultrarunning and triathlon, probably in equal amounts now. Both sports are quite different in nature; their origins, the attitude, the atmosphere...

And the entries.

And this poses a problem for planning both types of races. My triathlon season is already set for 2019, including the big Ironman in Ireland. Ultrarunning? Well, we're finally at the eve of my fate in the UTMB lottery, and the results might finally get me to complete my schedule on the ultrarunning side...or it might not.

Let me explain. A lot of big triathlons have what they call tiered pricing. They have about 3 or 4 tiers of prices depending on how soon one enters the race. Each tier closes when a set number of athletes are registered, and then the next tier (and a more expensive price) is opened. So, if the registration opens up for Ironman Lake Placid on August 1 and I jump in a few seconds after it opens, I can probably get the Tier 1 pricing, which is the lowest price. If I wait several hours, I most likely will register under Tier 2 (probably $40 more than Tier 1). If I wait a couple of months, then it would probably be Tier 3 or even Tier 4, their most expensive price.

You can see the prices for each tier in a triathlon. But you can easily register and plan around the race because you know you're in.

Ironman embraces the tier pricing. Other triathlons have come to embrace the tier pricing system too. If it sells out, then I can easily find another race. My racing schedule can be completed quickly.

Ultrarunning, on the other hand, uses lotteries before one can register. Some of the races have a very low number of people that can enter because the course is run in sensitive environmental areas and the rangers that operate the parks set a strict limit of people for that race. Other ultras tend to embrace the lottery to try to equalize distribution in their international field. Whatever the case, large ultras tend to use the lottery to pick who enters that race.

The Western States lottery is one of the most well known. Everyone needs to wait until the first weekend of December before they know they're in or not.

And this poses a bit of a problem for one who does both triathlon and ultras. I can easily plan triathlons a year in advance, but I cannot finish the overall schedule until the ultra lotteries are drawn.

I am in the UTMB lottery that will be drawn tomorrow morning. This race happens in August, and I cannot place any other race around August or September until this lottery is settled.

If I am lucky tomorrow? Then I finally finish out my 2019 racing schedule. If not, well, I need a race to satisfy UTMB for the following year (2020), and the race that I'm looking at, the Superior 100...is another lottery. And wait and see again.

The lotteries can be maddening, and I'm currently getting to the point that I might not enter races anymore that involve a lottery. I know that ultras are getting more and more popular, so more ultras resort to the lottery system to pick their athletes.

So be it, but my patience is wearing thin. In the coming years, I know that I'll probably be reducing my exposure to these lotteries in the future. Which is sad because I really do love the sport.

But, I guess, on the optimistic side, it might make me choose a more local ultra to a large-scale ultra. So at least there is that.

My fate for UTMB will be determined tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Prioritize Your Upcoming Race Season!

Rule of thumb while planning your racing season...if you have a lot of races you're planning to participate in, don't try to excel in all of them. You're most likely not going to succeed. Yeah, you're human after all. Here's why!
A definition of priority levels of your races ("A", "B", or "C").

Your season should have at least one "A" race and no more than 3. You are training for those particular races, so the focus of the training will be for those races. Your training builds up to these important races, then you do a legitimate taper for these races, hopefully excel in the race, and then have at least a good week of recovery afterwards. The reason why "A" races should be only a few for the year is that it presents a huge disruption in the training if you have many "A" races. The taper and the recovery are easier weeks that can break up the flow of training from one race to another, so it's best to save these for the races you want to truly focus on.

 UTMB would definitely be an "A" race. So is Ironman. These long distance races will be the priority of 98% of the athletes that participate in these races.You want to be at your absolute best for these races, so a good taper is needed to be completely rested for the race and a good, complete recovery is needed after putting out your best effort in these races.

"B" Races! These are races you don't really focus on but would like to get some good intermediate goals leading up to your "A" race. The "B" race doesn't have much of a taper (maybe 2-3 days beforehand) and should be such that your recovery should be close to complete 2-3 days afterwards. You get a good workout in without much of a disruption of your training. Who knows? If you play the cards right or if the planets align, you could still possibly get a PR here, but don't expect it.

"B" races! Given my schedule, the NJ Marathon in April would be my "B" race. I would love to qualify for Boston in this race, but I do not want to interrupt my training for Ironman Ireland in June, so the taper for this race will only be 3 days, not 2 weeks. If I get the BQ, that would be great, but would be okay if I don't. This ultimately serves as support for Ironman Ireland; I have bigger fish to fry.
"C" races. Basically local, fun races that you can completely train through on with absolutely no taper and recovery. If you have a 5 mile race in your neighborhood, you can run this as a tempo run that satisfies your training schedule. You don't need a taper and you'll be ready for another fast workout in a couple of days.

 I'll be supporting my club's teams running the Cherry Blosson 10K race as well as get in a good tempo run for my Ironman training. This is one of my "C" races. I don't need to taper for this race and should be completely recovered 2 days after the race.

Ideally, you should only have 1-3 "A" races, have up to around 6 "B" races in your season, and many "C" races (as long as they fit right into the training schedule). This is the reason why trying to excel at every race on your schedule is folly. Pick the 3 races you truly decide to excel, and that is it. The other races that you have should be in support of your training towards those "A" races.

Good luck planning your season; let's have an epic 2019!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2019 - Strength Training Requirement for Athletes

Triathletes and runners need to be approached very differently in terms of strength training. I want to make sure people do understand what each needs and how both can go about training successfully.

Triathletes deal with three different disciplines. They swim and cycle as well as run. So they naturally do a great deal of cross-training for their workouts. What is even better for triathletes is that the swim and the bike are non-impact exercises. So a triathlete can really pour on the mileage in both the bike and the swim and not worry about "overuse" injuries. They also train more of their muscles, as well as train the same muscles in different ways. This leads to a more balanced regimen.

Runners, on the other hand, mostly train in only one discipline. And that discipline is of a high impact nature. So it is imperative that they need to complement their running with other forms of training to make sure all of their muscles, especially those of the core, are strong enough to tackle the miles on the run. This can done by either adopting the disciplines of the triathlete, the bike and the swim...or they adopt a core strength training program along with their running.

Triathletes also can benefit from a core strengthening program as well, but it's absolutely critical that runners adopt this program or they run the risk of getting injured. There are a number of good routines that runners can use on the website kemmefitness.com as well as plenty of other sources for core training and functional fitness. For 2019 I will be requiring all runners and some triathletes to get into a strength training program that works with their training. And all athletes who adopt me as a coach will *have to* show me their progress through the Training Tilt app. This is a requirement because I've seen a lot of people, near and far, knocked out by overuse injuries and I want to do my part in preventing these injuries from happening. This is absolutely mandatory as a condition of my coaching, so please, if I tell you that you need core strengthening, accept it as a fact that I do not want to see you sidelined at all.
Of course, if athletes have any questions about the strength training that they receive, go ahead and ask them. I'm always here to help. But please make the strength training as important as your running, because I will treat it the same way.

Here's to a healthy and injury-free 2019!

Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 - The Events and the People Who Influenced Me in a Positive Way.

Each month was eventful. The descriptions are below:

January - Sassquad Trail Running! Kim Levinsky has set up some very unique and fun events on the trails. I participated in the Frosty Fat Sass that month.

February - Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler - came in 22 hours 26 minutes, got on the podium in this USATF National Ultra event.

March - NYC Half Marathon - Anne Siglam and Lisa Kaire Lubarsky finishing their respective races in what was a very cold and windy race.

April - Rutgers Unite Half Marathon - Mitchell Mond and the RVRR crew shining in this race. NJ Marathon, Jennifer Adams Krumins getting that BQ she needed. Good luck at Boston in 2019!

May - A HUGE contingent of RVRR folks finishing the North Face 50K race. A great day all around! If I remember correctly, it was Rick Siemon and Valentina Dal Pozzo's first ultra! If there is anyone else, let me know.

June - Anne Siglam's determination has got her to the finish line of the RVRR Train Run, her first Ultra!

July - NJ State Triathlon - Jennifer Montemurro in the Olympic Distance and Toni Ann Alfieri in the sprint distance. Both have finished their first triathlon!

August - I'm finishing the Ironman Boulder 70.3 in 5:18, then finishing the USA Triathlon Nationals in Cleveland in the top third of my age group the following weekend.

September - Kenny Danielsen finishing his first triathlon of the season. Oh yeah!

October - The Raritan Valley Road Runners in general, of course.

November - Philadelphia Marathon! Bridget Hudrick getting a BQ on her first marathon! Mitchell Mond getting a 13 minute PR in front of his family who is cheering him on!

December - Naked Nick 50K - Paul Levine and Kevin Nedza finishing their first ultra.

I know there's a lot more I'm leaving out. Great job in 2018; let's make 2019 even better!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Trail Miles to Road Miles - Conversion to "Time on Feet"

I encourage every one of my athletes to get some trails in from time to time. Even for road runners, trails provide a great way to exercise your balance by developing the stabilizer muscles that come with running on uneven ground. It also promotes landing more on your center of gravity (directly under you instead of landing ahead of your knee or hip). Both developed stabilizers and center of gravity will lend towards increased economy of your running, even on the road.

 All miles are not created equal. You'll do a lot more work on the trails than on the road. "Time on feet" is more accurate on trails than miles.

Ah, but trail is more challenging than road. You say, "you assigned me 8 miles; wouldn't it be more difficult to run the 8 miles on tougher trails?" "What if I do mostly trails in one week? Would that lead to overtraining?"

Well, yes. But there is a way to make sure you don't overtrain in case you wind up mostly on trails, especially the toughest trails.

I convert everything to "time on feet." Most coaches do assign "road miles" to their athletes, so a conversion to "time on feet" is needed.

The conversion that I find that works the best is "8 miles to one hour time on feet"...or basically 15 minutes every 2 miles.

It does amount to a 7:30 minute mile pace, which is very fast for a lot of people, but it does work out nicely to everyone who normally goes slower on the roads too, because trails present a very tough challenge to not just your legs, but your core muscles as well.

So, if I assign you 8 miles of running, these are road miles. If you decide to go on tough, rugged trails instead, you run for about an hour instead. Even if you do just 4 miles on the gnarliest hilliest trails for 60 minutes, you've done the equivalent of an 8 mile run on the road. And you prevent any kind of overtraining that might occur if you try running 8 miles on those trails.

So it's a pretty simple conversion, but in the end, it prevents a lot of overtraining. Please be mindful of it in case you decide to run on the trails instead of on the road for some of your runs!