Rugged Individualist. Certified USA Triathlon Coach & NASM Personal Trainer, Men's Self Improvement Coach. President of Go Farther Sports. National Ranked Triathlete & 100 Mile Grand Slam Ultrarunner, 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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Running Ridiculously Easy to Faster Race Times

As a coach, there is one thing above all others I truly do with athletes above all else. Take a guess what this might be.

Is it:

1) Make like a drill sergeant and shout and prod athletes to make them go faster?

2) Tailoring training plans for each athlete constantly to make him/her train on their time?

3) Get athletes to run slower on their easy days so that they have enough energy to perform well on their hard days.

If you chose 1, you've been watching too much TV. I know the stereotypical coach on TV shouts at unwilling athletes to get them to do his will. Fortunately, people who see me are quite willing to run fast when called upon, so this is never a problem for me.

If you chose 2, that would be true when I see athletes in the beginning. There is a lot of time involved with understand their available time, but once that is ironed out after several weeks, not much work is needed to maintain that continually.

If you chose 3, you are CORRECT!

Every single athlete that has seen me are perfectly WILLING to put that extra effort forward to help them do great in their race. In all my years I've been coaching people, there have been no exceptions to this, so I am quite fortunate.

The problem with most competitive athletes is to make sure they don't try to kick butt in training all the time. It's shutting those competitive juices down that can be tough on competitive athletes.

In a properly structured weekly training regimen, I only have my athletes go hard around 3 times per week. Sometimes it's 4 times, in case an athlete is approaching his/her big race. Sometimes, it's zero times, when an athlete has his/her normal recovery for the week.

The rest of the time, it's easy miles that fills up the rest of the week. And when I
mean easy, I mean ridiculously easy!

For the run, easy means going at least 90-120 seconds per mile pace slower than your marathon pace. If that sounds ridiculously easy, then they are running too hard.

Sometimes it's even better just to leave the watch at home and just run! There is something really liberating about running without any kind of instrument attached to you whether it's a heart rate monitor, or GPS, or even just a stopwatch. Just get out there, go ridiculously easy, and enjoy it!

A workout should be ridiculously easy enough so that they should feel energized after an easy workout, not tired.

And that is key for those 3 hard workouts on that weekly training plan. The overall strategy is to try to be 100% ready for that hard workout so that one can blast them to smithereens and get the best out of those harder workouts. If one goes too fast on their ridiculously easy workouts then can end up tired for those hard workouts that count; chances are he/she will not get the best results from those workouts.

"You want to do well in your harder workouts? Then make sure you train easy in your easy workouts"

Case in point, when I was training for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning last year, I found that I have done around 80% of my miles at a very slow pace last year. Granted, most ultramarathons, especially 100 milers, have me running at a slow pace, so you can argue that point. But there were hard training days that were needed to give me the extra power to go up the hills of the Rockies and the Wasatch range, especially at higher altitude where oxygen was scarce.

This year I qualified for USA Triathlon Nationals at a blistering 2:10:59 at an Olympic Distance triathlon in Massachusetts. I did a bit more speedwork for this race, but was pleasantly surprised that 75% of my run-up for this race was still ridiculously easy.

"Consistency in training is one of the critical factors in performing better fitnesswise. That means training 5-6 days per week. If you want to keep training for 5-6 days per week for every week, you'll need to make sure a good percentage of those workouts are easy. Otherwise you run a high risk of getting burned out or injured in your training."

Bottom line...if you want to perform better and go faster at races, you'll need to slower in your easy recovery workouts...
"...Trust me on this."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Random Thoughts - 2015 Planning

Week 3 of my offseason has started, and I'm already starting to feel a whole lot stronger.

It just strengthens that idea that an 8 week offseason is needed every now and then. With all of these endurance events, a break is definitely needed.

During this break, the planning for the 2015 season is under way. The first definite race of the new season is the Rocky Raccoon 100 (RR100), down near Houston Texas.

It's going to be nice to get down south from the cold northeast winter and try a Texas 100 miler.

This pictures of the trails there look extremely flat. Would that make them fast? I hope so. Starting October I'll be training hard for this race and will be looking for a PR at the 100 mile distance. My current PR is 21:24:21 in Vermont.

With non-technical trails like these at RR100, I hope to PR on this course...

...that is, if I don't become a meal first!


I'm hoping the second year is the charm for getting into the most prestigious ultra in Europe, the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). Most second year lottery entrants for this race do get in, so I'm crossing my fingers for this one. This race is run in the last weekend of August.

Even though I did survive and finish the Grand Slam in 2013, I still feel more can be improved on my hill climbing. I'll be adding a lot more strength and core training to my regimen to strengthen my body for the rigorous climbs in this race. I don't want to just survive this race, I want to do extremely well. So I'll be putting in a lot of hard work towards this end.

Start of UTMB in Chamonix, France. It's the "Tour de France" of Ultrarunning.

Leadville 100?

How did this race get back into my radar again?

Maybe it's because it was the toughest race I've ever finished?

Maybe it's because this race has definitely changed my life for the better after my first attempt in 2011 resulted in a miserable DNF?

Maybe it's because I can still probably learn a lot more about myself if I race it again?

Maybe because I know of a lot of people who might be going to Leadville next year and I want to get on that bandwagon?

Or maybe it's just because I want that huge 25 hour buckle...

Damn, that's a thing of beauty!

Well, for whatever reasons, there is a strong possibility that I will be registering for Leadville again on January 1. The only doubt that I have is that that race is just 2 weeks before UTMB.

Two hilly killer races in 2 weeks. Just shoot me now!

USA Triathlon Nationals?

On the triathlon front, I do want to try my hand in Nationals and see how I do. This past year, I've posted a 2:10 at the Massachusetts State Triathlon, so I know I still have the speed to compete at the olympic distance.

The problem is, I don't know where or when USA Triathlon Nationals will be next year. And that information is notoriously delayed until January. My racing schedule will probably already be set at that time, so I'll have to let fate tell me whether it's possible to race Nationals or not.

Other races?

Three Days at the Fair. I ran 161 miles this past year. Maybe try for 200 miles?

Running around in circles. I actually enjoyed it last year. I still don't know why...

The Bear 100. If UTMB doesn't come through, this race would be a strong possibility. It's a Hardrock 100 qualifier too; that is incentive enough.

Bear 100. What a beautiful race!

Vermont 100. Less of a chance next year, but I need two more Vermont 100 races to get a 500 mile buckle.

Vermont 100.

Hardrock 100. Very slim chance of making it, but I'll throw my name into the lottery and see what shakes out.

Hardrock freakin' 100!

NJ State Triathlon. Olympic Distance tri, it'll be nice to compete, AND BEAT triathletes in my area. If you're in my age group, I will track you down!

NJ State Triathlon

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Take Two - Why You Need 2 Months Rest Out Of Your Training

Runners and other endurance athletes can be an obsessive lot. A lot of athletes cram so many races into their already busy schedules that it seems like they are racing every week.

Those are the ones are are trying to fit in three marathons in one weekend. Yeah, you know who you are!

Just take a step back and see what you're doing to yourself. If you're like many athletes I know, you have races throughout the entire year. That's not a good thing.

One of the most important things in planning for a great racing season is that athletes NEED to build in an off-season of at least two months to their training plans. This is absolutely critical to making sure that they are performing optimally way into their distant future.

Eight weeks might seem like a lot of time, but it is really only a blip on the yearly calendar.

Think about it...planning an easy day after a hard workout is a sound idea. Planning an easy week after 3-4 weeks of intense training makes sense also...

So wouldn't it make sense that after several hard months of training and racing, a wholesale recovery is needed? Wouldn't it make sense that this recovery should take at least two months, maybe even more? Physically, the chance of injury, especially permanent injury is significantly lowered if the body is allowed to heal.

Besides, it restores a lot of balance in one's life. Sometimes one needs a couple of months to focus on other things, like family, kids, and their jobs.

Remember your wife? Yeah, that person you married before you laid eyes on your bike? It's past time you get reacquainted with her.

Honey, you still know who I am?

Plus, the mind seeks balance, whether one likes it or not. If athletes are always training for triathlons and marathons, their minds will rebel after a while, especially if they neglect the other aspects of their lives.

Aside from lowering the chances of a debilitating physical injury, an extended recovery gives that chance for the mind to recover also. After a nice extended recovery, the mind is focused, is sharp, and is ready to kick some butt for the new season.

What is extended recovery anyway?

Well, it's not a chance to become lazy with overall health...

Definitely not!!!

...but to have a chance to do other things that are fun, yet active.

Getting warmer! Mountain biking is a great off-season activity. Just make sure the tires are round before riding though.

Yoga is another thing worth looking at, as well as other physical activities other than swimming, road cycling, and running. 

Those three activities can still be included, of course, but one STRONG suggestion...please leave the watch at home.

Ask yourself this you remember a time where you just went running for the heck of it, and not worry about time, pacing, and speed? One time where you just walked out of your house with just your clothes and ran just for kicks?

(or without your clothes, if you're into that...)

If not, than you lost the real reason why you run...FOR FUN!!!

Screw the watch, don't worry about your heart rate, stop having satellites and the government track you with that GPS device. Just go out there and RUN! Take it easy and soak in your surroundings. Believe me, you'll definitely see a difference! You might actually find it fun.

You need to get in touch with the enjoyment of working out, if you want to keep it going far into the future. If you want to be like this person, who I admire for her feat...

99 Year Old Ida Keeling, Setting 100 meter sprint record this month. God bless her!

...then make sure you keep having fun with your fitness. That is what the off-season is there for. Make it so!!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Can East Coasters Have Success in Leadville? Yes they Can!

The Leadville 100 course is extremely tough on everyone entered. Historically, more people have dropped out of the race than finished it. It's that hard.

Runners trudging up Hope Pass in the Leadville 100.

The high altitude, the big mountain pass, and ESPECIALLY the aggressive cutoff times (you only have 30 hours to complete it) serve to make this race one of the toughest in the world.

I saw some good friends of mine attempt the race this year. Some have finished it but a good many did not. They deserve an A+ for effort, that is for sure. 

West coast runners have a bit more success at this race because, well, most have these huge mountains there in their back yard.

That gives east coast ultrarunners a bit of a disadvantage. How can east coast runners have success in a race  when they cannot train in those conditions that the race is in?

After barely surviving this race last year and looking at what people I know do the race this year, I think I can probably put a handle on what *might* be needed to have a great race in Leadville.

First, there is the altitude problem. That is a problem for east coasters since we really don't have regions here that are at 10,000 ft. I mean, we east coasters skydive from that altitude, but that's about it.

The way to counteract that is to be in the best shape possible. A body that is at its fittest can definitely handle itself better with less oxygen. If an east coaster is looking to run Leadville, they need to understand that he or she is going to have to put in the hours of training to get into peak shape.

But peak shape alone still won't make east coast runners get to the finish line. There are also the mountains to consider.

Again, east coasters don't have huge mountains in their back yard. What I think is needed to get strong mountain legs is a power and strength regimen for the legs and core.

That means hitting the gym. Hard!

Explosive plyometric sets involving squats, jumps, leg curls, legs and back extensions are probably the best way to go about it. Running a lot of miles will help you gain the endurance, but power is also needed to get up Hope Pass. A powerful core, especially glutes and quads, will help the cause a lot better, making the climbs a lot easier on east coast runners. Crossfit might also help. I am familiar with the basics of Crossfit's high intensity programs. I haven't looked deeply into the program, but I know a couple of people who swear by Crossfit. And they have successfully finished Leadville, so there is definitely a merit there.

Squats are probably the most effective way of strengthening up the core muscles and should definitely included in the Leadville training regimen.

Last year, along with weight training and running, I also complemented my running with a lot of cycling. Cycling definitely helps the quads and glutes and did factor in nicely to my success at Leadville last year, so it's definitely worth looking at.

These are all suggestions for those considering Leadville. If you're an east coast ultrarunner and considering Leadville, don't just run a lot of miles. Chances are, you'll be very disappointed come race day. You'll need a lot of strength training; make sure you make this a critical part of your training.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Suggested Strategy for Finishing Leadville!

First of all, good luck to all those tackling Leadville this weekend!!!

It's been a long time since I posted, but I'm back again. This week, I am largely on the sidelines and ready to watch this year's Leadville 100 this weekend.

This race historically has more people that do not finish (DNF) than those who get to the finish line. Why is so hard?

Yes, it's definitely the altitude, but it's more the cutoff times that causes DNFs than anything else.

You see, 30 hours is usually the cutoff time for a not-so-hilly 100 mile race. For most mountain 100 milers, the race usually gives more hours to finish (for example, Wasatch has 36 hours for you to complete and Hardrock has 48 hours to complete).

Leadville gives runners only 30 hours. With the thin air and mountain passes to climb, that 30 hour cutoff becomes VERY aggressive.

So what is the strategy to get to the finish?

My opinion? Runners need to take advantage of the flatter sections of the course, starting at the Fish Hatchery at mile 23.

You need to take it easy on Sugarloaf Mountain from mile 11-23 so that you can take advantage of the flatter section from mile 23 to mile 39.

The problem with a lot of runners is that most do know about the aggressive cutoff times, and then run hard from the start and push hard up Sugarloaf Mountain, the first mountain climb on the course. By the time they get to Fish Hatchery, they are already gassed and mostly ripened for a DNF.

The stretch from the start to May Queen Aid Station at mile 13.5 is mostly small rolling hills. Runners should just run within themselves here, arriving at May Queen strong.

After May Queen, the runners encounter a stretch of mostly uphill single-track that emerges onto a dirt road leading up to the top of Sugar Loaf. The road will have switchbacks and is steep at some sections. Unless they're going for the top of the standings, most regular runners should just walk up the hill and save their energy for later, when the course is flatter.

This is me walking up Sugarloaf last year. Walking does a body good here, as evidenced by my smile for the camera.

Once at the top the runners will then descend down the Power Line hill towards the Fish Hatchery Aid station at mile 23. The last two miles of this stretch is slightly uphill on paved road. If done right, runners should have a lot of energy in their tank to take advantage of the course after this aid station.

Most people come in very gassed though. They take Sugarloaf very hard and wound up very tired. To be blunt, they are royally screwed.

After Fish Hatchery, the course proceeds on very flat paved road for the next 2-3 miles. Here is where ultrarunners should start to take advantage of the course. The course then winds up on a not-so-technical trail that ever goes slightly uphill through the Outward Bound Aid Station at mile 31, through the Mt. Elbert Aid Station, and then downhill towards Twin Lake.


When runners get to Twin Lakes, they should be very comfortable in relation to the cutoff time there (10 hours into the race). It's time to transform from runner to hiker.

 Water crossing after Twin Lakes on my way to Hope Pass.

Runners should take some time at Twin Lakes to get properly fueled, because they're going to need it on the climb up Hope Pass. The climb on the front side is 3000 ft., so they need to be fully hydrated and sated before setting out.

If they've done their training right, runners should be able to take a rhythmic approach up Hope Pass. If they don't have their "mountain legs", they are definitely going to struggle up this pass; there are some noted steep sections on the course. The Hope Pass Aid station near the top of Hope Pass is the first time the runners will be emerging from the tree-line. They would appreciate the llamas that are there; those are the animals that got the supplies up there in the first place! Once past the aid station, the last bit of climb is very steep. Runners should just keep moving forward as best they can and they will eventually hit the top of the Pass.

First time up Hope Pass. I'm still smiling.

Coming down the back side of the Pass can be a bit tricky as here the runners will start encountering some of the faster runners coming back up the Pass. It can get quite busy and runners will have to frequently step aside so that other runners can pass by. It can get a bit frustrating at times.

Descending Hope Pass. Runners are going back and forth here. Lots of traffic.

Winfield, the turnaround of this course, awaits 2 miles after reaching the bottom of Hope Pass. The cutoff time is 14 hours. Runners should try to get there in under 13 hours though because historically, those who arrive after 13 hours usually DON'T make it to the finish.

Runners need to take time at this aid station to eat and drink because they need to get back up and over Hope Pass! The back side of the pass is a bit steeper here, so will power is definitely needed to push those tired legs up and over the Pass for the last time.

Once up, descending can be pretty nice. If runners can get to Twin Lakes before night falls, they're in very good shape. If not, they run the risk of running into those aggressive cutoffs at later aid stations.

At Twin Lakes, the athletes must transform from hikers back to runners again and should find their running legs very quickly. After the climb from Twin Lakes to Mt. Elbert Aid station, runners again should take advantage of the flatter section of the course, running mostly from Mt. Elbert to Fish Hatchery with 23.5 miles to go.

From Fish Hatchery, there is one more major gut check... Powerline hill. Miles 80-84. A point where most runners are at their most vulnerable. Here is where mind has to rule over matter.

Powerline Hill. Looks tough in the daytime, will be tackled at night!

All runners are at various levels of pain at this point. Willpower has to take over to get up this hill. There are about 5 false summits on this hill; the ground levels off at various points only to steepen to another uphill climb, so runners shouldn't be deceived. Runners have to dig deep and tolerate a lot of pain to get up this hill. This is what separates the finishers from those who DNF.

The descent from Sugarloaf Mountain isn't very bad except for the single-track before May Queen at Mile 86.5. If the runners watch their footing though, they should make it to May Queen without incident.

At this point, there are the 13.5 miles separating the runners from the finish. This can be daunting, but runners should start getting a taste of the finish line at this point. Runners should be fueled up before taking on this stretch. Although the small rolling hills are nothing like the mountain climbs, the legs here are so tired. One needs willpower to keep moving. Once beyond the lake, the town of Leadville is finally within reach! Keep moving and eventually they will finish!

I survived. Ugh!

To those runners who make it to the finish, congratulations! You just finished one of the tougher races in the world! To those in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, you just cleared the most difficult hurdle! Wasatch is a bit tougher but the 36 hour cutoff is heaven! All you have to do is keep moving there and you should be able to finish that race.

So good luck to all those ready to take on Leadville. I'll be rooting for you here and making sure to send you all good vibes! You have the training down. All you have to do is believe in yourself, dig deep and you will definitely make it to the finish line.