Category Archives: Motivation

Three Race Reviews and some Coaching Advice

The fall racing season in Fort Collins is rich with quality races. September seems to be a popular month since the weather is cooling down but the risk of snow is low. With so many events, how do you pick the best ones? Ask your coach. Here’s how my conversation with my coach went.

Me: Coach, I have three races coming up.

Coach: Great. What are the dates and details? I’ll work on a plan for you.

Me: FORTitude 10K on September 4th, Black Squirrel Half Marathon on September 9th and Equinox Half Marathon September 17th.

Coach: Wait a minute…. You’re going to do a 10K and two half marathons over the course of 14 days?

Me: It’s really more like three weeks.

Coach: September 4th to 17th is 14 days. That’s three races, with two of them being half marathons in two weeks’ time. What if you skipped the middle one? Then you’d have a little rest.

Me: Oh no. I couldn’t skip that. It’s in Lory State Park and I love those trails. The course climbs almost 2,000 ft up Timber Trail and on to Westridge Trail where the view is spectacular! The course is totally runnable but a nice challenge. The post-race party is fantastic too. Live music, beer and a full breakfast.

Coach: Could you just volunteer at that race and you’d still get the post-race party?

Me: What?! How could I earn my beer then?

Coach: (sighs and shakes his head) Maybe you could take the following week off? If you race the FORTitude, then do a trail half, your legs will be pretty tired going into the Equinox Half. Just skip that one.

Me: I already registered and it’s such a cool course! It starts at the Mishawaka and runs down the Poudre Canyon. With all that downhill, I think I can PR. Besides, Lisa at Green Events has been nagging me to run it for 17 months. And if you know Lisa, you know not to let her down. A ton of my Runners Roost friends are running it so I feel obligated to run and help the team have a good showing. I’m thinking I could taper a bit for this one too since it is a nice fast course.

Coach: (fidgeting with pen and clearly annoyed) Back to back Half Marathons? OK. We can work on that. What about that road 10K on the 4th? I’ve never heard of that. Could you miss that one?

Me: No way! That’s the inaugural FORTitude 10K! It should be a nice fast 10K course through some pretty neighborhoods. The finish is in the brand new CSU football stadium- How cool is that?! I really don’t want to miss it because it’s going to be a huge tradition and when I’m old like you coach, I can say, “I was at the VERY first FORTitude 10k!”

Coach:  (Crumples up training log notes and tosses them into the garbage can) Fine. Do whatever you want. Why even bother talking to me? (Tosses pen in the air and walks away)

Fortunately I coach myself so I got over myself not taking my own best advice. As it turns out, runner Dan did fine despite the concerns of Coach Dan. The race results and details are linked below for the real geeks. The lesson here is simply that sometimes, even when we know it’s a bad idea, it is still the best plan! I’m sure my performances could have been a bit better if I skipped one of the races. However, I ran reasonably well at each one, I enjoyed hanging out with friends and I got to meet some awesome runners that I never would have known if I skipped one of the races. Don’t get caught up in the “perfect” training and racing plan. Train smart, have fun and it’s OK to race frequently as long as you moderate your expectations for a top notch performance every time.

FORTitude 10k – 36:40

Black Squirrel Trail Half Marathon- 1:46:21

Equinox Half Marathon- 1:19:03–5/half-marathon/expanded


Step #3 of Being Awesome

I recently had a brief exchange on Twitter with @TheRunnerDad. He asked if anyone wanted to help write a book. I replied, “Sure, what are we writing about?” He said we could call it 10 steps to Being Awesome. We further decided- step #1 : Becaome a runner. Step #2: become a dad. This is logical since we are both awesome and we are both running dads. So what’s step #3?

What does it take to succeed in running? Hard work, good mileage, track sessions, mental toughness and strength training all play a role. The real trick is putting all elements together in a well-designed plan. You can pick up on tips for pace, track sessions and strength routines in countless articles in Running Times, Competitor Magazine or Runner’s World. But how do all the pieces fit together in your already busy week?

Here’s step #3: Surround Yourself with Awesome People

The good news is you probably do this already. Your friends, who run local races, show up for group runs and text you at 6:00 a.m. to make sure you’re on the way to the workout. These are your built-in advisers. Now take a next step and formalize this relationship. Ask four or five of the most knowledgeable, dedicated, successful runners you know to be your training advisory committee. Ask them to help you with your goals and hold you accountable. Send them emails about once a month asking for specific advice and letting them know how you’re doing. Most runners will be flattered that you asked. They will give you sincere insights and genuine encouragement.

How to pick your team

When I first tried this exercise, I had some people in mind. There were a few obvious choices. Then I thought through the qualities I needed to work on and which runners had those strengths. Mental toughness? Training tweaks for increasing 10K speed? Off the chart enthusiasm and that essential element of craziness? The voice of reason to moderate the crazy guy’s advice? I had check marks for all of these qualities in friends both locally and out of town. I had two runners that were younger and faster than me. Two who were close competitors to me and one who was quite a bit older than me but was a super-fast masters runner and currently terrorizing the 70+ age group runners. An All-Star team for sure.

Find at least one Crazy Runner for your advisory team.
Find at least one Crazy Runner for your advisory team.

Your advisory team will probably look much different than mine but select your advisors based on what you need to learn. Select only positive personalities and only serious athletes. Think about how they talk after a race. You want someone who can be analytical and honest but remain encouraging. Don’t pick the runner who always has a complaint about how something went wrong in the race. Watch for the runner who cheers for their friends enthusiastically and is generous with high fives. Do some Athlinks stalking and find that runner who is consistently solid and improving.

Dan with friends and super fast Masters guys, Dan Monteau and John Johnston.
Dan with friends and super fast Masters guys, Dan Monteau and John Johnston.

I have seen this concept succeed several times in my running career. As a kid, my running training was typically only once or twice a week. I would run occasionally with my dad on a four mile loop or go to the track with him. Then on many weekends, we ran races. Running races frequently was a wonderful experience to learn strategy, toughness, disappointment and the thrill of a PR. I also got to hang out after the race with other runners. Many of them took time to talk with me and encourage me. I was surrounded with solid, adult runners who helped motivate me and educate me. Additionally, I saw my dad arise early each morning to get in his training. I witnessed first-hand the dedication it took on a daily basis to be a runner. I was surrounded by good running influences!

In high school, my team wasn’t great. So I joined a running club with the one kid on my high school team who was a serious runner. At the running club track sessions, I was surrounded by experienced runners who were much older than I was. Soaking up their knowledge was extremely valuable.

Running in college was another giant step. I went from being the third fastest runner in the state to being the seventh fastest runner on the team. My teammates at the University of Florida made me a much better runner. Running with national class athletes everyday forces you to elevate your training and racing.

This concept holds true in life as a whole; not just running. Apply what you learn in running to become truly AWESOME.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

“Birds of a feather flock together” – old proverb

Whoever walks (runs) with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

“With many advisers, plans succeed, but without counsel, they fail.” – Proverbs 15:22

Shifting Gears: A Lesson from Jimmie

Jimmie is a weight lifter and personal trainer. He is built like a power lifter and has thrown around some impressive chunks of iron in his day.  I’ve known Jimmie since 1998 from the old Gold’s Gym days and back then if you offered to bet me $1,000 that in 2015, Jimmie would be running regularly and cranking out frequent 10 milers, I would have taken that bet. Then I would have offered to up it to $10,000.

I would have lost.

Train Harder
Train Harder

Jimmie had an injury recently and can’t do all the upper body work like he has for so many years. So in his words, “The sun’s still gonna shine so I better go workout.”

That means running. I’m impressed that he can shift gears like that. We all have setbacks in training: Injuries, time constraints, bad weather, or just low motivation. When you hit one of these problems shift gears and become solution oriented. You still have to work out! The fat’s not going to burn itself! Train Harder.

And Everyone Ran Faster!

We were running races at track practice last night. I paired up kids so I’d have 2 kids of similar speed running together. The race was a slight downhill on grass of about 60M. I was at the bottom with my watch giving the starter’s commands. The kids know to stand tall, step up for “On your Mark!” crouch down for “Set!” and then start on “Go!”. With kids running from age 4 to 12, we had quite a range of times and skill levels.

After three rounds, I ran up to the start and gave two bits of coaching:

  1. Run through the finish. Pretend the real finish line is 10 steps past where I’m standing.
  2. Keep your knees high- just like we do in the High Knees drill.

I ran back down and began calling them up to the line again. Here’s the best part- Every kid ran a little faster than they did on the previous three rounds!

Now to hurdles. Same race course but with three hay bales turned on their side making hurdles that were knee high for me. I gave some brief instructions and this time we went one at a time since we only had one “lane” to run.

After three rounds, I gave one bit of coaching:

  • Remember your arms? How do you use your arms for sprints? It’s the same for hurdles. Practice your arm swing. We all stood there and practiced arm swing.

Back to the races! As each kid came to the line I’d yell, “Remember your arms! To your Mark!….” Again every kid ran faster.

So the lesson the kids taught me is that the little things really do matter. Of course, I’ve heard that many times from teachers, coaches, and other wise people over the years. But nothing proves it as clearly at the numbers on a watch and a smile on a runner’s face.

Maybe Al Oerter summed it up best:

I’ve thrown for forty-five years on an average of 10,000 throws a year. That’s 450,000 throws and not one of those throws has ever been perfect. There was always something else I could have done to make the prior throw just a little bit better. I think if we attack life in that same manner we can do some wonderful things on this earth.

-Al Oerter Four time Olympic Gold Medalist

Captain Foamy Pants and the 21 Mile Run

It could have been a really bad run today. My favorite place to do long runs is infested with deer flies. Last week if felt like Nolan Ryan was hiding in the forest and periodically jumping out to nail me in the back with pine cones. So San Felasco was not a good option. I failed in my attempt to gather anyone to run hills in Micanopy. Today would be a solo run on blacktop. With 5 water bottles, 3 Power Gels and some Chia Gel (experimental stuff) placed outside the gate in the driveway, I could do several short out and back trips around the neighborhood and have all I needed to sustain me through the run.

Out the door at 6:35 and rolling. Five miles in I noticed a problem. White foamy bubbles were sliding down my thighs. My black running shorts were foaming at the crotch and the bubbles flowed down my legs with the sweat. Apparently a well-meaning person added extra soap to my load of running clothes in an attempt make them smell better. I can only imagine what it looked like to the young lady I ran past at about 6 miles. She didn’t just give a polite wave and a “good morning.” She clearly giggled as she waved good morning.

Back at the driveway for a drink and some Power Gel at 8 miles, I was still Captain Foamy Pants and it showed no signs of stopping. Oh well. As a stood there drinking some water, I felt stings on my ankles. I was standing in an ant pile. Slapping ants and squirting my foamy squishy shoes with my water bottle I fought off the attackers. With a foaming crotch and burning ankles, I set off in less than a good mood to do another 12 miles all by myself. Nobody would know if I bagged it. Sounds like a good idea.

A few miles later I was just on cruise control. Not caring about the run or much of anything; just trying to slog through and get it over with. Then a very cheerful voice cut through my fog of grumpiness. My neighbor, Mrs. Gillespie, was out working in her yard.  “Good Morning, Dan!” she called out. Isn’t it odd how cheerfulness is annoying when you are really grumpy? I managed a fairly nice, “Good Morning!”

“How are you doing today?” she politely asked.

It would be rude to give an honest answer so I said, “Oh, OK. Ask me again in about an hour.”

Mrs. Gillespie smiled back and as I ran by she hollered after me, “Have fun out there!”

Have FUN? What the heck was she thinking? Fun? Hmmm. Why would I step out the door to run 20 miles on a Saturday morning if it wasn’t going to be fun? It should be fun! She was absolutely right. I should have fun.

Being Captain Foamy Pants changed into a funny thing and not an annoying thing. Little ants suddenly seemed about as important as ants. Is it fun to crank out 21 miles on a Saturday morning? Is it more fun when you hammer the last 3 miles just because it’s fun to go fast? Is it fun to tack on an extra mile to the end and do it in 5:45, with the last half mile in 2:40? I suppose that all depends on if you have a neighbor like Mrs. Gillespie.