Category Archives: training advice

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


Junk Science- 15 Minutes on a Stationary Bike Could Make You a Faster Runner

My rebuttal to a Runner’s World Junk Science Article

Articles like this drive me crazy. Based on this article, to improve your 3,000 M time (and probably your 5k time as well) you should hop on a bike and do short intense reps with short rest intervals- right?

Not so fast!  While there are interesting implications for runners in the story and it demonstrates that short intervals with short rest improve speed performance it does NOT by any stretch demonstrate that cycling is the best way to become a better runner!


  1. If you take a bunch of runners and one sub set does everything the same, and the other adds additional exercise, the ones doing extra work get faster. Duh.
  2. Among the ones doing extra work, the shorter rest intervals athletes improve the most. Duh.

What if your compared a group of people who did short bursts of running with short rest intervals to runners who trained with short bursts of cycling and short rest intervals? We don’t know for sure but I suspect the answer is that the principal of specificity comes into play and the runners get better at running while the athletes doing the cycling training improve some but not as much as they would if they did the running sprints.

I still don’t understand the running community’s fascination with cross-training. I love to run. Running is the best training for running. Not swimming, not cycling, not yoga, not cross fit, not burpees, not Zumba, or anything else. If you want to get better at running, RUN! Or try Cat Flexing. I’m pretty sure there’s a scientific study showing how it can help you run a faster 5k.

Cat Flexing! The new Cross-Training Fad! Cat-Fit!
Cat Flexing! The new Cross-Training Fad! Cat-Fit!

Three Track Sessions to Get Mentally Ready to Race

Many of us focus on the physical aspects of  track workouts. We look for hard sessions that balance speed, strength and pace work for a goal race. The often overlooked aspect is finding sessions that mentally prepare us for the race. Here are three workouts that will get you physically AND mentally ready for your next race.


Ready to RACE!
Ready to RACE!


2 Mile + 6 X 300: Run 3200M (2miles) at goal 5K pace. Rest 5 min. Then do 6 X 300 with 100 rest.

Run the 300s at a little faster than 1 Mile goal pace.

The idea of this workout is to wear out your legs on the 3200 M and then run the 300s feeling tired; just like the last part of a race feels. This workout gives you confidence that even with rubber legs, you can still run fast and finish strong.

Alternating Pace 400 /200: Run 3 miles continuously, alternating between:

  • 400 at 5K goal pace (or just a little faster)
  • 200 at Half Marathon goal pace

Or it could be written out as 8 X 400 with 200 rest. Run 400s at 5K goal pace, run 200s (rest) at Half Marathon goal pace.

Have you ever gone out a little too fast in a 5K and then had to recover during mile two (while still running fast) and resume full 5K speed for the last part of the race? Or have you had to respond to a surge in a 10K and then get back in a groove? Or fight up a hill and have to recover while still running hard?  This workout teaches you to shift gears and recover during a race which gives you a tactical advantage. Plus, the time you can run for 3 miles alternating paces, is very close to what you will run for a 5K race so it is a good prediction workout too.

14X400 Descending Rest: Rest 1:30 between rep 1 and rep 2, rest 1:20 between rep 2 and rep 3….. deduct :10 each rest interval until the rest before rep 14 is :10 sec. Run reps 4-5 seconds faster than 5K goal pace. So if your 5K goal pace is 6:00 per mile, that’s 1:30 per 400 M, so run these in 1:25 or 1:26. Don’t go too fast early in this one! You’re probably used to doing 400s faster than this but the short rest at the end will bite you. This purpose of this workout is to exercise control early, knowing that it will get harder- just like a race. You have to start out controlled and smooth and then be ready to fight the last few reps.

Pick one or two of these during the lead-up to your next race and you’ll have a mental toughness advantage.