Tag Archives: Training

Dan’s Top 10 Undeniable Truths of Running

Truth #5
Truth #5

10.  If the official race website describes the course as having “gently rolling hills” the course is mountainous.

9.  As your desperation for a bathroom rises, the quality of available bathrooms declines.

8.  Everyone ran a 4:30 mile in high school. Some of you will get this; others of you need to read the book.

7.  The guy that is “just going to tempo” the race is a liar. He actually is gunning for you!

6.  If you did all the stretches and exercises Runner’s World recommends for runners, you’d never have time to go running.

5.  The better the shoes feel, the uglier / more obnoxious the design and colors.

4.  The runner who always gives out unsolicited training advice is the LAST person you should listen to.

3.  The more expensive your running socks are, the more likely they will disappear in the washer.

2.  The most frequently injured runner seems to know all the best ways to avoid / cure injuries.

And the #1 Undeniable Truth of Running: The best training for running is RUNNING. Not swimming, …. not biking, not yoga…..


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!

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.

Plan Your 2015 Race Calendar ! (at least up to April)

Plan your 2015 race calendar!

This is not an all-inclusive listing and has some out of town events listed along with local races. This is also just a listing for upcoming races from now to April, 2015. The one thing they have in common is that I have run them all and feel comfortable recommending them to you. As you select races, it is a good idea to ask fellow runners and get a feel for the event. Check the comments on Active.com or other websites. Look at Athlinks.com to see previous year’s results and you can check on the size of the event, the times and other runners who have done it so you know who to talk with. Researching your races is one of the best ways to ensure you spend your registration money on events you will enjoy. Please add comments to this post about upcoming races you would recommend to fellow runners. Also, refer to the RRCA guidelines for selecting a race. http://www.rrca.org/education-advocacy/buyer-beware/

January 24th– Matanzas 5K, St Augustine. One of the fastest, most competitive 5K races in the state. If you’re looking for a PR time on a flat course with a well-run event, this is your race. http://www.matanzas5k.com/

January 31st-Newnan’s Lake 15K, Gainesville. One of the oldest running events in the area with over 34 years of history. This is a flat course, a well-organized event and is a nice stepping stone to a Half Marathon later in the season. http://www.lloydclarkesports.com/images/2015_Newnans_Lake.pdf 

February 8th– Tallahassee Marathon. This is a flat marathon course which I found surprising in Tallahassee! It is a great smaller-scale marathon, similar in size and feel to the Five Points races. They always have cool speakers at the expo and it finishes at the FSU track.  http://www.tallahasseemarathon.com/

February 14th -15th– Five Points of Life Races: Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K, Gainesville. The largest running event in town with an expo and lots of runners. Not super-fast courses for the Half Marathon or Marathon but you get to see a lot of Gainesville and run through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium! http://www.fivepointsoflife.com/race/registration/

February 21st-22nd– Gasparilla Distance Classic, Tampa, FL. Pick from a half marathon, 15K, 8K or 5K. This race weekend features pirate themed medals, a huge expo and everything you’d expect to find at a major national event. The courses are all along Tampa Bay so the scenery is nice and the elevation change is minimal. http://www.tampabayrun.com/

You could win a Pirate, a Pine Cone or a Tortoise!
You could win a Pirate, a Pine Cone or a Tortoise!

March 7th– Race the Tortoise 5K, High Springs. Still looking for that fast 5K time that you almost hit at Matanzas? Here’s your shot! There are some slight inclines but this out and back course is pretty fast. Cool tortoise trophies for the winners and a good breakfast after the run. https://www.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=2980

March 14th– Gate River Run 15K, Jacksonville. This is a mega-race with 20,000 runners, a huge expo and tons of fun surrounding the race. It is worth the trip to Jacksonville for this national class event. If you don’t feel like driving, take a bus with the Florida Track Club.  http://www.gate-riverrun.com/

March 14th– Run for Haven 10K & 5K, Gainesville. If you’d rather not run in the massive crowd at River Run, this is a great local race that benefits Haven Hospice. A scenic course through Town of Tioga with a fantastic party atmosphere after the run is a great way to celebrate St.Patrick’s Day!  http://www.havenhospice.org/haven-run.aspx

March 28th– Trail of Payne, Gainesville. Run through the woods at Payne’s Prairie for a challenging trail 10K. Getting out into nature with a little dirt and mud feels good!  http://www.active.com/micanopy-fl/running/trail-run-races/trail-of-payne-10k-2015?int=

April 11th– Flatwoods 5K, Gainesville. Not quite ready for a full trail experience like Trail of Payne? Here’s a nice one! The course is a lime rock road loop through beautiful Austin Carey Forest. You are lucky to run out on the trails because they are not open to the public! A fun event, beautiful scenery for the run and awesome pinecone trophies!

April 18th– Sweet H2O 50K, Lithia Springs, GA. For the trail runners who really want to get out into beautiful wilderness for a long time, this is your event! 31 miles of challenging trails with 2 creek crossings and some spectacular views. It is a short road trip away, just NW of Atlanta. http://www.dcrr.clubexpress.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=157961&module_id=43382

April 22nd– LGAA 5K, Gainesville. Join some fun loving runners at Ironwood Golf course for a weekday 5K! We run some on grass, some cart path and finish up at the clubhouse where you get a full BBQ dinner and $1 beers. Gather a team and compete in the team challenge.  http://www.active.com/gainesville-fl/running/distance-running-races/lgaa-5k-and-corporate-team-challenge-2015

Taking the Mystery out of Running Calculators

Finding the right pace for training runs, track work and tempo runs sometimes seems to be a mystery only known to expert runners and high dollar coaches. Or if you could find the formula, it was in the back of a book by Dr. Jack Daniels and while it all made sense (sort of) you still had to read mice type charts and do some math. I’ll be your trail guide to help simplify and sort of the training pace calculator craziness, twists and turns.

Does it all really matter?

That’s a fair question. It could all be gobbly gook made up by people with PhDs trying to sound smart and make a buck! Just go out and run, run, run, and you’ll eventually get faster- right? Without engaging in PhD gobbly gook, there is a scientific basis for running at certain speeds or effort levels for specified distances or amounts of time to get maximal results from your training. There is more than one way to zero in on the right pace /effort. Heart rate monitor training is great for beginning runners and those with a fetish for statistics. Running by feel works for experienced runners and those who are tuned in to their bodies. Pace calculators are essential for track workouts, race strategy and goal setting. The best system is some combination of these methods that fits your training plan and personality.

Reason #1 to use a running calculator- Measure race performance

Was that 5K when you won your age group your best performance? Or was it that 10K the month before? Or your awesome marathon? Use one of these calculators to compare your performances. According to the McMillan calculator and the USA Track and Field (USATF) Age Graded calculator, my best races have been my 10Ks. My Half Marathon time should be almost a minute faster but my 5K and 15K times are fairly comparable. I can also plug in my times from college and get an age graded score. My college PRs score about 4% higher than my current Masters PRs. So by that measure, I’m getting close to being as good an athlete as I was in college. I’m not running anywhere near the same times but on the age graded scale I can still race my former self! The other major benefit is that it moderates your expectations for a new distance or a race you have not run before. You can plug in your current 5K time and get an idea of a reasonable Half Marathon goal. You should moderate the calculator prediction with what you know about yourself, your training and the race conditions you’ll face (hills, heat etc.) but you won’t go out way too fast for the Half Marathon if you stick with the guidance of the calculator.

[Click on the images below for a larger view]

McMillan page1

USATF page

Reason #2 to use a running calculator- Run the most beneficial training paces

Most runners log regular training runs too fast and do their tempo runs too slow. The track interval paces are all over the map with some going way too fast and some afraid to push the pace. The McMillan calculator and Runworks calculator will give you training paces for various interval distances and types of runs. For me, those paces match up really well with what my coach recommends and with my goal times for various distances.

The way I approach interval work is usually race pace. I’ll run 800s at 5K goal pace for example. Mile repeats would be at 10K goal pace. This is more of a mental exercise but also gets me targeted physically on the right effort level for a race performance. The training principle of specificity! The calculators help me target those paces and get the specific training I need to reach my goals.

McMillan page2

Final Thoughts

Pace calculator tools are useful for planning your training, setting race goals and setting correct effort levels during all types of runs. The four below are some common and well respected ones that I’ve used. They don’t all use the same methodology so the results will be slightly different depending on which one you use. Think of them as guard rails to keep you on track, not exact targets.

Runworks Calculator: http://www.runworks.com/calculator.html

McMillan Running Calculator: http://www.test.mcmillanrunning.com/

USATF Age Graded Calculator: http://www.usatf.org/statistics/calculators/agegrading/

Score My Run App for iPhone: http://www.scoremyrun.com/