Keep the Winter Fire Burning

7 12 2009

The below advice is provided by F4 Coach Pam Landry:

With a taste of cold temperatures, snow, and less than ideal conditions underfoot recently, (and the option of a fire in the fireplace…) you may have found your motivation lagging to consistently get out there and adhere to your workout schedule. While we often think that motivation comes entirely from within the individual, it’s important to recognize that motivation is actually a function of both the individual (you) and the situation (the environment)… To enhance your motivation over the winter months you’ll want to not only address the ‘You’ part of the equation (i.e. Why do you exercise/train/compete?…What can you do differently to stay on track, etc.) but to also examine situational factors (for example, training partners, the environment or facility where you train, or gear choices to name a few), as these can play a role in your motivation as well.

Here are a few strategies that address both the personal and situational aspects of motivation that may help you to “Keep the Fire Burning” during the winter months. I figure that there are two ways to approach difficulties….Change the difficulties, or change yourself to meet them.

*Look Around You…  Are there things in the environment that can be changed to enhance your motivation?…It may be that simple changes can be made that can have a positive influence on your drive to adhere to a healthy lifestyle…Some examples to get you thinking:

*No Excuses: Just Solutions–

*If you’re not a fan of the winter weather elements in general, seek out and surround yourself with those who truly love the snowy, cold winter conditions… (These folks are typically skiers, snowboarders or skaters)…Their passion for their sport and love of the season can truly be contagious….And you may just find yourself discovering a new sport yourself thanks to them!

*Plan ahead and always have a hefty stash of healthy pre/post-workout snacks in your car for those days when you’re running late…Take care of yourself to avoid letting hunger or low energy derail your plans…(Bonus…No refrigeration needed!)

*While you’re at it, pack a small travel bag for your car as well….Fill it to the brim with additional layers of winter gear choices and accessories, so you’ll always have options on hand to choose from if weather conditions change over the course of the day.

*Save your pennies and invest in just a few pieces of high quality winter weather gear…When you’re comfortable, safe and warm out there, you’ll be able to focus on the workout and enjoy it…which leads to consistency.

*If you tend to get completely wrapped up in your work projects, set an alarm on your phone or watch to prompt you to wrap things up with plenty of time to spare so you can arrive on time for a group workout even in slower winter driving conditions.

*Pop your hat, gloves and socks into the dryer for a few minutes before you head out the door to jumpstart your warm-up on cold days…Comfort leads to happy times out there.

Although there’s a wide range of changes that can be made on the personal level to enhance motivation, one stands out from the crowd during the winter months especially:

*Flexibility with Workouts and Goals—At this time of year it’s helpful to rid yourself of ‘Black and White’/ ‘All or Nothing’ thinking and to realize that the purpose of many workouts may need to be adjusted depending upon the conditions, but that there’s no need to blow off the whole session in its entirety. Icy footing and temps in the teens for example aren’t conducive to a solid speed work session….So let it go, but enjoy a longer, slower base run instead where you can focus on the beauty of the season around you and perhaps enjoy some reflective time alone. Regardless of whether adjustments are needed or not, you can still keep things on track by consistently identifying your daily training or workout goal with the purpose of every workout and how you’re going to benefit from it before you even head out the door. Once you know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and why, it’s a done deal!

Growing up, my Dad used to tell us…

“To be successful, you have to accept all of the challenges that come your way….Not just the ones you like.”

True indeed, Dad…….I think The Man was on to something…


Saturday Post Run Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser

1 12 2009

Following this Saturday’s F4 run, let’s help out a friend in need and head right over to this pancake breakfast fundraiser only a few minutes away.  Here are the details:


The Heiman family, Timothy, Tracy and two young sons live on North Cedar Brook Road and experienced the unthinkable some time ago.  Their youngest, Klaus, now six, contracted a rare form of cancer called a sarcoma. The operation has been performed in a New York City hospital and Klaus is back in school.  However, as one might expect, this family’s insurance company has been reluctant to pay the costs of the procedure and medical bills that have accumulated.
Please join us for a Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser for Klaus on Saturday December 5th from 7:30am to 11:30am. We’ll be serving pancakes, side dish with coffee and juice at the Pine Brook Hills Fire House (link to map) 1907 Linden Drive.
We hope that you will place this benefit on your calendar and invite others, Pine Brookers or not, to attend.  It’s uncommon to have the chance to assist a family directly.  Here’s your opportunity.  Hoping to see you there!

Planning your next racing season.

24 11 2009

Here are some great general tips for planning your 2010 training and racing season… courtesy of F4 Coach, Simon Butterworth.


I thought I might give some ideas on planning next years race season.  I am in the early stages of doing the same so it is on my mind.  If you follow any of the F4 plans and do the races  associated with each then planning is rather simple.  Some people however squeeze in a few more races than that, especially the Type A personality triathletes.  The secret in doing more is to prioritize.

Most amateurs cannot expect to PR, or come close to that in more than 3 races a year.  If you try to do more the first one or two will probably go as planned and then things will go downhill, perhaps fast.  To do well in a race as you probably know you need to taper.  This involves at least a week and perhaps two where you reduce the volume of your training but maintain the intensity, you will see this in any F4 training plan. If you do too many races especially ones longer than a 5k, and they are top priority races (A Races), then you are doing a lot of tapering.  And, the week after you are recovering.  This plays havoc with a good training plan.  Add to this the stress on your family and things are not likely to go well all season.  Last but not least there will be a temptation to start training hard right after a race in too busy a season.  An injury is then very much in the cards.

Because of the added time commitment in triathlon, this sport has focused more on this issue than pure running.  When I coach a triathlete I ask them to pick up to 3 A priority races (runners note- especially if the races are short and the season long, you could have a couple more A races).  This does not mean that you cannot do more races but they are not A priority and expectations are dialed down a bit.  B priority races might get a 3 day taper, basically just an extra easy day leading into the race, and a C priority race would have no taper at all.  You still have to deal with the recovery from B and C races but if they are not a max effort (and not too long a race) then recovery should be shorter than an A.

An example of a good plan might be as follows:  Assume a goal of qualifying for a major race such as Boston or NY City Marathons.  The qualifying race would certainly be an A race as would the end goal race.  You could then consider one other A race.  A good distance in this case for the third A would be a 1/2 Marathon. Depending on the timing you could do the Half as a build up to either the end goal or qualifying race.  I would not have an athlete do the half closer than 5 weeks before the full Marathon.  Closer than that does not give enough time to recover from the half, while still getting in valuable final peak training and a taper.  I would not do any race less than 5 weeks out from a major race such as the ones above.  When racing, the risk of injury goes up and it would be very silly to wreck a good race in Boston because of a local 5k.

This advice is certainly generalized.   If you are the kind of person who can run in a race without racing (AKA running hard when your friend and rival passes you) then doing a race close to a big A race should not be a problem.  If you have a Triple A personality then be extra careful.  Have a great 2010!

F4 Coach Adam Wins The Stinson Beach Trail Marathon!

10 11 2009

Stinson Beach Trail Marathon

Nov 7 2009

60 degrees and sunny


Travel went well, I felt OK but a little sluggish as I hadn’t done much since Denver Marathon on Oct. 18. I planned to go out and run my own race, estimating a 3:30 would be a pretty good day on this course. The course started at the beach, with marathoners starting 10 minutes before 25km runners, and the 7 mile runners 10 minutes after them. The course consisted of a base 7 mile loop. Marathoners and 25 km runners then added an 8 mile loop in Muir Woods before rejoining the 7 mile course. Marathoners added an additional 5 mile out and back closer to the finish.


Immediatley the we started climbing. I was quickly in the front group with about 4 other guys. The climb was steady and runnable and I went at what felt like a sustainable pace, with a heart rate of around 165 bpm. One guy went off the front and I let him go, I figured if he could keep that pace up I wouldn’t beat him, not really expecting to see him again. I ran solo in second place for the next 3 miles. The course continued climbing on a wooded trail beside a small brook. It was humid but cool as I crossed many foot bridges, and eventually a 10 foot ladder! There were a few times where I wondered if I had gone off course as course marking was pretty minimal. The third place guy caught me just before the ladder and assured me we were on the right trail. I ran with Adrian for the next few miles, talking about running and Life. Adrian is a software analyst for Adobe working in San Francisco, his wife is an attorney. He had run the 25 km the prior year and knows the course. This proved fateful. We ran through the Pan Toll aid station at about 3 miles into the course in around 30 minutes. We started descending into Muir Woods, a gradual descent, quite smoothe, so we were flying. After a few switchbacks with me leading the way we blew by a sharp right turn. Luckily Adrian realized our mistake only 100 or so feet down the wrong trail (after ducking under some low hanging trees and jumping over others). We turned around and I decided to stay behind Adrian until we finished the loop in Muir Woods so as not to risk a wrong turn. We ran along, talking, and making good time. The trail was lined by gorgeous redwoods, very shady and beautiful. After a 4 mile descent we started climbing again, this would be a 4 mile climb taking us back to the Pan Toll aid station. On the climb I took the lead because I felt good climbing. Eventually I heard a voice and footsteps behind us. I thought this meant that we had been running too slowly and someone was catching up so I made the decision on a steep switchback section to make a move and drop Adrian, and hopefully avoid being overtaken by the other runners. I pushed my HR up to 170 bpm (much higher than I could maintain at altitude) and put some time on Adrian. With every switchback I could tell that I was gaining time. Eventually Adrian was gone, but I still heard footsteps. One of the 25km runners had made up the 10 minute stagger and caught me at 9. He said I was flying and told me he was running the 25km and that I should go with him. I was already pushing pretty hard, but I decided to go with him. I picked up the pace and stuck on him on a gradual downhill section, but once the course started climbing again I let him go to preserve some energy for the rest of the race.


My quads were burning on the uphill leading up to the aid station at mile 11, 1:30 into the race. When I got there I started passing runners in the 7 mile race and a Boyscout troop who had chosen today to hike this narrow trail. Runners and hikers alike responded to my requests of “excuse me” and “on your left” and I descended without impedance. I felt good descending, felt like I was solidly in second place and happy with that. At mile 13 the marathon course split to run a 5 mile out and back along a ridge. I was half way done with the race and my time was 1:43ish, on pace for my 3:30 goal. According to the course profile this was supposed to be a flat out and back. As soon as I turned on the Coastal Trail I saw the lone runner ahead of me. This was a boost as I didn’t expect to see him again. The Coastal trail was tough, it was surprisingly hilly, slanted to the downill side, narrow, and overgrown with grass. I wanted to hang back a little bit and recover while maintaining an even distance behind first place, and then make a big move to pass later in the race. But as luck would have it he looked over his shoulder and saw me coming, so I decided to catch up to him and run with him for a while. We ran and talked for a bit before I decided to pass him and try to drop him. I put in a little surge, hoping to distance myself and lead the last 10 miles of the race. After putting in this effort and getting a small gap I took another wrong turn and ran up a hill missing a sharp right. Luckily my competitor yelled to me and I turned around. My wrong turn put me back in second place and I worried that I wouldn’t have the energy to regain first, but I quickly started gaining ground. I was back in the lead by the aid station at mile 17, in a time of about 2 hours. from there it was 1.5 miles out to the turnaround and I tried to push the pace to lengthen my lead as much as possible before reversing direction and meeting my chasers head on. Upon turning around at 2:15  I calculated I had about a 1 minute lead. I ran another 5 minutes before seeing third place. The trail was gradually going uphill. My quads were really burning, I walked some of the steeper parts and this provided enough of a break for me to continue running.


I blew past the last aid station at mile 20 at 2:24, started to see more folks coming toward me. Oncoming runners were great! They shouted words of encouragement and yeilded the trail to me. I tried to give some encouragmenet to all. I chanced a look back a few times and saw no one behind me. When I got back to the main trail I had about 4 miles of downhill to go. I was confident that no one would catch me on a downhill, unless I fell or something.


I reemerged on the Matt Davis Trail, mile 22 (I thought) at 2:40 or so. I figured I’d run the last 4 miles conservatively, stay safe and win.  As I started descending I immediately started passing 25km runners. One yelled, 2.5 miles to go when I went by. If there were in fact only 2.5 miles to go I could break the course record (2:58 I think). I hammered down the Matt Davis Trail, a technical mix of switchbacks and wooden steps, Tarzan swinging around corners. The 25km runners were also great about yeilding. They heard me coming because I was grunting and making primal noises to ease the pain in my legs as I flew downhill.When 2:58 passed I thought how cool it would be to break 3 hours on a hard trail marathon and kept pushing. Eventually I emerged at beach level on the road. I had no idea how far it was to the finish so I kept running fast, finally crossing the finish line in 3:04:57. What a great feeling!


I started the race with 100oz of fluids (60 water and 40 concentrated 1st endurance drink) I finished with 40 Oz (30 water, 10 drink). Meaning I consumed about 400 calories and 60oz during the race. I was unable to eat much of my Hammer Gel flask because it wouldn’t come out when I squeezed it (DIA security took my 1st endurance gel flasks and the local bike shop in Mill Valley only carried Hammer Gel). All in all, I raced smart, I was surprised at how hard I was able to push for the duration of the event. It was awesome!

Tim Smashes his PR Amidst The Giant Redwoods

26 10 2009

Submitted by F4 athlete Tim Burcham

Race Report – Humboldt Redwoods Half Marathon

About 3 weeks out from the race, I was feeling good, but had 2 issues: I hadn’t done a time trial earlier in the season to get a dialed pace plan, and I had some mid-back tightness from running and work that just wouldn’t quit.  I also know that I typically have trouble with our longer taper plans, as I don’t ever taper well.

So, at 3 weeks out, I went and ran a 5k — ran a good race, a few seconds off PR, but didn’t really race all out.  Took the finish, plugged it into McMillan, and then did some estimates based on if I had run it all-out.  This got me to somewhere around a 7:25 pace, which I used as a target pace during our pacing workouts.  I noticed during the pacing workouts that I had some drift down to 7:15 or so, that didn’t feel completely sustainable, unless I was very, very warmed up.

For the back tightness, I waited until after the 5k, and started with both massage and some acupuncture courtesy of Tyler Stroebel.  I worked 2 massages and 2 acupuncture sessions in ahead of the race, and by the last few days, the back tightness was gone.  However, the taper ‘phantom pains’ really picked up the last few days before the race, and I had a fair amount of low back tightness even coming in to Eureka.

On top of all of this, I decided going to see the Rockies in 29 degree weather would be part of my pre-race strategy 🙂 — I have a hunch that this may have triggered the low back tightness.

Lots of hydration, deep breathing, eating well leading up to race day.  Shifted from 2:1 protein:carb to 1:2 in the last 2 weeks, as well.

Stephen, John and I all travelled together, and went out on the race course on Saturday.  Driving out on the course, it felt downhill for huge stretches on the way out.  I was worried about a sustained uphill on the way back.  We drove out, hit the visitor center, where we ran into some ‘sister’ fast-forward marathoners, who didn’t train with the group, but are well known.  We kept coming back on the course, and I kept checking the odometer for the ‘start’ of the hill, to get a sense for where it was — and it never happened.  In fact, it felt downhill on the way back, too.  We later learned from Scott that the trees create an optical illusion, and that, it indeed felt downhill both ways when he ran this race.

More rest, and a good time at ‘Peppers’ with the group — we had a waitress wondering if the group were marines, as we had Scott, Wayne L and Ron all sitting next to one another with shaved heads or short cuts, and a ‘Marine Corps’ shirt on Wayne.  🙂

Generally good sleep the night before the race — all gear setup ahead of time, and the timezone difference and late start helped get the right amount of sleep, rather than having to cut it short.

Morning comes, a quick getting dressed and a Starbucks, and we’re on our way.  I found Dr. Mark at the hotel breakfast, and made sure he could get a ride to the start.  We head out to the course, hoping to beat some traffic, and it works — we’re able to park about 1/4 mile from the start.  It’s also quite nice out, in the upper 40s, so a jacket and sweats suffice as we warm up.  Warmups, dynamics, and some strategically timed porta potty stops, and we’re all on the line for the race.

At the start, we’re under highway 101, and literally can hear nothing from the bullhorn.  We notice a huge amount of runners who look like they’ll be darn fast.  Indeed, we’ve learned that this race is the Northern California championships for the half marathon, and it shows in the field.

Gun goes off, and we start in with our run.  Stephen, John and I all plan to run around 7:30, with John running NYC in a few weeks, and Stephen running maratthon pace.  However, at mile 1, we’re at 7:15.  No big deal, just early mile jitters.  Mile 2, 7:15.  Mile 3, same thing.  Somewhere in there we get a good downhill, I get my form right, and cruise quick down the hill.  Now I’m worried – my Denver full marathon last year was too fast in the early miles, and I imploded later — I don’t want another race like that.  However, even at 7:15, breathing and effort feel relaxed.  We’re having conversations, breathing is fine, no effort in the legs.  We keep running.

An endurolyte at 20 in, a gel at about 45 — I stop for a moment to eat the gel and toss it.  Keep running, and the 7:15s keep coming.  The trees are amazing as we run through them, and it’s humid and not to warm or cold in the trees.  John and I talk to a local for a minute, who’s worried we’re marathoners passing him.  He points out ‘Joe’ up ahead — a 67 year old who can turn in a 1:30 half marathon, the local favorite for his age group.  We keep running.  A woman catchs up and asks about John’s Moab shirt, and we all chat through the turnaround.

Another endurolyte after the turnaround.  We keep running, but as we close on 9 miles, the pace is heating up.  I start to pull away, as John doesn’t want to lay it all out on today’s course.  I eat another gel somewhere around 9 or 10, stopping again for long enough to eat it.  Pick the pace back up, quick feet, quick feet.  The pain in the legs is starting to come, but my lungs are completely clear.  When the pain builds, I check my pace, and see that I’m well on track to blow a PR away.  I remind myself of grueling hill workouts, that this is nothing compared to those.  When my brain says it’s time to stop, I remind myself that I didn’t train all summer to walk on a half marathon — and I have the opportunity to crush my PR.

I take a lap at mile 12, and notice I’ve just dropped a 6:45 from 11-12.  That’s my 5k pace.  Wow.  I keep moving.  I have exactly one person pass me from 6.5 on, and he looks fantastic — beyond that, it’s me catching people, and passing them.  Short strides on the hills, recover on the top, pick it up on the bottom.

I come in to the finish, and pick up on the last stretch — nothing crazy, but nice and strong.  I cross the line, and I’ve just mowed my 1:39:15PR from Moab in the spring down, with a 1:35:15, a 4 minute improvement.

20 seconds later, ‘Joe’ the 67 year old crosses the line, too.  I congratulate him as well.  It turns out that a 1:35 in this race gets you 94th out of 450 or so — 1:09s have been turned in, there are 60 year olds running 1:28s, 82 year olds running sub-2 hours.  Just when you think Boulder is uber-competitive, you find another pocket of humbling, elite runners.

All in all, a well-executed race.  I feel that the training items that specifically helped were:
– ‘Overage’ miles — I felt like I was doing a ‘marathon-lite’ training for the half, and was bumping 15, 16 miles during the training.  This makes a huge difference for me for endurance.
– Tempo miles – Matt gave us some freedom on the longer runs to mix in faster miles, and I feel this also made a difference.
– Hills – I always appreciate the hills, and though i don’t appreciate it in the moment, any time we can do low-recovery, high-intensity hills, it helps me out.  We’ve had some sessions where we take our time in the recovery part of the interval — I’d like to see less of this, as the ‘drill sergeant’ approach hills makes a huge difference, IMO.
– Taking extra care in the 2 weeks prior to the race, and deliberately shortening my taper by ~ 1 week.  This made a huge difference for me.
– High altitude running — back at Labor Day, when I probably should’ve been using our recovery week, I instead went and ran about 26 miles in 3 days at 8000+ ft.  I followed it up a week later with an 8000 ft. 10k at half-marathon pace.  I feel like this made a huge difference, as well.   Perhaps we could find ways to mix higher altitude training in from time to time (meet at Magnolia, for example, on a Saturday)?

Thanks to all for another great season with FF!  I’ll see you again in the spring.


Running the NYC Marathon?

22 10 2009

F4 Tech Adviser, Bobby McGee, shares his wisdom on running your very best race through the five burrows.

Click Here for the story

I learned today that it’s not about the time, it is about the accomplishment.

20 10 2009

Kirsten’s Denver Marathon Race Report 10/18/09

I learned today that it’s not about the time, it is about the accomplishment.

What a great day to run my first marathon. The weather was perfect, I slept well the night before and my body felt fresh and ready thanks to the taper. My goal was a 4 hour marathon, which I knew was a stretch but I wanted to try. This was after all, the only marathon I will ever run due to my old basketball knees. I felt great and I was right on track through mile 19. It was great to see co-workers at mile 12 and my family at mile 13 & 15. I got to run with fellow F4 group runner, Michael Long for miles 13 & 14 which was uplifting to have someone familiar around me. At mile 16 I went past the F4 aid station and yelled to Jen who was very busy handing out water/Gatorade. At mile 18 I had a friend waiting to run with me. I knew I would need someone to get me through Washington Park miles since I was basically running alone by then. She just kept me company and I would look at her feet to remind me that my cadence was getting too slow. During this time my pace slowed down by 1 minute every mile. I knew I was not going to meet my goal time, so I took a minute to use the port-o-let and I felt so much better. My family was waiting for me at mile 22, coming out of Wash. Park and by that time I started slowing by another minute p/mile. I told them to meet me at the finish because I needed to focus on getting to the finish line. The next couple of miles were really hard and I just told myself to just keep running, do not walk. At mile 25 I started feeling weird and Liz, who had done the ½ marathon, was on the course at mile 25.5. I was barely running at this point and told her that I was starting to feel light-headed so she stayed with me. (Thank you Liz!) I started walking and weaving all over the road. Liz had to catch me a couple of times. When I was 200 meters from the 26 mile marker, I told Liz that I was going to pass-out. I have bonked once before and knew what was coming. I told myself in 2002 that I would never do that to my body again because it was a scary experience and can turn into a serious medical issue. I struggled with the decision to just walk the final ½ mile or stop and take care of myself. I would have finished sometime before 4:30. Instead I spent 25 minutes on the sidewalk laying down and getting water, gels and electrolytes in me. I still wanted to finish and my husband had to adamantly tell the EMT’s that I was not going with them.  Liz and Gwen took care of me and walked by my sides until the last 200 meters to the finish. I held my girls hands for those last steps and finished with them at my side.

As my sore body sits down and reflects on the race I think about the words I used to describe myself on the first day of training with Coach Scott Gurst and our running group. (What a great group and coach!) I said that I was “goal oriented”. Without the goal of doing a race, I tend not to work out. Without an aggressive goal, I tend not to train hard enough. As I passed through mile 19 and realized my time goal was out of reach, I just thought about finishing. It’s funny how you train towards something for 4 months and then realize that getting to that finish line is just as important. When I sat down on the sidewalk, it was probably the clearest decision I had made in the last 4 miles. I chose my health over my time goal. My finishing time was 4:51:29, but as you know, it doesn’t tell the whole story. My friends and co-workers reminded me today that yesterday was all about the accomplishment.