Saturday, December 28, 2013

Contrast Therapy

While I am not a doctor or physical therapist, as a coach of distance runners for some years now I have learned a few treatments for various minor injuries, aches and pains that I have found to be very effective and often speeds along the healing process. 

I wanted to share one with you today that seems to be very effective for treating minor running related soft tissue injuries, aches and pains and is easy to use on the lower leg (feet, ankles, calves). 

Execution:  the runner submerges the affected area in ice water for a period of time, then switches to warm/hot water for a period of time, and then back to cold/ice water again for a period of time.  A second round of warm and then cold can be done if time permits.  I recommend this treatment always begin and end with cold.  For the lower leg, I have found using an old cooler as an easy container to use for the water and is one that the lower leg can easily fit in. A bathtub or whirlpools are other good locations to do this treatment

Time:  while there is some leeway in terms of length of time used for submersion, for the lower leg I have found that 10-15 minutes in each (cold water or hot water) at a time seems to work well.    This gives ample time to effectively reduce or increase the tissue temperature. 

Temperatures:  I use reason as the rule of thumb here, we want the cold water pretty cold and the warm water pretty warm but never to the point of risking causing any skin or tissue damage.  Generally I use cold water with a moderate amount of floating ice in it, and them warm water that feels very warm but that I can tolerate keeping my hand (or foot) in for a prolonged period of time.  Extreme hot or cold isn't necessary.

Theory:  The theory behind why this is an effective treatment is that the contrast causes a vasodilation and vasoconstriction of the area which promotes a pumping or flushing of blood and other fluids through the area.  This process bring more new healing nutrient to the affected area and helps positively influence the inflammation process by moving along and changing out stagnant fluids that have built up. 

Frequency:  this therapy can be done 1-3 times a day if desired and found helpful. 

Note:  while this can be an effective treatment for some injuries, as with all injuries we should seek to find and correct the causes of the injury and take steps to keep it from happening again. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

3 Common Training Mistakes Marathoners Make

Marathon running is a great sport and one of the biggest and fastest growing participation sports in the country.  From young to old and from beginner to elites, more and more people are challenging themselves over the marathon distance.  As a coach who has helped hundreds of people prepare for this challenge, I thought I’d write a blog about the 3 most common mistakes I see runners make in their marathon training, in the hopes that you may be able to avoid them in your training.

The 3 biggest mistakes I see many marathoners make in their training are:

1 – Building Up Too Fast
2 – Long Run Too Big % Of Weekly Mileage
3 – Attempting Herculean Workouts

Building Up To Fast
This isn’t a problem with only marathoners but many shorter distance runners as well.  They see where they want to go (their goal) and they try and get there too quickly.  As a society we aren't very patient, we want what we want and we want it now, and unfortunately this often carries over into our training.  We get excited and determined and sometimes overzealous and launch into training too quickly and forget to take a slow and incremental build-up so that it is sustainable over a whole training cycle.  We need to approach our training cycle like our races and make sure we don’t go out too aggressive or we will crash and burn before we get to the end.  This is where having a proven and successful training plan can help to make sure your build-up is systematic and not too aggressive.  Be sure to keep your mileage increases small and gradual and build up over time.  Allow your body time to adjust and adapt to each increase before you increase again.  Marathon training is a marathon not a sprint – pace yourself.

Long Run To Big % Of Weekly Mileage
Another common mistake I see many runners make, especially lower mileage marathoners, is that they let their weekly long run become too high a percentage of their weekly mileage.  To calculate the percentage of your mileage that is done in your long run simply divide your long run distance by your total weekly mileage.  So if your long run is 15 miles, and your total weekly mileage is 60, than your long run is 25% (15/60) of your weekly mileage.   As this percentage increases so does your susceptibility to overuse injuries, illness or burn-out.  This is because we are placing a greater strain on our body in just 1 run rather than spreading it out more evenly over multiple runs.  This increase in stress and risk seems to go up significantly when our long run that is greater than 33% of our weekly mileage.   Most marathon training programs ramp up the runner to long run of 20 miles (or more) in an effort to prepare them to run 26.2 miles on race day.  But if you are following a lower mileage training program, where your maximum weekly mileage is 40 miles a week, then that long run can be up to 50% of your weekly mileage.  That is a huge stress on the body and carries a higher injury and burn-out risk.

What I usually do with runner’s I coach who are running marathon on lower mileage, and so who’s long runs will grow above that 33% of weekly mileage level, is to build up their long run slowly over time and include weeks (usually every other week) where we pull back on the long run distance, to give the body a break so they aren't above that 33% every week.  So as we build to a 20 mile long run, our weekly long run may look like the following:  12, 10, 14, 12, 16, 13, 18, 14, 20, building up every other week rather than every week.

This is one reason why I believe frequency is a key to success in running, because by running more often we are able to spread our mileage out more and it’s easier to build up to higher levels and this takes some of the strain and injury risk away from our long runs. 

Attempting Herculean Workouts
This mistake is closely related to last one and is one I see just as many elite runners making as I do beginners.  These runners fall into a mind-set that the marathon is an extreme race and so they must do extreme workouts to prepare for it.  But more often than not I find these workouts leave them injured or over-trained more often than they help prepare them for the race.   Sometimes I see runners who do frequent long tempo runs of greater than 50% of the marathon distance at marathon goal pace, or extreme long runs with extra challenges added in, or long runs with sections late in the workout at much quicker than goal race pace.  When done in the normal course of a training load, often these workouts can be almost as hard as a race is when tapered.  The end result is often a tired and worn down runner, not one healthy and energetic on the start line. 

While 1 or 2 more challenging workouts such as this can be helpful to raise confidence, they need to be use very carefully and sparingly in training.  I prefer to look at training and preparation as a whole and not put too much focus on any one workout.  But rather systematically work on all the elements need 1 or 2 at a time and in a more measured and controlled fashion, so that over the course of a training cycle we put together the whole package.  If we systematically approach our training and carefully put all the pieces in place, we’ll find we can be well prepared without the risks that come from too many herculean efforts in training.  Make sure your best performance of the training cycle comes in the goal race, not in a workout 3 weeks before the race.  

Do all you can to increase your changes of success and stay away from these 3 common mistakes.  Pace yourself well in training and follow a systematic and well designed program, one that is patient and builds up slowly, keeps your long runs in good proportion to your mileage level, and avoid unnecessary risk from extreme workouts.  

Happy Running,

Coach Mark Hadley

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Coaching Marathoners - Formula or Art Form

Training an elite marathoner is similar to chiseling a great statue out of stone. If you start with a perfect symmetrical pillar all you have to do is follow a certain formula of when and where to chisel and pretty soon the statue appears. There are a decent handful of coaches who understand and can implement some reasonable variation of this formula. 

The problem is that the world is not full of symmetrical pillars. Instead it's full of rough boulders, lopsided rocks and strange rock formations. Unfortunately there are very few coaches skilled at the art of adapting the formula to these situations. It takes an intuition and knowledge and an art form to see what is the statue inside of each of these different strange but wonderful rocks and help release it. 

We need more coaches who move beyond the formula and become artists, using their knowledge to help fill the world with beautiful marathoners, not just ineffectively trying to apply pillar formulas to oblong boulders.  I think we'll find that these variations in rocks provide a wonderful diversity of marathoners. The question should not be "how to develop a great marathoner" but rather "how to release the great marathoner in YOU".

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Alignment of Life and Goals

The single biggest reason I have seen that people fail to reach their running goals (and maybe just goals in general) is that they fail to align their life with their goals.  Most people, especially runners, are good at defining a set goal of some type, but then many of them drop the ball by not aligning their life in such a way as to make that reaching that goal possible, or by not choosing a goal that fits within the hard constraints they have in their life.

If your life and goals are not aligned, then you repeatedly set yourself up for disappointment and frustration.  But if you do align your life with achieving your goals, then it may only be a matter of time, persistence and determination until your goals are achieved. 

Because of this, I recommend that when you set a goal, you thoroughly understand and examine what is required in order reach that goal, and make sure that you are willing and able to align your life in such a way as to be able to do the things necessary to achieve that goal.  This is where an experienced and knowledgeable coach can come in.   They can tell you the things that will be necessary in order to achieve your goals and then help you establish your plan and help you do them. 

I am in no way judging anyone’s goals, desires, life restrictions or willingness or ability to do certain things.   Those are all very personal things.  I am simply encouraging people to know and understand their hard constraints in terms of what they have time and desire to do, and make sure that their goals fit within these constraints. 

While aligning your life with your goals does not assure that you will achieve them, it does give you a fighting chance.  It will likely take time, and healthy dosages of persistence and determination, but then that is what makes achieving them so special. 

Happy Running,

Coach Mark Hadley

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Call For American Support

2012 U.S. Olympic Women's Marathon Team

In the past week since CGI’s announcement about the discontinuation of their support for elite running (and competitive?) at their Rock n' Roll race series, there are have been multiple great articles and blogs on the subject from many people such as: Toni Reavis, Camille Herron, and Josh Cox analyzing the situation and giving their take on some of the problems in the sport of elite road racing and some ideas for solving them. 

I wanted to weigh in on the subject as well, and share some thoughts from what I have seen and experienced. 

As a coach of many emerging elite and a several elites Americans road racers, I have seen firsthand the struggles and sacrifices these athletes go through to pursue the sport in earnest.   They dedicate significant time and energy, and arrange their lives around their pursuit of the sport of running.  While they do this freely and openly without promise of reward or support, the lack of support in some cases can cause many of them (including ones with great potential) to have to give up this pursuit.  But it doesn't have to be this way.  As my part in helping these emerging American runners, I started the 2016 U.S. Marathon Trials Project to help many of these athletes get the coaching they need to develop in the sport, and to help market themselves in the hopes of securing sponsor support.   

My premise behind the Project is simple:  The more people the United States has seriously training to run a high level marathon, the stronger, deeper and more competitive we become as a marathoning nation and the more the sport will grow.  For many serious runners, the goal and dream of competing in and doing well at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials keeps them training and competing at a high level, and motivates them to continue to improve.  The 2016 U.S. Marathon Trials Project has been established to help deepen our country as a marathoning nation, and to help serious runners chase and accomplish their goals and dreams.

While I seek to help these emerging American athletes from a coaching perspective, I am calling for more race directors, organizers and sponsors to do so as well. 

While I love competition and support it at every level, but I believe it should be tiered to help develop emerging talent.  So while it is wonderful to have the World Marathon Majors and other major international level races and fields (and I hope these continue to get better organized and grow),  I think that domestically, more of the local, regional and “B level” national races need to support U.S. athletes to help them develop to that international level.  This means having American only prize money and support (comp. entry and travel assistance) and I believe it is in the best interest of these races to do so.  

Here is why I think this makes sense for these local/regional/national “b level” races and what I think should be required from the athletes. 

Races:  Having American athletes be the top athletes at your event enhances the interest of your sponsors and the media, because these athletes are most closely matched to their target demographics.   To the participants of the events (and their family and friends) the American athletes are the easiest to relate to and be inspired by, as are likely to have most in common with them.  The American athletes can also usually engage the fans and media and their fellow participants more easily in conversations and interviews and provide more closely related encouragement.  The American athletes also have social media followers and fans that are local and regionally based and that more closely overlap your event and sponsor demographics.  As such these athletes can be very helpful in promoting and drawing attention to your event.  An additional benefit would be the opportunity to have a patriotic association to your race as an event that supports and promotes the development of U.S. talent.  And at a more macro-level, the increased support to emerging American athletes will make it more likely that more of them will be able develop and eventually compete favorably at the highest level in international competitions. This will help the sport of competitive running grow in the U.S. in terms of interest and participation, which in turn helps your race's participation levels and the benefits to your sponsors. I also encourage races to require some things (such as meet & greats, autograph session, media interviews, attendance of the awards, school/group visits) from the U.S. athletes in exchange for, and at appropriate levels for, the support/opportunities you are providing.  

American athletes:  if you wish to receive this support and opportunities, and continue to receive it, you need to do more than just come, run and leave.  Your participation and what you receive has to be worth it to the races and their sponsors.  If it is not we will see more of what CGI has done and the support will go away.  You need to be engaging to the fans, participants and media.  You need to be thankful and show appreciation to the sponsors and race directors.  Be respectful of the events and not withdraw from the event on short notice unless absolutely necessary.  You are an ambassador for elite running in the U.S.  You have the opportunity to inspire the next generation and inspire people to improve their health and well-being.  Many of you have significant social media followings, use it help these races and sponsors promote their events.  Support is a two way street, make sure both lanes are open and free flowing.  

Like most American runners and sponsors, I want to see more U.S. athletes at the front of the lead packs and in the top finishing places of major road races and championships.  I believe a major step towards making that happen is providing them with more opportunities for support on their way up to that level, and believe it can be in the best interest of local, regional and national races to help them in this fashion as well. 

To the races who already have adopted this stance of supporting American athletes.  Thank you!  Please know that I and all the members of the 2016 U.S. Marathon Trials Project appreciate your support.  

Happy Running (and racing)

Coach Mark Hadley

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Running By Feel

Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers - 2 of the greatest 'feel runners"

Can you run effectively by feel?  If you were to show up at a race, your watch died on the start line and the mile markers didn't have clocks, so you were forced to run entirely by feel, how would you do? 

Like most coaches, I love getting pace data and assigning pace ranges to my runners.  It is hard data that can be analyzed and equated to various performance levels.  We can analyze, like I have often done here on this blog, and tell you the fastest races seem to be run on even to slight negative splits; that in most cases we need to adjust x% for certain weather conditions; and that a tempo run at x:xx pace indicates a race fitness of xx:xx for a 15k.  This is all good and useful information if used appropriately.

But we need to be careful (runners and coaches) that we are focused on effort and feel on the input side and save our pace analysis for afterwards for feedback so we can adjust that input. 

In an ideal world, I would assign a runner a 30 minute tempo run, they would go out and run a hard 30 minutes at whatever pace had the proper feel, without looking at their watch, and then they would come back and download the data from the run and we could see what the pace and spits where and learn from and give feedback based on that.  Feedback may be things like: “we need to start out a little more conservative” which is a feel that the runner can take into account the next time the workout is performed.  Or “you had too much left for the last repeat or late in the tempo, you can be a little more aggressive earlier in the workout”.    

By mastering the feel of workouts and races, we bullet proof ourselves to a certain extent.   We avoid over training, we avoid big mistakes in race pace adjustments, bad races are less likely to happen, and we take away some of the pressure and preoccupation of having to try and hit an absolute pace range regardless of feel.

But running by feel takes practice and experience, as you have to learn the proper feel of the workouts and races and how to judge how much you have left in the tank.  Staying in the moment becomes about pushing appropriately for the stage of the race or workout you are in, rather than nail a certain split.  This doesn't mean we can’t look at our watch at certain points for some intermediate feedback, but it should be used as a tool and sanity check, not a slave master. 

I try and talk to my runners about the feel I am looking for in workouts, and plan to move more in this direction for races as well; encouraging them more and more to learn and focus on the right effort and feel. 

In workouts, that appropriate effort level is one in which we are working hard but sustainable, pushing ourselves while staying in control.   In continuous run stress workouts (such as a tempo runs or steady state runs) we should seek to find a groove or rhythm that we can sustain for the whole run, finishing feeling like we worked very hard but could continue on a little bit if we had to.  Similarly in repeat workouts, we gauge our effort so that we work hard but finish without dying/fading, feeling like another repeat or at least part of another repeat at that pace would be possible.  Easy and recovery runs then, become focused on keeping the feel of the run easy and not pushing the pace.  Then by looking at our paces and splits afterwards, we can use this data in comparison to the charts, that I and other coaches have developed based on the physiology of the sport, to help us adjust our efforts accordingly and learn the right feel for executing the workouts in the most beneficial ways. 

In races, we gauge our efforts based on feel given the conditions and race distance, but in the case of races, we can push to the limits, so that at the finish line we have given it our all.  Through experience, in our workouts and other races, we learn how hard we can push at what point and still make it to the end without dying/fading/bonking.  Splits and paces that we can take and analyze afterwards, show any areas for improvements we may be able to make next time. 

A runner that can master running by feel is a very scary runner indeed, as they rarely have a bad race, they rarely over train, and they are adept at adjusting to any course, distance or conditions, and they are less stressed on the starting line.

Challenge yourself to start doing some or all of your workouts and races in this fashion and don’t be a slave to your watch, but rather use the splits and paces you take (or your Garmin records) along the way as feedback afterwards not edicts during the workout or race.    

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Analysis Of The Easy Pace Debate

The appropriate or acceptable pace to run at on easy runs is a topic often debated by distance runners and coaches and usually with a wide variety of opinions.  So I wanted to weigh in on the topic here on my blog. As with most things in running, I try to approached the topic with a logical analysis; breaking things down into its elemental parts, defining what the goal is, and then deciding on how best these parts can be used to accomplish this goal.  What I am presenting here is my interpretation of each of these things (rarely is it 100% black and white).

The Goal

The goal of an easy/recovery run is to recover from a stress workout, while maintaining or advancing our general aerobic fitness and cellular adaptations to running.  Easy/Recovery runs are a key part of the stress and recovery principle, which states that we must stress a body in a certain discipline (running) and then allow the body to recover, and once it has recovered it will be better adapted to the stress than it was before (fitter).  (see illustration above)  I call one complete stress and recover cycle a “base unit” in our training.  The easy run is an integral component of the base unit, as this is where the super compensation occurs. 

Given this goal, the question becomes how much and at what pace should our easy running be in order to recover and gain the super-compensation benefits, while still maintaining or advancing our aerobic fitness and adaptations. 

The answer to that question will depend largely on how hard the stress portion of the base unit was, and how long we have to recover before our next stress workout.  The answer would likely be different if we have 3 days between stress workouts than it would be if we have to have just 1 day between workouts.  But not so much the pace of the easy runs, but rather the duration of them, as I will explain in a minute.

The Elemental Parts

How much work/effort we do in any run is a product of multiple factors including the duration of the run, the pace we run, the course we run on and the weather condition.  In this analysis I hold the other elements constant so I can focus on the duration and speed components of this equation. 

To give us units to work with let’s use minutes of running for the duration, and for the pace let’s use a percentage of lactate threshold pace. (I define lactate threshold pace as roughly the pace we can hold for 60 minutes in an all-out race effort).

Both speed and pace are critical in our analysis.  60 minutes at 75% of lactate threshold (LT) pace is a greater overall effort than 30 minutes at 75% of lactate threshold pace; likewise 60 minutes at 85% of lactate threshold pace would be a greater effort than 60 minutes at 70% of lactate threshold pace. So we must consider both in reaching our goal. 

In the book “Daniels’ Running Formula”, Dr. Jack Daniels develops a chart that assigns a single point value to each run based on the duration of the run and the relative pace of the run.  If we determined that in order to recover from our last stress workout before our next one, that we could only do a run of 20 point in value on Dr. Daniels’ chart, then there would be multiple ways to get those 20 point.  We could run a shorter duration at a faster pace or we could run for longer but at a slower pace.  In theory either way would produce the recovery desired. 

So then one might state, “so it doesn't matter how slow or fast I run then right, as long as I adjust my duration to match”.  My answer to that would be “only within a certain range”.  Here is why:

If we run too fast on the run (faster than a certain point) we begin substantially stressing certain systems of the body that we want to be recovering from the previous stress, not stressing again.  This manifests itself by reduced performance on our stress workout days and a feeling of not being recovered from our last stress workout.

The slower we run, the less muscles fibers that are actively being used and the less bio-mechanically efficient we run.  So if we run too slow on the easy run (slower than a certain point) we may be teaching our body bad bio-mechanical habits, and even worse, doing so for an extended period of time.   We run fast intervals at times on our stress days to teach our body to operate more efficiently/economically, but similarly if we subject our body to prolonged periods at paces that are too slow, we can teach it to be inefficient and bio-mechanically uneconomical.  This manifests itself not on our slow days (which are easy) but through being more injury prone on our stress days and long runs, where our bio-mechanical bad habits become more dangerous.  But because the injury or problem happens in a stress workout rather than easy run day, most runners and coaches fail to make the connection to their easy run paces.

So what we want to do is run our easy runs slow enough to let the necessary systems recover and fast enough not to teach our body bad bio-mechanical habits.   So what is that appropriate easy pace range?  I believe this range to be (and many other elite coaches and researchers seem to generally agree) between 20% and 30% slower than lactate threshold pace or roughly 65% to 75% of maximum heart rate (for those who use a HR monitor). 

So if your lactate threshold pace is 6:00 per mile, than your easy runs would be best done at a pace of between 7:12 (6:00 + (6:00 x .20)) and 7:48 per mile (6:00 + (6:00 x .30)). 

Note: These paces may need to be adjusted for weather and/or course conditions.

With this safe pace range set then, the variable we change is our duration in order to get the proper recovery needed.  Gradually over time, as our fitness and capacity grows, we may be able to increase the duration of these easy runs.  Easy pace can also progress to the extent our lactate threshold improves.

If in our training, we use a 3 day base unit: a stress day followed by 2 easy run days as recovery, at the beginning of the training cycle we may determine that we can run for 50-60 minutes in our easy run pace range (20-30% slower than LT pace) and be properly recovered for the next stress workout.  Gradually during the course of the cycle or over the course of the year, this duration may increase, to say 60-80 minutes, as our work capacity grows. 

Common Mistakes (IMHO)

One mistake (in my opinion) that I often see runners make is they determine the distance they want to do on a recovery day first and then adjust the pace accordingly.  This happens often with marathoners who want to increase mileage too quickly.  This leaves them susceptible to running too slow (teaching the body bad bio-mechanics) if they pick a distance that doesn't allow them to stay in the easy pace range I have outlined.  These runners feel great about getting in the extra distance, but run the increased risk of injuries from running for prolonged periods in an inefficient manner.   

I suggest that instead they should determine the appropriate easy pace  (20-30% slower than LT pace) and then see how much distance/duration they can cover at that pace range and still adequately recover, and start there and try and grow that as their fitness improves.

Another mistake I often see is, runners running outside of their appropriate easy pace range on their easy days, in order to run with runners who are faster than they are.  This often results in the runner not adequately recovering from the last stress workout and thus not getting the full super-compensation (bump in fitness) they should/could be getting from the work they did. 

While I know it’s tempting to run with faster runners on a day when it’s possible to keep up with them, but good and effective training requires adhering to the principles of stress and recovery.  Luckily the easy pace range is larger than most hard training paces, so this does allow for some runners of slightly different fitness levels to run together at a pace within both of their easy pace ranges, but runners should be careful not to stray too far outside their peer group on recovery runs.  

Happy Running!

Coach Mark Hadley

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials: Qualifying Window Opens!

Any U.S. citizen wishing to compete in the 2016 Olympics in the marathon representing the United States, must first qualify for the trials race, and then finish in the top 3 spots in the trials race, in order to earn themselves an U.S. Olympic team birth.

Qualifying For The Trials Race
In order to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, the athletes must meet the following standards (information copied from the USATF website):

                                                         Event                    "A"                         "B" 
                  Men                              Marathon            2:15:00                  2:18:00 
                                                        Half Marathon                                    1:05:00  
                                                          Event                    "A"                         "B" 

                Women                          Marathon            2:37:00                  2:43:00
                                                       Half Marathon                                    1:15:00 

Qualifying window:  August 1, 2013 until 30 days prior to the designated Olympic Trials race.

Qualifying Guidelines
  1. Athletes must meet the "B" standard in order to enter the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon event.
  2. The qualifying mark must be made in a race on a certified course Sanctioned by USA Track & Field or a member federation of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The course must be USATF/IAAF/AIMS certified with an active course certification and have an elevation loss no greater than 3.25 meters/km. All course configurations will be accepted (no minimum separation). 
  3. The qualifying standards must be met from August 1, 2013 until 30 days prior to the designated Olympic Trials race.
  4.  All qualifying performances are subject to verification.
  5. "Gun" time is the only acceptable method of timing. Chip/net times cannot be used for qualifying. Consideration may be given to "chip/tag" times for competitors with "gun" times extremely close to the above qualifying standards.
  6. Athletes meeting the “A” standard will be provided funding support.
Trials Race Date
The date(s) and location(s) of the trails race have not yet been announced.  During the last 30 years the trials races have been held as early as the November the year prior to the Games and as late as May the year of the Games.  It seems very likely that the trials would again be sometime within the window, making them between November 2015 and May 2016 (although this is not guaranteed).

Qualifying Window: Open
Based the above information, the qualifying window for the trials standards is officially open as of today!   I would suspect that we will see many athletes seeking to secure their trials spot with a performance this fall (2013), or next spring or fall (2014), in order to not have to chase a time in the months leading up to the trials.'s 2016 U.S. Marathon Trials Project
A year and half ago I started a website called as a way to share a very successful training and racing philosophy for the marathon, in order to be a good reference tool for runners and coaches alike.  My goal in starting the site was to help and encourage people to train to run the marathon at the highest levels in the sport.

When the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials Standards were announced in December 2012, I decided what better way to encourage and help people to train at a high level in the sport than to help them qualify for and do well in the Marathon Trials.  It is something that gets many people motivated and provides them with a lofty but attainable goal to work towards. 

So through, I started the 2016 U.S. Marathon Trials Project in which I provide personal coaching and encouragement to help Project members achieve their goals in relation to the U.S. Marathon Trials and the marathon event. 

In the first 6 months the Project has grown to 10 members before the trials qualifying window even opened.  The project members range from those who sole goal is to meet the qualifying standard and compete in the trials, to those who have competed in the trials before and want to go back, to those who goals include making the Olympic Team.   

In the months and years ahead, I hope to add more members to the Project’s ranks, and help all of the Project members earn their qualifying times and meet or exceed their goals at the trials.  And then repeat the process again in subsequent Olympic cycles (2020, 2024, etc)

You can read more of the 2016 U.S. Marathon Trials Project at:

If the Project doesn't align with your goals in the sport, but you would like to support our efforts, please consider buying one of’s t-shirts:


These performance t-shirts can be purchased at:

Happy Running!

Coach Mark Hadley

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Temperature + Dew Point For Pace Adjustments

Since Dew Point is a more useful measure of the water saturation of the air and thus its effect on our body while we run, I am recommending using it (rather than relative humidity), in conjunction with air temperatures, in determining warm weather pace adjustments to training.

The revised training pace adjustment formula is as follows:

Add together air temperature and dew point and see where the combined number places you on the following adjustment chart:

100 or less:   no pace adjustment
101 to 110:   0% to 0.5% pace adjustment
111 to 120:   0.5% to 1.0% pace adjustment
121 to 130:   1.0% to 2.0% pace adjustment
131 to 140:   2.0% to 3.0% pace adjustment
141 to 150:   3.0% to 4.5% pace adjustment
151 to 160:   4.5% to 6.0% pace adjustment
161 to 170:   6.0% to 8.0% pace adjustment
171 to 180:   8.0% to 10.0% pace adjustment
Above 180:   hard running not recommended

Note:  a range is given as there are numerous individual factors, such as the size, fitness and physical make-up of the runner, and their level of acclimatization to the heat and air saturation levels, that will play into how much of a pace adjustment is needed.   

The above are the pace adjustment percentages to use for continuous runs.  For repeat workouts such as 400’s 800’s, or mile repeats, I recommend using half of the continuous run adjustment as the body has a chance to cool somewhat during the recovery between repeats. 

For those who want help doing the math for these adjustments the following charts calculate the adjusted pace for various paces and % adjustments.


At the time of our planned continuous run the air temperature is 74 degrees and dew point if 71 degrees - a typical early morning in summer over much southern United States this summer.  We would add these 2 numbers together to get 145 (74 + 71).

According to our chart, a total of 145 calls for a pace adjustment of 3% to 4.5%.  We had planned to do our run at 7:00 pace under normal conditions, so we adjust the 7:00 pace by 3% to 4.5% and get an adjusted pace range of 7:13 to 7:19 per mile.  

If, under those same weather conditions we had planned to run 8 x half mile repeats at 3:00 per repeat (6:00 per mile pace).  We would cut the 3% to 4.5% pace adjustment in half and use a 1.5% to 2.25% pace adjustment.  A 1.5% to 2.25% on 6:00 pace is a 6:06 to 6:08.  So instead of targeting 3:00 per half mile, we would have an adjusted target of 3:03 to 3:04 per half mile.

Prior Method
Most of the pace adjustments obtained using this method align very closely to what I have shared previously when using relative humidity to adjust air temperature; but I believe the use of both dew point and air temperature to be a more accurate basis for the adjustment calculations, so I am offering this modification.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sharing My Workout Toolbox

My Metaphorical Workout Toolbox

One of the most valuable items I have as a coach is my workout toolbox.  This is a listing of all the workouts I use as a coach and notes about when, where, why and how to use each to its maximum effectiveness. 

I have a rather large toolbox and am always seeking ways to improve and expand it.  I am constantly reading, thinking, analyzing and talking with other coaches and runners about the various tools used in training.   But I am also picky about what is in my toolbox, so I have some very stringent criteria that must be met before a workout is added.   Before a workout is added to my tool box I must have a thorough understanding of:
  •    The basic physiology of the workout – what systems does it work and how
  •    When to use the workout
  •    How to best execute the workout
  •    Any variations of the workout and how do they differ from each other
  •    How effective is the workout at producing results

The sources for workouts are almost endless.  It is bound only by resources and imagination.  The sources of the workouts currently in my toolbox include:  personal experience as a runner, experiences as a coach, the experiences of friends and colleagues, through reading articles, books and research reports, by talking with other coaches and runners, and hours of research, analyzing and brainstorming.  

I am also not afraid to tweak workouts once they are in the toolbox.  I am always seeking ways to improve them and make them more effective or identifying new variations to be used in certain circumstances.  As new information or research is available, and as experience with each workout grows, I may modify or expand a workout in the toolbox or add a new workout.  I think my toolbox has been through the fire and proven to be extremely effective, but I am never satisfied with that, I want it to be even better and will always work to make improvements to it.  As a coach I want to have the most effective, bad-ass toolbox in the business, so I can be the most effective coach I can possibly be at helping runners reach their goals and maximum potential in the sport.

Organizing the Toolbox
My tool box is organized into 2 tiers.  The first tier is general workout category based on the primary purpose of the workout.
·         Speed
·         Stamina
·         Endurance
·         Recovery

Then under this first tier is a second tier based on the prevalence of the workout in terms of how often and when it can and should be used.  This tier is broken up into:
  •  Staple Workouts
  •  Breakout Workouts
  •  Specialty Workouts

Sharing My Toolbox
On August 1st, I will be launching a new retail page to my coaching services and resource website  On this page I will be offering to share a substantial piece of my toolbox with you, and in a detailed way beyond what is found on my websites or blog, through a product entitled:   

Coach Hadley’s Workout Toolbox

This offering will include:
  • Detailed notes, instructions and tips on the top 18 workouts in my toolbox. 
  • Training pace charts so that you can easily determine the correct pace ranges to use for each workout based on your (or your athlete’s) current fitness level 
  • All organized on to 8” x 5” note cards, laminated, so they can easily be taken to workout sites to be used and referred to.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The 5th Tenet: Passion!

“A life lived with passion, even if it fails to reach its goals, is far superior to a life lived without passion, even if it is successful”

For the last couple of years you have heard me talk about what I believe to be the 4 tenets of training for distance running in order to achieve your full potential in the sport:  consistency, capacity, frequency and mixture.   Today I want to introduce you to a 5th tenet:  Passion!

Let me explain what I mean by passion in terms of distance running, and how it is a vital component to our success.

Passion:  A deep desire and love of the sport to the point that you decide to do your very best and develop the talent you have for it.  This passion requires that you maintain a positive attitude about training and racing because running is seen as a great gift and as such it is a privilege to do no matter the outcome of the run, workout or race.

This passion, by its very definition, requires us to also approach training in a smart and disciplined manner, as well as an enthusiastic one, because it will take smart training coupled with hard training to reach our full potential.   This means while enthusiastic about workouts and working hard, we must balance that enthusiasm in order to make sure we adhere to the other tenets of training, because ultimately we must have all 5 tenets working together in unison in order to realize its full synergy.  

Thing we need to know about this passion we seek:
  • Passion is part feeling and part conscious decision – we have to want it (the easy part) AND have to make the conscious decision to embrace it and make it happen (the hard part).
  • If it is not fed and safe guarded, passion can be diminished or even extinguished and if not kept in check it can burn too high and burn out.  So the passion we seek avoids the extreme highs and lows and instead steadily and resolutely marches forward towards its goal.
  • The passion we seek is a strong burning but resolute flame, the kind that can weather the storms that will surely come from time to time, the one that will slowly forge our bodies and minds in to rock hard manifestations of distance running prowess over months and years of work.
  • When tough conditions present themselves, such as inhospitable weather or challenging courses, this passion embraces the challenge before it and see it as an opportunity to grow, harden itself and improve.  Its thoughts are never “how do I survive this” but rather “how do I conquer it”. 
  • Passion is an attitude that permeates all aspects of our training on a daily basis, not just when we get ourselves psyched up.  It is positive, it is resolute, and it is unwavering. Ups and downs in training do not affect its strength or mission. 
  • If we train with passion we have no need to brag or be obnoxious on race day to try and psych ourselves up, instead we arrive on the start line with a calm confidence, knowing we are ready for the task at hand.  

When this passion and attitude is coupled with the other 4 tenets, we become a virtually unstoppable distance running machine. The only question is when we will arrive at our goals, not if we will arrive.  That is not to say we won’t have set backs or make mistakes along the way, but when we do we will learn from them and quickly rise again and march forward again towards our goals.  Just like a fully loaded freight train, we will be almost impossible to derail until we reach our goals and beyond.

My 5 tenets to successful distance running training:
  • Consistency
  • Capacity
  • Frequency
  • Mixture
  • Passion

Monday, July 1, 2013

Staple and Breakout Workouts

A Very Motivating Breakout Speed Workout 

Every training program should be comprised of both staple workouts and breakout workouts. 

Staple Workouts:  These are the tried and true workouts that are very effective at working certain targeted systems in a very direct manner.  These workouts include things like VO2 Max repeats, LT tempo runs, and the easy pace long run.  They are simple, straight forward and usually very effective.

Breakout Workouts:  These are the workouts we add into the program in order to spice things up, work systems from a slightly different angle in order to spark new growth in order to keep the fitness progression from stagnating.  These workouts include things like hill repeats, wave tempos and progression runs.

Staple workouts will comprise the majority of the workouts we do in training but the exact mixture between staple and breakout workouts will depending on many variables including previous training cycles, number of years of purposeful training, and length of the current training cycle. 

Similarly, what breakout workouts we utilize will depend on variables such as the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, their prior training, and what distance they are training for. 

Good intuition, lots of experience, and a sound understanding of the physiology of all the workouts, are the keys to finding the right mixture between staple and breakout workouts and also finding the right workouts within each to utilize and when. 

  • Have a couple of different breakout workouts for each workout category – speed, stamina and endurance. 
  • If your fitness progression in a certain category starts to stagnate, add in a breakout workout for that category into your training. 
  • Keep a training log and note the breakout workouts you have used in the past that have been the most effective for you.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Blood Tests For Runners

As distance runners we are diligent with our training routines and try and make sure we are doing all the little things we need to in order to make sure our body is fit and ready to train and race hard.  But it isn't always as simple as it sounds to make sure that you are adequately or optimally doing everything .  In blocks of hard training the things we need to keep up with and monitor go up, and the things we do in easier training may not be adequate any longer.   

Specifically in this blog I am referring to the level of hydration, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and hormones that our body needs in order to perform at its maximum.    In order to monitor and ensure these areas are at optimal (or at least sufficient) levels I am recommending that competitive runners, especially those running higher mileage levels, have some simple and relatively inexpensive blood tests performed on a periodic basis.   The benefits of doing so is 2 fold – first it helps us determine if there is any area of immediate concern that may be derailing or jeopardizing our current ability train and race optimally; and secondly by tracking our test results over time, we can see pick out any potential troubling trends and better learn our body and at what score in various areas do we usually perform our best.  These periodic tests can help us fine tune our ancillary (non-running) routines in order to help us perform at our best. 

OK so how often and what should I test?  Good questions and like most things on our sport the answer is “it depends”.   But I do have some basic recommendations that are a good start and something I think will be sufficient for the vast majority of serious runners.  Then as we follow these recommendations we can tweak what do to optimize it for our specific situation. 

What Tests To Have
Here is what I recommend that you get tested as part of your periodic testing program:

CBC – Complete Blood Count:  this will give you the white blood cell count, red blood cell count, hemoglobin levels, hematocrit levels, white blood cell types, red blood cell density and blood platelet counts.   Several important things in here to track and some that provide indications of infections, and other problems.

TSH Levels – This gives you a basic indication if your thyroid gland is working appropriately or at least indicate if a more thorough tests should be done in this area. Some runners have problems in this area.

Ferritin Levels – this is a good indicator of the iron stores available in your bone marrow to make new red blood cells.  Many runners, especially higher mileage runners, tend to be too low in this area if they don’t supplement iron intake.   Olympic Marathon Champ Joan Benoit Samuelson, a notoriously good eater, says that iron was the only thing she had to regularly supplement. 

Chemistry Panel – this is a test for many mineral levels in your blood, including key electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.  Also can give you a good indication if you are dehydrated and if you are high or low in any of these key minerals.   

Additional tests can be included such as glucose levels, iron and vitamin D, or others if desired or if you have reason to suspect something may be up or need to be tracked based on personal or family history. 

You can request these tests from your primary care physician or go to an independent lab testing facility, such as “Any Lab Test Now”, and have these tests run.   It is simple and the results are usually back within 48 hrs.   The cost will vary based on if you go through your doctor, what your insurance is,  or if you use an independent facility.  I know that I can get all of the above tests done through “Any Lab Test Now” for a total of $129 (their “Basic Check-up Panel” with Ferritin substituted in place of the Lipids test).

Reading The Test Results
All of these test results will come with a list of what is considered the “normal range” and what your score is.  But keep in mind that what is optimal for an athlete in serious training and what is “normal” may not coincide perfectly.  I recommend that you either find a reputable person in sports medicine who is use to working with athletes and reading blood tests results, to go over your results with you; or you take some time to do some research and reading and educate yourself on how to interpret the results yourself. 

Once you get your results start a spreadsheet and enter your results for each test and the date of the test.  Then when you get the test done again, note your new levels on the next column/row.  This way you will have an easy place to see any trends and possibly catch some potential problems before they fully manifest themselves.   In certain tests you will notice certain levels at which you feel best and what you need to do to get there (such as ferritin and what level of iron supplementation you need to achieve that ferritin level). 

How Often To Test
I recommend having the complete battery of tests done 2 to 3 times per year, with a follow-up test in-between on any area that is outside of the desired range.  For example, if I get the full run of tests done in January and everything looks good except for my ferritin levels, I may make some changes to my iron supplementation routine and then just have just my ferritin levels tested again in March to make sure my changes are working.  Then have the whole battery of tests done again in May or June.   Additionally if you run into a period of a few weeks in which we aren't feeling well and something seems off, by getting the full battery of tests it may help you isolate the problem. 

As serious runners, we want to leave no stone un-turned as we seek to achieve our goals, and these test can help us make sure we are doing what we need in terms of hydration, nutrition, vitamins and minerals, as well as point out any issues that may be lurking. 

Return on Investment
While following this recommendation can costs a few hundred dollars per year, it can also help make sure that you are getting the most out of the hundreds of hours you are putting into training and often the thousands of dollars you are investing in race entries and travel to races.  In all a very good return on your money in addition to the invaluable peace of mind it can bring.

Happy Running,

Coach Mark Hadley