Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Sub 5:00 pace: The Breakthrough at the 2019 Houston Half Marathon

 


In 2016, I ran an epic 1:06:50 (5:05 pace) at the Jacksonville Half Marathon.  In November of 2018, I finally broke that time by running 1:06:37 at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon.  Still, I hadn't really broken through to that next level.  There was more in me ready to be unleashed.  Photo below of Indianapolis.






































January 20, 2019

49:54.  Mile 10.  5K left to go.

It began building...we could feel it, that anticipation to unleash what we had left in our tanks.  We had been racing sub 5- minute miles for 10 miles, and now it was time to see who had the strength and speed the last 5K.  All we could hear were our footsteps and breathing-which was barely controlled right up to the edge.  That threshold.  I just needed another 15:30 5K.   

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The Chevron Houston Half Marathon is one of the fastest half marathons in the country.  I first ran this race back in 2014(you can find that race report on this blog), and ran a PR back then of 1:07:29 (that breakthrough was sub 5:10 pace for the first time).  The course is flat like a track, fast, and minimal turns.  The competition brings world class runners from all over the world, and some of the fastest U.S. half marathoners.  I walked outside of my hotel ready to do a shakeout run with Silvia, when I saw someone who looked familiar and knew immediately who it was.  He won this race in 2014 in 61 minutes.  I only saw the back of his head but I knew who it was.

It was Meb.  I introduced Silvia to him, and the guy is the nicest dude in the world.  He asked what our goals were, wished us luck, and even when we came back from our run he waved back at us again.  Meb is one of my favorite modern runners-he sets the example of what running really is-a lifelong sport.


On Saturday, I met my coaching client, JP, who I have been coaching virtually.  It is tough but we communicate well, which helps since I cannot see him run.  He is progressing well, and he ran the 5K Saturday morning in 15:38 for 3rd place.  He ran track and cross country for Texas A&M.  Silvia and I were also fortunate to meet Steve Magness, the coach at University of Houston, and who co-directs High Performance West.  I follow his podcast on coaching along with Jonathan Marcus.  https://www.scienceofrunning.com/?v=7516fd43adaa



JP (Pictured above)


THE RACE
January 20, 2019
Houston Half Marathon


Silvia and I jogged to the race start where we were put into the B section of the elites.  This race is super stacked with world class athletes.  They had a short separation between the A and B elites, so I crossed the timing mat 5 seconds into the race.  I worked my way into the race, opening up with a 5:05 first mile.


I love this race.  The course is fast, flat, like a track.  The competition is world class, the winner runs just inside or right at 60 minutes.  It was awesome to return here 5 years later.  The weather was a bit chilly- temperatures at the start were in the high 30s.  I wore 2 pairs of lightweight gloves(the cheap pair on top of the nice pair), a hat, and CEP compression socks.  Mile 2 was 5:01, and then I began hitting some sub 5s.  My third mile was 4:56, and my 4th mile was 4:55.  By now I had been running with a few other guys, and as we approached mile 5, a 5:03 split, we caught Fernando Cabada(the 2:11 marathoner was clearly having a rough day).  He then asked, "What pace are you all running?" A guy who had been running with me answered, "5:00 pace."  I heard that loud and clear, and it bothered me.

I thought to myself, Chris, you did not fly out all the way from DC to run 5:00 pace.  Last December(2018), I ran the CIM Marathon in a new PR of 2:25:05, but it was also a mixed emotions race because I was on pace for a 2:17(went through half in 1:08:40), and I was aiming for the 2020 Olympic Trials Qualifier(standard is 2:19:00).  35K in of the 42.2K race I was on 2:18 pace.  It was difficult to swallow that one, however it was a big improvement off my last marathon- I find the distance is improving for me as I age.

I did not come out here just to run 5:00 pace.

I then made a bold move.  I left the few runners I was with and I hammered mile 6, 7, and 8 in 4:54, 4:54, & 4:56, and then went ahead to work towards catching another pack of elite runners.  I had gone through 15K in 46:30(a PR) and was averaging 4:59 per mile.  I had never been here before.  It was the danger zone, the unknown territory.  But I continue to push.  I then caught up to the next pack, and together we rolled through mile 10 in 49:50-something, which was a 10 mile PR.  Again, new territory.

5K to go.  I felt I had what it took to run close to 1:05 flat.  I knew I could do it.  Just hang with the pack.  I felt so strong!  I knew I had the speed and strength for the last 5K, and perhaps a really good closing kick.  We hammered it out and approached the downtown area where the last mile is literally a straight shot to the finish.  We approached mile 12 with 59 minutes and 50-something seconds on the clock, which was so awesome.  Never have I run so fast!!  I flashed back to when I was in high school when I ran my first sub 5:00 mile.  Here I was running 12 in a row on my 13th.  I thought back to one of my favorite quotes from Once A Runner:  

“...Or we can blaze! Become legends in our own time, strike fear in the heart of mediocre talent everywhere! We can scald dogs, put records out of reach! Make the stands gasp as we blow into an unearthly kick from three hundred yards out! We can become God's own messengers delivering the dreaded scrolls! We can race dark Satan himself till he wheezes fiery cinders down the back straightaway....They'll speak our names in hushed tones, 'those guys are animals' they'll say! We can lay it on the line, bust a gut, show them a clean pair of heels. We can sprint the turn on a spring breeze and feel the winter leave our feet! We can, by God, let our demons loose and just wail on!” 

― John L. Parker Jr., Once a Runner

The Last Mile.  

I cannot count the amount of sub 5 minute mile repeats I have done on the track.  I have done them over and over and over again.  Now, my body was saying it was ready.  It was ready to put it all together.  The last mile of the race we stormed towards the finish line.  We went through 20 kilometers in just over 62 minutes, and our last 1.1 kilometers-according to the splits below, was a mighty 4:45 pace!  The last 3 minutes of the race we headed straight towards the finish in downtown, and as we approached mile 13 in 1:04:50-something, the last .1 mile was an all out sprint between the 4 of us.  I unleashed a kick like none other I have had before.  I battled with one of Canada's top runners Chris Balestrini and Mexico's Daniel Ortiz Perez.  The race announcer was going crazy as we all made a mad dash for the finish line.




Split



Time Of Day
TimeDiffmin/milemiles/h
5K07:16:43AM00:15:3715:3705:0111.94
10K07:32:09AM00:31:0315:2604:5812.08
15K07:47:36AM00:46:3015:2704:5812.07
20K08:03:16AM01:02:1015:4005:0211.90
Finish Mat08:06:31AM01:05:2503:1504:4512.58
My official chip time was 1:05:25, an average of 4:59.4 per mile!  I had finally averaged under 5:00 pace for the half marathon!

Splits: 5:05, 5:01, 4:56, 4:55, 5:03, 4:54, 4:54, 4:56, 5:00, 5:02, 5:03, 4:58, 4:59

But immediately after I finished, my attention switched to finding the other runner.  No not the guy I battled with.  Not Meb.  Not the guy who won the race.

No, I was focused on finding Silvia finish her race.

Silvia came through in a new PR of 1:21:16, which she most recently beat at the DC Rock and Roll Half Marathon, finishing that race in 1:20:39!  She also just broke 60 minutes for 10 miles at this year's Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, running 59:34(edit: 59:48 converted from the 9.96 mile course).  Over the past year, Silvia has become one of the best runners in the DC area.  She ran her current PR of 2:48:38 at the California International Marathon last fall.

We both are working towards the Ottawa Marathon this coming May.



 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Year 2017



2008 
10K: 34:16
Half Marathon: 1:17:37

2009
10K: 33:29
Half Marathon: 1:16:16
Marathon: 2:43

2010
10K: 32:51
10 Miles: 54:16
Half Marathon: 1:12:57

2011
1 Mile: 4:27
5K: 15:13
10K: 31:26
10 Miles: 52:54
Half Marathon: 1:08:39
20 Miles: 1:52
Marathon: 2:37

2012
Mile: 4:26
5,000m: 14:58
10K: 30:56
10 Miles: 51:44
Marathon: 2:35

2013
Mile: 4:26
5,000m: 14:53
10K: 30:43
10 Miles: 51:35

2014
10K: 30:43
10 Miles: 50:57
Half Marathon: 1:07:29

2015
Mile: 4:21
5,000m: 14:49
12K: 37:37
10 Miles: 50:56

2016
10 Miles: 50:32
Half Marathon: 1:06:50

2017
1 Mile: 4:21
5,000m: 14:39
20 Miles: 1:48
Marathon: 2:32

Above are PR's I have set each year over the last 10 years.  I actually didn't realize that every year I have PR'd in something.  Looking back, I have been at this for a while-and I have come a long way.  See, I'm really not that talented-I'm good, but I'm not born with the perfect body to run like some other runners I meet at these championship races I run.  Some of these guys I meet at these big races humble the shit out of me....they are really good....there are guys who I meet at other races who run their first half marathon in 1:08 or something, then they jump to like 1:04.  For me?  My first was 1:17....I've worked down to 1:06 now with a lot of hard work and grit.  Yeah...that is good, but when I go to championship races I know I have had to work twice as hard as some of these other guys just to run as fast as them if they have a really bad day.  I beat Andrew Bumbalough in the US 10K Championships this past summer-which was pretty cool.  That guy is one of the U.S.'s top distance runners, and was one of the pacers at the Nike Sub 2 Marathon Project.  He was sick the day I was able to barely out kick him.  But I pride myself on the fact that I didn't start out as a top talented guy in high school or college....I started out as a 16:40 5K guy out of High School(now the pace I can race for 20 or more miles), and have chiseled down everything to as good as I can get with a lot of hard work over the years.  I've kept at it-consistency is one of the most important things I coach.  Looking at the careers of Flanagan, Meb, etc....gives me hope that I can truly master myself as I train in my 30's and my own god given ability to the fullest.  I think if I stopped running today, (or retired, so to speak), I would be mostly satisfied with everything, except the marathon I have some unfinished business with-which on paper appears to be the hardest event for me...but yet...I feel like at the very same time it is equally the event that I can be most strongest in and utilize all of my strengths and mental focus.  I continue to pursue this quest to find out my true potential in the world of running competitively.  Who am I as a runner?  I am a very good half marathoner.  Will I always be better as a half marathoner and just not quite as good at the marathon?  Or will I one day create just one painting in the marathon over several "ok" or "failed" ones....that stands out from the rest-like an artist does such as Wright when he did Falling Water, or a runner like Billy Mills when he surprised everyone winning the 1964 Olympic 10K, or Shalane winning NYC this year.  Whatever the outcome, I am not finished yet, and have something in me whether it is more strong races or one single race that stands apart from the rest.  Maybe both.
 
I have self coached for most of my running career post college.  Then, for 2 1/2 years, from 2014-2016, I trained very hard under my coach, Roland, which pushed my limits.  Under Roland, I ran some personal bests, the biggest breakthrough was a 1:06 half marathon in 2016.  That was the peak of the training at the time, and I put that race up there as one of my best pieces.  But I also trained really hard during those years and pushed my body to the highest mileage it could handle-and it eventually broke down a bit.  After my spring of 2016, things went in a rough direction.  After doing 10 consecutive weeks at 120/week, the fall of 2016 my body got injured for the first time in over a decade.  I wasn't able to finish a marathon, and my left foot was in pain, and I couldn't run, or run very minimally.  I had plantar fascitis.  My body had begun to feel the toll of what I had been doing to it.
 
I had to re-strengthen my foot, with lots of help from Tom Stott(sports performance institute) and Terrel Hale(georgetown sports massage), and REST.  Tom helped me understand where the problem was and what strengthening I needed to do for the weaker foot.  Terrel was a vital role in helping me heal the most efficiently I could and getting my body to the balance.  He is a master at his A.R.T. therapy-check out www.georgetownsportsmassage.com.  I also got back into my cross training-cycling and pool running which I had done before and getting back to that was what I needed to do.  As I built back from my injury over last winter, Tom actually thought it was actually a necessary and perhaps even good thing that I had pushed my body to the very edge, because I basically hit the ceiling-realizing where that tilting point was, and once I got back to it, I could dial back in and find the right balance.  You have to go through rough periods in order to progress at times.  That's how training works.  You push the body, and it will respond.  After a few months, I began running more again, and got stronger.  Roland and I respectfully decided to take a break(I still talk to him time and time again).  I started to look at a 2017 race plan-I then started working briefly with a new coach, George Buckheit, but we had our disagreements and that didn't work out.  So I went back to self coaching.  It felt like home.  I think Jerry Alexander(the GRC coach) said something to me that really hit home about me and my friend Jerry Greenlaw(who runs for GRC): "Chris, you and Jerry- you guys are unique runners-certain things obviously work for you guys that don't for others." 

My first race back in 2017 was the Saint Patty's Day 10K in March.  Actually, it was Jerry and I(pictured below) that ran this together.  It was a great first race back.  I was back-and not injured!  It was just great getting out there competing again!  Jerry and I took the lead with no one else in sight and ran neck and neck for the win.  We ran until we had absolutely nothing left-it was a great battle and he took the win in a sprint finish.


Then, in April, I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  I ran a solid 51:06(my course best is 50:56), so clearly things were going in the right direction.  Jerry ran that race too and tried to run me down at the end, but I put enough distance on him to finish ahead.


A few weeks after Cherry Blossom, I ran in the US Half Marathon Championships in Columbus, Ohio, in a very slow time- it was pretty rough-the humidity was crazy high and the dew point was ridiculous.  But honestly I really didn't care- there was something else I was working towards at the time.  My interval training was going really well-and I really got back into my self coaching again of designing my own interval workouts-something I am very good at.  I did a very strong workout of 16 x 400m with 100m jogs between-and it told me I was ready to run a very fast 5K.

BREAKING FREE
Swarthmore College, PA
5,000m: 14:39, 10th place


2 weeks after the half marathon championships, in May, I ran a new PR of 14:39 in the 5,000m at the Swarthmore College Invite.  This was a 10 second personal best, and a big breakthrough.  It was awesome to PR after being injured the previous year!  This was a very emotional race for me, because all the work and frustration I had gone through was justified.  I ran the best track race of my career to date.  Video of the race below.


I fell in love with the sport all over again.  I enjoyed self coaching again like it was yesterday.  I think I needed it.  I began racing more again.  5 days after the 5K, I jumped in the Germantown 5 Miler and won in 25 minutes.


At the end of May, on Memorial Day, I ran the Loudoun Street Mile, placing 4th in a new PR of 4:21.0.  Pictured below I am out kicking Moise Joseph, who has run for Haiti in the Olympics.


THE RIVALRY

At the Lawyers Have Heart 10K in June, I developed a rivalry with Desta Morkama, who out dueled me for the win.  I was pissed to lose.


As a tune up for the US 10K Championships, in late June I ran the MCRRC Suds and Soles 5K, which I won.


THE USA 10K CHAMPIONSHIPS
33rd place, 31:59
Atlanta, GA

The US 10K Championships was held by the Peachtree Road race.  Besides the US championships, there are 60,000 runners who participate in this race.  It is massive.  My friend Exavier (who I also coach) and I made the trip down together.  It was hot and humid, and the conditions could not be tougher.  The course is also difficult-the second half is all uphill.  I ended up battling Andrew Bumbalough at the very end and outkicked him.  While he obviously had an off day, it was still pretty cool to beat a pro-sponsored Nike guy who was one of the pacers during the 
Nike: Breaking 2 Hour Project.  A story to tell my grand-kids one day?  I plan to return for 2018.




To top the weekend off, I met Bernard Lagat (who placed 5th in the race).



THE WIN
Crystal City Twilighter 5K
1st place, 15:11

After Peachtree, I returned to DC very fit and used to the heat.  My rival Desta and I, and a few GRC guys dueled at the Crystal City Twilighter 5K in mid to late July(death conditions in DC).  By now I was used to the humidity, and I had the speed, so after Desta kicked by me with 400m to go, I had another kick stored up for him, and passed him during the last 100m to take the win!






THE RETURN

In August, I took a trip out to Blacksburg, and I began to train for the longer distances again.  I did my first 20 miler of the year, on the new river trail.


My friend Conrad and I did plenty of running, biking, hiking, and sight seeing.


...taking an ice bath...



RIVALRY, PART II 

At the end of August, I raced the Annapolis 10 Miler, where I battled Desta again for the win.  He was able to out kick me this time to win by 4 or 5 seconds.  We both ran tough on the challenging, hilly course.


In September, we dueled again at the Parks Half Marathon.  Desta(#3), once again took the win in a sprint finish and he finished in 1:09:07, and I finished in 1:09:10.  He was just a bit better at finishing than I was.  We had a pack of 4 together until mile 10 I took the lead to break up the race.





Parks Half Marathon top finishers: Pictured left to right: Desta(1st place), Girma(6th place), Me(2nd place), Wilson(7th place), Conrad(3rd place)

Meanwhile...it was exciting to watch the end of the womens race.  Silvia, who I coach, took the win in 1:24, and a new personal best.


OCTOBER
Army Ten Miler: 14th place

Despite absolutely the worst conditions possible, the World Class Army Ten Miler was a really great placing for me.  I took 14th, and handled the conditions as best as I could.  I fought off Lucas Meyer of the GRC for 14th, my highest placing ever in this race.  My time was slow(everyone's was), but this was one of the best races I competed in for place.


battling the humidity


Then, a few weeks later, I drove up to Baltimore, to watch Silvia compete in the Baltimore Marathon for the win.  Silvia won the womens marathon in a new PR of 2:58!  Watching this happen live before my eyes as a coach was something special.




INDIANAPOLIS MONUMENTAL HALF MARATHON
15th place, 1:07:58
In November, my fitness really came around, and I ran my third best all time half marathon at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon.  It was a good tune up for the California International Marathon the next month.  I wanted to run close to 5:10 pace, and averaged 5:11.  I really enjoyed this race, and would like to come back again.  I took 15th overall in a very competitive elite field.



CALIFORNIA INTERNATIONAL MARATHON
Splits:
10K: 33:23 (5:22 pace/2:20 pace)
13.1: 1:10:28 (5:22 pace/2:20 pace)
20 Miles: 1:48:15 (5:24 pace/2:21 pace)
FINISH: 2:32:21 (5:48 pace)

The California International Marathon/US Marathon Championship was my last race for 2017.  I was of mixed emotions from this race....it was both equally amazing and equally getting my ass kicked.  This was a 3 minute PR for me, but it was so close to a, like, 13-15 min PR.  I really felt like a 2:20-2:22 was doable, and I just couldn't quite put that last piece together....I almost had it.  It was the most amazing marathon I have had because I have never been able to do what I did during this race.  Running 5:20's for that long was new to me.  I hit the wall bad at mile 21 or so.  This race is so unpredictable, because you can feel fine at like mile 19, and then all of a sudden your legs have no more.  This is how hitting the wall feels like.  I was able to run the rest, but could not race the last 5 miles.  It sucks when this happens, but it also sure is humbling.

This cycle I was a bit more conservative because I wanted to get to the finish line.  In 2015, when I ran the Chicago Marathon, I dropped out because I was a bit over trained going into the race.  I did a 26 mile run in training during that cycle, and I did it too fast(I think I did that in 2:33 or something).  It did me in.  So this time, I did not go longer than 22 miles(22.5 was my longest) in training.  I also didn't run as hard.  I feel I trained very intelligently this go around, and I am proud of myself for not only getting me to this finish line, but for what I have achieved this year and staying injury free.

As I have reflected on things over the past month, I have come to understand that for me, when everything clicks, it really clicks.  If it doesn't, I might run a solid race, or fall short of my goal, but it gets me somewhere.  After this race my body has begun to adapt to running 5:20 pace for a longer period of time.  Maybe I can hold that pace for the entire length next time.  The great thing is that I didn't really feel bad running this pace until my legs hit the wall around mile 20-21.  So that tells me my body is adapting to a different level off handling the pace.  The trick is getting things together the last 10K.  I do think a big part of crashing the last 5-6 miles, however, is because I was glycogen depleted.  And to make it worse my nutrition was disastrous during the race.  I took gels WAY TOO LATE(and as I coach I know this!).  Even though I practiced this in training, I should have taken them earlier....I ended up taking all of them, but I should have spread it out more instead of waiting too late into the race. When I did my 22 milers, I practiced taking fluids and gels during the middle of the runs-so I know how to do this.  I think that I did that well....but the problem was I don't think I physiologically trained to avoid glycogen depletion.  In other words preparing myself to physically prevent my body from being depleted at mile 21-so I would have more at the end.  What I think I was missing in my training was actually doing the full distance in training, but instead of running it too fast(like I did in 2015)-going mostly easy for the majority of the run(maybe first 20 easy, last 6 hard to simulate this) to practice that glycogen depletion.  I think going back to 2015 I had the right idea-but the run was done too fast overall.  If I did a 26 miler in training mostly easy, and maybe the last 6 miles faster or something like that, that might just work.  Practice that so my body does not crash with 5-6 miles to go.  I know a few friends of mine who ran 2:17-2:18, and they said they did 26-28 mile training runs to practice that.  I think as long as I am smart about it and don't run it hard, it might be just what I need to do.  I think I was very smart this go around to make sure I got to the line though, and I really wanted to finish this race and not run too much to be dead going into it.  It feels like each time I have gone at this marathon I have taken small chunks off of the elephant, before I can eat the entire thing.  After my experiences with this race, I don't know if I can get the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials standard of 2:19, but I do know I have at least a 2:20-2:21 in me-that I feel in me.  But maybe... if everything comes together one day, and I am ready, at the right moment to strike, with 5-6 miles to go, if I am in striking distance, maybe then, I will go for it.

After the marathon in Sacramento, I traveled to stay with my friend Benson, and his wife, Nancy in San Francisco.  I enjoyed exploring the city-it was very cathartic after the entire year.

I want to thank Terrel Hale, my massage therapist, for continuing to work with me.  He has been a vital part to me staying injury free this entire year.  Check out his website www.georgetownsportsmassage.com.



Friday, October 27, 2017

Silvia's win in Baltimore


Silvia winning the 2017 Baltimore Marathon in 2:58:36. 

I started coaching several years ago when I began to work with pure beginners or first time marathoners(and I still do).  In addition to first time marathoners, over time I have worked with more advanced runners, and sub-elite runners as well.  This year, I was fortunate that an awesome client of mine, Exavier Watson, introduced me to an incredible woman named Silvia Baage.  Silvia has always been a good runner, and she has come a long way.  She ran her first marathon in Baltimore 10 years ago, in 3:41.  Her previous PR was a 3:04, and she had run a bunch of 3:05s, so she was a bit stuck there.  She had placed 2nd and 3rd in the Baltimore Marathon in past years, and she really wanted to win it.  The winner of 2016 ran 2:59, so I think we both knew that she probably needed to be in sub 3:00 shape to win the race.  She needed to get comfortable running 6:40 pace.  But it's not always about the times.  I needed to see that she wanted to do this race-because that part is crucial.  One of the things I am really focused on implementing better in my coaching is to make sure my athletes actually want to do the races they signed up for- and that they aren't doing races just to try to run fast times.  What kind of race is it?  What can you get out of the race(or bring to it)?  There is a big difference.  Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to sign up for a fast race with fantastic weather and competition and do it because you will be pushed and have a chance at running a PR-what runner does not want to PR or qualify for Boston or the Trials or whatever...and PR's and times push the science aspect of running.   But at the very same time, from an artistic standpoint, there is so much more to running than just times.  I view running as an experience and, quoting Prefontaine, a work of art.  If you let it be that way, I think you'll find that your races will come to you, instead of you forcing things that may not fit.

Silvia wanted to break 3 hours in the marathon, but I also think she wanted to do it on the Baltimore course.  Silvia was made for this race.  She wanted to win it and give the city of Baltimore something special.  But I called her up the night before the race, and said to her to not put pressure on the time....that she may run like a 3:00+ time, BUT win the race, and she needed to be OK with that.  I wanted her to let the time come to her if it was meant to happen.





The race Silvia ran on Saturday, October 21, was a brilliantly executed race.  She never panicked.  She let the first woman go ahead of her in the beginning.  The race starts uphill, so it was really important she did not go out too hard in this race(it's important anyway in a marathon as it is!).  I told her around 7:00 pace for the first 3 miles or so give or take is "safe."  Around mile 9 I saw her during the race for the first time, and she was just catching the lead woman.  While she looked great, I told her she still had plenty of time, and to not get impatient out there.  She very very gradually started distancing herself from second place, and by mile 13, she had a very significant lead.  I gave her a check to make sure things were good and ran alongside as the crowds in the inner harbor cheered.  It was then a game of catching the men, and this could help her chase the time.  I told her to just look ahead and use the men to help her race.  I think she went through halfway right around 1:29:00.  Women cheered so loud it was deafening.  I then stopped, just took a look around in the crowds, and said to myself, "Wow.  These women are inspired."  This was the power of running.  

When I started with Silvia, she knew how to run 7:00 pace for the marathon.  Naturally, she isn't a track runner, so working on some intervals and shorter segments really was what I felt she needed, alongside some good long runs of course.  She had a great foundation of endurance.  Over the summer, she did a few 5Ks as speed workouts really.  Just to get familiar with 19 min 5Ks.  I think once we began doing 6:20 pace stuff, that really helped her feel like 6:40 pace wasn't so bad.  We then used Riley's Rumble half as a training run and I helped pace her a bit(and actually during that race I helped pace the early miles with my other awesome client, 3:10 marathoner Ansley who was just a few min behind) and she placed 3rd, in 1:28 on the extremely difficult course.  From there, a month after we decided to do the Annapolis 10 Miler, where she ran 64 min for 3rd place-again these races were used to boost her fitness.  Her strength is that she can adapt well to running just a bit slower than a 10K pace she will race, but maintain that pace for a much longer duration.  She is a really strong half marathon and marathon racer-I think those 2 distances are perfect for her.

Later, in September, I felt she could run a fast half in her, even during this training cycle, because her paces were getting quicker and she was adapting.  In September, at the Parks Half Marathon, she blazed a new PR of 1:24:06(averaging a 6:24 pace) and a 1 minute win over previous year's winner Megan DiGregorio.  The weather was nice too so that helped.  I think she took 4 minutes off her previous best half.  That definitely told me she was probably in 2:55 shape(if run on a flat course, good weather).  We looked at the race as not a peak race at all-it was merely to get her fitter and the goal was to use it as such.  But what was cool was even though it wasn't the focus of the race, she won anyway!

The parks race awarded her $500 for the win.  
She donated the money to hurricane relief.


We did some hill repeats, but also those hard courses helped prepare her for the hills of Baltimore.  We also worked on starting a bit more conservatively on her long runs, so she could run faster as her run progressed instead of running the same pace the whole way.  We didn't do any on/off stuff during long runs(for example we didn't do anything like 4 miles at mp, 1 mile moderate, 3 miles at mp, 1 mile moderate, etc...)....not saying those aren't good workouts though!  I just didn't think it was necessary for her at this time.  But during the week we did fartleks in an earlier phase of her training (5:00 on/off stuff) and I think that was enough of the on/off work and no more was needed after that phase(besides interval work on the track or mile repeats later).  I think more consistency was better for her long runs so there was no break in the pace once she got down to it.  The trick was to get started right.  We worked on mostly starting a bit more conservatively so she could build into it(not jogging, but just easy), and progressing the pace later faster and finding the pace that felt right.  While she averaged like 6:59-7:00 pace for some of her faster long runs, during those long runs she was able to progress her runs so she was running anywhere from 6:30-6:40 pace during a certain portion of those runs.  She reminds me a bit of my friend Lucy, who I did some training with back in 2011 to help her prepare for the 2012 Olympic Trials and owned a 2:43 PR.  Lucy would very very gradually slowly pick up her pace for her entire long run and could get down to low 6's.  She was a machine.

I got to mile 23 and waited.  Ah, that anticipation only coaches and spectators know.  I hadn't seen her between miles 15-23, so I really was not sure where she was.  I somehow knew she was killing it though-she just looked so strong halfway and I could tell by her cadence and form that she had plenty in the tank.  The tracking on my phone wasn't working(of course).  I had a feeling she was doing awesome, but in the marathon, even if the training goes perfectly, you're not guaranteed to have things go your way.  I saw my friend Dave Berdan who I was pulling for the win.  He was just a bit behind the leader.  Then came Michael Wardian-I am sure he was tired after doing some crazy ultra race recently.  Some more men passed-not that many though.  Then, I saw a woman-she was not Silvia.  But then I quickly realized she was part of the relay they have during the race as well.  Shit, I hope she told Silvia that.  

Then I saw the lead motorcycle....and the shadow of the runner next to the bike.  It was her.  I recognized her strong form immediately.  She looked the same-which was great-nothing in her form had broken down.  I got ready to run the last 3 miles alongside of her.  Like a lunatic, I kept grabbing water cups from the aid stations for her.  It was probably hilarious watching me out there-I zigzagged across the road and if I provided any entertainment to help get her through those last few miles then I certainly succeeded.  As we passed through mile 25, I could not help but look at my watch and it said 2:51 since the gun went off.  I knew then she was not only going to win- she was going to break 3 hours.   

As we got into the final weeks of training, Silvia jumped in a low key 20 miler on the towpath, which actually Exavier ended up winning in a pretty good time on a hot day.  For the women though, Sarah Bishop(who won MCM in 2:45:06 in a near Olympic Trials qualifying time by 6 seconds) went on to take the win over Silvia.  Silvia was upset about not being able to run faster, but I was actually happy she didn't go too hard on that 20 miler.  It was important she didn't blast out a mega fast 20 miler and I actually had her do 22 miles total that day to get in more volume instead of racing the 20.  It was for the purpose of getting in something strong, but not over the line.  

Then later on a few weeks before the marathon her speed really came through.  She did a workout of 8 x 800m all in the 2:50's-your famous Yasso 800s so to speak-which I take with a grain of salt.  There is a lot more to marathon prediction than those darn 800s people use.  I also think it is not good to do them all the time.  Variation is something I constantly do.  She also did 5 x 1200m at sub 6:00 pace the week after that.  Then she was ready.  She didn't do any workouts the week of the marathon, just short runs.  She had a nice short long run a week out(11 miles), and that was enough to me.  During the cycle, I think her highest mileage weeks were 75-80.


2 minutes after passing through Mile 25, I told Silvia all she had was 5 minutes left of running.  I wanted to break that down for her-not sure if it made any impact but psychologically I felt it was good to break things down by time-almost like one last track interval.  As she made a left turn to go straight towards the finish line, I jumped off the road onto the side, and watched her sprint down the home straightaway alongside the roars of crowds and all the women cheering for her.  After placing 3rd and 2nd a few times, she finally won the race.  She deserved every bit of it.  It was awesome to see.  It was one of my best moments as a coach.  



Silvia was interviewed after the race (video below).  I think she was in a bit of shock after she finished.  She had won the race, and also ran an outstanding 2:58:36 personal best, 6 minutes faster than her previous best time on a really hard course!  She averaged 6:48 per mile.  Like I said earlier, this course is rough-it makes Boston look easy.  She explains as well in the interview.


  
In the spring of 2018, she will run the Boston Marathon.