Indoor Training

"It's sad to see anyone inside on the trainer." That was the comment attached to an article about riding outside all winter lo...

Monday, November 13

October Results

Busy month in October! The cumulation of months of hard work, long runs and speed workouts lead to some great results for Thelen Coaching Athletes. PRs were set, goals were accomplished and challenges met head on.

Merideth prior to the start of the MCM
First up was Merideth. Her end of season race was the Marine Corps Marathon, with an aggressive finishing goal of 5:15. We geared the training towards that goal, with all of the long runs and intervals suggesting that it was not only do-able, but she had the potential of going faster. We set out the plan - start her watch when she crossed the line and keep the pace steady for the first few miles while the course was crowded. Then we would gradually increase the pace every few miles until she not only made up the the time from the slower start, but was actually faster. I was tracking her day while at work and she did fantastic with the pacing. Smart and steady, moving efficiently through the race. Until about the 35km, then things started slowing down. One of the hazards of big city marathons and one of the things we'd discussed pre-race - the surface is much harder then what we have available to train on and her feet were having a fit. It's a long day with lots of pounding, and that's only the race time! Include the getting to and from, standing at the starting line waiting to begin running, it's an even longer day. But she pushed through the pain, still finishing with a 24 minute PR and running a 5:20. Only 5 minutes off the goal time she'd set and with a huge PR. That's not easy to do in a big city marathon!

A hard earned finishers medal!
At the end of the month, Jennifer headed to Fayetteville, WV for the Run Around the Gorge. This was her huge challenge for the year - a two day stage race with 27 miles on day one and 15 miles on day two to run around the New River Gorge. She'd done the shorter version the year before and wanted the finish the whole thing this year. What made it even harder was that we were pretty much starting from scratch in terms of volume and intensity. Not only were we having to build up for a marathon, but we had to be able to come back the next day for a 25k. That's a challenge for most athletes. But we were smart about the build, emphasizing continuous forward movement. It would be a long weekend and recovering between the two days would be important. We reviewed pacing, the course, and gear - everything possible for a successful weekend. Day one took a little longer then we'd anticipated, but she finished. In the cold rain and near snow conditions, she made it to the finish. Day two was a little easier and the weather cooperated - staying cold, but dry. Another long day, but another finish and she earned her Run Around the Gorge finishers metal - one of only seven runners who did both long days.

Action shot from Run Around the Gorge

Jennifer and Peter's finisher's medals and his third place award
Finally, Shana and Chandler traveled to Gunnison for the Sage Burner 28k. Shana had originally planned on attempting the 50k for her first ultra, but life got in the way of training and we decided that it would smarter for her to race the 28k and have a great day then stress over making time cutoffs. There will always be another ultra... It was a cold day (20*!) at the start, but both ladies were prepared. We'd reviewed the course in depth, the aid stations, gear and clothing options and I was confident that they would have a great day in Hartmans Rocks. What I wasn't expecting was for them to settle in and run together for most of the race! They both finished in great times and more importantly had fun for the entire race. With some of life's major issues adding to the stress of training, it was good to see them both take a break and enjoy the race. It's not always about fast times - sometimes it's more important to enjoy one step at a time and make some new friends along the way.
Rachel, Shana and Chandler joined by LM after the Sage Burner 28k

Super proud of everyone reaching their goals and accomplishing milestones this past month. Time for some well deserved and much needed recovery before we start plotting for 2018! Want in on the fun for the 2018 season? Click on coaching services to learn more and decide if now is the time to move beyond just training and start developing the skills and learning preparation to help achieve success!

Saturday, September 9

Pikes Peak Ascent

Pikes Peak. The mountain looms over the cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs - dominating the skyline. And for past 62 years, the mountain has hosted "America's Ultimate Challenge" The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. The Ascent is hard enough - about a half marathon that climbs almost 8,000 feet from the base of the Mountain in Manitou Springs to the Summit at 14,115 feet. The Marathon also treks to the summit, but then turns around and retraces the course back down to Manitou Springs. I've competed in both many years ago and have nothing but respect for the mountain and the runners that choose to take on the challenge of racing to the summit and back down.

Three Thelen Coaching Athletes took on America's Ultimate Challenge this year - setting their sites on the Ascent. Merideth and Shana were both competing in the Triple Crown of running, have raced in the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler and the Summer Trail Round Up earlier this year. Kendall was focusing primarily on the Ascent. And with any race of this nature, there were good moments and bad moments. There was elation and disappointment. There was the makings of a great race and then the realization that the altitude always wins, regardless of how well we have trained.

Shana took on the challenge as one of Pikes Peak Sport's Mighty Marmots. She documented her journey through the summer for them, laying bare her nerves and fears regarding event. Life threw as many curveballs her way as possible as we built up towards the Ascent. Each one we handled, making steady progress towards the summit. We had no goals on the mountain other then finishing and showing the demons of the summer that perseverance wins every time. On her practice hike, the mountain had won and she'd been left wondering how she would finish. But on race day, Shana ran smart and steady. At Barr Camp at 2:26, with a 5:00 finish a narrow possibility. This time she handled the altitude well, stayed on top of her hydration and had a solid last six miles. Shana finished in 5:17:11, proving to herself and anyone else who doubted her that she could do it. After everything she went through this summer, she discovered sometimes all it takes is the power of positive thought and an encouraging word to keep going. Nothing will ever be perfect - but we take what we can do and work with that.

This is what elation looks like at 14,115' Shana met the challenges head on! From the start in Manitou Springs so far below to the summit of Pikes Peak
Merideth also had a successful trip to the summit, but had a harder journey getting there. The start was smooth and she had a solid strategy for the W's and up to Barr Camp. On a practice hike, there had been some issues with the elevation and dehydration past Barr Camp, so we'd made a plan to keep getting fluids in throughout the middle miles. But the mountain doesn't always respect the plans we make. Merideth reached Barr Camp in 2:41 - in a good position to be able to reach her 6:00 goal for the race. Even at A-Frame, she still had time to spare. But... I've been on the mountain - having volunteered at the Cirque Aid Station for many years in the early 2000s. I've seen what the altitude can do to even the most prepared athletes. It's not something you can really train for since it's different every time. It is a testament to Merideth's mental strength and perseverance that she was able to reach the summit. The altitude hit her hard above A-frame - harder then even on her training days. One foot in front of the other, unable to eat and drink because of nausea and she kept moving forward. Finally, she reached the finish in 6:13:45.
And finally - Kendall. When Kendall had done her pre-hike in July there were serious issues with some prior injuries in her back. We'd discussed pulling out of the race at that point as she spent two days in significant pain and unable to function. No matter what the race is, it's not worth long term damage. But once the pain diminished and she was able to run and ride again, we decided to keep the Ascent on the plan - but to be smart about it. Listen to her body, take the moments as they come. Sometimes being smart is the hardest choice there is. We often wonder what we would do - faced with the possibility of serious injury later or accepting a DNF, which would we choose? The smart athletes, with an eye on long-term ability to participate in the sports we all love, should choose the DNF. But in the moment, making that decision requires more self discipline then just pushing forward. Kendall recognized early that she wouldn't be able to finish. When she was already getting shooting, debilitating pain within the first three miles, she realized that her back wasn't going to take the race up the mountain. It was time to face the choice no athlete ever wants to face. There is a joke that DNF really means "Did Nothing Fatal - but that's not really a joke when it comes to trail and mountain running. Pulling out of a race like the Ascent isn't as easy as stepping off the road. The further up the mountain you get, the harder it becomes to get help. While Kendall didn't reach the summit, I am extraordinarily proud of her. She listened to her body and made the smart choice to turn around. There will be another mountain to climb - perhaps not literally and not Pikes Peak, but when faced with that mountain, I know Kendall will be ready.

Monday, August 7

July Athlete Results

July had some busy weekends for Thelen Coaching Athletes, with some great performances. On the 4th of July, three athletes headed up to Palmer Lake for the Four on the Fourth run for some holiday fun; the real goal for all three was only a few days later at the Summer Trail Round Up - Race #2 in the Triple Crown of Running. So I'd scheduled the Four on the Fourth as a workout race. Run hard, but it's not all out pace for the distance. Even so, Merideth still set a new PR at that even, slashing over 8:30 from her time the year before. Just goes to show what consistent focus and training can do! Both Shana and Kendall also had good races, setting new marks to shoot for next year.

A few days later, it was down to the Norris Penrose Event Center for the Summer Trail Roundup. This was the second leg of the Triple Crown of Running, so was the target race for Shana, Merideth and Kendall. None of them had raced it before, so they were going out hard for a solid time. Shana wanted a stronger run to make up for the time lost in the Garden due to her ankle injury. Merideth's goal was to finish close to Shana and Kendall was running with a friend. All three achieved their goals and had a great time. The pacing strategies we'd talked about worked great and the hints for nutrition and dealing with the heat also helped.

Shana running in her Pikes Peak Sports Marmot Gold
Kendall running with her friend - having a great time
The next weekend brought new challenges. Kelly flew in from RVA to tackle her goal race of the summer. The Barr Trail Mountain Race. It's sometimes called Pikes Peak light since the race goes from the base to Barr Camp and then back down, but that doesn't mean it's an easy. Those six miles of Barr Trail are some of the steeper miles, especially when running down hill. Kelly had been putting in hard training, but the scope was limited by her location. It's hard to train for hills and altitude when there isn't any! But we worked with what we had available, including her work on the set up and tear down crew for a race production team. Carrying barricades and banners makes really good strength training! Kelly persevered and finished strongly, running 3:05:52 - not bad for a sea level ex-mountain biker!
Kelly at Barr Camp!
Finally in July was the Ridgeline Rampage mountain bike race in Castle Rock. That race is normally held in April, but the weather forced two re-schedules. As part of the Women's Mountain Bike Association of Colorado Springs, Shana headed for a slight change of pace from running. Ridgeline is a deceptively hard course, with punchy climbs, off camber corners and lots of traffic. Because of the anticipated heat, the races (marathon, and XC distances) all started together, so there was also a lot of passing involved. Shana rode smart, managed her hydration and finished second in her age class, third overall female in the XC distance. A great result by someone who's been focusing on running this year!
Women's 35-49 podium at Ridgeline Rampage - Shana took second

Wednesday, August 2


At some point with every athlete, the question arises - why? Why am I putting myself through all of this hard work, devoting all my free time to this endeavor? It doesn't matter what sport or level of competition, if you don't have a clearly defined goal for the event or race, it's going to be difficult to see the point of all the training. That's only part of answering the Why. Without understanding the reasons behind your goals - your motivation - it's easy to give up and tell yourself that the goals are meaningless and there's really no point in trying anymore. Questioning the Why can happen after a bad workout, when time limits ability to train or even when friends and family start asking about the events. It can happen after a race when comparing finish times. It doesn't take much bring out the "why I am I doing this?" and it can quickly become a downward spiral as more workouts get missed, esteem drops and so on.

At this point, I ask my athletes to reflect on their goals and the motivation behind those goals. Verbalize the goal and the event, even if its just writing it down in a journal. Having that goal written down makes it real and concrete. But that's not the biggest part of answering the "why" question." That is just the first step. Once the goals are identified, it's time to own the goal. As an athlete, without owning the goal - be it finish a marathon or win the local mountain bike race - the goal is meaningless. Owning the goal makes it yours. It forces you to identify with both the work required to reach that goal and understand the motivation for why you have selected that goal. As a coach, I can help with the goal setting and make sure the goals are SMART. But I cannot identify for the athlete their personal whys and motivation. I can guide the process, but at some point, each athlete has to discover it for themselves. Athletes have to understand the forces driving the goals and the differences between them.

Motivation is the primary force behind achieving most goals. It's the personal inspiration for doing everything leading up to and around the event or race. When it comes to motivation,  there are two different types and understanding which type is driving the goal is the key to owning the goal. Intrinsic, or internally driven motivation, is doing something because you love to do it. For an athlete, its participating in a running event because he/she loves to run. The pleasure and enjoyment of the activity is the inspiration for signing up for a race. I would also count doing something as a personal challenge as intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic, or externally driven motivation is doing an activity for the chance of reward at the end. Signing up for a race just to get the medal is the primary example of extrinsic motivation, but so is doing something to prove a point to someone else or because everyone else is doing it.When you are extrinsically motivated to do something, you aren't concerned with whether or not the action is enjoyable. That makes it harder to keep going when the "why" question comes up.

What does this mean to an athlete? When I'm helping with goal setting, I always encourage my athletes to identify the motivation behind the goals as they are building them. If many of the goals have extrinsic motivation, then it's a sign that those goals might be harder to reach. Setting a goal to finish a race because everyone else you know has done it is externally motivated. Doing a race because someone else said you'd be good at it is also externally driven - participation to meet someone else's expectation.  Approaching the same race with an internally motivated goal of challenging myself to ride every technical section makes the goal more personal. Saying "I might be good at ultras but I really love the speed challenge of the shorter races" and then working on those 10ks and 5ks while everyone else is doing 100ks and 50ks is personally driven. It is the same with every other goal. Make them yours - own the goal, identify the motivation and work towards as many intrinsically motivated goals as possible. I'm fond of say speed is relative - and with intrinsically driven, personal goals, it's easy to understand why. Because it no longer matters what everyone else is doing. Find the personal reasons as to why you train, participate and race and you won't feel as driven to compare yourself with everyone else. And you'll be able to look at a hard workout and smile, knowing that you have your "Why" and it's not a question you need to answer.

Friday, June 30

Garden of the Gods 10 Miler

June 11th was another big day for Thelen Coaching athletes, with the first race in the Triple Crown of Running for both Merideth and Shana. The Triple Crown of Running is a Colorado Springs tradition -  highlighting two city parks and finishing with the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon. Because of the challenge of the PPA, it's also one of the few races that requires qualifying prior to entering. The usual method is to run a half marathon faster then 2:25 with the Super Half earlier in the year being one of the favorite qualifying races. Shana had gotten her time there and was set to go. Merideth on the other hand hadn't had the best day and missed the time. She ran under that mark at a later marathon, but it was already past the qualifying window. That left her one option when registering for the Ascent - register for the entire series and use the Garden of the Gods 10 miler as her qualifier. There were no second chances with that option - it was run under 2:10 or forfeit the entry into the Ascent. Talk about pressure!

All the workouts indicated that the 2:10 mark would be easily eclipsed. She was running long runs in the Garden, doing hill repeats and putting in the work. At the same time, Merideth was starting to develop mentally as well - gone was the "I'm a slow runner, I'll never qualify for anything mentality." It was now "I'll run that the time I need and my goal will be even faster!" Her goal was 1:50 - To anyone who hasn't run in the Garden, that's a challenging goal. The hills are big and never ending. You are either going up or doing down and the downhill isn't the rest for the legs most people think it is so you are constantly stressing the legs. We reviewed the course the week before, discussing pacing - where to push the pace, where to take a short break and walk and when to eat and drink. Merideth also made some changes to her hydration plan - leaving the vest at home and opting for an easy to refill handheld. All of the work and the planning paid off as she smashed the qualifying time of 2:10 - and was within minutes of her goal time, finishing in 1:50:35. Mark that off the list - she was officially entered into the Ascent!

Shana had a different set of obstacles in the way for the Garden of the Gods. She already met the qualifying time, so didn't have that pressure on her shoulders. But at the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race at the end of April, in the blizzard conditions and muddy rocks the event was faced with, she'd stepped off a rock wrong and severely twisted her ankle. There hadn't been much running in the past month - more damage control. Stabilize the ankle, allow it to heal and still build fitness to be able to finish the Garden. It wasn't easy as even walking was painful to start and she'd been on crutches for almost two weeks to take weight off the joint. Thank goodness for pools and being able to water run and cycle! We had no goals other then have a good time and finish the race. The Garden was just one step along the journey - but one that needed to be finished. Luckily, all the damage control and management we'd done in the weeks right after the injury worked and she was able to run well for the entire event. Shana finished just behind Merideth in 1:50:59.

Coming up in July is the Summer Round Up - the second leg of the Triple Crown. This race is now a three lap affair in Bear Creek Regional park, with another fair share of hills to challenge. And after that? Bring on the Mountain!

Thursday, June 22

Dirty Kanza 2017

I'm a little late in getting this published, but it was another good year for Thelen Coaching athletes in the Dirty Kanza 200. While it was unfortunately not a 100% finishing rate, everyone rode hard and made the smartest choices they could during the race. I had four athletes in the event - two returning finishers and two rookies at the event. Three athletes finished, with one podium in the Tandem division.

Rhino, Judd, Jesse and Don before the start of the Dirty Kanza
Don Wood - captaining the Tandem with his stoker Jesse Ramsey finished one step higher on the podium this year, taking fourth in the tandem class. They rode smart and steady in the hot and dusty conditions this year, finishing in 16:45 and earning the Midnight Club patch for finishing before midnight. Over two hour faster then last year! Granted, it's hard to compare times in a race like DK as the the course changes slightly each year and weather has huge impact on the event. But two hours is a huge improvement and I'm very proud of both Don and Jesse. Even though I don't work with Jesse, his strength and fitness is necessary in the strange world of tandem riding. Without both riders being on top of their games, a podium would have been challenging to see.

The tandem machine at the finish line
Judd returned in the Fat Bike class this year - rolling his single speed titanium fat sheep for the 200+ miles of the race. He also had solid race, finished in 16:58. He placed 10th in the Fat bike class and I have a feeling he was the only single speed fat biker in the top 10! Judd was an hour and a half faster this year, also showing some huge improvements in his fitness and form.

Judd rolling into Madison Checkpoint 2
Rhino was one of the rookies into the race, and a last minute entry. He scored his number from a friend who was opting out to focus on another event. I wasn't sure how ready he'd be after finished the AZT 750 a month and a half before, but I know Rhino. He's steady and consistent and focuses on his goals, not the craziness around him. If he wasn't ready to ride, he wouldn't have taken the entry. As a first timer, he didn't have the history of the event, but was still able to finish in a solid 17:14 and earn a Midnight Club patch. Maybe next year we will head into DK focused on that race and see what we can do!

Rhino refilling his supplies - the BPR crew had a large presence at the race and lots of help
Kathryn was the other DK Rookie, taking on this huge challenge for the first time. It scared her at the start of the training, the enormity of it all. 200 miles, self supported though dusty, muddy and windy Kansas back roads and cattle trails. But she buckled down to the training, knocking out long rides on the trainer and intervals in the snow. There were several setbacks in build to the race, including two weeks lost to a nasty sinus infection 6 weeks out and work trip the week before the race. She put in a huge effort, but factors outside of her control ended the day a little early. I know the ultimate goal is always finishing, but sometimes taking a DNF is the smartest choice. It's said in ultra running that DNF also stands for "Did Nothing Fatal." Pulling out around mile 80 was perhaps one of the hardest decisions any athlete can face, but when balancing health and finishing, health always needs to be the priority. Kathryn will be back - stronger and more prepared then ever for what the Dirty Kanza can dish out!

Thursday, May 18

Blue Dot Stalking

March and April have been pretty quiet with regards to races for my athletes - but the races they have been doing have been big ones. Ones that spanned multiple days and utilized the Trackleaders platform to allow for monitoring and following all the athletes - blue dots for the guys and pink dots for the ladies. Hence the term blue dot stalking.

At the end of February, Judd started the Iditarod Trail Invitational 300 - racing from Anchorage to McGrath along the traditional Iditarod dogsled course. There are specific checkpoints that the athletes must reach and a recommended route. Each athlete has to have a minimum of survival and mandatory gear that they have to carry that is checked before the race. Judd is no stranger to winter racing and fat bike racing, with multiple finishes at the Arrowhead 135. But this was his first trip up to Alaska and over twice the distance as Arrowhead. As a rookie, the primary goal was to finish. He had some other goals of course, but finishing was number one. When the race started, the blue dot watching commenced.

Judd pedaling steadily down the Iditarod Trail
I knew conditions were challenging this year and was happy to see Judd riding with some other races. Team work can provide motivation and there's always safety in numbers. But that also worried me - Judd rides single speed and trying to maintain the same pace as geared riders can be challenging. There's only so fast you can spin! And a slower cadence in fresh snow is also a challenge. As the race progressed, there was a solid pace - sometimes riding, sometimes pushing. It takes a long time to cover even 50 miles when you are trudging through snow dragging a fully loaded fat bike. There were some (many) nervous days as I watched the blue dot slowly trace a line across the interior of Alaska. I knew Judd had the training and the preparation, but I was still worried. A lot can happen under those conditions. Each late start to the day had me constantly refreshing to make sure that blue dot started moving. And it always did. All the way to the finish at McGrath, some 300 miles and 6 day, 8 hours and 3 minutes later. Even more impressive is that he was the only single speeder listed in the results.

Judd at the official finish for the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350
Then came April. Time for some more blue dot watching as Rhino set out for his Individual Time Trial on the Arizona Trail. The Arizona Trail Race is much like the Colorado Trail Race - it's a fully self supported journey from the Mexico border across the state of Arizona to Utah. There's defined course, with specific detours in place for wilderness areas, national parks and this year, mud. The late, wet snows had required an optional mud detour around higher sections of trail, like near Flagstaff Mountain and other areas. You can ship things to post offices along the route, stock up at gas stations and convenience store or eat at restaurants along the route. You can't have your friends meet you with a huge hamburger and pile of fries. Water is the same - purchase or treat and plan well in the desert around Tucson. Leave the track for any reason and you have to return to the same location prior to continuing along the trail - with some exceptions for towns along the route.

Rhino filling up some bottles outside of Tucson
Rhino left a day before the group start, with the plan of riding his own race and just keep pedaling. He'd done his research on mail stops, water locations and resupply points, and had detailed spreadsheets with anticipated pedaling time. The ITT was to ensure that he'd have the ability to use the resources along the trail in the frenetic first days when both the 300 and 750 races are gunning for Tucson.The goal was to ride the entire trail - with minimal detours for mud and to finish. It took a few days for the leaders of the 300 to catch him and even longer for the first racers in the 750 to catch up. Rhino's momentum was steady and consistent. He stopped around 10:00 every night and then was pedaling usually by 5:00 AM. He made good time from the border into Tucson, then up and over Mount Lemmon. On the final stretch of trail into Picket Post, he had plenty of company from the 300 racers. Then it was back into the solitary riding as the rest of the 750 riders were still behind him. They would slowly start catching him on the long stretch between Picket Post and Roosevelt Lake, with even more catching him on the push into Flagstaff. That day head start was proving challenging for even the geared riders to overcome.

Signing in the Picket Post kiosk - the finish for the AZT 300. He still had 450 miles left to ride.
Sunset as he pedaled up into the Superstition Mountains outside of Phoenix
There was a planned full day off in Flagstaff to resupply and do some bike maintenance. Then came the two day push into the Grand Canyon. Rhino joined up with some other riders for the entrance into the Grand Canyon, sharing permits in case they decided to camp at a few of the camp ground inside the Canyon. The Canyon is really the final barrier between the racers and the finish at the Utah border. And what a barrier - having to take the bike apart and carry it down to the Colorado River from the South Rim and then back up to the North Rim. This year, the North Rim was still snow covered, so there was some leeway on route. A final overnight at Jacob Lake, and then he was on the home stretch. Goals achived - finishing as the fastest ITT of the race and the ninth fastest time for the year in 12 days, 9 hours and 42 minutes.

A good view of the gear Rhino was carrying for the AZT 750 in addition to his backpack.

Monday, April 10

Lost Time

It happens to everyone. At some point, something happens and the well thought out, perfectly built training plan is in tatters. It can be from injury, a prolonged illness or something else and the athlete is left staring at a training plan that is no longer appropriate, wondering how to recover from the setback. The first thought is to cram as much training as possible into the time left following recovery or clearance. Then come the thought of just abandoning the race and training because the fitness won't be there. Finally, the realization that the goals might have to change, and the training plan needs to be modified to reflect the new reality. Cramming sounds good in the beginning, since even a few weeks won't affect too much fitness - but it's a good way to get injured, especially following another injury. Abandoning the race might have to happen pending the timing and recovery status. The important thing is to balance the reality of the injury, current fitness before the injury, goals leading into the race and timing. But how to do that?

Here is where a good coach is helpful. Redoing a training plan can be challenging when there is a personal investment - time, money and goals. It's hard separate that investment from the reality of not being able to partipate or not being able to meet goals. If the injury is something that will heal easily and allow the athlete return to training quickly, the rework is simpler. Allow the needed time to heal and then gradully build back into the training. But something that has no defined healing process? That requires a more flexible approach. An athlete with strong fitness might be able to bounce back a little faster, but the quality of the race might not be as anticipated. A race that is further away will be easier to refocus for, but one that is only a few weeks away is going to be more challenging. How will the time off affect the performance? Theoretically, all the training has been done at that point, but will trying to race when the injury hasn't fully healed aggravate issues and cause a longer recovery period? Racing on a not-fully healed injury of any kind can lead to the loss of an entire season. Obviously, the decisions must be based on each individual athlete and the specific injury. A good coach with a strong athlete relationship will be able to balance the needs of the athlete to train and race with the need to behave and allow things to heal.

The choice to race or pull out is the first decision. If the athlete decides to race, how will the goals need to be addressed? If the time off is only a week or two and the race is further away, then the goals might not need to be changed. A longer time off or when there is minimal ability to do higher intensity workouts will require modifying goals. Not addressing the goals when there have been setbacks is a recipe for athlete disappointment or even injury. As the coach, it's important to communicate with the athlete as to what is considered an acceptable goal and performance at a race. If needed, it's the coach's job to be the voice of reason if the athlete doesn't want to modify goals to reflect changes in training. Winning a challenging race on minimal training might not happen. On the flip side, if the athlete decided to pull out of a race, the coach needs to respect that decision. Pushing an athlete to do a race to satisfy your ego as a coach is wrong. It's okay to say that you can review the training and see how things will work, but the coach has to understand the motivation the athlete has for each race. If reworking the training plan won't let the athlete achieve their goals, then pulling out is the appropriate decision.

Recovering the time lost to an injury isn't going to happen. There's no cramming in training like there is in school. Balancing the time lost with time remaining for training while still providing time to heal is the key for success later in the season.

Wednesday, March 8

January and February

The first two months of the year were busy for my athletes. Most people think of winter as the off season, but not so much around here! Between early season running races and fat bike races, there have been some outstanding performances.

In January, both Shana B and Merideth B took on the hilly 10k Rescue Run in Colorado Springs. Shana finished in under an hour and Merideth ran six minutes faster then her prior best time for that race. But the month wasn't finished for them. They both were running in the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series, a progressive four race series in January and February. The first race was a very hilly four mile race on the multi-use trails of Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Since this was Shana's first year doing the race series, we had no history and the goal was to run smart. We were also using the races as long training runs with extended warm up and cool down for prep for her goal half marathon. Merideth on the other hand ran the series last year, so we had some history. And she proved that consistent training and dedication pays off, setting new PRs at all the races. She was 11 minutes faster at the CMSP race and 9 minutes faster at the Noris-Penrose race.

Judd, rolling strong in the Arrowhead 135
Meanwhile, Don W and Judd R were in Minnesota, racing in the Arrowhead 135. It is a point to point snow race from International Falls, MN to the Fortune Bay Casino. Racers can choose between cycling, running or skiing to cover the distance. There's only three checkpoints and racers have to be prepared to managed and safety deal with the extremes of Minnesota weather. Don has raced in Arrowhead five prior times, with two DNFs. The goal this year was to finish and finish strong. But there is more to Arrowhead then just finishing. It's a community of riders all with the same common goal. For Don, helping one of his friends reach the finish line was more important then simply finishing fast. He rode the last 50 miles with Tedd and still set a new PR by over four hours, finishing in 33:02. And yes, that's 33 hours. Could he have gone under 30 hours? I'm sure he could have this year. But time on the trail was more important then the finish time. As for Judd, he did have a finish time goal in mind - 24 hours. This was also the final shake out of his gear for the Iditarod Trail Invitational at the end of February, so he was fully packed for an Alaska adventure. Overkill for this race, but important to make sure that everything works. Judd crushed it - finishing in 21:05, taking 15 hours off his prior fastest finishing time. He also set a new Single Speed Course Record in the process.

Don at the finish of the Arrowhead 135

Into February and it was time for the Super Half Marathon in Colorado Springs. Both Shana and Merideth were racing, as was I. For Shana, this was the goal half marathon. It was her first half marathon in many years and she wasn't sure of what time she should aim for, initially thinking a 2:20. I had my doubts about that - I thought it was a little slow. So we looked at the times from her workouts and the Winter Series races. I told her 2:05 - 2:10 was a much more realistic goal time, simply based on her workouts and other performances. Go for it... When I saw her in the race, she looked happy and strong. And finished in 2:05:09! Merideth also had a strong race - but hers was more mentally strong. The Super Half was a test half marathon, getting ready for the real goal in May. I always tell my athletes that we learn more from the hard races then we do from the easy ones - and this was was no different. Merideth finished strong, just outside her goal time. It was after the race, when she was looking at the results from her last half that we realized just how solid of an event the Super Half was for her. We might not have hit the goal time, but she was still 11 minutes faster then her last half marathon.

A slightly fuzzy photo of Shana after her successful Super Half Marathon

That wasn't all of the racing for those two though - there were still two more races in the Winter Series. They both ran the third race easy - it was the weekend after the Super Half and I didn't want them to force a fast race so quickly after a hard half marathon. I am especially proud of Merideth's performance at this year's Winter Series. She was faster at every single race, including the third one. Last year she did the 5k instead of the half marathon, but still took several minutes out of her time on the third race in the series. And the final race - the hilly 10k in the Black Forest and easily the hardest race in the series, Merideth was almost 14 minutes faster! Overall, she took nearly 45 minutes off her accumulated series time and finished 4th in the Athena class.

One final race result to report on - Chandler stepped off the trails and onto the road for a bit this winter, working on her speed before diving back into the ultra training. She made the drive down to Puebla for the Pueblo Half marathon on February 19th. It was a first year event by Mad Moose events, and fit perfectly into her work schedule as an ICU RN. The concrete was a little harder then we'd anticipated, but the course and course support was top notch - just what I've come to expect and love about the Mad Moose races. Chandler had a solid race, finishing in 2:07:39. I know she's looking forward to returning to the trails for her big races of the season later in the year!

Tuesday, February 7


As a physical therapist, the first thing we are often taught is how to write measurable and functional goals for our patients. These goals need to be patient directed, addressing the deficits and prior level of function for each patient. Cookie cutter goals don't work in therapy because each patient is different. It is no different as a coach and assisting an athlete writing goals for the upcoming season and even the next few years. The goals have to be written with input from the athlete, directed towards the specific events the athlete has planned, and addressing the athlete's weakness and strengths. They should help the athlete reach the long term goal, but with short term goals along the way to reflect progress. But good goals are hard to write and that limits many people in their ability to achieve their goals. The goals are either too easy and don't challenge the athlete or they are too hard and nearly impossible to reach. The goals are often not detailed enough, making the process required to reach them difficult to plan. How do you write measurable, achievably challenging, detailed goals?

Using the acronym SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based.
Specific - You have to identify the target of the goal. Thinking of the W-questions from writing is helpful here to make it even easier - who, what, why, when, where. Who is you, the athlete, what might be the target race or workout, why is the motivation for the goal, when is addressed more in the time section and where is the location such as a specific race or event. So while "Run a marathon" is a goal, it's not a specific goal. There's no process to help reach that goal. A better example would be "Run the Pikes Peak Marathon before I'm 40" or "Qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2018." Those goals are both very specific - naming targets (what and where) and when ( before I'm 40 or 2018.) The who is usually implied to be the athlete and the why can be public or private - just make sure you know the motivation.

Measurable - Quantify the goal using metrics specific for the event. Back to the "Run a marathon" goal. It's not a measurable goal because there's no way to determine success. "Running the Pikes Peak  Marathon in 7:30 before I'm 40" has a measurable component - the time to finish the event. When writing goals that involve finishing times, those are more fluid then qualifying times and can be more personal. Meanwhile, the other goal becomes "Run a 3:30 marathon in 2018 to qualify for the 2019 Boston Marathon."

Achievable - How hard will this goal be to meet? While there's nothing wrong with writing tough goals, there do need to be steps along the way to measure progress. "Run a marathon" might not be an achievable goal for someone who hasn't run mile in years. So we need to break it down in smaller segments - the short and long term goals there can be progress towards the ultimate long term goal. Our runner aiming for the Pikes Peak Marathon might break his goal down into two goals - one short term more achievable and then the long term goal. "Finish the Pikes Peak Ascent in 4:30 the year I turn 38" is a good short term goal for running the Pikes Peak Marathon. The runner trying to qualify for Boston might have two short term goals for for half marathons prior to her goal marathon. This is where a good coach can help with writing the goals - both here and in the next section

Realistic - is the goal something that you as an athlete can accomplish? Setting goals that aren't realistic for current level of fitness is asking for disappointment. The runner doing Pikes Peak marathon might have a realistic goal if he's been active and hiking. It might not be realistic if he's never done any hiking or running and will be turning 40 this year. The runner aiming for her Boston qualification time is setting a realistic goal if she's run a 3:35 or something similar. If her prior PR is over 4:00, there might be some issues with reaching that goal. That's not to say there can't be huge improvements in performance, but it's not frequent that you see that kind of improvement.

Time-based - For athletes, this is an easy one. Every time we pick an event, there is a time constraint on the goal. The date of the event. The short term goals will have closer end dates then the long term goal.

Following this process, the initial example long term goal of "run a marathon" has now become "Finish the Pikes Peak Marathon in 7:30 before I turn 40 in 2020" or "Run the American Discovery Trail marathon on Sept 4th in 3:29 to qualify for the 2019 Boston Marathon."

One more thing to consider while writing and setting goals - short term vs long term goals. The examples above are both of long term goals - the ultimate achievement. It's hard for most people to focus on goals that are so far away and in some cases a stretch to reach at this time. That's where the short them goals come into play. They are more process oriented - the stepping stones towards the long term goal. Instead of being an event a year or more out, short term goals can be as simple as hitting a target workout in the next two months or a shorter distance race that helps build towards the long term goals. Two short term goals for the first runner might be "run a half marathon in October 2017 under 2:20 to qualify for the PPA" and then "finish the PPA in 2018 in under 4:30." Both those goals provide stepping stones and a process to follow for an ultimate goal that is years away. They also address the need for qualifying for the marathon and the process involved in getting into the race. The other runner might have more workout based goals such as "bring my threshold pace down to 7:30 by the end of 2017" or a race based goal such as "finish the 2018 Super Half Marathon in 1:40."

Notice that I did not talk about place or finish position. I don't like using place as a metric for goals because it isn't something you can control. You have no control over who decides to sign up for a race and that has a bigger effect on position then anything. If some real fast people show up, you might reach your goal time at an event and be steps off the podium. Likewise, if it's a smaller field the goal time might not have been realistic and you still win. Goals should be set on variables you and your coach can control.

Wednesday, January 4

Comparison is the killer of Joy

How many times a day do you find yourself saying "If I was..." or "I once could..." in regards to sports and life? You find yourself comparing yourself to not only the people around you, but the person you used to be. Both comparisons are mentally detrimental to performance and enjoyment of activities. The killer of joy and desolation of motivation. So how do you deal with this? It depends on the type of comparison you are making.

Comparing to others - it's really easy to do in this age of social media. Photos of adventures and travel flood the Instagram and Facebook accounts. Race results and epic rides litter the Strava feeds, with the real time comments. When all the photos and results published are curated to promote the most bad-ass image available, it's really easy to feel like nothing you do really matters and that your life is boring and drab. Remember, that everyone is posting the best of the best, with staged photos and the best runs made public on Strava. Even the photos you post make someone else jealous somewhere. So instead of looking at the photos as your friend's lives, consider it the highlight reel. It might be an awesome highlight reel, but all the friends you surround yourself with can make your highlights just as fun. And with each highlight reel, there comes the cost of travel and realities of being responsible. Some people are more willing to take chances then others - but that doesn't make one lifestyle better then another. Van life can be lonely and there is nothing like having a home base to travel from.

If comparing to your history is the bigger issue, it's important to remember that time passes. And as time passes, the person you were become further away from the person you are becoming. Goals change, moviation changes and life changes. All of those make comparing to achievements years ago a futile process. A runner turned mountain biker might never see the times once easily ran again. Instead of comparing who you were with who you are, look at the goals of then versus the goals of now. Chances are, those have changed significantly and as a result the training has changed as well. If the goal isn't to run a 3:00 marathon, but running is still a personal love, then just run. Maintain some speed work for the turn over, but don't worry about the overall times. It's not the current goal and therefore should not be compared to prior goals. It's important to acknowledge who you were, but without making comparisons to where you are today.

So this year, make those resolutions, but remember. The highlight reels don't show the real picture and the you of today isn't the you of yesterday. Let your highlight reel create the story of your adventures and don't try to return to the "glory days"