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Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

May 31, 2011

Russell Brown

Russell_croppedRussell Brown
Pro's Perspective - June 2011

Russell Brown grew up in Hanover New Hampshire, before traveling west to study and compete at Stanford.  Graduating in 2008 with his undergraduate degree in Political Science and Master's degree in Sociology, Brown took his talents (and his nine All-American awards) to Eugene to train with the Oregon Track Club.  The second New Hampshire resident ever to break 4:00 in the mile, Brown has made multiple international teams for the US and now trains with fellow New Englander Andrew Wheating under Coach Vin Lananna.  Brown has been firing on all cylinders this spring and promises to be a factor in any World Championships and Olympic Team discussions over the next 15 months.  Read more about this 1500 meter standout below....

Coach: At what point in your development as an athlete, did you feel like you were going to be able to compete at a professional/ world class level? Was it one particular performance or a gut feeling that built over time?

RB: I was third place in the 2007 NCAA Championships and ran 3:37.56. I never considered myself eligible for a professional career before that day. The threshold I felt needed to be crossed to consider a career was having a shot at making a team, and I felt for the first time that day that I had one.

Coach: Who or what have been some of your most crucial influences coming through the ranks, both on the track and off? Why?

RB: Everyone of my coaches taught me different, valuable pieces to my puzzle. My first college coach, Andy Gerard, taught me how to put the work in consistently. Peter Tegen taught me how to win. Mark Rowland taught me how to be a professional. Vin Lananna is teaching me all kinds of things now, but principally I am learning how I can be my best.

Undoubtedly, my biggest influences are my parents. They are the most supportive, understanding and loving parents I can even imagine. For everyone with great parents, there really is no explanation needed here.

I feel obligated to mention my 10th grade History teacher, Mr. Smith, also. He made me start really thinking, and it scares me to think who I would have been without his influence.

Coach: Like many runners, you began your athletic career playing a variety of other sports. Do you think this preparation has helped your running career either mentally or physically?

RB: Four years ago I would have said yes. But, I have come to believe that training for track does not necessarily have to take a toll on your body which can build up and break you down over time. I believed that I was made into a more dynamic athlete by my participation in other sports for a long time before I committed entirely to track, but I think had I been training correctly those years strictly for running I would have been just as good and had just as little injury accumulation now. The reason to participate in a lot of different activities should not be too make you a better single sport athlete, at least not directly. Kids should participate broadly because it is fun, and if you are having fun playing your sport you will be your best. That said, there are a whole lot of young kids not training right out there. Their early commitment may end their career early. That is another discussion though.

Coach: A couple of years ago, you had a tough patch with injuries. What kept you focused and optimistic about your eventual return to fitness and championship form?

RB: I was not optimistic. I was pretty sure my career was over. I could not figure out what was happening to me for two years. I kept trying to isolate the variables, and I couldn't determine what I had to do to stay healthy. I have some fairly helpful perspective now, but had you asked me this a year ago, I would have told you that sometimes you have to read the writing on the wall. However, I believe that your talent does not disappear. I had some decent races in the middle of my injuries, and it was almost like I was teasing myself just enough to stay in the sport. It was probably those few races that kept me committed to the sport, but focused and optimistic are not the right words to describe my attitude then.

Coach: This year, you broke long-time US mile record holder Steve Scott’s stadium 1500m mark at the Mt. Sac Relays. How does it feel to be mentioned alongside of one of America’s most storied distance athletes and what would you like us to remember you for as an athlete when you your professional career has concluded?

RB: It is really an honor. I was told that my name will be on a plaque at the stadium. To be engraved at a place like that is about as great as it gets. I hope that my legacy as a track athlete is full of records and titles. To be honest though, the real memories of sports are unlikely victories. That, frankly, is what sports lore is for. We want to believe that the insurmountable objects in our lives can be overcome, and look to instances of this to help us believe. My life will be better and less stressful if my career is a steady, slow progression to the top. But my legacy will be best if I go out in flames winning something I have no business winning in a fashion burned in everyones' minds. I think that is what I really want.

Coach: This month, we are talking to our members about training in the heat of the summer months. While Eugene is typically not known for hot weather, you often compete in places that are quite hot and humid during the summer months. What are some things you do to prepare for a different (warmer) climate than your usual training environment?

RB: I do not do anything in particular to prepare for hot climates. Vin is very intent on making sure we are warm enough to train adequately. I have worn tights for 98% of the running I have done this year because he is so serious about keeping my legs warm. I think that dressing appropriately for the climate you are in is a large part of the battle.

My secret weapon in warm climates though is a story my dad told me from a bus trip he took in Jamaica. He was on a slow moving bus through the countryside and it was stifling. He was sitting next to a big woman carrying a million things with her. My dad said he was freaking out: fanning himself, sticking his head out of the window, etc. Every time he looked at her, she was sitting quietly, not moving, staying calm. I think of her when I'm hot. I have a very vivid image of her in my mind. She calms me down every time. I don't fear the heat. You just have to drink a lot of water, and not let it bother you.

Coach: If you could choose any running partner (alive or historical) and any locale for an easy, chatty run, who and where would you choose?

RB: I would run with Herb Elliot in New Zealand. Elliott never lost a 1500m or a Mile during his career. I just think that the confidence he must exude from that record would be really contagious, and I would let him cough all over me. The New Zealand choice is just because I have always wanted to take the Lord of the Rings tour, so it is kind of crossing off two items from the bucket list at once.

Eddie_Reyna_EATBEddie Reyna

Runner of the Month –June 2011

A self described “recovering workaholic who is trying to transfer it all to running,” Eddie is a 80 year-old retired physicist. Laid off from Lockheed a little over a year ago at age 79, he decided he could “now devote a proper amount of time to running, and study physics like I wanted.”  Unfortunately, he cheerfully explains that running has taken so much time and he feels so poorly organized that he sometimes wonders what he has done all day! Eddie grew up in Texas and after college, lived in DC and New Mexico among other places before being transferred by Lockheed to the Bay Area in 1987. As he tells it, “I’m a physicist.  There are only a certain amount of places where you can go!”  Married twice, Eddie has a blended family with several kids and grandkids.

This summer Eddie is entered in the World Masters Athletics Championships in the Marathon.

Coach: How did you start running?

ER: One night I was in the library stacks, and I came across Kenneth Cooper’s book – he runs a Dallas institute on aerobics and developed a point system for different types of cardivascular exercise.  I read his book, leaning against the bookshelves, and he convinced me!  I went down to the track at 2am, ran four laps in regular clothes and hush puppies, and that was it.  I ran many years in the Gulf Association [southern Texas regional association of USATF] and in 87, Lockheed transferred me here, so now I run in the Pacific Association.

Coach: Who is your running role model?

ER: Oh, I have a whole series of role models.  Any of the elite marathoners – when I see how far their legs return behind them when they run.  In 40 years of running...I really have a lot.   Tom Osler might be one.  He was one of the original ultra runner guys.  He ran races like 24 hours around a track and things like that.

Coach: What has been your most memorable running / racing experience?

ER:  2 or 3 of the Clarksburg 30Ks.  I probably got closer to racing a person than in any other race.  When I first came out here, I was not sure who they were, but I recognized them.  They were a lot younger than me but I was happy that I could keep up.

Another year, Sam Hirabayashi, who is a couple years older than me…we had been competing against each other for many years.  There was one race where we were within sight of each other for 15 miles, and then tried to put the hammer down on each other.  We don’t get to do that very often in the older age groups.

Coach: What have you enjoyed about working with Focus-N-Fly?

ER:   A couple of years ago, I realized I was having a hard time getting out the door and I recognized it as a real burnout.  I had never trained with anyone, but I started looking around online for training options and I am actually not sure how I found Focus-N-Fly.  It is so nice that I could join the twice weekly workouts, and be around the other runners.  The other nice thing that is that with the all the reading I have done over the years, I think that Tom has a really good approach to training, and I am finding myself very interested in trying the workouts. Some of them are different than anything I have ever done.

Coach: What is one part of your racing routine you can’t do without (sleep, pre race meal, tie shoes certain way, other ritual)?

ER: I am unbelievably methodical.  I don’t leave anything to chance.  I don’t think I have any great talents, except that I am extremely methodical.

Coach: What is your favorite place to go for a run?

ER: Before dawn, on a place like the Stevens Creek trail. I have never been much of an unpaved path runner.  Now, one of my favorite places is Cobb Track [where the FNF group meets].

Coach: In the next year, what goals do you hope to accomplish?

ER: I have never run a race at 80% rate age group grading [a sliding percentage scale based on the world record in a particular event relative to your age], and I think staying with FNF will help me do that.  My next goal race will be CIM.  I hope to get some respectable marathons.  I have had a couple of OK marathons, but my performances have never been as good as the half marathons and 30K’s,


Written By Dena Evans
Updated By Coach Hiruni 

Many of us set running goals that culminate in a large race event with thousands of people.  Even if you are not completing your goal race at the ING New York City Marathon (more than 45,000 starters) or the Zazzle Bay to Breakers (more than 50,000 starters in 2011), your race day experience will likely not resemble your typical “roll out of bed and head out the door” long run.  How do you manage to find your normal, confident, well-trained self in the midst of a completely abnormal situation?  Try these tricks for race day success.

Weeks or at least days before your race, take advantage of all the available information on the race website.  If your race requires transportation to the start or transportation from the finish, examine your options and discuss the best choices with any friends or family members meeting you.  Closely examine the course map, particularly if the race offers an elevation chart.  Knowing exactly when you can expect hills, and how often hydration, gel, porta potties, and other key items are offered can help ease your stress by eliminating some of the unknowns of a big race.

If you have a web confirmation of your entry, double check you have the correct corral or wave start time, and exactly what tasks you will need to accomplish at the expo (shoe chip confirmation, etc).  One of the key reasons to do this well before you race is to be able to contact the race organization in a relaxed way if you have any questions or discover any discrepancies.  Usually, the organization is scrambling on race weekend and is off site at the expo so get on it early.

One key way in which many large races will differ from your typical workout is the length of time you will be required to stand at the start and the amount of walking you may be required to do to get to the starting area.  Again, read through the race materials well in advance and have a sense of what this will entail.  If it worries you, remember that everyone who is racing will also go through the same process, and that all the racers in prior years made it the same way.

To help condition yourself for this and to remind yourself that you will be ok, practice by walking a half mile or a mile before starting a few of your long runs, and then walking that same distance home when you are done.  Plan to wear a last layer of clothing that you would be ok with discarding (pick from your Goodwill/ Salvation Army pile at home).  This will leave you with a bit more warmth in the wait at the start, and less of a dilemma than if you had worn your favorite and most expensive outerwear to the line.  A $3 plastic parka or a trash bag with head and arm holes punched through can also provide a cheap alternative to hold in a bit of warmth.  $1 drug store knit gloves (or multiple layers of the same) can also be handy.

Even the most experienced racers have the butterflies on race day.  Sometimes this means extra trips to the restroom, particularly if you are well-hydrated.  The amount of facilities available at a particular race can vary widely, and it is likely you will need to wait in line, sometimes for quite a while.  In addition to being very deliberate about using the facilities at the last comfortable and private location you will have before you head out, consider going right when you arrive at the staging area.  If there is a line, you will have allowed yourself time afterwards to grab a drink or sit and relax a bit, and you won’t be as stressed as if you have left it to the last minute and are now faced with a full bladder, a huge line, and 10 minutes until you need to be at the start.  A travel pack of baby wipes or Kleenex (accompanied by a small bottle of Purell) in your gear bag can also be invaluable in case improvisational measures are required, or if race management hasn’t managed to keep pace with the usage of toilet paper in the facilities available.

Finally, all of the machinations required to get tens of thousands of people in place to start a huge race require several hours of organizing the people involved.  You may need to leave hours before your race and rise at a very early hour.   It is worthwhile taking at least a time or two to get up earlier than normal before your run in the weeks leading up to the race to prepare yourself for what that will feel like on the big day.  It is difficult to suddenly go to sleep at 8pm on the night before, so don’t expect yourself to be able to get a perfect and luxurious night of sleep from an artificially early hour.  Instead, just do your best to have an evenly paced evening so your food is digested, your stress levels are low, and your body can wind down as quickly as it naturally can.

Many experienced athletes have different strategies for managing the above challenges.  2012 Olympic Marathon Trials Fourth Place finisher and our May 2011 Pro’s Perspective interviewee, Amy Hastings, reported that she plans by making Post-It note lists of all the things she will need to do on race morning between waking and beginning the race.  Others may have great ideas – if a particular issue continues to trouble you, don’t hesitate to reach out to your fellow runners or to us (write us on the Forum or tweet us at @focusnfly).  We’re athletes ourselves and have been there.  Now that you have done the hard work of training, we’d love to help you enjoy and excel on race day!

Kennedy_EATBChristine again had an amazing performance, winning the women’s 55-59 age group at the Boston Marathon.  Although she didn’t quite hit her goal of surpassing the all time age group course record of 2:54:21, she improved her 2:57 of 2010 to 2:56 and it motivated her to come back and give it another go next year!

Recovering well and eyeing the World Masters Championship marathon in July, Christine took a few minutes out of her schedule to chat with us.

Coach:  I know you were close to your ultimate goal, but you had a really solid race.  How did you feel out there?

CK:  Well, I died in the last mile and a half.  Had absolutely nothing. Combination of being sick [prior to the race] and a few other things.  I had never felt that way before!  I was afraid to take the electrolyte fluid that day because it doesn’t agree with me and I didn’t want my stomach upset, but in hindsight, that wasn’t a good choice.

I made it to the finish line, and the only way I did it,  was because of what I did the day before.  I went to the finish line, and jogged backwards on the course out about a mile, before turning around and coming into the finish like I would on race day, trying to think about what it would feel like to finish under the banner.   When I got to the Citgo sign [traditional visual landmark on the course, a couple miles from the finish], it took everything I had to get to the finish, but I knew I wanted it.


Coach:  All the talk was about the wind producing fast times out there.  Did you feel the windy conditions?

CK: The wind at the beginning was a crosswind.  I was sweating a lot.  I didn’t feel like we had a tailwind, but I guess we did.

Coach:  You’ve talked about making the choice to run with the main field rather than start ahead with the women’s elite group.  How did that go this year?

CK: I was so happy to go at 10 and have all those people to run with,  and not go with the elite women [half an hour earlier].   I had a couple friends who ran solo like I did, behind the faster women in the elite field and ended up running 3:15 or 3:20.

Coach:  What is next on the calendar for you?

CK:  I want to go to the world masters championship and run the marathon.  I know it will be tough and it will be hot, but I think I will be ready to run another marathon.  I will plan to run some long runs on the course, do things like to go up there for a 20 miler on the course in the heat one evening [the competition will take place in Sacramento this July].

I will run for the US, which will be the first time for that.  We might have a US team, but we wouldn’t have had a team for Ireland [her native country].  So, I am looking forward it!

One of the things about the marathon is that you have people coming in that you have never heard of. So I never take it for granted and just try to prepare to run the best race I possibly can.

Coach:  Is Boston in the cards for next year and what did you learn with this effort?

CK: One of the things that I accomplished was that I went back to Boston with better turnover.  But I didn’t get enough long runs done…I got sick and didn’t get a half marathon. So, I feel like going back to Boston next year, I’d like to start preparing in December instead of January. Last year I was strong, but I didn’t have the turnover. I feel that I can go back next year and put the two together and go for 2:54 again.





Bob Burnett returns original 1912 Bay to Breakers trophy to race General Manager Angela Fang



Bob Burnett is a self described “avid sportsman” who has done plenty of mountain climbing, road cycling, and regular recreational golf.  As with many of our Focus-N-Fly trainees, he will be attempting the Zazzle Bay to Breakers for the first time…..with one huge difference.  Bob’s maternal grandfather, Bobby Vlaught, was the very first winner of the “Cross City Race” in 1912.  As a St. Mary’s student, Vlaught won the race twice before ceding the crown in 1914 to the previous year’s runner-up.  Burnett will literally carry history with him on May 15 as he will complete the race carrying the original winner’s trophy earned by his grandfather.


With only a couple weeks before the race, Burnett sat down with us for a few minutes to share more about his story.


Coach:  So, is running something that has run through the bloodlines directly or are you just taking it up now?

BB:  I’m not a runner at all, but I’m trying to become one.  This was going well in the beginning and I thought the  [Focus-N-Fly online training] program was great.  There were lots of options.   Lately, I’ve started developing some problems with my calves, so it has been harder to follow the plan.  But I will definitely finish.


Coach:  Were you close to your grandfather when you were younger?  Was he able to share some of this history with you?

BB:  My grandfather passed away when I was 10-11 years old.  I never knew of his accomplishments until I started going through the scrapbooks and finding out about all the things he did.   Nobody every really talked about those types of things then.

He was a real humble guy, so he wouldn’t have been a bragger.  He was just an ultimate sportsman.   He won the first two against this his big rival, and the two were good friends.  One the third one, he finally beat my grandfather, but he had really gracious things to say.

Coach:  Had you been thinking a while about running the 100th in honor of your grandfather?

BB:  I Thought I was going to run in 2012, but then realized 2011 was the actual 100th.   A few months ago, I sent an email to the regular info address mentioning my grandfather and the history, and not knowing how much they would really care about it.  But, they called back within 2 hours!

Coach:  What do you think your grandfather might say about the Bay to Breakers race were he around today to see it?

BB:  My grandfather would be proud to see how the competition is still very strong. Despite the changes in the city, the race has still endured.

Coach:  You’ve done a bunch of other outdoor activities including high altitude mountatin climbing, but this is your first running challenge.  What is your goal?

BB:  This is a challenging thing. I hope I can run faster than I walk at 23,000 feet.

Coach:  What is something you do remember your grandfather teaching you as a kid?

BB:  They lived up at 1855 Pacific Avenue for many years.  We used to go up there as kids for holidays, but when you are 8-9 years old, the city doesn’t captivate you that much.  So, one day, to get us out of the house, he asked us if we wanted to go watch people bowl at an alley close by.  I told him that I wanted to bowl myself, and that I wasn’t much interested in watching the other people. He told me then that there is more to sports than just doing them yourself, it is a chance to watch others doing their best as well.


Amy Hastings was the 2006 NCAA indoor champion in the 5000 meters and a multiple time All-American in the distances while at Arizona State.  A Leavenworth, Kansas native, Hastings has been doing her post-collegiate training with Terrence Mahon and the Mammoth Track Club up in the Sierras.  Following in the footsteps of present and former Mammoth teammates who have enjoyed great success in the marathon at the highest level (Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall to name a few), Hastings made an outstanding marathon debut in March, earning sensational runner-up honors at the Los Angeles Marathon.  Recovering well, Hastings took a few minutes to share some of her experiences with us.

DE: Have you always wanted to do a marathon, or is this something you have recently decided to do?

AH:  I have always wanted to do one – the longest distances always came easier to me.  In high school, I thought I would run 10k in college, and in college, I thought I would be a marathoner. It took me a while to be mentally ready though.  I didn’t realize quite the amount of work that goes into the marathon.


DE:  The course in Los Angeles was quite rainy and wet, but you were aggressive and fearless.  Did training in the mountains help you feel confident about the adverse conditions?

AH:  You definitely have to be tough up in Mammoth.  Even in the most perfect conditions, our training is so intense, so you have to be ready. I felt very prepared

DE: What is one thing you look forward to replicating in your next marathon and something you hope to learn from and avoid next time around?

AH: I feel like I put myself out there and I’m a very proud of myself for that, but I don’t always want to race like that.  I want to be comfortable no matter where I am racing.  Something we are working on is looking to try and lead, come from behind and kick, push from a ways out, etc.  I don’t know how future races will go, but I want to be prepared for whatever could happen each time out.

DE: Have you decided whether or not you will run another marathon in 2011, and if not, what challenges lie ahead before Houston in 2012?

AH:  Next marathon is going to be the Olympic Trials.  I’m going to do a couple road races, Bloomsday and Boulder Boulder [after this interview, Hastings ended up being 10th place / 2nd US at Bloomsday].  I will also run a track 5k in Oregon, planning to run the 5k at nationals.  Hopefully I will go to Europe if things are going well, and run some more track races.  The priority is definitely the [Olympic Marathon] trials, so whatever makes sense leading in to that.

DE: This month, we are talking to our members about how to navigate the challenges of complicated race day logistics – standing out in the cold, races where the weather changes throughout, bathroom stops, etc.  Although it is a bit easier for the pros, what are some steps you take to ensure you are well organized on race morning and to avoid needless starting line stress?

AH:  I make about a million lists.  I write out everything.  I have a million little sticky notes.  I still have my LA Marathon list and it has “tie shoes (but not too tight)”, “last chance to to go the bathroom” and all of that stuff.  I still am completely nervous, but I am definitely a checklist person. My coach helps me at dinner the night before, writing everything down. He actually came up with the list idea.

DE: Did you pay much attention to changing your nutrition pre-race and or training nutrition when training for the longer distance?  If so, what did you tweak?

AH:  My diet before was high in protein and fats, so my diet was changed to include much more complex carbohydrates.  I eat a lot more vegetables now, which at first was really hard.  They don’t taste quite as good!  But, I have gotten used to it and have much more energy.  I include whey protein and some other things, like GU packets 15 min before every long run and a GU/ sports drink mix every 20 min during my long run.

DE: So, now that you have put out such an exciting time in the marathon, do you consider yourself a marathoner and will that govern your racing schedule moving forward?

AH:  Yes, it definitely will.  I think the marathon will definitely be my main event from here on out, but I have some unfinished business in the 5k and 10k on the track.  I would consider myself to be a distance runner who runs 5k through the marathon.


Edward Mosqueda is an East Bay resident who is running his first Zazzle Bay to Breakers on Sunday, May 15.  Keep your credit current, or else you might be speaking with him:  Edward spends his days as a bill collector!  He also finds time to occasionally usher at AT&T Park during Giants games.  Edward grew up in San Francisco and San Jose, attending Pinole Valley High School.  Still in his mid- twenties, he declares that he is “still too young for family!”


Coach: How did you start running?

EM:  I used to be more active in school, but was kind of in and out of the gym.  I always wanted to do the marathon, and started last year, probably September, around the time I got back from Mexico.  I had spent a month in Mexico, running there in Mexico City with my Uncle.  It is crazy high [altitude].  I was running and it felt like I was under water. I was chasing after my uncle.  He is a former boxer and has been active ever since he retired.  It shows!


Coach: Who is your running role model?

EM:  Just recently, I found out about [ultramarathoner] Dean Karnazes.  His story was kind of crazy -he was tired of his job and just decided to run from the city to Half Moon Bay one night!  I would say him, as of late.

Coach: What has been your most memorable running / racing experience?

EM:  This past one in Oakland, did the 5k [Oakland Running Festival]I .  I was going to do the half, but in the end decided to do the 5k.  My first one was the Kiwanis Napa 5K, but I showed up late.  That was a disaster.  I was much better prepared for the Oakland one.

Coach: What have you enjoyed about working with Focus-N-Fly?

EM: It has been interesting to see how the workouts have been set up.  I wish you had training runs in the East Bay!

Coach: What is one part of your racing routine you can’t do without (sleep, pre race meal, tie shoes certain way, other ritual)?

I’m not really a very organized person per se.  Before the Oakland race I had some good lasagna.  I’m not sure what I am actually going to wear on race day, since it is the whole “Bay to Breakers” thing!

Coach: What is your favorite place to go for a run?

EM:  I usually go local here to Point Pinole.  I do go to the gym and use the treadmill, but that’s about it.

Coach: In the next year, what goals do you hope to accomplish?

EM:   For this year, it was Bay to Breakers, and actually a couple days ago, I did a good 8 miles. For me that was pretty big.  So, going into the Bay to Breakers I feel confident.  Now, I am kind of looking past it, when before it was my goal to just finish it.  I’m also doing the Plate to Plate 5K, but my main goal is the (San Francisco) Half in July.


baby_plank_croppedTypically in this column, we look at a simple component of the running experience and attempt to help you be aware of how to maximize or at least benefit from the proper implementation of that component.  This month, we are talking about a muscle with a fancy name, but the concept is just as simple and important as topics like arm swing and hydration.


The transverse abdominis (TVA) is one of the innermost layers of flat abdomen muscle.  The name refers to the horizontal direction of its fibers, but the muscle stretches from the bottom six ribs down to the iliac crest, or pelvic region, helping to stabilize both regions.  The TVA also connects to the diaphragm, assisting with inhalation.  If anyone has ever encouraged you to “tighten your core” they most likely were encouraging you to regain posture that the TVA helps to provide.

As it is such a deep muscle within the body, the TVA can many times go unaddressed, even when we are making a concerted effort to do “abs” or core exercises. However as a long, strong, and deep muscle connected to many of the parts of the body that drive running performance, we want to provide some tips for how to activate and strengthen this part of the body.  As this month’s Pro’s Perspective featured athlete David Torrence attests – it really can help!

The Chek Institute of Vista, California provides a simple exercise with 4 steps for making yourself aware of the TVA and beginning the process of activating it.

1.     Kneel on the floor on hands and knees and let the contents of your midsection rest against the abdominal wall.

2.     Keeping your spine flat and straight, take a deep breath from your diaphragm.

3.     Exhale, drawing your belly button toward your spine by actively trying to use the bands of muscle connecting your ribs and your pelvis.  Do not flex the spine or rotate your pelvis area.

4.     Hold your belly button to your spine for ten seconds.  Relax for ten seconds and repeat the process several times.

Once you are aware of and comfortable activating your TVA, one simple exercise to begin with is the plank.

Plank exercises can be done in many different variations and difficulties, but to get started, lets begin with the simplest version.  Get yourself into a lifted push-up position.  Your back should be flat – one long line from your shoulders to your heels.  Your feet should be shoulder width apart, and your arms can be either straight with your palms on the ground, or bent, resting on your elbows/ forearms.   Your head should be neutral – just extending from your neck, not tilted specifically up or down.

Concentrate on engaging your TVA muscles much as you did in the previous exercise (pull your belly button toward your spine), while you simply hold this position for 20, 30, or even 60 seconds.   When you feel comfortable with this exercise, able to do 2 or 3 times at 30-60 seconds, you could try going from resting on your forearms to your palms with arms fully extended or lifting one foot off the ground at a time slowly, making sure to maintain the same weight distribution as much as possible.

When you have built confidence with these or similar exercises, you will find that activating this muscle is an important component of our Whole Body Strengthening routine. It is particularly important in these exercises: Left & Right side planks, partner punishment, and pointers.   

As David Torrence suggests, don’t let your core “crumple” at the end of your next race.  Get to know your transverse abdominis and prepare to finish strong!



Having run 2:51 at the October 2010 St. George Marathon in Utah, Christine Kennedy has rested and re-cycled her training to prepare for a 50+ age group course record at April’s Boston Marathon.  Having run 2:57 last year, Christine is hoping to break the mark of 2:54.21, set in 2000.


We caught up with Christine as she battled a bit of a cold, almost three weeks prior to race day.


Coach:  So, the big day is almost here.  Are you looking forward to it?

CK: Yesterday I wasn’t because I was sick! But, I feel the winter training has gone well, although [Emerald 12K] Across the Bay didn’t show that. My ten-miler  [10 mile road race on March 6] was good, even while keeping up over 70 miles in the week.  Having someone in the background doing all the work to plan the training really helps a lot!


Coach: Tell us a bit about the time you are shooting for.

CK: The course record for 50+ is 2:54.21, back in 2000 by Anne Roden.  So I will try and run 2:52 and see what happens.  I was invited to run with the elite women, but I decided to run with the sub-elites where I have plenty of people to run with. I feel much more confident with several 2:50 and 2:51 runners all around me.

I enjoy running the PA races [local Bay Area race series].  It is the same guys every week.  Doug, one of the Aggies, said at the start line of Emerald Across the Bay, “ Hey Kennedy, you sticking with me today?”   He caught me at 7k and was like “Where have you been?”  I enjoy competing with the familiar faces.

Coach: What are the specifics in training that are making you confident heading into Boston?

CK:  Well, taking a break after St. George – something I would never do before.  Taking the month of November at 35-40 miles, but still doing a bit of track work.  That has made me still feel fresh. Had I not had a coach, I would have just gone back to training harder and harder.  Now, I am able to do two track workouts a week, and I feel strong.  Mondays and Thursdays I get ART.  If anything is tight, I get extra treatment.  Once you feel something, the big thing is to take care of it right away .


Coach:  What do you look forward to be thinking when you start to see the banners and the finish line around the last corner in Boston?

CK: I would love to see that clock saying 2:51 and knowing I’m going to make it.  After all the miles you put in, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the Citgo sign and then the clock.  I just want to see the clock at 2:51 this time instead of 2:57 like last time. It is also great to see the others who have been running alongside you around mile 20, being able to come across together and know they all are making it as well.


March 30, 2011

Jane Austin


Jane Austin is 48 years old, married with 4 kids and one granddaughter.  One of her children is a 27 year-old sergeant in the Marines, one is a 25 year-old 1st grade teacher, one is a college student and her youngest is 9.  Jane has been a professional stuntwoman for 23 years who has lived in the LA area her whole life. Married to a stuntman, they have their own business, Hollywood Stuntworks, that manufactures fire gel and does rigging for movies and tv shows (think reality show challenges). You may have seen her in the Naked Gun movies, Star Trek Generations, Law and Order SVU, and other shows.  Her Husband did Pirates of the Caribbean and was on that set for 9 months last year.


Jane coaches cross country at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, and assists with her son’s club track team, Santa Clarita Storm, as well.  With her sister, she just completed the LA Marathon on Sunday March 20th.



Coach: How did you start running?

JA: I did track in high school, and actually made it to state twice.  I went to Corvallis High school (small school), but was a sprinter.  Being a stuntwoman, I had to stay in shape, so did every single thing -  spinning, martial arts, etc, but didn’t get into running until about 6 years ago. My sister got into half marathons, doing one for her 50th birthday.  It turned into our every other month sister activity, and all of a sudden, two marathons later and who knows how many 5ks and 10ks later, I’m hooked.  My first marathon was LA last year, and my sister didn’t even do it with me…I just wanted to run the course, growing up in LA all these years.  And now, I’m the head cross country coach at my son’s school and he signed up for a club in Santa Clarita valley with me coaching his division.  My husband runs with us also- the last four weekends, we’ve had three races.  Last weekend, we were getting into the car at 5am and were just looking at each other saying, hey, this is what we do for our family activities!


Coach: Who is your running role model?

JA: It is my sister, Kim. I come from a family of nine kids.  Out of the nine of us, I am probably the most athletic.  My sister is a pastry chef and can basically make anything out of chocolate.  She made up her mind to do this running thing, and she got me doing it, at my age!  When she did her first one, I was like “Why? That is what cars are for!”  Now, we are out there in the pouring rain last weekend.  She was really the one who got me to break 5 hours.


Coach: What has been your most memorable running / racing experience?

JA: To date, it has got to be the marathon last Sunday.  We had some of our family members meet us at certain points along the course. At the end, my son, my brother in law, my niece, and my husband all ran parts of it with me. Running through the puddles, it felt like you already had your ice pack before the race was over.

Coach: What have you enjoyed about working with Focus-N-Fly?

JA: I love FNF because my schedule often changes.  I do tae-kwon-do, other activities, and all I have to do is just tell the schedule to have it change.  I don’t have the knowledge to know what I need to do- the mileage, etc.  I‘ve had personal trainers.  Countless personal trainers, actually!  But FNF is like having a personal trainer, it is so customized to me.


Coach: What is one part of your racing routine you can’t do without (sleep, pre race meal, tie shoes certain way, other ritual)?

JA: My thing is that I have to have a banana and a cup of coffee when I wake up on race day.  Have to. That is religious for me.  I have this counter in our mud room with everything laid out perfectly – Garmin, shoes, number pinned on my shirt.  As long as that is all laid out and my automatic coffee maker set, then I can go to bed. If I don’t have everything laid out like that, I can’t sleep.


Coach: What is your favorite place to go for a run?

JA: My most favorite place I have ever run was Hyde Park in London.  I looked at my Garmin and it said 5 miles, and I thought I had run one.  But my favorite routine run that I run all the time… Pt Mugu State Park.  It is really tough, with breath taking views from the top.  Just beautiful!!!


Coach: In the next year, what goals do you hope to accomplish?

JA: My best time in the half is a 2:01, so I really want to focus on the half in the near future.  My sister just signed up for CIM [California International Marathon] in Folsom, but marathons are so long to train for! My next half is a Cinco de Mayo in Irvine, and a Memorial Day one in Laguna.  By that time, I will probably sign up for another marathon, probably the one with my sister.  But then a friend of mine was talking about a triathlon, so who knows!

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