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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.


Taryn grew up in Texas, where she swam competitively from the age of four through college.   At the University of Texas at Austin, she finished as high as 15th in the Mile swim at the 1994 NCAA Championships.  Taryn worked in Houston for several years, where she met her husband, who is originally from England.  They eventually moved to Riverside, Connecticut for her husband’s job as an investment banker. Currently, Taryn is studying for her master’s in Accounting from the City University of New York, looking after their two yorkies, and spending any free time updating their house.   Taryn is currently training with Focus-N-Fly for the 2011 Aramco Houston Half Marathon.

Coach: How did you start running?

TW:  With swimming, they always had us do dryland activities, but I always tried to do running events in school.   In junior high, for instance, they let us run with the cross country team without being on the actual team. I have always run, but I didn’t really do races until I graduated, and I think I actually enjoy running more than swimming.  You can just get in your shoes and go, rather than get up early and have to get in cold water.  I did triathlons for a while.  Swimming was just such a focus, but I realized I really didn’t like cycling that much.  I took me a while to get back around to just running.

Coach: Who is your running role model?

TW:  My family is not very athletic.  We all swam when we were little - I have three brothers and a sister.  Running wise, my most vivid memory was watching Joan Benoit win the Olympic marathon.  Actually my whole family was watching.  That was the first thing I remember watching where I was like, “Wow this is so cool.”  I wasn’t dreaming of running at the time, but that was really impressive.

Also, my friend Karen, who is the one who told me about Focus-N-Fly, has had tons of injuries and lots of stuff going on, but she has such focus and drive.  She just says, I am going to finish this and I am going to do well.  Karen is the one who really motivates me on a daily basis and keeps me going.

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

TW: I’d have to say Chicago in 2008.  It was my first marathon, by itself.  I did an Ironman Triathlon in 2004, but had to walk most of the marathon.  So this was my first real marathon, and the crowds were just great.  I started in the open corral, and because I had to work through people the whole way it was a perfect steady run.  My goal was to finish under four and I ran 3:57.  It was one of those days where things couldn’t have been any better.

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

TW:  I’ve tried to train on my own or use one of the standard programs.  If you train on your own you always second guess yourself, and the set programs, you obviously can’t change.  Focus-N-Fly for me has been so easy because it tells you what you’ve been doing and you can adjust it. Even for Houston, I was originally planning on running in the marathon, but after I had some hip flexor problems, I was able to shift to the half marathon.  I love it!   If I was on my own, I would be likely to do too much, so this keeps me really balanced throughout the whole training.

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

TW: I don’t really have a superstition, but I have to be in bed and relaxing by nine o’clock the night before, even if I just sit there and watch TV.  If I just know that I have been resting and relaxing, then I’m good.

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

TW:  Right now, we live near Long Island Sound. There is a place called Tod’s Point, a 2.5 mi loop that juts into the sound.  You can see the water most of the way around and just can kind of let your mind go.

Also, I know it is not the most scenic place, and it is really hot, but Town Lake in Austin.  It is just that I have a soft spot for Austin, and have spent so many hours and hours running around there.  It is the same (as Tod’s Point), that you’re around water, and they have a crushed granite trail.  There are always tons of people with their dogs, etc…just a good atmosphere.

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

TW:  I would love to be able to qualify for the New York Marathon [for her age group, the automatic half marathon qualifying standard is 1:37].  I went 1:39 in a half a couple years ago.  Next year, it is on my birthday, so that would be a dream to qualify and run it on my birthday.

holiday-mealA little more than a month from now, you’ll have the chance to consider some potential New Year’s resolutions.  Where you will start from on January 1 will have a lot to do with how the next few weeks go.

While the holiday season can provide some of the happiest moments of the year, it can also wreak havoc on your running goals.  Here are some ideas for how you can make the most of the season and keep your motor running before hitting the ground full speed on January 1.

Even if your schedule doesn’t normally include morning running, consider scheduling your runs for the early hours.

The first few weeks of December often include more events outside of your control than potentially any other time of the year.  Office functions or extra hours / shifts at work, recitals, school events, and holiday obligations for school aged kids, other civic, religious, or social events and obligations –the calendar can get pretty crowded.

That run you already scheduled after work can quickly get pushed to the wayside when you find out from your spouse at 4 that you need to be somewhere you had forgotten about at 6:30, dressed neatly and with a bottle of wine for the hosts.  Maybe your mom needs you to drive her across town for that special ingredient she wants to put in the pie she is making tomorrow and aren’t you just the one to take her this evening after work but before they close at eight?  There goes the run.

Late in the month, family meals (in addition to food shopping and preparation), odd schedules, the irresistible pull of a bowl game or the warm couch (and the inevitable snooze), can successfully thwart the most stalwart runner in their efforts to stay on track.    If you are able to run in the morning, even if it is not the best series of workouts you have had all year, you at least ensure that you don’t put yourself in a gapingly large training hole.  At this point, it is dark in the morning AND in the evening, so you probably won’t miss much there.  You will however, be able to give yourself a silent high five every day, even when the rest of your schedule may leave you scrambling.  So, block it in now!

Stay hydrated

Yes, you should drink water because you are training and you want to stay hydrated.  But, the holiday time is also a key hydration zone in many ways that will also help you feel more like yourself when you do get a chance to hit the road or the treadmill.  Maybe travel is in your plans. As we have mentioned before in Personal Best, you should aim to drink a cup of water for every time zone you cross while flying in the dry air-conditioned atmosphere of an airplane.  If mountains or other dry, snowy climates are in your future, this is also important as high altitudes and dry air can leave you under-hydrated before you realize it.  You may already be out of your element or preferred weather conditions for a time during the holidays, so everything you can do to at least keep your body working well will be key to move from just salvaging a situation to a place where you get some quality running accomplished despite the challenges.

Even if your holiday plans do not include travel, proper hydration remains crucial to staying on track.  It can assist with digestion when faced with a gauntlet of rich foods and a never-ending stream of chocolates in the break room.  It can also help combat the dehydrating effects of holiday related alcohol consumption and give your family feast some welcome company in your stomach so you are not as likely to go overboard for the fifth time this week.

Include the family in some running

Find a Turkey Trot, or Jingle Bell Jog 5K /10K the family can walk or jog together while you get in a tempo run.  Pick an outing or two where others can walk or hike while you and whomever is up for it can run.  Plan a run during someone else’s shopping or errands, so they can go crazy in the stores while you take off for a few miles down a nearby bike path before meeting them back at the car.  Think in advance of ways you can meld your run seamlessly into another’s schedule so that you can avoid missing a quality hour with family when everybody is finally home and you’ve just decided to head out on the trail.

Enjoy what you do get done, and don’t worry about what you can’t fit in

If you are unable to perfectly complete every single day’s training from now until the end of the year, you are probably not alone.  The holidays are special because you do often have the time to travel or to visit with friends and family in ways your schedule wouldn’t normally permit.  It is important to enjoy these times and maintain a balance that keeps running in perspective.  If you have a choice in days of the week to get certain things accomplished or can recalculate your schedule in advance to account for certain problem dates coming up, try to prioritize the hard workouts and long runs, so if you don’t get everything in, you will at least have tackled the most challenging days.  However, even if you are stymied in this effort, the important thing is that you don’t fall completely out of touch with your goals, that you don’t let guilt over two or three days missed keep you from getting back to the schedule next time out, and that you stay healthy.

Everyone, from world class athletes to beginners, will find the holidays to be a time requiring flexibility and variation in their typical routine.  You are not alone.  Look ahead as best you can, stay relaxed, and see if you can arrive on January 1st with only minor adjustments needed instead of a complete overhaul.  Perhaps you will have even learned some tips that will make the next holiday season even better.


RaceRecoveryThis month in Personal Best, we’d like to examine the one time of year most difficult to plan for:  Recovery.


Most of us fall into one of two categories.  Either we can’t wait to get right back out there on the roads and are tempted to rush our recovery period, or we let a month turn into two, into three, before pretty soon we are starting again from scratch in our next build-up.  Regardless of which tendency most closely resembles your default habits, we’d like to encourage you to take your next recovery period seriously.  We believe it is one of the most under appreciated, yet important parts of the training year.


After you cross the finish line…

When you cross the line of the big race, resist the urge to sit immediately, and keep moving for 10-20 minutes after you cross the line.  Most large races force this process to a certain extent, requiring you to move through lengthy feed, medal, race photo, and other stations as you head toward your baggage claim area.   Begin to hydrate with carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement fluids, sipping and drinking as much as your stomach can accommodate.  In the immediate hours to come, try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, aggressive massage, and hot tubs / baths in favor of cold tubs, and ice, easily digestible foods, and nutritious beverages.    In the day or two following, gentle massage, light stretching, and continued icing / cold tubs may assist in recovery.


Sometimes, athletes have certain foods they know will work well with their post-race digestive state.  If this is you, plan ahead and pack them in your gear bag so you know you’ll be able to start your nutrition replenishment with confidence.


Recovery is a mental, emotional, AND, a physical process.

Oftentimes, we have put a great deal into our goal races – other leisure habits on hold, dietary choices made and adhered to with great will power, families patiently waiting for you to come home from yet another long run.  Perhaps you have run your goal race in honor of a loved one or an important cause, and most likely you have given more of yourself physically than you have ever given before or typically do on a regular basis.  Your body may feel recovered, but you may not be ready to embark on the emotional journey yet again.  Or, you may feel as though your race left you with unfinished business that you want to re-try at the earliest opportunity, even as your body isn’t quite ready to cooperate.


We encourage most athletes to take approximately a month to recover from one of your bulwark goal races.  1-2 weeks of complete rest, followed by at least a couple weeks of recreational exercise, including cross training, and more rest than usual as needed throughout the week.


One great approach is to choose another goal race of a shorter distance at least 10-12 weeks from the date of the current goal race for which you are preparing.   You might even want to do this before you compete in the big race.    It is not uncommon to feel emotionally listless after a big effort, and having a new goal can help keep you connected to your over-arching health and fitness goals even as you take some time off.  Choosing a race shorter than the one you just finished will ensure you don’t pressure yourself to find the same level of motivation and commitment right off the bat, can provide a fun fitness test to keep your pace chart moving, and can serve as a good midway point if you do choose to do a longer race in 4-6 months.


If you come back from recovery too early, you may feel fine initially, but when the real training sets in, the aches and pains will then begin to crop up – take the time NOW!


As we read in this month’s Pro’s Perspective, Brooke Wells says she has traditionally been too aggressive in coming back from her recovery periods.  By jumping immediately back into a heavy training load, she often found herself requiring another mini-break a few weeks in. This is a common occurrence for many runners, both novices and elite athletes.   Now that she has run her best time and is creeping in to the rarified air of internationally competitive performances, she knows she can’t afford to take the same type of liberty this time around.     That second bunch of training weeks after the initial restart is when we as coaches see many problems occur, but we recognize, sometimes it is tough to take that time if you have plenty of motivation left in reserve.  However…..


Resist the urge to lace up your shoes the first day you aren’t sore climbing stairs, and after you take that first run, resist the urge to jump in the Sunday 12 miler a few days later with your friends at the park.   The time you spend ramping up slowly back to a normal level of training activity is recovery time as well.  If that is excruciating to you – you can’t stand staying in one more day, encourage yourself that many of the world’s top athletes take 3-6 weeks completely away from running after a goal marathon – you’re trying to work harder than the pros!



Make sure you use your recovery time to “exhale”, enjoy something you might not have been able to during your build up.


For you, it might be a different sport –Brooke mentioned trying rock climbing, something she’d never do in the midst of heavy training.  Maybe it is enjoying a later bedtime, a favorite dessert, an activity with family, a night out, or a weekend away.  Or, just force yourself to sit on the couch and do nothing for once.   While we are here to help you with the plan you need to train for your goals, we also want to make sure that when you are within the crucial weeks before your goal race, you are motivated and not burned out.  Recharge yourself with moderate doses of life’s simple pleasures when a racing deadline is not bearing down and you’ll be able to focus when the time requires that single-mindedness.



Celebrate and appreciate your accomplishment before heading off to the next mountaintop.


It is also important that you celebrate your accomplishment.  Acknowledge to yourself a job well done.  And if things didn’t go as planned, acknowledge an effort earnestly made, a willingness to go for it.  Even if you hope to yet run faster or have bigger fish to fry down the road, consider everything that went right, including the accomplishment of a season of training you might not have considered possible before you began.  Consider all that you hope to recreate in your next build-up as well as those things you hope to change for the better.  After all, while recovery is the final stage of your last race, it is also the first stage of your next!


Brooke Wells recently completed an outstanding, breakthrough performance at the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Finishing among the top 10 American females, Brooke crossed the line in 2:37:39, an Olympic Trials “A” Qualifying mark and a personal best by over two minutes.   Brooke’s time works out to just slightly north of 6 minutes per mile.    A 2008 Olympic Trials qualifier, San Francisco resident, and Cal grad, Brooke took a few minutes to discuss her recovery period with FNF.  Below are a few excerpts of our conversation…..

On the difference between the weeks following this marathon and her previous marathon recovery cycles….

The first couple times, I just got right back into it, and then had something that felt like delayed fatigue three weeks in, even though I wasn’t doing any workouts. It was like pure exhaustion.  For whatever reason, my body just did not want to do it.  Instead of taking the full two weeks, getting everything sorted out, I ramped up and had to go right back down.

This is the first time I have really listened to what Tom said.  I have always been really aggressive - waited a week, but then run 4 miles the first day, then 8 miles,  then come right back from there.  This time, my hips were really over rotated from mile 11, and I was really in a lot of pain by the end of the race, really messed up.  This time, I did run once a week after the marathon, and it was not enjoyable, so I was like you know what?  I’m not ready yet.

One big difference this time is probably that this is the first time I have finished feeling really satisfied with my results.  I know it didn’t come easily, and because of that this is the first time in a long time where I feel like I am “pretty done” right now.

On enjoying some of the things during recovery that an intense marathon training cycle doesn’t always accommodate….

I know a lot of people say this, but I think one of the most important things is to keep eating well, drink a lot of water, eat red meat.  Have fun, but don’t just completely lose control, because it will be that much harder when you come back.  I’ve been taking lots of Epson Salt baths, really relaxing stuff.

I used to do triathlons in college, and so I got my bike fixed so I can ride a bit, not feeling like there is something I have to be doing, but just being able to see how I feel, not having to push through everything,

Crosby [Crosby Freeman, Brooke’s boyfriend and fellow competitive athlete] had a stress fracture and has been in the pool a ton, and I have been in the pool with him a few times.  It is great for active recovery - no pounding.  Especially if you can do it with a friend, it goes by quickly and is so different from running on the ground.

Another fun thing about recovery is to try things I never do, like rock climbing.  I realized how bad I am at anything lateral, anything side to side.  It is interesting how we train our bodies to be so efficient at one thing…..I used to be great at riding [cycling], but now it is so difficult for me!

This last couple weeks have also been a chance to reconnect with a lot of people I might not have seen while training hard and staying in the last few weeks of marathon training.  We have runner friends, but some of the friends that don’t run, you don’t see a lot of.  So, I’ve had a little more wine than I normally do!

On using recovery time to prepare for the next challenge ahead….

The first week was better than second.  My office was under construction, so I was working from home, which was great because I wasn’t sitting all the time, was moving around, etc.  The second week, I was sitting for 5- 6 hours at a stretch, and I realized that I still definitely had some issues going on.  Tom has been encouraging me that this is the time to get healthy and address stuff that has been going on for a while, stuff that I normally might fight through.  I got a massage about 5 days after the marathon, I’m trying to get into the acupuncturist, etc.

This is also a time to reflect and consider how seriously to take 2011 - should I organize my life to take some time off of work to train for the trials?   This year, we wanted to focus on the 10k [Brooke trained for and competed at the USATF National Track & Field Championships in that event], but next year, I think I want to do a faster half, especially because my marathon PR is so much better than my half PR.  I feel like I am in a good happy place at work too so I want to figure out a way to make it all work.


Jon grew up in Frederick, Maryland, but moved to Chicago 11 years ago.  Currently, although he lives in Chicago, he works for the city of Toronto, doing convention sales and drawing attention to the city as a tourist destination.  Jon is married, with one nine year-old daughter.  He went to school at the University of Delaware, where he intended to play football.  However, after breaking his thumb and blowing up his knee, he took up rugby and played for the next 15 years.

Jon ran Chicago marathon in 2001, but in his words, had a “terrible experience”, and shied away from running until this year, when an Army Major friend of his challenged him to run the 2010 Army Ten-Miler.  He signed up, was dreading running it, and figured any help would be useful and appreciated.  So he clicked on Focus-N-Fly, plugged in his info and started following the training plan.  Along the way, Jon has lost almost 60 lbs, and again in his words, went from “struggling to finish 5k, to putting in a strong performance at Army Ten-Miler”.   Now recovering from a great effort on Sunday, Jon took a few moments to share his experiences with us.


Coach: How did you start running?

JH:  I got hurt [in football at University of Delaware], and went home for a semester to Hood College. A friend said to come out and play rugby, but I couldn’t even run a mile.  They said I needed to get my fitness up, so I had to start running.  I came to enjoy it, and by the time I ran the Chicago marathon, I guess I was fairly accomplished, but I had such a terrible time, [left Gu in the car, fell down in a heap mid-race with twin hamstring cramps] that the second 13 miles was just agony.  I turned my back on the running, but I work in industry where there is a lot of travel, lots of food, (bad food and good food), so I packed on pounds.

Coach: Who is your running role model?

JH:  there is a guy I used to play rugby with in Frederick, Tory Ireland.  He was fast and strong and could run all day - really an inspiration.  As a runner, he didn’t have to be one of those guys who looked like a Kenyan marathoners. As for me, in the best of times I’m a Clydesdale.

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

JH: Just two weeks ago, I was in Toronto, and went out and ran 10 miles with a colleague. He was getting ready for the Baltimore Half. Running along Lake Ontario, Chinatown, and the University of Ontario campus. It was a beautiful morning, to experience that kind of physical challenge with a colleague.  It was my last long run before race.

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

JH: for something that seems like the back end is fairly automated system, it seems like it was really customized to me.  It really has tailored the workouts to me to achieve the goals I’ve set  up.  I really feel like I am getting a good coaching experience even though there isn’t a coach physicially there.

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

JH:  I haven’t really raced enough to have a routine yet.  I guess would say I’ve got a favorite running shirt, a bright neon yellow Under Armour that I wear on my long runs and races.

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

JH:  I run pretty regularly here on through the Riverwood neighborhood. On Sunday morning long runs coming back through Riverwood, I will come across several deer, and it is very peaceful and quiet.

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

JH: I’m running a Turkey Trot at the end of the month, then hopefully the Pittsburgh Half in the spring, then maybe the Chicago Marathon to do that over or the Scotia Bank Toronto Marathon.   The other thing is that I’d like to lose another 30 lbs along the way.  I just want to keep getting more fit and achieve some of those racing goals.

Since ATM is right around the corner, we have re-posted this interview from the spring.

Thanks to Joe for spending a few minutes with FNF to share some behind the scenes details about the 2010 Army Ten-Miler!

FNF: Many people have heard about your race, but many may not know the cause behind the race. Can you tell us about the Army Ten-Miler beneficiary?

JC: All race proceeds to the Army’s Family Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Department, which directly benefits soldiers and their families.

FNF: We noticed that the race date is a little later this year. Any particular reason for the change?

JC: We piggy-back on Association of the Army Convention, which is going to be held the week of our race date, October 24th. Next year, it will be back to the first week of October.

FNF: How does the Army get involved with the race?

JC: We will probably have 60-70 tents with soldiers from major commands all over the world, all kinds of divisions. Bands and honor guards will be encouraging you along the way as well. Each year, we have a couple of big competitions – an International Commander’s Cup, and a US Commander’s Cup. Different armies come and run, and the Cup is presented the next day at the AUSA Convention. Lately, the International Cup has been won by the Brazilians. They have a very good team.

FNF: What are some of the other unique reasons to circle this race on your fall running and racing calendar?

JC: We have a new website this year, which is great, and you get to see most of the DC monuments including the State Department, the Lincoln Memorial, and Pentagon, etc….all up close and personal.

We have redesigned the finish area, with a new festival, free food and souvenirs.

The Expo is at the DC Armory for the second year, and everything is very Metro friendly. The Pasta dinner is also very popular.

Of course, we also have Focus-N-Fly this year!

Your pasta dinner has been consumed; your D-chip is safely looped around your shoelace.  Your final cup of water is in your hand and you’re just waiting for the gun to go off.  What now?


Whether you are a beginner or an experienced athlete, taking a few key tips to the starting line can help you dig down and find your potential on race day.  Here are a good ones to consider:


1. Practice as many race day details beforehand as possible.

As Brett mentioned in this month’s Pro’s Perspective, it is important to stick with the tried and true details that have brought you successfully to this point.  Can you survive if an unexpected change of plans is required?  Sure.  However, knowing that there are several things you will do on race day that have been proven to work for you in the past can provide great peace of mind.


If you have a pre race or pre long run breakfast that has worked well, make plans to have the same on the big day, even if that means bringing along your own peanut butter, your favorite bar, your favorite drink.  Yes, the hotel buffet might look tempting, but if you haven’t eaten bacon before heading out the door for a hard run, today is not the day to try.


Resist the urge to wear that cute new thing you bought at the expo the day before.  Wear it later to impress your friends around the neighborhood instead, and go with the shorts and shirt that have worked for you on your long runs.  Consider the temperature ranges of your race day and have options for unseasonably cold or wet conditions already planned and packed for.


2.         Commit to running your race at your pace

Everyone has heard stories of those who start too fast and struggle at the end as a result, or seen races where the whole crowd appears to be sprinting from the start line of a long race.  Do the math on the time you want to run, and stay in the ballpark of those mile splits (and perhaps even a bit slower for the first few miles) during the explorative stages of the race.


It is extremely tough not to be caught up in the adrenaline of the crowd, the announcer trying to fire everyone up, the extra energy you have from being tapered and rested, and the older, less fit appearing person who seems to be running so fast and easily right by you.


However, resist you must.


You’ve come too far to let short-term emotional bursts drag you away from your long-term goal.  As they always say about everything else requiring patience that is not actually a marathon:  this is a marathon, not a sprint.  And the reason why they say it is because it is actually true when you are indeed engaged in a marathon and you need to be steady and independently motivated.  Nerves of steel.  You can do it.


3. Plan for a rough patch

There will be a time, if not in this race, but next, where you will go through a tough patch, get a cramp or a side stitch, or have an unexpected period where your ultimate completion may feel like it is in doubt.  Rest assured that is completely normal, and plan in advance to give yourself time to let it ease and sort itself out.  Think of it as an expected challenge you plan to meet, so when it occurs you can almost greet it with joy. Oh, only a side stitch, Ha!  I’ve got this.  I’m going to take some deep inhales until my muscles relax.  Man, I feel out of juice.  Perfect!  That’s what I was carrying this extra gel packet for.  Even if you haven’t brought the antidote, many times the race is long enough and your body resilient enough that what seems like a deal breaker has resolved over the next 3-5 miles.  Plan in advance to give yourself at least that long to let it ease.  Certainly anything that indicates serious injury or illness should be taken extremely seriously and acted upon with every caution. But if you recognize that crampy calf or that mid-long run “blah” feeling, be excited about how you are going to persevere past it and do.


4. Celebrate intermediate steps

Is it mile 10 and you are still on pace for your goal? Have you successfully made the first half of the race without feeling like quitting once?  Have you taken fluids and nutrition as planned through the first several miles?  Were you able to give a thumbs up to your spouse and kids along the course when they were waiting for you to pass late in the race?  Consider some of the ingredients to a successful race day and enjoy a moment of appreciation along the route when you execute these plans. A “good day” is comprised of a bunch of different things that have gone well.  You may not always be able to get through the race with a perfect score, but if you have several evaluative check boxes, you’ll have a more complete appreciation of how and why things ended up well in the end.


5. Visualize the finish

Before you start, imagine the weight of the finisher’s medal on your chest, the balloon arc or banner over your head, even the joy of triumphantly retrieving your baggage from the trucks and reuniting with your family.  These images, seared into your brain beforehand, can be powerful motivators when things get tough on the racecourse.  What will be most enjoyable to you about finishing?  Picture yourself doing that, and continue to keep picturing it until you cross the line and can enjoy it for real.

BurellSteve Burrell lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where he owns a ReMax real estate company, and comes home to a wife who works as a professional photographer, three kids (freshman in college, senior in high school, and 6th grade), and two dogs.  Originally born in Iowa, Steve returned for what he thought was a limited time after some stretches living in different spots, including Atlanta for high school and a period running a restaurant in Crested Butte in Colorado.   Almost two decades later, he’s still there!

This Sunday, Steve is running his third marathon at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.

Coach: How did you start running?

SB: I got into running when I was getting disgusted with how I felt, low energy levels, everything.  I started running with a guy I knew who ran 1000 miles a year for 30 years, but only 850 last year (ankle injury). Pretty soon, I got into some local racing, hooked up with some guys who organize races, ran Grandma’s [Marathon in Duluth, MN].  I’m doing my third marathon this weekend, and have dragged my brother in law from California to do it with me.


Coach: Who is your running role model?

SB: My running role model just changed this year.  KJ [the 1000 mile per year guy] was it for years. We used to have these tough guy contests - we would run until it got into the 10s and teens with no shirt, until about December, when we’d have to put a shirt on.

This summer, I met Luis Escobar, who lives in Santa Maria, California.  He is the guy who did the cover artwork for the book Born to Run.  My wife was speaking at this event, and dragged me along.  Luis took me out on a 2.5-hour run, and really energized me.  Got me turned on to a whole new part of running. He is just an example to me of what running should be.  We’d be out there, not have any idea where we were at, and came across a place we just could not have gotten to if we weren’t running.

I love that part of running.  Watching the world resolve itself in the morning.  Sometimes I run through campus [University of Northern Iowa is located in the Cedar Falls / Waterloo area] and I can still see the debris from the night before, see the world the way it is going to be the next day.  One time I did a ReMax 5K at a convention in Las Vegas.  I came across a guy I knew from home coming out of the casino when we turned around at Bally’s.  Here we are running early in morning, and he was still finishing up from the night before.

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

SB: It was several years ago, when one day it all came together.  I was still running 5-6-7 miles at a time. I run from the YMCA in town 90% of my day runs from there, so coming off the trail one day, I hit an uphill and I realized I still had energy and just kind of went.  We [his midday running group] have a rule that we never let anyone die behind us, but if you feel good you can let it out.  That was when I finally got it.  I finally passed the “needing to do it for health reasons,” and broke through to the “freedom” side of it.

The other one was coming over that ridge with Luis, running up sand dunes, and around that corner.  That was what reinvigorated me this year.

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

SB:  The coolest part is how adaptive it is to your schedule.  There are other programs that allow you to plug in what you are doing, but I enjoy having the ability to easily go in and put in runs [non goal races], and how it incorporates them right into the schedule.  It wasn’t complicated to do; it was very straightforward.  I found you guys when I signed up for Phoenix [P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona].  I had run for 8 years before that, and had trained for Grandma’s and blew up - limped in.  And then afterwards, Kate came on and talked me through things.   It was a really nice personal touch to have the combination of computer and an actual person following up.

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

SB:  If I had my choice I wouldn’t run with stuff on me, like 15 water bottles, lots of gear, etc.  To me, I have a certain pair of socks I wear for races; a shirt I know doesn’t chafe, that I’ll wear.   I guess for me it is all about the stripping away, a reverse ritual, to get rid of everything else.  On long run mornings and race mornings, I’ll eat an English muffin with peanut butter, fruit, gel, two cups of coffee, and an hour before the race, I’ll eat more fruit and eat some Chomps.

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

SB:  I would have to be out in Santa Maria, but actually, my favorite place to go is someplace I haven’t been.  I‘ll set up my runs to go down streets I haven’t been down before, and when I travel, I use running to recon new places, find out where everything is. I love being able to go out of your driveway and go a new place, some people say I took the road less traveled.  For me the whole point is that I got out and just took the road.

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

SB:  I jinx myself when I do this!  This weekend, sub 3:30, hopefully qualify for Boston now that I am “old.”  Next year, Leadville 50.  If I qualify for Boston, I probably should do it, but the Leadville 50 is my next big goal, to take it to the next level.


As she prepares for her attempt at a sub 2:50 marathon and a future attempt at a 50+ Boston Marathon age group record, FNF caught up with this month’s In the Hunt contributor, Christine Kennedy, as she departed work to repack for this weekend’s race – turns out the forecast is for 103 degrees!

Christine is a newer member of Focus-N-Fly’s longtime morning training group in Palo Alto, California.


FNF: How have the last few weeks gone for you as you prepped for this weekend?

CK:  Actually really good.  I’ve been really happy with the training.  It is so different from what I’m used to doing.  It is always good to be open for change in anything and if be willing to change and learn something from someone who has already done it.  It certainly is a totally new training for me.  For instance, we did a track workout the week of leading to a marathon.


FNF:  What would have been your pattern in the past?

CK: Sunday I’d do 10 mile run, then 4-5 mile easy runs the rest of the whole week.  But nothing specific, nothing 6 minute pace.   He’s [Coach Tom] is keeping me sharp all the time.  It is exciting. I feel I am much better than I have been in a long time.


FNF:  What are some details you have found out so far about the race?

CK:  Well, it will be hot, but if it is hot it will be the same for everyone.  I won’t worry about that until the morning of though.  The race says there are 36 women under 3:00 listed, which seems like a lot.


FNF:  The St. George Marathon is known for being a very fast, slightly net downhill course.  Since it is no longer eligible to be an Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier, do you still want to set some records out there?

CK: This race is for me, to give me the confidence to go to Boston and break the Boston  [age group] record.  But, I’m trying out a whole new training program.  Three months [since she joined FNF] is very short to have any major expectations, but Boston is the perfect training time.  So after this, Coach can see where I am at and where I need to get to.


FNF:  What are you looking forward to doing, in terms of race execution?

CK:  The great thing is I feel very fit and feel more confident.  Coach has given me back the confidence I need.  The biggest thing is that first mile in 6:50 and next mile 6:40.  Tom says if I go any faster, he’ll be watching!!!  I’ll definitely do it his way.    I'm excited to see what happens.


FNF:  What have been some challenging workouts in this final lead-up to the race?

CK:  Although there is a group of us out in the mornings [FNF’s longtime morning training group in Palo Alto, California], most of the workouts have been by myself.  One really hard one was 3 mile repeats at 5:58 pace, then 45 min at 7:20 pace, then back to 3 miles at 5:58 pace.  Coach ran the last two miles with me because there was nobody left on the track by the time I got back!  That was great that he was willing to jump in and help me through it.


FNF:  Anything else about your training cycle that has been different than most?

CK:  Coach tells me I race too much. I’m very loyal to my team [Tamalpa], and it is very important to me to be able to help out the team in the cross country season.  If there are four of us or five us scoring, I want to be a part of the team and help them out.

I’ve been going to the chiropractor twice a week and therapist once a week, so I’m living in both places basically!  I feel like when I got there and get a massage; I can get back out there on the track.  As soon as I finish the track I go get a workout on my body so next time I am ready again.


FNF:  So, what’s next on the schedule following St. George?

CK:  Well, Coach wants me to take a month off, but I’ll definitely take two weeks (laughter in voice) and learn to swim.  We have clubs [Pacific Association Cross Country Championships on November 21], and the national cross country in December, so that will be what I am hoping to do.


FNF:  Any final comments as you head out to the race?

CK:  I think because I have heard so many people talk about how fast this race is, I’m look forward to seeing if this race is really downhill!  I’m hoping to run 2:50.  I think just knowing you have a faster turnover is good. You still have to run the 26 miles even if it is a bit downhill!

Best wishes to Christine from all of us at FNF!

07headshotbgWhile a relative newcomer to the marathon, Brett Gotcher has been a long distance specialist since he took up running as a middle schooler.  A native of the coastal community of Watsonville, just south of Santa Cruz, California, Brett took his talents up the road to Stanford for his college years, where he earned Junior National Champion, Junior Pan-Am Games Gold Medalist, and NCAA All-American honors in the 10,000m.  Now representing adidas and training with Greg McMillan’s McMillan Elite group in Flagstaff Arizona, Brett has racked up stack of honors as he has progressed to the longer events.  He earned his first US title at the 20K distance in 2009, and made the fourth fastest marathon debut by an American while running 2:10:36 at the 2010 Chevron Houston Marathon.  Like many of our trainees, Brett is currently also building up for Houston in 2011!

Coach: How did you start running?

BG: I did it to get in shape for basketball in 8th grade.  Our middle school got a team, and I figured would give it a try to get in shape for basketball. Turned out, I loved it. However, I didn’t do track in eighth grade, which was probably a huge mistake, but did golf.

Coach:  When did you decide to give the marathon a try?

BG: It kind of progressed as I got older.  It seemed like the longer the distance I ran, the better I got at it.  I kind of wised up and realized that eventually that was going to end with the marathon.  I was excited to give it a try and see, because I knew I was having some success along the way.  After the first one, I realized I was really into it.

Coach: What is the biggest difference in the mental approach to the marathon?

BG: I think mentally the biggest difference is probably not psyching yourself out about it because it is so far.  For me, I know I can run a 10k, or a half marathon.  But, all of a sudden a marathon is a whole other event.  It is easy to doubt yourself, to think that you won’t even finish, a thought that definitely goes through the mind of even a pro runner.  My biggest thing was keeping my mind at ease and that I have done all the work that would prepare me.

Coach: How DO you keep your mind at ease?

BG: That’s a tough one.   I think something that helps me is the routine of marathon training - eating this, doing that at a certain time.  It is important to stay on that while you are at the race - don’t throw on a new pair of shoes or eat something new. It is good to know that what you are doing for the last month is what you are going to do at the race.

Coach: What is the toughest part of marathon from a mental standpoint?

BG: Definitely the last three miles was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I think some little things caught up to me, maybe I went a little too hard earlier on, or was a little dehydrated, I hope it is not common, but in the marathon it is more likely to happen than in another race.  In the longer races, it is easy to get caught up in how you feel in the early miles, but you can’t read too much into that.  So much can change over the course of the race and sometimes you actually feel the worst in the early part of the race. So you just have to trust during that early part of the race that down the line you will feel like you want to feel.  Sometimes I don’t feel warmed up until 5-6 miles in.

Coach: is there anything you want to do better mentally next time you head to the marathon starting line?

BG: I don’t know if I was being a macho man or what, but I didn’t take my bottles as seriously as I should have.  It wasn’t as much of a top priority as it should have been.  It is important to fuel because you are working the whole time.  It needs to be something that is part of the race planning and not something that is optional.

I think that just knowing the distance makes a big difference, but a marathon is its own beast and you really need to respect it.

Coach:  What are some key pieces of the puzzle provided by your coach?

BG: Everything is very calculated, so months out from the race, we have goals. Obviously we tweak things depending on training, but I think having those goals set out early allows you to think about it when I’m running by myself - I am already visualizing what I am going to do in various situations. So by the time I get to the race, I have already run through the race in a in a lot of different ways.  I feel like I am totally prepared and that gives me a lot of confidence going into a race like a marathon.

Coach: Who are some others with an approach you appreciate?

BG: Ryan Hall, because being his teammate and seeing what he went through in high school and college, to where he is now, that perseverance really says a lot about someone.  That is pretty awesome and I can take something away from it.  Everything is not always going to go perfectly, but if you stick with it, you can be one of the best in the world.  That has been a big piece of me keeping running after college.  It has worked out.  Seeing someone like Ryan go through what he has gone through has helped me feel like it could.

Also, Rod Dixon, the New Zealand 1500 meter guy, who won the New York City Marathon in 2:08.  I saw the video of the race and it was just the toughest I have ever seen anyone run.  I was like,  “Wow.  That is what it takes to be a great marathoner!”

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