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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.

CK_Sta_Cruz_Finished note:  Christine Kennedy is a recently joined FNF member with decades of top class distance running already under her belt.  She's won major marathons in the mid 2:30's, has been Irish National Champion, and has countless age group and age graded titles to her name.  This fall with the our help, she is hoping to again achieve a fast mark at October's St. George Marathon in Utah. 


This year's Boston Marathon was the reason I decided to seek out a coach and reach my goal.  I won my age division last year (2009) with a 2:46, and one would think I should be satisfied with the result.  However, I knew deep down that I could run faster and so promised myself that I would train like I did years ago.  This year, I got invited to run with the elites.  All I thought about was that I would not have to spend 2 hours in the cold before the event!  So, I did the mileage, and I planned that would race like I did in the past.

My experience at this year's Boston helped me realize that I if I wanted to break the age division record I needed to make changes in my training.  The elite ladies started 9:32 am, while rest of the field started at 10:00am, which meant that we had a small group of fast women and no other competitors to work with through the early miles.  When the 1st mile for me was 6:11 pace, I knew I was in trouble, even as I was third from last last.  My plan was to run 6:35 pace, but  this would have put me last of the elites and I had never experienced being in this position before.  Quickly, I realized that if I was to finish Boston, I would have to slow down and not look at the field disappearing in the distance.

When I got to Wellesley, I was shocked when the girls were screaming [a Boston Marathon tradition - the Wellesley students create a huge cheering section along the course around the mid point of the race].  I seriously thought there were was a group of cute guys behind me like the year before when I was pacing behind the Navy Guys. But, no they were cheering me on and it felt good.

There was a time when I could run with the best, but today I was on my own. I had trained by myself for this event and so I kept reminding myself you can do it.  I did slow down compared to the previous year when I was surrounded with other runners. Then, I felt the energy at 20 miles and I thought it was all downhill, but this time alone I saw all the hills.

" Know Thyself." To run effectively is to train with adequate information.  I realized I was not listening to what my body was trying to tell me. "Know Ourselves."  Get adequate information.  Become the best, otherwise someone else will control the pace.  These are some of the things I was able to reflect on after my experience this spring.

The time is always now.  My concern is the present, and there is no tomorrow!  This is the reason why I decided to take the risk and let you know what my goals are:  This year I will run St George Marathon October 2.  My goal is 2:52, knowing that someone believes in me (Coach Tom!). I also hope to help my club, Tamalpa, win the USATF National Club Cross Country in December [Charlotte, NC, December 11].  Next year, I hope to set the new 50+ age division Boston Marathon record currently held by Ann Roden (2:54:21). 

We all have big goals we hope to achieve, even myself despite being ranked 2nd among US Masters. But, I know need help to achieve my goals.   I found Focus-N-Fly and coach Tom McGlynn, and after just after one session I knew from my years of being with the best coaches in Europe that he could really be the one to help me achieve my aims.  I finally found someone who believes I can do it and I will.....

Personal Best:  Mental Strategies for Hard Workouts



It has been sitting on the schedule since you first looked a week or two ago.  Your first 10 or 20 miler, or the first time you are doing a tough track session more challenging than anything you have attempted to this point.  Or, maybe it is a workout or a run you have done before, but it didn’t go so well.  If one of the primary reasons we run is to enjoy ourselves, how do we find enjoyment in these seemingly daunting tasks?  Below are a few strategies for taking these challenges head on, not so you merely make it, but so you conquer and thrive.


US 5k champion Lauren Fleshman talks about some of these and others in our September Pro’s Perspective as well.  Read it here.

1. Remember that although this may be a first time for you, others have gone before you and have been successful.

Whether you are beginning your first training cycle with Focus-N-Fly or have been with us for 10 years, you can rest assured that every workout you’re given is based on what has worked for other runners.  It is exactly through these successful experiences of novice and experienced runners that we have built the system that is helping you now.  Know that your path has been trod before, that it is possible, and that it can be done.


2. Take one step at a time

One almost universally shared tip is to take a tough workout and break it down into manageable pieces.  Notice how both our beginning runner, Terri Wojtalewicz, and our experienced professional athlete, Lauren Fleshman, both talk specifically in their profiles about taking a long race one mile at a time or a hard workout one interval at a time.  You may not know if you can run 20 miles, but if it is on your schedule, you can be confident you can run a large percentage of it because it wouldn’t have been on your schedule otherwise.  So, say you know you can run 15 miles.  Beyond that, promise yourself you will run at least one more mile.  Focus on a task that will take several minutes vs. one that might take hours.   Conquer the one mile and celebrate it to yourself as you finish it.  Consider if you can focus again for one mile. Buoyed by the sense of accomplishment from the 16th mile, you might just be able to.  Before you know it, you’ll be at your goal distance and you will have built up a reservoir of confidence and positive self-talk that will be helpful for the next challenge.


3. Take as many variables out of the equation as possible.

No, you can’t control everything.  However, if you can set yourself up for a tough workout with food you know will work for you, and your “go to” shorts/ shirt/ socks, it may take one element of worry from your minds.  Find a routine by experimenting with fueling and clothing approaches on easy days, you so are confident in your choices on hard days, leaving your mental energy for the task itself.


4. Prepare in advance with the positive self-talk you are going to give yourself when you are in the thick of a tough day.

There will come a time when the run or the workout will require bigger than average effort.  What are the keys you will remind yourself of when that time comes?  Do your shoulders hunch and get tight when you are tired?  Plan in advance that you will try to relax your shoulders for 30 seconds at a time when that occurs.  Does your breathing get too shallow?  Tell yourself in advance that when it starts to go that direction, you will commit to several long and deep inhales to help get you back on track.  What are the types of encouragement from others that really have helped you succeed in running or in life generally?  Tough barking orders, or soothing positive words?  Prepare with these phrases already on tap to remind your body that you and your mind are in control and not the other way around.


5.  Decide if knowing the workout well in advance is helpful to you or not.

If you find that you get too stressed out thinking about a big one in the week leading up, but know that every week on a certain day that type of workout will occur, resist the urge to look ahead or forgo the weekly email for a time and instead look at it a day or two ahead just for logistical planning purposes.  You will know what type of effort is required (tempo run, track workout, long run), but you won’t have the time to build additional pressure on yourself.


6.  Create accountability and a reward. Enlist others.

 For many of you, just knowing you will return to the computer to log your workout is motivation enough to complete each day.  For some, you are able to train with others who can keep you buoyed even when the running isn’t coming as easily as you had hoped that day.  Others are training for a big goal with an emotional motivation, such as to honor a friend or family member, or to note one of life’s milestones.  If so, one strategy would be to create a visual reminder around the house to keep track of the steps or miles you are logging on the way to that goal, and use it as a positive motivation to keep you going as well as a reminder to those in your household to help keep you on track with encouragement, even if they know nothing about running.   Think of your training as a tower.  You want a tower that is a tall and as strong as possible, but one sub par day doesn’t mean the whole thing falls over, it just means you need to put that next block on there the next time out.


On a lighter note, it is ok to concede to the occasional treat as motivator, whether it is the espresso and pastry Lauren writes about, a meal at your favorite restaurant, or perhaps a pedicure for your marathon worn toes.  It need not cost anything, but if it is something you enjoy doing every once and a while, it might serve as a fun carrot for you as you travel toward the conclusion of your miles that day.


Remember, doing every single difficult workout to perfection doesn’t guarantee a perfect race, nor does missing one/ falling short a time or two necessarily mean you will not succeed.  What we are looking for is a field of data points, from which you can reasonably conclude you are prepared for the race. Every challenging day you complete allows you to strengthen the argument you are going to make for yourself on race day when the going gets tough, and oftentimes, those days although difficult, can also end up being the most memorable.





Lauren Fleshman is a 1999 Graduate of Canyon High School in the Santa Clarita Valley of Southern California.  While competing for Stanford from 1999-2003, she won five NCAA Individual titles, 15 All-American awards, and was ranked among the top 5000 meter runners in collegiate history.  As a professional competing for NIKE and the Oregon Track Club Elite, Lauren has competed for several US international teams, including the 2005 and 2007 IAAF World Championships in the 5000m and many IAAF World Cross Country squads.  She has been the US Champion in the 5000m on the track in 2006 and now in 2010, boasting a personal best of 14:58.48. 

After spending most of the previous two seasons recovering from foot surgery, Lauren is enjoying the tail end of a successful European track season, and took a few minutes to answer a few questions from us on how she preps for challenging workouts.  Like all of us, even a top pro has good days and bad days!  Hear what she has to say on the subject.....

Photo credit:  Sports Image Wire

Coach: What is the most difficult type of workout for you, both historically, and currently?  What is the easiest, or the one you most look forward to?

LF:  Fartleks with 3-5 min intervals are always the toughest mentally.  I hate them.  I have no clue how far or fast I'm going and I always worry I'm not working hard enough!  I love 8x 800m repeats.  Right when it starts to hurt, I get to stop, so its a no-stress workout.

Coach:  What is your favorite time of the year for workouts (base building, specific track workouts in the spring and summer, etc)?

LF: I love fall build up because its the time of year when I get to strip myself down as an athlete and start from scratch.

Coach: How do you approach those really challenging workouts on the day of, and has that changed since high school or college?

LF: In college, our tough sessions were in the afternoon, and two or three times per season, we knew a "big one" was coming up.  I'd anticipate it all week, getting pumped up and excited to go out and kill it.  Luckily I had classes all day to distract me or I would have over-thought it.  Now my coach schedules all our hard sessions for 10:30 in the morning.  I'm not a morning person, so this means I have to wake up at 7:00 just so I'm a half-way normal person by 10:30.  Once I'm fed and caffeinated, I'm usually full of excitement.  The only time I feel dread is when the session seems like it will be above my fitness level and I'm worried I'll fail; its tough to battle the nerves for those sessions, and I find myself having to work on relaxation techniques.

Coach:   Do you prefer to know your workouts well in advance or right as you arrive, or some combination?  Why do you think you have these preferences?

LF: I like to know the general type of workout, (tempo, long reps, short reps, etc) but I don't like to know the specifics (how far, fast, etc) until the last minute.  At Stanford, we always did this, and I think it prepared me to be ready for anything, but at the same time, relaxed.  These are the qualities you need to have for a successful race, so its good to practice that.  I've told my current coach that I prefer it that way, so that's how we roll.

Coach: Assuming you have some positive imagery or self-talk you use to get yourself through difficult work days, can you share some of these keys you either currently use or have used in the past?

LF: I try to take the pressure off, and focus on staying relaxed.  I tell myself, "Just do the best you can" and it relaxes me.  You only get tense when you think you won't be able to handle the session.  But if all you have to do is deliver your best effort, there is nothing to be worried about.  Sometimes though, I just don't feel like working hard and I want to can it.  That's when I remind myself that I'm lucky that I get to run, that I'm able bodied and have the time to do it.  I trick myself by breaking the workout down into bite-size pieces, giving myself the option to bail after a certain point.  For example, if I have 2x 4 mile tempo, I'll commit to one 4 mile tempo saying, "I'll do one four miler well, and see how I feel."  98% of the time, once I'm out there, I finish the whole thing.

Coach: What would be a piece of advice you might give to a novice runner who is a bit apprehensive about upcoming workouts that may be more difficult that they have ever done before?

LF: So often we can go through life on autopilot, but a hard session puts you right in the present moment.  You have to concentrate.  You have to engage, adjust, fight.  This is uncomfortable, but so rewarding.  Whenever you feel apprehensive, or have thoughts of doubt, change the conversation. You enjoy working hard, you enjoy doing this for yourself, you are fine tuning your machine inside and out...actions will follow your thoughts.

Coach: What rewards do you allow yourself or how do you congratulate yourself on a workout well done?
LF: A latte and a scone at my favorite bakery, preferably while in my sweaty running clothes, still euphoric from the session.


Terri Wojtalewicz

Terri is married to an Army Colonel who has been stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas for the past three years.  While he is on the road many times, taking various units through pre-deployment exercises, Terri takes care of things at home, including their three children, 18 (beginning college this fall), 10, and 8.   Terri grew up as the daughter of an Air Force officer, so is no stranger to the itinerant lifestyle of military families, living in England, Germany, Virginia, California, Alabama, and Nebraska along the way.  With all that moving as a young person, she got used to meeting new people, but is glad that with new technology, these moves no longer necessarily mean losing touch.

Terri is training for her first Army Ten-Miler, which will be the longest race she has ever attempted.


Coach: How did you start running?

TW: Many of my friends have been running.  I had always wanted to run, but never pursued it because I thought it was too hard, couldn’t run that distance, couldn’t keep up, etc.  My New Year’s resolution was to get back in shape, but figured, I’m 42 years old and need to do something that I can do even when I was 60 or 70 (which left out kickboxing and things like that).

I began with stationary bike and walking, and once I started doing that, I decided in March to try running on a treadmill.  Everybody said, “Go get fitted for a good pair of shoes,” but I didn’t listen,  and got shin splints and had all sorts of problems.  Finally, I went and got new shoes and that was the end of all the pain.

I decided to sign up for Army Ten-Miler.  I figured could do it one mile at a time, water station to water station.  You know, just go as fast as you can, doing my personal best each time.  If I cross the finish line under my own power, then I accomplished my own goal.  A lot of army spouses are running it, and we’re all meeting up in DC to run the Ten-Miler.  They have all gone to different (stations) since then, so it is nice to be meeting up with them.  I’ve run two 5ks and my first 10k [August 28].  Ft. Leavenworth is very hilly, right by the Missouri river.  There were a lot of really big hills in there.  I ran a pace of 13:11, and it was really fun.  My children were there at the end, and ran the last 100m with me.  I was like there was no way I can do this, but I saw them and next thing I knew I was jogging across the finish line.



Coach: Who is your running role model?

TW:  A few close friends of mine who are regular women, Army spouses who also have decided to pick up running and have seen that it is possible to just go out and do it, have fun, and not take it too seriously.

Also, one of those days where is was going to be 103-105 degrees, I was making excuses about going out to run that morning, and then came a woman running up the street in a full leg prosthesis, and I was like, I have no right to make any excuses at all!


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

TW: the 10k I just did, the fact that I was absolutely terrified to run it, that I was doubling my distance.  I know because I did that that I can do the Ten-Miler. It was kind of the roadblock that has been shattered.


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

TW: The schedule, and the blogs - being able to go in and see what other people are doing. For instance, there was something about taking a day of rest. Just taking that rest day seriously…I was like it can’t just be that simple!  I like how the system has the flexibility to work around your schedule. I’m going to keep it up after the Ten-Miler!


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 can’t think of anything other than saying a prayer about reaching the finish line.  Ok, well, I know I don’t wear cotton shirts.  I make sure that I am wearing my orange or my pink tech shirt.


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

TW:  Outside, around the golf course, in the shade of the trees.  I love running here on post.  There are all these trees, all this historical stuff. It keeps my mind off the running - looking around at all the beautiful scenery.  I don’t like going into the gym, it’s boring!


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

TW:  The biggest goal would be to increase my pace and just be able to run a 10k or a half marathon, run it the whole way without walking at any point during the race.  I’m not ashamed to stop and walk, though.  I sing that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer kids’ song about putting one foot in front of the other!  So my goal is just to complete it running.

Updated by Rosie Edwards

While not everyone can be the running equivalent of a Tour de France champion, dancing on your pedals as you climb the Alps and the Pyrenees with the ease of a mountain goat, we all will encounter hills in our running, and probably all could use a periodic refresher on how to get the most out of our efforts on the ascents.

With the climb or descent looming ahead, how should you prepare to for the challenge ahead? Read on for a few simple cues....

1.  The basics of general good running form almost all still apply.  Keep your arms at 90 degrees (click here to review our column on What To Do With Your Arms) and keep your shoulders low (not hunched) and square to the direction you are heading.  Keep your hands relaxed and swinging through your "pockets", and maintain tall posture.

2.  Don't lean too far into the hill on the ups or too far back on the downs.  Try to maintain a slight lean forward (long lean from the ankle, not the waist) both up and down, just as you would on the flats.  Leaning too far forward on the uphill restricts the ability of your knees to drive and can compromise your ability to maximize your inhales if you are hunched over.  Stay tall, open up your chest, and give your legs and lungs room to work.  On the downhills, braking yourself by leaning backward puts unnecessary stress on your muscles and joints, and often squanders a chance to make up ground in a race.  A little forward lean, when not on an area with dangerous footing, can help get you a couple seconds closer to that PR, and leave you a bit less sore the day after.

3. Concentrate on cadence.  Resist the urge to overstride on the downhills, and do your best just to maintain your rhythm on the uphills. Yes, you will be going faster than the flats on the downhills and slower than the flats on the uphills if you maintain a similar rhythm and effort level, but you will also most likely arrive at the top of the hill without wasting a bunch of energy for little advancement, and keeping your stride landing underneath your body on the downhills instead of in front will minimize excess pounding.

4.  Don't spend a lot of time on the ground.  Keep your feet pushing off of the ground quickly, just as you would on the flat. For those used to heelstriking on the flats, hills can be a valuable tool to build foot and calf strength as you land more on your midfoot than you might normally.  On the uphills, it should almost feel like your feet are striking the ground behind you.  On the downhills try (as we have discussed), to let your feet land underneath you so you do not have to wait to let your body travel over the top before pushing off again.

5.  Look ahead.  Sure, it is tempting to look at your feet and make sure your legs are doing what we have just been talking about, but looking several steps ahead will help you anticipate any undulations in the hill ahead, any poor footing areas requiring caution, and will keep your posture tall (more air in the lungs!)  and your arms at the right angles.  

This fall, may you approach every hill with anticipation and crest the top with satisfaction! 

Have a suggestion for next month's Personal Best?  Email it to us at









Jonathan Penn Ironman Vineman

Jonathan Penn

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1957, Jon attended Long Island’s Massapequa High before graduating from SUNY Albany and University of Michigan’s law school.  After a sojourn to Boulder during the mid-eighties, Jon returned to New York, and eventually came to California in 1989 at which point he immediately decided he would never want to live anywhere else.  A self –described “patent geek,” Jon has been practicing intellectual property law for 25 years.

A veteran of many marathons and a long time FNF’er (read on below), Jon is competing in the Full Vineman Triathlon (his first Ironman) on Saturday, July 31, in an effort to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society.  Jon has definitely brought a unique element of creativity to the familiar endurance event fundraising efforts (in which many FNF’ers have participated through the years), and with a week out, is $600 shy of his ultimate goal of $10,000 raised.   His Team in Training page is found here. 

Training for Grandma’s

Under coach Tom’s guidance, I’ve completed a tough training cycle and am beginning the taper for Grandma’s marathon in on June 19th.  To answer the questions I get most often, 1) it’s in Duluth, MN, 2) because that was the time of year that worked for when I could train for and run a marathon (after a March vacation in Egypt)., and 3) yes, it can be hot, but that’s my best chance at decent weather. (People who know Minnesota also mention insects, which is a bit of a worry.)

I live in a Boston suburb and have run (pause to count) 15 marathons, 11 of them as a member of Focus-n-Fly.

Michael GalbusA Middletown, Delaware resident for over a decade, Michael has been married since 1993 to his wife Crystal, and has three kids: Connor, Carter, and Madelyn. Michael is Vice President of Operations at Zodiac Aerospace, where his division makes concrete placed at the end of runways in order to stop airplanes which have failed to slow. Michael grew up in Salisbury, Maryland about 90 miles away, before attending college at the University of Delaware.

A lymphoma survivor, Michael ran his first marathon with Team in Training at the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona. At the recent Delaware Marathon after training with FNF, he finished in 3:19:54 to earn himself a spot in next year’s Boston Marathon. Michael has also enjoyed the tremendous support of the Middletown Athletic Club, of which five members hit the Boston mark that day.

At 32, local marathoner Peter Gilmore has already compiled an enviable list of accomplishments for any professional runner, and as he heads towards Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth, MN) on June 20, he is looking forward to the opportunity to add another outstanding accolade to his résumé.   Gilmore is a San Mateo resident and Cal graduate whose best NCAA Championships finish in college was a 91st place result at the 1999 NCAA Cross Country Meet.   He is sponsored by and advised in his training by Jack Daniels, PhD.

The Palo Alto area has had a long tradition of hosting top distance runners for training.  Kate is one of the most recent additions to this list, having lived here part time since 2006.  A Milton, Massachusetts native and 2003 Yale grad, Kate is an identical twin to fellow All-American and former World Cross Country Championships team member Laura O’Neill, and was a 2004 Olympian in the 10,000 meters (qualifying with an Olympic A Standard performance at the 2004 Cardinal Invitational).   Despite an untimely injury before the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials, Kate has enjoyed great success in her young marathon career, including a third place finish in the 2007 La Salle Bank (now Bank of America) Chicago Marathon (the hot one).  She is currently preparing for the Flora London Marathon on April 26th, tuning up with a 10,000 meter victory at the 2009 Stanford Track & Field Invitational on March 27th.

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