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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.

October 30, 2011

Malindi Elmore

Malindi_3Malindi Elmore has been one of Canada's top middle distance runners for more than a decade.  She enjoyed a successful junior career where she was the top-ranked under 20 1500m runner above the border for three straight years and competed on the world stage in the Junior World Cross Country Championships and Junior Pan-American Games. Malindi then springboarded to the pros from a Stanford career in which her last race was a school record in her favored distance. 

After medaling in the 2003 World University Games and and earning fourth at the 2003 Pan-Am Games, she successfully qualified for the 2004 Olympics in Athens with a win at the Canadian Olympic Trials.  After some ups and downs with injuries that left her tantalizingly close to Beijing qualification in 2008, she is rolling again toward London, recently earning bronze with a hectic sprint finish at the 2011 Pan-Am Games in Mexico. 

Read on to find out about this professional athlete to watch!

Coach: How did you get your start in running and racing as a young athlete?

ME: I always loved running, even before I was into organized racing.  My sister and I were always setting up races and even as a six year old kid I used to have my parents time me while I ran to the mailbox and back.  In elementary school I joined the cross country team - which of course was very casual and we only a couple races a year. In grade 8, my high school coach (and my current coach!) dropped by one of my field hockey games to invite me to join the high school cross country team; however, I found team sports more enjoyable so I decided only to race and to skip training.  By grade 9 I was more committed to running and realized that I might have to train if I wanted to improve and meet my goals.  It paid off that year when I won BC High School Cross Country Championships and set major track personal bests (4:26/2:09) and around that time I started to realize that I was probably better at running than at team sports so I started to focus a bit more on my running.  It was about at this age that I decided I wanted to run for Canada and be on the Olympic team one day. I still kept up other sports until I graduated high school, which I think it helped me keep a balance and make sure that I developed as a strong all around athlete.

Coach: In what ways is the Canadian youth / school system different than the US and how do you feel that helped your development?

ME: The Canadian system is much more "club" focused - while I competed for my high school in certain meets, I trained with a club coach and all the kids in the city irrespective of high school affiliation.  Our club coaches are trained through the Canadian Coaching Association, which offers certification at various levels of coaching depending on the sport and type of athlete (recreation, development, high performance etc). The Canadian system is focussed on the LTAD model (Long Term Athlete Development) which is a big picture approach to developing young athletes so that they do not train too hard too soon.  The LTAD puts emphasis on skill development and speed at an earlier age and is not as focussed on high mileage since the idea is that the aerobic capacity can be trained over years but speed is critical component of long term success in running.  The LTAD model also encourages younger athletes to participate in a variety of sports and events before specializing. As a high school athlete, I did not do significant mileage and focused more on quality track work; over the years I have been able to gradually increase my mileage and aerobic capacity while still keeping my basic high school speed - actually I think I was faster over 400m in high school! However with my aerobic training I can now run almost as fast as a flat 400m in high school as I can in my last lap of a race.

Coach: You have been an experienced competitor at a world class level for many years now.  What is your specific focus as you begin the training process for the 2012 Olympic year?

ME: My focus over the next ten months will be to remain healthy, motivated, and consistent as I train for the London 2012 Games.  Over the years I have learned that there are always ups and downs, but everything is shaping up to be a great year for me.  While I will probably run a few early season 5000m races, my goal will be to qualify for the 1500m at London and be a finalist at the Games. I really love the tactics and distance of the1500m and the fact that every race is different - I think I am addicted to figuring out how to "master" the race!  The 1500m is the ultimate game of strategy with a high level of fitness and speed.  I would also like to work a bit more on my speed this year, as with a finicky injury over the past few years (navicular bone in foot) I was not able to do as much 800m work as it hurt my foot. So, I am excited about getting a bit faster because the 1500m often ends up being a sprint finish.

Coach: At various times, you have worked in urban planning and related fields outside of your athletic experience while maintaining your pro athletic career.  Now you are involved with some community programming and other projects with a more direct tie to running.  How have those projects evolved and what are your goals as you get things off the ground?

ME: I love having a few projects on the go outside of running. If I only have running to focus on, I go a bit crazy. It is great to have a creative and intellectual outlet for the hours between workouts - and many of my best ideas come on my runs.  I have always been in school or worked part time in urban planning.  Lately I have been getting more involved in my local community running scene.  Since I do approximately 100% of my training on my own (my coach does not even live in my city!)  I crave running company!  And regardless of goals and abilities, runners are largely cut from the same cloth - we share a passion for being the sport and challenging ourselves.  I think we all crave "community" and a sense of belonging to something larger than oneself and that as something I really miss about not being on a team or in a training group so I am trying to create that at home through my clinics and seminars.  And as I have been so fortunate to learn from some of the world's experts in areas of sport science, nutrition, physiology etc, it is nice to be able to share some of my knowledge and experiences from the years with a wider audience.

Working with my local runners/triathletes has made me really excited about evolving into a coaching or leadership role after I am done my competitive running.  Ultimately I would love to host camps and to create more "high performance" environments for athletes of all abilities, regardless of their ultimate goals (ie. focus on personal bests and improvements).  My dream of dreams would be to buy nice big property and build a 25 metre pool, with a gym and facilities and yurts for glam-camping so we can train athletes for running and triathlon right from our home - I might need to win a lottery first but it would be so awesome!

Coach: Who have been some of your athletic role-models or individuals who have made a big impact on the trajectory of your career?

ME: My role model growing up was Leah Pells who was Canada's top 1500m runner for years. She inspired me to realize that small town Canadian girls can run with the best girls in the world.  She was always so supportive and encouraging to me through the years and was a great role model and "go to" for me.  It is crazy for me to realize that I have been on the circuit so long that I am now the "mature" runner on the Canadian scene!

The biggest impact on the trajectory of my career has been my coach, Mike Van Tighem, who has been a big part of my running since I joined the Kelowna Track and Field Club in 1993.  We have been so much together and so many ups and downs that we are now more of a partnership than just coach-athlete.  I always felt that an athlete should receive two medals - one for themselves and one for their coach because they put so much time, energy and passion into getting us to the podium - Mike is no exception and I am eternally grateful to what he has done to help me get to this point of my running career.

Coach: If you weren't a professional runner, how do you think you would channel all that energy?

ME: I think being an athlete is in my blood and I can't imagine not channeling my energy into a physical and competitive outlet.  I think I was destined to be an athlete in an endurance sport because as long as I can remember I have been addicted to racing and pushing myself in sports (cycling, skiing, skating).  Right now I am really excited about pursuing triathlon when I am done with my competitive track racing.  Obviously, it is a very different sport from 1500m racing but I have done two Olympic distance triathlons (won Amateur Nationals this year) so I am really excited to see what I can do if I actually train for swimming and cycling. I do, however, have a long way to go in swimming but I am looking forward to a new athletic challenge and one that hopefully will have a steep learning curve!

Coach: What are some of your top tips for recreational athletes just beginning to discover running as a pastime?

ME: I think developing a love of running is the most important part of being a runner. Sometimes this takes a bit of time to develop because running is hard and it can take a while until it feels natural, but it is worth pursuing.  Once you can get in tune to your own running rhythm, moving through space in such a basic and primitive way is exhilarating.   It is only you, your lungs and legs that propel you either fast or slow, up hills, down hills and through all the elements of the seasons.   I would encourage new runners to embrace the feeling - the pain and the challenge of running - as an opportunity to feel alive and in the moment.   Running can be social or it can be immensely private and I never feel as energized as when I am out exploring the world on my own two feet.  No matter how frustrated or high I am with my competitions, I always comes back to my love of running; I think this is what connects runners of all abilities and it would be my advice for new runners too!
hammie_croppedThis month in Ask the Practitioner, we inquired about high hamstring tendinopathy with Renee Songer, Clinical Director of Agile Physical Therapy. 

Read on to find out more about one of the most common injury problems among runners.

Coach:  What is high hamstring tendinopathy? 

RS: Tendons connect muscle to bone. Tendinopathy is a degenerative condition of the tendon structure. High hamstring tendinopathy is a degeneration of the hamstring tendon at it's insertion near the buttock region.

Coach: What are the primary symptoms of this injury?

RS: Primary symptoms include local pain at the top of the hamstring. Often these injuries can be painful to the touch, painful with stretching and painful with forceful muscle contraction.

While running you may feel the pain as you are pushing off the back foot or as the leg is swinging forward.

A quick test is a Reverse Plank (see picture). Pain or weakness compared to your non-injured leg indicates possible problems with hamstring tendon.


Coach: What are some tips for addressing these symptoms or preventing their onset?
RS: If you see bruising in the hamstring it is best to get in to see your physical therapist or physician to assess the severity of the damage.

If you feel pain in this area acutely, it is often best to rest and ice for the first 24 hours. If pain allows, gently stretch the area and working on a foam roll or massage can help. Slowly return to activity over the next week avoiding activities that cause pain. If pain persists beyond a week see your physical therapist or physician to assess the problem.

This type of injury can also start with a gradual onset as a localized buttock ache, first noticed after a workout and with sitting on harder surfaces.

To prevent high hamstring tendonopathy make sure your glute muscles are strong through a full range of motion. Often we tend to avoid the last 20 degrees of hip extension (straightening) with exercise but we need it to be strong for running. Bowing, single leg bridge, and single leg curtsy squats are excellent exercises to maintain adequate glute strength for running.

Curtsy Video Version I

Curtsy Video Version II

Nahir_croppedNahir Dedmon

Runner of the Month - October 2011


Nahir Dedmon is originally from Venezuela, although she has lived in Houston for 10 years.  She has three kids: an 18 year old boy, a 10 year old boy, and a 16 year old girl at Cypress Creek High School. Nahir works for Abasco, a manufacturer of oil boom for spills, such as the Gulf of Mexico spill last year.  Currently, she is training for the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, which she believes will be her 30th distance race!

FNF: How did you start running?

ND:  When my daughter was in first grade.  I liked to run as a teenager in Venezuela, but quit and went to the gym.  In second grade, my daughter showed interest in doing a track club.   I would sit in the bleachers, and it was pretty boring.  I started running 2-3 laps during practice, and one day a lady suggested I run a 5k.  It took me 45 minutes, and now my best time is 29 minutes.  I got hooked and did a few marathons before I got an injury that put me out for a while.  Now, I have close to 30 races in total since 2005.  It is part of my life.  Like I tell my kids and my husband, it is the only thing I do for myself.  I get up four times per week at 4am and go for a run with the foxes and possums.

FNF: Who is your running role model?

ND:  Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher. I read their stories and I admire them.

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

ND:  When I did the first full marathon – crossing the finish line.  That was indescribable.  I wasn’t placing or getting a prize or anything, but it was an amazing feeling.  I did the 5K the first year and then the second year I did the half, and then the Houston marathon in 2007.  Now my daughter is running half marathons with me.  She ran her first one in 2008 in Dallas and even got third place in her age group.

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

ND:  I like that you make me dependable.  I can go back and log in what I have done and can go back and see what I have accomplished.  I can train for a 10K, a half marathon, or a full marathon, and you proportion the time to train accordingly.  If I have a question, I can send an email and get a response right away, or if I am injured, I can change my schedule.


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

ND:  I lay out everything the night before, on the nightstand, and if my daughter is running with me I make her do the same thing. Before the race, I eat a half a banana and cereal.  Before, when I started, I used to eat two sandwiches and a glass of milk.  Now, we keep it simple, just a couple of gels.   Sometimes I have terrible dreams though – it is really hard to sleep.  If it is too cold, I have a big black garbage bag I wear. My husband says, “Are you really getting in the car like that?”

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

ND:  I love Terry Hershey Park, and in Dallas, the Greenbelt park in the Carrolton area. It gives me a little bit of hills.


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

ND:  Get back in shape where I can hopefully complete a full marathon and be injury free.  I’m running the Houston half in January.  I’m kind of testing myself – I have a deadline for when you can switch races.  It has been hard to do the pace runs, but I would like to go back to the full marathon, but I don’t know if I will do it by this year.  I also want to do 2 or 3 RnR marathons so I can get my Heavy Medal Bling.



Personal Best - October 2011

Race Weekend Tips for Friends and Family

Every athlete must marshal the vast majority of effort needed to accomplish a big goal race.  However, many runners and walkers who embark on an ambitious training season must rely also on the help and support of family and friends.  Whether providing rides, fluid support, space in the family calendar, or just emotional support, oftentimes these individual can be difference makers, especially since they are often the motivation for the individual to keep trucking when things get tough on race day.


While athletes get a great deal of advice and tips on how to manage their training and race, friends and family can be left empty handed when wondering how best to support their runner or walker.


Here’s a road map for every support person or team to take into consideration (since we wrote it – you don’t have to feel selfish about handing it out)!


Designate a czar of logistics

One common situation is that the decision for a large group of friends and family to come to the race creates additional stress for the athlete.  Everyone definitely means well, but numerous calls to ask about where to stay, when they can visit with the athlete, where they should watch on the course, and so forth, can increase the perceived pressure when nervousness may already exist.  Designate a family member who will serve as the traffic cop for this type of planning, someone who will coordinate flights and airport trips, hotel stays, dinner reservations, and various rendezvous with all those who wish to be included.  This person should be well versed in the details available on the race website for the course, the expo, and the post-race reunion area.  If a new person pops up who wants to support the athlete, the athlete can then confidently connect them with the logistics czar, who can walk them through the plans already in place.


Consider the Athlete

It is not uncommon for friends and family contingents to begin to build a life of their own as race day approaches.  Interest in various sight seeing expeditions, brunch or dinner locations, matching t-shirts, expo shopping trips, and more ideas may continue to grow and expand.   There is absolutely nothing wrong with making plans that don’t include the athlete, respecting the runner’s need for rest and calm before (and rest and recovery after) the race.  However, keep in mind the race that your runner has trained for and the needs they have in final preparation.  For example, if everyone wants to eat dinner at 9pm at an exotic restaurant, but the athlete expresses a desire to eat simple pasta at 5pm and go to bed early, consider compromises and alternatives (such as having one person from the group have dinner early with the athlete).  Race weekend isn’t a democracy; it is a narrowly focused time period with one specific and very demanding aim..  Be proactive, and ensure the physical and psychological needs of the competitor are paramount.



Determine a simple post-race plan, including a fall back plan if things haven’t gone well

At smaller races, athletes are easy to connect with after they finish.  However, at many large races, the post-finish process can be very crowded, and may take some time.  Cell phones have been left at home, at the hotel, or in the race baggage, so old-fashioned methods of communication must be relied upon.   Races often offer reunion areas, but it may make sense to pick an alternate landmark or process to find each other as the reunion areas may be clogged.  Friends and family need to be patient with post-race logistics.  Oftentimes races require a lengthy cool down area, and the competitor may not feel especially perky after running a 10, 13 or 26-mile race. If more than one person is racing, they may also want to greet each other within the finish area before heading out.  Determine a plan for reunion if things go as planned, and an option if things do not.  The runner should have a plan if forced to withdraw mid-race (read the race materials), and the czar of logistics should be well versed in this process as well.  The same goes for brunch, lunch, dinner or whatever is the first item of business after the race.  Consider that the athlete may not be in a position to eat a large meal, walk a long distance, or sit in the car for an hour.  Try to plan accordingly and be prepared to be flexible.


Marshal the energy of the support group into loud and visible demonstrations of support

Make a plan to provide an inspirational boost to the competitor or competitors in the race.  Large signs, strategic course placement, and clear visibility can be a huge boost, but require an organized plan to account for pacing and transportation variability.  Don’t miss out!  Think through how the group will get from point to point and how the problems that might occur can be addressed.  HOWEVER, again also consider the athlete’s needs.  Should they prefer a lower-key approach, respect their wishes and support as requested.  It is their day!


Race weekend can be an intense, but significant and memorable weekend on many levels.  Everyone involved wants to provide support, but the greatest energy must be saved for the actual task itself.  Keep that focus in mind at all times, and hopefully your athlete can look forward to a happy and unified reunion when the finisher’s medal has been finally placed around their neck.

September 27, 2011

Kim Conley

Conley_tuftsCurrently balancing a pro athletic career and assistant coaching duties at her alma mater, UC Davis, Kim Conley is a young elite athlete in the midst of a breakthrough year.  In February, she earned selection to Team USA for the NACAC (North American, Central American, and Caribbean) Cross Country Championships with an 8th place finish at the USATF Championships.  With personal bests of 4:11 (1500m) and 15:38 (5000m) set just this year on the track, Kim has come on even stronger in the summer, gaining top 5 honors at the Falmouth Road Race and nearly winning the national road 5K championships last week.  Deep in the heart of Davis Aggie cross country season, we catch up with Kim as she preps for this month's Pan-Am Games and continues to establish herself as one to watch for 2012.

FNF: Congrats on your runner-up finish at the 2011 USATF Road 5K Championships at the CVS Caremark 5K in Providence, Rhode Island.  How did that race play out from your perspective?

KC:  The race went out a little harder than I expected and strung out very quickly. I had gone in with a goal of winning, so I gave chase after Julie Culley took an early lead, but I was never able to close the gap she put on me in that first mile. Overall I am still happy with the result. 2nd place in my highest finish at a national championship event, so its a very good step forward for me.

FNF: You've had a period of steady improvement as a post-collegiate athlete since graduation.  What have been the key factors / adjustments in your training that have led to these breakthroughs?

KC: The key factor has really just been consistency in training. I've been fortunate enough to not encounter too many set backs and I've been able to build weeks, months, and years of progressive training now.

FNF:  Who have been the major influences on your running career so far and why?

KC: My coach, Drew Wartenburg, is definitely the biggest influence on my running career, especially at this level. When I graduated from UC Davis my 5k pr was 16:17. It was kind of a gray area in terms of whether or not it made sense to continue pursuing competitive running with a time like that. We both knew I had a lot more in me, but I was also a long way off from being the type of athlete that would secure at shoe contract and truly be able to earn a living running.  I was balancing that with the normal "graduation pressure" of feeling like I should be going to grad school or having some kind of set plan for my future. It took a while, but eventually he helped me to realize that running at the next level was not only something I could do, but needed to do for myself. Now looking back, I'm so grateful he pushed me in this direction and set up a great environment at UC Davis where I can be a coach and a high level athlete.

FNF: You've been fortunate to grow up and attend college all in a relatively small geographical area.  How have the Santa Rosa and Davis communities served as productive backdrops for your running?

KC: I've been lucky to have spent my life surrounded by people who are highly invested in running. In Santa Rosa I spent a lot of time outside the high school setting running with the Empire Runners. I had several coaches in high school, but all of them were friends through this running club which allowed for some continuity and kept me connected to all of them. They are all still good friends that I keep in touch with regularly. I touched on it in the previous question, but UC Davis has been wonderful in allowing me to coach here and balance that with pursuing my own running objectives. Furthermore, the Sacramento Running Association is starting an elite team to help support post-collegiate athletes in the area. I am very happy with the situation I have right now. I'm close to home, the training in Sacramento is great, and I love coaching at UC Davis.

FNF: Does 2012 include some significant aspirations at 10K or even longer distances?  Or, do performances like your 1500m PR this year encourage you about your near term future at 5K and below?

KC: My focus for 2012 will be primarily on the 5k, but I definitely plan to run a 10k and some 1500s as well. I feel like I have a little bit more development to do in the 1500 which I think in the long run will make me a more competitive athlete in the 5k, 10k and on up.

FNF: Including and beyond the 2012 Olympic Trials next June, what are your goals for the next couple years?

KC: In a general sense, my goal is to continue rising on the elite level. Eventually I want to win a national championship on the roads and be on the podium on the track. I will probably begin to dabble with the marathon in 2013 or 2014 which is something I am also really looking forward to.
August 31, 2011

Garrett Heath

570699_MtKykPVADTHlBevXEPII_fwGarrett Heath runs professionally for Saucony and is an Olympic hopeful in the 1500 meters.  With personal bests of 3:37 in the 1500 and 3:55 in the mile, he is among the sizable group of American men's middle distance runners who have the ability to make the metric mile one of the most interesting events at next June's Trials. 

Garrett is a Winona, Minnesota native, where he graduated from Hopkins High. He and his younger brother Eliott (2011 NCAA Indoor 3K Champion) both attended Stanford, where Garrett earned several All-American awards, currently serves as a volunteer assistant coach, and is enrolled as a PhD candidate in the Stanford Technology Ventures Program in the Management Science and Engineering Department.

As a professional runner, you've primarily focused on the mile, although you have had very good performances at 5K in the past. Most people go up in distance, so how have you decided to zero in on the 1500m at this point in your career?

I’ve really been focused on the 1500m since my junior year in college.  Prior to that I had always been a longer distance guy and considered myself more of a cross country runner than anything else.  During my sophomore year I got injured in outdoor track and had a horrible finish to the year at regionals in the 5k after trying to make a late come back.  I had always wanted to try some of the middle distance stuff, so that next year I convinced my coach to let me give the mile a shot indoors since a couple legs on the DMR the year before had gone pretty well for me.  After having a solid year in both the mile and DMR that year indoors, he decided to let me keep going with it outdoors and I’ve never really gone back to the longer stuff.  That being said, I’ve had a few shots at both the 3k and 5k at Cardinal Invite and over in europe the past few years, and I’ve really enjoyed the change in pace and switching things up for a race or two.  At this point, I feel most comfortable sticking with the 1500m as my main focus at least through the Olympic year, but a lot of my training is still distance based, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I started transitioning back into some more 5k and distance races the following year.

2.  As a high school athlete, you did other endurance sports.   How do you feel that has helped your running career?

I think cross training in general has been a huge asset for me and really contributed to what I have been able to do in both high school and college over the years.  Besides running cross country and track in high school, I also focused exclusively on cross country skiing in the winter and supplemented a lot of my summer running training with biking.  Although both of those activities have continually become a lesser part of my training over the years as I have become more serious with running, I believe they both helped provide me with much of my initial aerobic base that I could then use to build on with more specific running training.  Beyond that, the cross training not only gave me a mental break from always running, but it also allowed me to stay healthy by taking some of the stress that comes with the pounding of running off my legs.  I still use biking as a way to progress back into training and get some more hours of base training in early in my training cycle.  This really helps provide a solid foundation to build on the rest of the season for me.

3.  Unlike many pro athletes, you have chosen to continue along your other career path, studying for your PhD as a candidate in the Stanford Technology Ventures Program in the Management Science and Engineering Department.  Up to this point, how have those graduate study experiences impacted your running and vice versa?

Although the being apart of the graduate program definitely adds another level of intensity to the amount of work that you have to do every day, I have really found it to be a nice complement to running.  Most importantly for me, school has allowed me to take some of the pressure off focusing exclusively on one activity.  That way, if running isn’t going well or if I’m trying to battle through an injury, I can fall back on the school a little bit to help take my mind off the obstacles that I may be facing in running at the time.  This has worked the other way around as well.  Beyond that, graduate school has helped force me stay focused and maintain a more structured schedule in order to be efficient enough to have time to both run and finish my school work.  Overall, even though it’s been tough work at times, the school and running have really provided a good balance for me these past few years.

That being said, I’ve decided to take this next year off from the PhD program in order to focus all of my energy into running and the Olympic trials this next year.  With this, taking a year off is mainly a product of wanting to make sure that I do everything I can to get better this year.  Probably the hardest part of the PhD this past year has been that there are occasionally some of the extra drills and core that I have had to sacrifice when I have a big paper or project due for school.  I’m also hoping to do some altitude training this fall and winter, which would have been much harder if I was still in school.  The 2nd year is also an important year for the Phd, so I wanted to make sure that I had enough energy to devote to that as well and decided that would be hard to do this year.

4.  Your brother has developed into a tremendous runner in his own right.  What advice have you given him, and what have you learned from watching his growth?

It been extremely exciting these last few years watching him progress.  More than anything it’s been a lot of fun being able to train with him and push each other in workouts along the way.  While I can help him with some of the speed stuff and help him work on his kick, he’s a bit more of a distance guy than I am and has really been able to help me work on my endurance these past few years.  Beyond that, just having one another to train with year round has been great.  In terms of giving him advice, we already both think very much alike, so it’s been a lot less giving him advice than just debating and talking through situations with him.  Back when he was in high school, I tried to provide him with a bit more guidance, but since settling into college training he’s probably given me with almost as much as advice as I’ve given him.  Since we’re a lot alike in what works well in training for us, watching him develop has also helped me discover some new aspects of training that I can use to help to improve my fitness as well.

5.  This month, we are talking to our athletes about tapering for their goal races.  What have you learned about tapering for championships races?  What has been a key to staying fresh and ready when the big race rolls around?

I think more than anything, tapering is helpful in mentally preparing for a championship race.  Feeling good going into a big race can help build some confidence and really let you know that you’re ready to go.  Beyond that though, I’ve found that the actual act of lowering my miles substantially or getting too caught up in routines leading into a big race isn’t necessarily as important as I may have one time thought.
Most recently, I’ve really found that traditional tapering hasn’t necessarily been an important aspect of staying fresh for me as much as just making sure that I feel mentally ready and comfortable with what I’m doing.  I’ve had some of my best races when I’ve been in the heart of my training or when everything seems to be going wrong leading into a race (this can be especially prone to happening when racing over in Europe).  I think it really comes down to knowing your body and what works best for you.  I’ve seen a lot of runners feel great off cutting their mileage in half the last few weeks leading into a race and others who have their best races off running 100 mile weeks like they have been doing all year.  Personally for me, I feel the best dropping my mileage by about 20-25% leading into a championship race and really just focusing on getting a lot of sleep the week leading into the race.  Beyond that, just eating a good diet and being confident that I’ve done everything I can to prepare myself for the race are probably most helpful things for me at that point.

6.  What are some of your goals for the next year or two, and what races do you have lined up for the fall?

Obviously the Olympics are the biggest event on my radar right now.  Really everything else is just preparing for that right now.  The first big goal in terms of preparing for the Olympic Trials is hitting the A-standard.  Without that heading into the trials, you don’t have much of a chance of making the team.  The times to qualify have dropped significantly over these past few years, but I feel like I’m ready to drop a few seconds off my pr and definitely capable of hitting the time given the right situation.  I just finished up my European season about two weeks ago and have two road races left this fall before taking a little time off and starting to get ready for next year.  I’m heading out to Hawaii on September 17th for a road mile there and then am finishing up with the 5th Avenue road mile in New York on the 24th of September.  That one usually has a lot of the best milers in the US at it and is a good final chance to test yourself before heading into the off season.

April 01, 2021

The Taper


Updated by Rosie Edwards

One of the most important, but often overlooked, components of training for a goal race is the taper.  The hard work has been accomplished and all that remains is to rest and sharpen up. Confidently easing off the gas pedal and arriving prepared, yet rested at the starting line is a crucial component to racing success.  Here are a few things to consider when race day is in sight, but still a couple weeks away.


You don’t have to push hard all the way up to race day in order to preserve your hard-earned fitness.

Just as it is important to heed the scheduled call for recovery days in your regular training, the last 2-3 weeks of a half or full marathon training cycle is a singular opportunity to allow your body to be as rested as possible before going to the well on the big day.   While there have likely been times where you have had to push yourself to finish the last few miles of a long run or get out of bed when a hard session is on the schedule, enjoy the reduction of miles over these last couple weeks, reminding yourself that you have the physical ability to go farther and the mental confidence from those workouts that will carry you through on race day.


The last few weeks are a great opportunity to focus on healthy living as you prep for your race.

If it is difficult to keep your sleep habits as you would wish for months at a time, this is an opportunity to get maximum impact from a few weeks of slightly increased sleep.  Likewise, you can make a difference with a few weeks of healthier eating habits.


Many of us have too many obligations and commitments to live a daily life with the healthy habits we’d hope for, but many of us (and our families) can get on board for a few weeks as enthusiasm builds for race day.  Maximize the rest you are getting from shorter workouts with an extra half hour of sleep per night and increased hydration and healthy food choices.  This will allow you to arrive at race weekend without feeling the needing to cram hydration and nutrition concerns into a two day period when that may not provide the advantage you seek.

Keep your body in the training rhythm to which you are accustomed.

Tapering doesn’t mean change everything. What it does allow you to do is keep your body and mind focused while requiring less strain and allowing for more recovery.  Your training schedule will follow a similar pattern with slightly easier tasks.   Continue to take your workouts as seriously and resist the urge to over schedule your life now that you may have a bit more time to play with than in the last few weeks.  For example, continue to allow time for the stretching you were so diligent about when the workouts were really tough, instead of dashing off in the car now that the workout wasn’t as taxing.


As your body will require less fueling to accomplish these workouts, the temptation may be to continue eating as though your long runs are still at maximum length.  Consider your current fuel needs and adjust accordingly to allow yourself to maintain the spring in your step you are trying to gain by backing off the volume.


Use the taper to make final race day plans

The taper is a great time to break in the fresh pair of shoes you plan to use on race day.  This will allow you to make sure you are past any risk of blisters or other problems, but won’t put that much wear on the shoes before you need them to really go to work.  Similarly, consider your race day attire, pre-race food consumption, and mid race fueling.  While your workouts are a bit easier, you can let yourself make final experimentations with these things to ensure you aren’t showing up to race day doing something for the very first time.


Don’t worry if you feel “flat” during your taper

Feeling a bit sluggish even while you are doing easier workouts can be a function of many things, but is quite common with recreational or pro runners alike.  If you continue the good habits you have tried to implement throughout the training cycle, be mindful of your relative consumption as your volume decreases, and follow your schedule, you take confidence that you have done what you can.  Yes, your body is used to a different level of activity and that may leave you feeling a bit off.  This is why it is important to maintain a similar training rhythm so you can keep your body doing familiar tasks.  Once the gun goes off, your months of training won’t betray you, and next time, you’ll recognize that flat feeling if it occurs and be even more confident.


August 30, 2011

Carling Uhler

Carling_croppedCarling hails from Maryland, and still currently lives in the DC area. She attended school at Salisbury University, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where she studied psychology. After graduation, she began working for the government and continues to work for the Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Inspired by her work to sign up for the Army Ten Miler, she is hoping for a fun and challenging race on October 9.  A huge fan of the Washington Redskins and Capitals, Carling has a younger sister who is a theater intern, in Florida, and her parents still reside in the DC area. 

Coach: How did you start running?

CU: I started running after signing up for the Army Ten Miler race. I attempted to train for the race last year, but lost motivation. This year, I knew that I had to train and complete the race (as to not disgrace myself 2 years in a row haha), so I began training after signing up for the race and FNF.

Coach: Who is your running role model?

CU: My running role models are the volunteers at the Back on My Feet organization. The time, motivation, and encouragement that they give to the organization is inspiring. They've taken doing what they love as an opportunity to share the positives of running and they help show others how to achieve goals, running or otherwise.

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

CU: My most memorable running moment was running an 8-mile training run in England. It was the furthest and longest time that I'd run and I was in England, running through the countryside with my motivating boyfriend by my side. It was a great opportunity to see the country from a different perspective.

Coach: What have you enjoyed about working with us?

CU: I've enjoyed the daily regimen and structure of the FNF program. I keep the schedule up at my work desk and it helps me get motivated for my runs and workouts. I like the variety of the work outs and the ease of being able to do it yourself, without much explanation. Mostly, I've enjoyed the personal contact I've gotten from staff members, whether it be enquiries, training modification, or motivation! I started the program a couple of months ago with, literally, NO running experience and now I feel confident in running the ATM. I like how FNF tailors the training program to your experience, strength, and whether you're running for a time or not.


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

CU: One thing I'm definitely planning AND looking forward to before the race is the pasta dinner. I love pasta, and running has certainly given me a good excuse to eat it. I'm looking forward to the communal race atmosphere and the excitement of everyone there.This being my first race, I'll be pretty excited to get my bib, as well!


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

CU: My favorite place to go for a run is on the Mount Vernon Trail, by my house. It's right on the water, never too crowded, and I can map out various routes depending on my mileage. I never get bored of the scenery and it's especially nice when there's a breeze off the water.


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

CU: In the next year, I'd love to try a short, fun triathlon. It would be fun to get cycling and swimming into the race. I hope to have done more fun 5K's and to have made friends who share the fondness of community through running.

March 26, 2014

The Warm Up


Your weekly schedule has just appeared in your email inbox and it is time to sit down to consider the week’s training tasks. What track workout or tempo run is planned?  When and where will that workout take place?

We know that the actual intervals of the workout will require our greatest expenditure of energy, so naturally we psych ourselves up for those.  Far less often do we consider the importance of the warm up.  This month, we will shed some light on this crucial aspect of your training and give the warm up its due.

Most workouts include varying amounts and variations on four very important aspects:  Easy running, LIGHT stretching, running drills, and strides.

Easy running

It is not uncommon for an easy warm-up jog to be described as a way to “get the blood flowing.”  Although that phrase is often uttered with a figurative meaning, the reality is, the easy jogging at the beginning of your warm up does exactly that.    Easy running provides a bridge for your body to move from a static situation (sleeping in bed, driving the car, watching TV), to a place where your core body temperature has been raised.  This prepares your muscles to accommodate increased blood flow, allows for more strenuous contractions as required by a hard workout, and starts the processes you’ll need to use your body’s stored energy effectively throughout the session.

Light stretching

The purpose of the warm up is to execute a string of activities that will conclude when your body is prepared to begin the hard work at hand.  Taking a timeout to stretch for 20 minutes will certainly disrupt the progression of that process.  However, taking a few moments to check in with the major muscle groups after (and only after) you have been able to light the fire with easy running can provide a helpful transition to the increasingly dynamic activities in the warm up routine.   Hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes, and iliotibial (IT) bands can be lightly stretched (finding a cozy position for 2x8-10 seconds without any strain or hint of pain) from a standing or supine position without taking more than 5-7 minutes away from the remainder of activities on tap.

Running drills

Running drills are exercises that mimic or closely resemble some of the types of repetitive demands harder running will make on your body.  The intention of running drills are to help ensure your body has been prepared to handle these, and to also reinforce the type of angles and form habits practiced by efficient runners.  Runcoach has outlined and created short videos for a basic canon of seven running drills.  Each drill is meant to be practiced for the distance indicated immediately after which the athlete should run with good form at 1500 meter pace effort for the balance of 100 meters.


Consider the last time you observed the start line of a competitive road race or track race.  Many times the athletes involved take complete repeated short running bouts of 30, 50, or even 100 meters just before the competition begins.  These final preparations are called strides. These strides listed on your warm up are most definitely related (as their lower-key cousin) to these pre race sprints.    A chance to concentrate on good form for 20-30 seconds and provide the body a few more sustained efforts that keep the body warm and prepared to work hard are the final touches on your warm up routine.  If you have ever done a workout with a short warm up and felt rusty on the first effort, only to find yourself feeling markedly better on the second bout, then you know firsthand the importance of strides.  Please see our video description of strides here.

While warm up is a crucial physical preparation process, it can also be an invaluable time to review the mental elements you’ll need to employ during the workout and distance yourself from the everyday cares that will be waiting when you return through your front door.  Let your warm up free you of the world’s gravity and transport you to the weightless state of focus on your workout.  Complete each step with care and you’ll find your workouts will benefit.

July 28, 2011

David Blake

Blake_croppedOriginally from Pittsburgh, David has moved around quite a bit, including stops in Arizona, California, back to Pittsburgh, and Syracuse.  Most recently, he has settled in Houston (Pearland) where he works as an engineer for Continental / United.  David is married with a two kids, six and eight years old.  He reports that his eldest is a bit into running kids races, but only so she can stay one medal ahead of her younger brother!  Having met his wife through a running club in Pittsburgh, David has enjoyed running with clubs each place he has lived, and has even coached USA F.I.T. teams along the way.

Coach: How did you start running?

DB:   Well, when I was in California, one of my coworkers in 1995 talked me into doing the 1996 Los Angeles Marathon.  I was completely oblivious to any of the training plans out there, so I bought a book.  It was kind of disastrous.  What helped me was the Mt. Baldy run, 8 miles up.  Hill training really helped me, and I ran a lot with some of the Road Runners clubs.  10 years after I left California, I found a club in Pittsburgh, called People Who Run Downtown.  Every Tuesday evening, they would meet at a bar or a restaurant and run 2,4, or 6 miles.  By the time I moved to Houston, I had run three marathons by that point and run Pittsburgh.  I thought I was done with the long runs, but my boss was running Houston.  I met him at mile 22 and ended up running him in.  I kind of caught the bug again, so here I am looking forward to two more marathons this year.

Coach: Who is your running role model?

DB: The only role models I have, I realize they are the people I have met through the running clubs.  They are the typical runner, anywhere from a 3.5 hour marathoner to the people that are doing the walking.  Everyone is out there to enjoy themselves, just have fun, and get to know people.

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

DB: I was trying to remember all the racing that I have done so I could answer this question.  I came up with one idea, but in this case it was it was more of an incentive for me while I am racing.  My wife and kids try to get around the marathon course to see me as many times as they can.  I try not to allow her to do this [by going as fast as possible]!   The slower I go, the more times they can see me.  So, she had a PR of five two years ago when I ran 4:30.  However, no matter what race it is, that has always been the most memorable thing, coming around the bend and seeing them.

Coach: What have you enjoyed about working with us?

DB:   A lot of it has been talking and emailing with the coaches.  One of the things I really like is that even when I have coached, it is a standard schedule and doesn’t take into account your fitness.  With this, you can run a time trial and if you end up doing better than what is showing, then you can have your schedule adjusted so you can train harder and vice versa.  I really dread speed work, I’d much prefer hills.  Because I am not that fast right now, I can do my speed work on the treadmill.  I do my warm up on the track, then set the treadmill on a slight incline and set the paces for what FNF has told me.  Although I dread doing it, it is a balance between not looking forward to it, and seeing the payback for it.


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

DB:   I guess I have a couple.  One I have had from a racing standpoint from the California club days is that only on a run of 10 of miles or more, I’ll do Vaseline on my feet.  I don’t know if I would get blisters otherwise, but I have never gotten blisters doing it.  A bunch of us would do mud runs, so we got dogtags, and everywhere I go now I get new ones, even if the information is already on my bib.  I got shoe tags from USA FIT, and still use those.


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

DB:  Whenever we go on vacation, no matter where we go.  I’ll usually go for an early morning run; not a fast run, but just exploring, finding parks and restaurants.  Then during the day we’ll try out those parks and restaurants.

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

DB:   I hope to actually come up with that magical racing moment. I’ve worked with Kate on the schedule because I am really training for Houston.  It will be a big jump for New York, but I am just using it as a long run.  I’m hoping to run a reasonably slow, well-paced long run. My dad and grandfather grew up there and I have only really been there twice, once to help with clean up after 9/11.  I’ve run Houston, and even though last year was fantastic, it Is still businesslike.


My goals for Houston last year were first, always finish, and second, break a PR (4:13).  The third goal was to break four hours.  I ran 4:03.  I was happy, as the projection from FNF was 4:04. I knew from mile 12 that I wasn’t going to break the four.  I was going to move on to half marathons, but now I’m optimistic that as long as I stay healthy I have a reasonable shot at it!



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