Tuesday Time Trials

Are you guys all caught up on the USATF scandal from this weekend? If not, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

During the 3000-meter race, Gabriele Grunewald (sponsored by Brooks Running) clipped the heels of Jordan Hasay (sponsored by NIKE, coached by Alberto Salazar) on the bell lap. Grunewald went on to smoke the other ladies and win, qualifying her to represent Team USA at the World Indoor Championships in Poland. The clipping didn’t go unnoticed by the officials and was reviewed and thrown out, twice. Salazar continued to protest and Grunewald was subsequently disqualified, giving Hasay a spot on the team.

The ladies of Track & Field showing solidarity for Grunewald. (I don't know who to credit for this photo, but if someone knows, please email me.)

The ladies of Track & Field showing solidarity for Grunewald.
(I don’t know who to credit for this photo, but if someone knows, please email me.)

Twitter and the running world exploded, the case was reviewed again, and the DQ was thrown out, reinstating Grunewald as the champ. Grunewald and Hasay both released statements but I hear another controversy is brewing on the men’s side, again involving Salazar.

What’s this got to do with today’s post? Nothing except when I think of time trials, I think of track meets. Also, watching Mary Cain at these races was a delight.

She's also coached by Salazar and sponsored by NIKE. (Image courtesy of USATF.org)

She’s also coached by Salazar and sponsored by NIKE. (Image courtesy of USATF.org)

You know how when you’re in the middle of training season and you’re working hard and getting your runs in but you’re kinda sick of training and just want to go out there and see if all this work is paying off?

Do it.

Do a time trial. Set up a course (preferably flat), warm up like you would for race day, practice with your race day gear, and do it. I generally set the distance to be shorter than race distance by half or a little less.



What exactly does this do for you?

  1. It’s a good way to check in to see if your training is sufficient.
  2. It’s a solid exercise in race day prep and strategy.
  3. It’s a great confidence-boosting workout that lets you see what you can really do.
  4. It breaks up the monotony of doing the same ol’, same ol’ workouts.
  5. It’s a great workout.

If a time trial doesn’t go so well, and external circumstances weren’t the reason, it’s not too late in your training cycle to switch things up and still meet your race day goals.

Don’t be afraid of the speed and don’t be afraid to try a new racing strategy. Better you do it in a time trial workout that on race day morning.

Now go out and run!

Train Fast to Race Fast

I’m really pumped that y’all have helped me raise over $3500 for Team Challenge already. And we still have a week to register for my Virtual 5K benefitting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and win fabulous raffle prizes.

Do you like prizes? Yes? Then sign up for the 5K!

Do you like prizes? Yes? Then sign up for the 5K!

There’s also a chance a new prize will be added sometime this week. You definitely won’t want to miss a chance at this one!

You guys have all been so awesome at donating, I’m kinda feelin the pressure to PR so I don’t embarrass myself. Confession: I don’t link my timing chip to either my Facebook or Twitter account because I’m afraid I will jinx myself and have a totally terrible race and then everyone will know.

I’m such a chicken.

But I’ve been training smart and training hard. Long runs? Yeah, they happen. But “long” running for a half is nothing like long running for a full. Two hour runs are waaaaaaaaay easier than three and a half hour runs.

Truth be told, I’ve been running hard and {relatively} short distances. Cuz I wanna race fast.

There’s a weird rumor in the running community that if you just run a lot of miles you’ll get fast. That’s kinda only half true. Maybe one quarter true.

Sometimes you gotta talk yourself into doing what you don't wanna do.

Sometimes you gotta talk yourself into doing what you don’t wanna do.

If you’re working on your overall aerobic fitness or ability to hang in there for long miles or trying to amp up your mileage, then adding on longer, slower miles will help. However, if your goal is to run faster, long runs are not specifically your jam.

You need speed.

You need hard.

You need workouts that are well below your race pace that challenge your body in order to make that race pace feel like a cake walk.

Me? I’m gonna hit up some 400s and 200s on the track this week. Doesn’t mean I don’t get the mileage in because I’m going to warm up for two miles and then let the beast out and race like an animal.

Only the cool kids talk in meters and kilometers.

Only the cool kids talk in meters and kilometers.

It’s the simplest thing in the world and one of the primary principles of exercise: SPECIFICITY in training. You gotta run and you gotta run FAST. It’s that simple and there’s no way round it.

Grab a fast friend and try to keep up. Then watch the minutes melt away from your PR.

Now go out and run.

5K Pace

5Ks make me want to vomit. They just do. They are the “sprint race” for distance runners. You might think that the 100-meter dash is scarier, nay. The 5K is the stomach-turning torturous race that we all fear.

Running a 5K takes speed, strategy, and a totally different kind of mind-set from marathon running.

I’m scared of them.

Cold weather scares me. So do 5Ks. A 5K in the cold = ruh-roh.

Cold weather scares me. So do 5Ks. A 5K in the cold = ruh-roh.

Sooooooo, our physical therapy department is hosting a 5K on March 9th at 9am in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. (You should come run with me!) And I’ve been structuring my runs a little toward this upcoming race.

I will, I will ROCK YOU!

I will, I will ROCK YOU!


I mean, I can’t suck it up at the race and expect to walk into class Monday morning with my head held high. I have a goal (I’m too embarrassed to share it) and I will achieve it, come hell or high water.

But 5Ks are tough to pace. Most distance runners (me) are terrified of the pacing aspect of sprints like this. But really, it’s not much more different than a tempo run.

How to run a 5K:

  1. Warm up: Not just a jog-from-the-subway warm-up. Like, 2 miles of a warm-up at a normal starting workout pace. This will be the most important thing you do to have a successful race.
  2. Time your entrance into the corrals: No more than 5 minutes before the race. Keep moving in your corral, don’t stretch, and keep those fibers flexing.
  3. Go out fast-ish: Since you’re warmed up, you’ll be ready to hit your tempo but not your max pace. Probably closer to 15-20 seconds slower to make sure you don’t die at the end.
  4. Kick it in halfway: Halfway through the race is a little over a mile to go. Time to make a move. Time to find your power.
  5. Half mile is Go Time: Time to see what you’re made of and do it like it’s a mile repeat. Leave it all out on the road. 

Finish with an ugly runner face and rock it out.

Sign up to run our race because, really, you need us to research your weird runner injuries so when you come see me in a few years I know how to treat you. Plus you get a shirt.

Blue looks good on everyone.

Blue looks good on everyone.

Also, how cute is my classmate who gave all of valentines? Seriously. Cute.

Candy! Wheeeeeee!

Candy! Wheeeeeee!

Now go out and run.

Skinny Isn’t Enough

Recently, JB and I saw an acquaintance whom we both consider to have a naturally rockin’ bod. But when we saw her this year, she looked terrible. She has lost about 15 pounds, her skin was pale and broken out, and she seemed genuinely unhappy the entire time we were around her. Normally a fitness addict, when we asked what she was into lately, her response shocked us. “Nothing, really. No time.”

We were aghast. As we began to watch a little more closely, we noticed she wasn’t really eating. Like, maybe some veggies and meat here and there but not in any amount that would quantify a full day of healthy eating for someone her size. It was sad. Her weight loss was a direct result of her not eating. I wouldn’t call it “anorexic”, but I would call it disordered eating. She was absolutely obsessing over every morsel she put in her mouth.

Worst part of it all, she thinks she looks great.

When runners ask me what their optimal weight should be to run a PR, I want to cry and scream.

Runners come in all shapes and sizes...and all have to wait for the POJ.

It is not enough to be skinny. You must be strong. And you cannot be strong when you are undernourished. My friend Dorothy (who just PR’d–3:11, and won the B & A Marathon this past weekend, by the by) wrote a great post about her experience finding a comfortable, healthy race weight and, guess what? She ran faster when she gained 6 pounds!

I have routinely gotten faster over the past 5 years and blasted my high school PRs out of the water. I didn’t weight myself a lot in high school, but I think I weigh about 5 pounds more than I did back then.

Graduation day 1998. Not loving the long bob.

There is so much anecdotal evidence out there, but let’s talk science.

Force = mass x acceleration. Thank you, Physics I. I had a conversation with my Physics professor about how to find an athlete’s goal weight (mass) given the speed at which they want to run (acceleration). What we decided is this:

1. There are many more factors that play into this: genetics, VO2 max, mental ability, experience, length of the femur, etc. for it to be a simple equation.

2. Runners (heck, ATHLETES) come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else.

Look at the runners in my pack. We are definitely not a One Size Fits All group.

3. There is a balance to be found between being light enough to run fast and strong enough to run fast. You can be light as a feather and have super-low body fat, but if you don’t have the muscle mass to exert the force necessary to propel you forward at a fast rate, you won’t run fast.

What does this boil down to? Skinny isn’t enough. Skinny is not the goal. Healthy. Strong. Fit. These are the goals.

You need food to fuel your body. And make no mistake, food is fuel.

Spinach, carrot, pineapple, apple juice post-FLY workout = fuel

So next time you decided that you want to lose 10 pounds or 20 pounds or succumb to the latest diet trend so that you can “lose 5 pounds in a week”, maybe re-think your plan.

Step back, decide what your goal as an athlete is and talk to a nutritionist or a registered dietician to see what you need to do to achieve the goals you have. Get blood tests done to check all your levels. Get with a trainer or a coach and make a plan on how to get stronger, faster and leaner. Eat closer to the Earth. Get off the scale.

Little devil or helpful tool? You decide.

You only get one body in this life. Treat it with respect.

Now go out and run!

Dream Gym

I’ve posted about Team Abby who keep me in good health and all that jazz. I’ve posted about some of my favorite boutique gyms in the city that I cannot get enough of. In keeping with telling you guys about people, places, and workouts I love, I have to share a really cool new workout I did at Chelsea Piers last week.

Meghan from Chelsea Piers contacted me to see if I’d be interested in coming down to their Performance Center and giving their new high-speed treadmills a go. First thought, “Ummmm, I’m not really fast enough to require a high-speed treadmill.” But I figured, what the heck? May as well give it a shot. Told JB what I was doing and after a long pause he said, “I just have this vision of you jumping on and flying off the back of it.” You doubt my abilities? Pshh. Check yourself.

I brought along someone who would require a high-speed treadmill for her runs, Speedy Elite, to test run the ‘mills and give me the perspective of a pro athlete. Off we went to New Jersey the Hudson River to run fast.

Fancy sign = fancy gym

The Performance Center at Chelsea Piers is all official and stuff. Hidden in the back near the rock climbing wall, the room boasts two high-speed treadmills and a Computrainer set up for a classroom of bikes. Indoor cycling at it’s craziest! They have the machines to measure VO2 max, lactic threshold and a whole physiological assessment center for those of you who want to get down and dirty with your body’s numbers. The treadmills look deceptively bare.

No TV. No music. No nuthin.

This is imperative. Why? Because, unlike the ‘mills at your local gym, these high-speed treadmills are capable of going up to 29 MILES PER HOUR and up to a 40% INCLINE! No distractions necessary. There’s even a special way to get on and off because it’s going so fast.

One. Two. Three. JUMP!

John, our trainer, was all about safety and form. A man after my own gym-etiquette heart. As I’ve said countless times before, treadmill running can be extremely beneficial to all runners. Why? Exhibit A: When you run fast on a treadmill, your stride is stronger, longer, more natural and your foot strike is more efficient (mid-sole to toe instead of heel-toe).

12.0 incline + 7.0 speed = more powerful stride

Stronger legs = better form, fewer injuries and faster times. Simple as that. The other benefit is that you absolutely cannot slouch at this speed and incline. If you do, you fall over. So, you are training to run tall which will, in turn, actually allow you to have a better stride on your long runs. Oh, and you MUST use your arms, which I am constantly reminding my run club to do during our speed workouts (you know who you are). Win, win.

High knees are an old favorite of running coaches everywhere. We all strive to have stronger hip flexors and the quick pace of a high knee drill provides just such an exercise for this overused muscles group. The look a little different on the high-speed treadmill.

25.0 incline + 6.0 speed = DON'T LET GO!!!

I am really impressed by the thought that went into the design of these machines and the workouts that come along with them. I’m a big proponent of running drills for EVERY runner, not just the speed demons like Speedy Elite. Too many casual runners are missing the basics of form and strength required to have good form. And good form while running is just as important as having good form in the weight room.

Some purists say treadmill running isn’t “REAL” running. Call me. Let’s talk that one out. Drills, speed work, hill work, form, foot turnover and pushing your anaerobic max are all things you want to do in a controlled, safe environment. You can run faster on a treadmill–that’s a good thing. Faster workouts translate to faster race times.

No, you’re not propelling yourself forward like you are doing outside or on a track. But the beauty of drills like these is that you do them and then jump down to the indoor track below to test the newfound speed on land.

1/4 mile indoor track in Manhattan. What?!?

Oh, but if you desire another sort of cardio machine, they have those, too.

Cardio anyone?

And an awesome lounge area where you can kick back and have a post-workout juice. Or sushi.

Sushi, juice, coffee, nap?

This gym really has it all. They have a 25 meter indoor pool, two sun decks, the rock climbing wall I told you about, crazy amounts of cardio and weight equipment, a sand volleyball court, several full-length basketball courts, every class and club sport you can think of and everything else that goes along with Chelsea Piers (driving range, ice skating rink, etc.). This is my Dream Gym.

They didn’t pay me to say any of this. The demonstration was complimentary. You must have one of their trainers work with you to run on the treadmills, but you do not have to be a member to do that, which is cool. Many thanks to Speedy Elite for coming along with me and running waaaaaay faster than I did on those things.

For those of you looking to improve your running times this Fall, think about investing in a couple of sessions on the high-speed treadmill. Kick-ass workouts = results.

Now go out and run!