One of the bigger areas of debate among runners and coaches is the tradeoff between quantity of miles (or kilometers, of course) and quality of miles. With the growth of the “run less, run better” and Crossfit approaches to training, there is a temptation to believe that you as a runner can perform your best by landing on the quality side of this argument in your training and cutting down your mileage to the “minimum necessary.” There are plenty of success stories claiming to prove that these approaches work.
It is, however, important to distinguish between what “can work” and what “works best”. Yes, you can improve your race results with a low quantity / high quality approach, particularly if you are a newer runner (and don’t run with so much intensity that you get injured), or a runner who has been away for awhile but has a good aerobic and athletic base. But these gains are going to be limited in scope and over time, as your returns on investment will begin to fade.
One error many runners make is in the management of their tune-up races. These training elements, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for providing physiological and psychological development, feedback on your progress, experience in managing pacing and other race-specific elements, and in dialing in your “A” race goal. However, they can also quickly derail your training if overused or scheduled and executed improperly.
There are a couple of more common mistakes in the management of tune-up races that you should watch out for (and it’s an area I work closely with Team Predawn Runner members in planning and avoiding).
One runner who I’ve admired for quite some time on dailymile is Paul Sherman. Take a quick glimpse through his training log, race results, or the interview below and you’ll quickly be impressed too. His tolerance for pain and heavy workout intensity is amazing, and it has paid off in some significantly improving (from an already strong base) race results. I’m grateful Paul agreed to “sit down” for this discussion on his training approaches, results, and future goals.
Predawn Runner: How long ago did you take up running, and when did you start focusing on the marathon and beyond?
Paul Sherman: I ran cross-country and track (3200 meter) for Aquinas HS in La Crosse, WI… back in 1986-87 and ran periodically afterwards off and on—but nothing too serious. I later cycled and raced from ’87 into the early 90s and rode with a Dutch university team in the Netherlands (Holland) in 1992.
I then dropped all competitive sports until 2005 but did do a 250 mile ride across the state of Wisconsin in 16 hours with my best friend…he then got the idea to do Milwaukee’s Lakefront Marathon in the fall of 2005 and I joined him for the journey. My wife wasn’t crazy about the idea of my training as we just had our daughter Veronica 12 weeks early (preemie) but I needed a stress release as both my ‘girls’ almost didn’t make it through the birth.
We followed Hal Higdon’s intermediate marathon program leading up to Lakefront and was ‘thinking’ about a 3:30 marathon—mind you I hadn’t even done a ½ marathon race before this. I hit the wall really hard at mile 21 and barely got going again to finish; I was hypoglycemic and cramping big time but eventually finished with a 3:45 time. This wasn’t a horrible experience as I definitely learned a lot—especially to not blow your ‘wad’ early, to not over hydrate, and to continue fueling.
We moved twice and ended up here in Lewisville, NC and haven’t looked back. My best friend Andy got in my head about doing the Ice Age 50-mile race back up in WI in 2008 and I used Santa Clarita Runners Ultra training program. This time we got the training (including adding hills), fueling, and mental preparation right and finished in just over 10 hours—not bad considering the course is filled with single-track switchbacks, major elevation changes, and rocks.
PR: I know you have had quite the journey the past, oh, 2 years or so, can you share where you were time and training wise in late 2008?
PS: My buddy Jeff Norman and I did the Mistletoe ½ in Winston Salem in Dec 2008 and I completed this in around a 1:34. So after speaking to Chaz Hinkle I got the idea of trying to qualify for Boston due to the rough back of the envelope calculation of: (2 x ½ mary ) + 11 minutes. Mind you I hadn’t done another marathon since 2005 but I put a ‘bead’ on the NC Marathon and got to work with Hal Higdon’s advanced training program. That calculation was dead on as I finished with a 3:21+ and just missed qualifying for Boston by 40 seconds. Frankly, the fact that I missed BQ’ing by that little has had everything to do with changing me as a runner. From that point on I fully relied on Dailymile for back and forth consultation and developing a plan of attack for BQ’ing. By adding speedwork and hill training, I set myself up well and Jeff and I went up to DC for the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall of 2009. Even with temps getting into the 60s and meeting Andy O. at mile 21, I was able to accomplish a 3:13, get under the 3:20 BQ time, and take over 8 min off my previous marathon – boy the Guinness tasted good that day.
PR: What did you do in your training in 2010 as you headed towards the Boston Marathon to make such drastic improvements in your results?
PS: From Marine Corps, Jeff and I ran the Mistletoe ½ in Dec. again and I cut 10 min off – 1:24 – and carried this base training into 2010 to nail a 3:53 at the Frosty 50k in early January. Now, the real work began, as I now primarily focused on doubling my efforts by doing speedwork twice a week and throwing in harder more intense hill training—plus, I tacked on a couple extra miles each time I ran versus the Marine Corps regiment. I also added a couple other races onto the calendar leading up to Boston. One of the bigger focuses also came in the form of nutrition as I lost the fuelbelt in order to avoid GI issues and to add supplements such as Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem as a race day fuel. Running Boston was a dream come true that I honestly never thought it would ever ever happen. I roomed with Chaz and we met up with Steve Speirs and Caleb Masland a couple hours before Boston. I felt pretty secure in my training and outside of going out somewhat fast—I got a 3:02 on the day and cut another 11 minutes off my prior marathon PR.
PR: I recall a story you had from Boston where even getting to the marathon start was an adventure – can you share a bit about that?
PS: The phrase Chaz and I will never probably forget is ‘Don’t be a Schmuck and go with Chuck.’ Chuck was our taxi guy from hell (excuse me–livery service person). Chuck took us as another runner from our hotel arranged for the livery service to the busses—his business card said, ‘Don’t be a Schmuck and go with Chuck.’ Well we asked Chuck if he knew where to go and he acknowledged and off we went. I guess we all kinda closed our eyes to rest before getting to the busses for the long slow ride to Hopkinton. Little did we know that we had been basically hoodwinked and found ourselves almost halfway to Hopkinton versus to the busses…not cool at all. So instead of paying Chuck to turnaround and go back it became more cost effective to just go all the way to Hopkinton. All in all we got Rock Star treatment all the way to 150 yards from the piece of grass we’d call home for the next 2-3 hours. In retrospect it was pretty funny being the first ones to arrive–so early in fact that the pine tree air freshners had hardly been hung from each of the port-a-potties. Hilarious watching the workers stop what they were doing to see who came out of the lincoln town car—sorry to disappoint!
PR: After Boston, you certainly weren’t just satisfied with the already impressive results you had achieved – how did you manage to take it up yet another notch?
PS: After Boston, I relied on my base/foundation and went back to the Ice Age 50 Mile race 3 weeks later and took off over an hour from my prior time at that course as my best friend Andy and I ‘caught up’ on old times while running on the trail. From late May of 2010, I did roughly another 15 races and seriously focused on speed through both 5k’s and 10k’s. [Yadkinville 5k – 5th:18:20, June: Rotary 5k – 3rd--18:05; July: Beat the Heat 5k –17:50]. Beyond focusing on speed, I focused on sheer mileage — easy miles (Just Putting in the Miles). From June 25th, I never took a day off of running. I focused on quality miles and tacking on 20% more miles every day—especially through more warm-up and cool-down mileage. My prior max mileage had never gone above the 70s prior to Boston, but leading up to the Kiawah Marathon in December I hit in the low 90s per week for my peak.
I also wanted to note that since getting back into competitive running I’ve lost close to 25lbs; this wasn’t really on purpose but a positive externality of all of my training. This weight loss came not only from the actual running but the concentrated focus on watching my nutrition and intake on a daily basis. Basically no fast-food, no fried foods, more protein, and less ‘zero’ carbohydrate foods all become main staples; a ‘zero’ carb food would be the approx. 300 calorie tortilla that comes with a burrito—just go naked!
PR: What kind of results did you achieve later in 2010?
PS: Some of the race results were:
And then Kiawah—my first and foremost goal had been sub-3 but then that inched lower after the 1:19 half in Nov and at Kiawah I nailed a 2:50.
PR: What do you think was the biggest factor in your success, in driving the reductions you saw in your marathon time?
PS: Steve Speirs once told me to Bring my Best everyday, every race. I’ve followed this to a ‘T’ and haven’t looked back. Beyond tacking on the extra W/U and C/D miles, I believe continuously revisiting speedwork goals as my times came down helped a ton.
PR: How did you manage to log 3000 miles while balancing a young family and a demanding job?
PS: Running everyday helped but primarily just getting up earlier and becoming an almost solely predawn runner and knocking out every workout before work and before my family woke was the only way. Thankfully, a job that would have involved a commute nightmare never came to fruition and I’ve been blessed with just a 20 min commute since my new job, which started in July.
PR: I used to think I would be capable of putting in the type of work you do too, without worrying about injuries, but discovered I was wrong about that in late 2010. How have you been able to log the miles and run streak you have, at the intensity you have, while avoiding injury?
PS: My current streak is at approx 230 days and I attribute a great deal of it to pre-run yoga and other stretches focusing on PF, Achilles, and calf problem areas. Plus, I’m a huge proponent of post-run/race recovering supplements such as Hammer Nutrition’s Hammer Whey, Recoverite, Heed, etc.
PR: And finally, what are your goals for 2011?
PS: Basically what I’ve recently posted on my DM page: Help get my training buddy DM Aaron E. to BQ, Bring My Best Every Race while Having Fun: Sub 2:50 Marathon; sub 17- 5K; sub 36-10k; 1/2 mar sub-1:19; 100k??
It’s not often that I spontaneously buy a new type of running shoe. But that was the position I found myself in when I went with my wife to help her pick out some new shoes at the best shoe store in the area, Vertical Runner in Hudson, OH.
First, I think a bit of a lesson is in order – be careful in trusting the expertise of running shoe salespeople, especially when it’s not a running-focused store. My wife got her first shoes from someone who had been “trained by Brooks” on selecting shoes. While the young lady got one variable right (neutral running form), she missed a few other key ingredients. My wife spends most of her work day in high heels as a hospital administrator, and has never really run before. The Brooks Pure Cadence sounded good on paper, but the low drop and limited cushioning were a complete miss. Fortunately, the store took the shoes back after ~20 miles, so we decided to go to a better source for try #2 (note, I had intentionally removed myself from try #1, to let my wife find her own space in developing as a runner). Read the rest of Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1 »
Many runners are in a relationship where they are the only one pursuing the sport. Obviously, partners in a relationship can have divergent interests, that either predate the relationship or developed over time. This is a good thing, as everyone needs their own “thing”, and their time to themselves. Plus, running is a hobby that consumes a lot of time, and it can be difficult to balance with other needs like childcare – though hopefully you are doing your fair share of more of the work and supporting your partner’s own hobbies.
However, given the great physical and mental health benefits of running, which you are hopefully humbly putting on display through your fitness and good demeanor, it’s probably far more likely that your significant other (for simplicity, let’s just assume it is a spouse, and more specifically a wife, since Mrs. Predawn Runner has just started running) will develop an interest in running than in, say, golf or poker (especially poker). Or perhaps she just wants to have something more in common, something to talk about, or another way to spend time together.
A few Team Predawn Runner members have asked for help with their form of late. I’ve also been asked to provide some thoughts on the running form of one of the kindergarten soccer players coach. My response? Maybe it’s a little early to worry about that…
Form is a tricky topic and in fact a bit of a “bunny hole”, particularly when coaching online. That’s partly because form is highly subjective and individual, and therefore “messing with it” can often be counterproductive. Since it is a common concern runners have, it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on a “form philosophy” that I’ve built over the years. Read the rest of Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form »