He shares several great lessons and takeaways for your own training and racing journey.
Todd: We have all been there. You might be on your way there now? Pressing for improvement, focused on an arbitrary finish time we link to our identity. We push harder, overly compare ourselves to others and become frustrated with the feeling that we should be further along. The improvements slow, the lingering soreness turns into full-time pain. We make excuses, we stop doing the very thing we love. And then there we are, there you are.
The no-pain, no gain mentality to training can be highly contagious, especially to new runners. They will typically experience fast improvement from the body adapting to any new stress input. It fools you into believing the best way to improve, is to run each run a bit faster. The running itself makes us better, right? Not yet knowing running breakdown our bodies and we get strong by recovering well. For a moment, it worked for me. Until it didn’t.
25km into at my first marathon, The Detroit Free Press, in 2018. There I was limping, thoughts racing, as my 4-hour goal time faded away. Having pushed for improvements all summer, now on race day, my right ankle screamed out. I wanted to quit, I almost quit, and a part of me did. Frustration pulsed, coinciding with every one of the 20,000 steps that remained.
Finishing an hour slower than my goal time; I took in all the sympathy offered and felt every fun jab thrown my way. I swore, confidently, to never run another marathon, like ever. Simply a primitive defense mechanism to protect my shattered ego.
In the days that followed, I licked my perceived wounds. I began to nudge my thoughts away from the negatives of the experience. I always had the desire to be a better runner and deep down knew that being a better runner had little to do with running; enter Floris Gierman, and his Extramilest podcast and YouTube videos.
I can remember one his first YouTube videos standing out:
To me, Floris was on to something. Not only was he aggregating key training lessons, science, and advice from the best, he was translating them into a better way to live, train and race; based around the concept of low heart-rate training. And his own personal results spoke for themselves – a husband, father, friend running a successful business, and a super-fast runner.
My first year with low-heart rate training, was an exercise in extreme patience. My easy running pace slowed from 5:00/km (8:03 min / mile) to 7:30/km (12:04 min / mile), indicating that my aerobic system was under-developed. In the beginning months, it felt painfully slower than walking and I was walking a lot.
Over the course of 2019, I focused on absorbing and applying Floris’ advice virtually, along with science from The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Dr. Phil Maffetone and Run for Your Life book by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, I observed my maximum aerobic pace improving, now down to 6:30/km (10:28 min / km). I was ready to PR at my second marathon.
Well, not so fast. From a time perspective my 2019 was 5-minutes slower than my first, finishing in 5 hours 5 minutes. Most would have quit right there, but I finished healthy, smiling, and happy. My mindset, and body transformed. My race results, not yet. I needed something that I could not learn from a book, a podcast, or teach myself. I needed a team. I reached out to Floris and joined his Personal Best Program.
A structured program with an energized team; offering everything, I mean everything. From training plans, to race strategies, zoom calls, Strava and Facebook groups, rest, recovery, fueling, strength and mobility; it is all there.
Plus, that energized team I mentioned, putting in the daily work, doing big things, helping each other.
Now, three years later, what have I learned?
- Having a coach is key. A neutral observer, they are there to help you succeed. They see things you miss or intentionally ignore. A good coach asks great questions; kudos to Floris, Amelia Vrabel, and Ben Edusei. I remember a candid conversation we had on a PB Zoom call, discussing my 2022 race plan. Floris said “No matter what, you are going to PR. Your training indicates 3:30 to 3:45 – you might have a better result if you start slower and, if it is your day, pick it up on the second half” I went out gunning for a 3:30 and finished in 3:54 – I did not listen, and promised myself to listen to the coaches from there on.
- Be a good teammate. Be interested, cheer them on, listen to them, hear them, challenge them, be helpful and give back – they inspire me, each week, with all their training, accomplishments, and learnings.
- Fueling is important; “fat-burning” will only get you so far; increasing my fueling from 25g of carbohydrates/hour to 75g has paid big dividends.
- Consistent “speedwork” is helpful; running below your maximum aerobic function (MAF) heart rate will build a big base. My race times improved when I began to embrace the harder efforts; one day per week works for me and it is important to properly timing these too.
- Listen to your body; rather than hitting a prescribed pace every run, allow your body it to find its pace – resist the urge to force a pace.
- Have fun; enjoy the training, and never take crossing a finish line for granted.
Since joining the Personal Best program, I have chipped 33 minutes off my PR, now down to 3:47 and have set PRs in all other race distances along the way.
Steve Prefontaine shared that “Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you travelled from where you started.” Now 7-years into my running journey, and eleven marathons completed, it feels like I have only just begun. The power of the Personal Best program.
What is success? Well, only you can answer this question.
You can achieve more than what you believe is possible, I still have more to learn and achieve – and with the help of Floris and the Personal Best team we can all get faster by slowing down.
Have fun out there on your runs!
P.S. Below are several discounts for Extramilest Newsletter subscribers:
- Precision Fuel and Hydration: Visit https://visit.pfandh.com/Flo10 to get 10% off your first order of PF&H. These are the gels I use in my longer / harder training runs and for race day.
- PATH projects running apparel: Visit https://pathprojects.com/FLO to get 10% off your order of PATH projects running gear.
- Ketone IQ: Visit https://hvmn.com/FLO to save 20% off your order of Ketone IQ.
- LMNT electrolyte drink mix: Visit https://drinklmnt.com/FLO to get your free LMNT sample pack with any purchase.