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Negative Splits: The Kevin Johnson Session

Kevin Johnson has been tearing up this season.  He’s taking a series run at the USATF-NE GPS crown and is currently in a fierce duel with Central Mass Strider Nate Jenkins.  After running his first two races in a Greater Boston Track Club singlet, Johnson turned in fire engine red for the baby blue of the newly formed Western Mass Distance Project.  In switching clubs, Johnson returns to his roots and just plain continues to run fast.  Read his breakdown of a recent workout designed for the upcoming Newton 10k, which just so happens to be the next stop on the GPS tour.

KJ checking out Jenkins in the opening miles of Bedford 12k. Photo by Krissy Kozlosky.

KJ performed this workout on Saturday, May 26 at the Ludlow HS Track.
In preparation for the Newton 10k I wanted to get in a workout that would help me sharpen up for the shorter distance. I thought that a workout Western Mass Distance Project team members call the “Ludlow Drill” would be appropriate to improve my fitness. It is typically a harder effort that one would ideally run about 2-3 weeks out from a race of longer distance.
“The Ludlow Drill”
2 mile @ goal 10,000m track race pace
followed by
4 x 800m @ 5k race pace
followed by
2 x 400m @ mile race pace
a recovery jog is done between all intervals
 I would say that this type of workout suits my style of training as it gets the body fatigued before hitting some of the quicker repetitions. I performed this workout in late April hitting low 940s for the 2 mile, 2:22s for the 800s, and 67 seconds for the quarters.
Pretty impressive but let’s see how he did on more recently, last Saturday.
The hope for this workout was to increase the tempo for each of those sets that were done in April.  First off, I made the critical error of waiting until the afternoon to run this workout as it was incredibly hot and humid out and the Ludlow track offers no shield from the sun. I warmed up 4 miles to the track and did some strides/drills before.
The effort of the two mile was moderate coming through in the mile in  4:43 and cruising through the second mile to hit the two mile in 9:31. 
After a 3 minute jog around the track in an outer lane I began the 800s. The first 800 did not feel nearly as comfortable as the two mile as I came through the first repetition in 2:17. Recovery for each 800 was a 400 meter jog. It was at this point that the heat began to be a factor in how I was feeling. The next repetition felt fine coming through 400, but then again I could tell the my body was beginning to overheat finishing off in 2:18. In the past, I have had some ugly experiences with heat exhaustion in a few track 5ks that took place in the middle of hot days so at this point I wanted to be sure I didn’t get anywhere near that point. I decided to do one more 800 after pouring some water over my head and forego the final 800. Finished the third and final 800 in a comfortable 2:18.  
Moving onto the 400s I didn’t notice the heat as much as I tended to float the first 200 and then hammer the final 200 meters. Both of these reps were completed in 64 seconds with 400 meter jog recovery in between. The cool down was fairly short and I jumped in a lake near the high school to bring the body temperature down and stretch out.  
Overall, I was very pleased with this workout as my legs seemed to be much smoother during this workout than when I ran the workout in late April. I am nearing the end of my Spring training cycle and this will likely be the last time I run a workout that I would considered to be difficult. 

Johnson doing two things at once: breaking the tape and setting a course record at Bedford. Photo by Krissy Kozlosky.

Kevin works closely with his twin brother, David.  Let’s hear his analysis of his brother’s workout.
This workout is a great tune-up  for a little more than a week before a race. The reason our group likes it so much is because it prepares your body for race day. Kevin can go into Newton 10k confident that if the pace goes out quickly, his body will be able to respond well. 
Doing two miles at 4:45 pace prepares the aerobic system for the “real” part of the workout. It’s easy to rip 800m in 2:16-18 for a guy in Kevin’s shape…. if he doesn’t have any quality before those repeats. But running that 2 mile fatigues the body enough so those 800m simulate the miles 3-4 of a 10K and he has to be consciously working to nail the times.
All in all a very nice workout and a fitness gauge to tell him he is sharper than he was a month ago. Confidence he can utilize if he has to out kick an opponent at the end of a race.
This is a smart workout and the thinking behind it makes total sense.  Fatigue the body with the opening deuce and come back for the 800s, which will help simulate the middle miles of an upcoming 10k.  I think that this would be a good workout for the Level Legion to attempt (adjust your paces accordingly).
Thanks to the Brothers Johnson for their contributions to this week’s Negative Splits segment.  Kevin and the rest of the Western Mass Distance Project are certainly putting in the work to perform well at the Newton 10k.  These guys most def run on the ground and read the underground.
You can see a post race interview of Johnson after his record setting 12k performance on May 19 in Bedford by clicking here.

Negative Splits: The Steph Reilly Session

Last August, I was on my way out of the school after picking up my number for the Falmouth Road Race when I saw Steph Reilly. I know her husband Paul, and we had met once or twice before, so I decided to go over and say hi. Steph coaches at Bryant University (my alma mater) and I go back each fall for the Shawn M Nassaney Memorial 5k cross country race. We chatted for a couple of minutes, but I didn’t want to bother her too much as she was there to run the elite mile that night.

Steph mentioned how she was getting a ready for a trip to Daegu to run for Ireland in the World Championships in a couple of weeks. I remember being impressed at how she casually mentioned that in about the same tone as I would if I were telling somebody about a local 5k I had signed up for. But she’s a pro and used to the big stage, I’m just a very excitable couch jockey. I couldn’t help but wonder how big of an impact that would have on her coaching. She’s already done a wonderful job with the Bryant program in just a couple of years, imagine the boost that racing in the world championships and the Olympics would have on recruiting.

Here’s Steph to tell us about the steeplechase workout she did on May 15th, ahead of her race at the Oxy High Performance meet, with some Level questions tossed in:

After coming off a 1500 blowout at the New Balance Twilight meet I did a session in preparation for my opening steeplechase at the Oxy High Performance meet. In preparation for races I always focus on goal race pace and distance. So here was my session on the Tuesday before my race Friday evening at Oxy:

3 by 1000m with 2mins recovery

  1. 1000 – 3:08
  2. 1000 – 3:11, this rep was over 5 hurdles at the steeple markings
  3. 1000 – 3:05

How do you determine your target times for the laps with hurdles? The interval here with the hurdles wasn’t that far off the others, was it faster or slower than anticipated?

My target times for this workout were 3:08 for the flat 1000m and 3:13 for the hurdle 1000m. I was focusing on 5000m pace for the flat and my goal 3000m steeplechase pace for the hurdles. Typically I look to my 5000m race pace as an indicator for my hurdle reps. So 3:08 is about my 5000m pace right now so I was aiming for about 1-2 seconds per lap slower with the hurdles. Steeple is a little different as sometimes you clear the barrier perfectly and you actually gain time, and sometimes it is not so smooth, and may lose a bit of time. It is an event of many moving parts and you need to be alert of your surroundings as well as focus on pace judgement.

Is this your first steeple-specific workout for the season? If not, when did you change gears?

I have done a couple of steeple workouts. I don’t do hurdle workouts all the time (too taxing on the body). I will switch gears over the next few weeks, focusing on some quicker 1500m stuff, and steeplechase specific workouts with hurdle workouts every 3rd or 4th session.

So only one interval contained hurdles?

Yes I do this quite a bit, or sometimes I alternate every other rep over hurdles. But leading into a race, one rep over hurdles is enough.

Was the first interval an adjustment? Or were you more relaxed pace-wise on that one?

The first interval of every workout for me is usually my slowest. It mirrors how I race, controlled early and get faster as the race progresses.

You closed out pretty strong, did you feel as strong as it appeared? How much more effort went into that last interval?

The last effort felt the best in that session. It takes me a while to get into a workout and usually half way in is when I start rolling. This is typical for my sessions as I try to ensure that I am feeling stronger as the session goes on. It is good for the confidence when you can step off the track feeling strong and knowing that you could have done some more repetitions.

How much of a factor was the wind?

During the spring, the wind tends to be a factor in the Northeast, but you get used to it. It was a windy day at Bryant but the workout was good. It makes racing without wind a lot easier.

Did your target time for the Oxy race change after completing the workout?

No my target time was always 9:50-9:55 for Oxy, considering it was my steeplechase season opener. The steeple is a very different experience than any other flat race. This was my fastest season opener so I was very pleased with the outcome.

And she ran…

Watch more video of 2012 USATF Oxy High Performance Meet on flotrack.org

I ran 9:54 for the steeplechase Friday and this is my fastest steeple opener ever so was pleased with it.

Asked about her plans for the next few months:

I already have my olympic time attained from last summer at the diamond league in NY. I now have a very specific training plan this summer. I can count back from the Olympics and prepare with that as my goal. I am in a fantastic position already, with little steeple work done, and no faster pace stuff done yet. All strength and I am already ahead of where I was last year. So that is a good feeling. Before that I am aiming towards the European championships in Helsinki, Finland at the end of June. I will do the last New Balance Twilight meet, and then I head back to Ireland and Europe to race until after the Olympics.

Congrats to Steph on her fine performance at the Oxy meet and best of luck to her as she gets ready for the European Championships and the Olympics!

Interview w/ Kevin Johnson at Bedford 12K

Kevin Johnson of the newly formed Western Mass Distance Project won the Bedford 12K this morning.  Bedford was the 3rd stop on the 2012 USATF-NE GPS Tour.  Congrats to Kevin on his victory.  Enjoy his thoughts on the race.

Not-So-Deep Thoughts at 100 RPM

I had been 0-for-May so far (in gym appearances), so it was a big deal to me yesterday when I successfully separated my ass from the couch and made an appearance there. It was an even bigger deal when I showed up for my second consecutive day today. I settled in to the saddle and was getting into the rhythym of my solo spin session when a guy made an appearance in the room. He was just standing there somewhat awkwardly in the back (Stranger Danger!!), then left and came back again.

Then the realization sank in that I forgot to check the schedule (again), and a class would most likely be starting there at any moment. Sure enough, in came a few more people, followed by the stereotypically outgoing and high energy instructor. The instructor was very nice though, and she let me stay and spin (just had to move my bike out of the way). She asked if I wanted to join, and I did briefly entertain the notion. When I asked what the class was, she paused and came back with something like ‘high-low’. Hmmm…doesn’t sound like my thing. Judging by the name of it and the average size of the asses in the room, it was safe to assume that I’d be better off spinning. She even offered to let me join in at any point should I feel overcome by the desire to do so.

The instructor cranked the music and they began their glorified Sweatin’ to the Oldies routine as I restarted my spinning.

As I observed the others while spinning away, Rihanna sang:

we found love in a HOPELESS PLACE…we found love in a HOPELESS PLACE

I thought:


Rihanna continued:

we found love in a HOPELESS PLACE…we found love in a HOPELESS PLACE

I couldn’t help but hear an emphasis on hopeless place as I watched these people go through their workout (some clearly mailing it in). The instructor encouraged the class to ‘grapvine’, which lead me to think:

this is the way the world ends…this is the way the world ends…not with a bang but a grapevine…

Grapevine? I’m fairly certain my fiancee would leave me if she caught wind of me grapevining as part of a workout (or for any reason at all, for that matter). I would understand that decision, too. My workout had become miserable, but entertaining at the same time. I found myself struggling to keep the smile off my face, as my thoughts combined with the music and the scenery were just too much for the moment. The music changed gears, and now that audio diarrhea known as ‘Moves Like Jagger‘ was penetrating my skull.

I couldn’t help but wonder what does Mick Jagger think of this crap? He’s already a shell (a leathery, wrinkled shell) of his old self, but to be down with this abortion of a song would mean that he finally must have given in and let those wild horses drag him away. If Mr. Burns and Smithers were down here spinning, this is the point where Burns would turn to Smithers and say ‘have the Rolling Stones killed’.

Those rhythmically challenged folks did help light a fire under my ass though and I ended up working the latter half of my half hour much harder than the first half. It usually seems to go that way anyway; I almost seem to be pedaling in protest every time at the beginning, not wanting any of it. By the end I find myself wanting to go fast enough to melt the bike into a metallic puddle on the gym floor.

Spinning was hard enough when the trees were bare and it was cold and dark outside. With the return of milder temps and the lush, green and sunny scenery, it’s damn near impossible to not be depressed by the thought of being stuck indoors. Anyway, that’s nothing new and I know I have to suck it up and deal with it. What’s new is this choice I have to make: do I avoid overlapping with these classes or not? Does the entertainment outweigh the misery?

Negative Splits: The Zach Hine Session

It doesn’t matter whether he’s based out of South Hadley, MA or Boulder, Co…Zach Hine is a beast who keeps putting up the quality performances out there on the roads. Zach’s name kept jumping out at me from the race results throughout 2011. In big races he was putting up big time performances in the area, such as:

  • Boston Marathon – 2:16:54 (16th place)
  • Falmouth Road Race – 33:42 (20th place)
  • CVS Downtown 5k – 14:18 (19th place, race doubled as the US 5k Road Race National Championships)

Zach’s spectacular performance in Boston was his meal ticket to the Olympic Trials marathon, where he ran another blazing 2:16:40 (good for 31st place). I didn’t know much about Zach, but I want to change that so he was one of the first people I reached out to regarding this workout series. It really was the perfect opportunity to not only give myself an introduction to his training, but also for Level Legion as well.

If you recall, Zack previously appeared on The Level in a weekend race report regarding a nasty 10k (29:37 on the roads). For his second appearance here, Zack will go in depth with us on this gem of a workout he did back on Monday, May 1st:

The workout: 4x 2km @ 73, 72, 72, 71 followed by 1km at 64

(That’s coming through the mile in 4:52, 4:48, 4:48, and 4:44)

6:03 – 72 mid
5:58 – 71 mid
5:56 – 71 low
5:53 – 70 high

2:40 – 64

It’s been a little over a month since I packed up and moved out to Boulder to begin working with Brad Hudson. I chose to come out here for several reasons. I had been training primarily alone in my hometown in Massachusetts and felt like I had gone stagnant. I had also been being coached over the phone and via email and while I enjoyed working with my old college coach, it was hard going about it that way. I wanted more interaction with my coach and I wanted some training partners.

I was also interested in experimenting with altitude as I had always trained at sea level locations and never really experienced any altitude. Since many of the best runners in the world train at altitude, I figured it was something I needed to check out. Brad had just started up a new group called Hudson Training Systems, which is a coaching service started up in Boulder that coaches people of all abilities, from recreational runners to elites. The elite group had been getting stronger every day, and was the top performing group at the Olympic Trials marathon. It was an easy decision to move out to Colorado and hop in with them. It wasn’t the easiest adjustment at first as it took a couple weeks to acclimate to the lack of oxygen up here. It’s hard to get dropped on workouts, especially when you thought you were fit, but I was able to survive those first few weeks and things have been going great since.

I picked this workout because it’s Brad’s signature workout leading up to a 10k and it’s a great predictor of fitness (even though my next race was a 25k rather than 10k). One of Brad’s strengths as a coach is being able to accurately assess where his athletes are in training and what they can run in competition, so I thought this one was appropriate

2k: For the first 2k repeat, the goal was to go out in 73 and come through the mile in around 4:52. Although I wasn’t feeling great on the warm up and drills, I ended up coming through the first 200 in around 35 and the first quarter in around 71. It’s always a good sign for me if I’m fast for the first segment of the first rep. It usually means the legs are feeling good and ready to run fast. I came through the first mile around 4:50 and ran a relaxed 73 to finish in 6:03. The next few repeats were similar in the execution. I was a second or two fast through the mile and was able to not have to push too hard on the last lap to hit the splits.

1k: The 1k, as Brad described it, was to be run simply “fast”. It’s a test of your aerobic engine, to see how hard you can run after already running what is considered a taxing workout. He had written 64-second quarter pace (although found out after he didn’t really expect me to run that, he just wanted me to go after it). I had done some strides around 32 second 200 pace before the workout began and they felt pretty fast so I thought I would really need to go out hard to hit that split. Apparently I underestimated the effects of warming up and getting into a rhythm as I came through the first 200 in 29 high, which I was unprepared for. I immediately backed off but still came through in 62. The next quarter I started to tighten up bad as I ran a 66 to hit the 800 in 2:08 (which ironically was right on pace). I somehow picked it up a bit to close in 32 and run right on pace at 2:40.

Overall, this was a great workout for me, especially at altitude. I felt like if I found the right track race I could have possibly hit the Olympic Trials standard. Although I haven’t figured out if I’ll go for the standard this season, it’s a confidence builder to know I could run this workout and I’m definitely in personal best shape. It’s just a matter of proving it in my next race, the USA 25k Championships. I think I’ve finally found the right training situation for me and look forward to seeing what the future holds.

The US 25k championships were run on May 12th, so we already know that Zach finished in 4th(!!!) place with an impressive 1:16:39. It sounds like the move to altitude is paying off big already, and the Level is excited to see how much Zach will improve with more time out there. He’s representing New England quite well and with workouts like that he’s clearly On The Level.

A Truly Shitty Workout

My intervals are no longer impressive, well maybe they were never all that impressive, but I experienced something new in fifteen years of running them on Tuesday. On my lunch break from New Balance, I changed into my new 1400’s (shameless NB plug) and ran down to the Harvard Track via the Charles. I’m the first to admit, I have never been a laid back, easy going runner. On days of track workouts, I pay obsessive attention to the temperature, precipitation, and have even become knowledgeable about the ramifications of a particular dew-point reading. Once arriving at the track, I was thrilled that there was not a soul on it, which is often the case midday at the Harvard Track. It would just be me against the watch, with not a care of dodging other runners.  My workout was to be 800-400-400 x 4, a nice even mile for the set, and a solid 4 miles worth of repeats.

Per usual, I ran the first three sets faster than I had planned on and was really starting to red-line, getting a few stares from the Harvard Grounds Crew as I huffed, puffed, spit, snorted, and swore through my midday fun.  As I started my last 800 meter repeat,  I knew I could drag myself through the ¼’s. I would be a happy man if I could just hold it together for another 2:25.  I would then shuffle home, not even bothering to time the cool-down if I could just hold it together for the last 800. Break it down, break it down I said to myself, as I came through 200 (I did not look at my watch, wanting to run off of “feel”), trying to stay positive as I came through a not all that relaxed quarter in 72. Ok, all I need to do is repeat this, 72 seconds of discomfort, and then joy the rest of the day. I hit the backstretch, trying to pick up a second on the straightaway and was now painfully oblivious to my surroundings.

As I hit the turn, with 600 meters completed, I vaguely remember the honking of Canadian Geese overhead, and then, was just un-loaded upon by the flock of bastards.  It took me a few moments to fully comprehend what had happened, and I started to get very angry but that ire morphed into laughter—all this while in oxygen debt.    It was almost as if time slowed down, and I had a running debate in my head if I should re-do the interval, or just be happy with whatever I ran before I was covered in  ugly, stinky forest green shit.

I somehow managed a  halfway decent pace the last 200 meters, all the while knowing that this workout would require an asterisk in my log book. Quickly, I changed out of my flats, back into trainers and my pace home was surprisingly quicker than expected.  I guess having goose dung matted in your hair will do that to a guy. Thank God New Balance has showers, as washing my hair never felt so satisfying!  In the end, I guess that’s the great thing about running, a new experience can be expected each day.

I ran 2:26 by the way, but I’m logging it as a 2:25 as I’m sure the “incident” cost me at least that much.

Ritchie Backs Up The Talk

The first New Balance Twilight meet of the year was held this past Saturday on the campus Bentley University, and it didn’t disappoint. Now, you may recall the preview that we did of the men’s 1500 the Friday before, and if you didn’t then go back and read it because we’re getting right into it here.

Thanks to Flotrack, we’ve got the race for you right here:

Watch more video of 2012 New Balance Boston Twilight Meet #1 on flotrack.org

Conditions were right and the field was fast enough to hopefully get some guys at least the Trials B standard, but unfortunately that did not happen. Two guys came pretty damn close, one of them being Tim Ritchie (BAA). Did I call it or did I call it?! I should’ve put money on him! Okay, Tim didn’t win, but he did beat out the other four guys that were featured in the preview. Tim grabbed a new PR of 3:44.25 for his effort. Although he was out-kicked on that final lap, The Level respects the way he attacked it. A fast time is so much more important than a win in a race like this, and that’s especially true with a shot at a Trials standard. Here’s how the rest of the gang did, times and commentary included:

Tim Ritchie, 3:44.25 (2nd overall) – “It was a joy to race with my brothers in yellow and blue, less of a joy to be yakkin’ in front of the whole crowd after the race… Good race.”

Brian Harvey, 3:45.59 (5th overall) – “Yeah, everyone had a pretty solid race. The weather was perfect with the sun hiding behind the trees just minutes before the start of our race. I’ll get Tim next time…”

David Chorney, 3:48.46 (9th overall) – “It was great to get away from the books for a little bit and run a PR. The weather was perfect so you had to take advantage of the opportunity. Good job guys.”

Eric Ashe, 3:49.15 (10th overall) – “I can’t complain with a PR. I’d be more happy with it if a high schooler didnt beat me… Hopefully it was a good tune up for Chorney and I for a fast steeple Saturday at Lowell!”

Ruben Sanca, 3:49.17 (11th overall) – “Great job everyone. Personally, I got the short end of the stick, but still came up with a PR. As GBTC’s Tom Derderian described it, it looked like my body went into a shock trying to hang with the young speedsters.”

Notice a theme here? All five of them ran PR’s. Congrats guys, heck of a job! Tim summed it up best with “5x PR?? Awesome. Let’s do it again on Saturday!” Next installment in the Twilight series is this coming Saturday (5/19) in Lowell.

Also of note from Saturday’s action, Kyle Linn MacQueen set a new GBTC club record with 4:25.0 for 1500 meters. Nice job Kyle! Watch her race here:

Watch more video of 2012 New Balance Boston Twilight Meet #1 on flotrack.org

She wasn’t the only GBTC member lighting up the track, as there were two club records set on Saturday. The other was the 800m and it was broken by Devotia Moore at the Virginia Challenge. Devotia actually broke her own record with a 2:03.97, which is good enough for the Trials B standard!

Also in the women’s 1500 was Steph Reilly  (4:18.46, 3rd overall), and you can watch a good video with her here:

Watch more video of 2012 New Balance Boston Twilight Meet #1 on flotrack.org

Steph will be featured in our Negative Splits workout feature very very soon!

Twilight 1500m Showdown

It’s after 3:00 on a Friday, so it’s time to have some fun. Tomorrow evening the 2012 New Balance Twilight series kicks off with its first event (at Bentley University). I just so happened to see on Twitter that a couple of familiar faces would be lining up for the 1500m: Brian Harvey, Eric Ashe, Ruben Sanca, David Chorney and Tim Ritchie. What fun is a race without a little trash-talking amongst friends? I reached out to them in order to bring you a different kind of race preview…a preview that is more On The Level.


EJN: So are you guys still on for the 1500 this Saturday? I’d love to do a quick preview, maybe even have some fun with it. Are you guys up for it? Anybody else I should include on this?

Ritchie: Whatever you need Eric. It would be fun to hype this up a bit. I can trash talk these guys like I’m Oscar the Grouch. It would be like a boxing match lead up…

Sanca: Hi Eric, yes, I’m still racing. Looking at the performance list online, I may not even make it into the seeded heat haha

Ashe: Aren’t you a marathoner Ruben? :)

I haven’t PR’ed in the 1500/mile in years but I still plan to drop the hammer on Tim Ritchie. Even if it’s his first race coming out of his 1 day retirement after the 10k.

My goals are: Break 3:50 for the first time ever (mile conversions never count), beat Tim Ritchie, and not get beat by any high schoolers, even if they are national champions.

EJN: awesome Eric, I like it. Ruben, I can’t imagine you talking trash. Should I send you some old school WWF interviews to get the hang of it? :)

Ritchie: Ruben has just never been in a position to talk trash…

Sanca: Watch out folks… I did run a 65 second 400 last week in practice (and it was in my flats/no spikes)

Harvey: Tim may have run 3:58 indoors but in his most recent stab at the mile he only managed 4:13. I think he’s well past his prime.

Eric and Chorney both need barriers in the way to run fast.

Tim, Eric, and Chorney – We’ll have to discuss our BAA team tactics at another time when we are not in mixed company.

My goal for Saturday is to run a smart and competitive race. I think if I am in the mix I will be close to my PR (3:47.9).

EJN: haha, should we set up a 1500m steeplechase challenge for another time then?

Chorney: There is a high schooler in our race?

My goals are to get an A on my contracts exam on Saturday from 2-5. Beating these guys is an afterthought. As for the 800 I purposely seeded myself slow to get a couple extra minutes of recovery to take home the double W.

EJN: Tim, I don’t have much from you yet, still waiting for you to tap into that inner Oscar the Grouch.

Ritchie: Bio: Whether it is with long hair or short hair, a 1500m or a half-marathon, I have been proudly raising the Unicorn for two years now. As the best looking member of the BAA, I have the added challenge of not only running fast, but making it look so good! My current PRs range from 3:58 in the mile, to 28:37 in the 10k, to 1:05:29 in the half marathon.

My goal time this weekend is one second faster than whoever comes in 2nd. I have been slowly chipping away at Eric Ashe’s morale for the past few months, and gave Brian Harvey a taste this past Tuesday, so with 300m to go there won’t be much left in their emotional tanks. The unicorn is said to be an elusive being, unable to be caught, so, Brian, Eric and I will live up to that title Saturday as we run away from the Puma, aka Benedict Arnold, aka Sanca.

Ashe: Tim’s recent lack of strength training is going to catch up to him on Saturday… specifically at the 50 meters to go mark when I go flying past him… when his form is wavering and mine is perfectly smooth- due to the countless hours of vigorous strength training completed

EJN: I’m very excited for the race and the blog post. You guys are doing a good job with this. So good, in fact, that if Ruben maintains his radio silence for the trash talking, I may have you guys submit trash talking on his behalf.

Sanca: Sorry I’ve been out of the loop. It’s tough when you live the 9-5 blue collar life style haha. But best wishes to everyone in the seeded section. I don’t think my 3:49.53 PR seed time will be enough – unless certain people ;;cough;;cough;;EA;; would appropriately seed themselves accordingly to PRs. I know for sure I should run well under my season best 3:53.18 – but going much faster would jeopardize my 100 mile weeks. Cheers!

Ashe: Sorry that there was no official clock timing my 3:45 1500m best en route to 4:03.1 mile :(

EJN: All I can say is you guys are lucky I’m not running. I don’t want to brag, but I did run a 4:15 for 1500 back in college. You’re getting off easy! Haha

Sanca: EA: Maybe it’s because there is no mile race in the Oympics .. or because there’s no indoor track either.

Chorney: 9-5… that sounds like a vacation. Ruben I will see you in the second heat.


I didn’t do much in the way of editing here, thought it would take away from the spontaneous nature of the back and forth on Facebook. After reading through this all, who’s the best trash talker? Seems to me like Ritchie takes home the title in this case; it’s tough to beat the months of work he’s put into these head games. In fact, I’d have to call him the favorite based off of that alone. Imagine that…coming out of retirement to steal the W in a field like that? You’ll hear more about this on The Level.

Breaking Into Penn

On Thursday, April 26, 2012, a talented group of young ladies from the Boston area made their way down to Penn to run in the Penn Relays. The following is a firsthand account from one of the witnesses/survivors of this horrible experience, Joanna Murphy. Warning: the stupidity they encountered was so severe that you might actually feel physically ill while reading this. Better take some Pepto, and maybe even have a little bucket handy before you go further.

I knew things were going to be interesting when following the “Athletes Entrance” sign led to a 20 minute wait in front of a group of high school girls obsessed with their hot pink spanky shorts. This was followed by a security guard’s dumbfounded reaction to Diana’s “hi, we’re distance runners running the steeplechase and 5K” introduction.

“Where’s your number?” the guard asked.

“Uh, I don’t know….where do we get it?” Diana retorted. The guard was not only puzzled, but obviously annoyed by us so-called distance runners standing in front of her. She refers to her male counterpart (bold move, lady… whenever in doubt ask a burly male for the best course of action. Whatever you do don’t think for yourself). Her male counterpart happened to be leaning casually against the rail checking out the hot pink-clad high schoolers behind us with his hands folded across his belly. It was extremely classy (which is clearly a requirement for Penn Security).

“You have to get your athlete pass that’s inside your packet” he casually responded without looking up from the “scenery”.

“Awesome. Where do we get our packets?” Snapped Victoria. The guard finally looks up now.

“Down at 32nd and Walnut. Follow the sign to Athlete Packet Pick up…you can’t miss it”

“That would’ve been helpful to know beforehand” mumbled Victoria. The guard ignored her and goes back to checking out high school girls. We filed out of the line that we’d been holding up and made our way to Walnut Street.

At Walnut Street was clue number two that we were screwed. The “Athlete Packet Pick up” sign pointed down what Victoria called a rapist stairway. Unfortunately for us, that description looked fairly accurate, especially if your life parallels horror movie plots (which ours clearly was). It was a long set of cement stairs leading under the bridge to a maintenance storage shed filled with all kinds of contraptions necessary if you were ever going to knock out a group of women whom you wished to abduct. Things such as rakes, shovels and machinery loomed on the walls taunting us as we descended into the shed’s darkness. “This has gotta be a joke. This is not serious,” Victoria mumbled the whole way down. I laughed, which is what anybody would do walking to their doom.

At the bottom we met three men – a coach and two athletes. The coach was very adamant that the athlete packet pickup was closed (which is exactly what you’d say to a bunch of girls you wished to knock out…obviously we should not stray from the shed). Victoria and Diana did, however, do a good job of quizzing this man as to whether or not the packet pick up was actually closed while his two athletes chuckled at the discussion. “I just got back from there and it’s completely empty, but if you feel like going another twenty minutes out of your way be my guest” he says, slightly irritated. All the warning signs were there – trapped women in a dark shed with machinery (including lawn mowers – those are great for grating up limbs), male authority figure convincing us to stay in the dark place instead of leaving to get our packets…this was not looking good. Nevertheless, we decided to follow his advice and hoof it back to the stadium to try to get in without our Athlete Passes, which we apparently aren’t able to get since Packet Pick up was closed. We would’ve totally failed at surviving a horror movie. Luckily for us, real life is nicer. ..and that coach guy was right (so we found out later).

Fast forward 15 minutes. Diana marches up to the information booth. We should’ve known by now that following signs at Penn = bad news. I had fairly low expectations at this point, but the 21 year old (he was probably legal to drink) undergrad wearing a PENN FOOTBALL shirt behind the desk did not help my optimism…no offense to football players. Information booth conversation went as follows:

Diana: “We are running the distance carnival tonight and need to get into the stadium to warm up but the packet pick up is closed so we can’t get our athlete passes. Can you help us?”

Football Player: looking extremely scared. “Uhhh, you can get it in the morning. I think they’re closed now”

Me (in my head): No shit, that’s what we just told you. Tell us something we don’t know.

Diana: A little more aggressive now: “We are running tonight!”

Football Player:” Ohhh… tonight… Shit, I don’t know…”

Me (in my head): Awesome, way to do your part to prove my stereotype of stupid football players wrong. Great answer! What came out of my mouth is a little nicer : “Is there anyone you can call so we can find out the best way to get in?”

Football Player:” No…I can’t do anything”

Yeah, that’s what I thought…

Diana: “Well, can you put our feedback in that this is a very inefficient and frustrating process?” Football player guy just stared, obviously frightened, at Diana.

Fast forward 10 minutes. It was now about eighty-five minutes out from the start of our race (thank god Diana got us here early). We tried the first security guard; big surprise – he didn’t know what we were talking about and CLEARLY it would be against his god given right as a protector of the stadium’s security and prestige to let three steeplers and one 5k runner in. God forbid he did some critical thinking, even though it clearly wasn’t part of his job description. Ray Treacy was in the mix as well with his Providence ladies, obviously struggling as much as we were. This made Diana and Victoria angrier, but I found it comforting. At least if the entire steeplechase race was sitting outside they’d have to bring us in at some point in order to have a track meet. Victoria stomped out of line, fuming, and sat down on the bank just around the corner as we shuffled behind her. “This is fucking bullshit,” she ranted as she sat down.

Victoria decided to employ the “call a friend” lifeline – a grad student at Penn. Apparently he had officiated some meets before and could potentially shed some light on the (lack of) process we were facing. He met up with us as we were hanging out outside the East entrance. “I think this happens every year,” he explained to us, “The left hand doesn’t talk to the right hand, so the meet officials think that they’re letting distance runners in, but no one tells the security guards, so they keep thinking athletes are going in through the South Entrance. “ At this point, I was starting to think that scrapping the whole idea of a race and going for some beers might be a better option anyway (which given my results probably was the better option, but that’s another story). I entertained myself by talking to strangers – mostly distance runners turned away from the gate. “You can hang out with us; we’re running in almost an hour too…!” They were not quite as enthused as I. One guy sat down for a few minutes putting spikes in his shoes, but he was not so talkative and I quickly turned my attention back to the conversation Victoria was having with her friend.

“Tell you what,” he said, “Let me make some phone calls and see if I can’t get more information for you guys. Wait here and I’ll come back out and get you.” Perhaps too optimistically, I figured this was good news and at least we weren’t the crazy ones (always a comforting realization) in this situation. Diana, however felt differently. “But our situation hasn’t CHANGED!” she kept ranting. She was right – our situation hadn’t changed, but at this point I was finding entertainment in watching all the other distance runners try (without success) to get in. I figured, if you can’t succeed, you might as well revel in others’ failure…the foundation of sportsmanship, right?

It’s now around seventy minutes before the start of our race. Kyle McQueen and Will Feldman join us, having experienced the “tell the guard you’re a distance runner-get told to go to the next gate” routine that has now become commonplace amongst all distance runners at 6:50pm. We noticed that some other distance runners were gaining headway in their conversation with the guard outside the gate we were sitting at (meaning their conversation lasted longer than ten seconds and is more heated than before). So we wandered over to try to piggy back on their success (let’s call it persuasive drafting).The guard told us to go to the next gate, and that he didn’t have authority to let us in at this point. Big surprise. Victoria stepped forward and grills the man, telling him we’ve been to all the other gates, no one’s letting us in, and that we have an hour till the start of our race and not getting a proper warm up was going to be detrimental to our performance. Quote of the night: He said: “I understand, that, ma’am, but I can’t do anything at this time.” One hundred points for most helpful security guard.

Victoria ceded, stomped to the next gate while the seven of us struggled to keep up with her. She marched up to the guard there, told him that we had tried every gate, we had to warm up for our event, it’s in fifty minutes and we needed to get in NOW! I think he found this amusing. He quizzed her a bit, but laughed and opened the gate. All of us walked in, except Ryan (my boyfriend), who was trailing behind us. The guard stopped him and said, “Whoa, where do you think YOU’RE going?” Ryan was obviously annoyed, but I piped in before he said anything. “He’s running the 5K, what do you think?” I barked at the guard. Ryan was actually just there for moral support, but given the shit we’d just dealt with there was no way in hell we were going to pay for a ticket. “Oh, ok, then,” he said as he let go of Ryan and we all scrambled into the stadium. Fifty minutes to go, we got our numbers and got our warm up on. Regarding the numbers, there was one for the front and one for the back…seriously, what is this about? Is one of the officials blind? Upon returning to the stadium post warm up, we were confronted yet again by the security guard and told to go to the next gate. “NO, we are running the steeple in 30 minutes and we have numbers!” Victoria screamed at the guard. He sighed and let us through. Without Victoria Barnaby I would’ve given up, gotten beers and never run the steeplechase at Penn. She is a true friend – and friends don’t let friends drink without running first.

From L-R: Joanna, Laura, Diana & Victoria. Thankfully, they all survived and are able to share their horrific story.

In the February 2012 Running Times Magazine the Editor’s Letter featured five secrets to success that Warren Buffet’s wife reportedly imparted to their children. They were (in order): 1. Show Up 2. Tell the Truth 3. Pay Attention 4. Do Your Best and 5. Stay Unattached to the Outcome. Warren Buffet’s wife (or Warren Buffet for that matter) obviously never ran at Penn Relays.

Moral of the story: They give gold watches to the winners at Penn Relays to symbolize the fact that nobody knows what time they’re supposed to let the distance runners in. I made that up.

Just after the Penn Relays, we had received a race report from Diana Davis, and she had mentioned there was some difficulty in getting in. After publishing that piece, I reached out to other ‘survivors’ of the incident and that started a conversation between Joanna and myself, in which I suggested writing this up for The Level. It had potential to be a great little story for us to feature, and I think she did tremendous job of capturing the frustration of the moment and making us all feel like we were right there in the shed with them. Joanna knocked it out of the park!

Negative Splits: Meagan Nedlo goes for 12x800m

Wait, what’s this? Negative Splits? It was brought to our attention that there was something else out there called Intervals, so we decided to play it safe and switch up the name. Then we considered that everybody and their mother has a Workout Wednesday-type deal (many are probably called exactly that). Also this gives us more time to coordinate with the featured runners and make sure we’re putting up a quality product. We settled on the new name pretty quickly, as it seems to automatically invoke an intense, well-executed, downright nasty effort.

The first edition of Negative Splits features Meagan Nedlo, the new(ish) girl in town. Who better to tell you about Meagan than Meagan herself?

I ran for Scott Simmons at Queens University of Charlotte, a D2 school where I ran track for two seasons while I was getting my Masters Degree. (I went to undergrad at Texas Christian University but didn’t run on the team there.) I was recruited to Queens by Jeff Gaudette, a teammate of Jordan’s from Brown, who at the time was the assistant coach but now lives here in Boston and manages his own online coaching business, Runners Connect.

Regarding races, my PR for the 10k is 34:37 set at the Stanford Invite in 2010. Last spring I struggled with a few injuries (and resultant lack of fitness) so I didn’t race on the track, but this year I’ve been hoping to return to form and improve upon my 10k PR. That said, I don’t see any scenario in which I could run the “A” standard for the Olympic Trials, so it didn’t make sense for me to travel across the country for a meet. For that reason the NB Twilight Series is a perfect fit. (The 10k is the featured event at the May 19th meet.) As for the marathon, my PR is 2:41:06 set at the Trials. I’m planning to race Philly in the fall-2:38 or bust!

The Jordan she refers to is Jordan Kinley and together they are pulling off the relationship double as he is also her running coach. “He’s been coaching me for more or less the last two years”, says Meagan. Coach Jordan had this to say about their unique arrangement: “it’s definitely convenient with my dual role as coach and boyfriend. We haven’t found it difficult balancing both relationships which has allowed us to keep training together.”

Meagan & Jordan, relaxing

Back to the training, how does Jordan set up Meagan’s workload?

I try to set up Meagan’s training with a nice balance of speed, tempo/threshold work and long runs. I don’t try to over complicate things and like the idea of never being more than 3 weeks out of personal best shape. You certainly can’t run a personal best every race out, but knowing you can shape the training for a specific race distance by altering the workouts in 3 weeks is a nice system to have.

What I like best about our set up is being able to alter workouts. Since I pace 90% of her workouts, I know when Meagan is running well and handling the effort. If she starts to look or sound a little off, I will tweak the workout accordingly.

Selfishly, I’ll also design her workouts so that I can increase my fitness as well. For instance, in Meagan’s 800 workout I added on an extra lap at a faster pace for the first 8 intervals (8×1200). If she’s running 600s, I might add on an extra 200m stride or if Meagan’s doing mile repeats with shorts rest on the track sometimes I’ll just run continuously and she’ll jump back in after a lap. It works well when I’m in a rebuilding phase or not training for anything specifically to pace her and then do a little added distance.

That does sound remarkably convenient for the both of them. Jordan appears to be rounding back into shape and Meagan is looking to run some serious times, so they must be doing something right. Here’s Meagan once again, to tell us about her nasty 12 x 800 meters on the track (from 5/3/12):

Brief summary: my workouts have been going great, but then I ran two back-to-back sub-par races at the BAA 5k and the Penn Relays 10k, so I’m really looking to kick things up a notch and do everything possible to ensure a 10k PR at the NB Twilight meet in a few weeks.

2.5 mile w/u
Target: 10-12×800 @2:35-36 w/2:30 rest
Actual: 2:36, 2:36, 2:36, 2:34, 2:36, 2:35, 2:35, 2:34, 2:36, 2:34, 2:35, 2:34
Average: 2:35.1
1.5 mile c/d
Total: ~10.5 miles

After several underwhelming race performances in a row, Coach Jordan and I decided to take an analytical look at my training and to try to fill in the missing pieces. It’s obvious that months of marathon and half-marathon training had made me strong, but what seemed to be lacking was a comfort level with sustaining a quicker race pace. In Jordan’s opinion, the best way to achieve that was simply by running harder, faster intervals. Sure enough, if you look back at my training under Coach Simmons in 2010 (during which I set all my current track PRs), my log is riddled with sessions like 12×800, 20×400, 25×300, etc. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve done 20 times anything, so needless to say my training has changed drastically since then. But if I’m really going to try to throw down a fast track time this spring, then we both agree that’s what it’s going to take.

Despite our newly steeled resolve, the workout got off to a decidedly inauspicious beginning. We left work a little bit early on Wednesday afternoon and jogged to the Beverly High track across the street…only to discover a high school meet in progress. Refusing to be deterred, we immediately hopped in the car and drove home, jogged over to the Village School track…where another track meet was taking place. At this point we were out of options and time, so we just acknowledged that it was not meant to be our day and set off for a few easy miles instead. Thursday morning we were out the door early, this time finding the Village track completely quiet and deserted…perfect conditions.

From the outset, my plan was simple: latch onto Jordan. Stare at his back for two laps. Rest. Repeat. I can tell he’s getting back into shape as he’s recently started adding on amidst his queenmaking duties, and today was another example of that. I’d stop after 800 while he continued on for another lap, which meant the 2:30 rest was more like 1:15 for him. I’m ecstatic that he’s getting back in shape, but on days like this I’m even more grateful that he still deigns to drag me around for a bit at girl pace. I can’t expect these days to last forever, but you can bet I’m going to take advantage of them for as long as possible!

As should be expected, it took me a while to ease into a pace I’m seldom accustomed to running. It wasn’t until the end of the third interval that I finally settled in, only to be thrown for a loop when Jordan dropped the pace seemingly significantly on number four. Seeing 2:34 on the watch sent me into a mini-panic, and I immediately asked that we back off a bit for the next few. (Mind you, at this point I still thought we were stopping at 10. I would’ve probably had a full-blown panic attack if I’d known we weren’t even close to halfway through. I guess sometimes ignorance really is bliss.) The middle section of the workout felt the most comfortable, and I breezed through intervals four through eight with minimal discomfort. Then, Jordan dropped the bomb: 12 is the new 10. Ugh. Mini-panic #2 ensued, and admittedly I backed off way too much on the ninth repeat to compensate. This snapped me back to reality, and I closed out the final three with strong, if unremarkable, splits.

Meagan in action (courtesy of Ali Engin)

In order to put this workout into perspective, I think it’s worthwhile to reflect on the two times I did something similar in the spring of 2010. On April 6th, I completed 12×800 with two minutes rest and averaged 2:36.7. This was several weeks after I ran 34:37 at Stanford. Just over a month later-in what is widely touted (by me, the only person who cares about it) as the best workout in the history of my entire life-I ran the same workout with 2:30 rest and averaged 2:33.3. Several weeks later I would run a tactical 34:50/16:35 double to earn All-American honors at D2 Nationals. Today I didn’t come close to that average, or to the 2:30 I hammered for #9 and #12, but I still surprised myself with how close I came. With another month of work I might even be able to better that 2010 workout, which would be no small boost for my confidence. I’m excited at the prospect, and excited to learn that perhaps my fitness is (almost) there after all.

Coach Jordan summed it up with:

I thought Meagan’s 800 workout went especially well given the circumstances. I wanted to bring back an old workout from when she was running some of her fastest times to show her that she’s right there. Meagan is a much, much stronger runner now with more miles on her legs due to her success over the marathon distance. Getting back to a workout from 2010 when much of the training was consistently throwing down really hard intervals, I wanted Meagan to realize she can lock into a pace like 2:35s and just hold it. Our hope is to have her run 34 minutes for 10k in a couple of weeks (2:44 per 800) so running faster than race pace off equal rest totaling 6 miles tried to simulate that type of race.

Heck of a workout here, and we’ll be eagerly awaiting that second New Balance Twilight meet to see how Meagan does (no pressure!!). Best of luck to Meagan and Jordan, hopefully they can continue to push each other to speedy new PR’s.

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