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Negative Splits: The Jenn Donovan Session

This is our first ever blog post upgrade (call it Jenn Donovan v1.1?), and we’re excited to bring you some more insight. Originally, I had hoped to include some insight from Jenn’s coach at New Balance Boston, Dan Green. Hectic week, but long story short I forgot to reach out to him until right before I published it. He was kind enough to respond and provide some very good information, so we felt it was necessary to update and republish.

I think Dan’s commentary also provides a nice intro, laying the foundation for where Jenn was in her training, fitness, health, etc.:

Jenn has been battling some hamstring instability off and on for awhile now. We’d move past it, get into great shape, and it would rear its ugly head again. It sidelined her for much of this spring where she wasn’t able to do much of anything fast. We’d done some phenomenal workouts leading up to after the first 10k at Stanford (which she only made it halfway through due to some discomfort). Along the way, the hamstring problem had eroded some of her confidence in her ability to compete at the level she and I both knew she could. In her buildup late this spring once things settled down again, we’ve been doing more speed endurance and hill work to try and build her hamstring strength and correct muscle balances that have been causing her injuries.

Dan provides us with some solid info there and gives us a good idea of where Jenn was coming from going into this workout. So here it is, the original with some more input from Dan Green mixed in.


It’s late, I know, I know…my bad. Better late than never, right? Been a hectic week. If only this was my job, then I could focus on it… Fantasies aside, we proudly present this week’s edition of Negative Splits featuring Jenn Donovan. Jenn runs for New Balance Boston, and if you remember way back in February she won the Amherst 10 Miler and was one of our very first interviews. Here’s Jenn, to tell us about her interval workout:

Reflecting on multitude of the miles I’ve logged over the years, the places I’ve run, the people who I’ve run with, it’s been quite a journey! As an avid soccer player in high school (All-American center mid-fielder, senior year), I didn’t have the same appreciation and love for the sport as I do now. I didn’t understand how the high school cross country team could continually run field loop, after field loop, around our soccer fields and not die of boredom.

When my high school track coach asked to race the 3k my freshman year at the Yale Indoor Invitational, I literally got myself sick thinking how could I possibly race almost two whole miles – 15 laps – on an indoor track. My coach at the time, Steve Borbet, only let me get away with avoiding the 3k once, as he was convinced I had great potential at the longer distances. Two years later, he had me running 9:42 at Penn Relays in ’99 my junior year, good enough to place first (barely!), and probably one of the best races of my life to date.

Funny, how a 3k seemed like such a long distance then, and now over a decade later, I am excited about the opportunity to race my first half-marathon this fall. That’s 13.1 miles right? OK. Just checking. After committing to the half, I wanted to experiment with longer tempos. I was curious to see how my body would handle longer workouts (usually, the distance of my tempos are around 5 miles, and done during the early cross country season).

As luck would have it, the first weekend in June, I saw an online post that a solid group of great local runners in Boston were planning to do a 12 mile tempo run along the Charles River: 4 miles at 6 min pace, 4 @ 550, then drop the pace down further for the last 4 miles. I shared this info with my coach, Dan Green of New Balance Boston, to see what his thoughts were on me joining this tempo workout, with my goal being to complete the first 6 to 8 miles. He gave me the OK and I was excited to see the results.

Dan Green again, with the coach’s take:

As she’s opted to try and do a half marathon this fall, something I would say she’s extremely well suited towards, I wanted to get her into some long tempos. When this workout group popped up, it was a perfect opportunity to be able to do that as the distance and pace were right where she needed to be and the extra company just makes things that much easier. I wanted her to see that despite her layoff earlier in the spring, he strength and fitness were still very good.

Jenn continues:

Going into this tempo, I wanted to focus on smooth running: rhythm and efficiency. I also wanted to focus on consistent pacing at each mile point, since in past tempo workouts (usually done solo), I tended to start out way too fast which would inevitably ruin the intended plan and purpose of the workout.

The weather on June 2nd for this tempo run ended up being awful, quite frankly: high 50s, rainy and windy, but all the more reason to meet up with people and run with company. [Editor’s Note: At least she only had to run in it. Some of us ended up getting married in that shit!In attendance: Terry Shea, Wayne Levy, Colman Hatton, Teresa McWalters, Kevin Bolger, and a few others. During the tempo run, people exchanged leading and pacing duties, and the paces were right on! Results were: 601, 556, 556, 556, 551, 547, 544, 548. Total time was 47:02 or 5:52/mile.

I was happy to find myself able to run the entire 8 miles as planned, and extremely thankful to have all this company and assistance. I absolutely could not have done this solo. Two weeks later (June 16, the weekend prior to the BAA 10k), I did this tempo run a second time around with slightly improved results: total time of 46:55 (5:51/mile), finishing the last mile at 545.

Looking forward into this summer’s training, I am planning to get a few more of these tempo runs under my belt before the half marathon this fall, as one crucial component to training for distance and building strength is the tempo. And with company, all the better!

Here’s Dan one last time, with some thoughts in conclusion:

The workout went smoothly and she got faster in successive sessions. The renewed confidence set her up well for a strong competitive performance at the BAA 10k (34:33) and will really help set a positive tone for training over the remainder of the summer. Her next big race will be Falmouth in August and then a half-marathon in early fall (most likely in Philadelphia).

Nice workout(s), Jenn! We’ll be looking out for your results from both Falmouth and Philly, good luck!

Ruben Sança: Citius, Altius, Fortius

Citius, Altius, Fortius is the Olympic motto and Latin for Faster, Higher, Stronger. Why the Olympic motto? Ruben Sança is going to London!! More to come later. An official announcement should be coming tonight via UMass Lowell. Congrats and good luck Ruben, we couldn’t be happier for you! We’ll have more for you here later. For now, in keeping with the Olympic spirit, here’s some more Latin for you…

Currere Erat
Legitur subterraneis

and always…

Custodiunt De Level

Just Released: The July/August Issue

In case you missed it, look over to the left of this page. You’ll find the latest issue of Level Renner ready to download for your reading pleasure. In this issue:

Natural Fartlek by Lesley Hocking
Negative Splits w/ Meagan Nedlo by EJN
Snack Attack by Emily Keefe
Profiles on…
Kate Hails
Sam Wood
Abbey Gosling
Troy French
Chris Magill
The Western Mass Distance Project by Joe Czupryna
Mt Washington by Dave Dunham
Loyalty by Kevin Balance
Finisher’s Medal by EJN
$50 5K by Ray Charbonneau
Addicted to E by Muddy Puddin
Runner’s Romance by Joe Navas
HSR Reissue: 94-95 Grand Pricks Champ Recap by The Rat

…and more!

We hope you enjoy all of our hard work!

BAA 10k

I was out at the BAA 10k this past Sunday and put together an interview/highlights video. This was the first video project with my Mac, and although it wasn’t as effortless as I had hoped, it was definitely a marked improvement. With practice, hopefully things get better. I probably went through the entire cuss word dictionary throughout the process, and possibly even invented a few new ones. I’ll save the new vocab for a blog post on a slow news day. So here’s the video:

I basically was learning the iMovie software on my own as I did this, with help from some web searches, so it’s not bad for a beginner (I guess). However, I had a tutorial session at the Apple store this afternoon and I finally figured out how to do all the things I wanted to do with this video. Future videos should hopefully make this one look like a pile of puke.

Back to the race…I was working solo this one, just one man and his (er, his wife’s) camera. I still feel ridiculous conducting business with a pocket sized digital camera, but it gets the job done. As usual, I was a few minutes behind schedule leaving the apartment this morning so I decided to do a walk/jog combo to cover the two miles over to the start line at Boston Common. Not a good idea! My hip was killing me the rest of the day. When I was at church a few hours later, I was asked to help with the collections. To do so, you need to walk to the front and genuflect (basically the same move as a Tebow), and that just so happens to be the one thing that ignites my pain like no other (just my luck!). I almost couldn’t get up. I can’t even Tebow…this sucks.

Once at the race, I got a good position at the start and had some decent footage of the leaders making the turn onto Beacon St. Unfortunately I couldn’t get out to any other points, so I had to wait around for the action to come back to me.

I stopped by the Marathon Sports tent and caught up with the guys over there. It was a good time…too good, in fact; I completely lost track of time and just barely got to the finish area in time. I screwed myself over and was stuck on the wrong side. If I had given myself some more time I totally would’ve grabbed a spot on the other side of the street. Most of the time I was holding the camera up high over the crowd and hoping I had the right angle. Between the crowd and the solar glare, I was operating blind. Looking at the finishing footage though, I think I did alright.

Mutai looked like an absolute beast coming down Charles. That guys is just amazing, and it’s a shame he won’t be running in the Olympics. The rest of the field started coming along, and I stuck around long enough to catch the guys I knew up front and also to see the women’s leaders. After that I had to hustle (in a limping fashion) to find some people for post-race interviews before they scattered for their cool downs, etc.

When I finally did track down some people, they were on the other side of the dreaded security fence. Being an underground establishment, we typically don’t have media passes so I didn’t even bother asking her because I figured she’d say no anyway. Wrong! She wouldn’t even let me stand near the waist high barrier. I know she was just a volunteer doing her job, but come on! It’s not like she’s protecting POTUS, or even watching a gate at the Super Bowl. I was a little surprised by that.

Luckily for me, within seconds I was talking to Jenkins and Sança (still separated by the barrier), and the volunteer let me be after realizing I wasn’t a groupie. After about five minutes or so I happened to see Mike Pieroni come by and he let me in. I can’t thank that guy enough; he’s always been very nice and has helped me out a few times over the years.

Once inside the “VIP” area, it was time to get down to business. Business required me to pull out the aforementioned spy camera, which got more than a few odd looks from the people there with the serious equipment.

I decided to go with the roundtable discussion for the local crew for a couple of reasons: I didn’t think  I had enough time to get to all of them individually and I also didn’t think I’d have the time or the patience to edit that many interviews. The audio didn’t come out great, so lesson learned. It was a fun couple of minutes, and I just wish I could’ve included everything. There was an interesting discussion about BU and the area surrounding it, but it was left on the cutting room floor.

By the time I got to Kim Smith, Landon Peacock and Cole Atkins, I was starting to feel as unprepared as I actually was. It was a bit of a last minute decision to go down to the race at all, then add in allergies and my post-honeymoon funk and I was feeling like I just had a lobotomy.

Still, I was trying to fake it until I made it (as Jon Gugala advised me just that day through Twitter), but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Camera battery gave out on me as I was wrapping up with Cole and Landon. Nice…real nice. I must’ve made one heck of an impression on those guys!

All in all, it was good to be back on the racing scene and promoting the Level. It was worth the trip just to see the look on the faces of Ritchie/Harvey/Hatton as they received their Level shirts…like kids on Christmas! Can you blame them? It’s a sharp looking shirt!

Can’t complain about a day like that, not at all. Watching elite athletes compete, hanging out/talking shop with good people, meeting new people and doing it all in great weather…sign me up!

Finisher Medals Teaser

Finisher medals are ruining this great country. It’s not necessarily the medals themselves, but what they represent. The medals just seem to reinforce the notion that the act of finishing is good enough. A good friend of mine once told me, “It’s all outfits and finisher medals these days,” and sadly he was dead on with his analysis. There’s something very wrong with that.

That’s a very brief teaser from my article in the soon-to-be-released next issue of Level Renner. It’s a tongue-in-cheek analysis of how the race day environment seems to have changed as the popularity of the sport has increased.

Enough of the teasing. The big news is I’M BACK BABY! Did you miss me? Be honest. I can handle it. I meant to send post cards to all of you, but then realized two things: 1.) no one really wants to read about how great your vacation is while they’re stuck at work and 2.) taking the time to send a few hundred postcards would be a quick way to end my marriage before it really started. So…no postcards.

A lot happened while I was gone, and the rest of the Level crew did a great job of keeping up with it. Kevin did an especially good job of cranking out the Negative Splits segments.

In case you’re curious as to what I’ve been up to, here’s the run down:

I’m married now. In case you haven’t heard that 100 times already here.

I tried running for about 200 meters barefoot on the beach during my honeymoon. I didn’t feel awful, but didn’t feel good either. My wife appeared to be recording it. I haven’t seen proof of it, which leads me to believe that I looked terrible and she destroyed it.

Speaking of honeymoon, it was good. Things of note:

1.) Conch is my new favorite food. It’s quite popular down there and that might be the biggest thing I’ll miss from Turks & Caicos (besides the rum punch).

2.) I survived two encounters with barracudas. I saw the first one in a group, and it scared easily. The second time I was by myself and in somewhat murky waters (murky by their standards). It was big, and didn’t scare easily. We both kind of stared each other down, then I decided it was time to get out of there. My hip feels so shitty that it was on the verge of cramping up completely just from kicking around. Add in the fact that I sort of resemble a bucket of chum in the water (not a natural swimmer by any means), and I probably looked like an easy meal to the ‘cuda.

3.) Island time is taken to a whole new level down there. They only get like three flights per day as far as we could tell, and airport related businesses were only open as necessary. We found that out the hard way when it came time to return the rental car just before our flight and the rental office was closed. Not only was it closed, but their parking lot was gated and locked and their phones were off. There also wasn’t a drop-off for it at the airport. So I did what any rational person would do: I locked the keys inside the car in the airport parking lot and then left the country. I hope I’m not on the hook for a car…we’re keeping our fingers crossed on that one. (NOTE: I did speak to the agency after we returned, I think it’s all set…)

4.) Driving on the left side of the road in a car where the driver is sitting on the right side is quite the adventure. It’s even more exciting when every intersection is a rotary.

Now it’s time to get back to business as usual. Also time to get healed; I’m probably headed for hip surgery to finally fix what’s ailing me. Enough of the bad news, though. I’m excited to be back on the beat and look forward to all the things that we have in store for Level Legion. Stay tuned for some BAA 10k coverage coming real soon.

BAA 10k Coverage Coming

EJN was on the scene in Boston today for the BAA 10k. Some good coverage coming your way, including an interview with women’s champ Kim Smith, top American Landon Peacock, race highlights, and a “roundtable discussion” with some of Boston’s finest. No media passes necessary for our typical guerrilla coverage. Put on your camo gear, we’re sneaking behind the fences for this one.

Negative Splits: The Kevin Tilton Session

Kevin Tilton is a certified mountain runner and all around good guy.  The certification comes via his membership on two USA national mountain running teams.  The good guy part was verified via a recent 9 mile trail run I had with him.  On that run I really came to respect his outlook on not only running but life as well.  He is very knowledgeable about our sport and there is a method and principle behind his workouts.

The workout outlined below was constructed and executed in preparation of the Mt Washington Road Race.  Last weekend at the rock pile, Tilton ran an impressive 65:54 for 18th place in a stacked field.  This below is what he did in preparation for it.

Kevin Tilton charging up Mt Washington. Photo by Scott Mason

Uphill fartlek

This is a workout I started doing every other week this spring as prep for Mt. Washington. The first three times I did it, it was 3 miles of 1:00 on, 1:00 off  on a 10-15% grade. The key to this workout is that the off segments are also uphill, so you learn to recover while running up a steep grade. I started doing this workout 1.8 miles up Hurricane Mtn. Rd. here in North Conway. From there is it 1.2 miles on hiking trail to the top of 2,367 foot tall Black Cap. The whole climb is close to 1,700 feet in 3 miles. As I got closer to race day, I did the workout on the auto road itself. The first time was on May 11. I went to the 3 mile mark covering each mile in 6:52, 8:22 and 8:49. Each mile ends up being a little slower than race pace, but you get plenty of faster running. I didn’t feel particularly good on this one, but the splits were fast and I pushed through some dead legs to get to the 3 mile mark. Good training for the later miles on race day. The last time I did the workout was on May 26 and I was able to make this workout 4 miles long. My splits were 7:00, 8:33, 8:52 and 8:50. The splits were slightly slower than the last time, but I felt much better and was able to push the workout to 4 miles.

A pretty simple workout but effective.  That could just be one of the takeaways from this Negative Splits Session: keep it simple and work hard, very very hard.

The Purple Runner

Post Submitted by Kevin Gray

The Purple Runner is a cult classic and must read among us running aficionados.  Mike Atwood has written the foreword to a new edition of the book.  Read this sneak peek and get inspired.  You’ll be sure to want to put a copy of this one on your shelf marked “Running Books.”  Level Renner is for the olde school literary athlete and I have to admit that we deliver big time on this one.  Thanks Mike!

Text Written by Mike Atwood

I was twenty-one when I first read The Purple Runner. At the time, I was a senior All-New England distance runner at Boston College, who just happened to be an English major, stringer for The Boston Globe, and aspiring fiction writer. My collision with this novel couldn’t have been timelier; The Purple Runner contained everything I dreamed of as a runner and human being.

During my junior and senior years, I resided in an apartment, then later, a dormitory in Chestnut Hill that were both a stone’s throw from the peak of Heartbreak Hill near the 21-mile mark of the Boston Marathon. The possibilities that came from living near this historical hill were endless. One afternoon during my freshman year, I crossed paths with Boston Marathon record holder, Australian Rob de Castella, and ran 5.2 miles into the finish line with him. It wasn’t unusual to see African runners sprinting past us on Heartbreak at breakneck speeds. I’d run mile upon mile up and down the famed hills and then back to the Chestnut Hill campus for workouts on the same track where Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar had made their names in the 1970s. I felt like I was living a distance runner’s dream in this magical place. It was my Hampstead Heath—a setting filled with an international crowd of distance runners, not that different from the English village where characters Solian D. Lede, Chris Carlson, Warren Fowles, and a disfigured elite distance runner in a purple vest trained and resided.

In my spare time, I would read the canon of running books, known only by a small circle of running aficionados. There was no Internet, no message boards, no Facebook, FloTrack or LetsRun.com; it was all word of mouth or what we read about in Runner’s World, New England Runner, or Track and Field News. The leading titles included Once a Runner, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, or The Olympian, but it was The Purple Runner that struck a certain chord with me.

The cover of The Purple Runner by Paul Christman. Image taken from amazon.com.

After going back and reading the novel again almost twenty years later, I am amazed by two aspects. First, Christman gets the running and racing descriptions correct. There is nothing worse than an author attempting to contrive the reader into believing that they know what a race feels like, when they clearly don’t. However, Christman—although he never broke the 2-hour marathon—gets every run, every race scene right. He put the time into achieving a 2:56 marathon – ironically at Boston years before we met -and observed runner after runner to know enough about both the physical and psychological mindset not only of the everyday jogger but also the elite Olympian. There were no Garmin watches in the 1980s but it seems even the simplest long run is timed and measured perfectly; the reader knows where they are, what the character is thinking, and how the pain feels.

The second aspect Christman gets correct is the nature of the expatriate. I have always been a fan of The Sun Also Rises, and Christman—like Hemingway—understands what it is like to live abroad. There’s no replacing this experience, the difficulty of British language and cultural barriers, finding places to eat, drink, and sleep. He gets the surrounding villages and streets of London right; I’ve walked the very cobblestone streets he describes. Christman makes you feel as if you have taken on that role as an American expatriate in 1980s England.

The Purple Runner was given to me by a Catholic priest—Father Paul Caron, my close friend and pastor, as well as the unofficial assistant coach of my cross-country team. F.C. had taken up running in his thirties while studying at St. John’s Seminary—quite close to mile 22—and soaked up the culture that came with it. The Purple Runner was both a literary and spiritual journey for me, dealing with expatriate marathoners like Solian, the female protagonist, who inherits a home in North London upon her father’s death in a car accident. The news comes upon her struggle to complete a 2:54 marathon in exotic New Zealand; the timing is right and she chooses to pursue her distance running dreams in London.

Christman’s empathy and admiration for the female harrier is clear as well. It wasn’t until the 1984 Summer Olympics—a year after the novel was published—that women were even allowed to even compete in distances like the 10,000 meters and marathon. I learned later that Paul Christman had actually lived New Zealand like Solian and then later in Hampstead; through our conversations, it seemed that his life followed a path similar to that of Chris Carlson, the frustrated Los Angeles television editor whose father had passed away at age 51. After dealing with the stress of working in the entertainment business in L.A., he decides to take the opportunity to leave his work behind and, and just run. The whole premise seems so romantic in the same way perhaps King Arthur, The Green Knight, and Camelot had in my younger days. Later, I would latch onto the sentiments found in the Lost Generation writers that I studied at Boston College. We’d all like to drop everything, just go, and just run sometimes; it’s a metaphor for the passions that live with in us. The cast of characters are expatriated pilgrims, leaving their lives behind in pursuit of something higher. They choose to live their lives intentionally—in the woods, like Thoreau. To “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

And then there is the hook with that mysterious, disfigured world-class runner who trains at world-class speeds around Hampstead Heath. Who is he based on? Steve Prefontaine? Gerry Lindgren? I’d become intrigued with the life and tragic death of Prefontaine after reading Tom Jordan’s book, Pre, on the subject. Then, there had been Kenny Moore’s article on the missing Gerry Lindgren in Sports Illustrated. These men were two elite American runners who had realized records and Olympic dreams but both pulled the ultimate disappearing acts—one dying in a tragic car crash at his peak, the other becoming a missing person until Moore discovered him in Hawaii. There was something mystifying and magical in Paul Christman’s disfigured protagonist, living in a WWII bomb shelter beneath Watson Doyle’s cottage in pastoral Hampstead Heath…training…for something…some unachievable goal. Something inhuman. The purple runner is an epic hero in many ways, full of chivalry as he helps the other characters but full of self-doubt and carrying his own demons, perhaps a sort of Odysseus. The numbers are mentioned: sub-13, sub-27, sub-2, two of them realities today, one just three minutes away. Or perhaps it was simply the process of training that I appreciated, the simple joy of staying in shape and savoring the culture and life of London.

I graduated B.C. that spring and sat at home wondering what my future would hold. I’d written for the Boston Globe, covering track meets for their School Sports section but there didn’t seem to be much compensation in a career like that. I looked into teaching but found no opportunities that summer. I worked double-shifts at DB Sports, a local running store, trained and drank beer, wondering where I was going in life. Finally, in August, I decided to move west to Boulder, Colorado, a mile-high runner’s mecca, with two of my high school buddies, Todd Adams and Tom Coogan, who had been an All-American 10K at Dartmouth. I was sent ahead and stayed with his brother, Mark Coogan—two-time Olympic marathoner and resident of Boulder, who found a rental agent to show me places. We arrived at Mohawk Green, a complex in the shadow of the Flatirons near the Rocky Mountains—nothing spectacular, it seemed.

“My friend, Paul, lives here. This is a nice place. Great location,” Mark said.

“Paul who?” I inquired.

“Paul Christman,” he responded. “He wrote a novel called The Purple Runner.”

And just like that, I’d traveled 2,000 miles, over two time zones, away from my home and family, to find what I was looking for. Needless to say, we took the apartment mostly because of our famous neighbor and the convenient location to downtown Boulder and the University of Colorado. Christman was an enigmatic character: his then-pursuit was churning out a world-renowned newsletter on the sport called Running Stats. Faxes of marathon and distance race results from all over the world were transmitted into his one-bedroom apartment at Mohawk Green and we sometimes helped him stuff envelopes to mail off to zip codes in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Canada. He was truly a man of the world, and Running Stats was known by everyone in the business. In the early nineties, it was the quintessential means of quickly obtaining race results. His mailing list read like an Olympic Marathon start list.

However, it was the extension of friendship I remember most from Paul. He was interested in my writing and took time to read and edit some of the stories and articles I had completed. We often shared a cup of coffee or pints of English ale at locations like the Hungry Toad, or even a cheap pasta meal at Pasta Jay’s on the Third Street Promenade. It wasn’t until I mentioned his name to my sports-crazy father that I came to know that this runner and author was also the son of the famed Chicago Bears quarterback and broadcaster, Paul Christman. He had never really mentioned it, being as humble then as he is today, living a quiet life writing and teaching in Santa Fe, New Mexico (the next Hampstead Heath, perhaps?).

In hopes of getting back to our college form, we joined Paul and his friend, Conrad, in starting the Purple Runner 5K each Saturday out at the Boulder Reservoir. Each week, ten or more runners showed up and we covered the high-altitude course. Boulder was Christman’s playground: Olympians and world-record holders like Arturo Barrios, Steve Jones, Mark Coogan, and Mark Plaatjes were not only residents and frequent runners, but also his friends. Showing up at the World Marathon Champion’s house (Plaatjes won the title in 1993) for a Halloween party left me awestricken but for Paul, it was just a costume party with good friends. It was as if the novel had come true: Boulder, in its own way, was his Hampstead Heath, filled with elite athletes preparing for international competition. He was Nick Carraway in a Great Gatsbyish, high altitude town. Or perhaps he was more like Gatsby himself, searching for that American Dream, that green light.

I finally decided to leave Boulder and return to Boston in early 1995; it was a hard decision but I had a job offer back east. By that time, we’d moved out of Mohawk Green to a raised ranch just down the road; I don’t think I said goodbye before my sister and I drove my Subaru south to Denver. A few years later, I saw Christman at a Santa Monica diner when he was in town for the L.A. Marathon and I was in graduate school at USC. Of course, he hadn’t changed: he was the same friendly, intellectual guy with that distinctive Midwest accent. We reconnected again a few years ago when I let him know I’d published my short story collection and he kindly wrote a review.

Last summer, I finally made the pilgrimage to Hampstead Heath while on vacation in London. I soaked up the July sun as well as the view of the grassy pitch filled with people picnicking, and the 400-meter track with children running around it. I hiked up Parliament Hill and looked out at London as it rose above the horizon. It was as if I was opening the novel for the first time again; this fictional setting actually existed. I even wandered the same paths looking for that disfigured protagonist sprinting down a path in his training for the London Marathon. My week was made complete taking runs like Solian and Chris did near Regent’s Park and then over to Hyde Park by the Serpentine Pond. I even ran the British 10K, which follows the River Thames past Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, similar to the course of the last few miles of the London Marathon where the purple runner achieves a still unfathomable goal.

In many ways, I believe Christman embodies the spirit of The Purple Runner in his life and his writing: he writes the way that he lives—intentionally. He composed more than a book on distance running; he created a work that, as Faulkner would say, focuses on matters of the human heart.

I hope you enjoy the novel as much as I still do.

Michael J. Atwood

Author, HiStory of Santa Monica

Boston, Massachusetts – May 2012

Negative Splits: The Brett Ely Session

Brett Ely has come back with avengence since her injury induced DNF at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston.  If you thought she was done, you were wrong.  Dead wrong.  Ely has run some pretty fast 10k’s recently, winning both the James Joyce Ramble and race #4 in the USATF-NE GPS, the Newton 10k.

In the below recap, Ely recounts a workout that she did the Wednesdsay prior to her Newton 10k victory.  Below Ely’s recap, Terry Shea, her coach offers the thinking behind the work.  Coach Shea and Ely herself share specific details about the workout that led to her victory.  Shea, at the end of his report, offers us some bonus material.  He recaps what Ely did yesterday, just three days removed from last Sunday’s race.  And don’t skip over Shea’s footnotes at the end of the page.

Ely at the 2012 marathon trials. Photo by Mike Davi.

First, let’s hear from Ely.

Our BAA team track workouts are every Wednesday night, and Terry sends out an email on Tuesday evening so we know what’s on tap. The scheduled workout for the evening was two sets of 1k-2k-1k or alternately a light fartlek run for those just returning to workouts. Upon arrival to the track on Wednesday, it turned out that due to various recent races and travel, I was the only one looking to do the track option. Enter Teresa McWalters, an Impala transplant, honorary Unicorn, and stud runner who was warming up with us before doing her own workout: 3x2miles on the marked loop of the Charles River. I quickly checked in with Terry and we both agreed that T-Mac’s company couldn’t be passed up, so I switched my plan to the 2-mi repeats. Since I had a 10k race in just a few days, he suggested capping my workout at 2 repeats.

It is interesting to note Ely’s flexibility in her workouts.  Obviously, she is not married to a particular session.

After a 3-mile warmup and a few light strides, we began our first interval along the first 2 mi of our 4.2 mi loop. The goal was ~5:45 pace and we comfortably clicked off splits in that range (5:43,5:48) while navigating our way through bike commuters, couples out for an evening stroll, and puddles that the recent rain had left behind. We followed up with a 2-minute jog and began the next repeat at the 2-mi mark. Our goal was to stay controlled, but to ease the pace down a little. Our first mile was 5:39, and we stayed on that pace through 1.5 (8:28) before picking things up in the final half mile to hit 5:34 for the second mile. At this point I still felt good and wasn’t quite ready to call it a day, but didn’t want to overwork and use up my race effort for the week. So, I split the difference and went one final mile. I tried to keep the pace steady (especially since Teresa was doing a full 2-mi and I was conscious of not messing up her workout), and our first half mile was similar to the previous repeat (~2:48). I opened up a little in the last half mile and finished the repeat in 5:28, feeling like I put in some good work but that I’d be able to bounce back quickly.

A true sportswoman, Ely works with her training partners as opposed to against them.

I finished up by running the loop to meet Teresa at the 2-mi mark and then cooled down back with her. I don’t mind working out on my own, but I also really appreciate having ‘battle buddies’ in my BAA teammates and other Boston-area women. We’ve got a good group who can work together toward a common goal without creating an overly competitive environment for workouts.

In all, I got in five miles of work averaging  just faster than 10k race pace, and each successive interval got quicker. Feeling the relative comfort of the splits in the 5:30s gives me confidence that I can improve on my Newton 10k performance at the BAA 10k next weekend.


11:32 (5:43, 5:48)      11:13 (5:39, 5:34)          5:28

Now let’s hear from Shea, who offers an insightful look at the workout.  Pay attention, you can certainly learn a thing or two about training philosophy.

Last week’s workout was a bit outside of the norm.  It was altered from the original plan of…

2 x ( 1k-2k-1k) with 1 lap (2:00) within sets and 2 laps (4:00) between sets.  Paces:  5k race pace on the 1k and 10k pace on the 2k

…to 2m repeats off the track. 

The basic rationale behind the above (originally planned session) was simply to get practice at 10k rhythm (in anticipation of the BAA 10k which is coming up) as well as to precede and follow that 10k pace work with some more intense 5k effort.  Brett has no lack strength at 10k and above paces, and an excellent sense of the appropriate effort for the 10k-pace assigned 2ks, so it was really more the 5k pace intervals to challenge her and force her out of her comfort zone a bit more.

Teresa conveyed to me a few days in advance of her goal of 3 x 2m for some day during the week, either at usual Wednesday night practice time or possibly some other time during the week.  She did not have a strict time goal, but anticipated something in the 5:30-5:45 range. 

I was fully on board with Brett to switch things up by going from the track to the River to join Teresa.  First, Brett knows herself very well and she could see this as a workout that 1) was appropriate for her current fitness level and 2) fit into the training goals for the remainder of this road racing season.  Second, while a plan is good, and generally sticking to a plan even better, I also think having some degree of flexibility is needed, especially to maximize the benefits of group workouts.  This was clearly a situation where two athletes could come away each with a better session in the books compared to doing two different things alone.  And third, 2 mile repeats rank highly among my favorite workouts ( 4 x 2 mile tempo intervals with 2min rest is a staple workout for our team).

I emphasized focusing on 2 x 2mile, giving the option for the proceeding beyond the 2nd interval but only if the first two were fairly moderate efforts.  Knowing Teresa, if she gives a range from 5:45 down to as fast as 5:30, chances are the workout will get to 5:30 and possibly start off right there.  And if that was going to be the case this particular evening then a full third interval at that pace might be a bit overboard (capable of, but maybe not needed)*, especially with a “moderate-priority” race (my own classification) coming up on Sunday (Newton 10k).

As for the rest between intervals, it was really going to depend upon where the paces fell in that 5:30-5:45 range.  I encouraged Brett to help control pace to more the 5:45 end at least on the first one.  In this case, I felt that 2 minutes would be sufficient and they would be ready to go at that time.  However, if the first was more aggressive, then she was given anywhere from 2-4 minutes rest in order to match on repeat number what was hit on the first interval.**  In the end this is how things played out, with needing just 2 minutes rest after that first interval.

This was a night where I stayed on the track, saw no checkpoints on the River, and so I only got the report once the workout was complete.  Brett looked great as I saw her jog back to the track.  I suspected it went well even before she said a word.  It was great to hear the workout had gone so well, both in terms of the times run and how they felt.  As it turned out, Brett found a nice compromise with going beyond 2x2m by joining Teresa for the first mile of the 3rd repeat, to make it a 2m-2m-1m.

The workout validated her good groove of recent and was further confirmed by her splits.  Brett was coming off of a great week of running while out in the Bay area and all that time on the west coast appeared to be spent feeling good/strong while running (be that easy runs or the light effort-based workouts).  The data generated by this workout demonstrated that her good feelings were legitimate.  Furthermore, she did this alongside a woman that raced a 32:50 10000m earlier this spring.  The times that our athletes have been able to complete workouts with Teresa produce confidence in their own fitness levels.  I suspect that after Brett did this workout with Teresa she felt that she could go into Sunday (Newton10k) feeling ready to race anyone that might show.  And now we see that was in fact the case.

Ely at the 2011 Rhody 5k. Photo by Ted Tyler.

And now Shea gives The Level some bonus material: Ely’s workout that was completed yesterday.

In the end, Brett would end up getting a mix of 10k and 5k pace efforts (the original plan) the following week.  Done on the River (so a bit slower than if done on the track by about 5-7s per mile) the following workout was done on Wednesday 6/13 (this time Teresa tagging along with Brett on the planned group workout):

2 x Mile @ 10k, 1/2 mile recovery, 1/2 mile @ 5k, 1/2 mile jog

on the 2.5 Charles River loop with TMac. All continuous for ~5.1 mi total.

mile.  5:39     3:24 (rec)

½.  2:38     3:50 (rec),      36s back to start

mile.  5:38     3:29 (rec)

½.  2:35      3:29 (rec)

From L to R: Shea, his wife Carly, and Ely. They may eat cupcakes but their workouts are anything but. Photo by Mariko Neveu.

 * Footnote 1 – For most workouts (~80%-90% of workouts) I prescribe an 80-90% overall effort guideline.  This means that the workout ends when the athlete has reached 80-90% of what they have on that night.  For instance, if there is a marathon pace tempo planned for a target range of 10-12 miles, then the workout should only go to 12 miles if the athlete feels they have another few miles in them.  I typically do not want to see one go to the well in a workout (only on occasion should this happen, and usually those select cases are to gain more mental toughness than any physical benefits that might be gained from one single session).  This extra 10-20% that is not tapped into then gets bottled up and goes toward the eventual race.  Racing and workouts (most workouts at least) should be two distinct efforts. 

** Footnote 2 – I mention “matching what was just done” (or something like that).  Basically I always want the workout to be run evenly or progress to slightly faster paces as the workout goes along.  Going backwards is generally a sign of a poorly executed (or poorly planned-out) workout.


Interview w/ Joseph Koech @ Newton 10k

Joseph Koech, elite national masters runner, takes a few minutes out of his postrace routine to talk with Level Renner senior correspondent Joe Navas.  We caught up with Koech after his outstanding race at the Newton 10k on June 10. He offers some insights into the philosophy of runner that I’m sure the legion will appreciate.  I only wish my hand was a bit steadier withe the camera.

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