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Welcome to Winston-Salem 2019 USATF Masters Indoor Championships

Welcome to Winston-Salem 2019 USATF Masters Indoor Championships

It’s early Friday morning and I was off to the track to compete in my first Pentathlon. 60 meter hurdles, long jump, shot put, high jump and 1000 meter run – each event is scored.  We arrived early so I could declare, get my number, find out where I needed to report to and it was game on!  I had to report to the hurdles at 11 am and that is where they would check me in and they would give me my heat and lane assignment. 

Hurdles – I was placed in heat 2, so I got to watch heat 1 before it was my turn.  I did not use blocks, but start from a standing position.  Why the long t-shirt?  This goes back to my bike racing days. If I fell down, I didn’t want track rash…lol  It was my turn for the hurdles and I looked out at the sea of hurdles ahead of me.  I decided to try 1 warmup and my steps I had practiced put me about 4 feet short from the first hurdle.   Hmmm.  Ready, set, go, I shuffled my feet and raced down to the first hurdle, up and over now I’m hoping my sequence of 3 steps still held true.  Not really, I ended up alternating legs to go over the rest of the hurdles.  My finishing time was 11.56 or something.  Cool.  That’s exactly where I wanted to be about mid pack.   Then you get 30 minutes in between each event. 

Long Jump – I opened my phone to check my long jump measurements that I had worked out. I go to find the measurement mark on the ground near the end of the long jump runway and mark my start.  Next, we were allowed to take some warmups down the runway and jumps if we wanted to.  Pentathlon huddle, the official informed us that we get 3 jumps.  I stood at my mark, took off and jumped about a foot from the end of the takeoff board.  Okay, 2nd jump, felt good on takeoff and not so good on the landing. I didn’t allow my knees to buckle instead all the momentum of the landing went to my back, and I put my hand behind me to catch myself as I fell backwards…ouch!!  My wife was filming and I told her I just hurt my back.  I had made my way back down the runway and practiced lifting my left knee, raising my hands, and feeling the back pain.  I had a decision to make.  Play it safe or go for it.  I had waited 1 year to try this because of a previous back issue and I wasn’t going to stop now, so I went for it, it was my best jump of the 3.  What’s so cool about Nationals is guys are willing to provide advice.  After my last jump a nice gentleman took time to explain that I have good speed and if I worked on my landing I could possibly go another foot or more.

Shot put – I had my ice cooler with me and my buddy Advil (take 1,2 maybe a few) so I tried to keep the competitors from seeing that I was hurting while holding 2 small ice packs on my back leaning up against the building pole.  I would lay them down on the bleacher during warmups.  Again another official huddle, this time as if the shot put wasn’t technical enough you have rules of the pit to follow.  Don’t exit the pit until the ball lands, exit out the back, you have 30 seconds to complete your throw at 15 seconds an official will raise a yellow flag right in front of you while you are trying to remember, left, right, put.  I got a safe throw off, heard someone say exit out the back so I did and back to the ice packs until I was up again.  2nd throw, I’m getting ready to throw, the official puts up the yellow flag, I hit a good put, and I was excited as I walked off the side of the shot put box (not the back), FOUL, what, what did I do?  Okay back to the ice.  My last throw was ugly and I think the ball rolled further than my put.  I kept my tights on to keep my legs warm if you see a picture or video… I was able to sneak in some pasta and refill my water.

High Jump – I hope this Advil starts kicking in.  30 minutes pass.  I had a good warmup but still not a good 123123123 jump rhythm that I wanted.   The official asked me where I wanted to come in at so I decided 1.21 meters (almost 4 feet).   A few weeks back at Ocean Breeze they moved up the bar by increments of .05 meters, but here the bar would be raised in increments of .03 meters.  So my first jump over – good.  Then my second jump over – good.  I had good jumping legs, but since I had come in so low the guys were like you are only going to have a few good jumps left.  My final series of jumps would come at 1.45 meters.  I had missed this height at Ocean Breeze.  I wanted this height, 1st attempt, bar fell, 2nd attempt the bar fell.  I told the official that I needed some bar love like some of the other guys where having when the bar bounces but stays on.  One of the guys told me to arch my back and lift your hips.  On my final attempt I cleared 1.45 meters.  I was pumped!!  I made 1 attempt at 1.48 meters but missed badly and told the official I was done.  I wanted something left for the run.    After I was done another official said my approach was different every time…I could only laugh to myself… This was also the first time that someone had mentioned to me how I was doing overall in the competition.  I was in fourth place, cool.  Just finish it out and you should score well in the 1000 meter run he told me. 

1000 – I was amped up to get racing on the track. Ready, bang! Okay, what happened to ready, set, go? So, I took off, went out to fast…I was trying to slow down so I wouldn’t burn out.  I got passed on lap 3. I was doing all I could do to hold on and finish.  Coming around for the final lap, the group of guys had push me out to lane 4 to get around them, funny the small details you remember during races.

I finished up and was catching my breath when someone had told me that I had just won the silver medal.  Seriously? I was surprised! I had done what we do at each NMO (No Mercy Oval) workout and that is give it all we got and let things settle where they do.  The guys had called me over for a group photo shot and they were congratulating me. It was an exciting moment…I manage to run over to the PT massage table to happily spend $20 for my massage…

The rest of the weekend would be icing on the cake…

The rest of the weekend would be exciting as well.  My first National Championship Gold medal would come in the 4 x 200 relay 50-54 age group on Saturday evening.  John Curtis would lead off and hand off to Wayne Foulk (who reminded me not to take off on him) I waited and took off and finally handed off to Bruce Rash who brought us home in first place.

Next up for me would be the 800 meter race on Sunday.  2 heats, first heat and the winner had a great finishing time of 5:13.  Okay, tactically all I need to do in my race is come in 2nd.  That was my plan.  So I got out and hung with the first few guys and on the final lap I was in 4th position.  The guy in front of me brought me back up to the second place guy where for a moment he left the inside open where I was going to sneak thru but thought better not to and waited until the last turn to make my move.  I crossed the finish line in 2nd place.  Exactly how I planned it.  However, in the previous heat of the 800 3 guys would finish with faster times than me so I ended up in 5th place.

Finally the 4 x 400 relay on Sunday afternoon I would drop down an age group to complete with the 40 year old relay team.  Racing against the same TNT team I had lost to last year in the 4 x 400.  I was happy to be leading off this time instead of anchoring the relay.  I was gassed and hurting but so isn’t everyone else by Sunday afternoon from a weekend of competitive racing at the highest level.  I took off and hung on, that’s about all I can say.  I handed off to Brock Butler hoping he had just enough to give us a great 400, he did and he handed off to Delvin Dinkins who closed the gap down between us and TNT then he handed off to Rob Schwartz who was nursing a sore knee to bring us home for the bronze medal.

This was my 3rd USATF Masters Indoor Championships and my best competition results to date.  I had managed the medal trifecta (gold, silver and bronze).  I have the best team mates anyone could ask for.   They support you, encourage you, instruct you, and cheer for you…  Thanks Greater Philly Track Club members and those that traveled with them…

Millrose 4x400m Race Report

Millrose 4x400m Race Report

The 2019 Millrose Games took place this past Saturday, February 9th at the Armory in NYC. For those who don’t know, this indoor track & field competition has been held every year in NYC since 1908 and is considered by many to be the nation’s greatest indoor meet.

The meet brings Olympic, collegiate, high school, junior, and masters athletes together to compete on a single track one Saturday each year. It’s eight hours of track and field paradise with great music, enthusiastic commentary, and a lively crowd.

I was fortunate to get the opportunity to compete with my friends this year in the master’s 4x400m relay. We competed as part of the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and had two relay teams entered into a single race (40+ and 50+). The rest of the race report is a mashup of commentary from different members of the team.

Men’s 40+ 4x400m Team:

  • John Goldthorp
  • Brock Butler
  • Delvin Dinkins
  • Rob Schwartz

Men’s 50+ 4x400m Team:

  • John Curtis
  • Chuck Kruelle
  • Bruce Rash
  • Nick Damalas
The Armory in NYC

Warmup

DELVIN: We arrived at the parking lot at 9:50, in time for a 10:00 meet-up on this rather frigid day in the 30s. Our event, Masters Men’s 40-49 and 50+ 4×400 meter relay, was scheduled for 12:29. We organized ourselves, following the usual routine of Chuck divvying out runner’s bibs, pins, and wrist tickets. We made our way to the draped arena and hung out for a while, some of us going here and there, to and fro. Knowing the track was scheduled to close for warmups at 11:00, I started my mile warm up at about 10:45. A few laps in I found myself with John Goldthorp, Brock Butler, Chuck Kruelle, and perhaps a couple other teammates. It felt good to warm up together…as a team. I stretched on the infield until we were asked to clear the track areas, which was at about 11:05.

BROCK: Whew. The Armory felt much different than it did on December 30th when we raced here. The Millrose Games is a big deal! Tons of energy and excitement in the building. So glad I had teammates to lean on for support and levity.

JOHN G: Unlike warming up for your local 5K or even a big city marathon, a big track meet like Millrose requires athletes to be ‘ready to go’ quite a bit of time prior to the start of their race. So, it’s a case of warm up, but then wait 30 minutes. Ironic, because you’d prefer to be quite warm and ready just before an all-out 400m! Personally, I was somewhat concerned that I’d deadened my legs a bit having just returned from a Park City ski trip on Thursday. Prior to a track race, I’d prefer to feel bouncy with a lot of pop in my stride. Skiing doesn’t exactly promote that! Fortunately, the shakeout jog with the guys and the atmosphere of the meet gave me some juice I surely wouldn’t have had if I tried to run a hard 400m on my own.

Getting our act together pre-race

Pre-Race

DELVIN: We sat in the stands for a while, deciding we’d head down to the balmy corridor on the second floor at 11:25. We reported to the check-in on the bottom floor as scheduled, 35 minutes before race time. As we waited, knowing the 50s were going to be on the back line and the 40s would be on the front line, my mind played around some with the race plan. Since Rob had mentioned his sore hamstring to me the other day, we switched the order so that he, rather than I, would anchor. I was hoping this would pan out as the best option. I continued visualize how I was going to attack the race. In the gathering area, I started to feel a little oddity in my hamstring. I was like argh! Then, as I continued to move around and do sprint drills, the feel subsided, and with that release came optimism. I still knew Southwest-40s would be untouchable, but all the other teams, even Southwest’s 50s team, were fair game.

BROCK: Not an easy race to warm up for. Given the fridged temps and wind outside we opted to stay indoors and warm up with 100 other people in a tiny hallway. Then I did micro laps (about 20 meters) around an educational display downstairs while we waited.

JOHN G: Sorta felt like gladiators getting ready before being paraded out to the arena. A lot of pent up energy and serious faces. Everyone looked fit and fast. Like, you looked around and it woulda been easy to get psyched out. Luckily, it wasn’t my first rodeo. LET’S GO.

Quick warmup on the track before they started the meet

Race Time

DELVIN: Then we lined up. Dry mouth kicked in. Thankfully, Rob had water on hand to share. We were called trackside as the Mixed Men’s 60+/Women’s 40+ finished up. We were up! One heat. Alley start, 50s on back line, 40s on front line. Two turn stagger. John Goldthorp was lead off! Lane 10 of 11. To his left were Andrew Hogue of CPTC, Mark Williams of Garmin, and Rawle DeLisle of SW; to his right was Quinn Pack of Mass Velocity.

BROCK: Thanks Rob for the water! Mouth was also really dry and heart was beating fast. Breathe. Breathe. Better.

JOHN G: Again, Rob saved the day with his 3 oz. (lol) water bottle. Oh shit, I’m leadoff! Never led off before! Bruce and Delvin gave me solid advice about getting out hard and boosted my confidence, reminding me I’m stronger than most. So, go with the pace and trust my strength. Easier said than done when all you can do is think back to high school when you rigged up in the last 80m… every… time. But I’m a different runner now!

John Goldthorp on the big screen!

First Leg

DELVIN: The gun went off…and then the guys were called back. Seems teammate John Curtis jumped the gun a bit. Try #2 was a fair start. As expected, everyone got out aggressively. Big John was in second at the break, while John G was I fifth but gaining. The second lap saw SW extend the lead, but Mark, Andrew, John C., and Getulio Echeandia of SW battling out. A big move by Getulio sealed the deal. Coming down the homestretch, as I had predicted, John G. finished up powerfully and pulled even with John at the handoff.

BROCK: 400 meters goes by very fast. Before I know it I’m running onto the track to try and find a good position to receive the baton. As John G pulls up even with John C, I end up squeezing in just behind Chuck Kruelle, my teammate. There’s barely any room to move by John G finds me and somehow I break free with the baton unscathed.

JOHN G: Oh, hey camera that feeds the stadium big screen. You looking at me? Tried not to look directly at the camera. Played it cool. Maybe flexed the biceps a little. GUN! Got out kinda hard, but not hard enough. OH SNAP these cats are quick! Luckily, there was a false start and (it wasn’t me) and I’ll happily take another crack at this. GUN AGAIN! This time I went all in. Still got dusted a little bit coming off the line, but not terrible. Hung on the the back of the lead pack for dear life, feeling nearly out of control, wondering what my first lap split was. Felt quick! Tried to stay relaxed and smooth despite fatigue rapidly mounting. Kept John C in my sights and pulled up to him by the exchange. With 11 teams lined up on a 6 lane track, it was a TIGHT squeeze to pass off to Brock, but we nailed it and just like that I was finished.

JOHN C: I love running first leg but I knew with 11 teams on a 6 lane track things were going to get hectic very fast. Since I had the #2 position next to SWS I was going to overtake him in 5 to 7 steps and set the pace for our group and not lose touch with M40. At the 200M meter mark, team Garmins leadoff took an angle that put him in elbows reach so I reached out and touched him. At 250M we were a tight group of 3. The bumping continued but it was to my rear as my trail leg was continually getting clipped. At 300M SWS feared we were all going to fall, he went around the fray. At this point I was exhausted and just wanted to get through the last 75M and handoff. I looked up the track with 50 to go and to my surprise I saw to red and blue blurs standing very close together. I figured if I held the baton in the air, someone would take it. Luckily there were no falls during the exchanges. I got some speed endurance work to do and I’ll be ready for Penns. I love running with guys that will fight fight fight!

Second Leg

DELVIN: Brock ran an even, seemingly effortless leg. He cut into lead of CPTC and Garmin, handing me the baton with a hair of a lead on them and within 10 meters of Clinton Aurelien.

BROCK: This was not effortless. I took off faster than I’m comfortable with in an attempt to chase down CPTC, Garmin, and Central Mass. I didn’t make up much ground until the 2nd 200m when they started slowing down a little more quickly than I was slowing down. I finally pulled up the shoulders of CPTC at the final turn and I used the momentum of the banked track to pull up to Garmin just as I handed the baton to Delvin.

JOHN G: I knew I didn’t have to worry about Brock. Dude’s a stud! Stumbled off the track and tried to find a place to watch. Regained consciousness in time to see him pass off to Delvin. Psyched to see GPTC fighting for a top place!

Third Leg

DELVIN: I created some daylight between me and Garmin and CPTC, heading for Clinton. I put my head down a little and found that, at the 100-mark, I was within maybe 4-5 meters of Clinton. I closed the gap a little more by the 200-meter mark. At this point, I was trying to decide what to do. And I decided a few meters too late: I went to make a pass on the outside on the backstretch, but I ran out of real estate. I had to tuck back into lane 1, some of my energy depleted. I should have started my push at the top of the turn rather than on the backstretch. At any rate, Clinton maintained a 2-3-meter lead as we handed off.

BROCK: Delvin looked really smooth and strong.

JOHN G: Yo Delvin! Looking good! Relieved the hammy held up. Awesome job locking down the silver medal position.

Fourth Leg

DELVIN: Nursing a sore hamstring, Rob finished the race in 3:48.64. Although I truly believed we could have run in the mid-3:40s, second place among the 40s teams was pretty good. Our 50s squad finished with silver as well.

BROCK: Delvin put some good daylight between us and the 3rd place team. Rob did well to hold our position. Really impressed by the two anchor legs for SW Sprinters. 51 and 53 seconds!

JOHN G: Really proud of Rob for securing the silver for GPTC and for seeing him come back from injury. Yeah, damn, SW Sprinters were impressive!

Post-Race Analysis

DELVIN: The results page indicates the following splits for our 40s team:

  • John G: 56.84 (-1) (hopefully to come down two seconds by Penn)
  • Brock B: 54.50 — (hopefully come down a second by Penn or at least remain the same given Boston Marathon training)
  • Delvin D.: 55.23 — OK time given hamstring (need to come down a second or so by Penn)
  • Rob S.: 62.09 (-4) (hopefully come down five seconds by Penn)
  • …And then there’s John C. (Could we be looking at four legs at below 55?)

BROCK: Super-fun competition. Happy to run sub-55. Didn’t feel that fast. I think I can continue to improve once I get beyond my marathon training.

JOHN G: This was a total blast and, never thought I’d say it, but I’m excited to be 40 and able to compete with you guys! I promise to not crush moguls, powder, and Moscow Mules just before Penn, guys. My goal is to go sub 54 at Penn. Y’all heard it here first!

7/8th of the team posing with medals (the other 1/8th was having lunch with family)
5/4th of the 40+ team

Post-Race Fun

DELVIN: We watched some more races and then headed to Coogans a bit after 5:00 for an early dinner. We had an awesome time hanging’ out. It was great that Carl Stocking and Wayne Foulke came out to support the team, Wayne prepared to step in as alternate for either age group.

BROCK: The whole family was present to support me and the team: Kids, wife, and parents. We were entertained by the remainder of track meet which proved to be exciting, with lots of records and close finishes. My son was super-engaged and managed to score a flower bouquet from shot put winner Ryan Crouser when he made eye contact from 20 meters away. Ryan had the longest indoor shot put throw in 11 years (worldwide!).

All smiles after catching the bouquet. Wouldn’t let it go the rest of the day.

Race Report: Hartshorne “Masters” Mile 2019

Race Report: Hartshorne “Masters” Mile 2019

As I walked into Barton Hall at Cornell University this past weekend it was hard not to be overtaken by the atmosphere of the old 100-yr+ building filled with a combination of young collegiate athletes and young-at-heart masters runners. It is home to the Hartshorne Mile, a track meet that has been contested for 50 years and draws 40-90 yr. old athletes from all over the East, Mid-West, Canada, and sometimes beyond—many making the journey to Ithaca, NY year-after-year.

In my first year of competition, I approached the arena with some trepidation. I hadn’t raced a mile on the track in over 20 years, and I was up against some great competitors. The four-hour drive home and threat of a major snow and ice storm had me a little worried as well. In other words, I was anxious, and a little scared. But within 30 minutes of entering Barton Hall, my mood turned toward warmth, excitement, and relaxation. I have to give credit for this emotional flip-flop to the people around me. The check-in clerk greeted me with a smile and enthusiasm. Meet director Adam Engst gave me a moment of full joyful attention amidst his ongoing track meet. Competitors caught up with each other like they were old friends (which I’m pretty sure they were) and openly welcomed newcomers like myself. My Greater Philadelphia Track Club teammates joked and laughed. Even the rabbit for our race (yes, we had a rabbit) was enthusiastic and uplifting.

This made all the difference. By the time I began warming up, I was all smiles. The environment in Barton Hall shifted my mental state away from anxiety and fear toward enthusiasm and excitement. It was subtle but powerful. I enjoyed cheering heats of competitors, including my teammates, as they raced around the 200 meter indoor track (one mile = 8 laps + 9 meters = 1609 meters). My heat was last and I arrived on the starting line fired up. I gave a fist bump to every competitor — something I don’t usually do. The announcer completed his introductions and the gun went off.

I immediately settled behind previous champion (and super-nice guy) Mark Williams as we both followed the rabbit through the first 400 meters in exactly the time we told him to run (67 seconds). I felt relaxed and confident. We drifted a couple seconds off the rabbit in the next 400 meters. As we approached the 800 meter mark (half way), I had to decide if I should take the lead and try to push the pace for a fast time or sit on Mark a bit longer and go for the win towards the end of the race. You can watch the race on YouTube if you want. It only lasts a little more than 4.5 minutes.

Men’s 40+ Elite Heat at the 2019 Hartshorne Mile

Or let’s just cut to the chase — I took the lead and held on for the win in 4:34:80.

I’m happy with the performance and feel like I grew as an athlete. Growth is a big deal for me. It’s a huge driver of “why” I run, coach, and perform. The performance at Ithaca taught me about the power of a positive mindset, it taught me to reframe anxiety as excitement, and it reinforced that we are all in this together to make each other better. It also helped me learn that I still have some work to do to reach my full potential in the mile race. I could have pushed harder the second half of race, and I think I can break 4:30 with a little more training and practice.

Perhaps even better than the performance and positive vibes at the race is the ongoing connection with athletes that continues to this day. Thanks to facebook, email, and Strava, I’ve communicated with dozens of athletes in the last few days (most of whom I’ve never met). This dialogue and connection has opened up new opportunities for me, which have in turn brought more joy and satisfaction to my life. I love the reciprocal relationship between emotions and running, especially when it creates a positive feedback loop.

I’m grateful for everyone involved in making races like the Hartshorne Mile a reality. I expect I’ll be back next year and I hope to progress my mile performance even further.

The Omega Project

The Omega Project

The Omega Project is an amazing destination for runners. Doug Adams and Brianne Scott are both experienced physical therapists and runners who specialize in helping people like us run pain-free. And as I discuss in the third episode of The Runner’s Workshop, they offer 3D Gait Analysis and biomechanics coaching to runners as part of their service. This is an amazing tool for figure out what is causing problems, and it will also help you improve your running form to get faster and more resilient to injury.

Located in Wilmington, Delaware, the Omega Project is a place you must visit if you want to really understand the way you run. The Trace 3D Motion Technology is something only pros typically have access to, and running pros are making the trip to Wilmington to visit Doug and the team.

If you decide to try it, Doug is offering $50 off your first full 3D Gait Analysis if you mention that you are affiliated with Run Xpress.

Contact Information

1806 N Van Buren Street, Suite 100
Wilmington, DE 19802

email: customerservice@omegaprojectpt.com

Phone & Fax: 302-570-7027 (texting available)

web: https://www.omegaprojectpt.com

The Runner’s Workshop Biomechanics Show, featuring the Omega Project

Big Woods 50K 2018 Race Report

Big Woods 50K 2018 Race Report

Sometimes you train like crazy for an event. Nervous energy and excitement build as race day approaches. On race day, you to put every possible effort into running fast from start to finish.

The Big Woods 50K was not one of those events. Yet it delivered one of the most fun and rewarding running experiences of the year for me.

Never heard of the Big Woods 50K? Don’t feel bad. Now in its third year, about 40 athletes toed the line at the start on Sunday morning, double the amount that ran in 2017. As a self-proclaimed “fat ass” event, this event aspires to be a relaxed, low key, loosely organized, adventure run rather than a high pressure, competitive race. There is a great tradition of fat ass ultrarunning in the United States, but I never experienced it — until now.

A highlight for me was the route that linked Coventry Woods Park, Woody’s Woods, Warwick County Park, a nice stretch of the Horseshoe Trail, and French Creek State Park. I’ve ran or biked in all of them at one point or another, but I never linked them all together like this.

The route as seen by Strave

Hosted by the Big Woods Running Club, this race didn’t even have an entry fee. $10 for a t-shirt, food for the potluck, and an optional donation is all that was asked. Each runner was treated to so much in return. Trial maps, turn-by-turn directions, well-marked trails, 3 stocked aid stations, and a post-run bonfire feast were all included.

Even better than the awesome route was the relaxed nature of the event. Free from the racing mindset, I could really focus on interacting with the people around me and the environment in which we were running. The five-hour event passed very quickly as we traded stories. I spent nearly all of the run with three other runners, one of whom I’ve followed on Strava most of the year but never met in person. I learned so much from their races stories and all the awesome places they have traveled to. My bucket list of places to visit for “runcations” just got bigger.

And it didn’t end when we crossed the finish line. A huge spread of “pot-luck” food awaited finishers. I think I counted 12 crock pots. And a huge bonfire provided refuge for athletes rapidly cooling off in the 34-degree temps.

It is hard to compare big races with social running in the woods. And why should we? The variety is exactly what makes the sport of running so awesome. We can compete in short distances on the track, long distances in the woods, fast races on the roads, slow races in the mountains, team races on cross-country courses, obstacle course races just about anywhere, and “fat ass” events where speed doesn’t matter as much as camaraderie and community. What new running event are you going to try in 2019?

Our Team Culture

Our Team Culture

As more and more great running teams and coaches credit culture as a key to their success, I think longer and harder about the culture that will enable our success. Before I get into this, I should mention that I’m especially tuned into culture due to my role atEnergage, where we provide businesses with the tools and services they need to measure and improve their culture.

Let’s start with some examples in the running domain. Check out the Northern Arizona University men’s cross country team who just won their third NCAA D1 championship in a row. At the helm is coach Mike Smith who believes much of their success can be attributed to a sustained focus on building the right culture for their program. It certainly seems to be paying off. A little closer to home is the North Allegheny high school program that just won the male and female team PA state championship. Coach John Neff states that “it's a special thing whenever people can come together and each contribute a little bit and do more together than they could ever do on their own." That is very cool to hear in such an individual sport like running. For me, this hints at a culture that emphasizes team contribution and support.

So what is culture? You can look up many definitions, but let’s go with it being a shared set of behaviors, interaction patterns, and beliefs. At Energage we say that a company’s culture is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage. I see it all the time with the customers we work with, and I hear about it more and more in the context of running and athletics. Coach Steve Magness, distance coach at the University of Houston, likes to talk about how important a focus on culture can be. He explains it like this: “True culture reaches many of the same desired outcomes of team unity, belief, and buy-in from a positive path. Instead of control, we have trust. Instead of isolation to create a team, we have a shared purpose that is bigger than ourselves. Instead of exploiting vulnerabilities, we create an environment that acknowledges and accepts all of our issues.”

While much of the current discussion centers on fostering great cultures at high school and collegiate programs, I don’t think the rest of us need to be left out. We have so many opportunities to be a part of communities that support our development as athletes and individuals. Recreational running teams, informal group training, coaching programs, and other groups can all bring us together. In fact, we have a ton of control over the groups we join, so we can consciously select opportunities that provide a culture that works best for us. There is no “one best” culture, only the culture that works best given the people and content you are operating in.

So what is the right culture for this team? What culture will attract and retain the type of people that will allow us all to thrive and succeed as individuals? As John Neff says, how can we come together and become something greater than we could ever be on our own?

When I think about the types of behaviors, interactions, and beliefs that produce the most success in runners that I know, I land on a 4-tier list:

  1. Social Support — help and encourage each other
  2. Personal Aspirations — know ourselves and fulfill individual desires
  3. Wisdom — learn from our experiences
  4. Performance — be the best runner we can be

In my hierarchy of what matters here, I put running performances on the list but I put it at the bottom. More important than athletic performances, in my opinion, is wisdom — I want us all to gain something important from our running experiences that we can use to help enhance our lives. And even more important than wisdom is personal fulfillment. Everyone has different motivations and reasons for running, and I believe it is important to understand and respect them. We are all responsible for our own personal fulfillment, but we are much more likely to attain it when we have people around us to provide support and encouragement. That brings us to the final value on our list: Social support. There are many things we can do together that we would never do on our own, or perhaps those things wouldn't be as meaningful if we didn't have others to share them with. If we do nothing else here, let's find ways to help each other out.

In summary, we strive to run fast, we learn important lessons from our efforts, we find ways to use running to fulfill personal aspirations, and we interact together to help each other succeed.

Please suggest ideas and challenge me so that we can shape our culture in a way that makes these our default behaviors. 

Resources

The following books are great ways to learn more about shaping the culture of teams, groups, and organizations:

The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace Hardcover – September 22, 2014

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups Hardcover – January 30, 2018

The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams Hardcover – May 16, 2017

Brock’s 2018 Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Report

Brock’s 2018 Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Report

Having competed at running events from 400 meters up to 100 miles, it is surprising that this was my first time competing in a half marathon (if you don’t count the ones I ran at the end of half ironman triathlons). I love racing in Philadelphia, especially when my friends and teammates are there to cheer and race with me. This was also the first race with our new rabbit race kits. At least we’d look good!


Purpose and Goal

This was my “A” race for the fall. I didn’t feel up to running another marathon this year, so the half felt like a perfect way to test my fitness and see if I’ve advanced since last year. My goal these days is to be a competitive masters runner, so I had my sights set on beating as many over-40 folks as possible (which is highly dependent on who shows up).

Earlier in the year, it looked like I could get into shape to break 1:10. However, some injuries and inconsistent training in the late summer set me back. The last 8-weeks leading up to this race were solid, but it was clear that 1:12 was a better target for this race.

Pre-Race

I had a very busy week leading up to the race and had to really focus in the last 24 hours to get myself in the right mental state. Getting into an optimal mindset is just as important for me as optimal physical preparation. Race morning went well. Having run well at Broad Street 10 mile earlier in the year, I had the privilege of accessing the elite tent which makes many of the logistic much easier on race day. A warm place to change, dedicated porta-potties, a convenient gear check, and easy access to the starting line are just a few of the perks.

At first, my warmup had me second-guessing my taper, as I felt really stiff and un-energetic. But things got better as the sun rose along with my body temperature. I feeling good as I headed out to the starting line and was pleased to see some friends there — chatting a bit helped release some tension.

The Race

I’ve run a few 10 mile races, but I wasn’t quite sure how hard the additional 3.1 miles would be. My intention was to be conservative at the start and build through the middle of race. Based on my training, I didn’t want to run much faster than 5:30 per mile—and I wasn’t certain I could maintain that for the whole race.

It always amazes me how races can provide such a boost to performance. I went out in 5:22 and then ran 5:15 for the second mile. It felt really easy as I tucked in behind some guys and relaxed.

The pack I was with started slowing in the 4th mile. Around the 5-mile mark I had to make a move around them to stay under 5:30 pace. My friend Darryl also made a move at this point. We ran together for a bit but he took off for the next pack that was about 20 seconds ahead of us. I didn’t have the confidence to go with him.

For the rest of the race I ran alone, staying about 10-20 seconds behind the pack ahead. Each mile required more effort to hold 5:30 pace. Some small hills in miles 7-11 made things interesting. I really had to push hard here to stay in contact with the pack ahead.

I kept feeling myself slowing down, and each time, I would counter with a small surge followed by an attempt to relax at that pace. It seemed to work.

By 11 miles I was really feeling it. Fortunately, my team mate John Becker was there to encourage me (yell at me). There was also a nice downhill at that point that allowed me to throw down another 5:15 mile.

It was all flat from there, straight into the rising sun. I ran all out and still could just barely hang on to 5:30 pace. I tried picking up at the end but my legs and lungs were working at their max. So when I crossed the line at 1:11:39 I felt really good that I ran as fast as I possibly could on that day.


Outcome

I’m very happy with the effort I put in and I think the training for this race helped me progress my fitness. I did manage to take the 1st master trophy, which meant that I got to enjoy some additional privileges after the race (VIP tent, hanging with Meb Keflezighi and Des Linden at the awards ceremony). It was the perfect ending.

Our new rabbit race singlet, shorts and warmup top were amazing. Felt really good and looked great.

Lessons Learned

  • Be willing to revise goals based on training. Aspirational goals are great but not if they are impossible. I firmly believe I can go sub-1:10, but not right now.
  • Share running experiences with friends and family. I was sad my family couldn’t be there, but I had teammates and friends to enjoy the event and performance with. This was amplified by the number of friends who I interacted with on Facebook, Strava, and text message after the race.

Shaping My Son’s Future at the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon

Shaping My Son’s Future at the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon

Racing and goal setting go hand-in-hand. I’ve raced many times over the last decade, but this was the first year I truly thought about the goals I wanted to achieve. Sure, I’ve had time goals in mind in the past, but never truly thought about the why behind them. Identifying the why is still a work in progress, but running and training with Team Run Xpress has helped me prioritize it.

The scene: Standing near the maroon corral about 12 minutes before the start of the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon. I’m in line for a last-minute stop at the Port-o-Potty with another guy from the corral. He points to the sign over the john that says “Elites Only”—but no one’s looking so we use it anyway. “Closest we’ll ever get to the elites?” I joke. “You know it,” he replies.

I’ve seen and heard that kind of self-effacing humor from runners a lot. Nonchalant about our goals on the surface. Secretly churning underneath with thoughts about splits and gels and pace. Like a duck calm on top of the water and frantically paddling below. The guy in line wanted to break 3 hours, and I knew that was a big deal for him.

I myself had three goals in mind: 1) Qualify for Boston by running under 3:20, 2) set a PR, 3) indoctrinate my 8-year old son into the running scene.

We had arrived the day before and stayed at a hotel near the starting line. The neighborhood was teeming with runners. You’d catch snippets of conversations about gear and nutrition, weather and race-day plans. My son started catching a bit of the fever… goal three was in progress.

Tip: If you have the opportunity, stay in a hotel the night before. Your stress level will be much lower the morning of the race.

I jogged to the starting line after a brief elevator conversation with a runner from the U.K. wearing his wife’s pink sweater. It was a throw-away, but one he probably didn’t need since the weather was a perfect 40 degrees at 7 a.m.

After a little warmup and the before-mentioned bathroom break, I was in the corral for the pre-race pomp and circumstance. National Anthem, the announcer’s pep talk, a speech from a guy who ran the race 25 times, good luck wishes from Meb Keflezighi and Des Linden. And then we were off!

I planned to break the race into sets of five miles. I consciously asked myself, “What do you want to get out of the next five?” I’d reward myself with a gel at the end of each set and reassess.

  • Goal for Miles 1-5: Settle in, stay relaxed, spot my friend who’d be cheering at 5th and South – accomplished.
  • Goal for Miles 5-10: Stay relaxed, spot my wife and son at mile six, and then run the hills well in Fairmount – accomplished.

My son snapped a great picture of me mid-stride around 17th and Chestnut. We then compared this to a video of him running at school. He’s hooked.

A note about running the hills in Fairmount Park. They aren’t huge by any stretch, but running up them too hard can sap your energy for the rest of the race. It’s a lesson I learned last year. Just a few weeks before the race I was running with my coach Brock in Valley Forge Park. We crested a little hill and he mentioned we hit something like 310 watts on the climb—well above my threshold pace. So I kept that in mind during this stretch of the race. Climbed conservatively and bombed the downhills. It was fun to pass people here.

As a result, I was feeling fresh going into the next set of five.

  • Goal for Miles 10-15: Stay relaxed and find a group running around 7:30/mile to run with – accomplished. These miles felt much easier than the same stretch last year.
  • Goal for Miles 15-20: See the rest of Team Run Xpress on the sidelines cheering me on at mile 18. This was a huge motivator for me (goal accomplished). Feel good coming out of Manayunk (goal sort of accomplished).

I started feeling some chinks in the armor around mile 20. Nothing too serious, but my left calf felt tight and I had a stabbing pain in the center of it. I relaxed and it subsided. Manayunk is a tough stretch for me—I’ll just say it, I hate that part of the marathon. The road is narrow, the wall of screaming fans irritates me, and it’s claustrophobia-inducing.

  • Goal for Miles 20-26.2: Hang on and feed off the crowd, keep my pace around 7:30-7:45 (primary time goal not accomplished, secondary goal kicked in).

The wheels came off around mile 22. I was holding a 7:23 pace until that point. My finish time was 7:45 pace. So, yes, I lost a lot of ground in those final miles. It was pretty miserable. My quad cramped, I had to walk and massage it out. I would have loved to qualify for Boston, but it wasn’t in the cards that day. What was in the cards was potentially more valuable. I was forced to really examine the why of the run.

I reached my other goal of setting a personal record for the marathon. And I also reached what started off as a third-tier goal but in hindsight may have been the most important. My family and my team were proud of me, and my son was really excited about running and taking pictures of runners. We talked about it on the way home and he saw that I was still happy even though I didn’t reach the original time goal I had in mind.

Running is about time, for sure. But what’s even more important is how it fits into your life. At this point, shaping a future generation—my son—is my priority. And running is one of the tools that helps me do it.

Why we partner with The Movement Paradigm

Why we partner with The Movement Paradigm

Dr. Arianne Missimer, the founder of The Movement Paradigm, provides an integrative approach to health; blending Eastern and Western Medicine, rooted in neuroscience, functional medicine, and movement science. She helps runners move better through stability, strength, mobility, and overall biomechanics.

Team Run Xpress works with Dr. Arianne to gain strength, stability, and improved running mechanics. Dr. Arianne also provides us physical therapy and nutritional counseling services.