Category Archives: goals

Check Your VO2 Max in 12 Minutes

There’s a saying in cross country that State Champions are built in July and it’s true, much to the chagrin of coaches who battle summer jobs, family vacations and Netflix as they mumble on about summer mileage. For the most part, my team does an excellent job of getting summer runs in. We use a number of tools to encourage people to keep up with their running, including online running logs to which the whole team belongs, captain’s practices throughout the summer, training camp and time trials. Time trials are an excellent way for athletes to check in with themselves and for coaches to monitor progress throughout the summer. We don’t expect PR performances; after all, most athletes who are running are at peak mileage with no speed work. We do expect to see hard efforts and a good approximation of how things are going.

One of my favorite “reality checks” is one that you can do yourself. This is perfect for someone with a fall marathon on the calendar that doesn’t have an interim race scheduled or for someone coming off a base building cycle. It’s a simple test: warmup, then run as many laps as you can in 12 minutes and enter the results into the Cooper calculator. The calculator isn’t a perfect estimate of VO2 max, but it’s a good litmus test for training paces and progress. Used at regular intervals, it gives a great estimate of fitness improvements and possible race outcomes. Try adding this into your training plan once a month and see how much progress you make!

We’ve done three time trials this summer: one 3K time trial on the cross country course, one 5K race on our home course and one 12 minute test. Before the season starts, we’ll do a mile trial and one more 3K trial. All of the information from those efforts helps me to evaluate how well summer training went, design workouts for training camp and select early season teams.

What tools do you use to monitor your fitness? Have you ever had the full VO2 max test? How do you motivate yourself in a time trial setting?

Week in Review 5.26.14 to 6.1.2014

We got really blessed with weather this week. Beautiful view from the run this morning.

We got really blessed with weather this week. Beautiful view from the run this morning.

The first half of the week was dedicated to recovering from VCM while the second half was all about looking up and looking forward. I did some public self-reflection on my strengths and weaknesses and I shared (gulp) my goals for the rest of my open racing career. We’ll deal with Masters when I get there. I ran 256 miles in May, up from 214 in April. I started doubles this week and am feeling generally good.

Monday: Easy 5.25. Quads pretty ripped up from VCM.

Tuesday: Easy 6. Tougher day than Monday. Aiming to be recovered by Thursday.

Wednesday: PT in the morning, then 8.25 mile run on the Causeway. Lifted arms in the afternoon. And by lifted mean driving home was actually difficult.

Thursday AM: 4 easy

Thursday PM: 9.5 in the afternoon previewing the Labor Day 15K course with Joe. Finally feel poppy again.

Friday AM: 7.7 mile cruise interval workout with drills. 4 by 5 minutes at high tempo pace with 1 minute recovery. Felt tough but good. Pace 6:33 for first 3, 6:24 for the last.


My feelings on humidity on Friday.

Friday PM: 3.1 mile easy jog around the UVM XC course and lifted legs afterward.

Saturday: 7.6 easy run around the Intervale.

Pre long run fuel? Joey and I went to a movie on Saturday night and made sure we brought plenty of provisions.

Pre long run fuel? Joey and I went to a movie on Saturday night and made sure we brought plenty of provisions.

Sunday: 13 mile long run with the chickies. 8:08 pace but actually felt pretty crappy. Allergies bugging me a bit and legs a little tired.

Total Miles: 64.4

Lift: 2 times

All in all, a good week. Psyched I got back in the gym twice and I do feel like I’m building some fitness. Recovery still needs work but I did better on sleep this week and I think it will pay dividends. Cutback week starts tomorrow with the Causeway 15K at the end, so it will be nice to see where my fitness is at after that. Hoping my ankle quiets down a little. Sayanara’s are starting to bug it.

How was your training week? Did you get your extras in?

“You Have Beautiful Form!”

As most runners know, people love to yell things at us. Usually it’s some iteration of Run Forrest Runnnnnn or a slew of angry words because they had to stop at a crosswalk. Yesterday, however, I had an utterly fantastic experience that made my run.

I was starting my warmup on the bike path and trotting down my pre-workout downward spiral of I feel tired and it’s humid out and my hamstring hurts. For whatever reason, when I’m anxious about a race or a workout, my left hamstring feels tight. I panic about until the workout or race starts, then it magically goes away. Anyway, as I was running along, a biker came up behind me and said “You have beautiful form! I aspire to run like you.” I sputtered something back along the lines of thankssomuchareyoutalkingtome. I was stunned both by the fact that someone speaking to me on my run wasn’t quoting a movie from 20 years ago and that someone thought my form was admirable.

Don’t get me wrong. There are good things about my form. I have a quick cadence and I land lightly. In fact, from the waist down minus poor knee drive, I look pretty darn good. Waist up, well, there were Tyrannosaurus Rex(i?) who once ruled the Earth with better arm carry than me. Still, it made my entire workout to have someone say she aspired to look like me when I ran.

Does this mean I just do really good workouts?

Does this mean I just do really good workouts?

Later in the workout, I was on my last cruise interval when she biked by again and said “You are so fast, is that like a 7 minute pace?” “620ish right now” I huffed back at her. “You are AMAZING.” And with that, my amazing random support biker biked off. As I finished the last interval, I was so touched that a perfect stranger would say something, that she dropped so much kindness and support on some sweaty, ponytailed girl huffing along the bike path. I also wondered if my husband planted her to stop my hissy fit. He claims to know nothing.

She wasn't wearing a cape but this is basically what she looked like to me.

She wasn’t wearing a cape but this is basically what she looked like to me.

So to the lady on her bike that made my morning yesterday, you might aspire to have my running form, but I aspire to make other people feel the way you made me feel yesterday.

What’s the best thing someone has ever yelled at you on a run? The worst?

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose

I’m not sure where all this introspection is coming from this week. Maybe it’s a few solid weeks of training under my belt. Maybe it’s this weird feeling I’ve had lately that things are about to pull together for me athletically. Anyway, one of the scariest things to do is to put yourself out there and admit your goals. When Katie and I were getting ready for VCM the other day, she started hedging her goal. “Well, I’d like to run under 1:27. I should be able to. But I don’t know…” She blew her goal away, running well under 1:27. Sometimes the biggest part of the battle is admitting what you want from a race.

Stating your goals takes courage. It puts your dreams out there and makes a clear marker of success or failure for everyone else to see. Below are my goals organized into the next 18 months, someday and pie in the sky. Some are pie in the sky because although they are theoretically attainable, they’ll take a lot of things pulling together for me. Furthermore, I’ll be just fine if those remain things I worked for my whole life and didn’t quite achieve. My someday goals and next 18 month goals should be closer in reach.

Next 18 Months

PR in the marathon Mohawk Hudson, 2:54 in October of 2014

Break 1:20 in the half and 37 in the 10K

Get a shiny new 5K PR (see also, race a 5K)


Win a marathon RDC Marathon 2017

Win a national title (Masters Club Nationals for track is my best bet…)

Run a beer mile

Break 2:45 in the marathon, 1:18 in the half, 36 in the 10K and 17:30 in the 5K

Run a trail marathon

Transition to an excellent masters career


Pie in the Sky

Olympic Trials Qualifier in the marathon

Start in the Elite Women’s Corral for the Boston Marathon

Get invited to the USA Running Circuit

Get a mention on Let’s Run or Running Times


I put myself out here, now it’s your turn. What are your goals?




Fall Marathon News

I am overwhelmed and grateful to be able to even write this post. When I met with Dr. Charlson in the fall, he promised that I’d be back for Fall 2014. I didn’t believe him. After all, my first surgery was the perfect example of “what could go wrong, did” and I went into my second in a world of pain. But here we are on May 13th, 3 months after my first post-surgery steps and I’ve picked my fall marathon. The selection process actually wasn’t that easy. I wanted a marathon that gave me a decent shot at good weather (so no September and no southern marathons), that I could travel to easily (med school scheduling sucks) and that had a reasonably fast course and competition. Going in as an elite athlete was a secondary criteria. In the running were Chicago, Monumental, Las Vegas, Rocket City and Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. All had various pros and cons but ultimately I decided on Mohawk Hudson and am thrilled to be headed there October 12th as an Elite Athlete. Huge thanks to MHRM for inviting me; I’m looking forward to helping make for a fast day!

Mohawk Hudson was actually my first half marathon, way back in 2009. I was 2nd in my age group in 1:33. How things have changed. I went to undergrad in Albany and knew the half course well. Although I’ll go down once before this fall to run the first half of the course, there is something wonderful about racing somewhere familiar. I’m especially looking forward to a Bomber’s Burrito after the race! I’m also looking forward to a wickedly fast course, easy travel (I can sleep in my own bed on Friday!) and great competition on the men’s and women’s side.

A Goal: Break the Course Record of 2:47:22

B Goal: Break 2:50

C Goal: PR

Will did some math and if I’m in VCM 2013 shape and get decent weather, the course record should be well within reach. 5 months to go! Let the work begin.

What’s your fall marathon? What races have you run multiple times?

Bricks in the Foundation

I’m almost 4 months out from surgery. When stated that way, it makes it seem like I should be back to normal, cranking along at mileage and handling speed workouts. I’m at about 50 miles a week but workouts are casual and recovery is long.

I’m only 4 months out from surgery. Stated this way, it seems like I should still be rebuilding and resting between hard efforts. In the context that I haven’t even regained 50% of my tensile strength, this is probably a better way to phrase things. I’m having a flawless *knockonfuckingwood* recovery. I ran on time. I’ve been able to build my miles with minimal pain. My ankle looks good. My scar looks good.

I’m still thinking about things from the perspective of the first sentence. I’m getting frustrated when easy days aren’t easy. I feel left behind as friends and competitors get faster and faster. I’m anxious about racing in a week and a half when I haven’t done anything more than striders and progression runs.

Katherine and I have adopted a new phrase this spring. After suffering a fairly significant injury last April, Kath is finally back on the roads again which was perfect timing for me. We started with 4 mile jogs, plodding around through slush and snow at almost 10 minutes a mile. In the last 6 weeks, however, we’ve progressed to 8 mile regular runs and 12 mile long runs at about 8 minute pace. As we are prone to do, we occasionally whine about not being faster and the other is responsible for uttering the phrase “bricks in the foundation” or “today is just another brick.” It’s our way of reminding the other that this is a long game and that every day we’re out there running, we’re closer to our goals. And we’re right. Success in running requires extraordinary patience and doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over months and years of base mileage, of lifting in the gym, of stretching after runs, of fueling oneself with good food, of sleeping enough.

Build on.

How do you encourage yourself when you’re rebuilding?

What are you hoping to add to your running foundation this year?

Guest Post: Introducing Suzanne

You are all in for a treat. My much funnier younger sister agreed to guest blog for me today and hopefully in the future as she also chases PRs. She’s a new runner, so her perspective is really fun and she has a much more exciting life. Hope you enjoy “meeting” her.

I think I can officially be declared crazy. As my friends and roommates were running from bar to bar for St. Paddy’s day, I was running from mile to mile at the New Bedford Half Marathon. On Sunday I finished my third half marathon in six months – something I never thought I would say.

Let me back track to say that I am Sarah’s sister (yes biological, yes younger). She’s also the reason that I have gone crazy and become a “runner”. I still do not consider myself a runner, mostly because the runners that I know are highly accomplished and impressive. I am however, very proud of how far I have come in the running world. I no longer dread running, in fact I look forward to it. This weekend I crossed the finish line with my best friend from high school and felt great the whole race. Around mile nine we started laughing because a decade ago you couldn’t have paid us to run two miles let alone thirteen. It was also around mile nine that I realized it was not going to be my last half marathon. I felt so good yesterday throughout the race that I know I can chase down a PR in the near future.

New Bedford was a great course, mostly flat with two major hills (one which really wasn’t that big except it popped up at mile twelve and looked like a mountain to my tired eyes and legs). The fans that lined the roads for the whole course were by far the best part. They were loud, energetic, and well spread out throughout the ┬ácourse. I will definitely return to New Bedford in the future and next time I vow to wear sunscreen.

Until next time friends!
Kayla (left) and Suzy (right) post-race

Kayla (left) and Suzy (right) post-race

Another half done!

Another half done!

Olympic Trials 2016!

For most people, the announcement of the location and date of the Olympic Trials 2016 is just not that exciting. For me, however, it provides a tangible goal for the next two years of training. There has been some mild controversy over the selection of the site (it turns out you should use a transparent rubric for such things) and even the date wasn’t known. The date is relevant because athletes must get their standard at least 30 days before the Trials. Of course, it would be hard to do a marathon that close to the Trials, but at least it’s an option. As of this afternoon, the Trials will be in Los Angeles on February 13th, 2016.

745 days to go!

Boston Marathon 2014

No, I’m not running. I’m hoping I’ll be running by the time Boston rolls around, but I know I’ll be grateful for 2.62 miles in April. As a runner, however, it’s hard to avoid the Boston Marathon buzz at this time of year. On Sunday, I worked on a friend’s training plan for Boston. She ran an absurd number of half marathons this year and it will be her first Boston. I’m so excited to be involved in her training and to cheer for her in April.

They also announced the elite fields today and boast some very strong American runners. I’m personally most excited to see Desi and Serena Burla run. Desi was second the year that I ran Boston, an incredibly high finish for any American woman. She’s also been on the comeback trail and has been humble and patient about that process. Serena Burla is just an incredible story. She had cancer of the thigh and a major surgery that most thought would prevent her from running again, let alone storming forward with top marathon times.

One of my “bucket list” goals is to be an invited female athlete at the Boston Marathon, not on the level of Desi or Serena of course, but one of the 50 or so other women who get to toe the line ahead of the elite men to race from Hopkinton to Boston. Here’s hoping (and working my ass off in 2014).

The Next 18 Months

I’ve been on a lovely blogging and heavy training hiatus since VCM. I’ve been running of course, but with little purpose or specificity and most of my plotting has been for my other major running focus, coaching high school cross country. They had their first meet yesterday and looked amazing even on exhausted legs from a week of tough running. As always happens, however, coaching meets makes me itch to race again. Even before the Relays yesterday, I’d been hankering for more purpose in my running but thwarted by trying to pick my next big move.

The general plan for the next cycle is to target the 2014 Chicago Marathon as my next full, with the outside hope of acquiring my Trials Standard there. There is excellent female competition, it’s a fast course and the timing is such that I could do a later marathon if something like another heat wave were to happen. In the next year, I’ll target a spring half (probably New Bedford) to see if that’s the more attainable way to get the standard and check my fitness before the summer starts. I’ll throw some other races in there as well to keep sharpening my skills.

I’m so excited to sit down with Will this afternoon to map all of this out and figure out all the small pieces that I need to get in order (getting my ferritin back up, hip mobility). It’s nice to have purpose again!