A new life goal

Sometimes when I am quiet thoughts come to me.  Recently, a new life goal has emerged.  I would like to hike the 48 peaks in New Hampshire that are above 4000 ft.  Apparently, it is called #peakbagging.  Not sure why, but i am obsessing over it. And then tonite it hit me.  I think i will be happy when I hike.

The other challenge related to this new goal is that I would like to hike with my 3 yr old son, Luke.  This is not an easy task given his short stature and even shorter attention span.  So I purchased an Osprey Child Carrier and tried it out today.  We hiked Uncle TIm’s bridge in Wellfleet, MA.  My wife tried it first and she liked it but quickly became fatigued.  Then I tried it and enjoyed carrying him but i’m not sure how 5 hours will go.

In order to prepare for the long hikes, my first hike will be this Friday with my Dad.  We plan to hike up Blue Hills in Milton.

I will keep in touch with more as we get going on our summer adventure.

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2014 Boston Marathon

I would like to re-cap todays performances before I forget. The Flynn Running Club had three members run the 2014 Boston Marathon. Fran Cusick, Brian Axelrod, and Keryn Thorvaldsen.

Fran Cusick came in 110th in his division which is remarkable since 32,000 people started the race. He PR’d running 2:32. His progression goes 2012-2:37; 2013-2:35; 2014- 2:32. His main goal was to break 2:30 and his New Bedford Half marathon time led me to believe he could do it. But nonetheless, he ran extremely well and looked strong until Mile 20-22. I like hearing that he fatigued at Mile 20 because I think he found out where his line is. He is still learning how hard to push it in the beginning. We are excited to have a little speed block post-marathon.

(Mental note: I would like to work in a special workout into every marathon plan: 10 miles Easy, then race a 5k.)

Brian Axelrod is the free spirit of the group. He is all over the place. When he isn”t “juicing” (not PED’s) he is rock climbing or going up to Vermont to find plants. Brian has incredible range. He ran a 45 mile race in under 6.5 hours. His marathon progression has been 2:57, 2:58, 2:58…and now 2:56. Brian is also a member of the November Project which allows him to work on strength regularly. Brian isn’t in it for time. He is in it for the experience.

Lastly, Keryn Thorvaldsen has progressed from 3:23 to 3:09 to now 3:07 at Boston. Keryn is still trying to piece it together for that one big performance and I think this summer will prove to be very beneficial. She needs more speed work and longer efforts at MP. She is very strong, focused and ready to work.

Overall, it was a good day for the club. PR’s everywhere but something about the day was off. Im not sure if it was too warm at the end or if the emotion of the day got to everyone, but consistently people were not pleased with their performance. But today was a step in the right direction.

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In honor of an old coach with a young heart

HBH

My high school cross country coach died recently and it has really shaken me up. Harold Hatch (HBH) had been battling cancer.   My two former teammates and I took a trip to Maine to visit him a month ago. It was a time that I will always cherish. A simple 3 hour conversation that can never be taken away from me. As we drove away from him on that day, I kept challenging myself to find a good way to honor him if he were to pass.  HBH did too much to be forgotten.
I decided to run everyday when I heard the bad news last Sunday. Some call it starting a “streak” while others just call it a healthy lifestyle. A simple run.  Some days 1 mile and others 6 miles.  But I have run for the past eight days in a row and I find myself thinking of my coach, Harold Hatch. For me, it has been tough to see such a vibrant figure in my life become weak and tired. I want to keep his energy alive. I want to continue his spirit.  These little runs have done that for me.
Now, i must say, HBH’s spirit is very present in me.  He introduced me to Stowe, Vermont in 1996 during our XC pre-season and now I am the Director of Stowe Running Camp.   But running every day is allowing me to say hello to him and keep me focused.
I am amazed of how much I took for granted when I was in his presence every day in high school. But I am more amazed by how many seeds were planted by him that now have blossomed into huge Rhododendrons in my head. HBH is everywhere and my coaching language is a carbon copy of his sayings. “Split the hedges!” “Run the tangent” “The hay is in the barn”.
Looking back, I think HBH liked me because I played basketball. He played in his high school days and was much better than I. But he always complimented me on my athleticism and ability to negotiate the rough terrain better than others.
The story that will be burned in my mind forever was born out of sadness. I had not run well in a race and let the team down from winning. I got on the bus and started to cry. HBH sat next to me and smiled. He had this confident smile. It was a smile that caught me off guard. Why was he smiling like that? My face must have asked the question because he replied with “I’m happy you are upset.” “It shows that you care” “Your reaction only means that you will try harder next time and you will not be responsible for losing again.”

His speech was comforting. he understood me.  And now I sit here a better man because of that conversation. His goal was not to win but to teach and let winning be the byproduct.

I coach now and that is my mission statement. Once again, carbon copied from someone who came before me.I guess the past ten years have been a tribute to him and every athlete I coach has, in essence, been touched by him.  But still nothing has made me feel more connected than running every day.

I am not sure where this streak will take me and maybe it will end soon, but it is how I mourn. The streak is how I pay tribute. The streak is how I stay connected to HBH and let his spirit carry on.

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BRC Workout Wednesdays

Hello,

I am writing to invite you to a weekly running club sponsored by the Boston Running Center, called Workout Wednesdays. This is a free club for all interested runners.

Workout Wendesdays will be held on the Regis College campus in Weston, MA @ 6:30PM. I will be organizing the workouts and coaching anyone who wishes to be coached.

Dates will be:

June 5, 12, 19, 26
NO Group run on July 3rd
July 10, 17, 24, 31

The workouts and the facility will rotate on a weekly basis.

The site will rotate from the HBH Trail, to the Regis Track, to the Horse Shoe Trail.

The Workout Wednesday group will always meet at 6:30pm in the parking lot next to the field house by the track facility. YOU CAN COME ANYTIME. This is a “no pressure” zone.

Please RSVP by emailing me @ dan@bostonrunningcenter.com

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My FEMALE Marathoner- Keryn

Hey Folks,

I am writing this after having my top female marathoner run 3:09 at the San Diego Rock n Roll. Keryn Thorvaldsen is 23 years old and she just completed her second marathon. Keryn is a former runner of mine. She came to Lesley University having only run a 800m race in 2:37 in 2007. You cannot find a faster time online.

She currently is a 5:27 miler (2012), 18:46 for 5k (XC), and a 3:23 (2012) and 3:09 (2013) marathoner. I imagine her XC 5k time will come down in the fall and hopefully her mile time will be significantly better in the winter.

So how did she go from a mediocre 5k runner in her freshman year 22:41 (7:18 pace for 3 miles) to a 3:09 marathon (7:13 pace for 26.2 miles) four years later. First, it has to be hard work. Keryn is the hardest working female runner I have trained. Second, she is obsessed with running. She reads every blog, watches every video, and asks a lot of questions. Third, she has a stubbornness that makes her competitive and gives her the will to never quit.

Notice I never wrote about genetics. It is clear that she comes from an athletic family. Big sis is a fantastic triathlete. But somehow I think genetics or Keryn’s genes are not at play here. She has been injured 5 times since I have known her. Her times when she began were good but not mindblowing. I feel like Keryn is not a genetic freak and calling her one would overshadow her work ethic. Also, Olympic athletes are genetic freaks and she is not an olympic athlete, yet.

I know a track nerd would say that 3:09 is not an impressive time in the grand scheme of female distance running. BUT her improvement and positive progression is impressive and I think most coaches would love to see this amount of improvement in their athletes.  Keryn’s results have only led me to one question: How far can she go with this?

Is this blog bragging? Yes. I am here to say that Keryn’s training program and her ability to carry out every last detail is: me bragging.

But this blog is also about education. I think we created a good plan that many people can learn from. Below is a break down of our plan. It is “our plan” because my coaching philosophy takes into account the athlete’s feedback. Keryn’s feedback was just as valuable as the weekly tempo run. So here it is.

#1- Aerobic development- I think she may throw up if she hears that term again. During the marathon, the human body is utilizing the aerobic energy system 98% of the time. So we work on this a lot. It equates into running miles with some pool work. But there is one inherit problem with running miles. Long slow runs cause overuse issues and injuries. Keryn did run two 20+ mile long runs, but we were paranoid about injuries the whole time. We prevented injuries with strength training.  Her weekly mileage ranged from 60-75 miles per week.

#2- Strength Training- Keryn has gone thru a progression of strength training workouts over the years. Starting with hip mobility work from Jay Johnson to core workouts from Mark Versteen. Lots of Body weight stuff to help with over rotational issues in her hip. We dabbled with lifting weights with her legs a few years ago, but she focused most of her weight lifting on her upper body until this past year.
Here is where controversy can come into play. Keryn and I dead lifted, squatted, and did step ups for the last four months. We did HIGH WEIGHT and LOW REPS. This did wonders for Keryn. I believe this is why she PR’d by 14 minutes in one year. This is why she was injury-free. Keryn did a steady progression in the dead lift from 100 lbs at the beginning of the cycle to 185lbs on her last lift. In the single leg squat, Keryn can squat 100lbs ON ONE LEG! For a marathoner, this is pretty bad ass.

At the very least, this training block provided Keryn with stimuli and lots of familiar work as well.

For example, we scheduled a 20 miler on the same day as the year before and almost during a similar place in her training. In May 13th, 2012, she ran 20 miles in 8:42 pace.  On May 5th, 2013, she ran 21 miles in 8:09 pace.  I loved this comparison because it was apples and apples.  All it did was boost Keryn’s confidence because her perceived effort was so easy and her notes indicated that she struggled thru the run the year before.  This was a huge indicator!

We also did similar quality workouts where she experienced huge improvements.

#3- Quality Workouts- One of my cornerstone workouts is to run a chunk of miles prior to a 5k or 10k race.  Keryn ran 10 miles then ran a 5k in 19:24 and won the race.  Another huge boost and a mental challenge.

#4- Nutrition and Hydration- She was excellent in both but tried to cut out sweets in the last two weeks of training.  This lead to a weight loss which was good for her “racing weight” but also a drop in blood sugar which led to a “sad Keryn”.  I picked her up one day and she was so sad and down.  We immediately got her back on sweets and she pepped up almost instantly.  Are sweets good or bad?  Who cares?  It got her back to a good place before her performance.  I was fine with it.  I always use Nancy Clarke as a reference for sports nutrition and what to eat before a marathon.

Keryn clearly has some food allergies that need to be addressed and I think that may be the next step in her next training cycle.

#5- Tapering-  Not sure if this is scientifically right but whatever.  Her last huge run was two weeks away from the marathon.  Shoot me, but I have been taught that the marathon is a 98% aerobic event, so why take away the aerobic stimulus?  God, I wish I could have two simultaneous worlds where I can compare the 3 week taper to the 2 week taper, but I don’t.  So I went with more aerobic vs. less.  Also, I hate doing something because every marathon training plan says so.  In her words, “I honestly didnt think about my body being lethargic once. It was good to go.”  This was after experiencing dead legs for days prior to the marathon.

#6- Foam Rolling-  The girl can foam roll.  She rolls slow and often.  I wish every one of my athletes dedicated time to the foam roll.  Keryn swears by it and does a great job.

Our plan from here.  I would like Keryn to take a 2-3 week break.  Maybe she runs and maybe she doesn’t.  I really do not care.  She is 23.  I want to train her when she is 33.  Take some significant time off.

This summer will be about building mileage and hitting some personal goals she set for herself.  She wants to run 100 miles in one week.  I think she can do it and I think it will be beneficial, but it will be watched like a hawk and I will pull her out of it if I see anything scary.

This fall will be 5k work on the XC circuit and then eventually moving towards the indoor mile.  Then we will ramp up for the 2014 Boston Marathon.  Her goal is to break 3 hours in the marathon.  There is nothing that I have seen that leads me to believe that she will fail.  Her intelligence, passion, genes (i guess), and more importantly her hard work will lead her to success.

As her coach, I so interested in knowing how far she can go.  Will she plateau?  Will she burn out?  Will she drop another 10 minutes off of her marathon time?

This is what is so cool about coaching runners.  There is always the question of can I go faster? For me, can I train this person effectively enough to run faster?  With Keryn, so far so good.photo

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My Transition to the Boston Running Center

To all of my clients and readers,

I have some exciting news to share. There will be some re-structuring of the Flynn Running Company. First off, no current client will have any disruption with their training plan or coaching with me. But as of today, I will be coaching, exclusively, for the Boston Running Center in Brookline, MA. This will mean that any future customer can hire me as their coach through the BRC’s website.
However, Flynn Running will still exist as a non-profit running club for post-collegiate, competitive runners. The Flynn Running Club plans to put together teams of runners to compete at large XC races in New England as well compete in major road races like the Boston Marathon. My goal is to provide post-collegiate runners with a blueprint to continue to improve and compete on a team like in college.
This transition will be smooth and quick. Not much will change for most runners, but some things will improve. Clients of mine will now have access to a gym and studio where I can perform video-gait analysis and train more effectively. The studio is located on the Boston Marathon course in a great location in Washington Sq.
I hope all of you are as excited as I am to see where this new path takes Flynn Running. Please feel free to continue to email me at coach@flynnrunning.com.

Thank you,
Dan Flynn

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Fran Cusick runs 2:37!!!

On Sunday, November 18th, Flynn Running client, Fran Cusick, ran his first marathon.  He ran it in 2:37 in the Philadelphia Marathon coming in 112th out of 7058 runners.  The cancellation of the NYC Marathon created an even more competitive field this year than last.  It was a a beautiful day and cool enough to run really well.

As his running coach, I am very impressed with Fran’s performance.  Our approach was conservative.  Even though Fran ran really well, this marathon was a learning experience.  Fran is a talented runner who happens to have an unusual work ethic.  He ran to fill out his running resume and start to see where he belongs as a runner.  Prior to this race Fran has seen success in the half marathon.  He has run 1:18, 1:12, and 1:11 in his first three half’s.  His 1:11 was a month ago at the Bay State Half Marathon where he placed 2nd.

So what does this mean?  Not sure.  We will talk about his future as he recovers in the next few weeks.  If I were a betting man, I think Fran will run an indoor track season block this winter and have his eye on the 2014 Boston Marathon (which he qualified for today).

Obviously, his highlights of this fall is today’s performance and the Bay State performance, but I think his biggest accomplishment is running 100 miles-a-week for 5-6 weeks was most promising.  Running 100 in one week is a badge of honor.  In this world, miles per week (mpw) is the unit at which most elite runners measure themselves against others.  Fran has done it and did it many times over and never got hurt.  It leads me to believe that he can continue this progression if it can work with his lifestyle.

Today’s race allows us to move forward and go for bigger goals.  There is plenty out there to challenge Fran.  Can he run a faster 5k?  What can he do at Boston? Is it 13.1 or 26.2?  So many questions, but it is exciting for sure.

 

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2013 Boston Marathon

It was just announced that Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Desi Davila are all running the 2013 Boston Marathon. These are the 3 top female marathoners in the U.S. Each one has an awesome story line. Flanagan is from Marblehead, MA and owns every HS distance record in MA (hometown favorite). Goucher ran Boston 3 times and came up short. Davila had the lead of the 2011 Boston Marathon with under a mile to go and came up short. Wow. The 2012 US Marathon Olympic team is going to compete on US soil right after the London Olympics. This story has just begun. Imagine the storyline after the Olympics? Redemption, pressure, hype, underdog, and we get to watch it all unfold in our backyard next spring!
Can anyone tell I am excited? Well, you should be too because this may be the greatest female field in a Boston Marathon EVER.
I hope people understand the significance. Now we wait to hear who these 3 powerhouses will face from the Kenyans and Ethiopians. I mean, what if the East Africans just bail in 2013. I wouldn’t blame them. No one wants to be the first East African to lose to the Americans in a marathon. So it could be a wide open door for glory. OR…
Marathoners from around the world want to get in a good race against the best competition and see the 2013 Boston Marathon as THE race to run. If that is the case, then hold on people. Enjoy the ride. We got ourselves a classic.
There is no doubt that 2013 will shape up to be a great Boston Marathon because once these 3 committed it became a story that will have major ripple effects.
See you on Monday, April 15th. I will be a Mile 19. Where will you be?

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My Exciting New Client

I met with a new client today and I am excited. She has all of the intangibles. She says all the right things to the point where i wondered if someone had paid an actress to meet with me and say these things. What is a perfect client?

1) She wrote down her goals prior to the meeting.
2) Her goals were reasonable and doable
3) She brought in her previous training plans and followed them perfectly.
4) She is 45 and takes to two days off, because it feels right to her.
5) She was motivated and I feel she will work very hard.
6) And lastly, she has tremendous upside given her inexperience with the sport.

A coaches dream. Motivated to run, ready to listen, and using common sense when it comes to listening to her body. Count me in!

As you read this list, where do you stand with some of these characteristics?

Are you willing to put your trust into a coach?
Are you willing to back off the pace of an easy run so you have the energy for your Sunday long run?
Do you have goals?
Have you written down your goals?

Consider the commitment of completing a marathon and be honest with yourself. Do you have what it takes to do something great?

My new client does.

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My Coaching Philosophy

As a running coach, I am teaching runners what I have learned and I continue to learn.  I will never stop learning, but I have gotten to an interesting point.  At the beginning of my journey, I was learning to develop my own coaching philosophy.  As I grow older, I am learning to tweak my philosophy, but in some instances my research affirms what I already know.

The great thing about running is when you think you have it down it will smack you in the head.  My only advice to those starting out is to never stop learning and never think you have it down.

At this point in my education, I am certain that running more miles will have a positive effect on a runners fitness.  There is much controversy with this.  One reason being that the increase in miles run will increase the risk of injury.

Because of this fact, i have turned most of my coaching attention towards injury prevention and strength development.  I believe runners should run more miles, but they need to be strong enough to handle the increase in mileage.

How do runners gain strength?  This is my new assignment.  I am on a journey to find the best fit for my collegiate program.  Is it the weight room?  Is it the hills? Is it sprinting? Well, its all of the above.  I have found different ways to add a load to an athlete and that load with give the resistance necessary to gain strength.  Adding this load has posed a problem.  The increased load can highlight muscle imbalances and cause injury.  More specifically, I have seen a commonality in my runners.  When adding weight to lift, they are all activating their lumbar spine instead of their hip, glute, pelvic floor…etc.  My runners are weak in some of the most important areas for running and when they get in trouble they activate a part of their body which, over time, will cause more harm than good.

This road is getting long but I think I have found a path that works for me.  Here is a list of my philosophy so far when dealing with a long distance runner:

1. Collect past running and medical history

2. Evaluate motivation for running.  Why are they doing this?

3. Evaluate functional movement.

4. Develop a plan to correct imbalances. (Seek out professional assistance).

5. Add strength plan once corrections have been made and develop running form.

6. Add Mileage.

7. Get fitness test by running a 5k, 10k, or a half marathon. (Depending on athlete).

8. I really feel that 30 miles a week is a great number.  If you are under this number, then I don’t think I will give too many other workouts beyond easy running.

9. Over 30 miles a week will be a good time to add specific work. Specific work, for me, always starts with short intervals, hills, and fartleks.

10. Continue to add new workouts, running routes, thoughts, and goals. Always change it up. Variety keeps the brain active and vibrant.

My findings may seem simple and that is on purpose.  “Keep it simple, stupid.”  I say that to myself all of the time.  The complexities are there and that’s where the art of coaching comes in, not to mention the amount of education necessary to evaluate, diagnose, and fix the problems. I am working on that as I go.

Make no mistake, I am no expert.  I am just a guy who is passionate and works very hard to coach runners every day and learn from my experiences.  I feel like this approach is working and every year I can point to a new challenge and a new success.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.

 

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