What drives runners to run? Some to lose weight, some to chase PR’s, some because their doctor strongly suggests more exercise. However, the runners that keep at it, learn to actually enjoy running. They don’t run so they can shed a few pounds, or run faster than they had before; those may be bonuses, but they run because they literally like the act of running. People often ask me, do you get bored on your runs? Or how do you run for an hour and a half and enjoy it? Well first of all, I will be the first to admit that there comes a point in every runner’s career that running is the last thing they want to do at that moment, but they also know that if they don’t run that day, they will feel like crap,. Here are a few things that I do when the running gets tough:
I hope you will try some of these ideas to keep the run fun! Running shouldn’t be a chore, it’s a gift. Let me know what you do to keep on chugging along during your miles!
AKA Jay Cheese
“Your registration is complete. Your athlete number can be found at the bottom of this email.” Once I read that email I knew I was going to be running the 2016 Chicago Marathon. I was super pumped. And then I freaked out, just a little bit…..after all, I had just had my third child in March! The race was in October. Almost exactly seven months to the date of Lauren’s birth, I would be toeing the line at the Chicago Marathon. I had not raced a marathon, or really done any quality running, since September 2012. After all, my oldest, Claire, was born in May of 2013 (making her 3 years old) and my middle child, Nora, was born in August of 2014 (2 years old). If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. That meant I had to do a full 18 week program and find a coach.
Enter Grant Watley, Director of Private Coaching at the store. I will never forget making that call one afternoon. I asked him if he would meet with me to go over my goals and help me to create a plan for a successful run at Chicago. His response was an enthusiastic “of course! When can I come over to visit?” Immediately I knew this was the guy to help me get to where I wanted to be. For starters, he knew I could not find time to get out of the house with three kids under three!
Grant and I had an initial conversation that covered not only my short term goal of Chicago, but also my long term goals (a bit lofty, but worth a shot!) He also understood that I would be taking care of three small children, lacking sleep and structure, but that I was committed to doing the workouts he created. In our initial meeting, I knew that Grant wanted to know not only about me, but also my family, my support system. He gave me a ton of comfort in telling me this was going to be a “comeback” program. He was realistic about the entire picture. Prior to having children, I coached cross country at the high school level and after talking with Grant, I knew both his running and life philosophies matched mine; this was going to be a great fit. There is always room to develop and grow and at this point I desired someone to write my workouts and help me learn along the way. After all, if you train the same way for every race, you are going to run the same time (within reason). With this marathon, I needed something different. I physically was not in the same place I was in 2012.
As an overview, my training plan was going to be 18 weeks. I was going to have a period of base building, followed by early quality and final quality training, and culminating with championship racing. I really had no idea what that all entailed, but I was ready. My best friend had run Chicago in 2003, my husband, Rob, ran in 2008 and now it was my turn! This was going to be just a fun comeback run. The first few weeks of training were great; I was ready to get back into running…..then came my first “quality” run. I texted Grant a few days before as I was looking over my weekly plan. The conversation went something like this:
“Coach, you want me to do “x” 1000m repeats for a total of “y” miles?”
One simple response. “Yes.” (Then followed by some advice and comfort, of course!)
In my mind, I was thinking, “Ok, let’s do this;” followed by “you’ve never run 1000m repeats let alone that many!” But I was determined to do the workout and hit the prescribed times. Early Wednesday morning came and I completed the workout. Physically, it was tough, but more so it was mentally demanding. I knew what Grant was up to! His coaching involves the full package; physical and mental training. Although I did not hit all the goal times, I did the workout successfully and that was a goal reached for me in itself. I quickly learned that all my Wednesday workouts were going to of this nature; this was part of the process. I trusted the process and was going to stay the course; Grant had every workout planned with detailed notes.
Every week Grant and I touched based to review my progress. Every three weeks he evaluated my times and gave me my next three weeks of training. I never was able to get ahead of myself. This was awesome. More often than not, people look at a full marathon training cycle, but with Grant’s constant evaluation my coaching was specific. After using this approach, I would not do it any other way! Grant also helped me alter my weekly schedule. For example, I wanted to run the Red, White, and Boom Half Marathon in Minneapolis. With my long quality runs usually occurring on Sundays (this race was a Monday) he tweaked my workouts and made it work without missing a beat. I really appreciated that.
During my 18 week plan, Grant also had me run the Sioux Falls Half Marathon as a test run so he could get a more accurate picture for my remaining training leading up to Chicago. I had not run SF for several years and I was nervous! Once again, I texted Grant about a plan:
“What’s the plan for SF?” I wrote.
Two words this time…“Run. Fast.” His reply.
At this point in working with Grant, I could totally envision him writing this text with a big grin on his face. He has a great sense of humor like that. Of course he supplemented with detailed plans and he knew how I was feeling. He prepared my body and mind for that race and that allowed me to run without hesitation. Now I knew I would be ready for Chicago. I had hit (and not hit) some goal times throughout training, but I was honest in my effort and all my feedback to him. I had remained healthy and was ready to put my mind and body to the test.
Four weeks after SF it was time to run Chicago. Again, I found myself nervous. I knew I was ready, but I was still a little scared. I was ready to get on that plane and get out to the race venue. Rob and I left Sioux Falls the Friday morning before the race. That gave us all of Friday to take it in. We went to the EXPO (which was crazy busy), walked around downtown Chicago, shopped, took in the sights, and ate an awesome steak dinner! Saturday morning we got up and did an easy shake out run followed by a Starbucks coffee and watching the first international 5K that was added to the weekend festivities. As we stood on the bridge to watch, we saw Grant! That was awesome because at this point I was really getting antsy. I wanted to run well and was putting too much pressure on myself. I told him that and like any great coach he gave me great advice. “Just have fun. You put in all the work and tough workouts. This is the fun part.” He was so genuine. It all the sudden just clicked with me and I was at ease. We finished watching some the race and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the day; we enjoyed the Navy Pier, church in the evening, and of course, deep dish Chicago Pizza!
Sunday morning came bright and early and I was ready. The weather was beautiful, I was calm and I knew our plan. I was ready to run this race. Training under Grant had went so very well! In fact, I was confident not only in my physical stance but also my mental state. He had prepared me with some workouts that challenged both my body and mind. I was eager to get going. Rob and I headed to the start and I had a plan to see him a few times on the course. We parted ways and into the starting area I headed.
After going through two security checkpoints I made my way to my corral to grab a spot to sit. I did not want to be on my feet any longer than I had to be as I already had taken advantage of lots of walking around Chicago in the days prior. Prior to the start I did my warm ups and soon enough the race director was calling for the start. I was very excited!!
The plan was to hold back through 6 miles and that was not difficult as I sat behind a pace group. What was difficult was the jam-packed field. I literally was running elbow to elbow with other runners. I could not have moved ahead even if I wanted to. There was nowhere to go! Finally at the 10K I saw that I could move ahead a bit, which I did. I was feeling great taking in the sights and sounds. I had also seen Rob twice already and I was so super excited. The plan was to continue to quicken the pace, which I attempted to do. I just could not believe that there was so many runners. I knew it was a full field (41,000 finishers this year - - way more than other marathons!) so the only thing I wasn’t prepared for was just how tight the running was. I remained calm though as to not waste any unnecessary energy. Finally, at mile 20 (I am not exaggerating) the field thinned! At this point I could actually run my own stride for the final 10K, which is exactly what I did.
With 1200m to go, I surprisingly saw Rob in the crowd (which was not planned!) I gave my final kick to the finish. I was feeling great but at the same time ready to be done. As I came through the finish line I felt emotional. I immediately reflected on what I had just done. The actual race itself was awesome. I felt really good and was so happy to finish strong. I had also seen Rob several times, as well as Grant’s wife, Angela, twice. The entire experience was positive! Then I looked at my watch. A PR.
I have always believed in quality training versus quantity training. With Grant as my coach I met (and exceeded) my goal of running Chicago. I found that the demands of his training are outweighed by the amazing rewards. He has a great talent in coaching. His workouts are innovative, unique, and personalized. He has the greater picture in mind and that is just one of the many reasons I will continue working with him. If you are looking to start running or you want to set a specific goal (in any race length) I highly recommend working with Grant. He is a smart coach, encouraging, realistic, and very humble. I know I cannot PR every race, but I really trust in Grant’s whole process. I am more than confident it will make me not only a better runner, but also a smarter runner, all while being well rounded in life and with my family. I certainly am very eager to see what he has in mind for me in the future…..and I’m sure it will bring another trip back to Chicago!
Happy Running, my friends!
This report starts back in May when I finished the Lincoln Marathon. The entirety of my spring was dedicated to training for my first marathon. I was very active with social media, blogging, and pictures depicting my experiences. Since that time I’ve deliberately taken a step back from racing and being so out there with my training. Yes, as the manager of the running store this has been a step back. My summer was full of great adventures with Chelsea including riding our bikes the length of the Mickelson Trail, exploring new places, celebrating old friendships, and quality family time. Lastly, I had the opportunity to manage the 605 Summer Race Series and simply run at the group run, without any real training emphasis.
As the weeks wore on and my race schedule continued to be empty something Logan had said to me at the half way point of the Lincoln Marathon kept creeping into my mind.
“1:53:52 that is a new half marathon PR Greg!”
During my training for the marathon I knew my fitness was improving by leaps-and-bounds. There was something to this statement though that had me perplexed to say the least. From that simple jovial statement from Logan my next running goal had already begun to form in my head.
1:53:52. My next journey would be to match a race time that fit with where I felt I was going physically. The people that are closest to me know that I am very competitive. In fact I make the Watley trio look like choir boys. My journey to running was similar to a lot of runners out there. I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and needed an activity to help me stay motivated. Over time, I’ve become a numbers guy and I think my running friends will understand.
When I said this report starts in May, I lied. The report really starts with my first half marathon as a 605 Running Company staff member in Sioux Falls, 2014. My time was 2:40:59. From that point on running has become my life: group running events, local races, specialized gear, running clubs, running friendships, and converting non-runners to runners and race spectators.
Using my first race as a staff member here at the store my half marathon journey goes something like this.
September, 2015: Sioux Falls Half 1:55:51
November, 2015: Good Life Halfsy, Lincoln NE 1:54:56
May, 2016: Lincoln Marathon (half split time) 1:53:52
The goal was simple. Set a new half marathon personal best sub 1:50. Given my marathon conditioning and running lifestyle I felt that this goal was in-the-bag before I got started. When choosing what course to crush my PR; I took a few things into consideration. Location, beer, and family ties. That led me to choosing the Amana Colonies Backroad Half Marathon. After all I was born in Iowa, Amana is the home of Mill Stream Brewery, and my sister-in-law lives minutes away in North Liberty. As I have come to learn, nothing is simply in-the-bag in running. You need a multitude of things to line-up just right in order to have that perfect race. In the case of the Amana Colonies Backroad Half Marathon my training took a serious turn for the worse when I got the stomach flu and threw my back out prior to the race. That combined with a grueling backroad course was a death sentence to my goal.
August, 2016: Amana Colonies Backroad Half Marathon 1:51:51
Yes it was a personal best, but no I was not satisfied at all. That is when I made the decision to seek professional help. Enter Coach Grant Watley and a goal of 1:48.
Almost immediately after Amana I signed up for the Run Crazy Horse Half Marathon. Several of my friends were already committed to running the race and countless people had told me it was an amazing course. More friends still told me that it was the perfect course to PR on because of the downhill nature of the event. I wasn’t taking any chances though. Coach Watley had me doing fartleks, strides, intervals, threshold training, and the list goes on-and-on. I worked harder during this training plan than my marathon race prep. Including setting PR’s in the 5k and 10k while actually meeting my stated goal in multiple training runs.
Chelsea and I packed up our car and headed for the hills on Friday. Our drive was perfect and it felt like we covered the state in no time. We would be staying at her uncles’ cabin just 5 miles from the Crazy Horse monument. We stopped in Hill City to take advantage of the perfect weather and did some light window shopping. From there we went to the cabin to get settled in – followed by a dinner date at the Black Hills Burger and Bun Company in Custer (AMAZING). The cabin is tucked away in a valley and fairly rustic – our evening entertainment included books and downloaded movies on my cellphone.
Saturday we woke up early with plans to enjoy everything the hills has to offer. We certainly got started off on the right foot as we opened the cabin door to three elk passing bye peacefully. From there we grabbed some coffee and decided to continue the close encounters by doing the wildlife loop through Custer State Park. We met up with some friends for a beverage at Miner Brewing Company and lunch in Hill City. Finally, Chelsea and I set-out to stretch our legs by hiking Little Devil’s Tower. We ate a light dinner at the cabin, read our books for a while and went to sleep in our private hideaway.
We both got great sleep which is rare prior to a race. The weather was perfect and we made our brief trip to the monument at 6:52am. Parking was plentiful and everything was very well organized. Chelsea and I had both been battling a cold and it felt as though the altitude was not helping. We took care of our pre-race rituals and I tried not to drive her nuts with my stir craziness. We jumped into a few pre-race photos with friends wished each other good luck and parted ways.
My plan was to start conservative and work up to a more strenuous pace as I approached Hill City. The race starts downhill and fast, 30 seconds in and my plan was shot. At the bottom of the hill I looked at my watch and saw 6:40 pace – not the plan! The first 4 miles continue around the monument site and are very up-and-down and all sorts of strenuous. I survived the section and while I wasn’t feeling great, I did feel like things were going to get better. Once we jumped onto the Mickelson Trail my pace started to settle into a more consistent tempo. Through six miles I was confident that I could maintain where I was at and maybe even get stronger based off of my training.
At mile eight I started to feel a twinge just under my rib cage and around eight-and-a-half it was a full on side stich that would not pass. I went from a strong seven-thirty pace to walking just like that and I was in full on panic mode. This hadn’t happened in almost a year and I was seriously contemplating dropping out of the race because it hurt so badly. That is when I started to focus my breathing; I slowed everything down and took in the breathtaking beauty that was surrounding me on the Mickelson Trail. Somehow I started running again. Miles 9-11 continued on at a slightly slower pace, but still faster than my stated goal pace.
The finish was great! Main Street Hill City and full of people. I crossed the line at 1:45:46 – I was in a lot of pain and not as happy as I probably should have been. It is a weird feeling to accomplish a goal, but to not at all be satisfied with the way I did it. I’m sure as time goes on I will have a better perspective of all of the beauty that this course had. What it didn’t have due to logistics was a lot of crowd support – given the scenic nature of the Mickelson Trail you cannot expect to have wall-to-wall people cheering you on as you pass bye. Given that information I still felt like I should have a proverbial one-up on the competition because I recently rode my bike on this section of the trail. I wonder if in a different setting I could have pulled some sort of adrenaline boost and handled my side stich better?
I would recommend this race to anybody that has a true love of the wilderness. The majority of it is run on crushed gravel and is downhill. A beautiful course that was well marked. Even though by the numbers it is a smaller event the organizers do everything to give it a big race feel. Tech. tee shirts, unique finisher medals, plenty of water stops, variety of food at the finish, and accurate timing. It would be nice to see pacers in the future to help manage the extreme slop changes and maybe more cheer groups along the route when possible. Overall it was a wonderful weekend and I did accomplish my goal. However, I will be running again soon with new goals and bigger race plans. For now my next race will be the Bob Bartling Hobo Day 5k in Brookings.
Greg “PEPSI” Koch
I've got another confession today. Sunday October 9th will be a first for me, as I’ll be running in my first ever marathon!
I’m really excited to get this first marathon under my belt and after a couple of great training weeks and long runs the past month, I’m feeling confident heading into the race. I decided to run the Chicago Marathon for a couple reasons. First, my wife and I have always loved Chicago! The downtown area is packed with places to see, things to do, and places to eat. Secondly, it’s a major marathon and I wanted to make sure to do a big one that includes a lot of scenery throughout the race. Lastly, my little brother Logan has run Chicago before and as you’ll find out by the end of this blog post, we are mildly competitive in my family.
Now the big question, why did I finally decide to run a marathon? I own 605 Running Co. with my two little brothers Logan and Paul. I’m 16 months older than Logan three and a half years older than Paul. Growing up, we were always competitive with each other. Going head to head in football, basketball, kick ball, baseball, wrestling, soda drinking, video games, and pretty much anything else you could possibly turn into a competition. My daughter Payton’s first birthday party turned into an eight person free for all wrestling match that my brothers and I started. We even turned to competitive showering to see who could shower the fastest (45 seconds for the family best, although we had a friend that was able to complete the requirements for a shower in 33 seconds, also, I should note the competitive showering was based on the honor system. We never checked to make sure that the rules were followed). So needless to say, much to the dismay of our mother, we are extremely competitive with each other.
One thing that has never been very competitive in our house was running. Logan has pretty much always been the fastest runner, other than a brief two-year period when Logan was in middle school. He was a two-time state champion in the 3,200m in high school, ran a 4:11 mile in college, and has a marathon personal best of 2:50:59 from the 2011 Chicago Marathon. Meanwhile, I was always a slightly above average runner and Paul was the starting center on the football team for three years and didn’t start running until track season of his senior year. Logan holds the Watley family record at every race distance possible, but despite his impressive marks, he has yet to run a complete marathon (Has to walk every marathon and can still run a 2:50 marathon, impressively disgusting if you ask me). Every time he has run in a marathon, he has attempted to hit a mark in the 2:30 range and goes out at an blistering pace, but anytime you are trying for a mark that fast, everything needs to go right for you to finish a race that long at that pace and that is where Logan has struggled.
Looking to finally get a running achievement on Logan, I decided last spring to train to run a complete marathon. Not an easy task no matter what the pace is. When I started training in March, I could not of cared less about what time I ran in the marathon. It could be 12 hours as long as I kept running. My only goal was to not walk and I was nervous about being able to complete that goal. The last 8 weeks of training have been great and now I’ve expanded my goals. Obviously, I want to finish without walking, but I’ve added the time goals of trying to run a sub 3:39 marathon. I think I could go under 3:30, but since this is my first marathon, I want to be more cautious on my pace early on. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to nab the Watley marathon record from Logan but being able to run a complete marathon before him is attainable (As long as he doesn’t read this and go find a marathon to run on October 8).
October is a big month for racing at the store. On October 9th, I’ll be running in Chicago for my first marathon, Benson will be running in Minneapolis in his marathon debut, and Greg will be shooting for a new half-marathon personal best out at Crazy Horse. Then the following week, Kelli will be competing in her first half marathon in Des Moines!
Store Owner, Director of Private Coaching
605 Running Co.