Planning for Negative Splits

Let’s face it, we all love to race. The excitement and energy of race day makes all those early mornings and brutal track workouts worth it. Some of us chase seconds, while others horde race bling, whatever your motivation may be it’s wise to have a plan for your year. An important part of my job as a coach is to help athletes plan for success; this starts by discussing the season’s goals and working with them to creating a roadmap for the year. This week I have asked Prana Endurance athlete Shira Catlin to provide her thoughts on her training and how we worked together to prioritize her races.  Her season included an Ironman, a marathon, and less than a week later, an ultra (50 miles). With this type of schedule she had to train smart, not only to avoid injury, but also to avoid overtraining.

Prepping for Marine Corp Marathon consisted of IronMan training  and the broader goal of running a 50 mile race less than a week after Marine Corp. Training wise it was a tough for me to think about running a marathon and not trying to PR but thanks to my coach Frank I realized it was ultimately the best decision to use Marine Corp as an enjoyable experience- one to try to practice negative splits and enjoy the vibrant city and epic spectators.

I had a choice at the start of the race to start with the 4:10 pacer or the 4:15 pacer. I knew that the 5 minute difference in these pace groups would have a substantial impact on my ability to run a negative split. I have been working on starting out slow and being conservative but even starting with a 4:10 pacer could even slightly encourage me to run a little too fast at the beginning. I chose to start with the 4:15 pacer and am glad I did. The pacer was in good spirits and reiterated multiple times that we should not try to zig-zag at the start around people ahead of us. With approximately 30,000 runners this race was substantially larger than any event I had participated in; and the crowds at the start reflected that. It was hard for me not to zig-zag around people as it felt like I was merely walking for the first mile. This was the most challenging part of the race, being conservative and thinking about the larger picture of a negative split race.

Though the pacer was generally sticking with the 9:43 pace the congestion in the first few miles made it challenging, my watch was showing closer to 10 minute miles. I fueled with gatorade and water at each aid station and took a Gu every 5 miles, every other 5 miles I would take a caffeinated gu. I used this method because I had been training with Gu and knew my body would be happy with the choice.

At mile 13 I knew it was a good time to gradually pick the pace up. I had inadvertently been leapfrogging with the 9:15 pacer for a few miles because of aid stations and crowds so I new that I could maintain a pace without having a group to hold me accountable. As I picked the pace up the heat also became a larger factor in my performance. I don’t run well in the heat. As my Strava shows this summer was a real struggle, anything above 65/70 degrees and my body would fall apart. The forecast predicted 80 degrees around the finishing time and Marine Corp had sent out a forewarning to runners giving a heads up about the uncharacteristically high temperatures for this race. I began to feel the heat more and began grabbing gatorade and water at the aid stations to supplement my nutrition and to stay hydrated. I’m grateful for one aid station that was handing out a limited supply of mountain dew, the little bit of extra caffeine helped keep me going.

Once I was in the vicinity of the Pentagon the struggle bus around me became clear. Many runners were doing a hobble walk, it was clear that the sun was affecting many athletes. In this moment I was incredibly grateful for my conservative start. I still felt like I had a substantial fuel. In Crystal City there was a fantastic water mister set up which was a nice brief relief from the heat.

The final stretch going down Jefferson Davis Highway felt strong and heavy. My legs and body were working together best they could to pick the pace up just a little bit more to have a solid finish.

That final hill was rough. Many runners were walking and in large packs so making it up the hill quickly wasn’t any easy option so I wiggled my way through with many “excuse me, thank you’s.

In Shira’s recap of the Marine Corps Marathon not only can you see her passion and excitement for the sport, but also how to run a perfect negative split race. Going into a race with a strategy and sticking to it takes most of us years to master. In her race, not only was Shira able to hold back and conserve energy, she was smart in recognizing factors which were out of her control (the heat) and adjust as she needed. Her accomplishments were even recognized by Strava who provided a free pair of New Balance sneakers for running a marathon on negative splits.  In 2017 Shira has set her goals to complete another Ironman and will test her limits with a 100 mile foot race. To your success Shira!!  Look forward to working with you in 2017.

Coaches Corner: “Getting Started with Running”

The article below was written for MyTopFitness.com.. follow this link for the full article and great information on the Mytopfitness.com site.


WARNING – what you are about to read may lead to a new addiction. If you want to start running, or have been thinking about lacing your shoes back up after a hiatus, this post is for you.

Getting back into running or getting started can be equally as exciting as it can be overwhelming. However, once you overcome that sensation you will not only enjoy getting in better shape and feeling energized but also, perhaps more so, building lifelong friendships which transcend cultures, socioeconomic levels and the stresses of life. The running community is full of people who are welcoming no matter how fast or slow you are. We all share a common bond as we make sacrifices to train and push ourselves to the limit time after time.  Even though it may feel like a daunting task to get started; once you begin you will find a whole new community to support you through the challenges and share in your victories.

Below are a few common questions I get from folks testing out the running waters:

How should I get started and how far should I run as I get started?

First thing to remember is that you need to be patient and honor your body. As a new runner you are more than likely limited by your endurance. For this reason be patient with the first few weeks as they serve to build your aerobic capacity. This is simply done by running more consistently at a conversational/easy pace. Begin with a 15 to 30 minute run and asses from there. Be kind do to yourself and take as many walk breaks as you need to maintain that conversational pace. You can focus on speed later. With consistency, after a few short weeks you will notice improvements in your endurance.

Once you have a solid foundation you can then start to slowly increasing your run duration and adding a little variety into your training. Just be careful not to increase speed or distance too quickly as this can lead to injuries. Simply put, in the beginning, less is more. For more detail information and assistance on ramping up your milage feel free to contact us at Prana Endurance, we would be happy to provide guidance for your particular situation.

Now what? I want to get faster!

As you start to build consistency in your running you will become more efficient as a runner and start increasing the pace. By this time most runners have set their eyes on an upcoming race to participate in and keep motivated. A good way to keep increasing your fitness is to include some variety to your training. Doing so will not only increase your speed, but also work on your strength and aerobic capacity. A safe way to start is by adding strides and hill work into your workout routine. These simple drills will help develop the foundation for your speed work which comes in the form of intervals, fartlek and tempo later in your training.

Should I race for time or just to finish?

Having a loose goal in mind can be a good thing even for beginner runners. It helps keep you motivated on those early morning runs and as you grow as an athlete. As you begin to consider a goal, it is important to ensure that the goal you choose is a realistic one. For example, if you are training for a half marathon, do some 10k’s and 5k’s as part of your training. This will mentally prepare you for the race day logistics and completing the event will help you see tangible progress in your training. It will also help gauge your fitness and what a realistic goal might be. When training for longer endurance distances such as a marathon the goal should be to go into the race the most prepared and confident as possible and have fun finishing the event. The time to set Personal Records (PR’s) will happen as you become a more seasoned athlete.

How can I avoid running injuries?

Improper training can lead to injuries and avoiding your body’s warning signs can lead to serious chronic issues. For this reason injury prevention should be the top priority for a beginner runner. One major component to injury prevention is having a personalized plan tailored to showcase your strengths and improve your weaknesses. The plan should slowly ramp up your run volume, include strength work and take into account any previous injuries or natural body imbalances. At a minimum a beginner’s plan should include a proper warm-up routine composed of light lunges and dynamic stretching such as leg swings. Taking five minutes to warm-up prior to your run will pay dividends in the end. Just as important as the warm-up is the cool-down… especially as you start to increase mileage and speed. Get into a routine early in your running career and it will be a long and memorable one.

Running does not need to be hard, and with the proper mindset and plan you can accomplish things you never thought possible. With that said, there’s no need to spin your wheels, there are plenty of resources to help you get started. If you are looking for guidance or a personalized plan we at Prana Endurance Training would be happy to assist.

Happy Running.