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Ashley Benson

Ashley Benson

kellyblogKelly is a woman on fire!
She just completed her second 1/4 marathon, shattering her previous personal best by over 14 minutes .
Now she has her sights set on the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Half Marathon this October.
Kelly shares tips on how she got started, set and surpassed various goals, and how to maintain momentum and personal accountability! 


Major milestone accomplished: 

Truly my biggest milestone was doing my first 5k, which was about 8 years ago. I was never a runner or an athlete (typical band geek, book worm high school and college kid!).
I was fortunate to work with a lot of teachers and friends who were avid runners, and they encouraged me to get started. Honestly, I could not run more than 1 minute at a time when I first started. Completing my first 5K was such a huge accomplishment, and I have continued to move forward from there.

What is the biggest obstacle to reaching your goals and how do you get over it?

My mind. The mental game is such a big part of this process. I am learning to beat that with each big race I complete. So much of success is in proper training and preparation, and surrounding myself with a group of people that keep pushing me to be my best!

What is the most rewarding part of training? Achieving or exceeding goals?

This past week I ran my second 1/4 marathon. The first I did in May of 2018 with a time of 1:20, which I was very pleased with. I have never been super fast, and just completing it was a huge accomplishment. I set a goal of 1:15 for this last one, and crushed it by completing in just over 1:06! I am still stunned at my success, but know that my consistency and perseverance definitely paid off!

What advice would you give to other members of the Runcoach community?

Never give up on yourself! And surround yourself with like-minded friends who share your passions and enthusiasm for fitness and wellness. This is truly a journey, and it is so much more enjoyable when we do it together with friends!

Originally posted by Dena Evans on Feb. 6, 2014

Don’t let your running and training be hampered by arbitrary tales that may lead you off track.  If you find yourself caught in the trap laid by one of these myths, it is time to set yourself free!

Myth #1:  If you don’t have time for the entire prescribed XXworkout, you should just skip the whole thing.

We all know the nagging pain of a day where the alarm didn’t go off, your toddler is sick, work is a fire drill, or the weather is garbage. The scheduled workout is Just. Not. Going. To. Happen.  In frustration, it can be tempting to bag everything and sulk.  Don’t.  Your schedule is the best-case scenario, and every single runner has had to punt and pivot now and again.  If the track workout isn’t an option, an aerobic run can still help clear your head, and keep you on track for either an adjusted workout day later in the week or next week’s tasks.  If the schedule calls for 45 minutes and you only have 25 minutes, your body will get a significant benefit from doing even half the work.  If you are taking an unplanned “zero” in the log, focus your mental energy on the positives – more freshness for the next session, accomplishment of the tasks and issues that have stolen your run time, and the confidence that a day or few off does not have to have a significant impact on your fitness level.

Myth #2:  Days off are for wimps.

Training hard is important to get toward your goal, but without recovery, your muscles don’t have the ability to adapt and recoup after the stress you have placed on them already.  Recuperation time allows your body to return to preparedness for the stimulus ahead and in doing so, get the most out of the upcoming challenge.  Running hard every day drives your body into a deeper and deeper hole from which it eventually becomes impossible to escape.   Build your schedule with some planned and regular rest, and the chances of you making it to the start line of your goal race will increase immensely.

Myth #3:  You will set a personal best every single race or you are not trying hard enough.

There are many, many factors that contribute to a personal best day.  An accurately (or inaccurately) measured course.  A tail or head wind.  Hills.  A bad meal the night before.  How well recovered you are.  Your bout of flu last week.  Neglecting to hydrate along the route or beforehand.  The list goes on and on.   These are not excuses, but factors which can both enhance or diminish the yield from your training up to that point.  Your actual fitness plays the largest role, but smart training includes a slight cyclical effect where recovery periods are interspersed with hard training and tapering for goal events.  100% effort each time can be a good way to practice the significant demand your body will require when it is primed for a signature day, but even top level effort each time may not always result in a new level of achievement, particularly for experienced runners who have been through the train and taper cycle in the past.  Concentrate on the quality of your preparation, the execution of your plan, and when your body is ready, you’ll have good racing habits and attitude down pat.

Myth #4a:  The more cushioning in your shoes, the better chance you have of avoiding injury.

Most athletes do not need to purchase the shoes with the maximum potential padding, structure, or stability in order to stay injury free, and in fact these shoes can sometimes impede your stride from operating at its greatest efficiency.  Each foot and every person is different.  Consider getting a gait analysis from an experienced staff member at a reputable running specialty store in your neck of the woods, and adding that info to your reasoning as you choose your next pair of shoes.  Well-cushioned shoes have indeed helped many non-runners become runners through the years, but for many athletes, other choices may serve the body better.

Myth #4b:  The less cushioning in your shoes, the better chance you have of avoiding injury.

In recent years, thousands of runners have become enamored with the “minimalist” segment of the running shoe market.  These are typically footwear with much or all of the heel lift eliminated, or shoes meant to simulate running barefoot with various ways of wrapping around the foot or articulating the sole.  While incorporating barefoot running or minimalist footwear into a larger program to strengthen the foot and lower leg can be very beneficial, these decisions must be made in context.  Injury history, the restraint to gradually incorporate this type of running, and the availability of suitable and safe terrain must all be considered.  Again, minimalist footwear have been invaluable tools for many runners, but just because you want to be one of those runners, doesn’t mean you are.  Get some input from your experienced local running specialty retailer or a podiatrist, and don’t do anything all at once.

Myth #5:  Training for a marathon is a great crash diet.

Physical fitness is a great by-product of decision to train for a half or full marathon.  Weight loss may result, but the “goal beyond the goal” should always be sustainable, healthy habits.  Athleticism, strength, endurance are all aspects of your best self that need to come to the fore in order for you to reach your race finish line.  Explicit, short term dieting and caloric reduction while maintaining a schedule of challenging running tasks can be detrimental to your training and health at best, and dangerous at worst.  We want running to be a life-long, rewarding pursuit, but we also know it fits into a larger context of healthy diet, sleep, lifestyle, and fitness choices.  Incremental changes you can live with, while adjusting to training, can help ensure that this goal won’t be the end of your training, but just the start.

mikemachulaGuest blog post by Mike Machula

Starting my journey with runcoach was a lucky accident – using their training program this last year I not only set two PR’s in one race but I blew them away.  There must be something to the program when you run your fastest half marathon ever during the second half of a full marathon.

I first met the runcoach team at the Houston Marathon Expo in January 2015 and they told me this incredible story about how the average runner training on their program improved 7%.  They even claimed some runners felt strong at the end of their race and could have kept going.  I wanted to believe it, but I was little skeptical because I had trained so hard using a lot of other programs and never seen results anywhere close to that.  My goal for the 2015 Marathon was to break 4 hours. While I felt I could do it if I had a very good run (ran 3:56:57), I was not confident.  Thinking I might not make my goal, I figured runcoach might be the way to make it the next time, so I decided to give the program a shot.  I told them if I had anywhere close to a 7% increase I’d give them a glowing review.  I am now more than happy to keep that promise. I think my training story and results will speak to the success of the runcoach program.

When I started the runcoach program in February 2015, I decided I just wanted to maintain my current fitness level for a little while and ran three days a week.  Everything was going fine and I stayed with it consistently through the beginning of summer.  Vacations, kids activities and the hot Houston weather made it difficult to maintain the schedule in June, July and some of August.  In September, after chatting with coach Ashley about the Marathon being a little less than five months away, I ramped up my training to four days a week.  At this point I followed the schedule pretty religiously.

The training to me never felt overly strenuous.  That actually concerned me a little because I held the typical male belief in the back of my head that if you aren’t pushing yourself 110% and feeling it then you can’t be improving.  However, I really trusted the runcoach team to know better than I did and so I kept following the program.  The long runs were just that, long but not strenuous at all. I figured I was getting my improvement on the threshold and speed days.  Those runs were challenging but never to the point where I felt incapable of doing it.  Just when I felt like it might be too much, I completed the fast pace portion and had enough recovery time between sets that allowed me to keep going for the entire workout.

In November, two months prior to the marathon, I had a run that convinced me the program was actually working.  The day was supposed to be an easy 5 mile run at a 9:30 pace.  It was a pleasant evening but nothing special. I set out my 5 mile loop around the neighborhood and I didn’t pay much attention to my pace.  At mile 1, my GPS watch vibrated and I looked down to see I just ran an 8:00 pace.  I didn’t think much of it and kept going.  At mile 2, the watch vibrated and showed a 7:35 for the previous mile.  At that point I was a little surprised because I felt really good – like I was running my normal pace.  I kept going and at mile 3, I completed a 7:40.  Now I’m thinking to myself, the last time I ran a sub 8:00 pace over 5 miles was 5 years ago (I remember the day well because I’d accomplished a goal). Knowing I had 2 miles remaining I decided to keep up the pace and ran the 5 miles in 38:30 (7:42). Five years of running and I had never been able to repeat it and on that November day I did it without really even trying.

A month later, during my longest training run, I knew the training was working because at mile 20 I felt like I had a lot left in the tank.  I had two more miles to go and I decided to pick up the pace by a minute per mile and see what would happen.  I had no problem finishing at that high pace and could have kept going for much longer.

Race day in Houston was a perfect January day (45 degrees, light wind and sunny).  I started out intentionally slow for the first few miles to conserve energy.  Everything felt great as I picked up the pace to around 1:10/mile faster than my training pace.  I kept it there for the rest of the race.  At mile 8, I remember thinking to myself this can’t be right because it feels like I just started.  I had to remind myself to take my energy Gu and often was surprised that the next water station came so quick.  Halfway though I continued to feel good and missed setting a half marathon PR by 1 second (1:50:24).  At mile 17 nothing happened.  The previous year that’s the point I really started to become aware of my legs. At mile 20 I started thinking I hope I can keep this pace up.  I had no idea what the wall would do to me at this pace or when it would come.  Around mile 23 I felt the energy drain, but it wasn’t that bad.  The previous year I slowed way down, but this year I managed to keep the same pace. I just had to concentrate on doing it.  I would compare it to the same concentration it takes to force yourself to walk as fast as you can. Not bad at all.  With a mile to go, I felt a million times stronger than the previous year, picked up the pace and ran my fastest mile of the marathon.  I finished with a time of 3:40:20 (which happens to be a 7% improvement from the previous PR).  Incredible!  Thanks runcoach!

Mark is a lifelong runner who got his start in high school and continued to run competitively in college. He ran his first marathon in 1968 and has run 56 total marathons. Mark found runcoach in 2015 through the Detroit Marathon.  Mark’s most recent finish was 3:30:19 at the Detroit Marathon where he placed first in the 60-64 year age group! He recaps his experience at Detroit and his approach to training below.

Mark’s Background:

  • I ran high school and college
  • I ran my first race in September 1968 (I've been running a long time)
  • 23 of my first 24 marathons under 2:50 (24 of 25 if you count a 50K that I went through the marathon at 2:48
  • Family issues resulted in sitting out of marathons for almost a decade
  • As I get older, the days that feel great are getting fewer and fewer
  • Fighting through those tough days is one of my biggest challenges
  • Doing the Tuesday and Thursday workouts have really helped me get my focus and quantity of good days up

Race Day:

With temperatures near 36° the morning of the race, I was concerned that the marathon would be brutal. Luckily there was virtually no wind which is really good for the marathon. The light snow flurries added something to talk about.  The gun went off and after about a mile and a half I settled into a hard comfortable pace. On the return to the US (editor’s note – The Detroit Marathon cross into Canada for a portion of the race), I didn’t expect such a warm tunnel. Another thing to worry about, I was afraid that I would be cold getting back outside. It wasn't bad. My workouts gave me the confidence and strength that I could hold the pace, but you're never sure. To my surprise, I continued at the same pace beyond 22 miles.  This was my 56th marathon, my 32nd since turning 50 and I still fear those last several miles. Although my legs were still doing pretty well, I started losing focus. I walked through a water stop and when I saw others walking up a hill, it looked like a good idea. I walked about 20-30 seconds up the hill. I never did get back on my pace, but was pleased with my run. Maybe next time I’ll fight the urge to walk.

Editor’s Notes:  We think Mark’s perseverance and resolve are awesome.  The fact that he walked through a water stop late in the race is a successful trait that we’ve observed even at the highest levels.  Mark’s commitment to the sport and his health is a great example and we wanted to share it with all of you.

So, where do you see yourself on December 31, 2020? hi-5

In a time of chaos, limited social life, increased time spend at home, apparently more "free" time, have you taken the time for some self-reflection. As runners, we are conditioned to set goals based on upcoming races. Well, that's not a sure thing anymore.

Does that mean you shouldn't set goals in favor of not having your heart-broken time and time again? Absolutely not. There is still plenty to strive to accomplish, endorphins to collect, and lifestyle changes to make.


1. Revisit personal annual goals
You may have wanted to run a Boston Qualifier or finish your first ultra-marathon. With both of those events now cancelled, think about why you wanted to reach those goals. 
- Set a smaller goal. Think running a personal best in a one mile - 5K or completing your longest long run ever. Things you can control as an individual have a higher chance of success. 
- Was your audacious goal tied to hopes of weight loss, or a more consistent running routine? That can still get accomplished. Start by setting up your schedule to allow you to dedicate 20-30 minutes per day to exercise. Repeat this for a few weeks, and you're at the start of a routine!

Once you set and complete smaller goals, you are more likely to remain motivated to reach the big, long-term goals. Otherwise, losing motivation could make your goals seem unattainable and increase the chances of veering off course.

2. Attend to your mental and physical needs

Take this strange “down time” from always needing to be in tip-top shape to rebound physically and mentally.

Aches and pains should not be part of your everyday life. If there is an area in your body that’s troublesome, take the time to rest and heal. Then discuss a plan of attack, which includes specific exercises to strength the supporting muscles and tendon with your coach. Same goes for a mental refresh. Burn-out is extremely common among distance runners. Take some pressure off yourself.

Working toward big breakthrough require both physical and mental energy, so it is important that both aspects are attended to when making an appropriate goal for the next time around.  If emotions are high or you are unusually physically worn down, setting a goal will more difficult and irrational.

 

3. Take inventory about what you liked and disliked about your past races

Did you use to race for charity and find your cause to be a crucial motivator?  Did you enjoy (or not enjoy) any travel involved to get to your race site?  Were you enthused by the crowds or did you enjoy the solitude of a less populated and more scenic race route?  Pick the top three enjoyable aspects of your race experience as well as the three aspects that were most problematic to help narrow down what types of races/ goals will suit your preferences.

Once you have a list and your motivators and dislikes, let’s get to work setting up the next challenge.

 

4. Use the resources at your disposal

This is especially key when we consider the change of seasons. If you live in a region where the winters are particularly cold or the summers particularly hot, or if you have become accustomed to doing long runs or challenging workouts during hours that can go from light to dark depending on the season, keep these in mind when selecting your next goal.

If it’s difficult to spend a great deal of time outside, then select a goal that’s short and fast, so your efforts can be concentrated appropriately. Remember, improving your speed is a valuable tool for any runner.

toxins-cause-exhaustionClyde Wilson was a naval service member who enjoyed weight training and working out, when his doctor on the USS Carl Vinson informed him he was on the verge of needing medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol.  After making a transformative change in his nutritional habits, he went on to study chemistry and cell biology at Stanford and now teaches there and the University of California San Francisco Medical School.  In addition, he runs The Center for Human Nutrition and Exercise Science in Palo Alto, California.


This month, we asked Dr. Clyde to weigh in about the lethargy many runners struggle through after a long run.

1.  When many runners finish a big long run, often they report feeling extremely lethargic and low energy for much of the rest of the day, even after eating.  From a nutrition perspective, what may be going on here?

 Athletes need to replace their carbohydrate losses from training at a rate that their muscles are willing to absorb those carbohydrates.  If you burn 1000 calories in a workout, roughly 800 calories of which are carbohydrate, and attempt to replace all of those carbohydrates at one sitting, the over-flow of calories into your bloodstream will send more than half of it to fat cells, where the carbohydrate will be converted into fat. 

Therefore, eating enough calories is not enough. 

The calories have to go into lean tissues to actually help you recover.  Not eating enough is another way to fall short.  So the athlete has to eat enough carbohydrate, but spaced out over time or eaten with vegetables so that the carbohydrate calories enter the body at a rate muscle is willing to absorb them.  Protein helps re-build lean tissue but is unrelated to the feelings of lethargy after hard training.

2.  What are some best bet tips on things runners can do after the run to avoid that day-long bonky feeling?


The best thing a runner can do to avoid the day-long bonky feeling is to eat 100-200 Cal of carbohydrate, mainly in the form of glucose, every 2-3 hours.  You could start with a recovery drink (first ingredient should be maltodextrin) right after training, and then granola, bread, yams, or similar foods an hour later and every 2-3 hours after that.

3.  What, if anything, can runners do during the run to help avoid these post-run problems as well?

During running, consume 50-250 calories glucose per hour (depending on training intensity, how much lean mass you have, and how well you are hydrating).
Q:  After some of my long runs I completely crash for the rest of the day, and I can't afford to be down for the count - I have stuff to get done!  What can I do?

A:  Make sure you are leaving for your runs with a full tank - hydrated, and with 100-200 calories at least in the hour or two before you start.  Plan for and consume 4-8 oz of electrolyte replacement beverage every 2-3 miles (25-30 mins.) for long runs beyond an hour.  And, most importantly, replenish with carbohydrates as soon as possible after your run = 15-30 minutes max.  A banana, apple, orange, peanut butter sandwich, or energy bar with primarily carbs and some protein included are great choices to save in your car or keep ready at home for your return.  We know that in a depleted state your body will grab carbohydrates and convert them to working glycogen quickly.  So the post-run quick meal (100-200 kcal) within 30 minutes is key.  Miss this window and you'll be playing catch up the rest of the day!


Q:  What should I eat the night before a race?

A:  You should eat familiar foods at a normal dining hour.  The day before a race, incorporate plenty of carbs, but do not stuff yourself with two pounds of pasta.  Eat a moderate amount of a well balanced meal (pasta, chicken breast or bolognese sauce, salad, roll is one example) at dinner, and sip both water and sports drink throughout the day.  Steer clear of alcohol.

One mistake a lot of people at destination races make is to set out from the hotel for dinner at 7, head to a casual dining restaurant which is busy on weekends, wait 45 minutes or an hour for a table, and all of a sudden, start dinner at 9pm when the alarm clock is set for 5am.  Plan ahead and give your body time to assimilate the food and get ready to sleep! You and the line of people behind you at the porta-potties will be grateful.


Q:  How much should I drink during a marathon or half marathon?

A:  First of all, we recommend taking a drink to the start line and consuming 4-8 oz right before the gun goes off.  This is your first water stop.    Plan to consume 6-8 ounces of fluid every 2-3 miles or 25-30 minutes.  For bigger races with aid stations every mile or two, one good rule of thumb is to just take fluid every time (so you don't have to think about it).  A good strategy is to alternate sports drink and water.  Pinch the top between your thumb and fingers, and you can nurse it for a few more yards.  Most importantly, do not wait to consume fluids until you are "thirsty".  At that point, you are already playing catch-up.  Drink early, and when in doubt, choose the electrolyte replacement drink over water - then you'll get both the minerals and the H2O necessary for hydration.


Q: Everybody says I should try this (bar/ gel).  How do I know if it is right for me?

A:  Practice!  Your initial long runs serve as trial and error nutrition workouts.  Once you find your comfort zone with a particular drink, gel or bar include consumption in your longer and more rigorous workouts. Nutrition-wise, nothing you do on race day should be brand new territory.  We recommend consuming a gel packet (always with fluid) or similar amount of carbs through another source such as a banana every 45-60 minutes during a marathon or half marathon, which means you should also be doing this on your Big Kahuna long runs.  Keep in mind if you are following the earlier recommendation of energy drinks every 25-30 minutes you may not need the additional gel/bar/banana replacement.  Many utilize a combination of drinks, gels and food to provide quick available carbs within the race.  Everyone's body is different - make your refueling plan during workouts as deliberate as the other parts of your race preparation and you'll have one less unknown to worry about!

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