Vermont City Marathon 2019 Race Report

It’s been 2 days, 22 hours, and 21 minutes since I crossed the finish line of the Vermont City Marathon. It’s just long enough now that I can start to distance myself from it, but not long enough that I’ve forgotten. 

Nothing prepares you for a bad race, especially if you’ve never had one. It may sound unwarranted, but a bad race requires mourning. And you don’t have to let anyone try and convince you that it’s not a big deal. A bad race is personal and it hurts. Especially, a marathon where months of hard work crumbles in a matter of minutes.

No one else can relate to that feeling unless they’ve been through it.

In the past, being on the other side of this, I’m usually the one to say that you can learn a lot more from a bad race than an easy one where everything went according to plan. And I know that, regardless of what just happened, I have more miles on my legs than before I started and I’m mentally more prepared having gone through it. 

I’ve spent enough alone time in the last 36 hours to wallow in the details: the course I chose, my training preparation, fueling, strategy, race day expectations… there’s only so many ways the pieces can come together again. The thing is, I just came off one of my best training cycles leading up to a marathon. I ran long hard tempos every week, strength trained regularly, and not once did I get sidelined by injury. You bet I’ve been itching to sign up for another marathon, but I won’t.

Now that I’m feeling less broken, let’s go over what happened.

Training: There were a lot of things that went well during this training cycle and a few critical things that didn’t.

I used the Hansons Marathon Method to prepare for Burlington. It’s similar to Jack Daniels’ 2Q method in that you have 2 quality runs each week. Hansons’ quality runs are called SOS – something of substance – and consists of one speedwork or strength work and a long tempo. The long runs are also “easier” in that you only have to build up to 10mi, and then you’re more or less going back and forth between 10mi and 15mi until you peak at a 16mi long run.

On Hansons, you run 6 days a week, with the speed/strength on Tuesdays, tempos on Thursdays, long run on Sunday, and take Wednesday off. That means, when you do your speed or strength work, it’s on the back of your trailing 5-day volume including your long run. Afterwards, you get a day’s rest and then bang out a long run at threshold when you resume. It is hard work.

To clarify some differences between the two SOS runs and your tempo. Speedwork is anaerobic effort. It’s burning legs and heaving lungs type of acute discomfort. 

This was 4x1200m @ 7:30min/mi with 600m recoveries. My HR hit my 90% of my HRR at each rep.

Strength work is 10s slower than goal marathon pace. It’s more of a slow burn; a gradual build up of lactic acid at each repeat. Or as Luke Humphrey describes it, it’s “a fine line between being a sustainable effort vs. crashing and burning.” 

This was 6x1mi @ 8:10min/mi with 400m recoveries. My HR at each rep was just above 80% of my HRR.

Tempo, as defined in this method, is your goal marathon pace. And with Hansons, you spend a lot of time running at this pace with your last 3 tempos being 10mi each.

This was an 8mi tempo @ 8:00min/mi. HR stayed within 80-85% of my HRR.

I did really well on Hansons, and I liked it even more than the 2Q method. I transitioned from 40mi to 50mi weeks without any trouble, adapted quickly to running weekly tempos, strength trained at the gym 3x a week, and had zero injuries, which has never happened before. And my HR distribution was about an 80/20 split between aerobic and anaerobic from when I started the training plan until I finished.

Roughly 80% of my training was under 80% of my HRR.
And 20% of most of my training were above 80% of HRR. April was when I had surgery. I ran during recovery, but as evidenced by my training bands, I wasn’t well enough to train at the correct HR zones during that time.

Most of my preparation went according to plan with the exception of week 8, 11, and 12, which encompassed my two trips home. I flew home twice for health-related reasons. The second time, my doctor said that I needed to have surgery. That was 6 weeks before the marathon. (Yes, I’m okay.) I wavered between deciding to skip it and going through with it. In the end, I couldn’t give it up.

I missed 3 weeks of quality training. Two of those weeks immediately preceded my peak week of marathon training. I missed 3 long runs and 4 SOS runs, which included 2 speed sessions and 2 long tempos. When I resumed training, the season had changed and summer arrived. I struggled to hit my target pace of 8:00min/mi and anchored my remaining tempos to my HR.

The other problem I had is that I trained almost exclusively on flat ground. Zero hills. In my mind, I figured all of my speed training will translate to a successful marathon. I was prepping for a 3:30:00 on flat, but realistically expected to run something between 3:45:00 and 3:51:00 with hills. It seemed reasonable enough. What I obviously didn’t realize then is that there’s no amount of speedwork I can do to replace hill training.

You have to train for the course you choose, and I didn’t do that.

Goals: When I started training for Burlington, my initial goal was a 3:30:00. That’s almost a 10% improvement over Berlin. Calling it a stretch is an understatement. So I revised my expectations halfway into my training and decided that aiming for: (i) anything < 3:51:54, (ii) < 3:47:00 (a 2% improvement), or (iii) < 3:42:00 (a 4% improvement) was more realistic.

Pre-race: Marathoners were scheduled to go at 7:03am. The expected high for the day was 75°F. At 7am, it was about 61°F with 85% relative humidity. You were basically sweating while standing still. I woke up at 5:30am, had a bagel, walked towards the starting line with a double espresso on hand, and jogged the rest of the way.

About 5min before the schedule start time, the race director announced that we needed to evacuate Battery Park. There was a storm front coming in fast and the chief meteorologist of the local news station, who was on site, was able to confirm that there was heavy rain and lightning headed in our direction. Runners were instructed to head down to the Cherry Street parking garage to take shelter and they rescheduled the start time to 7:45am.

The rain that followed made a big difference to the ambient temperature and relative humidity at the start of the race. It was a lot muggier. Starting later also meant a warmer finish for everyone.

Course: Burlington is a relatively hilly city, and much of the course runs through downtown and along Lake Champlain. Most of the course, probably about 85% of it, is not shaded. You’ll go down a couple of tree-lined streets and cut through parks, but if it’s a clear day – it is virtually impossible to avoid the sun. The course has several moderate rolling hills with one 6-block climb at 6-7.5% grade at Mile 15, finishing with a slight downhill incline to flat. It’s also a clover leaf course, which means a lot of out-and-back. 

The opening miles run through downtown and up along the Northern Connector. Once you exit the city, you’re basically out on a closed scenic highway that has a long descent, before climbing up again at the 10k turnaround and then another climb up to reenter the city.

Then it’s a long downhill stretch to South Burlington with several rolling hills around Oakledge Park. The course significantly narrows for the next mile so that only three runners, at most, can run next to each other. Then it opens up and takes you past the rail yard to Battery Street where you can almost sense everyone’s anticipation of the climb back up to Battery Park. 

The crowd support at “Assault on Battery” trumps even the best of NYC’s marathon crowds. It’s complete insanity of nonstop cheering and spectators screaming out names and bib numbers. It is overwhelming and exhilarating. You won’t be able to stop yourself from smiling even if you struggle during your ascent. Once you crest the hill, the crowds thin, and you will enter the long lonely stretch of North Avenue.

This is the worst part of the course. You’re basically running abreast one or two other runners, on the side of a busy road where vehicles are allowed one-way, at a slight uphill gradient, for almost 2 miles before turning into a neighborhood. The only thing that redeemed this section of the course is that this mini neighborhood loop had some of the best local support of the entire race. Families handing out water bottles, ice pops, maple syrup shots, gummy bears, pretzels, so many fruits! And then you come back out to North Avenue and turn into Leddy Park.

Ankle deep mud waited for us at Leddy and claimed a few brave runners who decided to run through it. One guy stopped to remove his shoes so he could dump the mud that pooled at his feet. I guess under different circumstances, if Burlington hadn’t had so much rain in the last several weeks, it might have been really nice to cut through this park.

Once you’re through, you make your way back out to North Avenue for another disheartening 1.5 miles before turning in to Burlington’s bike path. From here, the rest of the way is along Lake Champlain, which is slightly uphill for a bit before flattening to the finish.

The Vermont City Marathon finish is just as insane as the climb up Battery Park. For the last mile, it turns into a sidewalk with both sides lined by cheering crowds. I remember feeling pretty good when I finished inside Amsterdam’s olympic stadium, but there is something more exceptional about finishing at Burlington. People seemed genuinely excited to see you, as if they’re your friends and family; completely oblivious to anyone’s misery and only determined to make you feel like you already succeeded.


5km8:15 min/mi
10km8:10 min/mi
15km8:23 min/mi
20km8:35 min/mi
25km8:50 min/mi
30km9:07 min/mi
35km9:39 min/mi
40km10:07 min/mi
42km9:20 min/mi

Pacing is critical with a course like Burlington, perhaps more so than flat courses. I spent the day before scoping out parts of the course downtown and knew that the rolling hills were frequent enough that I needed to pace by effort on the uphills and take back what I could on the downhills. The problem with this strategy is that I didn’t really have a good benchmark for what I considered good effort on the uphills. 

I kept running within 80-85% of my HRR like I did during training, while trying to take back and bank as much as I could on the downhills. This was a flawed approach from the beginning, because I could never run the downhills fast enough to compensate for what I lost on the uphills. What’s worse is that running every downhill as fast as I could meant that my legs were completely beat up after cresting Battery Park. I pretty much just coasted on whatever I had left until about mile 20 when I picked up a side stitch that I couldn’t shake. 

I took 3 gels during the course of the race: one at 15k, 25k, and 35k. This has always worked for me in the past, so I didn’t deviate from it. In addition, I took salt tabs at 10k, 20k, and 30k. I hydrated early and often, drinking only to thirst. (I even learned to run with a paper cup and drink from it!) I also took gatorade at every other aid station from the halfway point to the finish. Even without practice, I feel pretty confident that the problem wasn’t with fueling on the course. 

My legs were dead after mile 16 and it was an all-too-familiar feeling. I hit a wall. It took me a while to conclude this because it was the least likely thing I could have messed up, but marathoners know that you usually don’t hit the wall unless you’re glycogen depleted. 

It didn’t make sense. Granted, my nutrition has been hit or miss throughout most of the my training, but I ate sensibly the day before race day. And, in the last 3 days leading up to the race, I was having breakfast sandwiches, poke bowls for lunch, and dinner was either lasagna or something with rice. 

Another likely culprit is that I didn’t do enough long runs to push through the fatigue. 16 miles is the longest distance I ran on Hansons. It’s possible that without my usual 18 and 20 mile runs, that I inadvertently overreached. I did, after all, miss 3 long runs. Two of those were 16 mile runs. That was definitely an oversight. In retrospect, I probably really needed those runs.

Looking back, I only ran three 15mi runs and one 16mi run, but I had a total of 21 runs over 10mi in the 3 months leading up to Burlington. I only had 15 runs more than 10mi leading up to Berlin. This was a lot more.

The white squares at the bottom give you an idea of how long before race day a run >10mi took place.

Here are the stats compared to my preparation for Berlin.

Race weight: 48kg (same)
10km time pre-marathon: 50:31 (2min 23s slower)
Best Half pre-marathon: 1:46:04 (same)
Best Marathon time pre-Burlington: 3:51:54

In the 3 months leading up to Burlington

Avg Weekly Distance: 44mi (2mi more)
Number of runs per week: 6 (2 more days)
Long runs > 10mi: 21 (6 more runs longer than 10mi)
Long run pace: 9:30min/mi (same)
Longest run distance pre-marathon: 16mi (4 mi less)
Longest run duration pre-marathon: 2:35:34 (38 min 12s less)

I didn’t do a half leading up to Burlington, but I did run my fastest 5mi during a race in March. I also ran my fastest 9mi during a training run in April

All else considered, the two training cycles were very similar. The only exceptions that I can think of is that I only had one 16mi run, and I expended a lot more effort than I anticipated in the first half of the marathon because of rolling hills. I’m sure the latter meant that I tapped into my glycogen stores way too soon and didn’t have enough to power through the second half of the race.

It’s the worst kind of mistake. The single most important thing I’ve been working since the beginning of this year is pacing and it’s as if I forgot about it on race day. Never again.

I’ll come back for this course.

And I’m gonna crush it.

Berlin Marathon 2018 Race Report

Ich habe es geschafft. I ran Berlin.

As often as I have run races, I’ve never actually trained that hard for a race. You see, there’s a big difference between telling yourself that you’re going to run a race under a certain time, and telling almost everyone you know, including people you don’t know that you’re targeting a finish time. The former is like making a promise to yourself and, deep down, you know that you don’t actually have to keep it. The latter is like telling all your friends that you can’t go out on Friday or Saturday nights because you have to run long before sunrise the next morning, and you actually have to do those runs or else your friends will hate you for it – so you do them. And so, completely out of character and contrary to how I approached marathon training for my first three marathons – Berlin became my first chronically documented marathon training and I posted every weekly run report publicly to keep people in the loop.

My rough plan – did 1st 6wks and promptly switch to Jack Daniels’ 2Q.

My rough plan – did 1st 6wks and promptly switch to Jack Daniels’ 2Q.

At Smashrun, we’re big proponents of social accountability. We talk the talk. But I’ve never actually experienced what that felt like. Until Sunday.

Prior to Berlin, I ran NYC in 2010 in 4:44:03, followed by the Santiago Marathon in 2012 in 4:23:44, and Amsterdam in 2016 in 4:02:09. As you can see, I’ve taken my sweet time trying to get under 4. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always wanted to finish a marathon under 4 hours. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that I started thinking about Boston Qualifiers. And Boston, I assure you, is a real stretch for me.

With this in mind, I approached the Berlin Marathon with the goal of finally finishing under 4 hours. And I wanted to be realistic. I’ve been running for more than 10 years, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I started PR’ing in most races and it was also around the same time I renewed my commitment to running for the sake of improving time.

Goals: I wanted a 4% improvement over my last marathon. That would’ve been a goal of 3:52:28. But I like nice round numbers. And I was terrified of going for something that sounded to me like an “aggressive” goal, especially with our frequent moves and – at the time – uncertain training conditions for summer. So I decided to go after 3:55:00.

I’ve done this a few times now and, from experience, I’ve learned that it’s better to train for a faster time to account for unforeseeable circumstances. Overreach a tiny bit, so to speak. I have a lot of room to improve, so I can usually afford to do this. So my training plan was for a 3:45:00. A 10min buffer is pretty sweet, especially when all the training paces seemed very doable. Of course, I recognize that there’s a problem with this approach in that by overreaching, I’m giving myself an out on race day. So I might be more likely to reign it in when the going gets tough… but that’s not the case. I’ve actually found that this approach has helped me push my limits in the past. So I end up running faster than I may have otherwise planned.

Training Plan: Hybrid (Runner’s World Ultimate 3:45 and Jack Daniels 2Q). The Runners World Training Plans don’t really get enough credit for how effective they are, but it brought me up to speed – quite literally. In 4 weeks, I was doing a long run of 10mi or more every Sunday and at about 10s faster than my usual easy pace. By 6 weeks, I was already doing weekly steady runs between 4-9mi at 8:45min/mi and regular 300-800m intervals between 35-50s faster than goal marathon pace. I was off to a great start.

At about 1/3 into my training plan, I switched to Jack Daniels 2Q. I did some ludicrous amount of research on various training plans before settling on JD – although, I’ve been a Daniels fan since I started running. I looked at Hanson’s, Pfitzinger’s, and Lydiard. I ruled out Pfitzinger’s and Lydiard pretty quickly based on the risk of overtraining: doubling up and high mileage weeks are not my forte. Both plans also seemed a bit… monotonous.

On the other hand, I strongly considered doing Hanson’s Marathon Method because there was a fair amount of overlap with JD’s principles. Although Hanson advocates for limiting the long run to 16mi, JD limits it to 2h 30min. It also sticks to the prototypical weekly structure of tempos, intervals, and long runs except that tempo is really marathon paced runs. What I don’t like about Hanson’s method is the lack of any speedwork in the long run. This is because you’re supposed to carry over the cumulative fatigue from your two speedwork sessions each week so that your long run feels more like the last 16mi of a marathon rather than the first 16mi.

I don’t mind this idea. RunnersConnect has a similar training plan where you do might do something like an 8mi easy run on Saturday and then an 18mi run with miles 12-16 at 10-15s faster than marathon pace. And it’s a hard long run. But I wanted to try something different. I get so bored with my long runs that I get sloppy. And when I get tired, I naturally slow down. I don’t even consider speeding up. This is why I chose JD’s 2Q.


If you’ve never seen a JD 2Q plan before, and you love creating custom workouts for your watch, you’re gonna be giddy with joy. All of the training paces are dictated by your goal time. For the most part, you’ll spend most of your training running Easy (E), Tempo (T), and Long (L) run paces. There’s about 6 weeks in the plan that includes Interval (I) pacing, but I skipped all of it since I used the RW plan in the beginning of my training. Why? Because I’ve found that JD’s interval paces for me are very taxing and I’ve gotten injured doing them in the past.

A section of the 2Q set up.

A section of the 2Q set up.

What I love about JD’s training plan is the flexibility, the variety between sessions, and the super fun medium long run workouts. The plan requires a fair amount of effort from the runner, because you need you figure out (write down) your training paces based on your current VDOT. And yeah, it’s probably a good idea to get the book. Put it right next to your copy of the Lore of Running and Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning. Anyway, I digress…

JD likes to give you runs that switch between paces. For example: a long run with 2mi E + 2x10min @ T (2min RI) + 80min E + 20min @ T + 2mi cool down. Yeah. It’s a pain to program your watch to do this, but it’s worth the effort. By constantly switching between paces, whether it’s easy and tempo, or easy and marathon pace, you end up remembering your paces very quickly and build the muscle memory to run at those paces. What’s more is that when you spend 80min running easy, only to follow it with 20min running at faster than your marathon pace, you learn to push hard once you’re already tired. It was gold, I tell you. I freaking loved JD’s 2Q plan.

Based on my weekly training volume alone, I knew I trained harder for Berlin than any other race.

I peaked at about 50mi w/ a trailing 7day peak of 56mi.

I peaked at about 50mi w/ a trailing 7day peak of 56mi.

You can dig in to the details on my Smashrun profile (and maybe follow me during my next marathon training cycle!). Here’s a quick rundown of everything I need to remember for myself as a benchmark for next time.

Race weight: 48kg
10km time pre-marathon: 48:08
Best Half pre-marathon: 1:46:04
Best Marathon time pre-Berlin: 4:02:09

In the 4 months leading up to Berlin
Avg Weekly Distance: 42mi (67km)
Number of runs per week: 4
Long runs > 10mi: 15
Long run pace: 9:30min/mi
Longest run distance pre-marathon: 20mi (32km)
Longest run duration pre-marathon: 3:13:46

Race Day. Alright, the day before was a wash.


It was our day of travel and, I spent way too much time on my feet on Saturday. From the airport, to the expo, having lunch in a different section of Berlin, late Airbnb check-in, toured the Reichstag dome (yeah, I know).


I must have robbed myself of at least a minute just by walking around so much. But I did sleep early. And that never happens. I must’ve had more than 9 hours of sleep the night before when I usually only get 4 or 5 from nerves.

Me being mad chirpy on race morning.

Me being mad chirpy on race morning.

I woke up at 7:15am on race day. I had some coffee, a bowl of oatmeal, and half a Clif Bar. I also had the biggest bowl of ramen for lunch the day prior and gnocci for dinner the night before, so I was feeling pretty fueled, but far from bloated. We left for Brandenburg Gate at 8:15am, got there, figured out our meeting spot, and I was at my starting block by 9:20am. It was surprisingly easy getting there, despite the crowd.

The Course. If you’ve only ever heard of the Berlin Marathon, then I’m sure you’ve heard what everyone else hears: it’s among the flattest and fastest course you’ll ever run. Having lived in Berlin, I knew this wasn’t exactly true. It’s more like “almost completely flat with the occasional bridge and underpass” but nothing like NYC. It’s also got some super wide turns, so congestion is rarely a problem. I say, rarely, because you will only come across a few turns where people slow down, like the right turn at Hermannplatz or at the Breitenbachplatz underpass.

If it’s a sunny day, as it was on Sunday, most of the course is completely exposed to the sun with the exception of the long stretch along Hasenheide, big chunks of Friedenau/Wilmersdorf, and along parts of Kurfürstendamm. Naturally, it would also depend on how fast you’re running/time of day.

The course is more or less lined with people cheering from start to finish and lots of bands! Quite a lot of drumming, some funky bands, and a couple of odd jazz groups. I’m pretty sure there was also a woman singing opera at some point. It thins out in some parts, like the sad stretch of suffering that usually takes place between mile marker 17 – 23 (25km-37km) but, by and large, it’s a lively course.

Refreshments, however, were a disaster. I mean, beet juice electrolyte drink? Who thought that was a good idea? And plastic cups. Terrible terrible plastic cups. The sound they make when runners crush them beneath their feet really resonates and it was LOUD. Which I guess is great because the signage was so tiny, you kind of needed a warning that it was coming up. And they’re slippery as f#%&! If they do plastic cups again next year, do yourself a favor and bring one of those collapsible cups that are required for trail runs. Or if you’re into bringing your own juice – camelbaks are permitted up to 2L.

Miles [0] to [13]
I was running fairly even splits. I mean, I was rocking it. There were a few odd splits that were too fast like my 8:16min/mi at mile 5 and 8:21min/mi at mile 11, but my legs were in rocket shape. They were cruising and I was just along for the ride. My HR stayed close to 75% of my HRR for the vast majority of it. I wasn’t dehydrated, hungry, or overheated. I was drinking to thirst when I felt like it but I wasn’t chugging water. Took Gu #1 at 15km. Just like in all my training runs. Saw Chris near the start!
Splits: 8:35, 8:29, 8:22, 8:33, 8:16, 8:32, 8:34, 8:34, 8:38, 8:33, 8:21, 8:36, 8:32

Miles [14] to [17]
And then it got warm all of a sudden. Nothing but sunshine. I was sweating truckloads and well on my way to chugging water. Had a banana or two on course. Took Gu #2 at 25km, also same as my training runs. Stomach fine. A bit more tricky getting past the refreshment areas at this point. A lot of slowing down. Too many hazards. People were cutting in sideways to get water. That’s just poor form.
Splits: 8:32, 8:49, 8:45, 8:47

Mile [18]
Holy crap. Right calf seized like it just wanted to destroy my day. Like the kind you get in the middle of the night, which makes you want to grab your calf thinking that it would somehow stop the involuntary muscle spasms. This is a FIRST for me. I’ve never cramped like this during a race. I hit walls, but I don’t cramp. I pushed through it and just barely salvaged my 18mi split at a 9:00min/mi pace. It probably helped that some guy was running along the course with a sign and screaming “new world record! new world record today! 2:01:39!!”
Split: 9:00

Miles [19] to [21]
I was feeling better. I got over it pretty quickly. I did do some weird movements – like smacking my right calf a few times – to get it to snap out of it. It’s not like my brain was fully functioning at this point. I ultimately concluded that I wasn’t going to run any faster than an 8:45min/mi pace. Right calf was intermittently spazzing out, but I was still grinning like a kid who just scored some candy – because I did – and was happily talking to myself about what a great idea it was to train with gummy bears 🙂 Took Gu #3 at 35k.
Splits: 8:44, 8:47, 8:49

Mile [22]
Left calf wanted to join the party! Have you ever had both calves cramp during a race? I really want to understand what went wrong here, because I was hydrated, I had bananas, I took 3 Gu gels already. Nothing felt out of the ordinary and it’s like the wheels just fell off. These cramps were a lot worse. I’m glad some really nice woman gave me a small bottle of Powerade. Imagine that. Some nice lady with her little kids just standing there giving out small bottles of Powerade, water, and pretzel sticks. Man, I love Berliners.
Split: 9:04

Miles [23] to [26.2]
Saw Chris briefly some point before the finish. Yay! I needed to hand over my Spibelt that no longer served a purpose. Apparently, I looked great! The cramps started to wear off around the 42km mark, go figure, but I was so far off my target pace, I was just doing what I can to move forward and pretend like I was still moving as gracefully as I did when I started running that morning.
Splits: 9:12, 9:13, 9:09, 9:35, 9:02

Berlin Marathon Course 2018

Berlin Marathon Course 2018

When I saw that gate though, I thought, “Hell YEAH! BEER AT THE FINISH!” Well, actually, it was probably more like “thank god, it’s almost over.” I’m pretty sure I was still smiling at this point. The spectators were so joyful in seeing all the runners cross that gate. It was super contagious.

I checked my watch shortly before the turn that showed me the Brandenburg Gate. I was over 3:49:00. I was very briefly sad about this. Not because I wanted to finish under 3:50:00, but because I felt like I ran a good race. I used to struggle explaining to people the concept of a wall during a marathon. I have a better idea now, because I genuinely feel like I didn’t hit it this time. The wall is that sudden onset of extreme fatigue that forces you to slow down. This was my first marathon where I didn’t feel that. Even when I my calves felt like daggers on my legs, I actually felt like I could’ve kept going. You learn something new after every race right?

After getting my medal, I walked straight towards the exit to get to my meeting point. The post-race bag had a banana, an apple, a bottle of water, some weird tasting granola bar, and a chocolate-filled croissant (I pretty much ate this one first). Then, I hobbled/jogged/walked to where Chris was waiting. We then made plans to meet up with a couple of other marathoners, had several pints at BrewDog and a burger to end the day.

Tiny me is hiding in there somewhere :)

Tiny me is hiding in there somewhere 🙂

3 days after the race. Legs are feeling good again. Will probably shake them out tomorrow. None of my usual hip flexor issues post marathon. No lingering soreness that might point to a problem. I had a lot of stairs to deal with in Berlin, so that probably helped quite a bit with the initial recovery. I need to figure out this cramping problem so that, on my next marathon, I can train for 3:35:00 and be one step closer to Boston.

If you got this far – you’re a champ. Thanks for reading!

Mitja Barcelona Race Report

Last year, I signed up for the Mitja Barcelona but skipped it because I got sick. On a whim, I signed up for it again this year, somewhat half serious about actually running, but mostly wanting a short break from winter weather. I figured it’s a flat and fast course, a short flight away, and an excuse to speak Spanish for a weekend! And after a long 2017 of not really trying hard to break any of my PR’s, Barcelona felt like the right race to set the tone for 2018.

I ran the Lyon Semi in 1:50:46. I was going for a 2% improvement and targeting 1:48:34. Surprisingly, despite not really running that much through winter, but running a lot of intervals in the last 4 weeks leading up to the race, I ran Barcelona in 1:46:06. Much much faster than I intended.

The other surprise was that I ran fairly even splits in the first half and, although I slowed down quite a bit in the second half, even then, my splits were close.

Barcelona Splits

Ten days before the Barcelona Half, I’m fairly certain that I strained a calf muscle. It was bad. Bad enough that I walked the remaining distance home, because I couldn’t finish my run that day. I rested it for two days and then went for another run. It actually hurt so much then that I was in tears by the time I got home from a short mile. I wanted to call it off. Chris talked me out of it. He reasoned that I had a week left before the race. I could rest it and go for a short run the day before, while already there in Barcelona. If it felt ok, run the race by feel. If it was bad, it was a weekend in Barcelona! So I rested it and did a short shake out the day before the race. And you know what? I would’ve regretted it so much if I didn’t go.

Part of me worries that Barcelona was an edge case. I was averaging roughly 25-30mi/week leading up to the half marathon and I practically took December off. I did, however, do three long runs (longer than 10mi) and a couple of really hard interval sessions in January. Mostly just January.

I guess the weather was nice and I took a lot more days off than usual before race day. But is that really enough to make that much of a difference? Maybe. Perhaps, this is why rest is such a big part of tapering. I have to remember this, because the next time I taper before a race, I’m gonna want to keep running when I should really be resting.

New Year, New Goals

Talking to Chris the other night, I asked him what his New Year’s Resolutions were for 2018. I always assumed that most people set year-long goals at the start of each year. I never considered that that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we might already be doing all the things we care about and as much as we have time for that a New Year’s Resolution isn’t really necessary.

But… I like setting goals. Of course, most of them are running-related, so it’s a bit boring, but hey! It keeps me active right?

This year, I’ll be running Berlin. I woke up early last year to catch the leaders of the marathon at Kottbusser Brucke. It was awesome to see them! Insanely fast runners have a way of making something that looks deeply uncomfortable somehow look desirable. But, no runner ever starts a training season thinking that there won’t be any pain or misery involved. Much less, think that running fast is the product of effortlessness. So it goes without saying that you shouldn’t necessarily envy insanely fast runners, because so much work goes into that. And excellent genes… I guess I’m enviable of their exceptionally good genes.

It rained so much that day. Mother nature must have been laughing at everyone for thinking that 2017 was the year someone would set a new marathon record. But the crowd showed up! Everyone was geared for the weather. People were there to cheer and have a good time. It made me really want to run it. And, being lucky with marathon lotteries, I got in.

In February, I’ll be running the Barcelona Half. I’ve got the Madrid Half in April, and my first 50km run in Oslo at the end of May. I’d like to run a few shorter road races leading up to Berlin, but it remains to be seen where we’ll be from March onwards, so it’s too soon to plan that far in advance.

It’s our last year in Europe. It would be great to live in another capital city like Prague, Vienna, or Lisbon. Maybe a few short weekend trips…

And, if Nate and Poliana’s January visit is any indication of what’s to come, then I have a feeling that 2018 will be an eventful year.

Nate & Poli in Berlin

Amsterdam Marathon 2016 Race Report (sort of year-end review)

There were lots of new things about this particular training cycle. I’ve always been a consistent runner but, for years now, I’ve been stuck in a rut. Part of the problem was because we moved around so much that it was impossible to find a reliable “everything” running route. Either the routes were too short for long runs or too segmented by street crossings for speedwork. The other problem was that I wasn’t setting any real goals for my running. Month over month goals are fine but, in order to progress, you kind of have to throw a few uncomfortable situations in there. So, after much delay and getting a really bad case of the flu last season, I signed up for 6 races this year.

On schedule was:

  • EcoTrail Paris (18km) – March 19th
  • La Pyrénéenne (10km) – May 15th
  • La Course Royale in Versailles (15km) – June 19th
  • EcoTrail Brussels (18km) – September 24th
  • Lyon Semi Marathon – October 2nd
  • Amsterdam Marathon – October 16th

The two trail races and the Versailles run, which was an all-terrain course, were thrown in there to satisfy my craving for off-road runs – I do miss trail running daily.

This is, by far, the most number of hard effort races I’ve signed up for within the same year. When I lived in Brooklyn, I frequently signed up for the NYRR events, but I never really “raced” them. I hadn’t really discovered “racing” until much later on in my running. When I was staying in Virginia Beach, I raced my best 5k at 23:35 and that was really hard for me. I actually trained for that run, and I placed second in my age group. When Chris and I lived in Split (Croatia), I ran a 1.32km staircase race and finished in 11min 50s, placing first in my age group. I genuinely trained for that one too! Of course, we were so excited about the free buffet that came with the race entry, that we skipped the awards ceremony and I missed out on a snazzy medal (maybe a trophy!) In any case… those 2 runs were really the only ones I’d consider hard effort races, following my NYC Marathon and Maratón de Santiago, both of which were a long long time ago.

Having just surfaced on the other side of all my races this year, I feel really good about doing what I did. I PR’d during La Pyrénéenne and finally skimmed a 50min 10k. I PR’d my Lyon Semi with 1h 50min. And I PR’d Amsterdam with 4h 2min. It wasn’t the PR I wanted, but it’s still 18min off my previous marathon PR.

I was coming off of a minimal base heading into my first EcoTrail. That first race was really meant to get me back into training mode. Unfortunately, I picked up the flu shortly after that race which, ironically, compelled me to sign up for 5 more races for the rest of the year (plus 1 next year – the Marathon de Paris in April).

La Pyrénéenne was my first real race this year. It’s a local 10k held in the 19th arrondissement. There are fewer than 2,000 participants and it’s a hell of a hilly course running through Belleville and Ménilmontant. The start of the course is mostly downhill, then flat, and then a long hard ascent up Rue de Ménilmontant before another fast descent. Then a slight downhill gradient all along Boulevard de Belleville and Boulevard de Ménilmontant, past Père Lachaise and around heading back on a slight uphill to finish at Place Gambetta.

Coming off La Pyrénéenne made me realize how much I enjoyed hilly courses. As much as I’d like to think I could’ve run an even faster 10k on all flat, that’s probably not true for me. I’m incredibly efficient at running uphill and I’m almost at the point where I can charge hard downhill without breaking. And it’s just so much more fun than a flat and fast course.

Following my 10k, I knew I needed to stretch out my legs for the longer distances coming up. So I put in lots of easy runs during the week and did a couple of 15-17km runs to start building my base. This was all pre “training plan”, which I didn’t actually put together until about mid-July. It was a nice comfy 4 months out from Amsterdam.

The plan was pretty straightforward. 4 runs a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday): 1 easy w/ strides, 1 speedwork, 1 easy, and 1 long run. As I got closer to Amsterdam, there were slight variations: increased distance of easy runs, increased number of strides, cut downs/ Short Tempo/ Long Tempo for speedwork, and more cut downs plus marathon pace towards the final laps for long runs.

This was the first time I toyed with cut downs, which I’m surprisingly good at doing. I’ve always paced conservatively, so I like to start slow and gradually speed up. I’m way less good at it once I start the cut down at about 13mi (21km). Learning the concept of running on tired legs was a nice addition to my training repertoire but … it’s something that I’ve yet to master.

I felt a little aggressive about my base building phase, mainly because I was out of practice. My long runs were 9mi, 11mi, 13mi, 15mi, 10mi, 16mi, 18mi, 11mi, 13.2mi – with the last one being my Lyon Semi. The first 3rd of my plan averaged 26mi/week, the second third was about 33mi/week, and my peak week was 38mi.

In retrospect, the Lyon Semi was scheduled way too close to my marathon. I seriously aggravated my hip flexors following my half marathon PR, which came back in full force during the Amsterdam Marathon.

Okay, so I know this was a stretch, but I really thought it was possible to get an 8% improvement over my 4:20:00 marathon. If I did, that would’ve put me at 3hr 59min. So I decided to train for a 3hr 50min finish, with the assumption that I’ll actually finish right around 4 hours.

The Course
The course starts and finishes at the Olympic Stadium, which is pretty cool. It will take you through Vondelpark, the Rijksmuseum, and along the Amstel River. Most of the roads are narrow and, because there’s about 30,000 runners running with you, it’s safe to say that you should expect quite a few bottlenecks. The course is mostly flat, with the occasional small grade hills, especially when running underneath the overpasses.

We had, what appeared like, a minor Smashrun emergency the day before the race – also our day of travel. So we had to pack up Chris’ computer and bring his monitor all the way to Amsterdam so we could put a patch together and release it before Sunday. Like clockwork, Thalys was delayed on the way up from Paris, but we still made good time.

I left Chris to work on the patch and I headed out to grab my race bib. We stayed close to the stadium, so it was easy for me to get to the marathon expo. They had a well-oiled operation going. I found the sign for bib pick-up and also got my race shirt within 5min of entering the building. Then they funnel you through to the expo (two buildings of it) before you can get back out. I wasn’t in the mood to linger. It was a cloudy, rainy, miserable day out and I needed to head back to help with QA testing.

When I got back, Chris had already furiously coded away with a solution. We tested it and everything looked good. We also found out that it wasn’t as big of a problem as we thought it was and didn’t need to bring the computer at all. Ah well.

By then, it was almost 5pm, so we went to the city for our dinner reservation… for ramen! It was the perfect pre-race dinner. You see, Chris had found a study indicating that marathoners consuming carbs the day before the race at a quantity of >7 g/kg body mass had significantly faster overall race speeds and maintained it for a much longer period of time than marathoners who didn’t. What’s more is that those who consumed that much carbs ran an average of 13% faster. Basically, he tried to get as much carbs into my system as I could tolerate over the course of 36 hours. So soup for dinner, the day before the race, was such a welcome change – without compromising the carbs! I also had 2 beers the night before, because fuel. I really should’ve had 3.

Race morning
I woke up at 7:30am, ahead of my 7:45am alarm, feeling pretty sharp. Showered and dressed by 8am. I ate 1 hard-boiled egg, a banana, and a stroopwafle – I kid you not. And an espresso. Then Chris and I planned our meeting points and walked to the Olympic stadium so that I could line up by 8:45am.

It was a little messy getting into the stadium. There’s a separate public entrance and one giant entrance for all the marathoners. You’re literally shoulder to shoulder with other runners for about 15min before you’re inside. Once you’re in, though, it clears up pretty quickly and it’s easy to spot the separate corrals.

Now then… I ran this thinking in kilometer splits, so we’ll have to do the breakdown in kilometer splits.

Km 1-5: target was 5:31-5:48/km
I ran a little faster than I wanted in the beginning, but I wasn’t far off. It was a bit of struggle to lock down my pace, because it was much more crowded than I anticipated. The spectators both inside and outside the stadium were totally nuts. So much cheering! So much joy!

The first turn off just outside the stadium was really slow for some reason so I tried to stick as close to the side as possible. There was quite a bit of uneven pavement to get used to and the tram tracks were a hazard and a half. There were also a couple of islands in the middle of the road for the tram/bus stops, so there was a bit of hop-on-hop-off action going on. The course narrowed significantly as we turned into Vondelpark, so it took a lot of mental energy to just focus on not stepping on someone’s feet or bumping into them while trying to squeeze past. And it didn’t really clear up until we ran past the Rijksmuseum.

Splits: 5:29, 5:27, 5:28, 5:30, 5:20

Km 6-20: target was 5:34-5:37
Km 6-10 was when I first realized how hot the sun was going to be. After leaving Vondelpark, most of the course was pretty exposed and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. I was running with my watch set to show my lap pace so I was aware that I was running way too fast again. I was getting worried about the heat and started wondering if I should bank more in the first half than trying to run a reverse split. I wavered back and forth, but decided that I was gonna try and stick as close as possible to 5:30 unless I was breaking away from a crowd that’s running slower in front of me.

At km 14, we entered Amstelpark and started running along the Amstel River. The crowd thinned out pretty quickly at this point so it was much quieter, and the next 6km is all pavement and no shade. The temperature went up a bit. I missed my music. It was a last minute decision to not run with music, making this my first marathon without music. I guess I figured, if I could PR so well in Lyon without music, who’s to say it won’t be the same with my marathon?

Anyway, I ate the piece of banana I picked up from the last water station, thinking that it’ll be somewhat hydrating. The next water station was on the other side at 20km. Most of the runners around me looked a little beat by the time we got to the turn off to cross to the other side of the river. That sponge station felt AH-mazing.

Splits: 5:21, 5:27, 5:17, 5:24, 5:17, 5:26, 5:24, 5:28, 5:23, 5:28, 5:38, 5:23, 5:29, 5:28, 5:29

Km 21-35: target was 5:29-5:34/km
I assessed everything at the half marathon mark. Was I hungry? Still thirsty? Overheated? How did I feel about running another half of what I just ran? It was a bit of a downer that I didn’t “race” my first half knowing that I could’ve done it in 1:50, but I also knew that I was starting to feel tired. I don’t ever drink too much at water stations – I don’t like the sloshing of the water in my stomach. But coming off that last 6km under the sun really got to me.

Spotted Chris as km 24! He was generous enough to say that I looked good. Ha! He asked if I needed anything, to which the guys next to me said: “an ice cold beer!” And to which Chris responded: “ok, you wait right here and I’ll be back with a beer in 10min.” Haha. Anyway… it was such a relief to hear from him that there was a water stop just past km 25. So we parted ways and I hurried off to the next km marker.

I think I drank two glasses of water and carried along one of the ISO energy drinks for back-up. It really slowed me down at km 27. I tried to pick up my pace again, but I couldn’t manage to hit my target zones and really fell off a cliff at km 31-32. It was a little disheartening. But, much like Dory, I just kept going.

Splits: 5:28, 5:29, 5:30, 5:35, 5:35, 5:34, 6:13, 5:36, 5:44, 5:46, 6:14, 6:21, 5:43, 5:43, 5:35

Last 7km: target – run it as fast as I can
Which is to say that it wasn’t very fast at this point. Can anyone else spot the wall in there?

My right hip started to kill me after km 35. I felt like I was just shuffling my feet, but they were still giving me trouble. This was a lot of speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down. Anything to keep my legs from slowing down to a walk. I would look for something in the distance, and pick up my stride. Then slow down for the next couple hundred meters. I did this for the last 5k, before I settled back into the rhythm of the runners near me.

I was so relieved to be running through Vondelpark on the return. The spectators were still so cheerful. I got lots of “Go Jacklyn! Go!” I can’t even imagine what I looked like at km 39-40, after having sponged my hair, my neck, and my arms sporadically for the last several kilometers just to cool down.

Approaching the stadium, I managed to pick up my feet a bit. Honestly… you could be crawling back into that stadium and you still wouldn’t be able to help but feel like you’re so cool for finishing your marathon at the Olympic Stadium. So I did what I imagined was a full-out sprint, plastered on a smile, and laughed a little as I crossed the finish line.

Splits: 6:16, 5:50, 6:17, 6:50, 6:09, 6:07, 6:17, 5:29

A few minutes later, a guy ran up to me, “Hey! You run around Buttes Chaumont, right?” Crazy! Same guy I see running around my local park in Paris, who actually spoke to me in French mid-run around Buttes Chaumont… at the time when my French vocabulary was limited to maybe 30 words.

He asked how it went. “It was okay.” “But did you enjoy the long run?” Huh… I know he was referring to just this one run. On that particular day. But this long run really felt like it started for me back in April. I guess I don’t feel like I sacrificed that much because it’s not like I went on any special diet. I didn’t really change my sleeping habits. I didn’t skip spending two weeks with my friend and my sister this summer. Or skip the Brooklyn Brewery Mash, which involved so many Brooklyn lagers, preceding my 18mi run. So, with that and my several PR’s in mind, I turned to him with a big smile and said “I did!”

I met Chris about 20min later, with a beer waiting for me. Win! I was pretty sore, but not immobile. We had two flights of stairs up to our Airbnb so I was in pretty decent shape to be walking up and down. We headed straight to the city after and filled up on Indonesian food. Then we walked around for the next 3-4 hours before I felt like crashing.

My legs, as expected, were a bit stiff the day after on Monday. Nothing out of the ordinary. We walked around some more and explored the De Pijp neighborhood before our train back to Paris. Tuesday was about the same, but I felt less awkward walking quickly from place to place. By Wednesday, I felt ready to run again, but laid low for another day before starting my reverse-taper.

I’ve got a bit of work to do for my next marathon and I have to look into my hip flexor issue. A little consistent strength training will probably go a very long way. Nevertheless, this was a strong year for my running. I’m looking forward to next year already!

A scope tug-of-war

Most people don’t realize how small we are. We don’t have a group of engineers or dedicated client support. We don’t have “ambassadors” or interns. There are only two of us building and maintaining Smashrun full time, and a third who’s trying to balance a full time job with our startup, which means that we have to be ruthless about scope.

Ideas are plentiful and it’s easy to get excited about a new idea! If we had a forum, I bet “Suggest a new feature” would be the most popular section.

All new features are at the tip of something big

On the surface, a lot of things might seem simple enough to implement, but there’s always unforeseen overhead costs that go hand in hand with developing new features and improving existing ones. When features are closely tied to one another and, when there are a lot of interdependencies, it gets tricky whenever you build new things on top of it.

From a design perspective, I have to constantly make room for new additions, swap out unpopular sections of an existing page, or create an entirely new interface that is expected to grow into something larger.

  • When you make room for something, inevitably, you’re making a decision to emphasize this new addition over an existing feature.
  • When you swap out existing features, you’re at risk of upsetting the small group of users that still use that functionality.
  • When you create an entirely new interface, you have to ensure that it’s discoverable, learnable, and usable.

From a technical perspective, if there’s new data that we’re importing, we have to figure out how we store it, in what form, how we retrieve it, and how we display it.

There’s also a more prominent multiplier effect when working with numbers. If the cost of delivering a particular feature is something like:

(x # of variables) times (y # of runs) raised to the nth power of number of users

…we’d have to seriously think hard about our server costs or spend even more time (than the crazy amount of time we already do) thinking about performance optimization.

This led to our development principles

Every time we’re on the fence about adding something, every time some new tech catches our attention, or a new suggestion pops up in our inbox, we go back to these guideposts:

Minimize Noise
– Noise is unnecessary information.

Manage Attention
– Users only have so much bandwidth. Every decision to emphasize one thing is at the expense of something else.

Try to Extend Before Branching Out
– Build on top of something vs. creating something entirely new.

Weigh Support Costs Before Building
– Consider ongoing maintenance and 3rd-party dependencies.

Understand the Target Demographic Before Building the Feature
– We’re not our customer, but saying ‘yes’ should be an informed decision.

Features providing a social good should be accessible to all users
– Paid features should essentially support the development of features that benefits the largest number of users in the biggest possible way.

With these in mind, we’ve gotten better at this tug-of-war. I certainly have. The drawing board has gotten much bigger, but there’s something kind of fun about understanding the scope of something from ideation to design to testing and implementation.

I imagine a silly giant iceberg and ask how far down the base we’re going in order to build something new. If we’re heading too far under water, it’s probably worth shelving for now to revisit at another time.

Seven Years

I have memories of a small white kitchen where I first discovered how to prepare the perfect steak. Season the hell out of it, sear it on both sides at high heat, then pop it in the oven. There’s an art to knowing how long you sear it before it goes in the oven, and to knowing how long before you take it out. I still haven’t mastered it yet.

I was introduced to the tricky business of experimenting with goat cheese, fish pies, and Everclear cocktails. I was told that my NYC isn’t the same as everyone else’s, and that’s good. That I should embrace my version of NY. My world of pupusa platters, arepas, Crif Dogs, disco fries, Nublu, and NYU-discounted events. I was introduced to the wonderfulness of “recession specials” and “craptacular” beer buckets, indoor pétanque and drunken table tennis. I went to every street festival as though I was a tourist and every concert as though I was discovering the next soon-to-be mainstream band.

I was told to travel. To leave everything behind and to accept occasional loneliness because being lonely can teach you a lot about happiness. So I found myself taking 2-hour bus rides to beaches in the middle of nowhere, eating fish and chips while reading the paper at Manly, djembe sessions in Bondi, and holding bonfires at Tamarama.

I was encouraged to explore. To feel at home with my stubborn sense of independence. I kept traveling and went to Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

I quit my job and I started working on Smashrun. It was like being given a new kind of freedom. I suddenly understood why nearly all the women in my family have owned a business. I still can’t explain to people how happy I get about receiving user emails that start with “I love everything about Smashrun” even when it’s followed with a “but”.

I struggled a lot with the startup transition. I realized, in Santiago, that I was out of my league 50% of the time, I absorbed information 25% of the time, and I probably fucked up the other 25% so that made for a very shitty scorecard.

I somehow managed to get over it. Someone reminded me that I’m capable and that I just needed to get my hands dirty, so I could learn by doing. That it’s not impossible to pick up any programming language I wanted to, or any foreign language for that matter! I was convinced to Duolingo five languages simultaneously.

I keep telling myself, “you can’t reclaim your 20’s”. That’s still the best advice I’ve ever gotten from someone.

I am reminded everyday that having a fulfilling life sometimes mean taking the longest route, being far away, being frustrated, failing a ridiculous number of times, missing deadlines, and being teased by hitting rock bottom.

Broke, but living. Currently, the title of my nonexistent book.

Seven years with this guy, and I can’t imagine being me without him.


This guy tolerates my Mean Girl episodes, silent treatments, and disturbing obsession with ramen. He would give up potato, because I want rice, and skip the documentaries to compromise on sci-fi. He would share whatever dish I order at a restaurant and switch with me, because I chose poorly. He would even switch beers even if he picked the best in the house and I ended up with something that smelled like someone’s foot and tasted like water.

He would chase down mosquitos for me like his life depended on it.

The only person I know who used to put chunks of steak and bacon in burger patties, and makes mashed potatoes with five different kinds of potatoes.

This guy makes the best seared scallops and steak I’ve ever had.

He also FOREVER ruined CGI for me.

Seven years with Chris. Eight countries. That adds up to a lot of beer festivals. It’s never boring and, while I know he’s just pulling my leg, I like to think that he’s telling the truth whenever he says to me that I don’t age. My kind of guy.

Here’s to more of living the good life.


Running Events

Every race is an excuse to celebrate my training, so I’m always on the lookout for my favorite distances. Although, it’s gotten much tougher to find the right events. Mainly, because I’m traveling so much, but also because races have become really expensive.

How is it ever acceptable for anyone to pay $100 for a half marathon?

So, I do a lot of searching, but there’s really no site that can filter by cost, which makes no sense to me. I even went as far as consider creating a website that listed every race but categorize the heck out of it for super awesome filtering by:

  • length,
  • terrain,
  • elevation profile,
  • location,
  • type (fun run vs. adventure trail, for-profit vs. charity-driven etc.),
  • number of participants,
  • and, of course, by cost.

Someone should’ve built that site already. I’ve looked and I haven’t found it.

Why don’t certain events include a route of the run? That’s so lame.

Seriously, just give me an elevation profile when it matters.

I need a better site for race listings. Does anybody know one that lists all or most events internationally, notes the size of each event, and/or has a filter for cost?

I’m currently using,, and Your go-to online resource(s)?

On HR Training

I have a very unsophisticated relationship with my HR monitor. For a $70 piece of equipment, I really should do more with it than just strap it across my chest before a run and view my HR alongside pace after my run. This thing isn’t even comfortable.

Really, it should make it easier for me to check my resting HR every morning. Because, who wakes up and checks their HR before getting out of bed?

I’m whining but, I also get the point. I know that it’s what you do with the HR data that matters, not necessarily how often you track it. All else being equal, everything really comes down to average HR and how it changes over time. Just compare runs of the same distance, performed at the same perceived effort level.

As your aerobic fitness improves, you’ll be able to do the same run, at the same pace, but with a lower overall average HR. Told you. Unsophisticated.

It’s surprisingly accurate. You just have to be honest with yourself about the different factors that affect your training.

Of course, sheer repetition plays a key role in why my oversimplified method works. Being disciplined about consistency helps. I bet there are other runners who probably do something similar.

There’s not much number crunching. No secret mathematical formulas. No need for rebalancing or creating some sort of index for validating intensity. Just a simple trend line. Really, what more do you need?

There are theories…

There are a lot of different methods espoused by the running community when it comes to heart rate training. I imagine somewhere on this planet, there’s an entire physical library section dedicated to it. It’s why I consider heart rate zones a “black hole” in athletic training. It’s so easy to get sucked into the details.

There’s the age-adjusted method, the Karvonen Method, Joe Friel’s LTHR zones, Zoladz Formula, Jack Daniels VDOT estimates sort of, the Maffetone Method, and a plethora of other takes on how to create your heart rate training zones. How you navigate these different theories can make or break your progress. If you overshoot your thresholds, you’ll pay the price.

So I often wonder, why do I even bother with it?

Runners and our need for structure. I like the occasional reminder of what works and what doesn’t. A top running coach put that together? I’ll take it! You don’t learn if you don’t try, and I don’t mind testing different training methodologies.

Besides, there are few things more definitive than your heart rate. Assuming that you don’t have a fluke HR monitor. Aerobic fitness isn’t something that can phone it in. You either have it or you don’t. You’re either improving or you’re stagnant. Occasionally, it’ll go down, but that’s expected when you’re detraining or just running for maintenance.

All the different theories are just guides. I guess it’s why a lot of runners who do train by HR tweak their zones all the time. The theories are just there to give us a general idea of where the cut offs are for the different zones. It’s entirely subjective. Although, it gives you a starting point.

Study the pro’s, take what works, learn from everything else. Repeat with all other training methodologies.

The irony of Montenegro’s “wild beauty”

Everything appeared lush and green. Every shade of turquoise or blue under the sun seemed even more dramatic along the Montenegrin coast. Is that a snowcapped mountain facing the Bay of Kotor? This bay is huge! The bus driver isn’t exactly taking his time. He’s zooming around the Bay of Kotor. There’s large puddles from the rain. The road is hella slippery. Sharp turns over a mere two hour bus ride is not exactly my forte.

Welcome to Montenegro! Are those advertisements along the cliff wall? On one side is a stunning show of the Adriatic Sea. Endless horizon, wispy clouds, and so much sky. No islands in sight. Not at all like the islands that seemed to converge upon Split. Look, they’re advertising furniture on that cliff face! Interesting choice.

In Budva, the Old Town was an unusual mix of konobas, English pubs, beer gardens, and Chinese restaurants. Everyone has a kid. You could probably trip on a stroller if you’re not paying attention.

Along the water, you’ll find fishermen offering their boats as a taxi to one of the many beaches that you can only reach by water. You can even take a water taxi from Budva to Sveti Stefan!

Back in Przno, there’s maybe five restaurants, a few bars, and a really big casino, which appears to be the highlight of this once quiet fishing village.

The brightly lit building with spotlights is Casino Maestral. Along the Adriatric, the "maestral" is the name given to the pleasant summer breeze.

The building in the center is Casino Maestral. On the Adriatric, “maestral” means a pleasant summer breeze.

Just behind it is the hilly community of Podlicak, our home for the month of May. The rent was unbelievably low for the shoulder season (but nearly triples for the peak season). We had a great setup for work and we were reasonably close to the city.

There were trails leading up to the mountain near where we stayed, but it literally felt like running up a mountain. We also didn’t learn until after three attempts at reaching the ridgeline that horned vipers are quite common around these parts. Chris practically stepped on one in our neighbor’s backyard.

That meant, I couldn’t really wander around the rocky trails by myself. So I was left with running the route to Sveti Stefan and back. There was a coastal path that almost connected Przno to Budva, but it required a 400m walk along the main road. Why are there no sidewalks? Further south is another town, Petrovac, which had a few trails nearby but it was a hike to get there.

The thing is, though, there used to be plenty of trailheads around the area. Looking at satellite views of Przno, we could see where the paths begin but when we’d go there, there would be a condo being built on top of it. Or the trailhead is now behind someone’s private property so you can’t get to it. There is just so much development everywhere. It’s not hard to imagine that, in ten years time, there just won’t be much wild beauty left along the coast.

For now, it’s still pretty incredible once you gain a bit of elevation, and Miločer really does feel like a park early in the morning. Although, if you start anytime after 7:30am, all you’ll hear is construction work in every direction.

Sveti Stefan from Miločer Park.

Sveti Stefan from Miločer Park.

Some of the best views of Sveti Stefan were all from the hillside.

Some of the best views of Sveti Stefan were all from the hillside.

The view from our local bar.

The view from our local bar.

Storms rolling in...

A familiar view of storms rolling in from our top floor apartment.

One of the beaches in Budva, viewed from the citadel.

One of Budva’s beaches, viewed from the citadel.

I can see the appeal. The beaches are beautiful and a swim in the ocean will change your entire perspective of this city.