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Coach Kevin's Running Blog

36 Posts

Running Fast To Race Fast

Posted by kevin leathers Mar 15, 2010

The first (speedwork) session of the season is like getting a flu shot--a little shock to the system that provides help with subsequent exposure. ~ Running Times


In endurance sports the idea is to build a large endurance base (or engine) by increasing your mileage base over a period of time.  Then you take that big engine and start to fine tune it by incorporating more race specific efforts, faster workouts and higher heart-rate sessions.  If this is done properly you can finish up with a proper tapering phase and arrive at your goal event rested and ready for a great performance or “peak”.


Sharpening: to develop a cutting edge or fine point.                             


I have transitioned into the first phase of “sharpening”… and it has been… uncomfortable.   I spent the winter training for and racing in two 50K trail runs, so I’ve got the base built.  Now I have a 10 week sharpening-phase mapped out to get me into the triathlon season.   The first week was… painful.  Right now I can knock out a 20 mile trail run with no hesitation.  But ask me to run a set of 400 meter intervals at 5k pace… yikes... and ouch!



  • Incorporating race specific training
  • Gradually increasing speed volume over several weeks                                                                                         
  • Increasing specificity of pace and terrain as your goal race approaches
  • Allow 6 – 10 weeks for adequate adaptation


I made it to my first big group ride of the season this weekend.  I can ride all day at a steady pace right now.  My lack of tempo work, however, had me hanging on for dear life at each attack or hill.  When I tried to keep up with the big accelerations there was no response from the engine room.  So I will spend March and April struggling and gasping to keep up.  Hopefully it will pay off by May and I will be closer to fighting shape.


My favorite sharpening workouts?


Pace Runs & Tempo Runs

  • Pace Runs: at race GOAL pace;  Tempo: slightly faster than race GOAL pace
  • Learn to run/ bike/ swim efficiently at race pace
  • Optimize “lactate threshold” – the ability to race faster for longer periods.
  • Learn race pace “feel”



  • Very Flexible – distance, duration, terrain, speed, recovery, etc…
  • Repeated hard efforts with rest in between: (4 x 800meters with 2:00 recovery between each)
  • Short intervals: 200 – 800 meters for aerobic strength
  • Long intervals: 800 meters  - 2 miles: for running economy, optimized lactate threshold and race pace judgment.


The base building phase instills a sense of security that there is a deep well of endurance to draw from.  The sharpening phase will hopefully build a sense of confidence and pace judgment that will help me reach optimum performance once the racing season begins.


Remember, there is not really a beginning or end… just cycles: Basebuilding, Sharpening, Racing, Recovery, repeat….



Read more at:  Can't Stop Endurance

for more information on developing a sharpening plan:

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Most days when I am running solo I run with my iPod.  I have several playlists for those days when I need just the right musical motivation to help me through a hard, fast run.     ipod_nano.jpg

Mostly though, I listen to podcasts when I run.  I have subscribed to a great list of podcasts on iTunes that automatically update new content.  The majority of my favorites are endurance related.  I get a chance to listen to great “articles” and interviews on a variety of running and triathlon related topics.  Some provide practical training and racing advice and some provide motivation.


What type of podcast (and podcaster) does it take to make my list?

  • Informative, professional content produced on a regular basis.
  • Interviews with interesting people whether they are world-class or middle of the pack. 
  • Podcasters who do not spend the first 10 minutes of the podcast recapping their own training week or yucking it up with inside jokes like a bad “morning-drive radio DJ”. 
  • Podcasters who know how to ask a question and then be quiet.


I highly recommend these podcasts if you are looking for quality endurance-related episodes:


Endurance Planet – Kevin Patrick runs a great website,  EP produces a very professional and informative podcast.  He gets interviews with a wide variety of guests and offers new, fresh content several times a week.  Kevin also seems to understand the types of questions his listeners would ask if we were in the room.   EP offers great company on long runs.


The Competitors – Hosted by two long-time endurance athletes, Bob Babbitt, co-founder of Competitor Magazine and Paul Huddle, a former professional triathlete and co-founder of  They get interviews with top runners, triathletes and cyclists and have great insight into the sport.   Always informative and entertaining.


Pure Fit Radio – Hosted by Chuck Engle, the "Marathon Junkie", and Bart Yasso of Runners World magazine.   I have just recently discovered Pure Fit but I like what I hear so far.  Good interviews with a variety of coaches and athletes.


Running Times Radio – These are short 5 – 10 minute “articles” from the folks at Running Times magazine.


Phedippidations – hosted by Steve Runner.  This one is for the real running nerd as Steve covers running history, marathon training and racing and other distance running topics.  He uses a clever production technique that makes it sound/ feel as if you are headed out the door with him for a run. 


All of these podcasts are FREE and available on iTunes or their respective websites.  If you want to listen to some great interviews, pick up a training tip or a dose of motivation give these a try.


Coach Kevin


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Do compression garments work?sox banner-1.jpg

Do you use compression socks?


This is becoming a frequent question from the runners I coach as well as a topic among my workout partners. Compression has gained exposure over the past few years in the endurance community as we see world-class athletes wearing them during and after competition. The women’s marathon world record holder races in them and they are being spotted much more frequently in long distance running and triathlon events.

When the folks at Arcosox sent me a pair of “The Recovery Sock to test I jumped at the chance.


I have used compression socks and calf sleeves for recovery and I am a big believer. I have even begun experimenting with them during longer runs and races. I mainly use them post-workout, when I am going to be seated at work for extended periods, driving for more than an hour or traveling by plane. I will occasionally sleep in them after hard workouts or races.

“The Recovery Sock” has become a part of my regular recovery strategy.

Read more about recovery strategy in Runners Are Dumb.   I firmly believe they improve my recovery time, reduce muscle soreness and improve circulation.


Is compression technology new?

It has been used for years in healthcare to aid patients with circulatory problems or those who are immobile for extended periods.


How does it work?

The garments reduce blood and fluids pooling in your lower legs, increase circulation and reduce swelling. Graduated compression garments, like The Recovery Sock, improve venous blood return to the19138_295062213507_294921743507_4545517_2189874_n.jpg heart which allows for better cardiac output.


Why is the increased circulation important for endurance athletes?

  • Improved oxygen delivery to muscles
  • Reduced lactic acid and other waste products in muscles
  • Proven cramp relief
  • Quicker recovery = improved workouts = better performance


Why do you run in them?

I have done some long runs, a half-marathon and a 50k ultramarathon in compression socks. I have seen a noticeable reduction/ delay in muscle fatigue and calf cramping in addition to better post-race recovery.


But they look silly!

I can’t argue that a pair of knee-high socks takes some getting used to. I also remember when a heart-rate monitor chest strap, a big GPS watch, a hydration pack or an aero bike helmet looked silly. Once everyone realized the value of these performance aids they became mainstream. We can all look silly together! If you cannot get over the fashion-statement associated with compression socks at least wear them for recovery and under your pants when traveling!


Why use “The Recovery Sock”?

My Recovery Socks were in the mailbox when I arrived home after a long trail run. I immediately put them on and they felt great. After a few weeks of use I have several observations:

  • They felt more snug and supportive than the other brands I have worn. I assume this is due to their Patented Graduated Compression design.
  • The socks seemed more durable around the seams.
  • They were just as snug after several washings as when they were new.
  • I have experienced less lower leg soreness.
  • While traveling I notice less of that “dead leg” feeling after a three hour drive.


“The Recovery Sock” is very competitively priced and comes in several colors to meet any fashion needs. I prefer the old-school white or black.sock colors.jpg

You can view the full line and order by clicking here:  THE RECOVERY SOCK



To have your product reviewed contact us at

Read more at:

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Leading up to the Sylamore Trail 50K Run I had heard many words to describe the event: great trails, lots and lots of climbing, waist-deep river crossings, rocky terrain, and breathtaking views.  It was allsylamore logo.jpg true, except I was pleasantly surprised to find that the freezing, crystal-clear water only reached mid-thigh during the river crossings!


I went into Sylamore feeling good about my physical and mental preparation.  I had logged hundreds of trail miles since December including my first 50k in January at the Swampstomper.   Because of the technical, unpredictable nature of trail running I have learned that I run best when I don’t focus on pace-per-mile, distance run or distance left-to-go.  I focus on one of my favorite mantras: “Just keep running”.   Just get to the next aid station or landmark.   I also learned that getting into that “zone” works for covering the distance, but it can also cause me to lose sight of nutrition.  I was going to be sure and focus on drinking every 15 minutes and taking an energy gel every hour.


Race day was nearly perfect: cloudy and 40 degrees at the start.   To say that ultramarathon trail runs are low-key is an understatement.   A few minutes before 7:00 the race director called everyone to the start.  There were no pre-race instructions or speeches.   He lined us up and yelled “Go!” and we were off.   We had a mile of pavement before we reached the trailhead so the pack of 175 runners was nicely spaced out by the time we hit dirt.  I made the decision, along with a couple of my training partners, to follow a very experienced ultra runner that I knew was familiar with the Sylamore Trail, would run a smart race and at least get me to the halfway point in decent shape.  There is an art to knowing when the hills become too steep or the trail becomes too risky and metering out your effort.  Richard proved to be an excellent trail guide.    The first infamous river crossing came just after mile 1.  There was much pre-race chatter and anxiety about the river.  As it turns out, there is only one strategy: get across the river.  It was really a non-event… 50 yards of thigh deep, freezing water.


Our group of 7 soon formed and moved steadily in single-file formation through the first rocky, muddy 6 mile section.  We reached the first aid station at Blanchard Springs in an hour.  We quickly topped off our water bottles and faced our first big climb of the day out of Blanchard Springs.  The trail greatly improved at this point as there was very little mud and fewer rocks.  The twenty minute climb went by without incident and we were greeted at the top by a beautiful vista of mountains and the river 500 feet below.  We would face another 20 minute climb before the next aid station an hour away.  Our group was relaxed and talkative which made the miles roll by quickly.  We made it to the second aid-station at Gunner Pool in two hours.  After a quick pit stop for fluids and fuel we were back in our single file drive to the turnaround an hour away.  From Gunner Pool to the turnaround the climbs were not as big but the course seemed to always be going up or down.  The pitch of the incline dictated2277597836_30426d4cbb.jpg our pace.  The steeper it got the slower we ran in an effort to preserve our legs for the return trip.   Somewhere along this stretch we encountered the two race leaders who were flying.  They had reached the turnaround an hour ahead of us and were on their way back.  I am amazed how quickly they can negotiate the hills, descents, rocks and mud.   As exciting as reaching the turnaround can be I had to remind myself that it was just a marker along the way.   Richard pulled us into the turnaround aid station at 2:59.   I had a goal of running 6 hours so we were right on time.    My only problem had been a stick to the shin and a sharp rock to the other that left two impressive streams of blood down my legs.  They looked cool but really were no big deal.


Now the dilemma… I felt good and did not feel like I was really working yet but realized there were still three hours of running left.   If I wanted to run close to six hours it would take an aggressive approach to maintain a steady pace as the impending fatigue was hiding out there in the woods waiting to jump on my back and slow me down.   Two runners in our original group and local training partners, David and Roy, said they wanted to give six hours a shot.   I made the decision to go with them as long as I could because I knew they were strong and fast runners.   I also knew that I did not want to get separated from a pack and have to run solo for several hours. Another runner from our original group, a young guy named Ferris jumped on and we headed back.  We quickly hashed out our strategy: push the pace for the next hour to the Gunner Pool station.  Then run conservatively over the two big climbs to Blanchard Springs.  Then we would (hopefully) let it all hang out the last hour.  We made it to Gunner Pool ten minutes ahead of pace and made sure to hydrate and take on fuel for the two big climbs ahead.  Although a negative split was not realistic, that ten minute cushion provided a great motivational boost that probably propelled us to our eventual finish. 


We made it over the two big climbs and then descended into Blanchard Springs, the final aid station, at exactly 5:00.  Our group of four quickly became five as another local athlete, Leslie, caught us at Blanchard Springs.     The last hour did not present any significant climbs but it was the most technical section, rocky and muddy.  Not ideal conditions for fatigued legs trying to quickly move laterally and step over rocks and roots.  David set a brutal pace through this section. Just hang on...just keep running.  My right calf started twitching and I was having trouble stepping over the bigger rocks.  I yelled at myself a few times:  “Pick up your feet!”    With less than thirty minutes to go my calf was on the verge of a complete cramp. “Oh please don’t cramp… I do not want to lose my convoy of runners and limp home”.    Normally in a competitive run or triathlon I would never admit my true condition so as to keep my rivals guessing.  The ultra environment is different.  I am not sure who first voiced their level of discomfort but it was met with a chorus of “me too…” as everyone had a pending cramp or aching body part.  Ok, everyone is hurting and we are all in this together.  When I reached the river crossing at mile 31 there was no hesitation or concern.  Just get across and get home. 20056_105711899454459_100000469472470_144509_4026025_n.jpg


A mile from the finish and after six hours of suffering, we made the group decision to finish together.   My personal mantra of “just keep running” had blocked out the mileage and time calculations but as we headed down the last stretch of road someone commented “we started this thing SIX hours ago!”  A wave of realization came over me as I let that thought soak in: “we just ran 32 miles… awesome!” As we crossed the finish line in 6:04 there was … relief.  It is so nice to be finished.   We ran out in 3:00 and back in 3:04.  I think that is a great day’s work.     I did the training and raced the course but I must give kudos to my running partners.  The positive energy and hard work of the group added so much to the journey.



  • Patience and self-control in the early stages of an ultra pay off BIG in the latter stages.  
  • Finding the “zone” where you are on autopilot and not consumed by the clock or the mileage can take you a long way.
  • Fueling “on the clock” keeps your energy intake steady and keeps you from getting in an irreparable hydration or nutritional deficit. 
  • A little bit of extra effort to hang on to the group is easier than the physical and mental effort required push yourself solo.
  • Just keep running!


Coach Kevin
1,160 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, active, endurance, ultra-marathon, runner, 50k, trail_running, memphis, team_mcgraw, coach_kevin, kevin_leathers, sylamore, can't_stop

I love the Olympics.  I still consider them the pinnacle of athletic achievement.  Athletes train for years and years for one moment, one performance, one chance to put it all together and attempt to win gold... to be the best in the world.   I am more of a Summer Olympics fan but I still find myself drawn to the Winter Games this week.  Being raised in the South and not at all comfortable on slippery surfaces I am not familiar with most of the events.  I can appreciate, however, the amazing athletes and their pursuit of Olympic glory.

I have met a few Olympic champions over the years and hold them in high esteem.   As a child of the 70s, they are on my hero list just below astronauts and well above Evel Knievel.

Read about my encounter with an Olympian in this post: Dave Wottle, 800m Gold)


When I see the Olympic torch on TV I am reminded of my only personal encounter with the Olympic Games.

In 1996, when the Olympic torch made it's way across the country headed towards the Summer Games in Atlanta, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to carry the torch when it came through my town.   The US Olympic Committee sent us "official gear" and uniforms.  It was very cool.  The Torch Cauldron would arrive by rail on a special train car.

A few days before it's arrival I was informed that I would be the torch bearer who would get to stand on the stage with the VIPs,  light my torch from the Cauldron and run the first leg down Main Street and up the courthouse steps.     When I arrived to meet the train it seemed that the entire town was out to cheer on the torch.   I remember being excited and having pre-race butterflies even though i would only carry the torch about a 1/4 mile.  The train arrived, speeches were made and the last thing i remember was getting the signal to light my torch from the 7' tall cauldron as the Olympic theme music began playing.  It was all a blur until I got to the top of the courthouse steps and lit the next runners torch.

The torch is now a great show-and-tell item that will always remind me of that amazing day.

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751 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, olympics, active, runner, track_and_field, dave_wottle, coach_kevin, kevin_leathers

Let's talk about very small degrees of separation.

In 1979 I was beginning my first season of cross-country as a high-school freshman in TN. My brother, Joe, was playing football at the University of Memphis, playing his guitar for fun and perfecting the art of fraternity life. Jeff McMahon was a high school freshman in TX playing piano, tennis and running with his dad. Tim McGraw was probably playing junior high baseball in rural Louisiana.


Fast forward 6 years... Jeff and I are fraternity brothers at Baylor. Jeff's musical talents are obvious. I am majoring in fraternity and Slacker 101 but still running. Joe is in the early years of a successful investment banking career and still playing his guitar. Tim is a high school athlete and musician in Louisiana.


Jump another 10 years to 1995. Jeff and I reconnect as he tours the country with a rising country singer, Tim McGraw. Joe is still banking but he is playing in a local band in his spare time and his songwriting begins to flourish from a hobby to a passion. He starts making the trek up I-40 to Nashville to play and pitch songs.


Ten years later, in 2006, during one of Jeff's regular Tour stops through town we meet for lunch. He is closely involved with the Tug McGraw Foundation (Tug, Tim's father and former baseball star had died of a brain tumor). They are thinking of starting a charity running team, Team McGraw. Jeff knew of my running and endurance background and asked if I would help him get it started. I jumped at the chance. By this time my brother's songwriting was a "career", he was a staff writer for Curb Records and he would soon have songs recorded by many acts including Craig Morgan, Trace Adkins and Jason Michael Carroll. Tim, of course, was one of the biggest country music stars around.


January 2010... Tim is still a huge country music superstar and Jeff is still recording and touring with him. Joe has become a prolific, award-winning songwriter.  Jeff is the National Program Director and I am the National Coach for Team McGraw.  Over 300 Team McGraw runners have raised nearly $1 million for brain tumor research! The latest hit off of Tim's (and Jeff's) new CD "Southern Voice" is a song called "Still".  I am proud to say that "Still" was written by... you guessed it... my brother, Joe. Go request it on the radio and buy it on iTunes!


Four paths over so many years that converge in the most serendipitous way with four guys doing what they love... life is good.


jeff tim sing.jpg  joe sing.jpg

NYC2009coaches-small-299x182.jpg       tim-mcgraw-southern-voice.jpg

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"My training is ruined because I can't run outside!"

That is the general tone from my east coast runners this week.  They are under a huge blanket of snow and are being forced inside due to the dangerous conditions.  I am a big believer in getting out the door and braving the elements. I think you need to be prepared for any conditions you might face on race day. If you only run outside when it is warm and sunny, how will you react when it is cool and rainy on race day? However, ice and several feet of snow make running outside too risky.

Here are the concerns I have heard this week from several runners:


Q: I heard that running in the severe cold is bad for your lungs. Should I run in the cold?

A: Cold is not an excuse for skipping a run. Get the proper gear and get out the door.


Q: What is the proper cold weather gear?

A: Layers! Start with a compression base layer. Then add a long sleeve technical shirt, gloves and wool running socks. That should do the trick down to the 40’s. In the 30’s add a thicker long sleeve shirt or fleece vest and pants or tights for your legs and a hat. Into the 20’s add a fleece jacket and disposable hand-warmers in your gloves. When the temperature drops below 20 add a heavier jacket.


Q: Due to the rules at my gym I can only use the treadmill for 20 minutes during busy times! What do I do?

A: Mix it up at the gym. Run 20 minutes on the treadmill, 20 minutes on the elliptical machine and 20 minutes on the stationary bike. It is not exactly a perfect replacement for your run but it is probably the next best thing. Your heart and muscles still get 45, 60, 90 minutes of cardio work and your legs don’t take as much of a beating.


Q: These ten days stuck inside are going to wreck my mileage! How will I ever make it up?

A: Instead of mileage, think of it in terms of "time spent moving". Instead of 8 hours of running this week, you get 2.5 hours of running and 6 hours of "other". Your cardio system does not know whether you are running, cycling, whatever... it is still working hard. You can put your “running equivalent” in your running log instead of mileage.


Q: When the snow melts should I make up my missed mileage?

A: NO… once the ice melts do NOT, repeat NOT, try to make up for lost time! This is a tried-and-true recipe for injury. Just pick up where you left off. If you diligently cross-train inside for a week you will NOT lose any fitness. You might actually benefit from the cross-training and give your legs a break from the pounding.


Run smart… and stay warm!

Can't Stop Endurance

812 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, fitness, active, snow, marathon, endurance, triathlete, runner, exercise, cold, team_mcgraw, coach_kevin, kevin_leathers

She is the inspirational leader of Team McGraw, and one of my heroes... and it seems as if Jen is becoming a SMART runner!


Read her latest blog post here:  When Is Enough, Enough??


Combine her drive and determination with a sensible training plan and she just might blow the doors off the Chicago Marathon in October!

Go Jen!  Ya Gotta Believe!

Read more about Jen: Her Tough is Tougher

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Runners Are Dumb

Posted by kevin leathers Feb 5, 2010

Endurance athletes are, in general, smart and educated.  However, we make lots of stupid mistakes.

We over-train, ignore our body’s warning signs, attempt to “run-through” injuries and sabotage our own progress.  Endurance athletes are not only smart, but they are driven to succeed, self-motivated, competitive and goal-oriented.  These qualities cause many athletes to put on blinders or ignore the obvious signs of overuse in order to achieve their goals.

Endurance athletes... smart... but sometimes dumb.

One of the biggest challenges in coaching marathoners is getting them to the starting line in one piece.  They are so focused on finish line goals that they lose sight of how important it is to stay healthy and injury-free.  There are a few guidelines to help identify and deal with the aches and pains of endurance training:

  • Expect to get nagging injuries.
  • “Nuke” injuries in the making with immediate aggressive action.
  • Admit most injuries are caused.  Self-inflicted damage.
  • Do not be afraid to seek professional advice.


4 Stages Of An Injury

Stage 1:    Delayed onset pain and soreness.  (Practice daily preventive maintenance)

Stage 2:  Discomfort or tightness while exercising  (RICE:  Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation)

Stage 3:  Pain while running that does not decrease. Cannot complete normal workout.  (Stop running & go into rest/ alternate exercise mode to avoid Stage 4 at all costs)

Stage 4:    Severe pain, cannot exercise.


Endurance athletes in the midst of a heavy training cycle live in some degree of Stage 1 most days.  The key is to use a daily maintenance routine to deal with the normal aches and pains.  We move into Stage 2 at times and must take immediate action to avoid Stages 3 & 4.


Proactive Prevention & Treatment

Try incorporating several of these ideas into your daily preventive maintenance plan:

  • Massage Stick – A runner’s best tool for working out the knots.  Use it everyday.
  • Compression Socks for sleep and long periods of sitting, driving.
  • Ice – Any drugstore sells an ice wrap that makes icing those sore muscles and joints simple.  Also, after long runs, take an ice bath.  The ice bath is one of the best recovery tools around.   
  • Foam Roller – Such a simple, innocent looking pice of foam.  This will get deep into your muscles.  It hurts but it works.
  • Cross training
  • Alternate low-impact exercise options to maintain fitness: swimming, cycling, elliptical machine, etc. 
  • Run on soft surfaces whenever possible – Learn to love the trails and grass.  It will prolong your running career by years.


If it persists: 4 days off or use alternate non-exacerbating activity Ice 2 – 3 times per day If no improvement seek professional help    (coach, massage, PT, Doctor)

One personal note on seeking professional advice: I want a professional who understands endurance athletes and the demands that we put on our bodies.  That is why my personal orthopedist, podiatrist and physical therapist are all accomplished endurance athletes. 

Run Smart,

Coach Kevin

817 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, fitness, triathlon, active, marathon, endurance, runner, tug_mcgraw_foundation, team_mcgraw, coach_kevin, kevin_leathers

What is a Road Dog?

If you could look it up in a dictionary I am fairly sure that you would find a picture of my good friend, Jeff McMahon.

Jeff has spent nearly 20 years touring with country music superstar Tim McGraw.   His musical talent on the piano is amazing.  His God-given ability was obvious when we were fraternity brothers at Baylor 25 years ago.   He lives the life of a successful musician: travel, touring, packed arenas, television appearances, recording hit songs with a superstar... it's a great gig if you can get it!


Jeff is also a runner.  He earned the "Rock Star Medal" last year by completing 5 of the Rock-n-Roll marathon events. If he is not playing music he is running, cycling, hiking the Grand Canyon, duck hunting, snowboarding, or looking for the next challenge.  His life on the road affords him the chance to run in a different city nearly every day while on tour.  He also is responsible for getting me involved with Team McGraw.  Jeff is on the Board of the Tug McGraw Foundation and has devoted a large part of his life to the TMF mission.  He is amazingly down-to-earth for a rockstar-type of guy and is the first one to grab a shovel if a hole needs to be dug.


He will be loading onto a tour bus this week with his band mates and the Man in the black hat.  They will be touring the country promoting their newest CD "Southern Voice".  Jeff is a great writer and will be chronicling his adventures on the aptly named blog, Road Dog Runner.  Be sure and subscribe to his blog and  try to keep up.


Jeff's Road Dog Runner

Coach Kevin's "Can't Stop Endurance" blog


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Learning To Suffer

Posted by kevin leathers Jan 27, 2010

“It must be clearly stated that the capacity to tolerate suffering is as critical to success in endurance racing as the various components of physical fitness. And like those physical adaptations, the capacity to tolerate suffering can and must be trained. The endurance athlete who is serious about realizing his full potential in competition must suffer for the sake of suffering in training.”

“The Tyranny of the Comfort Zone” by Matt Fitzgerald


Endurance athletes train themselves to ignore pain and suffering. Whether you realize it or not, training for endurance events is as much about developing a tolerable pain threshold as it is about increasing our VO2 Max. Much like a boxer trains to take punches to the face as well as dish them out, a runner learns to ignore the body’s tendency to scream “STOP” when we run out of oxygen or our legs turn to stone.   Whether you are racing a 5k and dealing with the tunnel-vision and numbness that oxygen-debt brings or running a marathon and battling glycogen-depletion and dehydration, you need to visit those “dark places” in your training. This applies to everyone, not just the elite. If you want a 5k PR it is going to hurt. You need to run at your goal pace in training occasionally in order to teach yourself how a 5k PR is going to feel.  During marathon training I recommend taking yourself to the “dark place” on some of your long runs so you know what to expect on race day. You can learn to suffer and overcome the pain by practicing. It is neither fun nor pretty but pushing yourself to the edge every so often will make race day easier.


Read Matt's full article here: "Tyranny of the Comfort Zone"


Go to Coach Kevin's:  "Can't Stop" Endurance Blog


sara rally (Small).JPG

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The New Year is off to a good start.  It is frigid for this part of the country but I rang in the New Year with a great group ride and a couple of good trail runs over the weekend. Now what?  The lessons from 2009 have been noted and packed away.  It is time to look forward and make 2010 a great training and racing year.

What is the magic formula?  Sorry, there are no secrets or shortcuts. Like most worthy endeavors it comes down to hard work and consistency.  I am working on developing my race calendar and setting some specific performance goals.  How will I meet those goals?


Stick with what works.  I know how my body reacts to certain workouts and stress loads.  If I am patient and consistent I can handle a large training volume.  That means I start building a big endurance base over the winter, strength train and gradually implement more intensity as Spring approaches.  Doubling my mileage or duration will not make me twice as fast.  It will break me down.  If I cannot get to the starting line healthy I will never reach my racing goals.


Find good training partners.  Endurance sports are an individual activity.  My daily workout is often the only "quiet time" I get on a regular basis.  However, I also seek out training partners and groups that help me improve.  If you are a newbie there is so much to learn from others.  Runners love to talk about their workouts, nutrition, gear and racing.  Marathon long runs are much less intimidating when done with a group. If you are trying to reach new levels of performance train with more experienced athletes.    I will spend the winter and spring chasing much stronger cyclists.  It will be painful and humbling but I know that by the time the racing season begins I will be in pretty good shape.


Train Smart.  Instead of obsessing over a few ounces in my running shoes or some super light carbon bike part, I should focus on my strength-to-weight ratio.  Instead of spending more money on fancy, high-tech equipment I should spend more time training.  Endurance sports are not very complicated: train consistently, stay healthy, eat right and hydrate.  Everything else is marketing... and ego.


Pay it forward.  I have received so much knowledge and support from my training partners over the years in pursuit of my selfish goals.  I have learned that it can be quite satisfying to help someone else reach their goals.  Watching someone develop a passion for running or triathlon makes me appreciate my own obsession even more.  Pass on your knowledge to a beginner.  Set up a group workout and cast a wide net.  Gently encourage a friend to get off the couch and run a 5k.  Try to improve someone else's quality of life while working on your own.


Coach Kevin's "Can't Stop" endurance blog

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Race Day Hydration

Posted by kevin leathers Sep 9, 2009
+Do not try anything new on race day! +

How many times have you heard it?  Whether it is shoes, shorts or breakfast... stick with what works.  How do we know what works?  We practice (rehearse) everything during our long runs: apparel, nutrition, hydration, lubrication...everything.  Marathon or Half-Marathon race day should be well rehearsed.  One of the biggest items: hydration.   Nothing can derail your race like stomach issues.   It takes some experimentation but planning a race day hydration strategy should be as important as completing your long runs.  Dehydration is a danger but so is too much water.  Another sneaky culprit is drinking a sugary sports drink that your stomach cannot process.  This leads to stomach shutdown which leads to... dehydration.   Worried?  Good because you need to figure out what works and stick to your plan.




Here is a very good article on race day hydration from Matt Fitzgerald at Training Peaks:



Hydration Strategy





Ya Gotta Believe,  Coach Kevin

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I read a great training tip from running coach and author Hal Higdon today:


Tip of the Day: I believe in undertraining runners, rather than overtraining them. The upper limit for my advanced marathon training programs falls somewhat below 60 weekly miles. I do not tell runners not to run more miles weekly; I simply believe they better know what they are doing before pursuing a more aggressive program. Those who regularly run more than 60 miles a week and whose systems have adapted to that high load, may not be at increased risk. Instead of being overtrained, they may be well trained. - Hal Higdon



Most endurance athletes have no trouble finding motivation and drive.  We set long term goals, map out a plan and then execute the plan.  We know there are no short cuts or "magic workouts".  It is about doing the work.   Training for endurance events stresses the body.  It causes tremendous fatigue and a steady dose of aches and pains.  The key is knowing when to back off and allow the body to recover and prepare for the next key workout.  A half-marathon or marathon training program is not dependent on ONE workout.  The key is staying consistent and healthy over the course of the training plan.  Missing a workout occassionally or taking an extra day off will NOT ruin your race.  It can actually improve your fitness over time by allowing you to arrive at your next run fresh and energized.   Ignoring your body's warning signs and continually running yourself into the ground week after week leads to injury and illness.   Stay focused on your goals but do not become so fixated on reaching the finish line that you fail to ever get to the start!





Ya Gotta Believe




Coach Kevin







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Ran across this nutrition article from Running Times  today.  It dispels some carbohydrate myths, stresses the value of milk and protein and points out that sugary "sports drinks" are not much better than soda as a normal beverage choice. 






Common Food Myths from Running Times






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