Dayna Pidhoresky and Josh Seifarth are, respectively, a Canadian marathoner en route to the 2021 Olympics and a highly-respected coach with Mile2Marathons. They took your questions over the weekend, all related to training under our current pandemic, and came up with their best answers. Neither are medical professionals. Both are among the fastest, most knowledgable Canadian professionals in our sport.
1. How, on your own, can you replicate the training group dynamic?
Connecting with other runners through Strava or Zwift can help to replicate that community feel. Doing the same workout as others (different time/place) and then recapping your experiences together on a group call can help you feel like you are still training as a group.
It may involve getting creative, but it’s always easier to get out there if you feel like you are not the only one. There has been a growing trend of ‘segment hunting’ on Strava within the running community lately, which has been entertaining to follow and can prove to be motivating to get out there and go for some KOMs in your locale.
2. What do you think is the best approach to the virtual races? Does it make sense to go all out?
If you are itching to race and show your fitness or if you need to have that something to work for in order to step foot out the door then virtual races are perfect for you. You still need to be running solo and it’s important at this time to choose your route and the time that you go out carefully to be able to uphold the necessary physical distance standard. I don’t think there is anything wrong with putting forth a full effort in a virtual race assuming you adhere to all of the recovery and training principles you would if it were a non-virtual race. Many athletes would normally be doing a number of races through the spring normally anyways. That said, you still want to put your health first and keep your immune system strong so don’t go to the well in these virtual races.
3. What’s your favourite exercise that maybe we don’t know?
A few times a week I do the Jay Johnson myrtl exercises before I head out the door. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite, but it is a constant that I have had in my routine for almost 10 years. You can find a list of those exercises here: http://www.njsportsmed.com/files/myrtl_routine.pdf
4. No one knows anything, but. . . if you had to, what do you think will be the first Canadian race?
As each day passes it is seemingly less likely that we’ll be racing any time soon at any in-person, large scale events. With that, the Boxing Day 10-miler is what I’d bet on being the first Canadian race.
5. Say I’m a half marathon runner and want to run a fall marathon. When would I need to hit my peak long run and, if it is my first marathon, what distance should that long run be?
We usually aim to hit our longest long run somewhere around 3-4 weeks prior to the race. That said, you have to also consider intensity when determining what a ‘peak’ long run is. It is far more effective to run a 30 km long run with significant portions at goal race pace than push to 35 km of just easy jogging. Given that most fall marathons are in the middle of October it would likely make sense to hit peak training through September, with the highest training loads (volume x intensity) being in the latter half of that month.
6. Also break that down for a half marathon dreamer. When would a runner targeting a fall half marathon need to hit their long run, and what should that distance be?
It all depends on the fitness and background of the athlete as well as what their ultimate goal for the race is. For a first time runner just aiming to finish an 18 km long run at a reasonably easy pace would be suitable. For an experienced runner looking to run a PB I’d generally look to run over-distance with a healthy dose of goal pace. In that case, a 25 km long run with 4 x 3 km at goal HM pace (2 km easy jog between) would be a strong peak long run session.
7. Dayna, was there one particular workout over any other that you’d attribute at least partially for your success at STWM, and can you describe it here so we can copy?
In the final three weeks before STWM I had two workouts that helped top-off my confidence levels. The first was a 38 km run with 5 km intervals in it that aim to target marathon effort and the second workout was my last big session before the race in which I ran 25 km with 15 km at marathon effort. Both of these workouts were on a hilly 5 km loop which is much hillier than the STWM marathon course — I know if I can come close to marathon pace on this loop then I am ready to roll.
I gain the most confidence by thinking about how I feel running these paces, it’s not about killing myself to try to run goal marathon pace. On that last final workout it felt easy, I was talking to Josh, I wasn’t running as fast as I could have and that gave me the confidence that I could show that fitness on another day — at the race!
38 km (5 x 5 km off 1 km recovery jog)
Marathon effort (splits: 17:26, 17:34, 17:31, 17:25, 17:17)
25 km (15 km at marathon effort)
15 km in 52:43 (splits: 17:29, 17:38, 17:36)
8. What is the most difficult training exercise that you do, which workout do you dread (but secretly love)?
Single-leg press at the gym is always a difficult one, but so important for quads, hamstrings, and glutes. For me I find it really activates my glutes. The workout I dread but secretly love is 8-10 x 1 mile off of 400 m recovery jog. We do this session on the road and it’s a challenging one, particularly if I’m feeling tired. It’s gratifying to nail it though, and that is why I secretly love it.
9. Lots of people are coming to the sport new right now. Talk to them. What do you wish you knew when you started?
Build up slowly! Many have the capacity or cardio to run, but you need to let your body physically build up — your muscles, tendons, ligaments will need time to strengthen. Also, run your easy runs slow. Most runners do not run their recovery runs slow enough, which doesn’t provide the recovery to allow them to run their fast running fast enough.
10. Also, talk for a minute about sneakers, if I’m buying shoes online, what do I need to consider? Have you ever bought sneakers like that?
If you are buying running shoes online, now is not the time to experiment. Look at the model and size of a previous pair that worked well for you and buy that same one (or the newest version of that one). I have bought shoes online (though this is rare), but they have always been models and sizes I had worn previously.
11. Choose your own question: what have we missed that could be helpful?
Running well is about consistency, particularly in the marathon. An athletes’ highest volume week is meaningless unless they can sustain it and the same goes for their most epic workouts. A great performance is the sum of all work done and there is no single workout or specific volume that is going to prove magical. When we evaluate and plan training we look at the average of the highest 6-8 sequential weeks in a marathon build to determine volume and look at the 8-10 workouts with the highest load (volume x intensity). This perspective can help an athlete see the bigger picture, move past poor workouts, and not use a single workout or week to define what they would consider to be a ‘successful’ race.
If you are looking for a personal coach, you can contact Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org.