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Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

calendarLike the recipe of your favorite dish, your runcoach training plan combines many difference types of ingredients.  Each of these ingredients are important, even as some of them come in large quantities and some are just a pinch of salt on top of a mound of flour in the bowl.

 

Your runcoach pace chart provides a wide array of paces for various types of workouts prescribed on your individualized schedule,.  Your marathon, maintenance, 80% and half marathon paces are paces your body should be able to handle for long durations – paces at which your cardiovascular system can keep up with the oxygen demand of your muscles for extended periods of time.  Even though you may not be out of breath during this type of running, your muscles are building more extensive and efficient pathways for oxygen and energy delivery.  In addition, your mind is preparing for the lengthy race task ahead.  If you are using a heart rate monitor, this running is done somewhere in the range of 65-85% of your maximum.

 

While some “Pace Runs” on your schedule might be prescribed at slower paces, “threshold” running is designed to challenge you at a comfortably hard level.  This pace should be sustainable for a shorter period of time, say 20-25 minutes, but should not feel easy to continue much beyond that duration. It should also not feel hard after just a few minutes of running.  This area of pacing helps to challenge your body to become more efficient with handling a steadily accumulating blood lactate level (something you will have to do in races shorter than a half marathon).  Threshold workouts are ideally executed at about 88-92% of your maximum heart rate.

 

Crossing the “threshold” literally and figuratively, leads us to paces that can only be performed for shorter, more challenging periods of time.  Balancing intervals or repetitions with just enough rest or active recovery allows an athletes to spend a significant cumulative period of time at a quick pace and high heart rate, conditioning the body and mind to operate effectively and efficiently at that level of demand, which is ideally in the mid to high 90s of maximum heart rate percentage.  If one ran a series of 800m intervals at 4:00 with 90 seconds recovery, each successive interval would see the athlete’s heart rate shoot up more and more quickly within the 4:00, but ideally not so quickly that the athlete could not complete the interval at the prescribed pace.  This effect may result in the first couple intervals of a workout feeling slightly easier than anticipated, tempting the athlete to run faster than the prescribed paces.  While this may seem logical – to run harder initially and shoot the heart rate to the moon on the first interval – the workout is designed to create its effect by the end of the session.  What may seem like a comfortable pace on the first interval turns out to be a misguided assessment as the athlete slows down precipitously at the end or requires way more rest than assigned.

 

Some athletes may wonder why an 800m or 1500m pace might even be assigned to them as they train for a half or full marathon.  Although the bulk of an endurance race training schedule includes work preparing for the paces, energy efficiency, heart rate demand, and mental effort of the longer races, workouts prescribed with some quicker paces allow an athlete to work on running economy.  Workouts or even strides on your schedule at 800m or 1500m pace provide a valuable opportunity for athletes to challenge the fundamentals of their running stride, to teach their legs to have a bit more range of motion in the stride, to strengthen their feet to push off the ground more effectively, quickly, and with strength.  Although they may seem inconsequential in the larger picture, even small improvements in this area can result in large gains considering how many thousands of strides we take during the course of our general training.

 

While it is normal and natural to feel more at home with one type of workout over another, avoid the inclination to slough off the types of workouts that seem unfamiliar or not in your wheelhouse.  Each of the paces prescribed in your schedule has a purpose.  Commit to executing each workout with mindfulness and a sense of purpose.  This is your best chance of turning out a race day “dish” you’ll remember for years.

RunnerUpdated by Rosie Edwards

While we have many athletes who have been training with runcoach for years, we also love the constant influx of beginning runners or runners now tackling their first challenging goal race. 

On the blog, we talk about all sorts of topics, but we also have an extensive archive of short pieces detailing some of the most fundamental aspects of running.  So, whether you could use a quick refresher, or have been anxious to ask these questions but too shy to reach out, here is a sample of some tips we believe can help you reach your full potential!

 






Tips for running hills

 

What to do with your arms while running

 

How to breathe while running

 

How to choose the right shoe

 

What is a taper and how do I do it well

 

The art of hydration

 

Avoiding the post-run bonk

 

The mechanics of the running stride

 

Beyond these few topics, there are dozens of articles on our blog covering everything under the sun.  We have Q&As about almost every imaginable ache and pain with experienced practitioners, interviews with professional and world class athletes, and even a few profile of fellow runcoach athletes like yourself.  Check it out!

October 15, 2021

5 Foods to Pick it Up!

lentil-soupLooking for a way to invigorate your diet?  Try to swap out your go-to produce for these seasonal health heroes.

Lentils

During the colder months especially, lentils might appear in the hot case of your local supermarket in soup form, or in spreads and on salads in the summer.  Providing a hearty delivery of carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, lentils release energy slowly and in doing so, help blood sugar stay regulated.  In other words, lentils help avoid the spike and crash of more simple carbs.  Lentils also deliver vital nutrients, such as magnesium for heart health, and over one fourth of lentil calories come from protein – a great vegetarian source.

White Beans

White beans are better than black in several ways. First, white beans better facilitate digestion as they are packed with fiber. Next, this superfood is high in calcium, which is good news for your bones. Plus, thanks to their mild, go-with-anything savory flavor, white beans are a little more versatile, working with rice and soups as well as meat and vegetables.


Chocolate Milk

Once the province of kids and adults looking for a late night snack with a glass of 2% and a bottle of Hershey’s syrup, chocolate milk has happily (for many) fully entered the discussion as a legitimate recovery beverage.  With a mixture of slow acting and quick acting proteins found in cow’s milk, plenty of carbohydrates, and a solid cache of calcium, chocolate milk helps you feel like a kid again in more ways than one.  Don’t feel guilty, and drink up.



Butternut Squash butternut

An autumn staple, that is an excellent sources of vitamins A and C. These are key nutrients to keep your immune system in cold- and flu-fighting shape. Butternute squash has less than half the calories of other filling carbs like whole wheat pasta.

*Try roasting to get a caramelized sweet taste, or toss with oil in the oven for a savory dinner. If you really want to elevate the experience, mix with pomegranate seeds, chopped scallion, lemon zest, crushed pistachios and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.


Walnuts

On your salad, in your cookies, on top of cereal - adding walnuts to your diet on a regular basis can provide a host of health benefits.  Walnuts, an anti-oxidant source of Omega 3 fatty acids, have been studied to have a positive affect on a wide variety of health issues, particularly cardiovascular performance and cholesterol levels.  Sure, walnuts have a fairly high caloric and fat content if consumed in copious amounts, but the health benefits of a few ounces per day go a very long way.


Apples apple2

Apples are high in fiber and low in calories (just about 95 per medium apple), and are a good source of vitamin C for immunity support. Fall is the ideal apple picking season, so perhaps you can truly enjoy the fruits of your labor. Pair your apple with some nut butter for a filling and nutritous snack. Or bake an apple pie and enjoy knowing that, it's not just butter and flakey crust you are enjoying. 

 

 

winter

 In the midst of the second “polar vortex” this winter, running inside might become the rule rather than the exception.  Typical winter weather, however, when not quite so harsh, does allow for some outside running, particularly if following a few common sense guidelines about how to stay healthy and safe.

 

Plan ahead

Running in the winter demands good planning for the actual run, but also some foresight for the aftermath.  If you are coming straight in the house, then jumping in a warm shower and sighing “ahhhh” is no problem. But, if you must drive home, or have another stop on the way, it is essential to plan for dry and warm clothes along with your usual fluids and snack.  You also need a place where you can change. A car that is shielded enough to change inside, or a bathroom/ locker room that is appropriate and safe for the same purpose is worth planning ahead for when deciding where to park and run.

 

Layer it up

While actually running, a snug under layer with moisture wicking capabilities, topped by a thicker or wind-blocking layer can often do the trick, with either a third layer between or a vest on top to keep the core cozy as needed.  A loose layer underneath allows the wind to whistle through (burr!), and allows the sweat you’ve produced to stay wet against your skin.  Sometimes that may be tolerable during the run, but then chill you to the bone a few minutes after stopping.

 

Your body will heat up during the run, so a down jacket and two scarves is probably not necessary.  It is ok to start the run without feeling cozy as you will be feeling fine once you move around for several minutes. On the other hand, if you are as warm as you could ever want when you start, the increased body heat will very possibly leave you feeling hot, sweaty, and stifled halfway through your run, at which point you will likely be running around with a thick layer tied around your waist or just sweating like crazy at a time when you need to be hydrated.

 

Ease into it

For most middle-aged athletes, warming up slowly is an essential part of a training routine that avoids injury.  In the winter cold, this becomes even more important.  While we do not recommend a bunch of static stretching for cold muscles before you head out, we do recommend taking the first few minutes of your training run or warm up loop to prepare your body for the desired mid-run / workout pace.  You may cringe when looking at your GPS device, but the most important thing is to avoid the needless aches and pains that take you out of action completely.

 

Watch your step

We always recommend traveling on safe, well-lit routes, but in the winter, this is crucial.  For those that must run in the dark, it is important to be even more vigilant about the perils of black ice and other pitfalls of the winter road.  Running in the daylight is strongly recommended, and running with a partner or group should be much more of a priority.  Particularly if your run is on snow, a device like Yaktrax can be a simple and cost effective tool to assist with traction. Be careful not to cut it close on roads with minimal shoulder or crossings where you have to hustle to beat the light or other traffic passing on the road.  The risks are great, and the conditions are even less under your control.  Always err on the safe side.

 

Don’t skimp on the details

In the winter, the aforementioned warm shower or a quick dive into the car to drive home can be tantalizing.  Because of the tougher conditions, rolling, stretching post-run, hydrating, and refueling after training take on even greater importance, even as they are often skipped due to freezing fingers, howling winds, or other discomfort.  Budgeting even 5-10 minutes for the care and feeding of your body after a run can help increase the chances your training cycle remains intact throughout the tough winter months, and can help build good habits that will serve you well even when the weather is 70 degrees and sunny.

coldThe good news is that regular exercise can be a strong ally against the common cold, as moderate exercise can stimulate the immune system.  However, this is tempered by the body’s reaction to the stress placed on that same immune system when the runs get long.  According to researcher David Nieman at Appalachian State University (a marathoning and ultra marathoning veteran), there is a 3-72 hour window after our long, hard efforts (90 minutes +) where the body suffers a temporary impairment of the immune system, making marathoners and half marathoners sitting ducks for the post-long run or post-race cold.   What’s a runner with goals to do?  While it is impossible to control for everything, with a few precautions, hopefully the odds will skew a bit more favorably.

 

Stay hydrated

Although we normally associate the need for hydration with the other three seasons, dry winter weather, altitude if visiting a mountainous region, or the unfamiliar humidity of a warm vacation spot can catch us off guard.  Even if just staying inside, the dry air in our well-heated homes can make a difference.  Particularly if traveling by air or consuming more alcohol than usual (ahem), staying hydrated can be a key component to keeping your body working well and running well.  An oft-quoted rule of thumb is to consume 64 ounces of water per day, or 8 regular sized glasses.  Some even suggest dividing your weight in pounds by two and using that number for how many ounces you need, or even taking 2/3 of your weight in pounds if you exercise.  If these numbers seem daunting, the point is – you probably could use some improvement in these areas, even if only incrementally!

 

Get a flu shot

True, you could get some variant of the flu that the shot didn’t cover or get sick in other ways, but a flu shot is usually free or very low cost through most insurance or direct providers and it takes about 10 seconds.  As recreational adult runners, we can’t always treat ourselves like professional athletes.  In this case, however, we can.  If you have a winter or spring goal race planned, and your brain fast forwards to a hypothetical, very inopportune flu the week of the race, then this becomes a slam dunk.  Don’t let random flu sabotage your training or racing!

 

Wash your hands like a doctor

No, this has nothing to do with running, except that recreational runners with big plans don’t like them going awry.  Wash them well, for 30 seconds with warm water and soap, and avoid touching your face to spread what germs make it through the gauntlet!  Carry some hand santitizer, and use it when washing hands isn't possible.

 

Sleep

Although sleep is always important for performance, it takes on an even greater role during cold and flu season as several studies have shown the body’s immune system can be significantly impaired with repeated sleep deprivation.  Six hours instead of eight may not seem like a big deal, but during the winter and while training hard, too many of those nights can end up having the reverse effect from what efficiency you hoped to accomplish during those extra hours of wakefulness – laying you out for a couple days or preventing training during a crucial period.  Be a jealous guardian of your sleep time, and you’ll likely be more efficient and effective during your waking hours anyway!

 

 

Eat well

It is always a good idea to eat nutritiously, but during cold and flu season, good choices of immune system boosting foods with important nutrients can be particularly important.  For example, try a bean chili – lots of veggies and beans with key vitamins and minerals, and some spiciness to clear the nasal passages for good measure makes this dish more than just a warm comfort food, according to researchers at Wake Forest.   If you unfortunately do fall prey to the flu, try these foods as a part of your "return to health" arsenal.

 

No immune system is truly immune. This winter, let your running habit be the catalyst for healthy habits that will hopefully give you (and your family) a better chance of staying active and on your feet throughout the cold and flu season.

 

nervousAt runcoach, we work with thousands of new runners taking aim at their very first half marathon or marathon.  Our goal is to provide you a training path toward success in all of your running endeavors, but as you get started, there are things to avoid, including the following …

 

Don’t change everything at once – make sustainable transitions

Many runners choose to start on the road to an ambitious goal because of a milestone, a health concern, or similar “wake-up call.”  These motivations are strong, but making wholesale amounts of huge changes to your life all at once can result in commitments that don’t stand the test of time.  Embrace the challenges and positive energy provided by the added training – we’ll make sure to give you a progressive plan. Piece by piece, examine the additional areas you want to take on with an incremental approach.

 

Take running advice with a grain of salt

Yes, this sounds strange to warn against taking a lot of advice by giving advice, but the truth is, the internet and magazine stand are chock full of tips on how to build speed, burn fat, eat well, shape your abs, shape your butt, stretch your pinky toe (or don’t stretch your pinky toe at all!) and everything else.  With so much advice out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed about what you should trust.  Many of these advice sources are good, but again, it is not a great idea to take one of absolutely every dish from the buffet.  Keep a file of interesting articles and advice, and over time begin to get a more detailed picture of the types of dietary, ancillary, and other changes might be most helpful to you, leaving aside the more tangential advice for future goal race campaigns.

 

Your five year-old fitness shoes may not be up for the task

Shoes degrade both by use and over time.  While the many different styles of shoes can require some shopping, it is worth making sure that your feet are comfortable and prepared to handle the growing length of your runs.  A pair of shoes that has served as your “running shoes” for many years of sporadic casual use is probably not going to be the best springboard for a healthy and successful goal race campaign.  Invest in some well-fitting running shoes and hopefully in doing so, gird yourself against many potential injury problems.

 

Running can help regulate sleep, but it also requires sleep!

Many new runners or others embarking on their first sustained exercise regimen report the regulative effect running can have on sleep habits.  However, the maintenance of a progressive training plan will require adequate rest.  Your body will need to be stressed in order to be prepared to handle a long race. It will need to recover in order to adapt and be prepared to be stressed again.  Prioritize sleep to get the most out of the work you are putting in.

 

Don’t pick a goal race more than a year or less than a couple months ahead

Picking a race to far into the future can decrease the level of your immediate commitment to the task, where as a goal too close can encourage going over the top and getting injured as you press on toward a goal you wish was a few weeks or months later.  3-6 months is a great sweet spot for a half marathon, with half a year to a year allowing a relaxed and thorough buildup for a goal marathon.  Successful campaigns can most definitely be had with varying timelines, but choosing a horizon that matches your need for a particularly paced buildup can greatly increase your chances for finishing successfully!

 

trainingAt runcoach, we love celebrating the great race results that roll in after each weekend.  Although sensible training and belief can ensure that many race days proceed well, occasionally an off day or an unexpected turn of events affects us all.

 

One of the best ways to recover from a tough race is to have a short memory.  In every race, there are many things a runner can control:  clothing choices, food choices, pacing choices, fueling choices, and more.  Likewise, there are several factors that are beyond the control of the athlete:  the weather that may prove those clothing choices to be wise, the digestive system that may repudiate those food choices, the topography or wind that may prove those pacing choices to be miscalculated and events like an unexpected bathroom need or unseasonably humid weather which may show the fueling choices to be inadequate.  Because we really do not control quite as much on race day as we believe we do, it is unproductive to dwell on a disappointing result when it was significantly affected by one of these factors.

 

Certainly, we also know there are times when we weren’t quite as tough as we had envisioned, when the effort given seemed monumental at the time, but retrospect asks the question, “Was there more in the tank?”  In these times just as well, we need to avoid miring ourselves in what could have been and focus on what we plan to do next time out.

 

Because running is a singular pursuit, requires such strong task commitment both over the long training cycle as well as during a race effort, and the sense of accomplishment is so great when done well, runners often have a hard time divorcing our overall confidence from one or two tough days out of many.  But, we should.  Difficult things by definition would be easy if everyone could do them, and running long distance is most definitely a difficult thing.  Without minimizing the value of finishing a large goal or glamorizing the somewhat sanitized notion that the victory is only in attempting to begin, if you have trained well for a goal race, you have should have satisfaction for what you have learned about yourself along that journey.  A race completed, but not as fast as expected, is a race where the spirit of perseverance yielded a finishing result, which on a better day would be the type of commitment that will indeed lead to a PR.  If Murphy’s Law prevailed on a particular day, you have a great story and a lesson of resilience in the face of a gauntlet of unexpected difficulties.

 

Sometimes, the tough day has definite antecedents in choices we have made or training that trended less positively than we would have hoped leading in.  This is where the running log enters into the conversation.  When the dust is settled, an examination of any correctable factors is well in order, but always in the context of fact versus feelings.  Beating oneself up over situations that can neither be redone nor controlled next time is not productive.  Preparing to do battle with more training, a mellowed sense of humor, and a renewed sense of hope is crucial.  Carrying the burdens of a previous tough race is a heavy load.  If you are able to leave that load and focus on the opportunity ahead rather than the unrealized promise of a previous race, you have the opportunity for a much more positive experience.  Running toward a goal is always more productive than running away from a fear. Daily, practice focusing on the run at hand, the potential of the present day, and the joy or challenge of the experience presently underway.  Have a short memory, and in doing so, you’ll leave more room for new ones!

 

When post-goal race elation subsides and the physical recovery period is well underway, many runners have a difficult time turning the corner toward the next horizon.  Some athletes come away from a goal race so hungry for the next one that they over-enthusiastically barrel down the road toward the next goal without giving their bodies ample time to rest. Instead, for many runners, a huge bucket list item is a hard act to follow, even if we know that goal setting has finally allowed us to move the needle on long sought hopes.

 

The knowledge that the physical challenge of a long race can be described as a “how” rather than the “if” it was the first time is a powerful tool. Addressing the “how” requires a bit of work above the shoulders, both before and during the races ahead.  We’ve written about a few of these topics on the blog, including the areas listed below:

 

 

At runcoach, we love to see runners break through and achieve their goals week after week, but we know sometimes the immediate road ahead has a focus on general fitness rather than a big goal race.  We are here for you either way, and your individualized program can adjust to meet your needs for the run tomorrow as well as your destination goal race in 2014!

bagsIn the weeks and months ahead, hundreds of thousands of runners will travel to the location of their upcoming goal race.  In previous blog posts, we have touched on how to generally plan your goal race travel and have given advice for family and other supporters on ways they can organize to best effect on race weekend.

 

Before you bundle yourself into the car or head to the airport, take a moment to scan our goal race travel packing list – plan ahead and be prepared with everything you need for a great day!

 

Plan ahead and don’t forget:

 

Shoes

Training shoes and racing shoes, if those differ.  Both should be broken in at least a week or two beforehand.  Neither should ever be checked if flying.  Seems self-explanatory, but in the rush to remember the odd, weird things, sometimes we forget about first things first.

 

Race outfit with cold and hot variations

Make sure your favorite long run shorts and top are in the bag.  For the women, make sure that non-chafing sportsbra is packed.  Think through your options if the weather ends up differently than expected, and pack your favorite tights, hat, arm sleeves or long sleeved shirt, and or gloves.  Do not forget about the socks.

 

Pre race and post race clothes

Throwaways and/or warm clothes might be needed before the race, and will be very likely welcome after the race.  An extra pair of dry socks in the bag can really help your post-race spirits as well.  If the weather is cold, a hooded top or a beanie can really help when the post-race chill sets after when the body temperature drops following the race.

 

Snacks/ mid race fuel

Even if the race has your favorite brands offered on the course, it is helpful to have packed some favorite snacks and fueling options in case you miss the table, drop your item, or just want to top off your tank before or after the race.

 

Roller or rolling / stretching device

Watch

Bodyglide

Sunscreen

Water bottle

…and / or fuel carrying device for the day if using one

Something to sit on, such as a blanket or old finish area space blanket

…for the pre and post race area if no chairs or benches are available

Travel first aid kit

…hobbling around the hotel looking for a band-aid can and should be avoided

Earplugs  and eye shade

….or anything else that might help with a better night’s sleep before the race

Preferred breakfast food

…if packable – save time and money on race morning

 

While this list probably doesn’t cover every need for every athlete, checking off the major items early in the packing process can alleviate stress and allow time to remember some of the more individualized items each runner hopes to not leave home without.

 

 

September 29, 2021

Pay it Forward on the Run

Written by Dena Evans
Updated by Hiruni Wijayaratne
trash-run-pick-up-300x300The amount of money raised by runners competing for various charitable causes has grown a staggering and amount over the past several years.  We are well familiar with the “macro” type efforts to help those who need it through these amazing efforts. but sometimes we may forget  that there are ways in which we can make a difference in the course of our everyday run.  We’ve written before on practical and safety tips in a previous post on running etiquette, but here are a few ideas for ways in which you can “do good” next time you head out.

 

Pick up at least one piece of trash before you get home

Many of our favorite places to run haven’t always been treated with kid gloves by those that have tread on the paths before us.  Leave your route a smidge better than you found it, and maybe build some positive momentum for anyone who sees you and is inspired to do likewise.

 

Respect signs, directional signaling, and stay on the labeled paths

Oh, how it smarts when a favorite route is paved over, changed, or new signs ask runners to avoid previously popular informal short cuts along a trail!  Although it is tempting to continue as if those changes never had occurred, deep inside we know they were probably made for a reason!  Because we care about the long-term survival of these routes, it is probably in our own best interests to take the lead and make sure our footfalls occur in the areas requested, as annoying as that may possibly be.  Likewise, every time we run on the portion of the path intended for pedestrian travel, call out before passing, and revert to single file when oncoming traffic approaches, we also encourage others to do the same and keep traffic on these routes flowing safely and well for all.

 

Smile, wave, and say good morning!

Many runners reflexively follow this rule when passing others or encountering someone coming the other direction.  In addition to just being good manners, making the effort to smile and make eye contact with others may help improve their day, may help remind you that you are part of a larger community of people and that you are all advancing the cause of physical fitness and health, and may help you remember that person if you encounter them in a different context.

 

Run an errand (literally)

Corny as it may sound, using your feet to do something you normally do in your car – mailing a letter, picking up or dropping off a small item, might save you a bit of time, save you a bit of gas, and probably give you an outsized feeling of pride, knowing you did your part for the environment that day.  That said, every little bit does help, and on a day when you don’t have a hard workout to give a big sense of accomplishment or on a day when things aren’t going your way generally, checking something positive off the list can actually help change your mood in the process.

 

Invite someone for next time

If you’re running, you’re automatically doing something positive toward your health.  You may even cherish that time alone as your only quiet moments of the day.  However, remember the first time you went running or walking – it may well have been because another invited you along and welcomed you to the “tribe.”  When you have the opportunity, perhaps you can be that gateway to someone else and help them enjoy the benefits and adventures you have enjoyed during your running journey.

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