Oct 30, 2016

Put Me In, Coach! Ekiden Coaching Review | BibRavePro

Disclaimer: I received the 6 weeks training with Ekiden Coaching to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador, tell them I sent you), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

As a runner, I've been fully self taught. Now, I've done a lot of research and a lot of reading to make sure I'm doing things right, but I've never worked with anyone on my technique, or my training, or what I can be doing to get better. I've thought many times about having a coach, but have never worked with one. That is, until I recently got the chance to work with my own running coach Jenny from Ekiden Coaching.

Who is Ekiden Coaching?

Ekiden Coaching is a new name in coaching, looking to "bring a great human coaching experience to every athlete, not just a training plan". It was born from a conversation among friends: Peter Duyan, Brett Rivers, Eric Edelson and Mario Fraioli. They're bringing together coaches and athletes with "intuitive digital tools" and a passion to help every athlete reach their goals, regardless of age, ability or experience level.

What is the process like?

I was given the opportunity to try out a free 6 week session. The process started with a questionnaire about my abilities, my goals, and how I like to train. This was used as a starting point to match me with a coach and set some starting plans out. After being paired with a coach (Jenny M.) we looked to set up a time to chat more personally about my goals. We were having some time getting this to work, so instead I ended up laying out my hopes of what I wanted to get out of training. I expressed a desire to try and balance weight loss with my race training through "other" activities in addition to weekly runs. This was a perfect fit for my coach, who loves to use a lot of cross training in her plans. I also talked with her about how my biggest problem is consistency, and that I could really use a proactive coach, checking in to make sure if I haven't tracked a work out that I get it in before the day is done.

Since Ekiden is looking to connect coaches and athletes across a digital world, they need good digital tools. From what I see (putting on my developer hat from my day job) they have a really great base in their tools. They're online site works great on my computer as well as my phone (Android). It provides two features: Messages (for chatting with your coach) and Planned Training (with your training plan, duh). The messages is simple and straight forward. A nice added piece is text integration. When your coach messages you, you also receive it as a text message. You can then reply to the text, and it will appear in the app, or you can hop into the web app and reply there. The training plan section provides you a week by week view of your training, with each day able to provide as much information as your coach needs or wants to provide. In addition,, you're able to connect your Strava account so your workouts tracked their can be match against your training plan in their app. This is a great touch to show if you've completed or missed a workout. You also receive text reminders of workouts, which I appreciated, though I didn't seem to always receive these.

What was it like working with a coach?

Having never worked with a coach before, this was a new experience for me. While my training plans from Jeff Galloway (free via the runDisney site) have worked well for me training, I loved having a well rounded plan beyond running. It was also great to have someone who could adjust it, such as when my wife was away for the weekend, so running wasn't much of an option with my two kids as I only have a single, not double, running stroller. I really liked the options and suggestions she gave me for cross training, both options for home and for at the gym I use at my work. Running a 5 mile race? Well that will be our Saturday mileage and we'll work around that.

Since I was starting my 6 weeks when the opportunity came up, it was a little awkward in that I was already part way into a training plan and the 6 weeks would not make it all the way to my goal race: the Dopey Challenge (which I am running for charity, please donate). This situation made it different from what you otherwise may do with a coach. Needing to work her plan with plan I started made for some small challenges, but I think also helped her see what I was used to. I would really enjoy being able to work with a coach from the beginning, instead of trying to jump in part way through.

What can be improved?

While I enjoyed my experience, there are some areas I feel could be improved. They do consider themselves in beta, which in technical terms, means they're in their early stages and looking to improve and streamline their idea (sorry, developer hat again). My first issue was in communication. I frankly would have liked more of it. This is more of a coach issue than their program, but I felt sometimes there was too long of a time before I'd hear back from her (a day or two). In addition, I expressed interest in some proactive help in "encouraging" me to get my workouts in, but that never really happened. Now, after later looking over their plans, they offer a personal plan, which includes weekly check in or a Plus, that includes regular check in. Sounds like what I wanted would more be a Plus option, though it would have been nice if she had made that more clear to me when I expressed that up front.

Another issue that was likely just do to the unusual situation with my testing was that my plan was never more than a week ahead. This was troublesome to me and I like to see the plan farther out, especially for in adjustments are needed, but also so i can better plan my hectic life of our family of four. If I were to work with a coach in the future, I would want a full plan with at least the framework laid out for a longer time period that maybe we reevaluate on a week by week basis.

I made mention to the text reminders that I loved, but didn't always receive. Obviously, just resolving any small technical issues, I'd love to see this packaged as an app for the phone with push notifications. In today's world (and judging by their design) I'm sure this is on their roadmap. While I love the Strava integration, I'd love to be able to better track in app manually if I'd like. That way it's easier to see that I did run, but only 12 miles instead of 14 or put feedback in directly against a workout. Otherwise it has to go in my notes in Strava they have to look at, or in the chat, which is then disconnected from the training. I like the auto so I don't need to track in yet another place, but there are times when I'd like the option to at least add to it.

The Takeaway

Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience with a coach. I'd love to do it again for a future race, but right now personal budget doesn't fit it in. Their plans seem really reasonable for what you get. They offer both the personal and plus options I mentioned previously. The personal is just $59 / month, but you can save more by signing up for more than one month at a time. I'm big on leveraging digital tools for things that are traditionally done "in person" so I'm on board with digital training with a real coach on the other end of the web. I still need that interaction with the person regularly for it to work for me. This may not work for everyone, to not be "seeing" your coach in person regularly, so you have to see what will work for you. I do believe I'd use Ekiden again for a future race, and instead of jumping in from the middle, work with them from start to finish line. My desire to use them again is about the best endorsement I could really give.

Do you work with a coach? What is the most valuable part to you?

Oct 17, 2016

Running for Play - Donate to Sophie and Madigan's Playground

I announced some time ago that I'd be running the Dopey Challenge this year. When I decided I was going to run this four race challenge, I also decided I wanted to try and make a difference by running for a charity. When looking over the charities partnering with runDisney during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, I found one that felt personal to me: Sophie and Madigan's Playground.

What's the charity all about?

Sophie and Madigan's Playground is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization created to honor the lives of Sophie and Madigan Lillard. Their mission is an uplifting one, but not without a heartbreaking background.
On January 31, 2013, the Lillard family of Myersville, Maryland was struck by unthinkable tragedy when a horrific house fire claimed the lives of their daughters Sophie and Madigan, killed the family's four pets, destroyed their home and virtually all the family's possessions, and hospitalized the surviving family members.

As Sophie and Madigan's parents struggled to cope with the loss of their daughters, they looked for a way to honor the memory of Sophie and Madigan and pay tribute to the joy Sophie and Madigan brought their family and friends during their too short lives.

Having lost all their possessions, the Lillards were left with no physical reminders of Sophie and Madigan...none of the toys Madigan and Sophie played with, the clothes they wore, their hand drawn pictures and art projects, their favorite books, handmade jewelry...the list goes on and on. The Lillards were struck by the harsh reminder of how important memories are, especially those memories that a family creates together.

At the same time the Lillards were coping with this horrible loss, they were touched by the outpouring of support provided by the greater Frederick County, Maryland community that was rocked by the tragedy.

The Lillards realized that by creating a memorial park and themed playground, they could create a place that honors Sophie and Madigan in a way that reflects their personalities and spirits, while at the same time provide the community with a place where children and their families could build memories together that last a lifetime.

The Lillards created Sophie and Madigan's Playground in June 2013 to honor the lives of Sophie and Madigan by providing opportunities for children and their families to play, learn, and create lifelong memories together.
Having two children of my own makes the mission of this charity personal to me. I think giving other children and families happiness is a great way to honor the memory of Sophie and Madigan.

The Fundraising

In racing for Sophie and Madigan's Playground, I have a fundraising goal for $1,100. You can help by donating on my runner page. While the good this money will do for the mission of the organization is reason enough to donate, I'm going to offer you additional incentives, in a Kickstarter "perks"-like fashion. Based on levels you donate, I'm going to offer you some extra rewards as my personal thank you.

Every $5 == Giveaway Entry
First and foremost, I'm offering a giveaway to any donors of at least $5. For each $5 you donate, you'll earn an entry for a giveaway package, to be drawn in conjunction with Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. That means $5 gets you 1 entry, $10 gets you 2, and so on (maths people). I'm still reaching out to some brands, but I'll be giving away a combination of items donated by companies and ones donated by myself. I am hoping to have some goods from many of my favorite brands to share with you, plus a little something from Disney, to put together the best giveaway I can. But even if you don't win, you'll have helped Sophie and Madigan's Playground, so that is a guaranteed win.

$1: Website Thank You
Every donation will come with a heartfelt thank you on my website. A little electronic piece of long lasting thanks in 1's and 0's. An electronic monument to your generosity. A little corner of the internet that says "All these people here are good people helping others". Who doesn't want that?

$10: Social Media Shoutout
The next reward is also electronic, but I'll shout my thanks to the internet beyond my site and into the world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even reddit if I need to! I'll tell the world of your good deeds and of my gratitude, shouting from an electronic rooftop with @'s and #'s and missing punctuation in order to stay below arbitrary character limits.

$25: Disney Trading Pin
One fun thing I love about Disney is all the trading pins they have. I love collecting pins for Disney hotels I stay at, ones with my favorite character (Goofy), and attractions I love. When you have Disney Trading Pins on property, you can actually trade pins with cast members throughout the parks and resorts (hence the use of "trading" in trading pin). You can take any pin of yours that you're willing to part with and trade for any pin from the cast member. I'm going to offer you one of my own assorted pins, as a thank you for a donation of $25.

$40: Postcard from Walt Disney World
Who doesn't love getting mail? Well, real mail, not junk mail and bills and 95% of the crap you actually get in the mail. For the next level of donation, I'm going to offer you one fun bit of mail, a postcard direct from Walt Disney World, sent with my personal handwritten thanks. Mail, fun. Postcard, fun. Mail and Postcard from Disney, FUN. (Wife interjecting here, since he asked me to proofread this....there is *no* guarantee you will be able to read said postcard! xoxo)

$150: Pick a Race Costume (first 2 donors)
One thing I love about runDisney is the number of race costumes. Yes, other races have people who dress up to race, but not to the same extent and fevor of those at runDisney races. I plan to dress in some version of a costume for all 4 races. Granted, longer races require less "costume" and more "inspired by" or Disney-bounding style outfits, but I still plan to do all that I can do. I'm going to offer up this to any potential big donors: you can have the opportunity to pick who I race as for a race. The preference is, of course, to do Disney first, but exceptions can be made. You pick what my costume will be and I'll find a way to make it work. That means I will pick the actual outfit for what works for me, meets the race guidelines, and in good taste (that does not mean no princesses, just that I'm not running in a bikini). Not sure what to choose? I'll gladly throw out some options as idea starters, as I keep a running list of ideas. This offer is up for grabs for up to 2 people who donate at least $150. Of course, I'll also throw in ALL the other perks above and plenty of thanks (and photographic evidence!).

I've listed the rewards here in increasing value, but they do stack. That means if you donate enough for a postcard for yours truly, I'll also send you a pin, call you out on social media, and list you here on the blog. This is about showing my thanks to you and hoping you'll consider to donate to this great charity.

How to Donate

Donating is easier than obtaining a FastPass for Frozen: Ever After! All you need to do is head over to my runner's page and selecting "Sponsor Me". Then, all you have to do is fill out your information and decide how much you want to donate. Submit and you're done! You've helped me and, more importantly, you've helped out Sophie and Madigan's Playground.

Now, some of my perks require me sending you a little something or needing your social media account. So, for all of these, you'll need to drop me a line. You can choose to send me a message via Twitter, Facebook, or an email via john at rungeekrundisney.com. Since I don't control the page you donate through, this is the easiest way to ensure I get your information.

Thank you for reading all the way through and thank you so much to all of you who donate!

Oct 10, 2016

Fast Lane 101 | Jeff Galloway

As a member of the Jeff Galloway Blogger Program, I'm given great information from the man himself to share with you. It's always a joy to read what he has to say and to share it with you. This time, Jeff's sharing you some tips to run in the fast lane!

By Olympian Jeff Galloway

Neighborhood tracks are the most convenient place to run for most.  Whether you're taking your first steps or wanting to improve your time, it's easy to check your pace by timing each lap. Because I've spoken to many runners who mistakenly feel that they are not fast enough to run at the local oval, here are a few simple guidelines:

What is the distance of a lap? Standard distance is 400 meters (@ .25 mile).

In which direction should I run? In most cases, run counterclockwise.  A few tracks alternate direction from day to day,  so follow the direction of the other runners.

What lane should I use when running slow or walking? The inside 3 lanes are reserved for faster runners and those doing speed workouts.  Most runners should use the 2 outside lanes.

How do I pass slower runners? Assuming a normal, counterclockwise pattern, move to the right to pass, with a smile.

Is it OK for kids to ride bikes and skate on the track? This is not a good idea.  Try to find another place near the track for these activities.

Do I have to pay to use a track? Most tracks are free, but the hours of use may be restricted by the school.

Can I run on the track with an iPod? This is up to you but be aware of your surroundings and possible threats or faster runners coming up behind you.  Keep one ear uncovered.

Do I need special shoes? No—you can use the same shoe for road, track or fitness trail—unless you are a competitor doing very fast speedwork.

Are there any times that I should not use the track? If there is a track meet or organized track practice by the local team, find another running area.  Some track teams allow recreational runners to use the outside lane during their workouts.

Say What?

Repeats—These are the fast segments during a speed workout.  Each repeat (usually about 3-5% of the distance of the goal event) is run slightly faster than goal race pace, followed by a rest interval of  walking or slow jogging.  Through a series of workouts, the number of repetitions gradually increases. 

The Fix

I always lose count of how many times I’ve run around the track! How can I keep track of it better?  Office supply stores sell “counters” that keep track of the number of laps as you click each time you finish a lap.  Another method: time yourself for the first 2 laps, for two laps in the middle and 2 laps at the end.  Compute an average of the lap times.  You can compute the number of laps by dividing the total time run by the average time per lap.

The Excuse

There are lots of fast-looking people at my track; I’m scared I’ll get in their way.  The inside lanes are for faster runners.  If you run in the outside lane, you will not get in their way.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to complete the First Annual Double G!

The first 400 participants who register for the Double G will receive a JG-branded puffer vest! If you are one of the lucky 400, you will be able to pick up your vest at the Expo.

The Double G includes:
 • Barb’s 5K (Saturday, December 10, 2016)
 • JG 13.1 (Sunday, December 11, 2016)
 • 3rd medal for completing both races
* The Double G is only for those who participate in the actual races in Atlanta. It does not apply to the virtual option.

Note: Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached hundreds of thousands of runners to their goals.  For more information, see his books GALLOWAY TRAINING PROGRAMS and MARATHON—you can do it!  Ask Jeff a question at www.JeffGalloway.com

Do you run on a track? How do you like it?