About me

I'm a runner who is currently living and training in the Washington D.C. area.  I'm training with a post collegiate group (DC elite) trying to give running at a high level a shot.  My Running accomplishments and PR's are listed below.

In addition to running, I'm currently completing my Masters in Exercise Science at George Mason University.  I'm currently working on my thesis which focuses on periodization models for distance running training.

I have also dabbled in writing, as can be seen in this blog.  I've written articles for Running Times Magazine's online portion and am open to other opportunities.

 I also coach distance runners/track athletes.  For the past 4 years I've coached a great bunch of High School runners. In that period of time, four individuals have been top 10 at the regional XC meet, and the team has qualified for state twice, once finishing 4th, and then culiminating in a 2nd place finish this year resulting in the team being nationally ranked. In addition, one individual advanced to the national meet and finished 12th overall. On the track, I've seen consistant improvement in each athlete I've coached with the best ones running, so far (many of these have not run SR year track yet), 4:14, 4:15, 4:20, 4:27, and 4:27 for 1600m and 9:04, 9:27, 9:30, 9:31, 9:40 for 3200m. I've also worked with post collegiate/professional runners in both direct coaching and on a consulting basis.

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Running Accomplishments:

1500m- 3:43.87
1 mile- 4:01.02
10k CC- 29:50
10mi- 50:15

-Ran at Rice University and University of Houston, qualifying for regionals in track twice, and nationals as an individual in Cross Country once.
-High School Texas State Record Holder in 1600m run.

Running Times Article and why scientists get it wrong.

First off, a shorttraining update. Going very well. I've had some solid workouts and am just getting into the swing of things. Right now I'm putting together the outdoor schedule, but it looks like for big meets I'll try and head to Mt. SAC, one of the nashville meets, another Cali meet, and who knows where else. Onto my rant, fueled by physiologists everywhere:

On another note, I was reading Running Times today and I just wanted to comment on an article in there. There was a short article on Improving Buffering Capacity by Owen Anderson. This article illustrates the problem most people have with connecting physiology with practical training. Before I go into that, a little about the article. It was discussing a study done that showed that intervals at something like 120-140% Lactate Threshold improved buffering capacity, while a similar group trained at 80-95% LT or around there and didn't improve buffering capacity. The author then suggests ways to improve buffering capacity and caps it off with saying that buffering capacity improves racing time in races less than an hour long.

There is a problem in this reasoning and it is a very common mistake and a reason why I am VERY VERY cautious when looking at studies or people interpreting studies and applying them to real world training. When scientists do studies they are normally looking for one variable at a time. They rarely assess the GLOBAL effects of the workout. Rather, they find if a workout effects a single variable. In this case, the scientists see if X workout improves buffering capacity.

The problem comes when coaches/scientists take this data and puts the workout into a category of workouts that "improve buffering capacity." But wait, that is just one effect of the workout. No one studied or knows the other effects. So while this workout could be doing something beneficial, at the same time it could be harming another component.

Let me give an example. If we listen to the authors advice and do all these workouts to improve buffering capacity, then WE, the readers, are ASSUMING that are race performance will improve. This is because "they" tell us that buffering capacity is a limiter to performance. Well it will, BUT not if that workout effects other things negatively to a greater degree. For example, if we do lots of these buffering capacity workouts, all that acidosis (which is the stimulus for improving buffering capacity) will probably reduce our aerobic capacity in certain muscle fibers. This is because once you get to higher acidosis levels, the mitochondria can lose function and other scientific stuff that I don't feel like discussing right now.

In essence the high acidity is a stimulus for improving buffering capacity, but it also "hinders" some aerobic processes.

I'm pointing this out to show that you MUST look at the GLOBAL effects of a workout. Getting back to the Running Times article, the global effects of the suggested workouts could or could not improve racing time. If you just haphazardly place them in your schedule to "improve buffering capacity" then you will probably fail, but if you know the global effects of the workout and know that doing these workouts will decrease aerobic capacity then you can plan your training accordingly. For example, you can minimize the drop in aerobic capacity that the workout creates by surrounding these workouts with different kind of aerobic stimulus workouts. Or you can plan for the drop, by doing several of these workouts, then having a 10 day session of "aerobic refresh" to recharge the aerobic capacity.

I know I've been rambling, but to tie things up; Scientific studies only analyze one variable, in the real world we have to have an idea of ALL the variables. Training a person is not done in controlled lab conditions. Be wary of coaches/athletes/physiologists who try and make direct connections between the latest new study with real world training.

Sorry for the long rant, hope it made sense.

My Training books ranked!

I get asked about what training books to read, so I’ve decided to come up with a list of the top training (textbooks excluded) I’ve read. It’s a subjective list but to add some objectivity my rankings will take into account how many pages of notes I took when reading the book (I have no life- I have like 400+pgs of handwritten notes).

I’ll add commentary later. The first time I made the list I had some, but then the computer messed up, so I’ll add it back later when I’m not lazy.

1. The Science of Winning- Jan Olbrecht- Yes a swimming book
2. A scientific Approach to the Marathon- Canova and Arcelli
3. Renato Canova letsrun.com Notes- not a book, but if you read all of them might as well be
4. Swimming Fastest- Make that 2 swimming books in the top 4. Yes I’m crazy
5. Better Training for Distance Runners - 2nd Edition- Coe and Martin
6. Mechanics of Athletics- Dyson
7. Training My Way- Harry Wilson
8. Running to the Top (or Running the Lydiard Way)- Lydiard
9. Road to The Top- Vigil
10. Rowing Faster- Yes a rowing book too.
11. Long Distance and Middle Distance Series by Jess Jarver- collection of books with articles
12. Run, Run, Run- Wilt
13. Running: The Athlete Within- Costil
14. The Competitive Runners Training Book- Dellinger
15. How They Train- Wilt- great book but ranks lower b/c just schedules
16. Daniels Running Formula- Daniels
17. Training With Cerutty- Myers
18. Run With the best- Benson and Ray
19. Van Aaken Method
20. Run Strong- Beck
21. Run to Win- Kenyan Training Secrets
22. Running Tough- just workouts
23. The Cutting Edge Runner
24. Fast Track- Hamilton
25 . The Runners book of training Secrets
26. Precision Heart Rate Training
27 . Runners World Complete Book of Running

There ya go. I’m sure I’ll get some criticism, but it’s welcome.


I coach or have coached several individuals ranging from beginning High Schoolers runners to a sub 4min miler post collegiate runner.  If you are interested in being coached by me contact me through e-mail (sjm1368@yahoo.com).  I am only interested in coaching those athletes who I'm the right fit for. 

Cost varies depending on your situation and in my support of post collegiate running, I'll coach or consult any semi-elite or better post collegiate runner for free since the financial restrictions of our sport on post collegiate runners is so tough.

Sooooooo Cold......Hall is the man

It is cold, very cold for a southerner. Alright, maybe it's not that bad but I HATE having to bundle up and put on all sorts of clothes to just get out and run. The freezing rain really doesn't make things much better.

But enough complaining. A quick update. Back to normal after getting over my sinus infection. For a couple days there I felt like crap, especially on my runs. It was no fun at all. Now I'm back to normal. I had a couple of good workouts in the past couple days.

The first one from getting back was my shortened long run of 14mi with the first 13 easy, then the last 1mi at threshold (4:57).
The next was an uphill LT workout. I jumped on the treadmill with some Taking Back Sunday playing. I cranked the treadmill up to it's max speed (roughly 5:30 pace give or take a couple seconds- I calibrated it so it's accurate) To start it off I started off with running at a 3 degree incline for 1 song, 4 degree incline for 1 song, a 5 degree incline for 2 songs, a 6 degree incline for 5 songs, and an 8 degree incline for 1 song. That totalled 37min, then I walked around the room for 1 minute and hopped on the treadmill for 3min at max incline (10 degrees).

That one was kind of fun for a while. It was a change of pace from running the same old stuff . Deginately felt good and much better than when I did this workout about 2 months ago.

Now onto the big running news of the week...Ryan Hall. His performance was insane. Watching it on TV, he looked so freaking smooth the whole time. Reminded me a little of watching elite kenyans/ethiopians race. There's not much else to say that hasn't already been said except that was one hell of a performance and perhaps the kick start American distance running needed.

being sick, Track racing schedule, treadmill physiology testing

Well training was going real well until a day or two ago when I got sick. It's not that bad but just leaves me feeling sluggish. So just easy mileage at recovery paces until I get over whatever it is. It's tough to take down time when things have been going so well but it's a lesson I've learned. After trying to run races and tough interval sessions with 102 degree fevers and other various sicknesses, I've learned my lesson. Better to wait and let the body recover than to further break it down.

On a happier note, Congrats goes out to Ben Kozy for winning the mile in his first indoor meet of the season.

I'm putting together a racing schedule now. I really don't have any specifics yet and am trying to see what local races I can get into and then what meets will have good competition that I can travel to. The way I figure it is to use local meets as races to get me race sharp and have a little fun racing, then travel to a couple big meets to try and hit some good times.
Also, I decided that I will probably run a couple of indoor meets. I'm not going to gear the training for it, but just it as a stepping stone to outdoors and as a sort of check to see how the training is going. I debated doing this but the way training has been going recently (until sickness) convinced me that I can be in good enough shape off of the work I'm doing now to race. I reached the decision after a quick little test to see how racing speed felt. Nothing special, just running an 8 and a couple 4's at slightly faster than pace (1:58, 56-57s) after a run to see how it felt. I felt surprisingly comfortable so why not race a bit.

Thought of the day: Treadmill running and testing
Most of the physiological tests that they do on runners come from treadmill running. I've always wondered if this makes a big difference in the results. My instinct is to say it definately does and probably more so than people think. It definately could be one thing that affects the wide variety of VO2max or LT measurements.

I'm sure that most of you have all heard someone complain about how it feels like he is sprinting when he is running 6 minute miles. There are obviously some differences in how a person runs on the flat ground and on a treadmill. Some people have strides that are more adept to running on the treadmill than others. So the question is, how much does this impact some of the scientific info that is used?

It could explain some of the variations in the testing results of elites.

The same can be said for using different protocals in VO2max testing. For instance a protocal that uses an increase in speed only would probably differ than one that uses a large increase in the incline of the treadmill. Both of these protocals are commonly used. Since we know that people can be more or less efficient at running up an incline, it would only make sence that this would affect the results of the test.

I'd like to see a comparison with several runners of their VO2max on the treadmill and then on the track. The same with LT. There's obviously data out there for it. I wonder if it's ever been compared.

Just something to think about.

Lactate Threshold....what the heck is it?

I've decided to post some writings I've done on a couple training aspects. I'll try and post more periodically and hopefully they help some people out. If you have any questions, e-mail me or leave them under the comments section at the end. The idea behind the following articles is to look at a couple of the more commonly used training ideas and to see if they can be improved upon. So enjoy.

The Lactate curve: What is it and how to improve it:

LT is one of those buzz words that all sorts of coaches seem to be flocking towards. It’s the new VO2max. Everyone wants to have it measured and everyone wants to improve it. There are all kinds of literature out there on improving lactate threshold and what is the best way. Some of it can be extremely confusing and contradictory, so let’s first take a look at a couple of the problems with many of the accepted beliefs.

The most glaring mistake is a misunderstanding of what the lactate threshold is. In simple terms it is the point where lactate production equals lactate elimination, but what does that mean? What processes affect that? Most people are familiar with the idea of a lactate curve, but not many understand what that curve really means. Sorry to say this, but I really don’t either. In fact, no one truly understands the exact mechanisms behind it. However, there are some better approaches than the ones commonly used.

The first problem with LT is in figuring out where the heck this point occurs. Using a standard step test it is basically impossible to identify the true lactate threshold. What everyone is really doing is making a GUESS! The only true way to find a lactate threshold (or Max Lass: Max Lactate Steady State) is to run at a constant speed for around 20-30min. and take blood lactate samples and make sure there is very little increase in lactate from start to finish. Then, do this again at a faster pace. You have to keep doing this until you find the fastest pace that you can maintain without an increase in blood lactate. For training, it’s pretty much worthless and too time consuming. So we throw that idea out the window. So instead scientists have all sorts of ways to guess what the LT is based on a curve. Some ways are more accurate than others, but most involve a step test. For example a common test is to run 5x mile with 1-2min rest starting at an easy/moderate speed and increasing speed by 15sec per mile or so. For example running 5:35, 5:20, 5:05, 4:50, 4:35 for someone who has a threshold of around 4:55-5:00.

Since we’ve established that there is a problem with finding the lactate threshold, let’s look at the next problem with lactate threshold research. That would be the problem of knowing what the heck that nice little lactate curve means. Most people still assume that a shift to the right in the curve means a better LT, or better endurance, and a shift to the left means deteriorating endurance. The problem with that idea is it is too simplistic. There are two forces that mainly act upon the lactate curve. One is the aerobic capacity, think VO2max. The other is the less known one which is the anaerobic capacity, think of it as a measurement just like Vo2max but of the anaerobic system. In essence Anaerobic Capacity is Vo2max’s little brother. To give a quick refresher on how these work, the anaerobic capacity has the exact opposite effects on the curve as aerobic endurance (capacity) does. So an increase in Anaerobic Capacity would mean a shift to the left, and a decrease would mean a shift to the right. So it is this interaction between aerobic and anaerobic capacities that determines the way of the curve. How strong each are determine the curve. The stronger one of the capacities is, the more it pulls it to that side. So it is this pulling of each capacity that determines where the curve ends up. If the aerobic capacity is pulling more than the anaerobic capacity, then the curve will be more to the right. This is again still too simplistic and other factors contribute, but we will touch on these later.

So back to all that research. As I said, there have been tons of research on improving LT. Some of it is very good, but a problem arises in applying it to practical situations. Almost all of this research is based on the old model of only aerobic endurance influencing the curve. Why is this a problem? Well the exercises that some authors used to say improve LT may in fact shift the curve to the right because instead of truly improving aerobic endurance (and thus LT) they could have lowered the anaerobic capacity. For example, it just so happens that lots of running right at the LT tend to lower anaerobic capacity. So the author then thinks that a real increase of aerobic capacity occurred when one did not happen at all. So what we are left with is a false improvement of aerobic capabilities. This leads to false ideas of optimal training intensities.. So these scientist go tell everyone that training at threshold is the most effective way to improve the threshold. Which in essence it is, but in training for performance we are more interested in race times and not the threshold itself. Thus we are more interested in improving the mechanisms that are beyond the threshold, the aerobic endurance.

So the question then becomes, how the heck do we improve this LT and thus aerobic endurance? The answer is that it is much more complex than the old just do a tempo run solution. Most coaches/authors tell you to run at some pace that is at or slightly above or below this lactate threshold pace to improve it. Well this will shift the curve to the right, but is it for the right reason? The answer is sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. And in actuality a shift to the right because of lowered anaerobic capacity is not a bad thing depending on the event and anaerobic capacity level. For example in the marathon you want a lower anaerobic capacity because having too high of a level would mean you would consume too much glycogen and thus run out of fuel in the end of the marathon. This is one reason why a lot of athletes who try and make a quick switch from track training to the marathon are unsuccessful. They haven’t given themselves enough time to lower their anaerobic capacity (through a lot of mileage normally) so that they aren’t consuming lots of glycogen. In the marathon example it is okay to “artificially” improve your lactate threshold because that’s a good thing. In most track events however, when we talk about improving LT, we are really talking about improving the mechanisms that are behind the lactate threshold.


I've been in Hawaii for a bit now on a family vacation which means limited computer access.
It's been pretty fun and all but the running is killing me. The hardest part is the second run of the day. It's hellishly tough some days to get that second run in after already running in the morning then spending all day on your feet at the beach or going on hikes or other similar stuff. To compensate I've tried to switch more of my mileage to the morning (So most days have been 10mi in the morning and 6mi in the afternoon). The majority of the running is on roads, so that sucks, but the scenery is real nice. Most of my runs have been up and down the water front streets. Surprisingly there are a lot of recreational joggers running up and down the roads.

Other than that, it's taken some time getting adapted to the 85 degree weather in december. I've had a pretty good week though. Should be around 100 miles for the week with one 6mi threshold, one 7mi threshold, one day of short hill sprints, and one of short variations in speed (30sec accelerations x10 during the run). I also got in a 15mi long run. So overall a very good week, but I'm pretty much spent.

The craziest thing about the trip is that I've run into several runners who knew me or I knew them. Earlier in the week i ran into a girl who ran for Valparaiso(Rachel something I think) and another guy (my bad, forgot) who ran in HS (sorry about names, I'm bad at that stuff... so my apologies) Even crazier was later in the week I ran into Daniel Gerber from the Woodlands and now at Georgetown. I actually saw him earlier in the week but since I wasn't wearing my glasses/contacts I didn't recognize him. I just thought it was some guy who looked like he was a good runner.

Anyways, having him there really helped as we got in a couple runs together and most importantly got in the 15 miler together, which would have been hell by myself. Pretty crazy to come so far to a beach on Kauii and have someone who went to HS 15min from you be staying at a beachouse 2mi from you. We got in a couple runs together and it definately made it easier to have someone running there with you. Plus it reassures you that you aren't going like 9 min. mile pace on those days when you feel like crap.

Anyways, that's about it as far as running goes. Can't wait to get home and get some rest!

Happy New Years and on a sad note since I'm in Hawaii, that means no special New Years mile this year for me :(. Oh well, the boys carried the tradition on at home.

I'll try and post some pics from the trip later. Pretty sweet scenery. I've done a couple hikes that were pretty cool. One was pretty sweet because we started off hiking the thing as a whole family and it went down a steep dirt road for a while. Then it wandered through the woods until you were on a cliff. Eventually it got to a small, pretty much worthless waterfall. That's what was the big enticement of the hike and the waterfall didn't live up to the hype. It ended up being further than we thought too, so only me and my brother went the whole way. Then we had to haul up the trail and drive down the crappy/steep road in a minivan to pick up the rest of the family at the bottom. Got to say that was pretty sweet driving down that thing with people giving us crazy looks and probably thinking wtf. After some careful maneuvering we even turned the thing around and made it out.
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