Coach’s Corner: 5k tune-up workouts

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It’s almost Turkey Trot time, which means it’s time for some final tune-up workouts. Lately I’ve been doing speed workouts on Saturdays, mostly because it works best for my schedule and I have bonus workout partners to keep me motivated.

This past weekend, I did one of my favorite 5k workouts: 5 x 1000 meters at 5k race pace with 400 meter jog recovery. The science behind this has to do with the amount of time you spend running at your VO2 max. You should aim for intervals that take between 3 and 5 minutes at your VO2 max (or your 5k race pace).

After a 2.5 mile warm up, I ran my first 1k in 3:46 feeling very relaxed and focused. I jogged a lap and ran my second 1k in 3:45. At this point, I assessed how I was feeling a decided to push a little harder on the next interval. This is usually how I race my 5ks as well. I ran the next two in 3:35 each. The second to last 1k was starting to get difficult, and I felt myself breathing pretty hard. On the last interval, I went as fast as I could, and crossed the line in 3:25. I finished with a (very slow) 2.5 mile cool down. I evaluated how I did, and decided that I could have run the first two about 5 seconds faster.

This workout is a great confidence-builder and helps you to visualize your race at the same time. After the workout, you should take a look at your times and review how you felt throughout the workout. Did you run too hard in the beginning? You shouldn’t feel lactic acid in your legs until at least the halfway point of the workout. Was the pace too easy? If your last interval (the one you finished as fast as possible) was much faster than the rest, then you probably could have run the first few intervals a little faster. There is a lot of useful feedback you can take from this workout and use for your race.

Some variations of this workout are: 4 x 1200 meters at 5k race pace with 400 jog recovery, 5 x 4 minutes at 5k race pace with 2 minutes easy running in between, 6 x 800 meters at 5k race pace with 400 meter jog recovery. Always run that last interval as fast as you can, and visualize yourself powering to the finish line. Also, if your Turkey Trot is a 10k, you can double the number of intervals and run them at your 10k race pace (and shorten the rest a little if you’re feeling adventurous).

Good luck!

Winter running, part one.

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Technically it’s still fall, but according to the thermostat it’s freaking winter already. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to think about how to dress for cold weather running, so I’m working on getting used to that. So far, I’ve been overdressed almost every time I go out. For example, today:

Before. Way too many layers.

Before. Way too many layers.

It was about 32 degrees when I ran and I wore: a tank, a long sleeve with thumbholes, a very thick fleece jacket, and a windbreaker-type running jacket on top. On bottom, I wore a pair of long tights (Go Joggings, which are extra long and cover the ankles). I also wore a scarf, wool headband, hat, and gloves. After about a mile (which is almost completely uphill and takes me ten minutes on a good day), I stopped to take off the fleece jacket and scarf I was wearing. Luckily I was pushing the stroller so I had a place to store my extra layers. I ended up keeping everything else on for the rest of my run, which was only six miles today. So I ended the run like this:

After. Perfect layering for the weather.

After. Perfect layering for the weather.

I kept both the headband and hat on because my ears get cold if I only wear a hat, and my head gets cold if I only wear a headband. I know there are winter running hats that have ear flaps, and I will probably have to invest in at least one of those this winter. Anyway, I’ve decided to start recording what I wear and the temperature/ conditions for each of my runs in my training log until I can get it right. If you’ve been hustling through the winter for years, this probably isn’t necessary. But if you’re new to running or haven’t trained in the great white north in awhile, it might be worth the extra effort. Emma made the trip with me today in hooded fuzzy pajamas, a hooded North Face snow suit that also covers her hands and feet, a blanket, a quilt, and the weatherprooof BOB cover. I think that combo will work for temps in the low 30s. I haven’t taken her out in temps much colder than that, but the treadmill is always an option for very cold, snowy days.

Warm and cozy.

Warm and cozy.

Life and stuff (and some real talk)

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Well, the tornado that is my life has finally calmed down for a few hours so I figured I should at least start writing about everything that has been going on.

In August, we decided to put our house up for sale and move to NY. The end of summer was a blur of home improvement projects combined with first birthday party planning. We went on a family vacation in Corolla, NC for Labor Day weekend and when we returned there was a for sale sign in our front yard.

Keeping the house spotless for showings with a toddler and a messy dog was a challenge I wasn’t quite prepared for, but within a few weeks we had an offer on our house. If you’ve ever bought or sold a home, you probably know that there are good days and bad days, and lots of uncertainty. Although there were some stressful moments, we were able to close the at the end of October. Now looking back on it, we were so freaking lucky to sell our house that fast. I almost can’t believe it happened.

I took this photo as we drove away. Our first little house.

I took this photo as we drove away. Our first little house.

So, we’ve been here in NY for the past two weeks. The first week was a blur of just trying to unpack and organize the things we would need, and taking care of all of the boring details of closing accounts and opening new ones. We both started new jobs (more on that later).

And now, here’s the real unedited truth. Living out of boxes is frustrating!!! I can never find what I’m looking for. I have a problem with exclamation points, and I’m really trying to work on that. I miss running in my old neighborhood in Virginia.

I took lots of photos on my last run around the neighborhood, but I'm sure it will be burned into my memory anyway.

I took lots of photos on my last run around the neighborhood, but I’m sure it will be burned into my memory anyway.

It’s cold and all of the leaves have fallen off the trees already, but I think I will get used to it (I hope). Watching the New York City Marathon was so inspiring, even the little ones got in on the action this year! And dang, it looked cold at the start.

Cheering for the runners!

Cheering for the runners!

But, I will leave on a positive note. Thanksgiving is coming soon, along with one of my favorite races, the Troy Turkey Trot. I did my first speed workout since the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon on Saturday and felt great, and I’m excited to race a fast 5k in a few weeks. It’s an out-and-back flat, fast course and a family tradition that I look forward to every year.

Running in the moment: How to start and finish your race when your training hasn’t been ideal

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My race this past weekend (ok two weekends ago) was such a fun experience. No, I didn’t PR or win any prize money like I had envisioned back when I started training this summer… but it was still a great race that enjoyed from start to finish. The weather was perfect, I had great company for the first 20 miles, and my post-race margarita was one of the best I’ve ever had.

I know there are lots of people who have found themselves in a similar situation. Maybe you missed training due to work, travel, family, weather, or something else. Maybe you considered bagging it but didn’t want to lose your entry fee. Maybe you lost motivation at some point and your training has suffered. There are a lot of things that happen between when you sign up for a race and when you line up on the starting line.

So, there are a few thoughts on how to make the best of your race experience.

1. Try something new. I know, gasp! How dare we defy the old running adage. Well, you can find ways to mix it up without committing a major running crime like racing in brand new shoes. Get some funky laces, wear some bright shades, or even try out a new outfit (just make sure you wear it once in practice before the race).

2. Start off with a slower pace group than you originally planned. Sometimes running at a slower pace in the beginning will help you feel good longer and allow you to push the pace toward the end. It’s a great way to run a fast time, and even if you don’t get your PR you may still surprise yourself and run faster than you expected.

3. Take in the crowd. If you’re usually in your own head during a race, take this opportunity to soak in the support from spectators. I dare you to not get a little pumped up when you high five the local high school mascot. He probably got up at 5 am just to don that ridiculous suit and cheer for you.

4. Race your way into shape. A race can be a great training run and an opportunity to practice your pre-race routine and race strategies in an optimum environment. Choose another goal race in a few weeks and use this race to practice fueling, hydrating, and running part of the race at your goal pace.

5. Plan your post-race celebration. You earned it.

Never Forget.

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My memories of that day and what followed are, of course, centered around my team and running because that’s what I lived and breathed at the time. When the first plane hit the tower, I was getting ready for my 9:30 class and my roommate Suzie shouted out the news to me. I remember watching the footage with the rest of my roommates, then writing a status on my instant messenger along the lines of “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center”. I didn’t fully grasp that it was a terrorist attack until I got to my first class. At some point I left to go to the bathroom and ran into a girl in the hallway who explained the rest of what had happened. My professor would not, however, let us go home because she thought her class was more important than this terrible tragedy. I’m not kidding.

I had another class after that, but that professor cancelled to let us go home. Since many of the students at James Madison University are from northern Virginia, and a lot are from the NJ/NY area, everyone was worried and wanted to call home. This was a time before everyone had cell phones, and it wasn’t so easy to reach your loved ones. I did have a cell phone, so I tried to call home several times to make sure everyone was okay. My family is from upstate NY and my dad travelled a lot for his job, so I was worried there might be a chance he had been in Manhattan. Luckily I did get through and got to talk to my parents and my sisters. I remember my sister telling me that one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center had flown toward Albany (where we are from) and that the terrorists had used the Hudson River to navigate towards New York City. That gave me chills.

I don’t remember much else in the late morning/ early afternoon, but I do remember when we all started showing up for practice. My coach knew we would be upset, but he explained that running would help us to deal with our emotions more than cancelling practice would. He did give us the option of individually deciding whether to practice, and one of my teammates chose to take the day off because she hadn’t been able to get in touch with her family. The rest of us hopped in the vans and made our way to Masanetta Springs for a classic Coach Rinker cross country workout; long intervals, hills, short rest, no mercy. It was exactly what we needed at that moment.

We had a really good cross country team that year, and were ranked #12 in the country. A few weeks later, we travelled to Roy Griak in Minnesota, which would be our first experience flying anywhere since 9/11. I know I was scared of everything and everyone, and that was a common sentiment at the time. We showed up at the airport hours ahead of time. So many things had changed; there were all these things we couldn’t bring on the plane, you had to show your ID to everyone, security eyed you up and down. The biggest worry was our spikes and whether we could bring them in our carry-ons as we were always made to do (along with our uniforms). Anyone who has ever run track or cross country knows that’s a requirement in case your luggage gets lost!

The race itself went really well for us as a team. I got chills again on the starting line, seeing all of the teams with their multi-colored uniforms, all newly emblazoned with American flags. I actually remember tearing up a  little bit, which was something pretty rare for me at the time. I used to be really good at holding it together and then channeling all of my feelings through my workouts. In fact, that year was my best year of running by far, and I think some of it was due to my need to deal with life and the post-traumatic stress from September 11th.

I didn’t actually see the ruins of the World Trade Center until January. We were on our way to the Armory for an indoor track invitational. I remember being excited about the meet because I was in really good shape and my coach had put me in the mile, a race I almost never got to run. I was deep in thought when we crossed the bridge and I saw the Manhattan skyline for the first time since the terrorist attacks. There were two giant holes where buildings once were. Something about seeing that actually made it real to me. I got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and burst into tears. It made me so angry that that had happened, and it filled me with pain and fear.

We stayed in New Jersey, but the sky over our hotel was gray and full of dust even that far away from the World Trade Center. It was quite a long process of trying to clean up the rubble left behind. When I got on the bus on the morning of our race I was not feeling great, and seeing the skyline again was a harsh reminder. Somewhere on that bus ride I made the decision to not be angry anymore. I really took a  moment to just think about what had happened and appreciate how our country had come together during such a difficult time. I was overwhelmed by feelings of pride and patriotism, and I decided to take those feelings with me and let them carry me through my race. I remember starting in the back and feeling awful for the first few laps, but somehow I worked my way toward the front. When I heard the bell ring to signal the final lap, I suddenly got the feeling that I was flying! I sprinted the last lap with all I had, and I ended up winning and setting a new meet record. Truthfully I was happy that I had won, but it didn’t really matter to me. I just wanted to run my cool down with my teammates and get some good New York pizza.

I learned an important lesson from all of this, which I guess is my point for writing about it. My coach was right: coming to practice was far better than going home. Your team is there to hold you up when you’re going through hard times together. I’m reminded of that every year on the anniversary of September 11th.

Summer training update

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A lot has changed since my last training update

After Boilermaker, I felt pretty awful, so I took a week of easy running. Really, I had no choice because my body wasn’t cooperating. I think I only did a 10 mile long run that week and most of my runs were untimed. I averaged around 40-45 miles per week for most of June and July.

At the end of July I ran a 5k on a Tuesday night called the Memorial Scholarship 5k. It’s more of a fun run and a way to raise money for scholarships for local runners. I didn’t bother to write a recap because there isn’t much to recap. There were no mile markers so I have no idea what my mile splits were. I ran with another girl for the first mile and after that I was mostly alone with no idea how much I had left to run. My official time was 18:15, which I wasn’t too pleased with, but I was happy to feel good for most of the race. Maybe if I quit eating pizza dipped in ranch dressing I would run a little faster..


That race was the beginning of two long supercompensation weeks, which I just finished yesterday. I did an 18 mile long run the first week, and a 20 miler yesterday. I added a few double days to bring my mileage for these past two weeks up to 60 miles per week. Supercompensation weeks are just weeks where you increase volume, intensity, and the number of workouts. The payoff is a nice, relaxing recovery week.

My next race is the Strider Mile on Saturday morning, which I haven’t fully committed to yet. I’m not feeling particularly ready for a track mile, and the race is early in the morning, plus Em has swim lessons at 9 am so we would have to go straight there after the race, maybe not even cool down.

Ok, the little one is up, so I have to go retrieve her. If you have any thoughts on how I can stop my ranch dressing habit, I’d love to hear them.

We are excited to announce…

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…the re-launch of Piece of Cake Running, our training plans and personalized coaching services.

Last year we took a purposeful step back from Piece of Cake Running. With the birth of our daughter in August 2013, we knew it would be difficult to devote our time and attention to anything besides our little tiny human. Let’s be honest, just taking a shower required a complicated choreography of each of our schedules.

Now that the past year has flown by, we’ve decided it’s time to get things up and running again. So, here’s the deal:

Who are we?

Mollie Turner (AKA “the coach”)- MS in Exercise Physiology, 3-time All-American at James Madison University in Virginia, 7 years of combined coaching experience (high school, college, and everyone else)… I also run for Oiselle (I joined the Elite team in 2011 and am currently a Volée member)

Pete Turner (AKA “the webmaster”)- in charge of all things pertaining to the internets… also the one to blame if anything goes wrong (just kidding)

"The coach" and "the webmaster"

“The coach” and “the webmaster”

Emmaline Turner (AKA “the bug”)- assistant coach with 10 and a half months of life experience

Assistant coach Emma (in training, of course)

Assistant coach Emma (in training, of course)

Do you guys really like cake or something?

Who doesn’t like cake? It’s delicious. But our nom de guerre comes from the desire to spread the movement of running in it’s simplest form. It doesn’t have to be complicated by fancy gadgets and special diets. It’s putting one foot in front of the other. Anyone can do it. 

We’re not into cookie-cutter training programs. Your training plan is developed just for you, based upon your experience, and your personal goals.

So, if you’re in the market for a coach or need a training plan for an upcoming race, we would love to help, whether you’re new to the running game or a seasoned veteran. And if you know anyone who might be interested, please let them know about us. We offer a free month of online coaching if you refer a friend. Sharing is caring!