Matt Fitzgerald

What happens when a recreational runner is given an opportunity to train and live like a pro? We're about to find out! For 12 weeks this summer, I will be an honorary member of the HOKA NAZ Elite Team in Flagstaff, Arizona. Follow my journey as I prepare for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Matt's 80/20 Training Plans Get Coached by Matt

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Read about Matt's experience and view his training log.

Matt's Training Log

Week of 9/18/2017 - 9/24/2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Run - Easy Run
8 miles easy from Matt Llano's house with the team

Post Workout Blog:
Last night I dreamt that I was on some kind of road trip with Ben Rosario and a few members of the team. We were hanging out in a place similar to the patio area at The Lumberyard here in Flagstaff when a beautiful young woman showed up and whisked Ben away with her. An hour or so later, our coach returned alone and announced, “I just had sex on a track!” The other runners and I were horrified by Ben’s behavior, but we hid our true emotions and congratulated him. “That was my life’s ambition!” he said, glowing with pride.

When I woke up from the dream and checked the time on my phone, I saw that it was 4:54 a.m., and I decided to go ahead and start my day. The early wakeup left me with some time to kill between the completion of my first set of computer tasks and my morning run with the team—time I filled with my ever-expanding daily rehab exercise regimen. By the time the last exercise was completed, runners were beginning to arrive at Matt’s house, for once the designated meeting place for a team run. Steph and Kellyn were slated to run 20 times 1 km at marathon effort on the shallow hill on the main road that passes Matt’s place on the west side. The boys all had easy runs.

I caught up with Scott Fauble a bit while he stretched in Matt’s driveway. I asked him if he’d figured out how to avoid a repetition of the multiple pit-stop disaster he endured during Sunday’s steady-state run and he said it was pretty simple: he would never again drink the coconut milk-concoction that had caused the episode.

“I think I just drank too much of it,” he said. “And maybe put too much ginger in it.”

We started out heading up the hill, shouting encouragement at Steph and Kellyn as we met them head-on, and then turned right at the airport, plunging into Ft. Tuthill County Park. At one point I found myself next to Aaron Braun.

“How’s the hip?” I asked, hazarding a question I’m sure he’s tired of hearing from me.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ll be fine for tomorrow.”

Tomorrow, Aaron, Craig, Futsum and I will road trip to Camp Verde, just 45 minutes away from Flagstaff but more than 3,500 feet lower in elevation, for a hard workout.

“I’m a little scared about that one,” I told Aaron. “It’s unnervingly similar to the workout that shredded my groin.”

“My plan is to be cautious,” Aaron said. “If anything feels not quite right, I’ll back off or bail. There is fitness to be gained from these last few workouts before Chicago, but not so much that it’s worth taking stupid risks.”

“I’ll try to follow your example,” I said. “But I must confess, there’s a lunatic inside me who’s pretty good at persuading me to take stupid risks.”

Shortly after our group blew past a sign in the middle of an ankle-twisting singletrack trail that read, “Danger! Trail Closed,” Craig caught his foot on a rock and face-planted. Shortly after that, Michael Crouch, James McKirdy, and I decided to turn around. Michael was running nine miles to my eight and James didn’t care how far he ran. By the time we emerged from the park, it was clear that, for the second day in a row, I would exceed my assigned distance.

“I’m starting to think there’s a secret cabal to get me to run 100 miles this week,” I told my companions. “And I must confess, there’s a lunatic inside me who’s all for it.”
8.46 mi ~ 1:03:16 View Run

Run - Easy Run + Drills and Strides
4 miles easy plus drills and 6 x 100m strides at Buffalo Park
4.55 mi ~ 36:33 View Run
Monday, September 18, 2017
Run - Easy Run
8.75 miles easy from Ben Rosario's house with the team

Post Workout Blog:
I’m wary of analogizing sports with war, but as Team NAZ Elite gathered outside Ben Rosario’s house at eighty-thirty this morning, I couldn’t help but think of a bedraggled but unbroken platoon getting ready for a long hump in the middle of a campaign in enemy territory that has been mostly successful but also costly. The greetings were a little more subdued and the banter a little less inspired than I remembered them being in July, when everyone had fresh legs.

Craig and Futsum had just raced but were already back in the grind, Craig facing a 103-mile week. Most of the rest of us had done big runs over the weekend, runs that had not gone well for the two Scotts, Fauble and Smith. Rochelle was celebrating two days pain-free (low back), Ben Bruce conspicuously absent with an abdominal strain.

The freshest legs among us belonged to James McKirdy, newly arrived from Connecticut, who asked me how MY legs were feeling a few minutes into an easy eight-miler.

“Not bad,” I said. “If I had amnesia, I would certainly know I’d done a big run yesterday, but I don’t have that zombie feeling you sometimes get on so-called easy days during peak training weeks.”

Nevertheless, I judged it best to hang back with Rochelle, Kellyn, and Steph and to let the fellows, including James, go on ahead. Coach Ben was with us too for a couple of miles but then he turned around.

“It’s just us ladies now,” I said, referring to the fact that, on account of my ability level, I’ve spent a lot more time running with the female members of the team than with the males.

“Oh, shut up!” Steph said, laughing.

Something about my joke caused Kellyn, who gives me what I interpret as a ‘Are you still here?’ look every time I see her, to wonder exactly how I did measure up against her and the other women of NAZ Elite.

“What’s your goal for Chicago?” she asked.

My heart leapt at the question, not only because there is nothing I would rather talk about these days but also because this was the first time Kellyn had initiated a conversation with me.

“It’s been a moving target the whole time I’ve been here,” I said, answering with my stock line. “I’ve never trained at altitude before. My workouts have gone really well for the most part, but I have a hard time convincing myself I can run 20 seconds per mile faster at sea level.”

“We all do,” Kellyn said with that dry laugh of hers. “That’s why I like to run the marathon-pace stuff at lower elevation. Then you know for sure.”

At this point we caught up with the guys, who had stopped to pee. Rochelle and Steph got pulled into other conversations and I found myself talking mano-a-mano with Kellyn. One topic led to another and before I knew it I was telling her something I had previously told only two members of the team (Steph and Ben Bruce): that my mother was recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Even as I spoke the words, I knew that Kellyn would not reply with the usual greeting-card sympathies. That’s not her style. But she wasn’t embarrassed or disinterested either. She shared her own family experience with the disease and asked a few questions, the last of which—something to do with how I intended to support my mom through the process—was interrupted by an abrupt group one-eighty that occurred when a wrong turn was discovered. Kellyn and I got separated at this point and I never got a chance to answer her question or to get to know her better or let her get to know me better.
8.75 mi ~ 1:06:58 View Run

Strength Training
Band Walk, Single-Leg Bend and Reach with Dumbbell, Side Plank, Pull-up, Goblet Squat, Stir the Pot, Push-Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Rear Foot Elevated Lunge, Isometric Heel Raise
20:00 View Run

Week of 9/11/2017 - 9/17/2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017
Run - Long Run - Depletion
22 miles easy on Lake Mary and Crimson Roads with no calories before or during

Post Workout Blog:
I’m almost always hungry when I wake up in the morning, but when I woke up this morning I was especially hungry. The feeling may have been psychosomatic, because I also woke up knowing that I was not allowed to eat breakfast or consume calories in any form until after I completed a 22-mile depletion run.

I’d slept in a bit in order to reduce the amount of time I would have to be awake and hungry before I started running, and when I entered the kitchen James McKirdy and Heather Szuba—who’d just blown back into town from Connecticut—were already up and about. Having intended to buy groceries after arriving last night, James and Heather were instead whisked to Coppa Café for a nice French dinner (and my last calories before the depletion run), so James now asked me if he could borrow some oatmeal. Handing him breakfast I would have eaten had the predictable effect of intensifying the rumblings in my stomach.

The only other NAZ Elite runner with a depletion run on his schedule today was the only NAZ Elite runner also entered in the Chicago Marathon, Aaron Braun. James and Heather and I met up with him at the Lake Mary Road start at seven o’clock. Heather started several minutes ahead of us boys. I had no business doing any part of the session with Aaron, but he told me he planned to start slow, so I set off with him and James.

“Slow” is a relative term and it does not mean the same thing for a guy aiming to run 2:10 or 2:11 as it does for a guy aiming to run 2:38 or 2:39. After a 7:28 first mile, Aaron led us through the next three in 7:00, 6:46, and 6:46. At the intersection of Crimson Road, we stopped. Awaiting us there were Jen Rosario, supplying us with water in her husband’s absence, Nick Arciniaga, who had come out to run the last 20 to 22 miles of Aaron’s depletion run, and Alex and Ryan, Flagstaff Long Runs members who had come out to keep me company for a few miles.

After a quick pee and a sip of water, we started down Crimson Road, which, with its loose dirt surface and rolling hills, makes any run more challenging, a long depletion run especially. I let Aaron and Nick go ahead and settled in with Alex, Ryan, and James. During my 16-mile depletion run two weeks ago, I’d found Alex and Ryan’s pace too quick and dropped off it after just three miles, but today I wanted to run a bit more aggressively because this was my one and only chance to run farther than 20 miles before Chicago and I wanted to get the most out of it.

Two miles in, James turned back. He’s coming off meniscus surgery and didn’t want to overdo it. Two miles further on, I turned around to get my hand flask refilled by Jen. Alex and Ryan kept going, leaving me on my own for the remaining 14 miles. You never know how you’re going to feel in the later miles of depletion run, especially when you’re pressing the tempo a bit on a tough course, but I continued to feel strong. I met Aaron (still accompanied by Nick) head-on a couple of times and he looked good too.

With five miles remaining in my run, I got one last refill from Jen. When I reached the Lake Mary Road intersection a mile later, I realized I had a chance to average under 7:00 per mile for the run and decided to accelerate slightly to claim that confidence boost. I ran my last mile in 6:29, and though I was grinding a bit at that point, I still felt well within my limits.
22 mi ~ 2:33:08 View Run
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Run - Easy Run
8 miles easy in Phoenix

Post Workout Blog:
During the Q&A session that followed the little talk I gave to the Chandler Preparatory Academy boys’ and girls’ cross country teams yesterday, one runner raised his hand and asked, “What do you do to keep up your motivation?”

The answer that popped into my head, but which I did not speak, was, “Nothing! Not a damn thing! Because I am super motivated for running all the time! Somebody hold me back!”

I thought about this moment at 5:30 this morning, when I left the Phoenix hotel room Nataki and I were staying in and started an eight-mile run, stomach empty, body aching from the previous day’s three-hour physical therapy session and from Thursday’s fartlek run and strength workout. It was still pitch dark but already warm enough that I contemplated running shirtless. I had no knowledge of the area, so I set off in the direction that looked most appealing and hoped for the best.

It was during my stiff and creaky first mile that I recalled the boy’s question about motivation and my reflexive, unspoken answer. I considered the fact that, although I was not particularly enthusiastic about the run I was currently doing, I had not had to talk myself into doing it or been remotely tempted to skip or delay it. My enthusiasm for the project this run served and my hunger to achieve the goal this run would help me achieve were so great that I felt no internal resistance whatsoever to doing what many runners would perhaps struggle to make themselves do: run eight miles in the dark in unfamiliar surroundings on an empty stomach after a long and trying day the day before.

I blindly improvised a 1.2-mile loop. At the far end I passed by a new development with homes under construction. Workers were already on site, making as much progress as they could before the real heat struck. I reckoned they had somewhat different but no less powerful motivations for exerting themselves at this ungodly hour.

When I got back to the room, Nataki was in the bathroom, having just risen from bed.

“Did you go to breakfast without me?” she called out on hearing me enter.

“Wouldn’t think of it,” I said.
8 mi ~ 1:02:04 View Run

Run - Easy Run + Drills and Strides
4 miles easy from Matt Llano's house plus drills and 6 x 100m strides
4.6 mi ~ 36:09 View Run
Friday, September 15, 2017
Run - Easy Run
8 miles easy from Matt Llano's house

Post Workout Blog:
Today was not without its highpoints, but overall it was long and tedious. I ran from Matt’s house at 7:00. Two hours later, Nataki, Queenie, and I piled into the car and drove 150 miles to Phoenix, where I had an appointment with John Ball, chiropractor to the stars of running. That appointment lasted three hours. I wanted to do a short cross-training session at a nearby gym I'd scoped out before I visited Chandler Preparatory Academy to speak to the cross country team, but by the time John let me go, it was too late to squeeze it in.

Nataki waited in the car with Queenie while I handled my business. When I returned, she was frazzled and hungry, as was I. My spirits sank further when I entered the address of our hotel into the navigation system and learned it would take a full hour to get there. I really wanted to write and post a blog entry about my John Ball experience before the day was over and it now appeared that this, too, wouldn’t happen. At the hotel, I tried to get Queenie to poop before we left her alone, but she wouldn’t, and I yelled at her. I stopped by the front desk on the way out and asked for a list of local restaurants. I was handed a two-pager. My desire was to head straight to the closest decent eatery, but there was no way to judge proximity from the listings, so I just picked a place at random—a chain Cajun seafood place called Pappadeux.

It was a total madhouse. Unawares, I had chosen one of the biggest, most thriving restaurants I had ever set foot in, and we arrived at the height of its Friday evening happy hour. The hostess informed us that the current wait for a table for two was 20 to 30 minutes. We went to the bar and ordered drinks. Twenty minutes came and went. Then 30. We decided to just go ahead and order food from the bar. It was so long in coming that we were given a free appetizer (lukewarm shrimp on skewers) as an appeasement. Our entrees were mediocre—the kind of food that makes me feel sorry for the people who think it’s really good.

My mood was really bottoming out when Nataki and I were approached from behind by a round little middle-aged black woman with a shaved head and an unlit cigarette in her hand.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I just had to ask: Are you a runner?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I am,” I said.

“Thought so,” she said. “I like runners. I have so much respect for what you do. If I had a hat I would take it off to you.”

And with that she left.

“Why did that just happen?” I asked, flabbergasted.

“What do you mean?” Nataki said.

“I mean I’ve been a runner most of my life and nothing like that has ever happened before. And I’m asking, ‘Why now?’”

“Maybe God knew you needed a lift,” Nataki said.

“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe I’ve just never looked more like a runner.”
8 mi ~ 59:16 View Run

Other - Appointment - John Ball
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Run - Fartlek
12 miles with 20 x (1:00 @ 15K-10K effort/1:00 easy) from Ben Rosario's house

Post Workout Blog:
Today’s workout was a tempting one to look past on my schedule but also a dangerous one to underestimate. With a 22-mile depletion run ahead on Sunday, a killer multi-pace workout (3 miles at 6:00 per mile, 3 x 1 mile at 5:40, 5:36, and 5:32, 3 miles at 5:55 per mile) at Camp Verde next Wednesday, and a 15-mile marathon-effort run the following Sunday, I spent little time thinking about the 20 x 1:00 hard/1:00 easy fartlek session that Ben Rosario had assigned to me for this morning until just yesterday, when it struck me that this session was no cakewalk either.

Because Ben himself was on his way to Long Island with Futsum and Craig for the Cow Harbor 10K and I was the only NAZ Elite member doing a workout (as opposed to an easy run) today (Ben seldom schedules workouts for Thursday because it’s team strength day), he asked me to meet up with his wife, Jen, at his house and run laps around his neighborhood while she provided pacing and nutritional support on her bike. When Nataki and I arrived at the house at 8:04, Jen was just returning from walking her preschool daughter, Addison, to the bus stop.

“Perfect timing,” she said before I could.

“I’m getting the real pro treatment today,” I said instead. “A one-to-one coach-athlete ratio!”

Jen hung out at the house while I did a three-mile warm-up on the Urban Trail. After completing a few drills and strides, I handed a bottle of Maurten to Jen, who set her watch to chime every minute, and we set off. Ben had instructed me to start at 15K race effort and work my way down to 10K effort. The only problem was that I had no clue what these numbers were. My best guess is that I am currently in 33:30 sea-level 10K shape, which, according to Jack Daniels’ VDOT calculator, converts to 35:21 at 7,000 feet, which would make my pace target for my fastest 1-minute efforts 5:41 per mile. According to the same calculator, my 15K race pace at this elevation is 5:49 per mile.

Jen very helpfully told me when to turn and gave me periodic time checks as I settled into what felt like an appropriate pace. When her watched chimed I slowed down to my normal easy run effort. Checking my own watch, I saw that my pace for the first hard minute was 5:47 per mile.

“Nineteen to go,” I said wryly.

Recovery minutes are shorter than hard minutes in this type of workout, and in what seemed like no time Jen’s watched beeped again and I accelerated. And so it went—until the seventh interval, when I began to feel a worrisome tugging in my recently injured left hip adductor tendon. Reminding myself that testing the tendon in this manner is a helpful part of the rehabilitation process, I powered on, praying (literally, not figuratively) that the sensation wouldn’t evolve into outright pain.

I was halfway through the workout when Jen realized she hadn’t once handed me my Maurten bottle, both of us having forgotten about it.

“You’re just so locked in,” she laughed. “Focused.”

“It is that kind of workout,” I said.

Twenty hard efforts seems like a lot, but when they’re only 60 seconds each, they pass by quickly. My groin held up through the last one, which I ran at 5:23 pace and completed with a silent thank-you for answered prayers. As I jogged back to the house to change shoes for my cool-down, Jen and I agreed that I have pretty much all the fitness I need for Chicago. My main objective now is survival, and today I survived one more test.
12 mi ~ 1:23:45 View Run

Strength Training - Team Strength Workout
Bird Dog, Band Walk, Deadlift, Front Squat, Standing One-Leg Bend and Reach with Dumbbell, Rear Foot Elevated Lunge, TRX Row, Hamstring Bridge, Hamstring Extender, Isometric Heel Raise, Vipr Push
1:00:00 View Run
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Run - Easy Run
8 miles easy (first 3 with Futsum Zeinaselassie and Craig Lutz) at Buffalo Park

Post Workout Blog:
This morning I met up with the two youngest members of NAZ Elite, Craig Lutz and Futsum Zeinaselassie, at Buffalo Park. Both 24-year-olds are racing the Cow Harbor 10K Saturday on Long Island. Ben Rosario had given them a fartlek run plus strides to do as their last workout ahead of the race. I just had an eight-mile easy run on my schedule, but Ben suggested I come out to do the warm-up with them for the sake of company and then finish up on my own.

When Futsum arrived, he came straight over to where I stood with Craig and addressed me.

''I think you're going to like the place, man,'' he said. ''It's the real stuff--the food we eat back home.''

Last night, via email, I asked Futsum if he could recommend a good Ethiopian restaurant in Phoenix, where Nataki and I will be on Friday, and he came back to me with an enthusiastic endorsement of a place called First Cup.

We started very slowly, logging an 8:09 first mile, talking mostly about Cow Harbor. As the more ardent student of the sport, Craig rated the competition and offered his analysis of the course. Futsum was more focused on the $3,000 prize for victory, which he referred to as ''rent money.'' It told them I was jealous of their opportunity to toe the line.

''I know for an absolute fact that I will never be this fit again,'' I said. ''I think I could potentially PR at every distance if I just had the chance.''

Our conversation then turned to the one chance I will have--the Chicago Marathon. Craig tried to help me assess my odds of running 2:39 or better there based on my history and my recent experience with the team.

''How many times would you say you've really gone to the well here?'' he asked.

''It's funny you ask that,'' I said, ''because I was just thinking about it. The answer is ONCE, when Ben had some of us run an all-out 1500 after 1K repeats at mountain shadows. Aside from that, everything I've done here has been pretty comfortable and controlled. It's probably the most surprising aspect of the experience I've had here. I've certainly trained a lot, but not particularly hard.''

Craig told me what I had already decided for myself--that this was a good thing, as it indicated I would have a lot left in the tank come October 8.

Two more miles brought us back to the parking lot, where Craig and Futsum changed into racing flats for the hard part of their run and I continued on at a jog. As it turned out, we finished our respective sessions at the same time and walked back to our cars together.

''Good luck on Saturday,'' I said to my teammates.

''Enjoy your dinner on Friday,'' Futsum aid. Remember to tell them Futsum sent you.''
8 mi ~ 1:02:05 View Run

Run - Easy Run + Drills and Strides
4 miles easy plus drills and 6 x 0:13-0:20 strides at Buffalo Park
4.53 mi ~ 35:19 View Run
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Run - Easy Run
8 miles easy at Walnut Canyon with the team

Post Workout Blog:
This morning I saw Stephanie Bruce for the first time in what seemed like a long time. As she sat stretching on a mat laid out behind her car at Walnut Canyon, I approached and asked after her husband, Ben, who had gotten the dreaded ''day to day'' designation in Ben Rosario's weekly email to the team.

''He's okay,'' Steph answered. ''He's just taking a break.''

When I'd last seen Ben on Sunday, he was in a near shock state after watching an elk T-bone a couple riding a motorcycle on Lake Mary Road, this after bailing out of a crucial steady-state run, a lingering abdominal strain putting an end to his hopes of racing a fall marathon.

''Not much of a birthday,'' I said. All of this had happened on Ben's 35th. Steph laughed ruefully.

''No,'' she agreed. ''I baked him a cake. He didn't eat it. But he'll bounce back quickly.''

''He seems like the type,'' I said.

The run began. We started on a wide, flat, dirt road and then plunged into the woods, snaking through the undulating, technical trails that some NAZ Elite members love and others hate and that I always expect to hate but for some reason always feel great on. Before long I realized the men had separated from the women (Kellyn and Rochelle were also present) and I was bringing up the rear of a chain of runners all of whom were capable of running 10,000 meters in 28 minutes or less. What's more, were running 10 miles, whereas I was only supposed to run eight. But with Brauny setting a modest pace of 7:30 per mile at the front, I hardly felt in over my head. To the contrary, I was bursting with joy and gratitude as I breathed in the fresh mountain air and yellowy autumn sunlight bathed my skin and I thought about how precious was this opportunity to run in relaxed, companionable silence with six of the finest distance runners in America--to be ABLE to do so.

The quietness of the group was unusual. There was a brief conversation about beer (''I drink Budweiser almost exclusively when I'm in LA because I can't afford to drink anything else,'' I heard Scott Smith say from the front), but other than that, very little was said. I had a hunch it was because everyone was tired, hollowed out by 100-plus-mile weeks, and subsequent clues would prove my hunch correct.

''How's this pace for you, Fitz?'' said Futsum, running directly in front of me.

''It's fine,'' I said. ''I had a day off yesterday.''

''It's kicking my ass,'' Futsum said. Futsum has run 27:52 for 10,000 meters.

A little further along the trail, we stopped to pee.

''I can't believe we haven't even gone five miles,'' Matt lamented.

''It's weird,'' said Braun as we continued. ''The faster my workouts get, the slower my easy runs are. I can't wait to see what my workouts look like when my easy runs get to nine minutes per mile.''

I had just accepted that I had no choice but to run 10 miles with the others when we came to a split in the trail and Brauny pointed right while heading left.

''If you're running eight, you'll want to go that way,'' he said.

Actually, I wanted to keep going with the guys, to make the moment last, but I have the same coach they do, and like them I do what he says (mostly), and I finished alone.
8.15 mi ~ 1:01:24 View Run

Cross Training - Steep Uphill Treadmill Walk
40:00 on treadmill at 3.7 mph and 15% incline

Post Workout Blog:
During my treatment session with AJ Gregg today at Hypo2, I mentioned that my wife and I would be in Chicago Friday and asked him if he could recommend a good place to eat dinner. Early on during our time here, AJ established himself as a man whose restaurant ratings are to be trusted.

''Are you going to see John?'' he asked.

I winced slightly as I responded affirmatively to this question. When my left Achilles tendon started acting up after my first week in Flagstaff, a few of my NAZ Elite teammates urged me to travel to Phoenix to see John Ball, a much-hyped chiropractor whom elite runners travel from all over the world for help with injuries. Trusting this advice, I contacted Ball's clinic, Maximum Mobility, but because he's so in demand, it took forever to get an appointment. Indeed, so much time has passed that my Achilles is no longer bothering me, having been brought under control by AJ, who has also done a terrific job in taming the groin injury that supplanted the Achilles issue as my main crisis. Over this span I've also developed a sort of friendship with AJ, so that I feel guilty and disloyal about visiting John. But AJ has been very grown-up about it.

I reminded AJ now that I was making the trip to Phoenix mainly out of curiosity at this point and not because I felt AJ had failed me in any regard. AJ brushed away these blushing assurances and told me that when he's in Phoenix he usually eats Ethiopian food because he likes it and you can't get it in Flagstaff. I asked AJ if there was any particular place that stood out, he said he always goes to whichever restaurant is nearest to where he happens to be and that he's never been disappointed.

In the evening, Matt Llano made ugali, the Kenyan national dish, which Matt learned from Sally Kipyego and her husband, Kevin Chelimo, when they stayed in the same bedroom Nataki and I are staying in. This reminded me of my early conversation with AJ, which I no mentioned to Matt. He encouraged me to ask Futsum for an Ethiopian restaurant recommendation in Phoenix.

''He's Eritrean, but the food's pretty much the same,'' Matt said.

I dashed upstairs straight away and emailed Futsum, who is notorious on the team for his spotty email habits. But within an hour he replied to my query, enthusiastically endorsing a spot called First Cup Ethiopian Cafe on 19th Avenue, adding, ''Please let the owner or manager know Futsum (Weldu's friend from Flagstaff) sent you.''
2.46 mi ~ 40:00 View Run
Monday, September 11, 2017
Strength Training
Band Walk, Single-Leg Bend and Reach with Dumbbell, Side Plank, Pull-up, Goblet Squat, Stir the Pot, Push-Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Rear Foot Elevated Lunge, Isometric Heel Raise

Post Workout Blog:
Today was marked as a rest day on my Final Surge calendar. Boo! Seriously, though, I have learned to embrace rest days more than ever before under Ben Rosario’s coaching. They balance out the hard work I’m doing, allowing my body to fully absorb the previous week’s challenges and emerge ready for the next week’s.

Nevertheless, like most competitive runners, I go a little crazy when I’m not allowed to run, so I got out of bed this morning looking for ways to make progress toward my Chicago Marathon goal without actually running. I started out by adding Chicago to the weather watch page on my iPhone. With 27 days left before race day, it’s too early to get a reliable forecast for October 8th, but I anticipate getting a small frisson from watching the daytime high temperatures trend downward between now and then.

Ben’s planned rest days almost always fall on Monday, which is the ideal day to do my weekly independent strength workout because the team strength workout is held three days later on Thursday. I hit Matt’s garage at 8:30 this morning to work my way through a mix of exercises that AJ Gregg has had me do at Hypo2, and this, too, helped channel some of my rest-day craziness.

When I logged the workout into my Final Surge calendar afterward, I discovered that Ben had just loaded up my training for the week of September 17th (weirdly, Final Surge weeks start on Sunday) plus the first day of the following week, an unexpected gift that made me feel infinitely more relaxed about not running today. This will be the last hard period of training before I start to taper down for Chicago, and I like the look of it. The eight-day stretch features 102 total miles of running and three key workouts: a 22-mile depletion run, a mixed-intensity workout to be done at lower elevation, and an 18-mile run including 12 miles at marathon effort plus a three-mile cutdown.

Most exciting to me are the pace targets that Ben has given me for this last workout. I’ll run the marathon effort at 6:20 per mile (the 7000-foot equivalent 6:00/mile at sea level) and then, if I’m feeling good (and I will be), I’ll cut down down to 5:55 over the last three miles. This means Ben believes I am at or near 2:37 marathon shape, and I have every intention of validating this belief on September 24th!
20:00 View Run