I’m building my running strength with Team Endure Strong and Coach Jared Ward

Disclaimer: I received access to Endure Strong training to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find and write race reviews!

How would you like to have an Olympic athlete as your coach? I’ve gotten that opportunity over the last several weeks as part of Team Endure Strong, which I received access to as a BibRave Pro.

The team is coached by Jared Ward, who came in sixth at the 2016 Olympic marathon and ran 2:09:25 at this year’s Boston Marathon (read more about him here). He’s also an adjunct statistics professor (listen to a Pace the Nation podcast about him, titled “The Adjunct” here) and seems down-to-earth and friendly.

Every other week, Jared hosts a coaching video call with the team. There’s usually a general topic, but members of the team are invited to submit questions in advance, and there’s a chat function, so Jared answers questions that people send in through chat. From what I can tell, he’s genuinely interested in giving people the answers and advice they need.

The team uses Final Surge as a platform to connect with athletes, and the athletes can also connect with each other. Runners pick a training plan from options for marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K races, base work, beginning running or high school.

Once you pick a plan, it’s loaded into a calendar on the Final Surge website. There’s also an app you can use, which I downloaded.

If you complete a workout as planned, it turns green. If you do something else, it turns red. There’s also yellow, for if you “kind of” did a workout, I guess. As much as I’d like mine to all be green, it doesn’t always track exactly correctly, because the workout is separated from the warm-up and cool down. Sometimes, it picked my warm-up to count as the run, or something similar. However, as Andrew Webb of Team Endure Strong noted as an answer to someone’s question, even if it doesn’t show up correctly, you know what you did.

There are message boards, where Andrew has posted challenges and recipes of the week. I made one of the recipes, for bran muffins, and I really enjoyed them, and so did my boyfriend. I also did the strides challenge. I still need to do the journaling challenge that he put out there, and watch the video about making alterations to training plans.

I’ve been able to make the coaching calls so far, but for those who miss a call, they are recorded, and past calls are recorded, too, which is a nice reference, although I have not watched past calls yet.

Andrew is very accessible. I initially had questions about my plan since my goal race was a 10 miler, the Baltimore 10 Miler), and that was not one of the plan options. I ended up using one of the half marathon plans.

I’d also asked him early on about altering my plan because I did change some days around because of group runs or races. I wasn’t sure whether he or Jared would be monitoring our runs. However, for the level of coaching we have, they are not checking on each of our runs like that. While I’m sure that would provide extra accountability, it is nice to know that if I make a change that will work for me, nobody will be tracking me down to see why I didn’t run one day, for example.

It would be nice to have someone provide specific feedback on runs and look for trends, but for $39.99/month, which is the cost of Endure Strong, I can see why that is not included.

Although I’m an RRCA Certified Running Coach, I think it has helped to have someone else tell me what to do. The plan also has pace goals for me to shoot for based on my goal time, including long runs. I’d never really shot for goal times before, aside from some 800s.

I chose a 12-week intermediate half marathon training plan with a peak week of 35 miles. When I got started, I only had six weeks to go till race day, so I jumped right in, since I’d already been running — it wasn’t like I started with nothing.

The plan got me trying to hit faster paces — and a wider variety of paces — than I had before. Some people have trouble trying to go slow, but I’m not one of those people. If I am not doing a run that has a speed-related purpose, like a tempo run or an interval workout, I basically run easy. The Endure Strong plan included easy runs, but there were two faster workouts during the week, along with the pace zone for the long run, which was faster than the easy run pace zone.

I often didn’t hit the prescribed paces for my pace zones, but I was still working hard and pushing my body in a new way. I synced my watch to Final Surge, and it loaded in the previous month of training.

I took a screenshot earlier, so I have my numbers from the months of April and May to compare.

During April, 84 percent of my runs were in the “Easy Run” category of 10:34-59:59/mile. I’m wondering if maybe this only included my runs since starting with Endure Strong/putting in those pace zone numbers, since the amount of time logged was much less.

During May, the percentage of runs in the “Easy Run” category dropped to 66 percent, because I was pushing myself on different-paced runs. If you want to track these, take screen shots, because I didn’t see a way to go back on the history.

I learned as a coach that 80 percent of running should be easy, but maybe for that case, you’d also include the “Long Run” pace of 10:01-10:33/mile. That isn’t really “easy” for me for a long run, but I think it helped me to push myself.

There’s also optional cross-training and strength training. I’m a little embarrassed to say I didn’t really do these. I felt like I was running out of time, but I would like to put more of a focus on strength training during my upcoming marathon training cycle.

I really did feel strong during the Baltimore 10 Miler. I set a goal of 1:32, which is how the pace zones were determined (I chose a similar half-marathon goal to come up with the paces), and my time was 1:41:31. However, I knew that the heat and hills would pose a challenge for reaching that time, and although I worked hard, I felt great during the run. I was able to finish strong, with my last mile being my fastest.

As BibRave Pros, we get to be part of Team Endure Strong through the end of August. I’m interested to see what following a full Endure Strong training plan could do for a race, and I’ve been wanting to break 4:45 in the marathon. I ran my first two marathons in 4:17 and 4:31 in 2013 and 2014, but since then, I haven’t broken 4:45. With my most recent marathon time of 4:50, I think that’s an attainable goal and something I’d like to shoot for this year.

I’m planning to choose one of the 16-week plans for the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 27. I also learned I will get a discounted rate to continue with the team.

Endure Strong also has a feed through Final Surge, where members can post about their runs, training or anything they want. Endure Strong is also active on social media, liking photos and sharing members’ accomplishments.

This has been a positive experience for me and I’m excited to see if I can work with Endure Strong to finally break that 4:45 barrier. Once I break that, I hope to keep pushing and eventually hit a marathon PR.

It’s an online coaching team — Jared is based in Utah — so anyone can join. I actually like that the coaching calls are at 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time, because that’s 9:30 p.m. my time, and they don’t interfere with my group runs or most other plans.

Learn more about Endure Strong here. Although I currently have free access through BibRave, it’s $39.99/month to be part of the team. I previously saw something about more personalized coaching plans, so if you’re interested in that, reach out.

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