Over the course of 2020, some runners took time to rest and reset, others built new levels of fitness then put it to the test. Emily Ullmann ran some of the best workouts of her life in early 2020 while training for Boston and didn't want them to go to waste. Working with Heartbreaker & VISION21 Coach Jonny Phillips, Emily and a small group of close friends & training partners decided go big. Then all their PRs fell. Emily and crew had set personal bests in everything from the 5k to the half marathon so, we had to get to the bottom of it.
Conor Cashin: So how did it all start? What was the deciding factor to start running all of these time trials together and chase PRs?
Emily Ullmann: I’ve been lucky to call Jonny my coach for the past several marathon cycles, so Jonny’s been the guiding force behind all the training and time trials in 2020. Erin crushed time trials throughout the spring when I stuck to base building, so when the fall rolled around I was excited to put a goal on the calendar to get motivated and excited. It’s an honor and a privilege to get to chase Erin and Rachel, so when we decided on a half time trial, I was all in!
CC: Which distance and time improvement are you most excited about?
EU: Definitely the half marathon. The longer the better for race distances, as far as I’m concerned! I had some big goals for the marathon in 2020, before races were canceled, so refocusing on building strength and speed at the half distance feels like a great foundation for doubling down on marathon ambitions in 2021. Also, I had a pretty soft PR coming into the half - Rachel and I ran a half as a marathon pace workout in 2019, so it was fun to take a serious chunk of time off my previous PR!
CC: The improvements you're all seeing are a testament to Jonny's training. How has Jonny's guidance positively impacted your running besides the obvious(PRs)?
EU: Jonny has such incredible perspective and it’s both motivating and inspiring. Here’s an elite, Olympic Trials qualifier, who still prioritizes the fun of running and racing over everything else. That perspective has also been invaluable over the course of 2020 in keeping us centered on the fact that it’s about building fitness, it’s never about a single workout or time trial. That’s been helpful as a guiding force during the weeks when just getting out the door for solo, masked running has felt like a chore as the weeks when I’ve crushed workouts. And last but definitely not least, Jonny prioritizes community - he’s always down to pace or cheer for teammates and friends. That support and positivity is what makes Jonny a great coach and such a great Heartbreaker.
CC: Tell us about "Tempo Loop Magic"?
EU: Some people who lack imagination will say the Magic is because the loop is 1173m, not 1200m (ahem, Jonny). But it’s a strange, fun spot in the Boston running community where people go to tackle workouts, time trials, and easy laps. Regardless of time of day or day of the week, you’re bound to run into someone you know on the Tempo Loop, which makes it even more magical and fun. There’s always someone crushing a run and always someone cheering on a FlyBy.
CC: What does time trialing like this do for your confidence when the time comes to pin on a real race bib again?
EU: There’s something both exciting and intimidating about pre-race feels. Simulating that can be hard, but forcing myself to find the fun in the challenge of time trialing will definitely help on race day. Some days things go your way and some days they don’t, but you learn something each time you lace up and go hard. Candidly I’m saying this to hold myself accountable to the fearlessness that my teammates Rachel and Erin show when it comes to time trials.
CC: How important has it been to have each other to lean on during this crazy year?
EU: It’s not an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t have made it to 2021 without Heartbreaker support. We joke that we’ve developed a training group hive mind over the course of the thousands of miles we’ve shared, but the truth is my training partners have kept me motivated through the ups and downs of the year. It couldn’t have made me happier to finish the year with the three of us going sub-80 mins in our half marathon TT, but I’m just as grateful for the workouts and easy miles we’ve shared throughout this year.
CC: Anything else you'd like to add?
EU: I’m so thankful for the community of Heartbreaker’s who are humble and hungry, supportive and selfless, and eager to grow as athletes and members of the broader Boston and running communities. We may be masked up and running solo or in small groups, but the Heartbreaker spirit’s as strong as ever!