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. Rachel Rodin 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, Rachel and a small group of close friends & training partners decided go big. Then all their PRs fell. Rachel 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?
Rachel Rodin: We all started working with Jonny about a year ago for the Boston 2020 cycle and I definitely felt like I had the best training cycle I've ever had (up until the world came crashing down in March, of course). I think I needed a little time to mourn and process everything going on in the world after all the races got canceled, but eventually I realized that I still had a lot of fitness left from that build-up, and wanted to see if I could put it to good use. I'd never done a real time trial before and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to mentally get into it, but I started with a mile for the virtual 26 x mile and surprised myself with a big PR, so I figured it was worth going for more distances too. I also have to say that Erin is a time trial queen and was time trialing left and right over the summer, so she inspired me to join her heading into the fall.
CC: Which distance and time improvement are you most excited about?
RR: I'm most excited about the 5k. I'd never really trained for a 5k before since I've always been focused on marathons. I didn't even really have a true 5k PR before all of this, but it was somewhere in the mid-18:00 range, and even that was just the fastest 5k out of an old 5 miler race. The last 5k race I ran was a 19:20 at Yulefest last year on a day that I felt terrible. So I knew I had a ton of room to improve, but didn't have any idea what to aim for. I brought my 5k time down to 16:58 earlier this fall and I couldn't be more pumped about it!! Getting my half marathon PR down from 86 minutes to sub-80 was definitely a highlight as well, but I think the 5k takes the cake for me. I love feeling fast and strong at the shorter distances and I'm excited to keep chipping away at that time.
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)?
RR: Jonny is amazing!! His training has really changed my running this year, in so many ways. Obviously I'm running a lot faster, but more importantly I'm still having a lot of fun and (knock on wood) not dealing with as many injuries as I used to. He has us doing a lot more fartleks and long run workouts than I was doing previously, and he also really emphasizes the extra stuff like strides, drills, and strength to keep us healthy and strong. Under his guidance I'm taking my easy days slower than I used to but also nailing bigger longer workouts than I did before. We also usually do 3 weeks "up" then one week "down" and that rhythm really works to help my body recover. Plus, he's just a great guy and always supportive when it comes to the mental side of running, which has been such a big hurdle during this crazy year. Can't say enough good things about Coach Jonny!!
CC: Tell us about "Tempo Loop Magic"?
RR: Ha! So the first time I ever ran at the tempo loop it was a couple years ago when I was doing the breakthrough program. I had just gotten off a red-eye and met some people at Harvard to try a very difficult workout. I absolutely blew up and had one of my worst workouts ever. I was convinced that the tempo loop was cursed (but in hindsight the issue was probably the red-eye flight before a big workout). Fast forward 2 years and now I'm a full believer in the Tempo Loop Magic. It's predictable, it's comfortable, it's well maintained in the ice and snow (thank you Harvard Facilities Management), it's (almost perfectly) flat, and it's full of this energy left by all the amazing fast runners who've run there. It's not uncommon to see Olympians like Molly Seidel at the tempo loop, so how could you not be inspired to run fast?!
CC: What does time trialing like this do for your confidence when the time comes to pin on a real race bib again?
RR: I think I'll definitely be more confident! The emotions and energy are going to be so crazy high when I finally get to lace up for a race again, but I hope I'll be able to remember all the great time trials I ran and stay calm and focused.
CC: How important has it been to have each other to lean on during this crazy year?
RR: SO IMPORTANT!! I love running with this group of badass women so, so much. They've become such good friends and always inspire/support me in running and pretty much every other aspect of life as well. This has been such an isolating year for so many people, and it just makes me all the more grateful that I have these amazing ladies to lean on.
CC: Anything else you'd like to add?
RR: 2020 has been a crazy and mostly terrible year, but I'm just super grateful for Jonny, my training buddies, and the whole Heartbreakers community for allowing running to be such an escape for me. In the end, maybe being forced to take time off of marathons was a good thing for me since it allowed me to realize more of my potential in the shorter distances. And I've been able to emotionally process a lot of what's going on in the world while logging miles this year, which really helped me stay (somewhat) sane. I can't wait for races to start up again, but I also hope that the good life/running lessons I've learned this year will stick with me.