Setting goals and taking a leap.

We are a week+ post-Olympic Marathon Trials. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m FIRED UP about the next 4 years! The next 4 years is going to be a process, a journey…. a metamorphosis. As I said on my Facebook page last Sunday, “Leaving Houston highly inspired! I know what I need to do the next 4 years.” I want to explain what I mean– where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I see myself going.

4 years ago, I ran the Olympic Trials with a badly torn calf, finishing in 2:47:14. That summer after my calf healed, I took a sabbatical from my job to go train at high altitude in Alamosa, CO. I had already spent a few years getting my mileage up to over 100 mpw, consistently. In summer ’08, we started doing consistent quality workouts, strides, drills, and strength training (upper body only). I also began supplementing with liquid iron and heat training. You can go through my articles on “The Little Things”.

For the first time ever, I was completely focused on my training, plus being at high altitude. By mid-July, the magic started to happen, as I ran a 45 second 10K PR in Colorado Springs (6000 ft.!!!). The magic continued into the fall, as I walloped my PRs in everything from the 10K-Marathon. The PRing craze continued into 2009 (despite a few setbacks, including food poisoning that sent me to the ER and hurting my knee/back from slipping backwards on the ice in Jan. ’09). 2010 was a down year, as I had bilateral hernia surgery and went through months of PT. In Dec. 2010, I began the comeback, running 7 marathons (4 wins), ran PRs from 5K-HM, and made my first US Team.

Here I am 4 years later, and my marathon PR is exactly 10 minutes faster than what I ran 4 years ago at the ’08 Olympic Trials (2:37:14). Even cooler…. this time around I did it with 100% training at sea level in Oklahoma! I believe the strong wind here provides similar “resistance” to high altitude. While 10 minutes sounds like a lot, I don’t feel like there was much to it besides hard work, REST, consistent speedwork, drills, consistency overall, iron, being healthy, and HAPPINESS– all the little things.

I’d be kidding myself to think the next 10 minutes will be just as easy…. but that doesn’t stop me from believing it’s possible! We saw it with Desiree Davila…. Patti Dillon…. Stephanie Rothstein…. Mara Yamauchi…. my friend Janet (who just dropped 8 minutes off her PR at the Trials)…. and probably an endless list of women who have made that leap.

So what do I (and my hubby/coach) feel I need to do the next 4 years to make “the leap”? Well, the first step…. as stated by Lauren Fleshman’s latest post and my friend Brooke Wells (her post being from back in Nov.), is to write down my short term and long term goals and put them on the refrigerator, so I’m reminded every day of what I’m working towards. I learned this freshman year in high school, and it still proves to be highly effective! Short term, I want to break 2:35 this year, and long term I want to run under 2:27. I believe 2:35 is realistic and attainable with a continued progression in fitness this year (and good health!). 2:27 will take some time and work. I had my VO2 max tested in grad school 6 years ago (was 67.5 ml/kg/min.), so I know my heart is strong enough to run this fast. Now it’s a matter of training my legs to match my heart.

Then, I need to write down what I need to do to get there. Very important! Ok…. anyone who has seen me run, knows my gait is, um…. a bit odd [insert expletives in your head]. I poke fun at it all the time– some have said I run like a race walker (no offense to my race walking friends…. maybe I should try race walking?!). I “sit” when I run, like sitting in a chair… a bit excessively. I have no power in my step…. no hip extension…. very upright…. little forward momentum and “pawback”. It’s amazing I can even run as fast as I do!

I believe a lot of the way I run is due to my complex hip condition and quirky right leg (which is twisted- has always been this way). I can’t do anything to change how I’m built. Additionally, it would likely be a bad idea to “consciously” try to change my biomechanics. The way I run is so engrained in me from years and years of miles. The way I run is a hugeee, hugeee crutch for me though…. in terms of leg speed. Whereas some might see me as hopeless for further development in the marathon (trust me, I’ve been doubted my entire running career, which motivates me to prove people wrong)…. I see my glaring “lack of speed” AND the way I run as huge spots for improvement.

Starting this year, and because I know it’s going to take time and be a process– I’m going to start working on my imbalances and weaknesses. In particular, I want to take a page from Steve Spence (and Patti Dillon as well) and get into heavy lower body strength training to try and open up my gait (read about Steve Spence here ). I don’t know if this will completely transform my gait, but it doesn’t hurt to try. I haven’t done lower body strength training in about 8 years. I didn’t want to get into this last year, as I was trying to re-learn how to run following hip surgery (~went through 4 months of PT). There’s also a risk of injury when you began something completely new.

I’ve conversed with Patti D. many times over the years on what she did, and I just contacted Steve to see what he recommends. He suggested finding a PT who’s also CSCS certified in strength and conditioning. I have a few contacts locally and elsewhere who have offered to help me. I will try to get with the right people, figure out what I need to work on, and get going with a structured plan!

At the Olympic Trials, we also picked the brain of Bob Larsen (Meb’s coach). [Jokingly] He said he wouldn’t work with me until I could run under 16 minutes for a 5K! However, he offered some great suggestions…. probably about time to get on the track and start doing 200s, ladders, and also more and longer aerobic threshold runs. The fast twitch fibers need to come alive…. I need to learn how to run and move like a sprinter. Between the heavy weight training and more and faster short speed (and sustained speed), I believe my gait will naturally open up. I’ll develop the neuromuscular efficiency to comfortably handle a faster pace for everything.

Lastly– HILLS! I’ve had great success the past several years when I do a steady semi-long rolling hill run every ~2 weeks. This was something I did regularly between NYC and the Olympic Trials. It’s something I’ve done when I’ve trained at high altitude as well (~rolling hills in Ft. Garland, 8000ft.). I prefer this, over hill repeats, because it simulates what I’ll experience in races. It’s a moderate workout, so it’s not extremely taxing, but it seems to help improve my gait/efficiency/speed. I also started experimenting with my sponsor’s, Hyperwear,  weighted vest (for both my hill runs and drills).

These are my initial and personal thoughts. Body willing and able, I believe I will achieve my goals. We’ll continue with the upward momentum (must be doing something right, right?!). Behind the scenes I’ll be working on all of the above. It will take time. Don’t be surprised though if I start dropping large chunks of times (like I did in ’08-09). I definitely won’t be surprised!

(ps.– I’m always open to ideas and suggestions– shoot me a message or comment!)



  1. Awesome post Camille. You have the drive, focus, ability, and intelligence to make these dreams a reality. I’ve been following your blog for a while now and have enjoyed your lead-up to the trials… and more importantly for me, I’ve gone back and learned a TON from all of your older posts. This blog is an incredible resource of information – so I feel like I owe you a big THANK YOU! I’m trying to make a leap as well, into the sub 2:20 marathon world, and a lot of your tips, especially on the little things, are proving to be very helpful.

    • Great! Glad you’re finding my website helpful Jake! Like my hubby and I say, if you just tweak a few little things, that can mean minutes in the marathon. You don’t have to bombard your body all at once, but gradually adjusting a few things…. it really makes a difference. You also have to have a healthy body– I didn’t start “unlocking the magic” until I began supplementing with iron in ’08. I’ve even learned how to tweak this, based on whether I’m at high altitude or sea level. You pay close attention to how you feel and how you respond to things. I’m realizing more over time that it’s more in important to be in-tune with the body, rather than being a slave to mileage/training log/structured plan. You also have to be in the right race situation– as I pointed out to Zsofia (whom I mentioned in my last blog post), it makes a huge difference being in a race with bodies around. Good luck getting that sub 2:20 (and most importantly, don’t be afraid to rest)! :)

      • Thanks Camille. I did take your advice and went and got a bunch of baseline blood work done recently – my iron levels are great (which I expected, as I’m able to crank out big miles and recover very quickly). I agree with you – its important to listen to the body, and be in tune with everything… its taken me 10 years of running to finally figure that out, but the jump I’ve already made in the past 12-15 months has been incredible, once I have started paying more attention to the little stuff.

        Zsofia outkicked my girlfriend (Andrea) by a few seconds in a half-marathon in October, then they both ran identical times (within 3 seconds) in their first marathons. The jump that Zsofia made in Houston was amazing – and inspiring to Andrea. Being in the right race, with a high level of fitness, magical things can happen.

        • That’s good on the iron. May I ask what your ferritin is? Sometimes what the doctor thinks is “normal”, is actually not normal for a runner. This also seems to depend on the individual and what their ideal “threshold” is. The research says to be above 50. Me personally, I feel and perform at my best with a ferritin between 60-100. Other people seem to perform fine with a ferritin of 35. When you’re marathon training, your ferritin turnover is higher, so you want it to be higher and keep it higher, to account for the high turnover.

          That’s fantastic you’re figuring out the little things! Keep it going! One of my friends at the Trials told me it’s taken her 18 years of running to figure out “how to do it”. That’s the cool thing about our sport…. we all develop at different rates, and you may not “flip the switch” until you’re 35-40+! Pretty remarkable! Makes you want to stick with it as long as you.

          That’s great to hear about your girlfriend Andrea! My debut was 2:48. The advantage Zsofia has is she’s run 33+ min. for 10K on the track, so she has the talent to make this sort of leap. I just gave her a little bit of advice about the fueling and hydration, and that’s what kept her going and not bonking. Definitely though, running fast is about getting in the right race situation to breakthrough. Ideally a race where you have men around (not an elite women’s start- unless it’s the Trials!) will propel you to a fast time. Good luck to both of you! Keep flipping the switches! :)

      • Camille – my Ferritin was 74; Hematocrit 48.1%. I have a new doctor who knows a lot of distance running, and actually understands high-level training, so we were both happy with these numbers, and he thought it was good for the training I am doing at our altitude (4500 feet). I don’t do any additional iron supplementation other than taking a standard multi-vitamin everyday, but I do make sure to eat lots of things like spinach… and lean red meat. Seems to be working.

  2. joaquin pena martinez says:

    I believe you should get on short hills repeats 20 mts , 30 mts all the way up to 150 mts this process will teach the body to recruit the fast twitch muscles and gaining your maximum speed as you become stronger. This has to be done with complete rest in between repeats so that you can maintain your form and fire. Then as you complete this process then you to the track repeat the same process described above , all the way up to the 200 mts. And you will see results. Have a bless day..

    • Thank you for the suggestion Joaquin! Should this be a steep, semi-long hill? I have an area where I do a semi-long run over rolling hills– I try to push the climbs…. obviously though, I’m not resting, as the run is continuous. When I do 100m strides, I jog for 50m and then walk back. I think I should start doing 200m reps, or ladder workouts. Cool, thank you again!

  3. David Manguno says:

    Camille, Congratulations again on your PR in Houston! Your training regimen and positive outlook are inspiring. I wish you luck in your endeavors. I hope our 2012’s are as productive as were our 2011’s. I share your love of mileage and strange gait, but that’s where the similarities end. Keep it going speed merchant!

  4. Camille – Have you ever thought of doing a running podcast? Based on reading your blog and being able to “see” your passion for running….it would be a huge hit. I understand it takes time and as busy as you are, I’m sure your blog keeps you very busy. Just in case you have ever thought about it, here is a thumbs up :)

    • Hi Randy! I feel silly asking this, but are you referring to video?! I haven’t really thought about that! I’m a bit old fashion and prefer to read over watching videos, and I’m not sure how to do video/video editting! I could research it though– do you have suggestions on how to do it, and ideas for videos? :)

      • Camille – I was referring to an audio podcast. I don’t run on the roads with an mp3 player, but I do listen to audio podcasts while running inside or on a treadmill. It is basically an audio blog. I was just imagining grabbing my mp3 player and going for a run while listening to Camille talk about anything and everything as it relates to running, nutrition, injuries, and training. It is a selfish thought. :)

        • Ohhh, so you’re a audio type of guy! Well, funny enough…. I kind of write how I talk! :) Maybe I should do a spoken version of what I write. Interesting idea. I’ll think about this!


  1. […] few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about how I’m going to work on my imbalances and weaknesses the next 4 years. I met with […]