Review: Endure Strong Coaching

Disclaimer: I received coaching from Endure Strong 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.

Since becoming a BibRave Pro in December 2017, I have had the opportunity to try some cool products and awesome races, but the Endure Strong coaching was unlike anything I had tried through BibRave before.

What made Endure Strong different? Well first of all, Endure Strong provided me with the opportunity to receive coaching/training plans from Olympian Jared Ward at the fraction of the price of other olympic coaching option. 😱 Second, it was more than coaching- it was a team. More on this later! 

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Why Endure Strong?

Those of you that are long time readers of this website or follow me on Instagram know I have had no shortage of injuries 😅 My last one occurred during my first marathon (the Chicago Marathon last October 2018). I was able to finish the marathon with some walking and stretching, but ended up with a hip/IT band injury that lasted until January 2019.  I then took a slow and cautious return to running, but was also busy with school, so I was not running much in early 2019:

-January: 14 miles

-February: 32 miles

-March: 73 miles

-April: 54.5 miles

I was signed up for a few late spring and summer races, as well as the Chicago Marathon in the fall and realized at the end of April that I needed to get my act together quickly with running. I am very competitive by nature and motivated, but I’ve always thrived from an “extra kick in the butt” from a coach or mentor.  When the opportunity to have a training plan/coach for my summer half marathon occurred I took it! I wanted to get back into serious training post-injury and go after some PRs, so the opportunity to train with Endure Strong was very timely. Thank you BibRave! 🙂

I started my new training plan at the beginning of May 2019 and decided to use it for the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon on July 21, 2019. I have been wanting to be on a team/have a coach, but as a future Registered Dietitian, undergoing a career change and on a strict budget, a coach has been out of the question. Until now. Endure Strong gave me the guidance of a coach and the support of a team (through the online community) at a fraction of the price. It costs only $39.99/month (it was comped for me as I noted in my disclaimer) and there are no contracts or commitments. If it’s not for you, you can stop after your month is up, but I can guarantee you will want to keep training with Jared Ward and the team! 🙂

How does Endure Strong work?

Once you are signed up you have access to a variety of training plans from 5k-marathon. You pick a training plan based on your ability level and the coaching staff is happy to help! I chose the Advanced Half Marathon training plan that peaked at 55 mpw. I picked this plan because while my mileage had been low, I was previously a pretty competitive runner and had some big goals for my half marathon, so I thought it was an appropriate choice.

Once you chose the training plan that suits you and program which date the race is on the training plan is added to your training calendar which is accessible online or via the Final Surge iPhone app. I am often on my phone (lol), so i appreciated the convenience  of being able to look at my training on my phone versus a computer.

I also signed up for text message alerts about my workouts, which was nice. Each day at 6 am my workout was sent to me via text message as a reminder. I chose it to be at 6 am, but you could chose anytime that you want. I think the default time was 12 am.

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The workouts were assigned based on your pace ranges, which are programmed based on a recent race. See my training paces that I used on the plan below. These are just estimates, but helped me fine tune my training.

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Then, we also had biweekly coaching calls with Jared Ward where we could ask him anything we wanted during the call or ahead of time via e-mail by e-mailing the team manager Andrew. I was definitely a little starstruck the first coaching call 😛 Finally, we had access to a plethora of training videos from weight lifting to nutrition to previous coaching call questions. I found the training videos to be useful and watched many of them during my half marathon training. We also had a team group and chat that was accessible on the Final Surge app. It was fun to talk to each other about the ups and downs of training.

My experience with Endure Strong

I initially chose the intermediate half marathon training plan that peaked at 45 mpw, but in early June I realized the plan was not challenging enough for me. I chose intermediate because my mileage had been so low prior to May because of my injury and school, but from an experience standpoint I’m more of an advanced runner. I decided to change to the advanced plan that peaked at 55 mpw. I also made this decision since a sub 1:30 half marathon was my goal and I felt like I need some tougher workouts to meet that goal. This may not have been the smartest idea looking back, BUT it worked out fine and the change was easy- I deleted the intermediate plan from my Final Surge calendar and added the advanced plan.

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On the advanced plan I was supposed to run 2 hard workouts (Tuesday/Thursday) and then my long run was supposed to be at 8:05 pace or faster. The workouts were usually a tempo run or fartlek one day and intervals the other day. The long run was the biggest adjustment for me as I was used to taking my long runs around 8:20 pace. But this quicker long run pace has paid off big time for me- as I write that this post I’m now well into Chicago Marathon training and all my long runs have been in the low-mid 7s except for the long run I did after a race.

I will be honest, I skipped several of the hard workouts. I did the prescribed mileage and peaked at 57 mpw, but I probably averaged one hard workout a week, not two. The hot weather took a toll on me and caused me to change some hard workouts to easy runs. I felt like I was wimping out on some days…but it may have been a little aggressive for me to attempt the advanced plan anyway. Prior to Endure Strong I was running 5-15 mpw and no hard workouts, so this was a huge jump!  Regardless, things worked out well for me. And the daily workout reminders really held me accountable! On the workouts I did run, I saw dramatic improvement in my running as the 2.5 months on the Endure Strong training plan progressed. I had some set-backs initially as I was battling humidity and getting used to running hard workouts again, but then it become apparent to me that a sub 1:30 half marathon would be realistic. Also, it was really reassuring to be able to talk to my Endure Strong teammates about good and bad workouts, as well as battling the crazy hot weather this early-mid summer in the group chat.

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My PR going into Rock N Roll was a 1:34. I ran that 1:34 in 2018 while sick and on 25 mpw, so I knew no matter what I’d PR at Rock N Roll, but it was just a matter of by how much! After the last few weeks of workouts my fitness indicated closer to a 1:27-1:28, so that became my (somewhat secret) goal.  I continued to tell people my goal was a PR and ideally a 1:30, but really I want that 1:27-1:28. But then the heat wave rolled in during race week and Chicago was blanketed with 95-100 degree temperatures. 😦 The heat broke a little for Saturday morning’s race, but it was still humid and awful out. Any of you who know me know that I am am stubborn when it comes to running. I should have adjusted my race goal. But I did not…And until nearly mile 10 I maintained a 6:47 pace which would have earned me a 1:28:55. I ended up succumbing to the heat and just trying to hang on the remaining 5k. I ran a 1:32:11, so my pace fell off a lot, but that is still a PR! You can read more about the race here if you are interested. Regardless, I credit Endure Strong to me earning this PR and just becoming a stronger runner this summer! My training with Endure Strong really built a strong base for me going into the Chicago Marathon training and helped me earn a PR in the half, even if it was not what I wanted.

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Do I recommend Endure Strong?

I absolutely recommend Endure Strong! You get elite level coaching and training plans for a fraction of the price ($39.99/ month)! Nearly everyone on the team has earned a PR on their most recent race because the training works. Plus, everyone is super nice! My training plan has ended, but I still talk to a lot of the Endure Strong teammates 🙂 And where else can you get running advice and a call from an Olympian 2 times a month?

If you have any other questions about Endure Strong please do not hesitate to reach out to me! It made a huge difference in my training year this year! 🙂

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The BibRave Chicago Summit and Rock ‘N Roll Half 2019 review

Disclaimer: I’m reviewing the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago half marathon  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!

It may surprise some of you, but favorite part of being a BibRave Pro is not the opportunity to try different brands or races, but the community of people that I have connected with across the United States and world. 🙂 I love that we all run different paces and live in different places, but we all share a love of running, writing/blogging, and encouraging others.

What made the weekend of Friday July 19th-Sunday July 21st so special, though, was the opputunity to hang out with some of the fellow pros and staff in real life. 🙂 Our slack channel is great and a source of nearly daily chuckles for me, but there was nothing like that weekend of real life fun and chuckles. 😛 So without further ado, let’s dive into my experience at the BibRave summit weekend, from group runs to the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon!

Friday July 19th

Started off the morning with a super hot team run, but it was awesome. It was nearly 90 degrees at 10 am when we all went running. We all met at Washington Square park and then ran 4 miles as a team. I ran to the park, though, so I ran about 7.5 miles total for the day.

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We ended the run with a little swim in the lake, although I’ll be honest, I never jumped in. 😛 I knew I was taking the “L” home and didn’t want to sit on the train in my soggy clothes. haha

A few hours after the group run, we went as a team to the Rock ‘n’ expo to pick up our packets. My husband joined as well, even though he’s not on BibRave. 😛 We got some cool swag and took some goofy photos.

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Then it was time for the Orange Carpet dinner, one of my favorite events of the weekend. The dinner took place a City Winery in the west loop of Chicago. I had always wanted to go, but had never been. 🙂 We all put on as much orange as we good find, hung out as a team, had some tasty snacks and delicious wine. I probably had more wine than I should have, but it was worth it. 😛

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Saturday July 20th

After the City Winery event and an unintentional late night, I accidentally overslept my alarm to make it to the team shakeout run. I’m THE WORST. 😦 I woke up 15 minutes before the run was supposed to start. :/ I know all the people that did the shakeout run had a blast! 🙂 I decided to just take a rest day to rest up my legs for tomorrow’s half marathon.

We then went to the Cub’s game as a team for an afternoon game. I love that we all wore our BibRave summit t-shirts- we definitely stood out at the game with our sea of orange. 😛 I could not resist still wearing my Cubs hat. It was still crazy hot out, so I made sure to chug water the whole time and was grateful we sat in the shade.

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After the Cub’s game I went back home to finish my homework for my summer class. It was due that evening, so I was cutting it close post-Cubs game. Crisis averted, though. 😛 Due to my homework, I missed the team podcast recording event post- game, but all the Pros that went told me it was fantastic. 🙂 I opted for an early bedtime in anticipation of waking up at 4 am for tomorrow’s half marathon race. As many of you already know, Rock ‘n’ Roll was somewhat of a goal race for me, but I knew with all the hot weather I needed to adjust my goal, event hough I’m stubborn and I did not want to.

Sunday July 21st

Race morning started very early- around 4 am. I had to make sure I ate breakfast this time, so I would not repeat the fueling mistakes of last year’s rock ‘n’ roll race. Although, not much could have been done to overcome my lack of training going into that race. haha. Anyway, I had some bland oatmeal and dates and checked the weather as I ate. Thankfully, the weather showed race morning was going to be cooler than the nearly 100 degree weather we had experienced the previous two days, but the humidity was crazy high. I realized I probably needed to adjust my goal of sub 1:30, but I really did not want to.

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Around 5:50 am my husband and I jogged over to the start line so I could make it for a BibRave photo/ pump up chat. I easily found some of team BibRave because orange is not exactly a color that blends in. But not knocking orange- I love it! 🙂 I then made my way into the A start coral with my husband and we met up with my friend Jeff. I also saw Katherine Switzer in the corral near us, but was too shy and starstruck to say anything.  Soon enough the 6:30 am race time arrived and we were off!

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If you follow me on Instagram, you already know my thoughts about the race, so you can skip to the end of those post. lol. If not read below:

I was disappointed with my race result, despite the PR. 😦 The only thing that made me smile on race day was hearing so many people cheer for me, running with friends, and hanging out with friends post-race. From the BibRave corner just before mile 6, to the Heartbreakers and 3Run2 cheer squads around mile 7, I know without those crews I would not have had much fun. Also shoutout to Lydia, my summer internship mentor and fellow Chicago runner who got this awesome photo of me around mile 7 (before I started struggling).

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I know I am too hard on myself, especially because I met my B & C goals, but not my A goal. My C goal was to have fun. My B goal was a PR. And my A goal was sub 1:30. Maybe I should have adjusted my A goal given the hot weekend and humid race day weather, but I was fairly confident it was within my reach based workouts, especially on hot days the last two months. I should have known it was a bit of a reach goal because I was injured until early 2019 & my training has only really picked up the last few months… Here is a look at my 2019 running going into the race:

🔹January : 14 mi
🔹February: 32 mi
🔹March: 73 mi
🔹April: 54.5 mi
🔹May: 140 mi
🔹June: 200 mi

I know I fared better than many others in the heat/humidity on race day, but I’m competing with myself -not others. And if I’m being honest I fell short 😫 I held onto 1:28 pace until nearly mile 10, but then I felt very fatigued, overheated, & I stepped off the gas. As a future dietitian, I admit I probably should have taken in a gel during the race and not just water, so that was mistake number 1. But then I also mentally gave up around that point- I tend to give up/step-off the gas once running gets painful & that’s exactly what I did yesterday. In my training, I’ve had the same issue on hard workouts days, which I primarily do alone. Some people are good at grinding out repeats solo & it’s a great skill to have, but it is for sure a weakness of mine 😅 I sometimes miss my HS/college team because even if we weren’t always the same pace, we did the hard workouts together & that helped motivate me/push into the discomfort zone that you need to go to on workouts sometimes to get better at running. It helps you race stronger 💪🏻 All the more reason I should join a team! But a few weeks after this race, I can say I am likely joining a team- more on this later! 🙂

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So, my takeaway from this half marathon is that I need to work on my toughness in workouts/races even when I’m in pain 🙃I’d love to do more hard workouts with others to help me push the pace, but I also need to work on it during solo efforts. But also a 1:32:11, 3rd in my age group, and a nearly 2 minute PR on a hot/humid day is not so bad. I know a sub 1:30 is in the bag on a more favorable day weather-wise! I can walk away from this race knowing that I learned a lot of important lessons and that all I can ask. Also, shoutout to my husband who was not fazed by the tough weather whatsoever and ran a 1:15:01 good for 57 second PR and 2nd in his age group. But also certain on a cooler day I bet he could run closer to a 1:13 half marathon!

After the race we had fun hanging out with old and new friends over beers in the post-race party. I realized that there was no sense in being upset, my race was over, and no one had a stellar day. It was so fun to meet friends like Matt, Naomi, Austin, Todd, and Jeff for the first time, as well as hanging out with older friends like the BibRave Pros and Michael.

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After hanging out the post-race party for a while, my husband and I made our way home to shower and eat breakfast. We missed the rain! Once the rain died down we headed to Public House for a little BibRave Pro post-race party. It was low-key, but fun to see everyone before they headed back home (I was the only Chicago resident at the BibRave Summit haha).

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I am so grateful for team BibRave for an awesome Summit weekend! And special shoutout to Knockaround sunglasses , Aftershokz , and Rock ‘n’ Roll for sponsoring it! 🙂 I cannot wait for the next summit!

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Did you run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago half marathon this year?! If so, how did it go for you?