How They Train!

Mark Tombrink - September 2014


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Did you compete in high school cross country or track?

  • I ran track during my junior and senior years of high school in Brooksville, Florida. I didn’t know what events I wanted to do at first, so my coaches placed me with the “distance” group because that’s where they felt that I’d be the least bad at. The irony is that my favorite races are distance events. In high school track, those events are the one and two mile races. Nowadays, a race typically has to have double-digit mileage in order for me to derive much pleasure out of it. I didn’t run cross country because I played football.

Did you compete in college cross country or track?

  • No. Realizing that I would embarrass the competition, I abstained from collegiate athletics out of kindness and fairness.

How many years have you been running?

  • Although I have been running for roughly eight years, I’ve only embraced my competitive nature and begun taking it seriously since I joined Gulf Winds at the beginning of 2013. I try not to live with regrets, but there are certain things I’d do differently if given the chance. Getting involved with the track club much earlier would be one of them.

Lifetime personal records

  • 5K (Palace Saloon) 19:59
  • 10K (Rose City) 41:09
  • 15K (Turkey Trot) 1:06:09
  • 20K (Pine Run) 1:36:00
  • Half Marathon (Boston Mini) 1:33:40
  • 30K (GWTC 30K) 2:31:17
  • Marathon (Tallahassee) 3:16:05.68
  • 50K (Apalachicola) 4:49:17
  • 50 Mile (TUDC) 8:04:50

What running events do you train for or what are your training goals?

  • Although I’ll run races of any distance, my true passion are those of marathon distance and longer. I run intervals with Gary Droze on Tuesday evenings to train for shorter races, which provide the base speed work that is necessary to improve on time at a longer race. At any race, I always choose to run the longest distance offered. I have three main goals that I feel that I must attain before I kick that notorious bucket. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is first and foremost on the list. The next two are interchangeable in terms of when I do them. A one hundred mile race is in my future. In addition to running, I swim frequently and I recently bought a road bike. Ironman awaits.

Consider your training over the past 6 months to one year.  How many miles a week do you typically run when not injured and consistently running?

  • It depends on if I am training for a marathon or an ultra. If no such race is on the horizon, then I’ll put forth a meager forty to fifty miles per week. If such a race is forthcoming, then I need to bump it up to sixty to seventy miles per week.

What does your typical week of running look like?

  • Monday:  I like to run a course around Florida State’s campus that will take about 5.75 miles.   Often, I’ll also run a trail that goes by fraternity row that will increase my distance to 7.5 miles. This isn’t done quite at tempo, but I’ll push myself as hard as my body dictates on any given day. Then, I’ll go swim at least a mile at the student gym on campus at which I bought an alumni membership. 
  • Tuesday:  Same as Monday plus intervals in the evening at FSU with Gary Droze.
  • Wednesday:  Same as Monday.
  • Thursday:  Same as Monday.
  • Friday:  Same as Monday. Occasionally, I may meet up with my friend who dubbed me as “the shuffler” on Friday afternoons and run anywhere from five to twelve miles, typically at Forest Meadows.
  • Saturday:  Race Day! If it’s only a 5k or no race is available, I’ll run my FSU route. Swim if I can find the time.
  • Sunday:  Go long! I will typically go for a run of at least twelve miles, often with Imitation Adults. If they aren’t hosting a run, I can go run with a friend or just go solo by simply following the marathon route, which literally goes right by my apartment. Swim if I can find the time.

How does your training vary over the course of a year?

  • I like to stay pretty active for most of the year, although I did take a little bit of a race hiatus between June and the first part of August. This is a period of time when I simply maintained my level of fitness. I’ve run several miles every single day since March 12, 2012, so my recovery time is composed of slow and easy five mile runs.

Do you peak for certain races?

  • I like to peak for the Tallahassee Marathon and the TUDC 50 mile.

How much sleep do you usually get at night?

  • I never get enough. I typically only get five to six hours of sleep per night.

What time of day do you normally run?

  • I am out the door running between 6:00 and 6:15 in the morning. I like to get up before the sun.

What injuries have hampered your training over the past year? 

  • I’ve been fortunate enough to have had only one running-related injury in my life. If you want a good conversation starter, ask me about the time I got hit by a car a few years ago.

Do you take any dietary or medical supplements?

  • Super B-Complex and One Daily Men’s Health multivitamins

What type of running shoes do you prefer?

  • I’ve been using Asics with inserts for years and I’m a satisfied and faithful customer.

Do you race in a different type of running shoe?

  • No. I don’t see the point of racing in a different pair of shoes than the ones in which I train.

Do you use weight training?

  • No. Swimming is my cross training exercise, which is a great full-body exercise.

Do you stretch? 

  • No. I simply run slowly before a race or speed workout.

What are your favorite running routes?

  • I like to run FSU’s campus and a trail by Heritage Grove during the week. Both are convenient because of where I live. My apartment location is also handy for running the marathon route if I feel like using it for my long run. Forest Meadows is a nice place to go once in a blue moon. As far as other long runs, I also like to run the St. Marks trail, Miccosukee Greenway, and Old Centerville Road and Sunny Hill Road.

What running resources do you like that would benefit someone else?

  • I simply rely on the Gulf Winds family for advice and tips.

How has your training changed over the years?

  • I used to be quite the shuffler extraordinaire. Now that I’ve transitioned from casual running on my own to being serious about racing, much of my training has changed. I do long runs, intervals, and races regularly. For most of the year, I try to do a race practically every weekend, which I regard with much more significance than when I only did a few races each year. Although I don’t mind solo runs, I’ve learned to enjoy and greatly appreciate group runs and having a network of running buddies.

What examples can you give of specific training methods, and what were the results?

  • Tuesday evening intervals combined with Sunday morning long runs have proved fruitful for drastically increasing both speed and endurance at races of any distance. Nearly any and every race I do can be regarded as a good tempo run, which is why I try to do them so often. When the opportunity to run some insanely grueling race arises, I take it. They help both physically and psychologically in both the short and long term. My three best 5k times have come within a week of running a marathon distance or longer.

What advice do you have for beginning or experienced runners to help them with their training?

  • For novice runners, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your first objective would be to build your endurance. If you can only do two laps on a track, do that and then walk a few more. Try to exceed that number each subsequent day. Once you overcome a certain threshold, it’s easy. Then, you can work on speed and then pick a specific area on which you want to focus. For all runners regardless of experience level, be aware of your current athletic prowess and ability level. The most important thing to remember is to know yourself. Be cognizant and realistic about your current physical condition, but don’t be afraid to push your limits. It is difficult to straddle that fine line, but it is quite possible to achieve. I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum. Although I finished, I lost the battle with the wall at my first marathon. Conversely, those of you reading this may not believe it, but, once you reach a certain level of fitness, running becomes so much more mental than physical. If a short 5’4” nincompoop who lacks athleticism like myself can run the Torreya 50k and do negative splits for the large majority of a fifty mile race, then imagine what a person who is a naturally good runner can do