Developing A Race Kick

When watching the track events during the Rio Olympic Games, you likely noticed many of the races came down to who could finish the fastest during the latter stage of the race. During some races, the drive to the finish began after the halfway point but in others the real racing didn’t begin until the bell lap. And from there, whoever could close the fastest emerged as the medal winners.

This type of race is all about developing a wicked kick and being able to quickly shift into another gear at the right time while battling end-of-race fatigue. Even for everyday runners, it’s a good tactic to learn – whether you’re racing the clock or a fellow runner, a blazing fast finish is a great way to achieve your goal.

Below, Coach Matt Thull from ThunderDome Running provides tips to help you kick in your next race.

Can you start off by explaining what a race kick is and what purpose it serves?

In a way it is hard to define since a race kick might start after the first 1/3 of the race (a longer extended/faster surge) or it might not start until the last 1/3 or even the last 1-2 minutes of a race. It’s usually a negative split attempt or a final push in to the finish. I consider the race kick an individual effort – one that allows you to sleep soundly at night knowing you left it all out there on race day.

What are the different types of kick a runner might use?

It’s interesting how many different ways runners can use a push-to-the-line kick. If you look at any distance racing record from the mile up to the marathon, they were set with a negative split and that leads right into using every different kind of kick available. It can start midway through the race after a relaxed start or a final quarter-mile kick or final minute kick after pushing the redline throughout the race.

What are the benefits of having a strong race kick?

A strong kick is what can help you achieve a negative split, a PR or a good old-fashioned race to the finish with someone in your age group. If you are actually thinking about a race kick, that means you probably did not run too fast in the early stages of the race. It’s also a lot more fun since you have momentum on your side, and you are getting to think about a race kick/running faster when you are most tired.

What are some running workouts a runner can do to develop a better race kick?

There are a lot of great options runners can use to help their race kick. Those pieces of training might be strength/gym/plyometric-based or might include actual running workouts. For running workouts, hills are great for developing a kick. Surges and speed ups within your runs help as well as ending all your hard workouts with some type of “FINAL” interval. A runner might choose to do a faster finish ¼ mile or ½ mile after their real workout. In a way that final interval is a bonus for the day—just like a kick is in a race.

Tell us more about strength training and plyometric workouts – how might these workouts help improve a runner’s kick?

Way too many runners “just run” and do not focus enough on the lower leg strength work that plyometrics, squats or even yoga bring out. The push comes from your core, hips and glutes in running. When you are more tired but wanting to kick—wouldn’t it be nice to rely on a strong lower half? So it’s totally worth it to do the gym work. Your turnover/cadence gets pretty slow and loafing if you don’t have strong glutes and lower legs.

How much of a strong race kick is mental? How can runners work at gathering themselves for that final push during a race?

With coaching high school runners I see this a lot, the big time SHOW of a final last 30-second mad dash into the finish line when the crowd is around happens all the time. Honestly, in a way that shows perhaps the runners did not push themselves hard enough in the middle of the race.

But maybe you went hard from the middle to the last part of the race used your race kick earlier than others – and that is also okay. That runner might not have as fast of kick but used the strong/long push to the finish line earlier in the race.

Often the big kick is a bonus because you have used up so much getting yourself to that last ¼ mile or last 30 seconds of the race. That race kick for anyone is the perfect mixture of mental and physical toughness since you have already raced hard but are now asking your legs/body to run harder—that is the ultimate kick & produces the most satisfaction. If you can think of the finish kick as very small parts of 30 seconds or 60 seconds you can ALWAYS push or sprint. So I recommend looking at your watch for those small running windows instead of thinking about how far it is to the finish line.

Do you have any other comments or tips?

It really helps to race under/shorter your focus race distance to work on your kick/speed. If you are a 10k runner, race some 5ks or mile races to work on your race kick/speed. If you are a half marathon or marathon runner, get out of your comfort zone/pace a bit and race some shorter distance races so half marathon/marathon pace feels easier. That way you will have a better chance to find that long extended kick in your distance races.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Coach Thull! To learn more about ThunderDome Running and coaching services, visit

We hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Setting and Achieving Running Goals

How’s everyone doing on those 2016 running goals?

In case you’ve hit a plateau or are looking for a little extra motivation to stick with your plan, we have Coach Matt Thull with ThunderDome Running with us today to provide a few tips on setting appropriate goals and then laying out a plan to achieve them.

Whether you hope to PR, tackle a new distance or just make it through the year without getting sidelined with an injury, Coach Thull has tips to make this year your most successful yet!


How do you recommend runners go about setting goals for the upcoming year?
The nice part about goals are that they are INDIVIDUAL. That individuality is awesome because of the flexibility of setting several different kinds of challenging goals for a training/racing year. The goal can be completing your first race of a certain distance or simply running a new PR at a different race distance. All lead to having more fun, running faster and moving toward your BIG down the road running goals. The right mix of attainable short-term goals versus time goals is way more fun than saying running a certain time or bust is the entire goal of a full year of training.

Why is it important for runners to set goals?
The short- and long-term goals get you out of bed and out the door each day. The progress you see on a daily, weekly and monthly basis is hopefully the motivation and positive momentum that keeps fueling the ambition to put in the work. In my training, I have daily goals and keep track of them in a running log, and when my ambition or confidence are low, I look back at the SMALL goals I have knocked out and know all of the small daily goals are contributing to the big goal months down the road. If all you look at is the big goal way in the future, there are too many opportunities for excuses and missed training. If a goal is 8 months down the road, you feel like you might be “allowed” to take more days off. With the small/short-term goals you have direction and motivation every single day to not be complacent.

Let’s address some of the most common goals. What steps do you recommend runners take if they want to set a new PR in 2016?
Having a plan is huge because a carefully laid out plan/schedule leads to consistency/injury-free training and stacking weeks of training, whether it is training for a 5k or a marathon, is the key to success. That positive training progression leads to more motivation and fun and that all leads to faster training and racing. In 2016, runners might have an overall mileage goal, to run their first 5k or marathon or to run PR’s … but all of those goals have pockets of important planning leading up to them, and when you have those short- and long-term goals on paper and planned out, the goal has a better chance of happening.


Plan out the number of days you can dedicate to your goal based on your life schedule. Training should not be stressful so put in the work but do all you can to balance everything you do each day. I like to look at things in my running planning as I “NEED” 1 day per week that I can set aside that all important time, focus, and energy to do a hard workout or long run, no matter what, and from there I work things around that key training day.

What about successfully racing a new distance – how can runners achieve this goal?
Tier your goals into categories of feeling good, finishing and finally a good, better and best case scenario time goal. It is more fulfilling and less pressure packed if you can have 2-3 race goals and those goals are NOT 100% finish time based. So many times runners racing a new distance (many times the half marathon or marathon) base the sole measure of success on the finish time. There are so many weekly goals to accomplish and just getting to the race starting line is a victory and pretty cool. The list of progressing goals is way more fun than having everything hinge on a finish time. Part of goal setting is being realistic but still pushing yourself. It’s a tricky balance and may include having fun training, running a certain amount of miles/weeks leading up to a race, getting to the start line healthy, and finally the BONUS goal is running a solid time in the race.


Some runners plan on increasing their mileage this year. What’s the best way to do this without risking injury?
What works really well before increasing running DISTANCE or adding an extra day of running per week is to use that extra day/time you will eventually run by adding in a cross training activity/day. Swim, bike, elliptical, yoga … something that is low impact to get your body/legs used to that extra day of activity/volume. After a month of that extra day and extra time cross training, add in an extra day of running. On the extra day of running measure things by completed minutes at first instead of MILES so you don’t have to worry about running a certain pace or become tempted to run too fast.

Runners that spent 2015 on the injured list may want to just focus on running healthy. What tips do you have for staying healthy and injury free?
Running is way more than just putting on your shoes and going for a run. Nutrition, sleep, stress management, taking days off, cross training and yoga are sometimes forgotten pieces of training. What leads to success earlier in running does not guarantee injury-free running in the future. Every single training block is different from the previous one so runners should constantly be looking to add or remove pieces of their training – this leads to continued fast running and preventing injuries. In my training, I never ever had the SAME training block leading up to a peak race – even if that peak race was a PR. The next training block had a different bit of strength/cross training work or different focus on recovery in it.

Are there any basics that all runners should do to help them run their best this year?
As everyone gets a bit more seasoned each year, it is that much more important to include cross training and weights/core to your routine, even if that means “giving away” some running miles or time dedicated to running. Consistent, injury-free running leads to more fun and faster times compared to having all the visits to the doc or PT to fix nagging pains. Gain your confidence and momentum from the things you do well in training and racing, but it is also OK to focus on things you need to shore up. Workouts and races are meant at times to be learning tools and more beneficial to overall training than the finish time you run. If you are lining up at every single race to “race it” for a time and that is all, then you are missing out on valuable learning opportunities to give you the best chance to run your best time down the road.

How can working with a running coach help runners have a better chance at achieving their goals?
When you are training hard, you are so emotionally involved and driven that you might not be doing the right things at the proper times of training. I can look back at some of my running logs when I coached myself, when I was in really good shape, and wonder why I did some wild workouts. What makes runners great is their drive and ambition along with stubbornness – but so many times those qualities are what lead to overtraining or injury. If you have a running schedule with guidelines, short-term goals or themes for a training week, there is no question what you “should” be doing. Every single day has a purpose, and runners can see that down on paper and know what to do and why. Coaches typically run themselves, have coached a wide range of runners and have studied the sport/training – that’s a pretty awesome array of experience.

Any other comments/tips?
Good luck to everyone in 2016. Get those goals written down on paper and keep a running log/journal. That journal is one of the biggest motivators out there. If you do something great in your training/racing it is right there on paper to see, but if you are skipping runs or workouts that is down on paper, too. The accountability factor of a running log or having a coach are huge.

Thanks for chatting with us, Coach Thull! To learn more about ThunderDome Running, or to inquire about coaching services, visit

Up next, find out how a love of running helped a few local runners find love. Read it here on Friday! Until then …

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

What’s Your 2016 Running Goal?

It’s a New Year and for most runners that means setting new goals, whether that means a new distance, faster time or running more miles than ever before.

In an upcoming post, Coach Matt Thull with ThunderDome Running will discuss strategies for tackling running goals. In the meantime, we’re wondering what your goals are this year.


Note: For those of you unable to view the poll in this post, you can view it here:

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!



Tackling the Mile: Training Tips and Racing Strategies

In our opinion, there aren’t nearly enough mile races. But it’s a distance every runner should race at least once. Even runners that usually stick to longer distances!

Below, Matt Thull from ThunderDome Running explains how racing the mile benefits long distance runners and provides training and racing tips!

What’s the allure of racing the mile? Why is this distance a great mix of speed and endurance?
Even though a mile race seems short to most distance runners, there are actually more running parts to the race than many runners think. I look at the mile as having three parts and knowing there are those different parts is how the endurance and speed combo comes into play. The length of time for the three parts is different for everyone. The first part is speed and getting out there fast when the gun goes off. Next is the middle of the race – the endurance part once you settle into your “fast” but controlled pace, which for most runners is a bit slower than the fast start. Last is the speed/sprint to the finish part of the race.

How should a person train for a mile race?
The luxury of training for this distance is that there are elements of mile race training already in most runners’ day-to-day training. For example, during long runs, runners get to a certain point where they are actually recruiting fast muscle fibers. If runners do pre- or post-run strides – or even fast-finish workouts – these can help with shorter distance racing. Those areas all produce faster mile race results – without necessarily training specifically for the distance.

Really not a lot needs to change for mile racing in training. A bigger focus is the warmup for the race. It’s crucial to include enough pre-race activity and stretching since there is no messing around once the gun goes off. Runners don’t have 2-3 miles to warmup during the race like they do during long distance races.

What is a good workout to include if a mile race is on your calendar?
When someone who is NOT a miler or short distance racer thinks about workouts, they should have safety nets in them related to the rest periods and fast work. For example, if a runner wants to test out some faster 400m or 200m intervals, make the workout continuous without any standing around rest. For example, run a 400m interval and then jog a short rest time. This helps prevent runners from going too fast. Or if there is a 3-4 mile continuous run, include a couple of 90 second surges spaced throughout the run. In that case, too, runners cannot get going too fast since there is no standing rest.

It seems like as the distances get shorter, the warmup becomes more important. What type of warmup do you recommend before a mile race?
Runners should finish with a faster warmup for a mile race. If you normally run two miles for a warmup, speed up during the second mile. It should be brisk. And the active warmup stretching and strides should easily be at least 15-20 minutes of focus, compared to what sometimes happens at 5k and 10k races where runners get caught standing around too long doing not a lot of warmup prep.

What about race strategy – how should a runner approach a mile race?
No matter what each individual’s pace or goal is in a mile, there have to be different pace parts and efforts. If you say you are going to race hard from the gun to the finish of a mile race, you miss out on the shorter focused parts that will result in a faster race.

What type of shoes do you recommend? Are regular shoes okay or should runners opt for lighter flats or trainers?
Most runners should NOT change up their regular training shoes to a lighter pair for a mile race unless they are used to a lighter workout or racing pair of shoes. Light racing flats work great but at the same time runners are moving much faster than they normally do so the extra cushion of a regular training shoe is safer. The best of both worlds are shoes that have extra cushion but are super light. Like the New Balance Fresh Foam, some of the Nike Lunar models or the HOKA shoes.

Why is it beneficial for even longer distance runners to consider racing the mile?
Too many times marathon and half marathon runners fall into the trap of running slower, more relaxed training mileage because they don’t think they are “fast.” Just having a fun mile race on the schedule can hopefully shift the focus and shake things up a bit to more stride/safe leg turnover work, faster finish long runs, or doing a proper warmup. All of which will also help the longer distance work.

Thanks for chatting with us, Coach Thull! If you’re interested in improving your speed, ThunderDome Running can help. Visit to learn more about coaching options.

If you’re ready to put your speed to the test, consider these upcoming events:

Best of luck!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

We Heart Track Part Two: MKE Track Workouts

Last week, we featured tracks around the city where you can get your speedwork on. This week, we’re sharing a few local groups you can meet up with when you want to fly.

This summer, let’s get faster together, MKE!

Badgerland Striders Track Workout
Tuesdays @6:30pm
Hart Park, Wauwatosa
Details: The workout is led by Matt Thull from ThunderDome Running. Participants should be warmed up and ready to start by 6:30pm. During the late fall and winter months, workouts are held at the Pettit National Ice Center indoor track and are led by Angie Smith.

Greater Milwaukee Track Club
Dates vary
Marquette University Track
Details: The goal of the club is to encourage adult cross country and track & field participation. No performance standards to join. Members can attend group workouts that are typically held a few times per week at the Marquette outdoor track.

InStep – Delafield
Wednesdays @6pm
InStep, 615 Genesee Street, Delafield
Details: Runners meet at the store for a 10-minute warmup run to the track. Program runs May – October.

Milwaukee Running Group (OMG)
Tuesdays @6pm
Shorewood High School
Details: There are two separate groups – one for faster runners (6-10 min pace) and one for slower runners. The group is pretty informal and workout suggestions are always welcome.

Performance Running Outfitters
Thursdays @6:30pm thru August 13
Hart Park, Wauwatosa
Details: Participants should be warmed up and ready to start by 6:30pm. Workouts may include tempo runs, hill repeats, intervals and sprints. All abilities are welcome. Know your 5k race time to be put into groups.

We’re curious: Do you prefer to do speedwork alone or with a group?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Angie Smith!

If you’re a Badgerland Striders member or race locally, chances are you’ve met Angie. She’s the woman who always has a fancy bow in her hair (she makes them herself!) and always has an encouraging word for her fellow runners.

We recently met Angie in a guest post about Disney races. Now, we get to know more about her training, racing goals and what she believes makes MKE a special place for runners!










Age: 30
Years running: 16 years, with about 14 of them being solid; I had a couple years off in there.
Favorite workout: I really enjoy the spring/summer speed workouts with the Striders and also their marathon build up long runs. Favorite speed workout would probably be 5 sets of 4×400 starting at marathon pace and ending at mile pace. I love to run in groups so any time I have company is a good workout.
Favorite gear: I am very minimal and pretty much just need my watch (Nike Plus) and shoes.
Pre-race routine: I try to wake up 2-3 hours before the race. Other than that I don’t do much, but now that I am working with ThunderDome running, I am working on some stretching beforehand.
Favorite post-race treat: I have tried to give up soda so if it is a big race I will sometimes have a soda afterward or some fruity candy like Skittles or Gummy Bears.
Favorite distance to race: I really enjoy the 5k. My high school coach, who helped me out from 1998 thru 2014, always says I have faster twitch muscles than endurance muscles which makes me a better 5k-er. Although I do miss running the mile (1600) which I did in high school and college. Also in college I ran Steeplechase and really enjoyed that race.


Why did you start running?
I started running because that is all I ever did. If you ask any of my family members, I ran before I walked as a child. My mom said it would drive her nuts that I ran everywhere; she wondered if I knew how to walk. So when I was at high school (Milwaukee High School of the Arts) freshman orientation, I passed the cross country booth. I knew I wanted to run track but knew nothing about cross country. My mom and I talked with them and found out track wasn’t till the spring but this was a great build up for track season. Plus I saw the lettermen jacket and I am a very award driven type of person and that was right up my alley. I can also say that a big portion of why I run is because of my high school coach, John Rodahl. We have built a great relationship through all the running we have done together. I honestly don’t know if I would have kept running if it wasn’t for him. I consider him a second father and we talk at least once a week.

What does a typical training week look like for you?
My training week includes five days running and two off days. My running days consist of three easy runs of four to five miles, one interval workout and one long run. This is typical to what most runners run. Since I am just starting with Matt Thull and ThunderDome Running, I am excited to see where my workouts will take me. I am sure things will change up a bit, but I know the structure will be similar each week.

Fill in the blank: When I run, I feel ____
Stress free and in the moment!

You recently started working with Matt Thull and ThunderDome Running. Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to work with a coach?
I decided to start working with a coach because I am a crazy Type A personality. Last year I drove myself crazy writing my own training schedule. I can sit down and write it out for others with no problem, but when it came to me I found myself over thinking it. What helped was calling Rodahl to check and see if what I was planning made sense. But I wanted to take on some larger goals this year and I didn’t want the added stress of trying to figure out how to get myself there.

I met Matt at the speed workouts in the summer and started following some of his athletes. I liked the results I was seeing from them, and I was also seeing great results from attending the workouts. I knew this was going to be the right decision for me. Also I would stay and chat with Matt after practice and we seemed to get along great. I felt like I could trust him, which he or any runner will tell you is one of the most important components between a coach and his athlete.

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?
I am hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I am currently in the hardest time frame for women – a 3:35 marathon which comes out to an average of 8:12 a mile. I am also hoping to break the 1:40 mark in a half marathon and just improve on my race times overall.


You run the Badgerland Striders track workouts at the Pettit. Can you tell us a bit about the workouts?
Matt Thull and I have worked it out with the Striders. He will run the spring/summer (May-September) workouts and I will run the fall/winter (October -April) workouts to keep it going all year long. I volunteered to continue on with the speed workouts after Matt could no longer run them due to fall obligations.

For the winter we have been having anywhere from 15-20 people who show up. The workouts are on Tuesday nights at 6:30 at the Pettit for fall/winter and then same time and day but at Hart Park for spring/summer. Anyone is welcome to join and we have all paces that come. I know it can be very intimidating but we really have a friendly group of people. I try to alternate between longer intervals and shorter intervals. Sometimes I reuse workouts we did with Matt in the summer or use ones I have read about or ran at the high school, college and club level. I have also had people ask to do specific workouts, so we throw those into the loop, too. We are flexible enough to try to work in any suggestions that people have or to try something new.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
I enjoy the long runs starting at Lake Park Bistro, but when I was living in Milwaukee, I loved my loop through downtown Wauwatosa. There were always people out and about and stuff to look at. I now live in Caledonia, and there is a little village called Wind Point about a mile and half from me. I have a 6½ mile loop that takes me past cows, corn fields and then these huge gorgeous houses that face Lake Michigan. I also go through a golf course and then pass the Wind Point light house, which has some gorgeous views of the lake. But mostly if I am running, I will enjoy it wherever I am.

What are some of your favorite Milwaukee races?
I do have a special place in my heart for the Badgerland Striders Lakefront Marathon. It was my first, second and third marathon and I just love the course and the time of the year. There is no better way to view fall in Wisconsin than with that race. I also enjoy the races put on by Lighthouse Events, such as the Winter Running Series. I like that they award points and have series winners at the end since I am award driven. I also got to be part of the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay this year and we had a blast and will be back for sure. I also pace with Performance Running Outfitters for Rock N Sole, Brewers Mini and, new this year, the Milwaukee Running Festival. Pacing a race brings a whole different feeling of accomplishment than when you race yourself, and I love that. I love helping others achieve their goals, and it makes it more fun for me too.


What makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?
By running the Disney races this year and through Facebook, I met a ton of runners throughout the United States and came to realize we have so much support here. When I talked about the group of 100 people that come to the build ups, versus all these people who had to do their training runs on their own, I realized how strong of a running community we have. Also our runners are so nice and friendly; other places that did not seem to be the case. I love the support we give to all people, no matter pace or experience, and I hope everyone utilizes what we have here. It would be a waste not to.

Any other comments?
If you have any questions about the Badgerland Striders or the speed workouts, feel free to contact me via Facebook or stop me at race. I love to talk running, so don’t worry.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Angie! If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Annie Weiss

You met Annie about a month ago when we featured Fit With Food Consulting. Now’s your chance to get to know a bit more about the runner behind the business.

Annie recently placed 5th at the Black Canyon 100k in Arizona, her first attempt at the distance. We’re so impressed with her transition from the roads to the trails – and below she tells us how she did it!












Age: 30
Years running: 5-6 years
Favorite workout: Long runs!
Favorite distance to race: 50 miler
Pre-race routine: So easy – I just wake up, and go!!! I get ready the night before – clothes and gear all laid out, glide in the AM and lace up!
Favorite post-race treat: Burger. Definitely a burger.
Must-have gear: Hydration pack and my Altras.


How did you get started with running?
Honestly, I was sick of going to the gym to workout. One summer day in 2008, I said to myself, I think I’ll go for a run. And then I just kept going.

Do you have a quote or philosophy that inspires your running?
“Miles Make Champions.” Another runner said that to me during my first ultra and it has stuck with me ever since.

What does a typical training week look like for you?
I’m currently starting my next training period, so right now just building up the miles. I do 1-2 workouts per day. Typically one is easier than the other. The easier one will be weight training, spinning or hiking with a backpack of weight at a 15 percent incline. The other workout is a run that varies in intensity, speed and length. My miles per week range from 40-80.

sm20140126_000447_img_0093Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

How did you get into trail and ultrarunning? And what was the transition like moving from the roads to the trails?
I got into it when a running mate told me that I have the potential to get to Western States. So I started to run ultras. After about two years of injuries and having to stop running for a bit, I am finally back and going full force to achieve my goals. The transition from roads to trails wasn’t too challenging for me, but it all depends on your goals. A couple of years ago, my goal was an Olympic qualifying time. It would not help my road racing to stay on the trails; just like road racing now doesn’t help my trail goals.

How is trail running different from road running? And, do your racing strategies differ when doing a trail race versus a road race?
It is so different! You have to have extremely strong stabilizer muscles, be able to slow down quite a bit, and tap into your aerobic capacity for long periods of time. Lots of patience and strength are needed – physically and mentally. It’s a completely different beast. My racing strategies differ completely – in trail running, the tortoise will always win.

What is the longest distance you’ve raced? How did you find the strength to push through the final miles?
Longest right now is the 50 miler [Note: since this interview, Weiss raced a 100k], and this year, I have a 100k and 100 miler scheduled. I find the strength to keep pushing because I love the feeling of crossing a finish line – I always keep that feeling in mind.


Will you continue to focus on trail and ultrarunning or are more road races in your future?
There are no road races in my future, unless coach says so! Right now, I will remain on the trails and completing ultra distances. When I attempt to make one of the national ultra teams, I’ll be back on the roads, but I have a little time for that.

Do you currently work with a coach? If so, how has that relationship helped strengthen your running?
I do currently work with a coach. I have worked with ThunderDome Running in the past – AWESOME for road racing. And I have also worked with Zach Bitter – another awesome coach! Based on my current goals, I am working with Tommy Rivers. My relationship with him has driven my motivation out the roof. He is incredible to work with.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
My favorite places in Milwaukee include the lakefront for sure! I run the back trails of Tosa once in a blue moon, but do nearly all of my running in the Northern and Southern Kettle and Lapham Peak. Also, Nashota Park, Pike Lake and anywhere there are woods.


What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?
When I was road running, Run into the New Year was always a blast! On the ultra side of things – Ice Age and Kettle are two of my favorites!

What are your running goals for the upcoming year?
My goals for this year include building up my endurance again and avoiding injury. Pending the next two years, we will pick a distance that I excel at and attempt the National Team. Long-term goal is to make the Altra Team.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Annie! If you’d like to learn more about Annie or Fit With Food Consulting, you can connect here:




If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Coach’s Advice: Take An End-Of-Season Break

Sometimes the most important thing you can do for your running is take some time off!

We recently chatted with Coach Matt Thull from ThunderDome Running, to find out if runners actually need a break after a goal race and the right way to take one. Plus, how to get started again after taking a few days or weeks off.

To get started, when we refer to taking a break, what exactly does that mean?
Most runners think of a break as easy running or just running every other day or just going gym or cross training stuff – that is not truly a break. The nice part about completing a big race or PR is that you have earned a step back/recharge period. So take your break so the next part of training can be even better.

During a break, you fully absorb your prior training, recover, and get to set new goals for the next block of training. The mental and physical toll leading up to a big race is huge – so before you get going on the next goal take five days off or take 14 days off – it is different for everyone. It is okay to train year round but just split up the training into different periods/training blocks/goals.

What are some of the consequences that can happen if a runner doesn’t take time off to recover between training cycles?
One of the big consequences of never taking a break is burning out or overtraining along with injury risks – which, in turn, lead to having to take off weeks to fully recover. Instead, take a mini break after a big race. I find that during the time off, you can always find a different activity (yoga, spin class) or a different stretch or exercise that you can incorporate into your next training period. When I was running 100-120 miles a week, I would set out to find a new activity, exercise, or some challenge that I would bring into the start of my new training. Those types of activities are sometimes hard to plug-in when you are going full speed ahead during normal training.

What’s a good amount of time to take off after a big race? Does this amount of time differ depending on the race distance?
It does depend on the race distance (more time for marathon and half marathon runners) and each individual runner, too. If a runner is training year round and has three different training cycles in their year, three different 7-10, 100 % day-off periods is typically a pretty safe routine to wrap up each season and to prepare for the next one.

If a runner is feeling good after a goal race, is a break necessary?
A runner might want to set up another race or two and ride out the training peak and wave of fast running they are on after a goal race. This happens a lot and leads to not only one PR but maybe two or three. A training break is then taken after you have exhausted those race options.

Both in my own training when I was running professionally on the US circuit and for my runners, I pose this simple question: “Do you want to PEAK right or run a PR for your next key race whenever that might be down the road”? If the answer is yes, then you need to take an end-of-season break. There are exceptions but the majority of runners fall into that category of needing an end-of-season break, however long that might be.

Sometimes when runners miss their race goal, they are tempted to keep training so they can make another attempt on their goal in a few weeks. What are your thoughts on this?
This is a situation where each runner’s past training and racing experience comes into play. Some marathon and half marathon runners can extend their training another two to four weeks and run a PR a month after when their PR or goal race might have been. Those make for awesome running stories and those examples happen a lot with the right planning. Each runner just needs to assess the “WHY” a race might not have gone to plan and decide if it was something that can be “FIXED” immediately and the season can be extended with another race or two.

Is it ever appropriate for a runner to keep training at the same intensity after a big race?
Many times a runner can run a marathon and then extend their season to include a fast 5k or 10k. Many times, if you watch you recovery closely after the marathon, you can run really well in the 5k/10k races and then take your end-of-season break.

When runners are ready to start training again after a break, what’s the best way to get back into it?
That first week back is always that time when you are antsy to get back out there and run fast because you are rested. When you start back running, use your usual routes that you like to run where you know the distances. Instead of being married to the GPS, you can allow yourself to just run by minutes and time instead of being worried about pace and distance. That allows for a very nice ease back into things. Most running injuries happen during the first month of dedicated training – so that caution of easy pace and not pushing too much too early, helps keep runners healthy that first month back building up mileage again.

Thanks for chatting with us, Matt! If you’re interested in learning more about coaching services through ThunderDome Running, you can connect here:




What’s next, you ask? Coming soon, we’ll feature more local runners and highlight a few upcoming races. You won’t want to miss any of it 😉

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

The Ultimate Gift for Every Runner on Your List

While you can’t give the gift of speed, you can gift the runner on your list with run coaching. Working with a coach makes running faster/stronger/better possible. For any runner, it’s the ultimate holiday gift!

Below, Matt Thull from ThunderDome Running, tells us what it’s like to work with a coach and why it’s beneficial for runners of all levels – from beginner to elite.

Let’s start off by talking a bit about what it’s like to work with a coach. What happens when a runner first comes to you for coaching and what are the different ways you might work with him or her?

I like to get a feel of what a typical training week looks like. What is their mileage, number of days running per week and any cross training (yoga, bike, swim). I also like to hear about why the interested runner runs . . . like what is their motivation, focus, or what their peak/goal race might be. With all of those factors in mind both the new runner and I can determine if we would be a good match/team. Some runners need a daily individualized training plan, some runners need an extra push with a one-on-one workout session with me, and others just need to “fix” their training the last month or two before a big race.

What does coaching provide that can’t be found in an online training plan or in a book?

Individual coaching provides immediate feedback (daily) so we won’t miss a training mistake a month down the road when it is too late. Each week is different in terms of how a runner’s life schedule fits with their training. Workouts, long runs, paces and races can and sometimes need to be adjusted. Books and generalized training plans don’t factor in individual runner’s needs like needing to take off for nagging pains, lack of motivation/ burnout, or missing runs due to work as well as how to try to make those up in a safe/smart way. A book plan or general plan tries to meet the needs of many runners, whereas a personalized running coach’s only goal is your “own” needs – so there are no generalities and your training schedule is unique.

One thing we’ve heard from some runners is that they aren’t fast enough to need a coach. Can you talk a bit about how coaching can benefit runners of all abilities and levels?

“Fast” runners need the same things as beginning runners and all runners in between. We all need accountability, a cheerleader, variety in workouts, expertise and some running psychological help, too. The weekly training elements of a sub 2:20 marathon runner are very similar to someone running a 5 hour marathon or a first time 5k runner.

Some runners seemed to be injured all the time – how can working with a coach help runners avoid injury and burnout?

Injury and burnout happen a lot of times when runners do the same series of workouts and are constantly comparing prior weeks or years of workout results. No single training build up is the same as prior training period – even if the prior training period produced a PR. Injuries don’t have to be a constant part of training if each training block is treated as its own unique training cycle.

What are some of the other benefits of working with a coach?

Many times I find out that the running IQ of my new runners and even veteran runners could use a boost. With that in mind, we not only work together on a challenging training plan but also offer pre-race/workout warm-up routines and other tips and tricks that can improve their training. If someone loves to race we work on NOT racing every single race at 100 percent all out as they still have a peak race in mind. Also every runner has strengths and weaknesses so individualizing workouts can both progress those strengths and shore up weak areas of training and racing. You can’t get that out of a general book or plan written to help millions.

What should runners look for in a running coach?

A running coach many times has a unique “philosophy” or maybe something that worked for them with their individual running. What runners should look for is a running coach that has an approach that has been proven through personal running experience, coaching experience (high school, college, professional levels) along with a background in “real life” coaching theory. By that I mean a coach knowledgeable in what has worked at the top levels of running and how that can be individualized and related to runners of all ages and abilities. Just because a runner has run a fast marathon themselves or has run 150 miles in a week does not necessarily make them a good coach.

Do you follow a coaching philosophy? 

My coaching approach builds the right amount of intensity/speed into having enough easy day/glue mileage running (a part of the week most runners go way too fast on). With the right weekly structure of training (hard/easy running), consistency, and an overall solid running IQ base, ThunderDome runners step to the line both fit and confident they will run their best effort on that day.

How did you get into coaching?

I have been running for 23+ years. Along the way I have been a sponge of every single shred of information Olympic coaches or runners have shared with me. I always say “if I had someone telling me this when I was in high school or first started running things might have been different.” So I try to bring that advice and teaching approach into coaching. Runners never know as much as they can or experience all they need themselves, so having a coach to help fill in those gaps will make the sport/activity more fun.

What coaching services are offered at ThunderDome?

The majority of the runners we coach are online via email. We coach runners all over the United States with our day-to-day training schedules. One of the most exciting areas that we specialize in is helping high school cross country and track runners train in the offseason and we now have several alumni of that program who are running at D1, D2, and D3 colleges. In the Milwaukee area, we also offer one-on-one coaching sessions – where we cover anything from running form to workout/race prep to personalized workout partners so our runners can hammer out that last key workout before a big race. Another area that has been very successful is training/coaching military personnel for their running test for basic training.

Anything else runners should know about run coaching?

Runners spend a decent amount of money on shoes, equipment, physical therapy visits, gels/bars, race entry/travel, etc. Why not invest in one of the most important parts of the training equation – coaching? A good training schedule can help you avoid physical therapy visits, doctor visits, and frustrating days/weeks off due to injuries or burnout.

Thanks for chatting with us, Matt! To learn more about ThunderDome Running, you can connect here:



Keep Running MKE: You’re doing great!