PhysFarm Athletes Triumphant!

It has been a strong early season for the athletes of PhysFarm.

David and I have been hard at work engineering our athlete’s training programs to exacting standards, and the athletes have been on top of their sessions day in, day out, for months. Put these things together, and you get performances without equal from two Iowa Hawkeyes, Matt Hanson and Lesley Smith. (Well, Matt teaches at a different college, and Lesley now lives in Boulder, but they are both from Iowa. So there’s that.)

Matt Hanson crushes Ironman Texas

Saturday, May 16 saw Matt come out of the water at the Ironman North American Championships in Texas with a solid swim. He rode with the second pack on the bike, conserving his energy for what would be a blistering run. We would love to say that the run was filled with drama, but Matt simply set the pace we new he could run and he laid waste to the field. Matt banged out a 2:45 marathon to not only win the race, but claim a new course record.

Meanwhile, Sunday morning opened with Lesley Smith of Boulder, CO toeing the line at Challenge Knoxville. The Challenge Series recently began establishing footholds in the United States after many years of hugely popular races elsewhere in the world. Unsuprisingly, a field of heavy hitters turned up, including Rebekah Keat, the Wassners, and Rachel McBride.

Coming off the bike, Lesley was almost 10 minutes out of first place. It was time to unleash her secret weapon. Lesley ran 1:23 on a day when no one else broke 1:30. She was more than 4:30 out of first place with 3 miles to go. Catching McBride with 200 yards to go, she lit the afterburners and took the win. The race was so close that the Challenge twitter feed mistakenly named McBride the winner at first.

Lesley Smith triumphant in Knoxville

Other notable performances came from Heather Lendway. Knoxville was her first ever half-iron distance race. Despite this, she won the swim and finished the bike in 3rd place. She wound up finishing 8th, a strong showing for someone who has only run above 13 miles about 4 times in the past year. There are great things to come from Heather…watch this space. There was also PhysFarm amateur athlete James Haycraft, who netted an age-group win at the Xterra Southeast Championships, qualifying for Worlds.

Now, earlier in this article, we mentioned that PhysFarm engineers athlete performances. We mean that in the strictest sense of the word. Using advanced mathematical tools and algorithms, we are able to tweak the training programs of athletes with a precision others cannot. For example, we are able to use the GOVSS algorithm to understand runner power output and analyze course contours, so that we understand how our athletes will run on the flats, and on the hills. We use the Apollo system to adjust training in order to ensure an athlete is capable of a particular necessary power outputs and paces on race day.

As my British colleagues like to say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. With this in mind, it is worth taking a look at what our combination of training and technology does for our athletes. Lesley ran a 1:23 half-marathon (3:58 / kilometer pace) in Knoxville on a day when no one else could run under 1:30. What did our system predict? I’ll let a screen shot tell the story. Tasty, eh?

We predicted Lesley would run 3:58 / k. She ran exactly 3:58 / k. And won.

Game. Set. Match. PhysFarm.

Of course, we build these models for all of our athletes. (You can build them too! Download a free trial here). Sometimes, however, it’s fun to get under the hood. We did some lab testing on Matt last winter. Athletes are sometimes a bit nevous when they see all those toys for the first time. (Treadmills and carts and ergometers, oh my!) Matt was totally into it. He’s got a PhD in exercise physiology. Here’s a pic Ruth Brennan-Morrey took that day.  Matt’s incredible running has surprised a lot of people. It doesn’t surprise me at all.

People often ask me how we get these kinds of performances out of athletes. Yes, we know a lot about training. Yes, we use a lot of advanced technology to target specific performances through engineered workouts. However, the most important advice I can give you is this: You must only open up your “can of whoop-ass” during the race. If you are constantly shredding yourself in training, you will not have anything left to do something special during the race.

Matt, hauling buckets on the treadmill and collecting data.

As you train, you will improve, and as you improve you you will know you can go faster. You will feel it in your bones. You will be tempted to start crushing workouts. Resist this urge. Crush the race. Trust me on this. Or just ask Matt. Or Lesley. Or Joanna. Or Cat. Or…

Well, you get the idea. We could go on like that for quite some time around here.

We want to help you set your next personal best, whether that is on the podium of a world championship or a 10 second improvement at the local 5k. When you are ready to do something extraordinary, we’ll be ready for you. Get in touch with us at coachphil at

See you at the races!