It’s 7:00 in the morning on January 19th, 2020, and the parking lot of Pursue Fitness is a quiet place. It’s 7:01am, and no one has arrived yet. The team plan was to meet at Pursue (at 7:00am) and carpool to the race. Apparently arriving at 4:45am every morning is not a problem, but 7:00am is a different story. 7:07am and the crew has finally assembled and are on the road.
For the first race of the year, Team 5am Running Madness decided to run in the Cascade Half Marathon in Turner, OR. Starting a new year and new training cycle is a great way to check-in with your running-self and collect data on how to proceed with your training going forward. But this race was special for other reasons besides being the first race of the year, this was also the first race for Team Madness, which was previously the informal 5am Running Madness Facebook group. The group was started over a decade ago by a few runners - serious runners who don't take themselves too seriously - who would get up and run together in the early morning. Over the years the group transformed into something a little more serious, largely due to the passion and madness of Lonn Robertson, Brad Chvatal, and Ryan Sankey. Over the years, the group grew in size, consistency and intensity. The group now consists of a dozen or so runners who consistently show up, both for workouts, but also for each other in their support, positivity, and belief in each other’s potential. The accomplishments of the runners in the group and the consistency and intensity of the training led to the transformation of the informal group to the official Team 5am Running Madness. Team 5am Running Madness is a team of runners composed of amateur and sub-elite athletes pursuing their personal bests and supporting their teammates in those pursuits. And the Cascade Half Marathon was the Team’s first event.
Six runners signed up for the event and four other team members and some of their family attended the event. Overall the race was an enormous success. Lonn Robertson is the coach of the team and he definitely puts the ‘Madness’ in Team 5am Running Madness - Let’s look at the coach’s report of the race.
“From a coaching perspective, every race and every workout is a great deal like birthdays
and Christmas – anticipating opening up the presents to see what is there. Sometimes there is the pony and sometimes there is underwear – all good things but some a bit more exciting than the other. The worst-case scenario is when the Christmas tree burns up – fortunately that doesn’t happen very often. That being said, for Cascade, there is no doubt that the best part was the comradery of racers and spectators. What makes Running Madness elite in its own way, is the mutual support of the runners. So, having 15 people drive 2.5 hours for 6 of those folks to run, was monster.
The Cascade Half has always been a good “predictor” race. We always shoot for a high goal
but we also know those goals are optimistic and perhaps not reality based. For decades it has been the only mid-winter Half Marathon in Oregon. You know that good runners will be present and the roads are always flat. Generally, we’ve run Cascade after only having a couple weeks into the marathon training cycle. This year was a bit different in that Andrea is in the middle of her 11 weeks between CIM and the trials in Atlanta. So the goals were split.
#1. Trying to push Andrea’s vO2 max and leg strength AND help her mental training was imperative – but it came with risks since we really didn’t know what was there. Worst case was to go out big and come up short. Best case was go out big and nail it. Fortunately, and characteristic for Andrea, she went out big and actually blew through the ceiling. This allows her to actually train with confidence and we know we can push her without knocking her off the wave’s edge. Couldn’t be more perfect.
#2. Allison and Sam were going out for a training run, Allison adding on the responsibility of helping pace Jenn. For both, that was great mental and physical exercise –perfect workout for coming off some stale December training. For Stefanie and Jenn and Morgan, the Half was actually a race – where they could test themselves to see what was working and what needed some help. Both Morgan and Jenn had parallel races – where it was evident that their speed is fine but we need to build up race-pace-endurance and work on nutrition (both runners felt they hadn’t fueled properly before or during the race). Generally, this far in advance we have to really work on all systems but having speed strength in the bag (their consistent maximum track-work effort has really paid off), we will be able to more finely focus on middle-to-late cycle training, bringing the long miles and the speed together. They ended up with exceptional times but more “B Goal” than “A Goal”. Stefanie had a post-Austin PR, proving that her consistent Fall mileage and effort are spot-on for anything she chooses over the next several months –Stefanie is always mentally prepared to push herself and, on this day, came in 100 seconds faster than she predicted. An amazing feat for the mom of a busy 4-year-old."
This race was a particularly important one for teammate Andrea Imhof. Andrea Imhof began running with the 5am group early in 2019. She is a graduate student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Oregon and a recent Marathon Olympic Trial Qualifier (OTQ) after running the California International Marathon in her personal best of 2:44:03. Andrea is also a sponsored runner on the Haute Volee team of Oiselle. This race was an important check-in race for Andrea as she prepares for the Olympic trials. Andrea ran an excellent race and another personal best in the Cascade Half Marathon, and she placed as the top overall woman’s finisher. This is her post-race interview.
Jenn: “Andrea, how do you feel this race prepared you for the upcoming Olympic trials in Atlanta?”
Andrea: “This race was a big confidence boost leading up to the Trials in Atlanta. I took several weeks off of running in December after CIM, and was worried coming back into training that I had lost a lot of fitness. (Thanks Lonn for busting our butts with incredibly hard workouts right off the bat!)
I honestly had pretty low expectations for this race, and came into it thinking that I’d be thrilled to run 1:20. I learned a LOT from this race about listening to my body -- I felt good after the first mile and was more willing to take risks about pace than I have been in a while.”
Jenn: “You won, PR’d, and got one of the 2nd fastest course times ever – what components of your training do you think helped you with this?”
Andrea: “I started training in earnest with 5am Madness last spring, and can honestly say that Lonn’s training plans are much more intense than anything I’d followed before. I owe 95% of this past year to the intensity of training and the group that comes out to bust through these insane workouts together.
Aside from just an increase in training intensity, I also think I’ve been working a lot on my psychological game this year as well. I have always had the worst self-talk about my own running, and really started to crack down on my mental game last fall. “The Brave Athlete” gave me a ton of new exercises to work on my pre-race nerves and approach to running overall, and I really think that I’ve been in a much happier and healthier mental state over the past few months as well.
This was one of those races where everything just “clicked”. It’s hard not to be thrilled with a PR -- and to cut off more than a minute *and* run negative splits? Just an all around great day. ”
Jenn: “So how are you feeling about the upcoming trials?”
Andrea: “I’m psyched! I’m not sure I really believed that I could actually run an OTQ until it happened last December, so this opportunity just feels like such a gift. I haven’t put too much pressure on myself to prove anything in Atlanta -- I’m just stoked to be there and want to show up healthy and ready to put my best foot forward!”
I know I speak for every team member when I say we are so excited to watch Andrea at the trials at the end of February. We will be cheering her on with our full hearts. Good luck Andrea!
The Team collected five age group medals including the overall female win. Each runner felt successful in their race performance. But overall the biggest win was the strong sense of comradery and the genuine sense of belonging that being a team creates. Everyone felt like they were part of something meaningful and accomplished, rather you were running the race or supporting it, you felt a sense or pride and accomplishment. You could feel this most strongly in the post-race gathering at Willamette Valley Vineyards. The motivation and excitement were tangible. Every person felt energized by the team’s success. Rather than focusing on individual performances everyone talked about the pride of the collective “We.” The day concluded with a sense of ownership and belonging that left each teammate feeling motivated and excited about what’s to come.
As a closing to the team’s first race wrap-up, here are some comments from the team members about their team experience.
“Transitioning the Running Madness Group into the Running Madness Team is a bit frightening. The word connotates an added set of responsibilities – from the Team and from the Team Members. While the group has always been fun, this race was a perfect example of how that comradery works. It is safe to believe that workouts and runs will continue to develop with this symbiosis. As a Team, we will work to equally support the running needs of each racer as each runner works toward making the Team successful. There is no desire to make 5AM Running Madness an exclusive entity – we will welcome anyone who loves other runners to join us for training. However, the accountability and support we all highly value will almost always come from the nucleus of Team Members."
“I am so excited that 5am Madness is starting to race together as a more official team. This group is so supportive of each other, and it feels so great to race with teammates! I’m always continually impressed by how far teammates from the 5am crew are willing to drive just to cheer each other on -- and I look forward to many more team races and events this spring and summer!”
“The day was a wonderful day for my daughter and me. The road trip up and back was a great way to spend time with my daughter. And the time we spent with Lonn on the course was a great way to show her what it’s like being part of a team.
I love to watch road races. But this one was meaningful because I cared personally about those runners.”
“Experiencing the race with our 5am group created a real sense of comradery among those involved. Let’s do it again!”
I agree Sam, let’s all do it again soon!