Sure it’s great to interview and read about 2:11 marathoners, Olympic Trials qualifiers, people setting state records, etc. However, sometimes it can be hard to relate to them and their 140 miles per week schedules. What about the people who run similar times to us one year, but then breakthrough the next, and leave us in their dust? Those are the people I want to seek out after a race and ask, “What the heck have you been doing?”
For me, one of those runners is Tony Kocanda, 34, of Minneapolis. In 2002, Tony was running 6:30 pace for 10 mile races, now he’s practically running that fast for the marathon. His 3:06 marathon PR has turned into a 2:52 in just 3 years - and he has goals of going faster.
When did you get started running and how’d you get involved? What about triathlons?
I started running to lose weight. I graduated from college in May of 1995 at 210 pounds. I started working out at this gym about ¾ of a mile from my house in South Minneapolis. Pretty soon I started running to the gym, lifting, and running home. Then I started running the long way to the gym, lifting, and running the long way home. After about 6 months, I was running a lot more and lifting a lot less. By August of that year I was down to 175 pounds. I did my first marathon (TCM) in 1996, and the rest is history.
I got involved in triathlons because a friend of mine said “Let’s do an Ironman.” Not wanting to back down to a challenge, I said yes. I only did 2 short course triathlons before doing my first Ironman in 1999.
When I first met you, you were competing in triathlons, and you were running decent times. Then you began to focus on running and your times dropped. Why the change in focus? Do you still do triathlons?
I changed my focus back to running in 2004. I had started a part time graduate program in 2003. I wanted to focus on work, school and my family commitments. Cycling and swimming took a back seat. Ironically, that freed up more time for running.
I haven’t done a triathlon since 2005. I’m done with graduate school now, so I’m riding a lot more again. My swimming goes in fits and spurts. I plan on doing a couple of short course tris this year.
How did your training change? Can you give some examples of how your race results improved?
The short answer is that I got older and wiser.
The long answer is that my training changed quite a bit. I started running with a heart rate monitor. I slowed down on a lot of my recovery runs and did my key workouts a lot harder. From 2004 until now, I kept increasing my weekly mileage. As an example, in 2004 my off season weekly mileage hovered around 25 miles per week. Now it’s in the 50s. During the season my mileage used to peak in the 50s, now it’s in the 70s.
I focused less on the outcome of each race and more on the pure joy of running and the process of training. By that I mean I really focused on making sure my training was going well and I was hitting my key workouts. I also reconciled that I was not going to PR at every race. I focused on doing well at a few races per year. Once I started doing all of that the results took care of themselves. I had not set a PR between 2000 and 2004. I have set all of my PRs since 2004.
Would you consider yourself a better runner or triathlete?
I am definitely a better runner, but I love to ride as well. Triathlon is a good way to combine those two sports.
What are your PRs?
5K – 17:00
10K – 36:36
10 Mile – 58:51
½ Marathon – 1:18:45
25K – 1:40:29 (on trails)
Marathon – 2:52:46
What are you race plans and goals for 2007?
I’m at a crossroads with my training. I think (at least I hope) I have a couple more years to get faster. I want to break 1:15 for the half marathon and break 2:40 for the marathon. I realize those are lofty goals, but my weekly mileage is relatively low compared to what it could be. I have no reason to believe it can’t be done. However, I have been feeling the pull the last few months to see how I can perform at the 50 and 100 mile distances. I am still pondering where I want to take my training.
Do you have a favorite local race?
There are a lot of great local races, but since Twin Cities Marathon was my first marathon it holds a special place in my heart.
What is your training philosophy? Do you tend to follow any certain program?
I think people tend to make training too complicated. I am a firm believer in frequency and volume. Run more [often] and run more miles. Call it a modified Lydiard program or what you will. It is simple and it has worked well for me.
Your wife, Laurie, is also a triathlete. How are you guys able to balance family, work and training?
I think that since fitness is so important to both of us it becomes less about how we do it but more a question of when we do it. A lot of the times we work out in the morning or late at night. I am also able to run over my lunch hour at work. That makes our schedule a lot easier. In the summer our daughters log a lot of time in the jogger and the bike trailer. Our oldest daughter logged two 20 milers with us while we were training for the 2004 TCM. Our biggest fear is that we will be footing a hefty therapy bill for them later in life…
Are you guys able to train together? Do you have any other training partners?
Laurie and I are able to train together about once a week. It is our favorite date. I run with a great group of guys on Friday mornings and with some former co-workers on a monthly basis. Mostly, however, I train alone.
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
Hmm, that is a tough one. Honestly, I would have to say that I would like to be able to run with my wife more. Before we had kids she was my training partner.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
I wish I would have understood the correlation between high mileage and good results and that sometimes it’s about running for the love of the sport, and not to see how well you can do at every race.