When someone runs his first marathon in 3:03 off of 20-30 MPW, I think it's safe to say they have some talent. Chris Grossinger, 32 of Minneapolis, did just that. Since that time Chris has slashed his marathon PR down to 2:32. He now has his sights set on sub-2:30 at the Houston Marathon in January. Along the way he'll have to overcome some piriformis and sciatic issues. He'll also have to get back to what works for him; high mileage, threshold runs and 200 meter strides. (Photo courtesy of Curt Lyons)
What kind of success did you have in high school?
I really didn’t have a ton of success. I was district and conference champion my senior year (1993) and won a lot of races but really never nailed it in Sections to advance to State. I only ran track since our high school didn’t have cross country. I’ve still yet to run a cross country race. I always thought that running never really made any sense, but our family moved out into the country when I was 14 and my dad would have me bike from town out to the country to work on the new house (sometimes giving my sister a buck on the bike). The next year I was in great shape and running came so much easier and I soon found I really enjoyed it.
Did you continue running after you graduated? If not, when did you start running again and what got you re-involved with the sport?
After graduating high school I enrolled at Normandale College with aspirations of transferring the next year to NDSU and giving running a shot as a walk on. My running got put on hold as I was approached at giving restaurant ownership a shot. I chose the career route and only ran occasionally non competitively. In 1998 I really wanted to get back and for some crazy reason wanted to run a marathon, which I totally hated the first time. I trained on my own, with no idea how to, with a goal in mind of qualifying for Boston. I remember my mileage topping out at 20-30 miles a week. What was I thinking? Needing to run a sub 3:10 I struggled to finish running 3:03. In 2001 I joined the MDRA to learn how to properly train and run with a group to make the long runs easier. From that point on I started to improve.
In general, what is your training philosophy?
I am huge believer of the Lydiard system. I really feel mileage is the key to successful marathoning and Lydiard is a huge proponent of this. I think sometimes people think there is a magic pill or track session that will produce results but a lot of it lies in the mileage, while throwing in some of the quicker stuff to spice it up from time to time. I have found the most success in my marathons when I basically live in Lebanon Hills or Highland Hills for the first 8-10 weeks of my training. Hills seem to provide plenty of the base work and speed for me.
Typically, what is your weekly mileage in and out of season?
I’ll typically run off a four-week cycle of 70-80-90-100 miles during season with workouts and 60-75-90-115/120 off-season without workouts. I have found that during the season or while training in the marathon cycle I really shouldn’t go over 100 miles while still trying to do workouts. Being that I work on my feet up to sometimes 15 hours a day my legs become zapped so I try not to go over 100 miles in order to keep some zip. In the winter I’ll bump up to 115-120 at the peak while skipping the workouts, and just working on base mileage.
Who or what has been instrumental as you’ve improved as a runner over the last few years?
As I said, I joined the MDRA in 2001 and there they had coaches for the marathon training class. My first marathon with the class I ran 2:50 and felt I could improve so Marty Humphrey, a coach with the MDRA, kind of took me under his wing I guess, added some guidance while introducing the Lydiard system to my training. Marty’s philosophies are unique and produce results as he has run some phenomenal times himself. Marty helped me to run 2:36 the next fall. Two other MDRA regulars were Deb Schneider and Gene Niemi that were instrumental in helping, giving their expierience and own abilities. As of late Kelly Mortenson has really showed me some new things. He really has a knack for holding back in workouts and nailing races, something I am still trying to learn. Also that training and racing are two different things.
What have you learned that works for you?
That is funny you ask because that is where my training lies currently. I really think some of the faster track workouts really don’t work as well for me. For some of the guys on our team (Run n Fun) it has, and they’ve done great but with training what works for one person may not work for another. I have found that maintaining the mileage and adding more of a threshold type run (a little below marathon pace, while recovering at marathon pace) once a week on trails works wonders for me. Weekly 200 meter strides have done enough for my speed in the past, after all how much speed do marathoner’s need? I’ve also found that during marathon training season I really can only do one thing well, “train”. I put less emphasis on racing with all goals aimed at marathon day.
What are you goals for the rest of 2007? What are your long-term goals?
Currently I am a little dinged up. Piriformis and sciatic issues are holding me back a bit but I am still managing to train pretty hard, I have just raced terribly this past year. In August I’ll start my marathon training again for the Houston Marathon in January. Houston will be my main focus but I’ll sprinkle in some harder training runs as TC10 miler and maybe some cross. The plan in Houston is to go under 2:30.
Do you tend to run by yourself or with a group?
I love to run by myself every morning before work around the lakes but Tuesdays I run with the boys at Run n Fun, which I really enjoy. Saturdays I’ll join in with the MDRA for a 12-15 miler and Sundays with Run n Fun for our long run. I have found that the different group paces of runs have really helped.
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
The longer stuff has seemed to come a little easier than the short for me. I noticed while my marathon time was dropping I was getting killed by a lot of the same guys in the 10k’s and 5k’s that I was ahead of in the marathon. Two of my many weaknesses are that I’ll do a lot of the same workouts as others and at their pace, which I shouldn’t, while I should stick to what has worked for me in the past. Another is I often run my easy runs too hard, constantly wanting that feel of a workout on a easy run. I need to remember to keep the easy runs easy and the hard runs hard.
What are your PRs?
10 Miler 54:24
½ Marathon 1:11
What is your fondest running memory?
I actually have two. When I ran in high school my parents worked while our track meets were going on so they really couldn’t make any of them. I think one of the only times my mom got to come was my senior year at the conference meet in Delano. I knew I wanted to do well or else she might not want to come to another meet. HA! Fortunately I won and since her and my dad have come to many of my races. Another is the trails below Fort Snelling. This place is very special to me for it’s where running I met and where I proposed to my fiancé, Pamela Augustin.
What’s your biggest disappointment?
My last two big races. Chicago Marathon last year, I dropped out after only 13 miles due to an injury and this past Grandmas Half. I am currently trying to heal/strengthen the piriformis injury while training the way that has worked for me in the past. Hopefully together the two will produce great results in Houston.
Do you have a favorite local and/or national race?
Favorite as in performance is the Chicago Marathon, I ran my PR there in 2005. Awesome course, great fan support and tough field. Favorite as in “fun” is Grandma’s Half. After running the full years prior all you have to do is pick it up a few notches faster than marathon pace and your in town by 7:30 AM, what a feeling!
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I’ve run with Bruce Mortenson in recent years but I’d have loved to run with him back in his early days especially while in college at Oregon. Even though I probably couldn’t have kept up with him hopefully he’d let me join him and guys like Kenny Moore and Pre. (Steve Prefontaine) Many people don’t know this but Bruce was the first NCAA steeple champion while at Oregon back in the 60’s, now he would be truly a good interview for you.
Speaking of Minnesotans, you’re not the only Grossinger burning up the roads. Brooks’ name also appears near the top of the results. Any relation?
Yeah, he is a distant cousin. Pretty weird, we met in the Grandma’s Half race a couple years ago at like 5 miles. We went through 10 miles and both of us said simoutainesly “wow that’s a 10 mile pr”. We introduced ourselves more the next 3 miles. I remember just trying to keep focused and save my breath and how to finish the race and maybe out kick him at the finish rather than talk. We ran it in together and he got me right at the end, although we’ve swapped beating each other since…kind of funny.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
Finding what works and consistency. Find what works for you and stick with it over a longer period. Too many people, including myself, have found what works become impatient and “tweek” their training to speed up results. We should stick with what has worked over a longer period. With consistency I guess I’ve really only been running high mileage for a few years and would like to have seen what college or immediate post college running would have done. Years and years of base running really seems to pay off just looking at what the Kenyans have done. They run 5 miles to school every day, and 5 miles home. Besides the biking, maybe my dad should have had me run to and from school to ensure a solid base!