By Vince Sherry
A couple of years ago I was looking through a schedule that Jack had sent me to prepare for the Carlsbad 5k. The schedule was similar in format to what you would find in his book, Daniels’ Running Formula, but very different in terms of content. While I was looking at the schedule I wondered if most runners knew how many different schedules Jack had written over the years. At the time almost every competitive runner in Flagstaff (along with countless visiting athletes) had received a schedule from Jack for one race or another and no two were the same. Jack was always willing to try different configurations of training for various athletes. It made me think about how few schedules were out there in the running community, compared to the number he had accumulated over his coaching career.
The thought came and went until about a year later when Jack started coaching with Run SMART. When he initially signed on, there was high demand, and with his other commitments it became difficult to accept all the new runners that wanted to work with him. This is a problem most of the coaches at Run SMART have faced at some point. Personal coaching is very… personal. It takes quite a bit of time to generate a schedule from scratch on a weekly or monthly basis, check in a couple of times per week, and follow 10 or more athletes’ race results. We never want to lose the personal touch, and we always refuse to sacrifice quality for volume. No Run SMART coach, including Jack, works with more than 12 runners at a time.
This client to coach ratio led to another thought: maybe there was a way to get some of Jack’s archived schedules out to runners of any ability without the weekly assistance of a personal coach. If we could do this, we would also be able to offer training at a lower price — but it would be tough by our standards. First, we needed Jack’s consent and an amazing computer programmer.
Brian Rosetti, Mike Smith and I spent hours talking about it over the course of several weeks. The concept was to build a program that would create a schedule based on the prospective athlete’s past race performances, current fitness, and race goals. There would also have to be adjustments made for interim races and a way to modify the training plan if the athlete had a setback. The process was complicated, and in the beginning we didn’t know if it would be possible. Fortunately, we knew just the guy to ask. Trey McCallie oversees web development at Northern Arizona University and had been helping us with our site for several months. He was confident that he could create the program we were looking for.
The last step in the process before we could get started was to see what Jack and Nancy (Jack’s wife) thought of the plan. Mike, my wife Sarah, Magdalena Lewy Boulet (who was in town training at the time) and I went over to Jack and Nancy’s house for dinner late one night last winter. We talked about our ideas and explained why we thought that with Jack’s help we could offer training plans more specific and tailored than anything currently available on the market. Jack was silent for quite a while, and I started to think that if nothing else Nancy made really good chili. Between the chili and the company, the night wouldn’t have been a loss even if Jack had passed. But he didn’t. He gave us his consent.
From that point we got to work. Jack started sending us schedules to use as templates for the training plans, Trey worked on programming (often sending me updates between midnight and 4:30 a.m.) and Brian, Mike and I tried to cover every detail that a runner of any level would look for in a training plan. The process peaked last weekend when we successfully generated our first training plan.
For the first time, anyone can get a training plan that was created by one of the greatest coaches in the history of our sport. Every plan is completely customized for the individual and reviewed by a Run SMART coach. The suggested goal pace is listed for every distance. Run SMART is the only company that Jack has ever released his VDOT formulas (measure of someone’s current running ability) to, so every runner can be confident that their suggested pace is accurate. These schedules were not “based on Dr. Jack Daniels running formulas,” they were created by Dr. Jack Daniels. We don’t use a “modified version of Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT formula” we use Dr. Jack Daniels’ VDOT formula.