Know Your Racer: Carl Palmer

Mens Veterans

Carl Palmer

So when did I become so old to be called a ‘veteran?’

As with many runners, I claim I was a good soccer player ….  until it came time to start kicking with your left foot (say, 6th grade).  All I was really good at was hustling, I suppose.   I ran some track in junior high school (mile), but never scored a point.

Come high school, I never made varsity, although to be fair, we would run our JV versus varsities  in one of the two leagues were were in. That “Delaware Independent School Conference” league was so bad that I actually finished 7th at the league meet.  On the bright side, I’m pretty sure I beat the current senator from Delaware.

I so badly wanted a letter in high school.  I ended up barely making varsity baseball, ending up with a stellar .111 average.  At least had no errors in my handful of games.  So I got my high school letter that way.

When I got to Swarthmore college (Division III), a guy on my freshman dorm convinced me to go out for cross country.   It was a fun diversion that became my passion over the years.  I probably would average 7 minute miles in races that first year – about 20th fastest (or 10th slowest) on the team.  Sophomore year, I did a little better, and I also did track in the spring, making it the first time I ran year-round.  After Sophomore year, I would average 40-50 miles/week through the year.  I cracked the top 7 on the XC team in Junior year, but it was my enthusiasm (or whatever) got me elected co-captain.  By senior year, I was typically ~5th or so on the team, meaning that my performance would affect the score (slightly).  I did have one out of my mind race at a big invitational where I finished right behind our number one runner, and that finish propelled us to win the meet.   30 years later, I’m probably the only one that remembers that meet.

During college, I only ran a handful of road races in the summer.  But come to think of it, I won trophies at a couple of the smaller 10K’s.  But this was the 80’s, and running wasn’t like it is now.


Carl Competing in College.  Curly Hair.  Favorite Shoes.  Striped Tube socks!
Carl Competing in College.  Curly Hair.  Favorite Shoes.  Striped Tube socks!

Side commentary – my experience of improving over time is why no cross country coach should cut people for performance.  When I hear of coaches cutting kids at the high school or college level, I take it personally.  The sports are there for student benefit.  …. But I digress.

PR’s from the 80’s  (….a long long time ago in a galaxy far away)


1 mile 4:36 (cinder track)

2 miles 9:53

5K 15:43 (rubber track – my usual races were ~16:20)

10K 33:38 (rubber track)

In my first grad school, I ran with my roommate who ran for Purdue.  It was humbling – I learned the difference between division 1 and division 3 athletes.  That is, division 1 are athletes, and division 3 are …. not quite as good.  He had this extra gear where he could just go zoom any time he wanted to.

In my PhD years, I continued to run with professors and other assorted students at lunchtime.  It was a great way to get to know people outside of your own field.

In 1991, life happened.  My wife was pregnant with our son. She gained weight, I gained  weight.  She gave birth. She lost all the weight.  I didn’t do either of those.

I tried running with a running stroller once. My son screamed.  Stroller was returned to store.  Not much running after that.

Fast forward to 2009.  My doctor tells me to lose some weight, or she will put me on cholesterol pills.  So I start writing down everything I eat and literally counting the calories.  [I’m an engineer.  That’s what we do]  Yes I can tell you that ~3500 calories does equal one pound.  So if you cut out the 5 100 calorie hard pretzels you eat for snacks every day, you lose a pound in a week.  It happens.  Over 3 months, I lost 25 pounds. [And as an engineer, of course I graphed the whole thing]  Oh yes,  I also started running ~2-3 miles a day with my dog.

So my doctor said to me “Your cholesterol numbers look great.”  I said “You told me to lose weight.”  She said “But nobody ever listens to me.”

So I’ve been running since then, with some of the typical up & downs (injuries, life, bad winters).

I spice up my activities by also participating in Orienteering, which is running off-trail in the woods, looking for ‘controls’, using only a map and a compass.  The best raw runners rarely are the best orienteers, because the harder you run, the more likely you are to make bad route choices.  See (shameless plug).

I came across Roadkill Racing in early 2015 via a strange set of circumstances that involved LinkedIn and me mistaking someone else’s identity, and then stumbling across the roadkill site via google.  I saw that my friend Jim Werven was on the team, so I figured, why not.

My best times of the last quarter century have occurred with me wearing a Roadkill Racing Singlet:

2015 Sunset House 5K: 6th overall of 276, 18:28 and a fun kick at the end to get 1st Master’s.  “Better than sex” (tongue in cheek) – If you’ve ever done it, you know what I mean.


Carl Palmer at2015 McMullen Mile.
Carl Palmer at2015 McMullen Mile.


Happy Carl - Sunset House Award
Happy Carl – Sunset House Award


Sometimes 6 weeks is all you need

If you’ve ever wanted to race the mile but weren’t sure the best way to go about it, Roadkill has you covered. If you have built a decent base training for 5k or longer races you can easily make the switch to the mile. I’ve added this as a training page as well so it will be easy to find later.

This a 6 week plan intended for runners doing 25-45 miles per week of training. You will focus on getting comfortable running at mile pace while maintain the aerobic fitness you already have. During this 6 week phase it is fine if you back off your usually mileage a bit while you adjust to the stress of the faster paced workouts.

If you do not know your 1 mile or half marathon race paces you can use this calculator to estimate your paces based on another recent race time. I’ve only listed workout days. Most other days should be 30-60 minutes of easy running with a long run ever 7-10 days of 90 or more minutes. By easy running I mean running at a conversational pace, the best way to make sure you are going at an easy enough pace is to run with someone else and have a conversation with them.

Please see the notes below for more explanations and suggestions.

Week 1 Training Pace Example times for a 6 minute mile
2(8×200 meters with 200 meter jogging rest) 4 minutes rest between sets 1 mile pace 45 seconds per 200 meters
5×1000 meters with 200 meters jogging rest half marathon pace 4:28 per 1000 meters
Week 2
8×400 meters with 400 meters jogging rest 1 mile pace 90 seconds per 400 meters
4×1200 meters (1.5 miles) with 4 minutes rest half marathon pace 5:25 per 1200 meters
Week 3
16×200 meters with 200 meters jogging rest 1 mile pace 45 seconds per 200 meters
6×800 meters with 400 meters jogging rest 5k pace 3:20 per 800 meters
Week 4
no early week workout
8×300 meters with 100 meters jogging rest 1 mile pace 67 seconds per 300 meters
Week 5
8×400 meters with 90 seconds rest 1 mile pace 90 seconds per 400 meters
5×1000 meters with 3 minutes rest 5k pace 4:12 per 1000 meters
Week 6
4×400 meters with 3 minute rest 1 mile pace -3 to -5 seconds 85 per 400 meters


Strides are a great way to work on your form and your top end speed. They teach you to run fast but relaxed. At least twice a week you should do 4-6 strides after an easy run or work them into the last mile or so of your easy run. Start slow and build speed for 5-8 seconds until you are near you top sprint speed, hold that speed for a few second then gradually slow down to a jog, jog for 30-60 seconds before starting your next stride. A stride should take about 15-20 seconds or about 100 meters.

Warm up/Cool down: 

You should establish a warm up and cool down routine and try to do it the same way every workout and every race. This will help prepare both your body and your mind for the hard effort. A proper warm up doesn’t just prepare your muscles but it also primes your cardiovascular system. While everyone has a slightly different routine I would suggest doing roughly the following.

40 minutes out: 15-20 minutes of easy running, start at a shuffle but end the last few minutes and your normal easy run pace or even slightly faster.

20 minutes out: Change into whatever you plan on racing in, bathroom break, final sips of water or sugar drink.

10 minutes out: Head to the starting line (or where ever you are going to start your workout). 4×20 seconds strides at 5k race pace with 1 minute between strides. Do any dynamic stretching (high knees, butt kicks etc) you prefer.

You should finish your warm up routine as soon as possible before the start of your race. Standing around for more than 3-4 minutes will negate much of the work you just did to get ready. There is no time to work into a mile, you need to be ready to run hard from the gun so a good warm-up is critical. I strongly encourage you not to do any static stretching before a race or workout as it robs your muscles of power and likely does nothing to prevent injury. Save the static stretching for after.

Cool down: 10 minutes of easy jogging followed by a good mix of carbs and protein.

Old Guys Running Fast

As I approached 40 years old there were a 3 races I had on my to do list. All of them were mile races, all of them masters only. The first one was the Messenger Mile which I raced last month. The second was the Hartshorne Mile which I raced last weekend. The third is the McMullen Mile elite masters heat.

The Hartshorne is by far the most competitive of the 3, with the winning time often in the low 4:20’s. Saturday’s field was stacked with former Hartshorne champion Scott Weeks and national stand out Mark Williams along with 7 other masters runners from up and down the east coast. I was seeded 5th with a time of 4:38. I ended up finishing 5th but with a time of 4:41. Results.

The whole field ran a bit slower than their seed times, and I feel like I missed a great opportunity to place higher. You can see from the video below that after about 3 laps I lost focus for a bit and the front pack opened up a 5-6 second lead on me. I was able to close that gap to less than 2 seconds during the last lap but I can’t help but think I could have stolen 2nd or 3rd place had I only run a smarter race. Things happen so fast on the track and if you aren’t ready to respond you get left behind. For now I’m moving on to distance training with the Syracuse Half Marathon being my next goal race. I’ll have to sharpen up my speed after than to be ready for the McMullen Mile in June.

Some other notable performances from Hartshorne included great races from fellow Mid-Hudson Valley runners Marisa Strange and Jeff Conston. Marisa ran 5:20.26 which is a 94.55% age grade.

Tentative Cross Country Schedule

I can’t believe this will be Roadkill Racing’s 5th cross country season. I had look back in the archives to double check, but we did indeed start racing as a team in the fall of 2010. Over the past 4 years we have had some big successes, such as winning the whole series in 2011 and some failures, such as having to run as a combined team with High Noon last year. I think we are heading into the 2014 season with one of our strongest teams ever. We also head into the season with a women’s team for the first time which is a testament to how far Roadkill has come since Mike Insler and I first dreamed up the team.

Rob, Mike, Tyle, Travis, Josh, Ryan, Chanse

Below is the schedule for this years series, renamed from the Pete Glavin Upstate New York Cross Country Series to simply Pete Glavin Cross Country (PGXC).  Please plan your fall accordingly!

9/14 Syracuse – Jamesville Beach 5K 11 am
9/27 Rochester – McQuaid Invite 3 miles 5 pm (incl. USATF Niagra Masters)
10/12 Buffalo – TBD 6K 11 am
11/02 Ithaca – TBD 6k 11 am women 8k 12 pm men  (incl. USATF Niagara Championship)
11/23 Rochester – Mendon Park 6k 11 am women10k 12 pm men(PGXC Championship)