By Coach Esteban

Coach “Esteburner” is one of the most popular coaches at Incendia, not only because of his infectious enthusiasm and positive attitude, but because he lives the CrossFit Endurance model. This guy actually makes you feel good about running and makes even non-runners want to run. I love when he tells his story about “not training” for his half-marathon by doing CrossFit and setting a PR during that race. This stuff really works. Join me for a 10K in March with only CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance training leading up to the big day. If I can do it, you can, too! — Lisa 

The weather is dropping and that means one thing for runners… its Race Season. Whether you run 5Ks or marathons, there are a ton of race options available during this time of the year. For runners-turned-CrossFitters there is a lot of discussion on how to spend time training for both our sports. If you are like me and have to juggle a career, family and training, then usually we are forced to pick one over the other. I wanted to share my story on how I have managed to achieve my running goals simply from CrossFit training.

As a college student athlete, I was a sprinter for a Division I school, specializing in the 100m, 200m and 400m sprints. Anything past a 400m sprint seemed like a long distance run to me. Eventually post college life took me away from running and into a desk job. Periodically I would run up and down the neighborhood to do some kind of a cardio workout, but the running bug was gone.

Back in 2009, my wife (girlfriend at the moment) invited me to do a 10K run on a beautiful island in South Texas. Such an event didn’t interest me at all. To me 6.2 miles seemed like an eternity. But the vibe from the large crowd that day motivated me to run without stopping or walking. My time was a modest 1:04:00 (10:19 a mile pace). That experience paved the way for the running bug to return.

Almost on a weekly basis during race season I was doing either a 5K or a 10K run. The more I ran the hungrier I was to improve. Unfortunately, since my college running days I had regressed so much in terms of foot speed, stamina and strength. I set myself on a quest to get myself to look, feel and run like I did in college.

In the running world there is always talk about running half and full marathons – none of which appealed to me. I was still struggling to reach my potential in 5K and 10K runs, so to add a half or a full marathon to the mix was not something I was willing to do. My wife stepped in again. She signed me up for a half- marathon in Austin, TX. I had no idea how to train for such an event. So like everyone else, I googled for training tips. I followed a traditional training regimen that required lots of runs during the week and then long runs during the weekends. I figured the more miles I put in during training the better I would perform.

That cold February day I was able to run a 1:45:58 (8:00 a mile pace). I was extremely happy with my experience and performance. The weeks that followed reality began to sunk in; all the miles I had put in during training wore my body down. I was sidelined for months from any kind of training due to several aches and pains.

Eventually my body recuperated and I was back on the running trails. With my newfound “endurance” I felt confident I could take on an old college race, the 400m sprint. My goal was to go sub one minute. I thought that was an attainable goal since I ran in the 47s in college. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even close to reaching that goal. My time was 1:28… way beyond where I wanted to be. The reality for me was that I wasn’t achieving my running potential simply cause I didn’t have the strength I needed to stay strong during my races whether it was a 400m sprint or a half-marathon.

Later that summer (June 2012) I moved my family from McAllen, TX to Phoenix, AZ. Once we settled in Phoenix I tried to get back on the running high, but was unsuccessful. That is when I came across CrossFit Incendia. In a relentless effort to get “fit”, I was submerged in the CrossFit world. It wasn’t until a few months into CrossFit that the thought of doing another run crossed my mind.

In an effort to convince some friends to adopt a fitness lifestyle that included cardio workouts we signed up to run the Phoenix Half-Marathon in March of 2013. There was one problem though. With my busy work schedule, two very energetic young children and my CrossFit training, where was I going to find the time to squeeze in those long, slow runs that are required in the traditional training regiments for half or full marathons? I was not going to sacrifice my CrossFit training time for runs, so I was forced to do the half-marathon without any “training”.

I had several concerns going into the race simply cause the only running I had done was during my CrossFit workouts. Another concern was that I didn’t “carb load” in the traditional pasta way cause of my Paleo diet. But to my surprise, I felt great during the race. I finished in 1:38:49 (7:33 a mile pace). I managed to shave over 7 minutes from my previous half-marathon time. The fact that I had improved so much was unbelievable, but even more so since I hadn’t done any long runs in preparation for it. The best part was that I felt that I could have kept that same pace for another 13.1 miles. And since I hadn’t spent countless hours during training on sidewalks running mile after mile, my body was free of aches and pains.

My mindset on running and fitness changed that very day. Instead of doing long, slow runs I felt that I could achieve the same or better results with shorter, high-intensity runs. Shortly after my half-marathon run in March I decided to chase down a goal I thought was an impossible feat for me… running a sub 20 minute 5K. My fastest 5K up to that point had been a 20:47. In April of 2013 I ran in a local 5K race and managed to run a 19:48. Far faster than I had ever thought was possible for me.

The next test for me was to break the sub one minute mark in the 400m sprint, something I hadn’t done since 1995. In July CrossFit Incendia held a workout at a nearby track. I was able to run a 58 second 400m that morning. I was convinced that the CrossFit methodology of short, high-intensity workouts was the best route for me to achieve all my fitness goals; including running.

Due to work and family, I am lucky if I can squeeze in 5-6 hours a week to workout. So to allocate several hours a week to do long, slow runs is no longer a viable option for me. CrossFit’s approach to fitness, high-intensity functional movement workouts, coincide with my fitness beliefs. I was so convinced in this type of training that I got my Level 1 and CrossFit Endurance certifications. The one crucial thing I came away with in these certifications was how to be more efficient with my workouts and performances.

CrossFit’s view of fitness is that the athlete can perform well at any and every task imaginable. That means that if I am asked to run a marathon or dead-lift 225 lbs 30 times, I should be able to handle that without any concerns. With that in mind, In March of 2014 I will attempt my first marathon (goal is to run a sub 3:30:00), compete in the CrossFit Open (goal is to finish in the top 10% in my age group) and attempt to go sub 55 seconds in the 400m. I plan to take on these challenges while still only working out 5-6 hours a week.

Like I always say, “Go Get You Some!”

Showing 3 comments
  • Tiffany Jakubowski

    I am a runner and I have been following crossfit incendia for a while now trying to convince myself that the $120 monthly fee is worth it. I a. Really interested in the burners. I have ran several 10k and half marathons and recently have not had the results I have been aiming for. I am singed up for my first full marathon (same one as you) though the way my training has been going is burning me out and I am starting to second guess my decision and whether I can actually do it. With the marathon only 3 months away do you think it would benefit me to switch to crossfit and the burners now or stick with my current training? Reading your story and the fact you are training for the same race motivates me to give it a try, I’m just not sure if it is too close to the race to benefit me.

  • Tiffany Jakubowski

    I have been following crossfit incendia for some time now trying to determine if I can afford $120 a month. I am a runner and have run several halfs and 10 k races. Lately I have not bee. Able to meet my goals on these races. I am currently training for Phoenix full marathon as well and my current training plan has me feeling burnt out and I’m starting to doubt whether I can actually do the full. I am wonder what your thoughts are as far as me joining incendia now and whether you think I could be ready for the full using crossfit and the burners or if the marathon is too close and should just stick with what I’m doing now. The burners is only once a week so are you doing running other days throughout the week. I think if you believe crossfit and the burners could get me through the full then I am willing to give it a shot.

  • Julie Eddy

    Way to go, Coach Esteban! Go get you some MARATHON!