Tomorrow, Thursday, July 25, 2019, Ben Bruce will compete in his 17th straight USA Track Championships, this year running the 10,000m. Bruce ran in his first national championship in 2003 as a third year student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He’s represented the US on four world championship teams and won five Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons in one year. Now a professional runner and assistant coach with the HOKA NAZ Elite, he trains in Flagstaff, Arizona.

On March 31, 2017 Bruce ran his PR of 28:09 for 10,000m at the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, CA. He pulled out his logs and described the crucial last three weeks of training for us before that lifetime best.

All training was done in Flagstaff, AZ at an elevation of 7000 feet unless otherwise noted. Living full time at high altitude can be very beneficial but also means you have to be careful when to go hard. Over the years I have found I need to spread workouts out more than when I lived at sea level, e.g., hard workouts every 3rd day vs. every other day.

Three Weeks Out From Race Day

Saturday, March 11: Workout: 20 x 1k. Camp Verde, AZ (elevation 3100ft).

This is a big staple of NAZ Elite. The pace is set at half marathon PR pace and the recovery is 1 min. Workout is done on a flat road stretch. I did this workout with Scott Fauble.

Coach Ben Rosario cut me at 18 reps as he felt my effort was getting a bit high. Very pleased with this session. Splits were 2:57-2:59 for 18 x 1000m.

Total: 19 miles.

Ben Bruce and NAZ crew
Ben Bruce, Scott Fauble and NAZ crew in Camp Verde/ photo: courtesy Ben Bruce

Sunday, March 12: 8 miles easy-61 min.

Monday, March 13: AM: 10 miles easy-71 min. PM: 4 miles easy-29 min. (drills and strides post run)

Tuesday, March 14: Workout: 4 miles tempo / 1 mile HARD! Camp Verde, AZ (elevation 3100ft) road loop.

This workout was designed to be a race simulation. The 4-mile tempo is aggressive, but should be somewhat in control (about 5 sec per mile slower than half marathon pace). After the 4 miles it is only 1 min rec, then empty the tank and see what you can run one mile in. I did this workout with three NAZ Elite teammates and they all beat me in the mile (note: only one of them beat me in the 10,000m we’d all race 2 weeks later.)

4 mile total: 19:34. Splits (goal pace 4:55): 4:55, 4:54, 4:49, 4:54 / 1min rest/ mile: 4:25.

AM Total: 11 miles

PM: 4 miles easy 29:00

Ben Bruce training
photo: Ben Rosario

Wednesday, March 15: AM: 10 miles easy-72 min. PM: 4 miles easy-30min

Thursday, March 16: 10 miles easy-70 min. PM: 4 miles easy-29 min. (drills and strides post run)

Friday, March 17: Workout: 4 x 800m cut down. Cottonwood, AZ Track (elevation 3300ft).

Each 800m is faster as you progress. Goal pace was 2:12, (1min rec) 2:08, (2min rec) 2:04, (3min rec) 2:00.

This one was out of my comfort zone, a workout I would have felt much more comfortable doing 10 years earlier when I was 24 years old, not 34 years old. Did this workout with Craig Lutz and Martin Hehir, who had the upper hand. I remember them getting in a little argument about the pace being off between rep 2 and 3. I was entertained by the back and forth as I was trying to spend my two min recovering as much as possible. In the end Craig and Marty crushed me on the last rep and I went backwards big time. Ben Rosario said don’t worry about it, as long as you don’t drop a 2:04 800m mid race you’ll still be able to race well.

Splits: 2:11, 2:09, 2:04, 2:09 (61,68). We all finished off the morning with 4 x 100 m strides to flush out the hard 800s.

AM Total: 10 miles

PM: 4 miles easy 31 min

Two Weeks Out From Race Day

Saturday, March 18: AM: 10 miles easy-76 min. PM: 4 miles easy-29 min

Sunday, March 19: Long run: 18 miles-120 min. Average pace per mile: 6:40. Run done on a rolling dirt service road one exit south of Flagstaff.

Ben Bruce and NAZ teammates
photo: Mia Meydrich

Monday, March 20: 5 miles easy-37 min

Tuesday, March 21: AM: 8 miles-59 min, PM: 4 miles-29 min (drills and strides post run)

Wednesday, March 22: Planned Workout: 3 mile 5:05, 4 min rec, 1mile 4:50, 3 min rec, 2 x 800m 2:20, 2 min rec, 4 x 400m 64, 1min rec. on Lake Mary Road. Flagstaff, AZ.

I was sick, did the warm up, did a stride, felt bad, decided the workout would be bigger risk than reward. Ran 4 miles easy, called it a day.

Total: 7 miles

Thursday, March 23: Still feeling bad. 4 miles easy-32 min.

Friday, March 24: AM: 6 miles-44 min. PM: 4 miles-29 min. (drills and strides post run).

Last Week Before Race Day

Saturday, March 25: Workout: 16X 400m, Sedona, AZ Track (elevation 4500ft)

Goal 68 sec/400m with every 4th lap faster in a progression (64,62,60,58). Recovery was 200m jog between laps, 400m jog after the fast 400s.

Did this with Marty and Craig again. Once again they took it to me on the faster stuff, i.e., the last 400. We kept the 200m jogs at 60sec, and the set 400m jogs around 2:00. So it wasn’t a super slow 200/400m recovery. The idea is to keep moving at around easy run pace.

Splits: 68,69,67,64/ 67,67,67,63/ 66,66,66,63/ 67,66,66,59.

Total: 12 miles

NAZ Elite Sedona Track
Bruce chasing Craig Lutz and Martin Hehir on the track in Sedona / photo: courtesy Ben Bruce

HOKA NAZ Elite 400s

Sunday, March 26: 8 miles-57 min

Monday, March 27: 8 miles-57 min

Tuesday, March 28: Workout: 4 x 800m, 4 x 200m, NAU track (elevation 7000ft)

This last workout 3 days before the race was meant to get a little work at 10k effort, then finish the day running smooth and fast; not sprinting, just smooth. Goal pace was 2:20 for the 800s (adjusted 10k pace for altitude), with 400m jog recoveries, then 30-32 sec for the 200s with 200m jog recoveries. This went without any issues.

Splits: 2:20, 2:20, 2:20, 2:19/ 30, 31, 30, 30.

AM Total: 10 miles

PM: 4 miles easy-30 min

Wednesday, March 29: 7 miles easy 51-min. Drive to Phoenix, spend the night.

Thursday, March 30: AM: flight to San Jose

PM: 6 miles: 4 miles-easy, drills, 4 x 200m (31-33 sec), 200m jog recoveries. 1mile cool down.

Ben Bruce pre-race ritual
“Flat Bruce” – A pre-race ritual / photo: courtesy Ben Bruce

Friday, March 31: Race Day.

12:00 p.m. Easy 2 miles to get outside for a little

8:30 p.m. 2 miles easy, drills, 4 x 20-30sec pick ups

9:30 p.m. Race Time

My teammate Aaron Braun paced the race through 5k. He hit 14:05, right where we wanted. I was about 9–10th in the line so I came through at 14:07. A lot of the guys in the race felt they had a chance to break 28 min, but in the end we came up a touch short. Our 67–68 sec laps slipped a touch, and some 69 sec laps from about 8 laps-to-go until 4 laps-to-go cost us.

With a mile to go, pack was down to 7 as I remember—a great race from there. Different guys taking a shot at the front, only to be passed by someone else. I loved being in the thick of it as I could simply focus on trying to compete for a top spot.

At the bell I saw 27:07. My PR coming into this race was 28:25, so it felt good to knock a decent chunk off that, finishing in 28:09 with a 62 sec last lap.

Result: 28:09. 5th place. 5k splits 14:07, 14:02

Post race: Very slow 2 mile cool down

Saturday, April 1: 5 miles-41 min. Very sore! My wife, Stephanie, who ran 31:59, Craig, Scott Smith, Marty, and even coach Ben dropped me running 8:00 pace.