ZAP Linguistics


Every coach and team has their own language when discussing training and Pete and ZAP are no different. Every afternoon Pete sends out an email with the following day’s training specifics and if you knew nothing about the program it could sometimes read as gibberish. However, to a ZAP athlete of at least a few months (4+ years in my case) the language begins to make sense and becomes apart of our own vernacular when discussing training. I often find it humorous (and slightly embarrassing) when some of us are out to dinner in mixed company and inevitably running comes up in conversation. We begin to throw out phrases like ‘descending tempo fartlek’ and ‘1-1-1 cycles’ with great ease and forget that no one outside of our little world has any clue what we are discussing! It is indeed cryptic to an outsider but to all ZAPsters it is the language that we live by. It dictates our day-to-day actions and becomes the way in which we can best describe how we feel and where our fitness is currently.

Example (with accompanying translation):

Pete: Were you within yourself today?

Translation: Did the workout feel good today? Were you in control of your effort the entire time? In other words, I hope you were not racing at the end of it because that was not the point of the session!

Athlete: I felt ok. I was pushing a bit more than I expected during the opening snowball piece but settled in after that for the camel humps.

Translation: I felt ok. During the opening 12 minute piece in which you asked me to get faster every 4 minutes I felt pretty tired. In fact, that opening 12 minute tempo piece felt terrible but I was relieved that after it ended I was able to complete the rest of the workout as prescribed. The 1,000 meter hilly repeats that followed went ok.

Pete: That opening piece is meant to put some crap in your legs. Was it aerobic throughout? Were you running through the interval?

Translation: Yes, that was the point. It most likely wasn’t going to feel that great. But did you keep the 1,000 meter repeats under control?  If I had made each repeat 800 meters longer could you have comfortably kept going?

Athlete: Yea, just felt I wasn’t progressing as much through the 2nd set like I wanted. Solid overall though.

Translation: Yes, I could have kept going but only at the same pace. I know you wanted the second half of the workout to be faster than the first half but I found it hard to cut down the pace. But despite that, it was still good workout overall.

Pete: Hey, 2.5 miles of  quicker, hilly running and then 10 camels is good work. You’re coming along well. Crawl this afternoon. 

Translation: It certainly was. Running 2.5 miles fast to open the workout is a real shock to your system and then being able to come back and run 10×1000 meter hilly repeats is good work. Your fitness is getting better every day. Make sure that your afternoon run is very, very slow! Recover!


As you can see the communication between athlete and coach is direct yet often leaves a lot unsaid. Personally, I have learned through the years when Pete is excited, worried, or neutral towards a particular workout or race from these very simple phrases. It is important to learn what hereally means and for him to learn what we really mean for the relationship to work long term. Below are some of my favorite phrases that are heavily used in the daily training email or during workouts (with accompanying translation):

Forward late: During a regular easy run, make the last 20 or 30 minutes progressively faster, almost like a mini-tempo run.

Assertive but controlled: During a workout this instruction usually applies to an opening 1500 or mile piece that is meant to be run FAST but not so fast that you screw up the rest of your workout. Basically run it hard but leave a little bit so the rest of the workout isn’t complete crap.

Snowball: During a race or workout it simply means to progressively run faster with each passing mile. Like a snowball gains momentum and size falling down a hill, we are to increase our pace in that same way! Basically, a strong push to the finish line.

1-1-1 creek to tower: This workout is a long 6.7 mile climb from a creek in Moses Cone park to the firetower. The ‘1-1-1′ refers to the effort based fartlek within the continuous climb. Pete asks us to run 1 minute at 80% effort, then 1 minute at 85% effort, then 1 minute at 90% effort before then cycling back to the opening 80% effort minute. So the goal is to climb for 35+ minutes while constantly changing gears every 60 seconds. No small feat!

1-1-2-1-3-2-1-1 after 25 minutes every 8 minutes: This applies to our long runs. We do surges of varying lengths during the long run and run easily for 8 minutes between each one. So, we might run 2 minutes harder, followed by 8 minutes of easier running which then leads back into another surge, with the duration dependent on the string of minutes Pete prescribed pre-run.

15k, 9 miles, or 65 minutes: Pete uses miles, kilometers, or minutes as a way of expressing how far or long he wants you to run. In my opinion, he gives training distances with the door open for individual tinkering. So when I read ’15k’ I don’t make sure I run exactly 9.3 miles but instead know that I will run 9 to 10 miles or 60-65 minutes, whichever I think comes first based on how I am feeling on that particular day. It is all about feel, baby.

Breath from your dick!: Ahhh yes, a classic line Pete will yell to his (male) athletes during workouts. It usually means we are running fast and is a friendly reminder to breath deeply from our diaphragms and stay as relaxed as possible while running sub 4:40 pace on dirt!

YEAAAA GOO SMOOGHHII WOOO – Unintelligible yelling from Pete across Bass Lake that usually indicates the workout is going well.

Here is my last week of training (9/7-9/13):

Sunday: AM: 14 miles   PM: travel to Minneapolis

Monday: AM: 11 miles (10×20 seconds post run)  PM: 6 miles

Tuesday: AM: 23 miles (5-4-3-1 on TCM course)  PM: travel back to NC

Wednesday: AM: 6 miles   PM: 6 miles

Thursday: AM: 13 miles  PM: 5 miles

Friday: AM: 12 miles (10×20 seconds post run)

Saturday: AM: 14 miles (12x1k VA Creeper)  PM: 4 miles

Total: 114 miles, 11 runs