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Lake Coverage Coming

Level Renner made a visit to Wakefield to catch the Take the Lake 5k. Picture and video of that coming soon, for now here’s a little something something that’s already out there from our “live” coverage of the race:

Steve DuPont digs deep in the heat at Take The Lake.

Steve DuPont digs deep in the heat at Take The Lake.

There’s also this quick, instant interview with winner Dan Princic of Whirlaway. Unfortunately we can’t embed it here so you’ll just have to click the link. The new Instagram video option seemed like an improvement over Vine, but as of yet it doesn’t appear that you can directly imbed like you can with Vine (or Tweets containing Vine clips, at least).

So what were the big stories at the races you ran? Who do you know that set a new PR or just did something gutsy on a hot day? Leave it here, in the comments below.

Running & Weight

How Much Does Excess Weight Impact Your Running Performance?

Guest blog by John Davis (RunnersConnect)

excess weight and runningIt’s a no-brainer for most people that extra weight will slow you down when you run.

A bit of flab you picked up over the winter or even just a water bottle strapped to your waist will, in theory, slow you down by increasing the metabolic cost of running. But how much will a given amount of excess weight slow you down?

Fortunately, this sort of question is fairly straightforward from a scientist’s perspective—all you need to answer it is a treadmill, a weight vest, and some basic VO2 testing equipment.

Studies interpreting the effects of excess weight on athletic performance

Several studies have examined the question of excess weight and running with slightly different approaches. The first one we’ll look at was conducted by Kirk Cureton and colleagues at the University of Georgia in 1978.

Using weighted vests, the researchers measured the changes in oxygen uptake and performance on a 12-minute time trial when the six subjects ran with 5, 10, and 15% excess weight (relative to their normal body weight) as compared to a control trial with no added weight.  Predictably, the excess weight resulted in more oxygen consumption for a given pace and worse performance over the 12-minute time trail.

For every 5% of excess weight (7.5 pounds for a 150lb runner), the subjects covered 90 meters fewer over the 12-minute time trial.

Extrapolating this to an 18 minute 5k runner (whose race lasts one and a half times the duration of the time trial in this study), this would mean our runner would be about 30 seconds slower when carrying an excess weight of 5% of his or her original body weight.

Is gender a factor in measuring performance?

Cureton followed up this study with a similar investigation two years later, though this time his focus was on sex differences in performance.  Could the intrinsic differences in body fat percentage between men and women account for the difference between male and female athletic performance?

Using a similar protocol as the first study, Cureton and Sparling evaluated the oxygen consumption and 12-minute time trial performance of 10 men and 10 women without any added weight.  Then, after measuring the body fat percentages of the subjects, the researchers had the men tested again, this time with 7.5% added body weight—the overall weight disparity between a man and a woman with equal muscle and bone mass.

While the difference in body fat between men and women only accounted for a bit under 40% of the difference in performance between the sexes, the change in performance over the 12-minute time trial in the men when the excess weight was added was quite similar to the first study—23 meters per one percent of excess weight, or 115 meters per 5% compared to 90 meters in the first study.  For studies with rather small sample sizes—six and 10 subjects for the first and second studies, respectively—this is pretty good!

The effect of body weight

The larger role of body weight in running energetics is well-illustrated in a fascinating 2007 study by Lenart Teunissen, Alena Grabowski, and Rodger Kram.  Using a treadmill and harness system, along with weighted belts, Teunissen et al. aimed to separate the effects of body weight and body mass on your energy expenditure while running.

Though this might seem a bit odd to grasp at first, remember that it is your weight—the downward pull on your body by gravity—that you have to support with your muscles when you run, but it is your mass that you are actually propelling forward. So, if you were running six-minute mile pace on the moon, your weight would change but your mass, which you must accelerate to six-minute mile pace, would not.

By using the harness and the weighted belts, Teunissen et al. were able to determine the relative contributions of vertical support of your weight and horizontal propulsion of your mass.

More relevant to our interests, they found that each percentage increase in body mass resulted in a 1.4% increase in overall metabolic cost.

However, since this study did not include a time trial or other direct performance measurement like Cureton’s studies, we can’t compare them directly, and it is hard to say whether a 1.4% change in metabolic cost will necessarily result in exactly a 1.4% change in performance on race day.

As it turns out, supporting your body weight (not propelling your mass forward) is to blame for much of the energetic cost of running.

Teunissen et al.’s study also found that increases and decreases in body weight have a significant effect on the impact forces while running, which is supported by some other studies which have found a moderate relationship between higher BMIs and injuries.  This should be interpreted with caution, however, because having a low BMI has been correlated with injuries as well!

What you should keep in mind

While these studies are pretty informative, and they can even give us some rules of thumb regarding performance (between 90 and 115 meters per 12 minutes of running per 5% excess body weight, or about 1.4% excess cost per 1% excess body weight), there are several caveats to keep in mind.

  • First, all of these studies added weight artificially; they didn’t measure how natural weight gain over time can affect performance.  It’s likely that the performance deficit isn’t quite so bad when weight gain is gradual, since your body has a chance to adapt to the excess weight.  But runners often do have to carry around artificial weight from time to time.
  • A decent-sized water bottle is about two pounds when full, and camelback-style hydration packs can be upwards of five pounds.  Keep this in mind when you are doing long runs over the summer! You’ll have to evaluate the benefits of frequent hydration against the costs of carrying around the excess weight.
  • Finally, do keep in mind that losing weight, especially rapidly, can go hand-in-hand with muscle loss, making the idea of cutting down to “racing weight” a bit suspicious, especially for runners who are already lean and fit.  But if you put on a few pound over the winter, easing back into a leaner build will probably allow you to claw back a predictable amount of fitness.
  • And if you often run with a water bottle, hydration pack, or other backpack, keep in mind that the excess weight will slow you down.

Get more great injury prevention advice from John Davis (plus other great training & maintenance tips from Jeff Gaudette & Co) on the RunnersConnect blog.

BAA 10k & US Half Championship

Stephen Sambu and Mamitu Daska won the BAA 10k this past Sunday. The race was the second installment in the three part Distance Medley series.

In 2012, Geoffrey Mutai ran a blazing 27:29 and the first two runners broke 28:00. However, Sambu only needed a 28:06 to top Lelisa Desisa (28:15). The intense heat of the day just might have had a role in the slower times, as well. For a more in depth look at the race and the series, check out this excellent write up by Mike Keebler.

With that time, Sambu catapulted from 5th to 1st in the overall Distance Medley standings. Stephen now has a 26 second lead over second place Allan Kiprono. Nate Jenkins is the top area runner in the standings, currently sitting in 6th place.

Speaking of Nate, he continued on his comeback with another strong race, clocking 30:59 for ten kilometers. Nate was the fourth of a quartet of area guys that came in under 31 minutes. The group was led by Tadesse Biratu (Malden MA, 30:21), Mark Amirault (Walpole MA,  30:48), Dan Harper (Somerville MA, 30:55) and then Nate came in a few seconds later.

In the women’s race, someone beat Kim Smith! Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia ran a 31:45 and finished a whopping 1:49 ahead of Smith. Kim ran a 31:36 in winning the race last year, so it would seem that Smith possibly let Daska go and took it easy in the heat with her eyes on the bigger picture. It’s just speculation on our part, but Daska doesn’t even appear to be in the Medley standings and Smith is comfortably in first place still. After two events, Kim has a 71 second lead over second place Millicent Kuria of Kenya.

The top ten in the women’s race was chock full of locals. Besides Smith, who is based out of Providence these days, there was another five familiar faces putting up big races. They were:

4th place – Katie DiCamillo… 34:33
7th place – Mary Kate Champagne… 35:30
8th place – Hilary Dionne… 36:23
9th place – Aly Millett… 37:24
10th place – Kara Haas… 37:47

Kara Haas not only placed tenth overall, but she was also the top masters runner on the day. Not too shabby. Joseph Ekuom got top masters honors in the men’s race with his 33:21 effort.

Changing gears here a little bit, as some of you may know this entity known as Level Renner is almost two years old now. Naturally there are races that we’ve covered multiple times now and it’s interesting to see how much people have improved from year to year (including the video quality and the interview skills). One of the things that we especially love about it is getting an up close look at people as they try to make that leap to the next level.

Along that line, the US Half Marathon Championships were the day before the BAA 10k, and one local stud laid down an absolutely smoking time: Tim Ritchie.

Tim ran a 1:02:29 and placed 4th. That time put Tim a scant 67 seconds behind Meb (2nd place, 1:01:22) and 28 seconds ahead of Abdi (6th, 1:02:57). In 2012, Tim placed 5th with a 1:03:57 and Abdi won it all with his 1:02:46. Now Tim’s mixing it up with the Olympians a little more. That’s a lot of time to knock off in one year, and is no small feat.

Another guy with local ties, Chris Barnicle, ran an impressive 1:03:15 which got him into 10th place. That would’ve placed him much higher last year, so it’s obvious that this edition was much more competitive. The course was the same from year to year, which makes Tim leap even more impressive.

The race itself was one by Mo Trafeh in 61:17, but seeing the results from this race and then the BAA 10k results really made Tim’s achievement stand out. It was just last year that we interviewed Tim after he ran a 29:59 and placed 12th at the BAA 10k. Tim even wrote up a pretty good race report for the site.

Hatton, Harvey & Ritchie after the 2012 BAA 10k.

Hatton, Harvey & Ritchie after the 2012 BAA 10k.

After his marathon build up and then the sub-14 5k at Hollis, we were very interested in how he would do at the BAA 10k in 2013. Not realizing the timing of the two events, we were pleasantly surprised to see what he did for the half.

If a runner’s going to miss a local race, well missing it for a national championship is probably the most satisfying reason out there. That’s the type of news we love to deliver and hope to see much more of in the future.

Keeping It Real

Forget The Gimmicks

Mag Reissue, bKathy Ireland, MS, RD, LDN

‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions. And, about 3 weeks from now many of us will be struggling to keep them. By Valentine’s Day, most plans to eat healthier, exercise more, and lose weight will be little more than a distant memory. I don’t mean to be a pessimist—just a realist. The reason why most of us fail with our resolutions, especially the ones to eat better/ exercise more, is because we seek a quick fix. We hop on to the latest craze, go at it full force, then for some reason or other we stop. And stay stalled out.

What we already know (but don’t like to acknowledge) is that being healthy people isn’t a quick fix. It’s about adopting lifestyle changes that we keep for—wait for it—LIFE (gasp)! Sure, making changes that you need to keep FOREVER can seem overwhelming, but you don’t need to make them all at once. Here are my tips to get you started on a healthier New Year, and here’s to hoping that by next Christmas they’ll simply be your way of life.

1. Avoid popular/fad diets that call for eliminating entire food groups or types of foods. I don’t care if it’s Paleo, Wheat Belly, or South Beach. There are lots of people out there who swear by these diets. They have changed their lives and helped them lose lots of weight—they feel better, they are happier, and life is now wonderful thanks to rigidly following [insert fad diet name here]. I won’t say that some of these diets don’t have their benefits or that they don’t lead to weight loss and healthier/happier lives for some people, but they are not entirely balanced because they call for eliminating an entire food group or set of foods. You’ll be hard pressed to find a registered dietitian to promote any of these diets in their entirety and that’s for two main reasons: 1) they are hard to keep forever and 2) we strongly believe that all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle and there is plenty of science to back that up. If you seek the rigidity of following a specific diet, consider the ones that are a bit less trendy, but more nutritionally sound like The DASH Diet or MyPlate.

2. Watch out for products that seem too good to be true. The other day my father, a junk food junkie, proudly told me of a new healthy candy that Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen were promoting. Healthy candy? I did my research and found out that he was talking about a product called Unreal Candy. It’s made from all natural ingredients—no dyes, no corn syrup, no trans fats. From what I can tell from its website, it truly is a superior candy. I bet it tastes good too! But, at the end of the day, it’s still candy. It still contains sugar and fats and things our bodies do not need a whole lot of all at once. Sure, if you’re going to eat candy, this is the way to go—I’m all for avoiding overly processed stuff as much as possible (see #3 below) – but to call this candy healthy is a bit extreme. Let’s call it healthier and eat it no more often than we would our regular candy. Beware of other such products—they’re everywhere and while they are likely superior to their counterparts of the mainstream variety they are not a free pass to eat limitless quantities. Sorry!

3. Keep your diet simple. Focus on whole foods and only buy packaged goods with minimal ingredients. Actually, there’s a “fad diet” that has caught onto this simple phenomenon and it’s called “Clean Eating.” (Give any simple concept a catchy name and market it appropriately and suddenly it’s popular and people want to do it!) I love this style of eating because it’s normal, it’s natural, and the only things it tells you not to eat are things that are overly processed in a factory before being boxed/bagged/ canned. I could write a whole article on this topic (hmmm – maybe next month), but instead I’ll leave you with 2 of my favorite recipes that apply this concept.

Steel Cut Oats with Raisins and Slivered Almonds

4 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Bring water to a boil. Slowly stir in the oats. After 5 minutes, reduce heat to a simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add raisins and cinnamon and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and mix in slivered almonds. Serve with milk if desired. (Recipe serves 4)

Whole Chicken in a Crockpot

1 large whole chicken
1 onion, sliced, abut ¼ inch thick
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place sliced onions in the bottom of the crock pot. Mix spices together and rub all over chicken. Place chicken in crock pot on top of sliced onions. Cook on high for 4-5 hours (for a 3-4 pound bird) or on low for 6-8 hours (or until the chicken is falling off the bone). That’s it—you’re done. Serve with some green veggies and a starch—I vote for roasted sweet potatoes and sautéed spinach!

Kathy Ireland is The Level’s resident dietician. She is taking on new clients if you would like her help in the New Year. This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Level Renner. New issue (#15) is coming out in a matter of days now. Do you have your free subscription yet? Subscribers are alerted as soon as each issue is published and are also eligible to win awesome prize packs each month.

Blake Conquers the Rock Pile

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Matthew Byrne tries to hold off a late surging Simon Gutierrez right before the finish. Gutierrez ended up just getting him for fourth place. Courtesy of Joe Viger.

Eric Blake broke the tape on top of Mt Washington for the third time back on June 15th. This time, he also PR’d and went under one hour for the first time (59:57). It wasn’t the US Championship this year so the race wasn’t as competitive as it was last year (results here), but that didn’t keep Blake from running better than he had in the past.

What did you do differently in training to get you so ready for it?

Eric Blake steals a look back at the competition as he approaches the 7 mile mark.

Eric Blake steals a look back at the competition as he approaches the 7 mile mark.

I had some really good treadmill runs at 8%-15%. They were longer this year (50-60 mins). Also I have an oxygen sleep mask and slept at 13000 feet for this whole build up, and then slept at sea level the week before to rest up. I also introduced some cross training on a exercise bike with the altitude mask. It’s not a coincidence that all the other Americans to break one hour were training in Colorado. I’m the head XC/Track coach at Central Connecticut State so I’m not going to train at altitude anytime soon and the oxygen mask seems to work.

How did conditions compare to your those of your previous victories? When you passed me (at about 6.5 or so) the wind was brutal!

Wind was tough at times but I believe the better you are racing in tough conditions the LESS those negative conditions effect you. Also at times it was a tail wind and I tried to let that help.

What does it feel like to have a sub-60 time on that course?

It was great to finish inside the hour mark. I missed the 7 mile marker (it blew over) so I thought I was running slow. I came up onto the finish and noticed I had a shot at one hour after seeing 59:10 on my watch. At that point I really felt I was getting energy from the fans and that help push me to the line.

In the video below you can see just how much Eric dominated the field that day. Those of you who have run the race will probably recognize the pained look on the faces of most runners. Those of you who haven’t run it (or just aren’t familiar with it) will probably notice that it doesn’t look easy for anybody, including the leaders.

It was absolutely incredible to see so many people get excited when they saw the bright green Level t-shirt up there. It couldn’t have been easy to spare the energy to smile, wave and/or shout out something against the wind on your way by. It lets us know we’re doing something right, and we definitely appreciate it.

Notable Runs

In 2012, Sage Canaday not only won the race but he set an American record in the process (58:27). With that mark, Sage set the bar pretty high for himself for the 2013 edition. Despite that, Sage didn’t feel any additional pressure this year, although he “would’ve liked to have defended my title and run under 60 minutes.” According to Sage, Joseph Gray took it out right away, with Blake and himself chasing for the first couple of miles. Blake took over after that and Sage “had no power in my legs to respond and was fighting just to hold on for 3rd.” As far as his build up leading up to the race, Sage had this to say:

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Sage Canaday shoots a look back, courtesy of Joe Viger.

Not a bad day for him, all things considered.

Josh Ferenc may have come through with one of the surprise races of the day. I say ‘may‘ in this case only because of his battle to get back to full strength after overcoming an illness. He’s shown flashes of his old form in winning a couple of USATF-NE mountain series races, but then the tough conditions at this year’s Vermont City Marathon slowed times enough where his end result probably didn’t reflect his actual fitness level. Josh finished 6th, in 1:05:36, which was a PR for him by about 50 seconds. If not for some difficulties in the last 1200 meters, Josh was even entertaining thoughts of a 1:03, but all things considered he still ended up being happy with his time.

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Josh Ferenc, hands to the ground, in an all out effort right at the end of the race. Incredible shot to go along with an incredible effort. Courtesy of Joe Viger.

Because of his stellar race, and because he always provides entertaining material, here are a few thoughts on the race from the Last Hero and Only Hope

What did you think of the conditions?

I thought the conditions were awesome. I ran without a shirt (why cover up a glorious physique?) until 6.5, then a couple gusts made my man-meries hard so I threw the shirt on for the last bit. The wind was epic and it was awesome when it was at my back.

How do you run a time like that so soon after a marathon?

The whole marathon lead up was mostly mountain training workouts. I had three weeks in between the marathon and Mt W, and just knew it was going to be whatever was in the tank. Glad my tank is cussing huge!

Why run down after? How long did that cooldown end up going for?

Running down after, usually, is to just to get down, take in the sights I miss grinding my soul away and get down faster than the cars to refuel. However, I got caught up with some speed shades and was talked into a gnarly cluster cuss run with Joe Gray. We ended up getting lost and going down the Huntington ravine, which just added to the gnarliness. The run down was just over 2 hours. Joe and I weren’t friends for seven minutes, but all is good now.

Eric MacKnight surprised a few people on his run up the mountain, including the Level. It wasn’t that he ran so well (1:07:37, 10th overall), no. After all, Eric has established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the mountains this year, as is evident by his second place position in the standings. It was more the clean shaven look he was sporting. From the spectator’s perspective, the wind was so bad where Eric ran by at about 7 miles into the race that the there was legitimate concern that the wind blew all his facial hair off. Eric has assured us that this was not the case. This was Eric’s first time in the race, although he has prior experience hiking up the mountain. Of the race he said: “It’s a unique race and loved every second of it.”

Abby Mahoney ran just off of her PR to finish in fifth place, just over seven minutes behind the winner (Laura Haefeli). The 1:25:49 that Abby ran may not seem bad to you, but she feels like she’s in better shape and is hungry for more.

This was my sixth Mt. Washington, but fifth finishing (I dropped out in 2010). This wasn’t terribly slow (my PR is 1:25:02), but I just know I’m capable of running a lot faster than that and I don’t know why I can’t seem to break that barrier! When I first started hill training back in March, I was about 3 minutes slower on all my workouts than in the past so I thought I’d be lucky just to break 90 minutes this year, but then fitness started coming back. After the two mountain races (although they are so short in comparison), I really thought I had a chance of running at least a minute faster than I ran on Saturday. Not sure if it was the wind or if it was my mental state! I could see Brandy (Erholtz, second place) and Regina (Loiacano, third place) the whole race and I knew I should have been up with them, but couldn’t go. I thought the weather was pretty good. The wind definitely slowed me down a little, but I don’t think it affected me too much. It was a little warm for me at the bottom, so I welcomed the breeze when we got above tree line. For years I’ve been training with Dawn Roberts and Ashley Krause. They both ran super and finished 8th and 11th (Ashley has a 6 month old, so we are both thrilled with being “back”). We live near some good hills and do most of our workouts on Mt. Tom. There is a paved one mile hill with 10-13% grade. We do lots of repeats there. Mt. Tom is an abandoned ski area, so we also get on the old ski slopes for repeats.

So, as negative as all that sounds, I am not really that unhappy! It was a great weekend, amazing views, and got to see friends that I only see once a year! Looking forward to Cranmore!

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Laura Haefeli breaks the tape, courtesy of Joe Viger.

Lastly, we checked in with Dave Dunham. It seems quite fitting, especially since Dave did own the course record for this race (60:50, 1988) and is still very much a main part of the mountain running scene here in New England.

Dave’s take on the weather…

We’ve had a long stretch of “good weather” the last few years, so maybe people have thought of that as “normal”. Normal average wind speed for June is 27 MPH. According to the observatory the wind during the race was 26-35 MPH with maximum gust of 40. Basically an average day. I like cooler conditions so for me it was a good day for racing.

Was training going well for you heading into this?

My training was going very well for the race. Mileage is the key and my mileage has been high. My major mistake was thinking (hoping) I could run three races in 6 days and not have it impact (this one). I was just a bit off from doing Hollis 30+ hours before Mt Washington, but I had to do Hollis…I was leading the 45-49 age group! I’d probably not do that again if they line up that way in the future.

Does the way you approach the race change with age?

I haven’t changed much how I race Mt W as I’ve gotten older. I’ve always raced the mountain, not the competition…basically just run as hard as I can and hope to beat the guys in front of me. I tried to go with Craig (Fram) but just didn’t have it.

You seemed like you had quite a bit of energy when you started running back down the mountain. How is that possible?

My favorite part of the race is the run back down. This year was awesome, incredibly clear sky so great views on the way down.

I was initially surprised to see Dave go bounding by me (near the top) on his way back down. Seeing that, and hearing the stories from the others who conquered the Rock Pile only adds to the allure of this great race and I for one can’t wait to be a part of it. Let the training for the 2014 edition begin! Let’s see if I’m still eager to do it after Loon.

Any notable performances that we missed? Please give those hard working runners a shout out in the comments below!

Special shout out to Joe Viger for providing some incredible photography to Level Renner for this one. Be sure to like Joe Viger’s Facebook page and check out his website to see more of his great work.


Karhu Contest: Cool Mesh & Flow Light

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karhu gold bear 430x300All of you Loyal Level Legion subscribers out there most likely saw the blurb in our last monthly email about the Karhu contest. Details are finally here. Karhu is offering a up a cool prize pack to help you beat the heat on these hot summer days.

A reader unfamiliar with the intensity of New England summers recently inquired about the conditions in the area in mid-July. Well, if you step into direct sunlight any time in July around here there is a very good chance that you could burn up like some kind of vampire. The multi-channeled fibers of the Craft Cool Mesh Superlight singlet are designed to keep you cool and greatly reduce the risk of any Dracula-like demise.

One lucky winner will receive both a pair of Karhu Flow Light shoes and a Craft Cool Mesh Superlight singlet. Pictured here are the men’s versions of each but the women’s versions are available should a lucky lady be the winner. The contest is open to subscribers only, so be sure to sign up for your free Level subscription if you haven’t already. If you already have one, then you’re in. If you just sign up now, they you’re in too.

There will be chances for bonus entries for you subscribers that follow us through our various social media channels. Contest is open from now until we publish the next issue of the magazine (first week of July). We’ll reveal the winner in the next monthly email, which is the same email that will announce the release of the upcoming issue.

Thanks to Karhu for the hook up, and extra special thanks to the Legion for your enthusiasm about what we’re doing here!

**Note: Winners located outside of the continental US will be responsible for the related shipping costs.

Ritchie Returns to Form at Hollis

In the men’s race at the Hollis 5k (June 13th), Tim Ritchie led the way with a 13:47. For Tim it was his first race since the Boston Marathon, and what a race it was. The top four all went under 14 minutes:

Tim rolls on the downhill course, courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

2 JEFF VEIGA…………….13:53.7
3 PAT FULLERTON……..13:59.2
4 NICK KARWOSKI……..13:58.9

As usual, Tim wasn’t letting the fast downhill course or the ideal conditions distract him from his goal of leading the BAA to the title. “The team win was the only thing on my mind. The personal win and the fast time were unexpected bonuses. I wanted to help Eric, Brian and I get up front and take the top spots. I was not too confident in a kick at this point in my training so I wanted to get it going from the start. The hope was to clear out everyone except Eric and Brian so we could go 1-2-3. It was good to have others in the mix though – made the race exciting, tough and fun, but also meant I had to work the whole 3.1 miles. We ended up 1-5-6 [Note: 1-3-4 when you take out the two non-scorers], but still good enough for the top team on the day.”

Tim’s plan held up, as his Unicorns won it by two minutes over the WMDP Wolfpack. Sean Duncan led the Wolfpack with a 14:27 8th place performance.

Right behind Tim was Jeff Veiga, the All-American from UMass Lowell. Jeff recently graduated and is relatively new to the road racing scene. This was only his third race for RUN and his first Grand Prix event (as a team scorer at least).

Jeff, who only weeks ago placed 4th at DII NCAA’s with a 4th place finish in the 10k (30:41), was not short on confidence as he entered into the USATF-NE fray: “My training wasn’t really consistent leading up to the race and I wasn’t taking it too seriously either. But I knew going into the race that I was just going to go out with whoever took it because there wasn’t any real stud in the race that I couldn’t run with. So I showed up just trying to get the W because time didnt matter, especially on a downhill course. Ritchie probably knew he had it the whole way but I tried to put up a decent fight.”

Just behind Veiga was Pat Fullerton, and although he didn’t factor into the scoring, Pat still ran a heck of a race. It was a PR* [note: should that be the shorthand notation for a downhill PR? If it’s not already, let’s make that official] for him, just like it was for many in the race. But since it’s downhill it doesn’t really put things in perspective. You get a better sense of the progress he’s made when you compare that to the 14:34 Pat ran on the same course last year.

Pat was eager to see what he could do on the fast course against some stacked competition, but that didn’t mean he was exactly resting up for it. “I wasn’t tapering, I ran more miles this past week than I usually do. It was a big race for me because at the Jack Kerouac race I was with the leaders with a mile to go and lost by 30 secs. So I just wanted to show up and run to my ability and I think this time I did! I’m still new to this 3k/5k distance but I’m getting better every race so I can’t complain!” Hit up McDonald’s, Pat. You earned it.

The Masters

Chris Magill won the 5k crown by narrowly edging Joe Navas. Chris was just under the 15 minutes barrier (at 14:58.1) while Navas was painfully just over the mystical barrier (15:00.4). Magill and Navas finished 21st and 23rd overall, respectively. Finishing in between them was Brandon Newbould, one of quite a few runners (including the aforementioned Sean Duncan) in the race who were pulling the badass double of a downhill race at Hollis followed by an uphill race at Mt. Washington two days later.

There was a tense moment at the end when Navas was sneaking up on Magill in full on distance running ninja mode. Joe had the element of surprise and was about to make his last strong move when Dave Kanzanjian started cheering for Joe loudly. Normally that’s helpful for runners, but in this case it seemed to wake up Magill: “I did hear someone cheering for Joe and I knew I had to kick it in to the finish. Navas is an extremely tough competitor. Also, I knew I had to give it my all to help out the BAA all stars (Ritche, Ashe, and Harvey) get the team title.”

The Whirlaway men’s team rode Navas’ second place performance to a second place finish of their own. Dirigo RC brought their ‘A’ game and bested the Whirlaway squad by about 36 seconds. Leading the way for Dirigo was Andy Spaulding (15:16).

Photos courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky. Check out her page for more great shots from the race.

Volunteers: New England Relay

The New England Relay is this weekend, and they could use a few more volunteers to staff the Transition Areas. Who out there in Level Legion is up to the task? Volunteers are the (often) unsung heroes of the race scene, and because of them the events that you train so hard for often go on so smoothly that you don’t notice anything unpleasant until the lactic acid really starts to build up in your legs.

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TA volunteers would need to be at a transition area anywhere from 4 hours at the very beginning or end of the course to 2 hours in the middle. They’d be asked to record teams arriving and departing, be enthusiastic, and be helpful with directions or general course information. It’s a pretty easy gig. Teams are by and large self-sufficient. Some TA volunteers go big with decorations and music, but that’s not necessary.

Teams depart Rhode Island from 6am Saturday to 11am Saturday (slower teams early and faster teams late), should mathematically converge at midnight on the Vermont/NH border, and finish Sunday between noon and 4pm (with faster teams early and slower teams late).

Volunteers could be deployed anywhere along the route that is closest to their home.

If interested or if you have questions about the event, please email: brian{at}newenglandrelay{dot}com

Jesseman Crushes It At Hollis

The USATF-NE 5k championship was hosted last week at the Hollis Fast 5k in Hollis, NH. Runners battled the mid-week commuter traffic and then battled each other on the speedy downhill course to see who had it that day. In the end, Eric Jesseman of Dirigo RC was standing alone at the top of the mountain (or in this case, the bottom of the valley?) as she responded to her loss to Steph Reilly at New Bedford with a win of her own.

As you could see in the video above, the ladies took advantage of their exclusive starting space and hammered it from the gun. Jesseman’s pace was just too much for the rest of the ladies to keep up with, including 2012 Olympian Steph Reilly. Speaking of Steph, she was took quick for us to capture on camera but we did get a quick interview with her anyway:

How’s training been going lately?

The last 6 weeks have been messy to say the least. Up until the end of April training was going very smooth and I was getting really fit and strong. I was putting in a great base and I was really starting to feel the benefits. Unfortunately then I injured my lower back and this literally brought me to a standstill for 3-4 weeks. One of those really annoying, frustrating injuries (SI joint and piriformis) that you have no clue how long it will take to heal….you could be looking at weeks or worse case scenario, months. Anyways I am back now and progressing nicely. I would say the injury I am at about 85%, and volume of training 65%. I feel pretty good now, and cross training and the work I put in this fall and winter kept me so fit that I don’t feel like I lost a whole lot. Just really rusty now but ready to get going again.

What did you think of the set up for the start?

I would say interesting, and I would have preferred the men’s start….But I had a one track mind at that race, and the only thing that was bothering my mind was the downhill. Downhill running is literally the only thing that bothers my back right now, the start was very downhill but thankfully short, the rest was gradual so that was fine. The merge was a bit scary as it happened very fast, like 30 seconds into the race. I thought it was going to be 3mins into the race. Bit of a difference there. Those guys were hauling so I think the women had no choice but to either haul or get trampled.

You and Erica went out hard in that first mile. Did you have a pace that you wanted to stick to or did you try to cover her initial surge?

Yes, incredibly hard, and I was not expecting that at all. I had no pace in mind…..it is an unusual race, so very hard to pin down a pace I guess. I ran a 5k the Sunday before as I needed to test the body out before I jumped in that race. I ran 16:35 there so was happy enough to make the trip to Hollis. But I never had any expectations to go out that hard. I felt like I was sprinting the entire way – flat 5ks are so much easier haha. You know when you get in a race, you race, and I tried my hardest to run with the leader. I love the competition and it is not like me to sit back and not go for it. But no matter how hard I ran Erica was running faster. She was hauling and had an awesome race, and like myself is a fierce competitor. I was delighted with my effort despite getting whipped. You got to take away perspective from every race you do. I was just glad to be on the line at all and be competitive. Speaking of competitive that Hollis race for the women was incredible, such talent out there. I love to see the women’s side of road racing coming on strong again. Gets me going!!

What’s coming up for you this summer?

The number one thing is stay healthy, and get some consistency in my training. Keep the volume down, but get the quality sessions in again. No major plans, some road races locally around New England. I will be at Carver for the GP race 4. This was always my plan this summer. After three years of spending summers on the elite track scene I need a nice vacation from that. I want to chill out with husband and sons. Do some road races, and enjoy some other outdoor activities.

But as impressive as those solo efforts were for those two, it wasn’t enough for them to push their teams to the top. Whirlaway, led by Tammie Robie’s 16:52, took home that honor. The GBTC was a mere seven seconds behind the Whirlaway ladies. Leading the charge for Greater Boston was Aly Millett and her 16:53 (only a second behind Whirlaway leader Robie, too).

In the masters competition, Kara Molloy Haas was having a banner day of her own. Kara’s 16:30 was a whopping 43 seconds ahead of the next masters runner (Mary Pardi of Dirigo RC). It was also a lifetime PR for Kara, set on the same course where she attained her last one six years ago.

Did you think you had that PR in you that day?

I know it’s not a real PR due to the drop, but yes I did think I could beat my old “pr” on that course (16:34). I had trained really hard for Friehofers, and then my daughter got sick and I couldn’t go so I chose Hollis to focus on instead.

Were you trying to get out faster to be in good position for when the men’s and women’s fields merged?

I did try to get a fast start, not so much due to the men merging but because I ‘d run this course many times and it lends itself to a blast out of there hold on for dear life race!

What does it feel like to get a new lifetime PR, and on the same course that your previous one was on?

I was really fired up to run my “pr” ( see above disclaimer ) here in my twilight years of 42! All kidding aside, it makes me feel good to know that the balancing of training, work, baby, is paying off right now!

Feeling more confident heading into Carver now?

Yes it does help my confidence heading into Carver, but I know I have a lot of work to do between now and then to prepare for the 2 extra, not downhill miles!

The GLRR masters women teamed up to finish a strong second, but again here it was the Whirlaway ladies taking the team title. Christin Doneski proved she was just as effective on the downhill as she is in scaling the mountains by leading the victorious Whirlaway group with a 17:27. That was also good enough for 4th amongst her masters peers.

Men’s coverage coming soon!

In The Moment: The TARC 100

A Renner’s Experience at the TARC 100

by Thor Kirleis

Friday, June 14, starting at 7 pm, I toed the starting line of an 100 mile trail race. It was my first race at this distance and a long, long dream of mine that, honestly, was never a goal because, well, I never thought I could or would ever want to challenge myself in this way. However, life, as it does, changes, and I found myself with goals and dreams.

Conditions on the trails were very, very, very bad. A rainy month preceding the race, not to mention the last two weeks in which we received more rain than we typically get in three months, made the course dangerous, slow, and very difficult to navigate. Water pooled over so much of the course that you had no choice but to wade through. A common occurrence was having water come up to my knee, sometimes my hip. No joke. You can’t run through the puddles like you can on streets, because you don’t know what’s in the puddle. Run through, hit a rock or root you can’t see, and your race is over.

The first of four loops (25 mile loop we did 4 times) was very slow, but I was still in good spirits if not far more tired than I should  have been. I was starting to get worried about how tired I was this early in the race until I completed the loop and saw the hordes of people dropping out. I was later told that 25% of the field dropped out after the first lap. It was that brutal. I was slightly buoyed by the fact that I was not alone in wondering why I felt like I had run 50 instead of just 25. Either way, I kept going. It took me about 6 hours to complete the lap.

Thor at the aide station 50 miles into the race.

Thor at the aide station 50 miles into the race.

The second lap was, like the first, in complete darkness. It was sloppy and slow and I started to fatigue. I even considered dropping out, but I went on. I thought I hit lows, and I did, I just had no idea how low a low can really get, at least not just yet. By the end of this lap, with me now 50 miles in, I was just over 13 hours into the race. It was 8:30 am. I thought I’d finish these two laps in under 12 hours, but since this was one of those epic type races, I didn’t pay attention to how fast or slow I went. My goal was to finish. Speed didn’t mater. My energy was renewed with the notion that my pacer would be joining me for the next lap.

The third lap was when things got very difficult. I was now joined by my friend Hank, who would be my pacer from mile 50 through 75. I had a turkey sub to get me off to a good start and was feeling good again. I call out the turkey sub because it (and other food items like it) is what is considered “real food” as opposed to Power Bars and Gels. Real food gives back more energy but is difficult to carry, so we often opt for gels and bars packed with energy. Not long into this third loop, things got very ugly for me. In my head, I dropped out a few times, but each time Hank kept me in the game. I told Hank before this event that his goal is to make sure I do not drop unless I have a physical, real medical issue where I just cannot move on. Blisters, not feeling well, and being tired are not reasons to drop. I knew I’d go through the emotions, so I told him up front to never let me drop out. And he, thankfully, drove that role better than I could have even hoped. He kept me in the game when I myself gave up.

This lap was spent running and walking. By then I wasn’t able to run for long periods, mainly because when the terrain would get technical or tilt up, I had nothing in me to run. This is normal. But I was still able to run on the flats and downs. Troublesome was the fact that my left and right knee, each at separate times, started to give. Although I was still able to run, I knew that feeling, and I knew it wasn’t good. It always means that eventually it will get bad enough where I will no longer be able to run. As we were finishing this lap, there’s a two mile section that contains roughly 1.5 slow miles of wading through mud and pooled water covering the trail. It reminded me of being in the Amazon. It was during this time when my energy levels dropped very low. Hank kept me going even though I was now moving slower. This lap took 7 hours. We completed it around 3:30 pm Saturday. I had now been running — or, really, moving forward with both running and walking — for 21 hours. If I could keep going, I was on track for a 26 to 28 hour finish. If I could keep going…

75 miles deep

75 miles deep

The fourth and final loop was brutal. It started with me being buoyed with another turkey sub and the fact that my other buddy, Andy, was joining me as my pacer while Hank was now leaving. Andy and I have run together for nearly 15 years. He, like Hank, is a great friend who knows me very, very well. I felt bad because he, being so fresh and spry, was getting me at a very, very low point. But that was also his job. I had told him the same deal I told Hank: don’t let me drop out unless it’s an emergency. After gobbling up the turkey sub over the first mile of this final lap, Andy and I got back to running. For 10 minutes, before the shit hit the fan again. I was trashed, beyond tired. My legs were cooked, my lungs were tight, my heartrate was high, and my energy and spirits were low. Poor Andy. We walked the rest of that segment, three miles worth.

As we were walking, I came up with a plan: I was going to drop out. After mulling this over in my head for an hour, I finally told Andy. “I think I’m done,” I said to Andy. He wasn’t sure how to respond. He was new to this type of racing, so he didn’t really know that he had to get me out of this funk by trying to help me figure out why I was feeling so low. He didn’t yet know that there is always a reason — always an answer to get you back going. After a half hour, I finally stood with defeat in my eyes. “Andy, I’ve put this off for a half hour.” Andy knew what was coming. He did his best to remind me that I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. “If it were easy,” Andy told me, “I would be doing it.” I laughed. But I was done, defeated long ago. “I’m handing in my timing chip.”

Before Andy could catch me, I walked away. I hobbled over to the timing station, my legs so stiff that my knees wouldn’t bend, and went up to the race director. “Josh,” I said, “I’m dropping out.” Josh, the race director, asked if I really wanted to drop. He said to sit down for a while. He reminded me that I had plenty of time before cutoff. I said I already did sit. I want to drop. Are you sure? I don’t know. I’m defeated. That’s when his friend jumped in. He said, “The next aid station is in 2.5 miles. Just go there. You can do that. Get some food in you, grab some salt, and go to the next station. If you want to drop out, then drop out there. We’ll send a buggy to come get you.” No, I’m defeated. But in the back of my head, I didn’t want to drop. I wanted to keep going. But I had nothing. That’s when Josh said, “You’ve come so far already. 80 miles. You can’t just quit. You look good. You’re healthy. You have to go on. Here’s what I want you to do. You’ve been sitting for a while, so I want you to walk with really long strides down this grassy section. Long strides. Stretch the legs. Then when you get to the pavement (parking lot), try to run. Even if it hurts. Break up the junk in the legs. Take high steps.” I stood there as I processed what he was saying. He was right. I was in a funk. I needed to somehow break out. And maybe this would work. One long stride after another, I walked the grassy path, and then when I hit the parking lot, I started running — like really running — and then did high knees, bouncing on my feet, renewed. I ran back to Josh and his friend and Andy and said, “Andy, I’m in. Let’s do this!”

Andy and I set out toward the next aid station. I was feeling far better, and I was running again. And I was dreaming again about finishing this race. I marvel at the ups and downs — extreme downs. In decent time, Andy and I got to the next station, at mile 82.5, and kept going. For a half mile. My right knee, holding on by a thread, finally gave. I tried to numb it out by forcing a run, but it would take it. I had no choice. I would have to walk the rest of the way. Assuming the dark times stayed at bay. Unfortunately, they did not.

Again, I came up with a plan to drop, but each time I went to tell Andy, I somehow fought off the urge, and I kept power hiking. Each time, Andy sensed my negativity, figured out I was slipping into a dark place, and got me back out. Wading through water and mud didn’t help the knee or my energy. By mile 85 I couldn’t even power hike. I was reduced to a slow walk, dragging my leg behind me. My knee was done. I was done. But Andy, now having learned that those dark periods come and go and that it’s his job to make sure I keep going when it gets dark, kept me going. And going. My knee got so bad that at times I had to stop and sit for 5 to 10 minutes to get it back to the point I could walk again. I knew these periods beside the trail weren’t good. Time was running out. In between those periods, I was back to that dark place — no energy, no power, barely walking. But Andy kept me going.

One of the things I learned was that after 75 miles, Power Bars and Gels no longer gave me energy. They did nothing for me. So it was at the aid stations, where I could get real food, when I would get real energy. Because of this, Andy, back at the mile 80 aid station, where I almost dropped out, grabbed a Ziplock bag and stuffed it with pizza (three slices) and turkey sandwiches. So every twenty minutes, when my watch would beep signaling it was time to eat, Andy would rip a slice of pizza in half for me to eat or he’d give me a turkey sandwich. He joked that I was the real Dean Karnazes. This worked well for a long time. But it didn’t always work. I still found that dark place. Not able to talk, for it took too much energy that would take away from moving forward. I was surviving. Barely. It sounds gruesome. And it was. Dark and ugly. But Andy kept me moving forward. I learned long ago that in endurance sports, when dark times come, the only way to keep going is to block out all thoughts, especially when they turn negative, and stay in the moment. You focus on the here and now, not the finish, not anything else. Breath, feel it, step, repeat. I barely heard the frogs croaking and the coyotes howling in the darkness. On I forged.

After what felt an eternity, we finally, and I mean finally, came to the aid station at mile 90. There was now under 10 miles left. It was 10:30 pm Saturday night. I had been running for 28 hours. I had 2 hours and thirty minutes to hike 10 miles. Could I do it? I knew the answer. I would not make it. I couldn’t. I could barely walk. Running was out of the question. I tried running time and again, hoping the pain would numb out, but each time after two paces, I was reduced to walking. At one point, desperate to keep moving forward, I ran a pace, walked five, ran one, walked five, with each run pace on my left leg, the one with the good knee. I was no faster. And then reality hit. Another dark period came. My knee was wonked, and I had no energy. By this point I had to sit on a rock beside the trail every half mile. Wading through the mud took too much out of me. Each time I sat, I saw time slip away. I had to finish by 1 am, which was no less than two hours away.

By the time we got to mile 89, I knew I would not make the 30 hour cut off in the race. So tired and beat, I no longer cared. There was nothing more I could give; that much I knew. I also knew that as long as I followed Andy’s step, listened to his words of encouragement, and stayed focused in the moment, I would go through many more dark, dark periods where I’d want to drop, but I would get through them, keep moving, and finish this thing.

And that’s when things started to change. For the bad. And these bad things were completely out of my control. Not in my head, and not in my body. As Andy and I made our way in complete darkness, the path lit only by our headlamps, with me now moving forward for 29 hours over the course of three days — three days! — and 95.5 miles, two runners came the other way, these two, a runner and his pacer, on their way toward the finish only two miles ahead of me. As their headlamps came near, the pacer said, “Are you Thor?” Yeah, I said while wondering how and why they would know my name. I knew a lot of people on the course, but I didn’t know these guys, and yet they knew my name. Was someone looking for me, and why? The pacer went on, “Two guys behind us are looking for you.” Looking for me? Were they just concerned about my safety? Or was there more to it? I would soon find out.

As I made my way toward the next set of headlamps in the darkness, a familiar voice called out ahead: “Is that Thor?” Yeah, it’s me. “We’ve been looking for you.” As they came near, I realized it was Paul, a runner friend who had volunteered his time on the course at the aid station. But it didn’t yet occur to me that there was a reason he was looking for me. As Paul and his volunteer friend joined Andy and I, they turned and walked with us. Paul said, “You sound good. But your knee doesn’t look good.” I was dragging my leg behind me. Paul didn’t have the heart to say what he was really there for, why he was really looking for me. Instead he went on. “I got a beer for you at the aid station.” I laughed. Paul knew me well enough to know that I like my craft beer. “Ha, I’d love a beer but I have 5 miles left. A beer would knock me out right now. But thanks for the offer.” Just then Paul realized that I didn’t get what he was trying but never quite got around to saying. “I’m really sorry, Thor,” Paul finally said with straight honesty, “you didn’t make cut off into the aid station (at mile 95.5). You missed it by 15 minutes. I can’t let you go on.” And there it was. My race was over. I made it 95.5 miles in 29 hours and 20 minutes.

Many people are saying sorry, offering that it must be bitter sweet, suggesting that it wasn’t fair. There’s nothing bitter sweet here. I gave it my all. I kept going when even I gave up on myself. I quit 20 or more times. But each time I got knocked down, I somehow, some way got back up and kept going. And going. And going. Why? I don’t know. I really don’t. I thought a lot about this. Maybe it’s ‘Just because.’ It’s the best I got. And in this race, I gave it the best I had. I am in awe, as it if were someone else, at the stubborn fight, the never quit approach, in me. I mean, I was left for dead time and again. But I kept getting back up. I took the fight to the battle. They had to yank me from the course. I would not let it defeat me. And I didn’t. I didn’t.

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