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Carver Interviews, Pt IV – Harvey

Brian Harvey (BAA) goes out and wins races seemingly at will. He always looks so relaxed and in control…it’s scary if your goal is to beat him. He broke the tape at the Carver Cranberry 5 Miler on Saturday, July 28th, and we were just able to nab him for an interview afterwards. Literally. He was just about to back his car up to leave when Kev and I tapped on his window. Brian was a good enough sport to get out and participate in one of my ham-fisted interviews. Luckily Steph and Jared didn’t mind waiting. Here’s Brian, talking to the Level after his win:

Yeah, so I guess the sound quality is shite for this one. My bad. You can only do so much with a cheap camera and duct tape.

Carver Interviews, Pt III – McCabe

Allison McCabe (GBTC) won the Jim Kane Sugar Bowl back on July 19th, but she was able to avoid the Level Spotlight…until now. You can run, but you can’t hide! Well, maybe you can, but it just sounds cooler to say it that anyway. So, after Allison finished third at the Carver Cranberry 5 Miler on Saturday, July 28th, it was finally time for us to hook up for an interview. Here’s Allison (and also help from Sarah Prescott on backing vocals).

Carver Interviews, Pt II – Navas

It’s the first Level on Level interview! Joe Navas (Whirlaway) was the first Master at the Carver Cranberry 5 Miler on Saturday, July 28th. I turned the spotlight (and the camera) onto my friend/teammate/Level colleague after he had a chance to let his win soak in.

Carver Interviews, Pt I – MacQueen

Kyle Linn MacQueen (GBTC) took home the title at the Carver Cranberry 5 Miler on Saturday, July 28th. The Level caught up to her after the race for this quick interview. It’s about time too! Kyle’s made a couple of appearances On The Level and we finally were able to meet her face to face.

Carver Cranberry Road Race

What…a…race! Wow. I was very impressed by what I saw down in Carver this past Saturday. I could tell it was going to be a good one even before the race started.

On my way to the start line, I ran into my teammate Brandon Newbould. The last time we spoke, which I think was at the Whirlaway practice that the Level documented, Brandon told me how fired up he was for this race. I could see it in his eyes right there that morning too; he was ready to roll. I wished him good luck, and before he sprinted off, he handed me his watch and told me that he didn’t need it for the race. It was quite possibly the sweatiest watch anybody had ever handed me. You have to respect that approach though; screw the splits, just attack the race. Brandon chose to forego the timekeeping technology and relied on The Force (went back to his Jedi roots). Let’s see how he (and everybody else did):

Did you notice the start? I’ve never personally witnessed this before, but the start line was split for men and women. The women were all lined up on the left side of the screen and the men on the right. That finally gave those elite women some clear space to start their race off.

The conditions were much more favorable than they were last year and the times reflected it (results here). It seemed that quite a few people were uttering the hallowed letters P and R when describing their performances.

Brian Harvey (BAA) stole the show on the men’s side, running a 24:20. That was good enough for a four second cushion ahead of teammate Colman Hatton. The Johnson boys (WMDP teammates) were battling it out behind Harvey. Both were involved in fiercely contested finishes, and both were just edged out…this time. Hatton edged out Kevin for second place and Brandon Newbould of Whirlaway sneaked in ahead of David for seventh place.

On the women’s side, Kyle Linn MacQueen (GBTC) ran a 28:38 en route to breaking the tape. Lory Gray was about thirty seconds back in second place, but behind her there was a three way battle for third place brewing. Allison McCabe ended up winning that battle, followed closely by Brielle Chabot (BAA) and Emily Raymond (GBTC).

Joe Navas was the Master of the Masters in Carver, but after that I wasn’t too sure of what was what and the results initially didn’t help clear that up any. Back to Joe though, it looks like he has put his injury issues behind him; he’s just looking fast out there.

There was drama all around in the results, as there seemed to be quite a bit of confusion. The Western Mass Distance Project men were initially declared winners, but it was later determined that Sean Duncan (6th overall and their 2nd guy) wasn’t eligible to score for them just yet (he came over recently from the GBTC). By taking him out, the BAA gained the team title, but the WMDP boys impressively still had the depth to claim second place.

In the women’s race, Brielle Chabot of the BAA was awarded third place but she actually finished fourth behind Allison McCabe of the GBTC. Some time later, Allison and USATF-NE President Stephen Viegas came over to see what this guy had for finish line footage. Between my footage and Stephen’s still shot, it looked pretty conclusive that Allison took third.

The WMDP debuted their women’s team, and I bet that’ll heat up the women’s competition just like it did on the men’s side.

Watch out for the WMDP ladies…

You gotta love what those guys are doing out there. I think it’s pretty much what my teammates and I tried doing with RTK Racing some years ago, but they actually have the numbers to pull it off. Whereas we struggled to field a team from race to race, they seem to have no problem with depth.

All in all, this was another overwhelmingly positive experience for The Level. Once again, I finally got to meet so many people that I had only communicated with electronically (becoming a regular occurrence at races). Between that and meeting some new people, it was a lot of fun. We even had our first Level On Level interview, as I spoke with Navas after his masters win.

The post-race scene was quite extraordinary, too. There’s a lot of camaraderie between the clubs, and that was evident at the post-race tailgate/whiffle ball/frisbee parking lot extravaganza. Well, you’ll just have to watch the video to see for yourself.

One last thing: the video above is race highlights, but below I decided to include the “raw” footage. Why not show as many people as possible? Enjoy:

One Year, Baby!!!

The Level has now been around for a year…woohoo! We celebrated that yesterday at the Level’s Norwood office, with cake and good times being had by all.

Most of the main Level contributors were in attendance, along with some friends, family, fans and supporters. The day was filled with plenty of good food (BBQ!), drink (Hawaiian Punch!) and conversation about the scene in New England.

The day wasn’t without some mystery, however. The kids had been writing on the patio with some chalk, and, after everyone had left, a message scribbled in there had caught my eye. Muddy Puddin’ was here. What, he was?! I felt like Chazz Palminteri in the Usual Suspects after he realized Keyser Söze had just slipped through his fingers. One of these days I’ll get to meet him.

So for those who have supported us and helped us out, thank you! We couldn’t have done it without you. For the few who thought this was just a fad, a flash in the pan and not here to stay…we couldn’t be happier to disappoint! We’re just getting started, and can’t wait to see what year number two is going to bring!

Ruben Sança Checks In From London

How awesome was it to watch Ruben Sança enter into the stadium in the parade of nations on Friday night? Ruben is such a tremendously talented runner and a great guy, so it was hard to not be anything but extremely excited for him. Did anybody else out there get mad at NBC for cutting to commercial a couple of times once they got late into the B’s and early into the C’s? I was afraid they’d totally miss him, but in the end they gave the Cape Verde delegation some quality screen time. Sure enough, seemingly within seconds of that, Facebook seemed to explode with pictures featuring Ruben splashed across the television screens of his friends and family. There was one in particular that I thought came out quite well and I worked it into the video.

Admittedly, I wasn’t ready for this interview. But when you have an Olympic athlete reach out to you for an interview from the Athletes’ Village, you don’t turn that down. Who knows if the scheduling will work out later? So after Ruben and I decided to do the interview then, and thankfully he was very patient as I had to install some software and then try to recall the questions I had in mind for him. Between his jet lag and my pre-afternoon coffee energy lull, it’s probably not us at our best but we made due.

Anyway…Ruben’s back On The Level! He’s racing the 5k on August 8th, and here’s our exclusive interview with him from last week:

Check out the blogs of both Ruben (click here) and his coach, Gary Gardner (click here) for more information.

Good luck Ruben!!!

Carver Cranberry…The Teaser

You started it…

Carver Start

We’ll finish it…

The field is off and running at Carver

Make the Level a part of your extended cool down. Full race coverage coming soon!

One Week With Tim Ritchie, Part II

Ladies and Gentlemen of Level Legion, here is the thrilling conclusion to One Week With Tim Ritchie. When we last left him, he was going to bed on Wednesday night. Did he wake up on Thursday morning? Will he drink coffee? Did he go for a run? We really purposely worked that cliff-hanger in there. In all seriousness, it was a good look at the importance of a down week for an elite competitor, and it offered good advice for all of us. Okay, enough stalling. Let’s see how the rest of Tim’s week went.

Thursday July 12th

8:00am – Alarm. Consistent sleep is a key part of rest. Rest is a key part of high training. Ergo, consistent sleep is a key part of training at the highest level! Go to bed, people!

8:01am – You know the deal by now – pretty happy at this point of the day.

9:00am – Mass, it’s all good!

10:00am – Do nothing. Seriously, I did nothing all day.

6:00pm – Arrive downtown to meet the Boston College Athletics Dept Corporate Challenge Team, of which I am a part. Despite this being my three weeks of rest, I decided to sneak this one run in so I could help out my team! We had snazzy BC shirts and were ready to rock. My coach was on the team with me and suggested I ought to at least do a mile warm-up so I don’t hurt myself, especially since I’d be sprinting off the line after having not run in 18 days. Sound advice!

It was hot and humid when the gun went off, so I decided to roll just behind the leaders to see how this thing would shake out. Five minute pace after a few nice days on the couch was pretty tough, but racing is a real love of mine and I was happy to be out on the road. At the halfway point of this 3.5-mile race, I made my move for the win. It was enough to break from the pack and establish a nice lead going into the last, long, straight mile of the course. With a half-mile to go, I really started to feel the heat, humidity and couch hours setting in and I thought “Oh, sugar! I better hold on to this thing!” As I looked back, I saw second place within range.  I rounded the bend onto Charles St, pretty sweaty and tired, but able to stick it out to break the tape.

This was a fun race and my team was so excited to see a BC employee win. Some photos later and trophy in hand I was able to meet up with the team at PF Changs for some grub and a few beverages. Snagged a ride home with Siobhan Breagy of New Balance, got some Wendy’s on the way, all was good in the world.

Running is a gift and should be enjoyed! Tonight was an example of not taking a race too seriously. Run when you can, rest when you need to and race because you love it!

Friday July 13th

8:00am – Woke up – sore!

8:01am – :) :) :)  

9:00am – Mass, praying to avoid the chaos of Friday the 13th!!

10:00am – Do NOT go running. Despite the brief detour last night, I am still on break until Monday. The soreness of the race helps squash the motivation to run anyway. Watch a little of the Tour from the couch.

3:00pm – Work at Heartbreak Hill Running Company (HHRC)! Great store in Newton, check us out! Sell some shoes, give out some free running advice, listen to a great soundtrack, close up shop.

Saturday July 14th

8:00am – Awake and glad to be.

8:01am – The best part of waking up is Folger’s in youuuuuur cup!!!

10:00am – Full day of work at South End Athletic Company (SEAC), sister store of HHRC. Shoes will cost you but the advice and the banter is free all day.

10:00pm – Early to bed tonight to fight off a pending cold (sick in summer?!). When I do start running on Monday I want to be healthy and ready to rock and roll.

Sunday July 15th

8:00am – Up and at ‘em. Last day of the rest phase.

8:01am – ….

10:00am – Back at SEAC for a full day of sales.

5:00pm – Sunday Mass, like all the others, but even better.

10:00pm – Off to bed, but tonight’s dreams will not be full of sugar plum fairies. Rather, the past three weeks have done exactly what they were meant to do. My body is rested and recovered from the miles and the races of the past six months. My mind is refreshed from having to be laser focused and driven. My heart is hungry to get back to work. These past three weeks have been some of the most important weeks of my training for the whole year. Without them, all of the work behind and the work ahead would not be able to happen on the level that it does. It was a great three weeks down and when I start up on Monday – I am coming back with a vengeance!

That’s it?! Oh sugar! I want more. That sugar line might be one of my favorites that we’ve published on here. Again, great stuff from Tim and sound advice for all us: enjoy it to the max while you do it, but be sure to get plenty of rest and give yourself the chance to recover. Watch out for Tim in upcoming races and here On The Level.

Racer’s Report: Bui (Great Cranberry Island 50k)

On the eve of the Carver Cranberry Classic, cranberries on our mind here in Level Land.  Jason Bui provides a great recap of his recent 50k.  

I earned another PR, but all I really had to do was just finish.

Great Cranberry Island (GCI) was going to be my first attempt at the 50K distance. I didn’t really know what to expect from this race, since most of my training for this event had to cross over with my training for the Timberman Triathlon in August.

My running mileage leading up to GCI was between 45-70 miles per week in the final month, with only two of those weeks over 60. I did a 30 mile training run with Reno Stirrat, about three weeks before the race, and I pretty much died a little after the marathon mark. The heat of that training run got to me, so I had to get acclimated quickly since GCI was going to be in the middle of the one of the warmest summers on record.

Things finally began to click after the demoralizing training run, but then two weeks before GCI, when I was finally getting some speed back into my legs, I seriously tweaked my hamstring at the Good Times 5K in Lowell. Fortunately, the tweaked hammy was just a pulled hammy and not a tear. I suffered a tear last year and that took months to recover from.

Since it was taper time anyways, I just rested and ran a little every other day leading into GCI, hoping the hammy would be back closer to 100%. By the Friday before the race I was no longer compensating for the hammy, and I felt that the hammy was at about 95% by race morning.

The hammy felt fine around the 7 minute pace, but it would act up as soon as I tried dropping it below 6:30. Fortunately, I didn’t plan on going much faster than 6:45 at GCI.

This was as good as it was going to get, and that I just had to make do with what I had and pin on that race bib. I also had to remind myself that the power of the race bib acts in mysterious ways.

I arrived on the island, via ferry, by 9:45AM for the 11:30AM start and was quickly greeted by the wonderful island locals who hauled all of my camping gear to the “runner’s village” near the start and finish area. There are so MANY small touches at this race that make it feel really personal, such as our names and towns printed and hung on the telephone poles all along the 2 mile course.

Yep. A two mile long island for a 31.07 mile race.

Reno was the first person to greet me as I arrived at the center of town. Reno was here to go after the American age group record for the 50K. The co-race director extraordinaire, Gary Allen, soon found me and gave me a big hug! Where else do you get this kind of welcome?

With about an hour to go before race start, I went about setting up camp for the post-race. Most runners stay and camp out overnight for the festive after party that includes fresh lobster, “refreshments”, fireworks, karaoke, and a hearty breakfast.

The race course itself is an out and back on a two mile stretch of island road. Yep, out and back, and up and over, the same two hills situated on both ends of the island, about 8 times. Total ascent for this race was going to be 3000ft.

The gun went off at exactly 11:30AM with the bright sun directly above us. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, and barely an ounce of shade on the course. It was warm, but not unmanageable.

The early pace was very comfortable with about 7 runners in the lead pack. Nobody was making any sort of move at this point. Reno and I quickly settled into a 7 minute pace and watched as the race unfolded in front of us. It wasn’t until about the 5K mark that any of the runners took charge, and even then, the pace was still relatively pedestrian. Reno and I just hung back by about a minute or two through the first 10 miles, and discussed race strategy while running our 7 minute pace.

The lead pack of five became three as they began to splinter around the 15 mile mark. Reno and I moved up and slowly reeled in each runner. We could now clearly see the battle taking place up front at each turn around point. The lead runners’ faces showed Reno and I everything we needed to see. They were both wearing each down, and tiring quickly.

It was great talking race strategy with Reno during this part of the race. It helped me keep my mind off of my hamstring and to stay relaxed. I gave a mini-surge around 17, but Reno held me in check and told me that we would have plenty of time to catch them, even if we made a move at the marathon mark.

So I was a little surprised when Reno made a move around mile 21. I checked my pace and confirmed that I was still moving at 7 minute pace. Reno was just getting faster!

Reno smelled blood and now wanted to taste it. Even though he was already 7 minutes ahead of the American age group record pace at this point, Reno’s competitive side wanted the overall win.

I tried to follow suit but could only manage to hold my 7 min pace, and actually, my pace began to drop to the mid 7’s. It’s amazing the effect that running with someone else can have on you, especially over long distance.

I was now an island on an island.

Reno pulled farther and farther away and would soon catch up to the leaders and pass them both. I was still only about a minute thirty behind Reno at mile 23, but then something strange happened around mile 25. I managed to catch up to the 2nd and 3rd place runners that Reno had just passed. They were both beginning to do the death march. Reno was now in first!

I easily moved into 2nd place behind Reno, but then two runners, who were part of the lead pack earlier in the race, came up from behind and passed me like I was standing still. They had been stalking Reno and I over the past five miles, waiting for the opportunity to pounce on us, and that’s exactly what they did.

In the span of about 30 seconds I had gone from 4th place to 2nd place back to 4th place! It was surreal.

Then the leg cramps started a little after the marathon mark. Just like during the training run. Damn.

I managed to get through the certified marathon mark in 3:07 (insult to injury – I didn’t qualify under the new Boston standards), but every step after 26.2 was accompanied by a twinge of cramping, either in my calves or on the inside of my right thigh. The inside thigh cramp was really strange and it felt like something was going to snap at any minute. I was seriously worried about being able to continue.

I gingerly kept on moving forward, one step in front of the other, up and down the same hills. The most painful cramps, thankfully, subsided by mile 28, with only the calf cramps asserting itself on every other step, especially on the up hills. I was waiting for the “big one” to happen and seize up my legs for good, but it never came.

I caught a glimpse of Reno at the 27.1 checkpoint and he appeared to be fatiguing too. I saw him do a quick stutter step and slight walk, grabbing his hamstring area. I told him I was having the same issues.

It was at this point that I was only 7 seconds behind Reno, and would eventually overtake him for 3rd around mile 28. There wasn’t much I could say or do after passing him other than offer a slight word of encouragement. We were all hurting.

Unfortunately, the two new leaders managed to build upon their lead and pull away from the rest of us. My pace dramatically slowed down over the final four miles (low 8′s) as I just hung onto dear life just to finish and to hold onto 3rd. I usually never look over my shoulder during a race, but I was slowing down so much that I had to make sure that nobody was sneaking up on me. I wasn’t sure if I would have a finishing kick in me if one was required.  I finally crossed the line in 3rd with a time of 3:47:12. I was proud to later learn that was I was also the first American to finish this championship race! I felt that this was probably my most disciplined and gutsiest race to date. It took a lot over the final five miles to not pack it in.

I definitely gained a ton of experience points during this one, and it should come in handy for future races, including Timberman. Even though neither happened, congrats to Reno for having the courage to go after the record and overall win. We both plan to return to this island paradise next year to improve upon our PR’s, and perhaps more.


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