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Workout at BC Reservoir

By Joanna Murphy, as it originally appeared in the August edition of The Wingfoot Express.

I had planned on getting a ‘rust buster’ steeple in at the Brown meet, but the text message that woke me up from my coach, Dan, indicated otherwise. “You’re the only one registered for the Steeple, probably not worth the drive. Call me when you get this” it read. My phone call with Dan resulted in a last minute decision to do a tempo workout instead. “Pickles* is running the workout this morning. Call her and find out when…I think she’s heading out soon.” He instructed. Upon calling Pickles, I learned that she was planning to do the workout at the BC reservoir, and she was leaving in 5 minutes. She agreed to hold off  for 15 more minutes, so I quickly changed, grabbed a banana and shoved a peanut butter cup in my mouth as I chugged some Gatorade on my way out the door. This morning was off  to a great start.

Just for the record: I hate mornings. The fogginess in my head and the achiness in my muscles that occurs before 10am is akin to a hangover…except I don’t get the benefit of the booze (I swear there’s a benefit). I generally don’t feel normal until I’ve had at least 2 cups of coffee and a proper breakfast (2 eggs, bowl of fruit and ideally a potato). Plus, I hate being hungry. So should you encounter me first thing in the morning before proper caffeination and calorication (yes, I made that word up… possibly both of them), you should avoid me like the plague. But at 8:15am on this Saturday morning I was already out of bed, and Pickles is an awesome workout partner, so I sucked it up and hurried to get to the BC res by 8:30 for her. And random sidenote: where I come from ‘res’ means (Indian) reservation. It is a place you go to purchase fireworks and gamble (yes, I know this is politically incorrect). How do people get away with calling a reservoir “the res”around here? Seriously, Boston, straighten out your stereotypes.

It was a beautiful morning out, which helped bolster my energy a bit. Pickles was waiting for me at the top of the stairs as I took the steps two at a time. “I’ve got to get this done quick – I have to be back by 9:15 to get ready to get to the school,” she explained as I got there. Pickles is a coach at a local high school and had a track meet later that day. I could tell she was a little stressed and ready to get this workout out of the way, so we warmed up quickly and got started. Luckily, it was tempo intervals, so I didn’t need as much time to warm up.

We had 3miles at tempo pace (~6:05 pace), 2 miles at 5:55ish pace and 1 mile at 5:50 pace all with 3 minutes in between. One lap around the reservoir is exactly ½ of a 5K, or so I’ve been told, so my quick upstairs tally noted 2 laps for the first interval. I pretty much refused to math after that point.

The clock on the first interval showed we were a little slow, so we began picking it up as we started on the 2 mile interval. We had developed a good rhythm by about 300m in. The sun was brighter than I was used to and I kept my head down as we headed into its glare. After a few minutes I looked up to see three large dogs bounding happily towards us, their owner jogging off to our left a bit in front of them. The owner appeared not to notice the fact that his dogs were taking up the entire path in an on-leash-only area. The dogs were coming for us rather quickly, weaving back and forth in the path. I saw this as redemption for the missed steeplechase and decided to hurdle each dog. The first one approached and I got my steps right, sailing over easily. A few stutter steps made a not so graceful hurdle on the second dog, but still a good steeple. I’m joking. That never happened. I chose the far right edge and took a quick hop off the path to skirt the entire pack.

Pickles, however, was not so lucky, being in the middle of the path. “Oh god, oh god..shit…shit!” she began cursing as she bounded to the left, only to be mimicked by the big Golden Retriever who was convinced Pickles had a secret stash of treats located in her left hand. The other two dogs followed suit. Pickles tried to dodge again, this time to the right, but again the dogs, now finding this game extremely fun ran into her, causing Pickles to have to screech to a halt. She quickly cut to the side, scrambled a bit to get back on pace, and continued on. The owner was completely oblivious that his dogs thought of themselves as canine cannon balls leaving a long trail of destruction in their wake.

Upon hearing Pickles’s cursing he turns slightly, but simply whistles casually for the dogs to come up with him. Pickles, now seething, turns around mid-run and yells, “Put your goddamn dogs on a fucking leash!” This comment apparently strikes a nerve and the owner stops jogging, turns around and yells back, “Why don’t you mind your own goddamn business, you bitch!” Pickles, still mid tempo, retorts, “On leash area – read the sign,” and we continue on out of earshot. She is clearly irritated and increases her cadence angrily. The pace drops. I find it highly amusing that a 40 year old man who is clearly in the wrong (we weren’t the only runners his dogs were taking out) gets all bent out of shape at a couple girls who’d probably still not weight more than him if you put both of us together. We went through the mile about 15-20 seconds fast – big surprise.

The second interval starts to get hard about a half mile out and at this point I’m really feeling that fast first mile. My breathing is starting to get a bit labored right about the time we pass the owner of the dogs. This time his dogs are on a leash. As he jogs by he sneers, “Dogs are on their leash – you fucking happy now?” Pickles looks up, a little winded, nods, and says “Thank you”. The owner pulls over to our side of the path, and leans in towards us a bit. “Happy now?” He sneers, his nose all puckered up as he seethes through his clenched teeth. “Mind your own damn business next time,” he says condescendingly as he passes, and continues mumbling indiscernible phrases out of earshot (I can only assume they were compliments). I can’t help finding this hilarious and begin laughing hysterically while trying to run 5:55 pace. This results in extreme side cramps (most likely karma), which then turn to wheezing. I want to call it quits when we finish the lap at 1.5 miles, but Pickles makes me feel like the worst workout partner known to man for considering this, so I suck it up and finish the 2 miles.

Call me judgmental, but if the man would actually be able to keep up with Pickles and I during that workout I may be more inclined not to think so lowly of him. He was most likely an ex-football player, liked to focus on his biceps and chest with the weights, and probably jogged on the weekends so he could go drink beer with his buddies while he watched the Red Sox game. He obviously had never surrounded himself with any amount of female intelligence for too long or his ego would’ve been able to handle two little distance runner girls calling him out mid workout. I don’t say this because Pickles and I are were calling him out. I say this because he’s clearly a dumbass.

The 3 minute rest was a nice relief and the cramp settled down a bit. About 45 seconds to the start of our last interval the dog owner passes us yet again, this time without dogs. He slows down as he jogs by, “all you gotta do is get out of the way….not a big deal, just move out of the way next time,” He explains condescendingly, over-annunciating each syllable as if we had never heard of this magical language known as English. The fact that we were practically lateral bounding at 6 minute/mile pace to get out of his dogs’ way obviously never occurred to him. “It’s an on-leash park,” Pickles retorts. “That means your dogs have to be on a leash.” She’s great at getting that “teacher-authority” tone. This sets him off again. He turns around and yells, “All you have to do is get out of the fucking way next time.” He’s jogging backwards while waving his arms gesturing in the middle of the path.

It’s very clear that he is not defensive at all. I start laughing again, hoping the side cramp doesn’t come back. “We did get out of the way,” Pickles shrugs, turns her back to him and starts skipping. “Why are you still talking to us?” I ask, mostly to myself, but the dumbfounded look is still on my face, evidencing my confusion that this man actually cares that we think he’s a dumbass. He ‘sprints’ off (I’ll call it sprinting for effort sake, but it was about 7 min mile pace) and continues grumbling about the fact that we didn’t move out of the way of his (clearly exceptionally aware) dogs.

I roll my eyes. “Why is he still talking to us?” I ask Pickles. “I can’t believe his ego is that fragile. It’s frightening.”

We start the last interval: One mile at 5:50 pace. I hate the fact that this feels hard. “God, I hope we don’t catch him,” Pickles says in the first 400m. I look up and see him about 600m in front of us. We would definitely catch him before the mile mark at this pace. Thankfully, he cuts off the path, taking the stairs down to the parking lot. We both exhale a sigh of relief and pick up the pace slightly. Pickles pulls away from me with a half mile to go. I have a nasty habit of letting people slip away halfway through intervals. My coach thinks it’s because I’m not aggressive enough, but I blame it on my difficulty with depth perception…I can’t help it if I have bad vision. With 400m-ish to go I close the gap and push the pace for the last minute.

“I knew you’d have the last minute,” Pickles says out of breath. “That’s why I pushed a bit halfway through.”

“Yeah, I know…I hate it when you do that.” I replied, knowing she was right. Like a great workout partner, she’s good at pushing the pace precisely when I don’t want to.

On the drive home I passed a happy duo out for a run along the river. The woman was clearly enjoying the sunny morning with her partner, a golden retriever, happily trotting along next to her on his leash. It was a beautiful scene. My college coach often quoted the saying, “Good neighbors are fenced neighbors”. I’m beginning to think dogs are a lot like neighbors.

*Note: Pickles wasn’t the woman’s real name. It was changed to protect her identity. The reason I chose Pickles? You had to be there (and even then you’d probably be shaking your head).


Sharks are getting a lot of press around here lately as they seem to be venturing closer and closer to popular beaches on the Cape. Why is that exactly? One theory is that sharks are still pissed off at Spielberg for allowing Jaws II-IV to happen and want to take it out on our species. Still another theory is that the obesity problem in this country is inadvertently making humans look like delicious seals. Although it’s most likely the latter, I’m not completely ruling out the former.

Amongst all the sensationalized news, one line jumped out at me (from a Boston.com article on 7/3/12):”For that reason, he said, beachgoers are prohibited from swimming within 300 feet of seals on the eastern shoreline. Sharks, which feed on seals, have been known to mistake humans for their prey.” It made me think that the obesity problem in this country is really getting out of hand if sharks are mistaking humans for seals. We don’t even need to be floating on a surfboard anymore to resemble that classic seal shape. Just keep inhaling fast food and washing it down with gallons of soda and we can all be shark food!

It was around this time where I had an interaction with some shark bait. I was working out in the diving well at a local high school with a couple of friends (doing some aqua jogging) when the incident took place. All of us were either still injured or coming back from something or other, so it wasn’t an epic workout. However, we were putting an honest effort in (#AquaJogOnTheLevel).

About twenty minutes into it, I had to get out of the water to stretch my calves out, and that’s when the obese lifeguard stepped forward and decided to make ‘polite’ conversation. “What are you guys doing?” he asked us. In response we told him that we were aqua jogging. “Well yeah, I know that. I just don’t get it…why do you need the flotation belt?”

My friend Adam went on to explain how it helped us keep our form, but this did not impressive the lifeguard. “I just don’t get it,” he continued in a condescending tone, “for my lifeguard test I had to tread water for three hours, and you guys are only doing this for a couple of minutes.”

I was speechless; in fact we all were. After an awkward pause, I said “Alright, time to get back in the water.” I really just wanted to tear into him, but he was a bit of an asshole and from our vantage point in the water we had already witnessed him enjoying his authority a little too much. I didn’t want to risk getting tossed and not being able to finish the workout.

So you’re going to be obnoxious and brag about your ability to be fat and float? I wanted to say something like ‘well, I can run from Hopkinton to Boston in 2:31, which leaves me another 29 minutes to [insert momma joke here].’ What makes it worse is the fact that I’m pretty sure he either made that whole thing up or he was just the victim of some really cruel lifeguard hazing.  I’m thinking the test monitors said ‘keep treading until we get back’, then they stepped out and decided to go see ‘The Avengers’.

We should stop wasting taxpayer money on shark lookouts/spotters (helicopters, etc.) and just let natural selection take over. Why don’t we just go all in and open a McDonald’s right on the beach? They can place a warning on the bag that says something like: “Surgeon General’s Warning: ‘Consumption of this food will increase your chances of being attacked by a shark and/or sexually assaulted by a seal.’”

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat…and bigger sweat pants for everybody if this keeps up.”

So what can be done about this problem? Just shutting down a beach for a few days until the shark swims away (aka the needle disappearing into the haystack) just doesn’t seem to be a good long-term solution. Some other steps that can be taken are to shut down fast food restaurants within a 10 mile radius of the beaches, swimmers require to carry a harpoon gun with them, or we all just start eating better and getting in good exercise.

Shutting down the fast food joints near the shark sighting area is nearly self-explanatory, but the radius stipulation is key. I wouldn’t put it past McDonald’s to try to get around the ban by floating a franchise in there. Anyway, this wouldn’t do much good since most of the people at the beach will be traveling from outside of that area.

The NRA is probably chomping at the bit for an aquatic chapter that would see most swimmers (Aquatic Americans) take to the waters armed to the teeth. It’s not really safe or practical. So what else then? How long before you see people selling diversion seals on the beach? Since sharks are attracted to the slower/injured animals, if you brought your own pre-injured seal into the water with you then that should provide the distraction necessary to get out of the water alive should a shark venture too close.

If sharks are mistaking humans for seals (with horrific results), imagine how bad it’ll get if seals start mistaking us for seals. How long before someone is sexually assaulted by a seal in heat? Maybe the seals won’t mistake us for anything but what we’ve become: bloated, easy prey. Which makes me wonder how long before seals catch on to this and start swimming around humans to confuse the sharks? Since seals are much better swimmers than humans, sooner or later the sharks will catch on and realize that humans are easier to get. All our fast food will turn us into fast food for sharks.

If you think all this sounds ridiculous (and it is), how is it that today’s snake oil diets aren’t viewed the same way? So you’re going to lose weight with out changing your diet or exercising. Wow, really? Does anybody say that out loud before trying it? I think the most logical way out of this is for everybody to start running on the regular. You don’t even need shoes to do it (see: barefoot movement)!

The first step towards a healthier lifestyle is the hardest to take. It’s a daily struggle on my part since I’ve slacked off tremendously over the course of the last year. Just think: making that first trip to the gym has got to be easier than fending off an amorous seal, or trying to outswim a shark.

Retro Race Report: The ’10 Nassaney Memorial XC Race

On Saturday, September 8th, Level Renner will be at Bryant College University for the Shawn M. Nassaney Memorial Race. As was explained in the intro blog post, this race and cause is quite meaningful to me and there will be a series of blog posts appearing here in the days leading up to the race.

The 2010 race was held on October 10th (results here), and this is my account of it as I recorded it in my training log (edited for grammar and logic, per usual):

5K Cross Country  @ 17:03.00 (5:28 / mi)   Place: 1

With all the missed days due to the foot injury, the added stress from work, and then the fact that I basically wrote myself off for this thing and partied all weekend, this was nothing short of a miracle.

Friday night I just squeezed in a few miles to make it home where a bunch of the Bryant guys came over to drink beers and watch movies. I felt hungover and tired all day Saturday (I think moreso because I didn’t sleep very well than the fact that I had about 6 beers that night). After a lost day on Saturday, Lane flew in that night from Kentucky for the race, and we basically just drank beers and watched a movie and then some playoff baseball. I then woke up Sunday morning and thought “hey, I’m not a runner right now, so why not eat like an asshole?” So i went over to DD and got myself a bacon/egg/cheese breakfast sandwich and that was my pre-race meal. Breakfast of…champions? Awesome.

Surprise of the year: I didn’t feel great during the warm-up, and was pretty much visiting the bathroom every half hour all morning, so I figured this would be an abortion of a race. But…I was gonna go for it anyway. Conditions were pretty much perfect (temps in the 60′s, sunny & dry, light breeze), so why not?

I didn’t really see anybody there who I recognized or looked like a guaranteed stud so I went out a little conservatively to see how the field would shake out. A dude with a crew cut and a t-shirt tucked into shorts flew out to the early lead, but I easily reeled him in before went up the short hill by the putting green and then took off from there. Coming around the soccer fields I felt someone come up behind me hard but never did see who it was (I’m assuming it was the guy who ended up in second).

From the top of the Green Monster down to the first incline in the woods (1/3 of a mile?), I relaxed and opened up the stride, letting the hills do the work for me. I felt an immediate cushion at this point, and then when we hit that first hill in the woods I just kicked it into gear to open it up some more (or at least hold my lead). As far as i could tell that strategy worked because I didn’t hear anything else after that. I could pretty much run that course blindfolded by this point, and I think it’s the type of course where knowing it and how to work it to your advantage makes a big difference.

My one mistake was just after the second mile mark, where I took too long looking down trying to see my split and came down funny on my left leg. I felt a twinge in my calf and that slowed me up for a good quarter of a mile, and of course that led right into the last uphill push, which further slowed me.

After scaling the ‘Green Monster’, the course takes you behind the maintenance building and then back out by the parking lot (where the tennis courst used to be for all you old timers out there). As I got to this point, still feeling the hill a little bit, the baseball team was on their way back from practice. They were all in the path, nowhere for me to go…and most of them were not paying attention. They walked by a lot of people who were waiting by the fields for the race to come by and I’m surprised that no one warned them. Quite possibly they were warned and chose to ignore said warnings (most likely). Either way, I had to get through a sea of baseball players. Since I put in ample time on the Charles River and on the Freedom Trail, it was easy to slip back into ‘city mode’ to let those guys know I was coming. Luckily they all moved without incident.

Just as passed them, there was this little kid that was basically playing on the course. He was a toddler, had no idea what kind of danger he was in. His father was standing nearby and not too concerned that his boy was in the trample zone. Some people just aren’t fit to have kids. Luckily the ‘Father of the Year’ moved the kid just before I went through.

By the time I got back up to the fields I looked down at my watch and saw I was on pace for like a 6:30 split, and I think that snapped me out of it and I was able to pick up the pace significantly from there. I saw I had a big gap on number two, but felt like if I eased up there was a chance my left calf could’ve responded by tightening, so I kept on pushing it through the finish.

The splits:

:19 for last .1 or so (4:45 pace according to the garmin)

It felt great to get a ‘W’, especially for a race as meaningful as this one is. I haven’t won a race in a long time, over a year now I think, so hopefully this will be a springboard to bigger and better things.

The legs felt beat during the cooldown. I was able to pull a decent performance out of my ass, but I paid the price in doing so. My whole body just felt off afterwards. As usual, we went to Rente’s afterwards for post-race celebration.

The big mystery…who was number two? Why, it was the legendary Chris Mayill! Wait, who?

Lots of Level Legion showing up here.

As you can see, there was a spelling error in the results. Number two was actually Chris Magill. I had never met him before, and wasn’t sure what he looked like at the time, so I had no idea who I had just beaten. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see it as any kind of scalp-taking. I know my PR’s and accomplishments don’t come anywhere near his! Did you see Kevin Gray’s interview with him in the last issue of Level Renner (July/Aug)? Nasty stuff. I do enjoy looking at this top ten now, a couple of year’s later, and seeing names such as Magill, Dandeneau, Greenspan, Giacalone and Engel and recognizing them as members of Level Legion.

In doing these retro race reports, I had two objectives in mind: to promote a race that is fun and meaningful to me, and to possibly encourage other members of Level Legion to submit race reports of their own. The more we hear from you, the better our site will be so please send us what you got!

Things to note about this year’s race: the race (starting with last year’s) is now held in conjunction with Bryant’s collegiate invitational XC races (schedule and registration here). Hope to see you there!

Legions United: The Level Joins Up With The SRR For A Night

The Level was out in force at the last SRR Thursday Night Run at Casey’s in Somerville. We had a great time hanging out with the SRR crew, and the club as a whole was very welcoming.

Kate Hails dominated the run, lowering her own run record in the process. Afterwards, the beers were cold, the pizza was hot and the rolling blackout was short. Yep, had a brief but entertaining power outtage. The weirdest part was that when the power came back on, all my clothes were on backwards and my beer was gone. Still not sure what happened there. Okay, I made that last part up, but the power actually did go out. Luckily it didn’t stop us all from partying it up and dishing out a lot of free gear (Level t-shirts, New Balance shoes & clothing, Skechers shoes).

Special thanks to Heather Hagerty and Nicole Tateosian of the SRR and all the good people at Casey’s! Big thanks to Skechers for giving us some shoes for prizes. We’re looking forward to working with them more in the future!

Russell Brown Interview: Level Renner Exclusive

Hanover, NH native Russell Brown was kind enough to sit down with Level Renner after the U.S. Olympic Trials. Although a nagging Achilles injury interrupted his Olympic plans, Russell has had a great run the past year and caught up with us while rehabbing his injury and planning out the rest of his summer. Part of a very solid group of American mid-distance runners, Brown has PR’s of 3:34 for the 1500, 1:45 for the 800 and 3:51 for the mile.

KG: We at Level Renner love your New Hampshire connection. Can you speak a bit about what town you grew up in and how you got into running?

RB: I’m from Hanover, a wonderful town in the middle of the Upper Valley, a
wonderful bunch of towns. The area has a lot of athletes, and a lot of
really great coaches for them. I got into running through a track unit
in gym class, but stayed in it because of all the people that helped
me develop and encouraged me to set my goals higher and higher, among
them my dad who coached me periodically until I left for college.

The winters were hard in New Hampshire, but they made me tough, which I am not
naturally. Also, I live about a mile from Dartmouth’s indoor track. I
could train in there a lot in the winter, which didn’t really allow
for a lot of volume, but I certainly did a lot speed work. Growing up
in New England, you just learn to embrace the weather. By the time I
was ready for college though, I had done enough embracing. That’s why
Stanford was such an easy sell.

KG: There is a strong tradition of good runners from NH; how was your high school program?

RB: New Hampshire does have a good tradition of running, and it is getting
a lot better. My high school team had some really good athletes, but I
think that was a result of the coaching as much as the talent and
commitment of the athletes. It’s easy to work High School kids to
death and they will succeed at some point, but to develop them slowly
and intelligently requires patience and experience, both of which the
Hanover coaches all had.

KG: What was it like running at Stanford where everyone is a complete stud. How did your collegiate career go?

RB: Well, I want to point out, I have improved almost every year I’ve run
since arriving at Stanford. I have always kind of needed to prove to
myself that I’m ready for a breakthrough before I have one, which
maybe makes for slower improvement than is possible otherwise.
That said, Stanford was awesome. I was surrounded by people way, way
better than me. So much so, I actually worked out with the girl’s team
when I first got there
. I didn’t make top seven until my senior year, and
I was an All-American. Every year, Stanford gets their pick of the
best guys in the country. You have to be patient. I was just happy to
be there. I probably should have been a little more ambitious, but you
see what your teammates do in training and races and it just seems
impossible, until it’s not anymore.

KG: You really came into your own post -collegiately. Can you bring us through the Boston Indoor Games victory over Olympic Silver Medalist Nick Willis?

RB: Last year was just magical. I started training with Andy (Wheating), and I
changed my training slightly. I really wasn’t sure how I would
respond. Going into Boston, I really had no expectations at all. It
began what was a pretty perfect period in my career. I PR’ed almost
every-time I ran. Sometimes, in this sport, you get into a groove, and
just can’t have a bad race no matter what happens.

KG: How do you like living out on the West Coast? It must be nice to live surrounded by some many great track athletes and a city that is so immersed in running.

RB: Eugene is a really special place. It is not just the world-class
athletes that make it such a great place to train. It is full of
athletes of all levels. Oregon Track Club includes hundreds of
runners, and we consider ourselves to all be doing the same thing even
though our goals might be different. Everyone reinforces the idea that
what we are doing is meaningful, and when you are training so much all
of the time, it is necessary to have that type of reinforcement.

KG: How is it training with Andrew Wheating? You guys obviously have the NE connection. Did you know each other before going to school out west?

RB: Andy and I actually grew up five miles away from each other. We went
to different high schools, so I didn’t actually meet him until the
summer before he left for college. He is one of my best friends now,
and us both understanding how each other grew up is no small part of
that. Training with him is awesome. He is just unbelievably talented,
and it is an inspiration every single day. It is also just really fun.
We have a ball.

To touch on some specifics of your training

KG: How many miles do you train a week. Do you run doubles?

RB: In the fall, I run about eighty. In the spring, I run more like sixty.
I double a couple of times a week mostly on workout days.

KG: What is your favorite workout?

RB: My favorite type of workout is track intervals with pace changes. An
example is 4 x 500, with the first 300 in 45 and the last 200 in 27.
The 1500 requires the ability to respond and stay relaxed to all kinds
of crazy moves. I find training that way prepares me the best.

KG: What are your plans for the rest of the summer? You ran great at the trials, but unfortunately, or fortunately, the U.S. is very strong in the 1500/mile right now. Some great athletes were left off the team. Any big racing plans or meets to take a run at a PR?

RB: The trials were pretty devastating. I was having a pretty fantastic
year. My races were good, but the way I was feeling in workouts was
just exciting. I was really confident and really excited because I
knew I was poised to do something special.

Then around two weeks before the trials started, my left Achilles
tendon got a little inflamed but nothing that I was too concerned
about. At some point during the first round race, I tweaked it, and as
soon as I crossed the finish line I felt everything in my lower leg
tighten up. I did everything I could do over the next twenty-four
hours, but I couldn’t even really warm-up for the semi-final the next
day let alone run well enough to move on.

Since then, I have just been rehabbing and cross training. I have
recovered pretty quickly, but I am not sure if I will be able to get
healthy enough to race. I am in really good shape still, and I would
really like to capitalize on all the work I have done this year, but
it may not be in the cards. I am just trying to do whatever I can
right now to get better.

KG: Favorite Book, Musician,Athlete?

RB: Book- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Musician- Otis Redding, hands down
Athlete- Jesse Owens




Negative Splits: The Katie DiCamillo Session

There’s a buzz in the air around Level headquarters these days. Items seem to be complimenting each other quite nicely, resulting in an infectious synergy, while at the same time the audience is expanding and creating even more opportunity.

In terms of synergy, our last edition of Negative Splits was a companion piece to the Bar Harbor article in the latest issue. This edition of also ties into the same issue, specifically Lesley Hocking‘s piece on the Natural Finish Line.

As far as the growth, we’ve picked up a lot of new followers since the last Negative Splits was published, and also developed a new relationship. Running-performance.com published our last Negative Splits and going forward they’ll probably feature something from Level Renner on their site every couple of weeks. This is a mutually beneficial relationship that we’re quite excited about!

This week’s edition of Negative Splits comes to us from Katie DiCamillo. Katie last appeared On The Level in a post about the Yankee Homecoming ten miler a couple of weeks ago. This is a workout that Katie did on Sunday August 19, 2012, in preparation for the NYC Marathon. We hope she wasn’t planning checking a bag!

It has been exactly one week since the Falmouth Road Race. It was a very hard effort for me; I worked on being aggressive early on in the race, which I tend not to do in the longer races. After the race, the coming week focused on building mileage.

On Wednesday I had my first twenty miler in preparation for the NYC Marathon! This will be my first marathon, so it is a completely new learning experience.  After, I had three days to recover and then a workout on Sunday. The twenty mile long run went well, but it took a lot out of my legs. They were craving a hard workout and something fast. This workout would hopefully loosen up the tightness from the long run.

Katie after the Yankee Homecoming 10 Miler

For this workout, I did not have a specific pace to hit. It’s simply running a hard effort for three minutes. As difficult as it is to just go out there and run, hoping that you are doing it right and making the most of your workout, I love this type of workout when your legs are tired from all the mileage.  It takes the pressure off hitting a specific time. This doesn’t mean I can jog around the park pretending to go fast -I have to do it like any other workout. My main goal for this workout is to get the past race and long run out of my legs; loosen them up so I can be ready for the next workout in three days. It is an effort in mental strength as much as physical-I am the only one out there who can push myself as hard as I can go. I think this type of workout will benefit me greatly when I start to train more for the long, grueling mental and physical trial that is the marathon.

Katie is coached by the one and only Ray Treacy, and he had this to say:

Every 14 days, we will do workouts geared towards 5k and 10k training…one week it might be 8x300m, 6x4mins, or 10x2mins. These helps to keep the legs moving fast while building up the mileage for the marathon.

Time to get ready for the workout, so back to Katie:

I got up somewhat early for a Sunday morning (I let myself sleep in until 830 am). It was a beautiful day with temperatures starting in the 60’s and not really getting any hotter than 72. So I decided to take my time and procrastinate with getting ready since I didn’t have to rush to beat the heat. I sipped two cups of coffee and I had something to eat to fuel for the workout.

I decided to do my workout on the Blackstone bike path in Lincoln, Rhode Island. This is one of my favorite places to run in RI, and I do most of my tempo runs and long runs here. The path is completely paved, is marked at every half mile, and has the river running along it on both sides.

The workout: 8 x 3 minute efforts with 2 minutes rest

I started with a 25 min warm up. My legs were a bit stiff, so I ran as long as it took to loosen them up. I did a little bit of stretching and put on my NB workout flats. After a few strides I was ready to workout!

As was mentioned earlier, the path is marked at each half mile. This enabled me to gauge how fast I was going for each interval. I would typically need to add another thirty seconds or so after passing the half to complete the full three minutes. Once I hit three minutes, I turned around and jogged back to the previous half-mile mark as a recovery before starting again.

The first few efforts were a bit slow and steady…my legs were very heavy but it felt glorious to be pushing hard and trying to run fast! Since I was doing these efforts on the road, I didn’t really know how fast I was going until I got to the half mile mark. I had to trust my instinct and stay comfortable for the first two minutes and pick it up in that last minute.  The last three reps were my best efforts. My times weren’t that much faster but I felt so much better than in the beginning.

The times for each half-mile were 2:34, 2:33, 2:35, 2:34, 2:33, 2:33, 2:32, 2:33, to which I then added an additional 30 seconds on each rep.

Overall I am happy with this workout. I started off shaky and not very comfortable at the beginning and I ended feeling much more confident and controlled in the reps. These type of short workouts help to flush out all the junk in my legs that make them feel heavy, and are amazing preparation for the long workout that will come later on in the week. It makes me excited to see how I’ll feel the rest of the week on my runs!

So much is made of the big, epic workout but it’s the smaller maintenance-type workouts that can be a difference maker. Not only was Katie getting in some quality running, but it was helping to set her up for a bigger workout later in the week. Although it’s not technically the same as what Lesley was getting at in her Natural Finish Line piece, it does share some similarities. Specifically, the fact that this one is getting you away from the monotony of the track and over-reliance on measured distances.

Thanks again to Katie (and Ray) and best of luck to her in NYC this fall!

The Über Race Report, Vol. III

 Anne London (of CRC and Nacho RC fame) decided to take on four races over a span of six days and chronicled it all for us. Today we wrap up this Über Race Report with Vol. III, which involves a swim and a road race:

Well, as us NACHOs like to say, “anything worth doing is worth overdoing”… and in endurance sports that often comes back to bite you. Soon the shoulder pain started, which lead to the neck pain, then I couldn’t open a door or lift a bag… and back to the orthopedist I went. Diagnosis: supraspinatus and biceps tendinitis. Prescription: Cortisone injection, PT and no swimming. No swimming? How was I supposed to train for the swim? I couldn’t understands how something that was supposed to be good for me and my running could result in more orthopedic appointments.

Team NACHO after a successful Save the Bay Swim.

Two months later, I found myself standing on the beach at the War College waiting for the cannon blast that signaled my wave of the swim to start. I was scared. Really scared. Was a cortisone shot, PT, and four open water practice swims going to be enough? My brother John looked at me from his kayak and I could tell he was thinking the same thing too. I could only bet that John was hoping he wasn’t going to have to drag me into it mid-swim and signal the coast guard.

As the cannon boomed for the start, we were off, and I quickly forced myself to accept that whatever was going to happen would happen. “What had been my overall goal?” I found myself asking. To use this as an opportunity to become a better and stronger runner. With the twice-weekly PT sessions and clinical massage, I was targeting areas that I had never focused on before and I was already seeing the results in my running. I felt stronger on my long runs, perhaps because I wasn’t stressing my upper body as much. My legs felt better, probably because of the extra foam rolling I had been doing because it was in my face every time I went to PT.

About half way through the swim I stopped swimming and took a quick break, using the buoyancy of the wetsuit to allow me to float and take a look around. From the water I could look up under the Newport Bridge on a gorgeous summer morning – not a perspective that most people will have. John asked me if I was okay and I finally realized that yes, I was okay, and was going to be okay. I ended up swimming the second half of the race faster than my first half, probably because I calmed down and actually allowed myself to have a good time.

I was welcomed on the beach by my siblings and my in-laws who were proud and excited to share in our accomplishment (and the free Del’s Lemonade at the post-race party). Accepting the team plaque recognizing NACHO was the icing on the cake: Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new made me a better runner and made us a stronger team, a lesson that I will soon not forget.

Fast forward three days. After digging out my CRC singlet and the infamous bright pink spandex shorts, I was ready to make an appearance at the Newburyport Yankee Homecoming 10 miler. I pointedly say “make an appearance” and not say “run” because my legs (and arms, and back, and shoulders) were toast. Absolute toast. Weird, I know. Again, why was I doing this (fighting traffic leading out of the city on a grey, humid day after once again forcing eight hours of work into a hectic, stressful abridged day)?

To answer that, you have to rewind two weeks to a wild night out at Audubon Circle in Fenway. NACHO was having its monthly happy hour and the beverages were flowing. In walk some of the wilder CRC ladies (you know who you are), and the fun escalated to another level of ridiculousness. One thing lead to another, and next thing I know the smart phones are out and we’ve all registered for Newburyport. Did I check to see when it was (mid-week) or where it was (over an hour north of the city) or when other races were scheduled (weekend of insanity 3 days before it)…? Clearly not.

Not having run the Yankee Homecoming before I had no idea what to expect from the experience, but despite the stress of getting up to Newburyport mid-week it was definitely a race I would do again: the crowd support, the scenery, the layout of the course – it is a quality event. I set out with the plan of treating it like a training run, but (surprise surprise) after the legs warmed up I ran harder than I had planned, and ended up only one minute slower than the ten miler raced four days earlier. Not so bad. After coming through the finish, enjoying my free freeze pop and proudly wearing my goofy shorts with my CRC friends, I had no regrets. Immeasurable physical and mental fatigue was worth the feelings of accomplishment and camaraderie.

Looking back on the week now (two weeks later) would I pack that many events into one week again – no. My running has suffered since and I am now finally getting back to baseline. But individually, each event highlights a component of who I am as an athlete; the fun and casual Charles River Run with NACHO, the dedication needed to train for the Blessing, the challenge of stepping out of the comfort zone and completing the Bay Swim, and the foolish spontaneity that is only inspired by friends to jump in and run the Yankee Homecoming. Four races in a week – insane, but man, it was fun.

Editor’s note: I’m pretty sure I’d swim from Newport to Jamestown for free Del’s.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Über-ness:

Vol. I of the Über Race Report

Vol. II of the Über Race Report

Thanks again Anne!

Victoria & Her Allisons Dominate at Lynn Woods!!!

We have a treat today, in the form of a special guest blog from Victoria Barnaby! And it has video…we love video! It also features a couple of women who have already been featured On The Level:

Tonight myself and several teammates from the Greater Boston Track Club participated in the 2012 Lynn Woods Relay in Lynn, MA.  Both the women’s and men’s teams placed 1st in their respective gender races and two additional teams competed as well.

Here’s an interview with the winning women’s team “Victoria and her Allisons” (the relay team had three girls named Allison on it).  The Allisons talk about their respective race experiences in this quick video shot right after the race.

A big thank you to the race coordinators for putting on this annual event and for the North Face gift card prize.

If you haven’t seen Victoria’s blog yet, go check it out here.  This particular item was first published on her blog last night. You can also follow Victoria on Twitter: @VictoriaBarnaby

Retro Race Report: The ’07 Nassaney Memorial XC Race

On Saturday, September 8th, Level Renner will be at Bryant College University for the Shawn M. Nassaney Memorial Race. As was explained in the intro blog post, this race and cause is quite meaningful to me and there will be a series of blog posts appearing here in the days leading up to the race.

The 2007 race was held on September 30 (results here), and this is my account of it as I recorded it in my training log (edited for grammar and logic, per usual):

What a day! We seem to have perfect weather for this one every year, like Shawn’s looking out for us up there. Like I said, pretty much perfect running weather (temps in the 60′s, sunny, light breeze), and things couldn’t have worked out better. What better way to pay tribute to a friend then to win the race that’s in his honor? Here are the splits:

6:07.9 (last 1.1 mi)

Had a longer warm-up, but I’m training through so I wasn’t too worried about that affecting my performance. Like last week, I was combining the long run and the race, so did a seven mile warm-up and then a two mile cool-down. I was in full on taper mode since I was running the Chicago Marathon the next weekend, and I figured doing a longer warm-up would help keep me in check. Originally , I planned on just marathon pacing the whole thing but that went out the window when the gun went off. A half mile in, it was just me and Paul Reiley. Well, I saw my split at the first mile mark and realized I felt great, so I was gonna see if I could get the win.

Some Bryant Alumni, post-race

I know this course like the back of my hand (I was practically raised on it), and I always thought that this gave me an advantage over anybody around me. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t really matter since so much of racing is mental, and the confidence gained from that thinking made me more competitive. With the way I felt, and with the home course advantage, I felt I had the upper hand.

I gained some separation shortly after the first mile, and then I was running pretty much by myself after that. Getting that space made me feel more relaxed, but then I was just afraid I’d fall off pace too much and he’d take me down. I don’t like to look back, but I didn’t hear anything so it seemed like I was safe. It wasn’t until I got to the top of the hill with under a mile to go that I felt like I was safe (but even then, I didn’t know if Paul was lurking within striking distance). With Chicago coming up, I was in no mood for a heated battle for the finish line.

Passing the fields up top, I ran by the fans lined up. Now when we passed them on our way out, they were all shouting ‘Go Paul!’, and ‘Go Bryant!’. It was all for him. He works there, runs with the team, and was wearing a Bryant t-shirt. WTF? I grew up in Smithfield, and I’m an alumni!!! Of course there was no way for these people to know this, but it was still a little discouraging. Going by on the way to the finish I shouted “I’m an alumni! Let’s make some noise!”, and thankfully they responded. One woman even shouted ‘bring me another beer!’ (that’s what it says on the back of our singlets). Awesome (thanks Lori!).

Cheers! Post-race gathering at Parente’s.

Crossing the line with a W and new course PR of 16:42 felt pretty good. I ran 17:13 last year, and that hurt. I just felt awful doing it. I ran 31 seconds faster this year, and it felt so easy…and that’s with a 7 mi warm-up. I’m very excited about this. It’s not a smoking time, but it’s a challenging, hilly course. Very excited!! To put it in perspective, I’ve been racing and training on this course to some degree since I was in junior high school. My previous PR for this 5k had been a 16:55 that I ran at the class championships my senior year of high school. I know I’m a way better runner now than I was back then, so although it felt good to get under that old mark, it wasn’t far enough under. There’s always unfinished business with this course.

On karma-related note, my friend Vinny had been making some derogatory comments about Smithfieldians throughout the day (some good old-fashioned ball-busting). Just after we left Parente’s, he passed me and on his way by flipped me, a good old Smithfield boy, off. I believe his finger might’ve still been in the air when the lights and sirens went on; Vinny got pulled over by a Smithfield cop. Good to know they’ve got my back!!

I had to get a pic with Lori after her shouts of support at the end of the race.

Things to note about this year’s race: the race (starting with last year’s) is now held in conjunction with Bryant’s collegiate invitational XC races (schedule and registration here). Hope to see you there!

The Über Race Report, Vol. II

Yesterday we brought you Vol. I of the Über Race Report, and today we bring you Vol. II. Anne London (of CRC and Nacho RC fame) decided to take on four races over a span of six days and chronicled it all for us. This segment involves events number two and three (the third one being a swim).

After having gotten to work early and packed eight hours into five, we were Rhode Island-bound. The humidity was building along with the thunderclouds, but that was no deterrent. This race, The Blessing of the Fleet 10 miler (now in its 41st year), was one of my favorites. This race is the unspoken test to whether a cross country runner had done their summer workouts – you’d be sure that all of the high school and college coaches are checking the results.  Close to 3,000 runners descend upon Narragansett, RI for this fast, flat, and scenic event. This year, my husband Brian and I were joined by his college friend Grant, a newly-minted running enthusiast who had made the decision to drive up from New Jersey for the race.

As the three of us chilled out at Narragansett High School before the race, Grant made the comment, “Everyone looks so fast, so serious. Everyone looks like they’ll run six minute miles, but that’s not how it goes, is it?” It’s true, ten miles is no walk in the park. For 99% of the people there, they had trained for this. You don’t just get out of bed one morning and say, “I’m going to run a ten miler today”. You train, you prepare, you COMMIT to achieving that goal. As I ran the race that night, I thought of all of the hard work that the runners around me had done, all of the sacrifices and planning that had gone into making it to the starting line that day.  I pushed through the familiar course, feeling stronger and stronger as the miles ticked by.  I happily finished with a 10M PR, a result of training and smart running; a skill that is only developed over time.

NACHOs ready to tackle 10 miles at the Blessing of the Fleet.

Less than twelve hours later, we found ourselves across the bay in Newport at the Naval War College for the Annual Save the Bay Swim for event number three.  The Save the Bay swim is a big event in Rhode Island, with politicians, local vendors and some of the region’s best athletes converging on a small beach in the early morning.

It has also been a big event in my family for the past twenty years: this year would mark my husband’s third swim and my father’s twenty-first consecutive swim. All season (and I mean ALL SEASON – he’s outside swimming in November!) my father trains for this one event, with the special challenge of swimming the bay in as many minutes as he has been alive in years, in this case, 59 minutes. What’s nice about this goal is that you get one extra minute each year to meet it, allowing for a “natural decay” in time as you yourself, well, decay.

He had this reach goal, 1.7 miles in 59 minutes, while me, I just wanted to finish. And so, we formed the NACHO Save-the-Bay swim team, a team Brian and my father wanted to do for a few years but they could never find a third person. My youngest brother, John, was dragged in to be my kayaking assistant, as non-elite swimmers were required to have a kayak spotter that would give help to the swimmer if needed. Help was definitely something I need.

Now, I am NOT a swimmer. Sure, I’ve completed triathlons, but there is a difference in finishing a sprint triathlon and trying to swim from Newport to Jamestown, especially when there is a perfectly acceptable bridge with a toll that now accepts EZ Pass to speed up the process. But this year was different for me – after watching my father finish for the past twenty years, I finally got the courage to try it myself. This wasn’t a decision made lightly. For starters, I hate being cold and wet (kind of my least favorite thing actually), so I had that to contend with. Secondly, I am an incredibly slow swimmer. Like, old lady in the lap pool-slow. Third, it’s not my thing… I guess that kind of goes back to the whole “not liking being cold and wet thing”, but it’s all related. I am not a swimmer, and I don’t enjoy it.

So why was I here? In my mind months earlier, I had convinced myself that swimming the bay would make me a better and healthier RUNNER. I have had a range of ridiculous orthopedic injuries, and with the New York Marathon looming this upcoming November, I figured getting off of the roads and forcing myself into a pool and/or ocean was a smart decision. So I jumped head first into swim training (pun kind of intended). I started working with the triathlon coach at MIT in the mornings before work and squeezed into the wetsuit starting in May to practice my sighting in small ponds in Rhode Island.

Vol. III will feature the end of the swim race and the last road race. Look for it later this week.

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