Eric Macknight makes a strong case for that title right here:
Have a better use? Show us what you got. Be sure to tag @levelrenner in whatever you post.
After the Mt Washington Road Race on Saturday, June 13th 2013, a some runners decided to cool down by running down the mountain. The group (with race results) included:
Joe Gray (2nd, 62:46)
Jeff Dengate (109th, 87:06)
Josh Ferenc (6th, 65:36)
Eric Macknight (10th, 67:37)
Pete Najem (47th, 77:32)
Bryant Johnston (DNR)
As you can see, it was a group of talented, accomplished runners. But the Rockpile isn’t an easy place to run and the cool down ended up being much more challenging than any of them foresaw. I ran into Josh and Pete in the parking lot afterwards and although they mentioned that they got a little lost, that brief description didn’t quite do it justice. Even in Josh’s post-race blog he only said this:
“The Cool Down: cuss me!!! I chatted up Joe Gray earlier in the week and the idea was to run 2 miles of trails, the intersect the road, then 4 miles down the road. This was an awesome idea, but just a cussing idea. Boj, Najem, Jeff Dengate, and myself then embarked on a wild friendship test. We found ourselves heading down the Huntington Ravine Trail, which I later found out that YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO HIKE DOWN!!! Yea, that’s how gnarly, we cooled down an epicly hard trail. If Joe does that to all his friends, he probably doesn’t have that many left. Haha. As gnarly as you want to be!”
Considering that Josh gave me about 800 words in response to the question of ‘Are you ready?’ ahead of VCM, this was surprisingly brief. So with a coordinated effort between Dengate, Gray, Najem and Ferenc, we can present here a more detailed version of the story.
When told of the topic, Ferenc responded with:
“Cuss that cool down, cuss this question, cuss this ‘let’s laugh because it’s all behind us’ bullshit, cuss Joe Gray for ‘leading’ a friendship test cussing survival-thon, cuss my friends for being such cussing suckers to peer pressure, and most of all: CUSS ME RIGHTEOUSLY for ‘following along.’
I’m a mothercussing leader and (yes, self proclaimed Diety), what the cuss was I doing running down a cussing squirrel path for? And that gives a cuss load of credit to squirrels.”
Off to a great start. This was going to be good. Jeff Dengate led us off more properly:
“So, before last year’s Mt. Washington Road Race, Joe and I had been trading e-mails about running some trails back down the mountain afterward. I’d never run any of them on that peak, but know they’re heavily traveled and would be doable. That said, I did zero research on any of the routes, though I did bring a handheld Garmin Dakota 20 with me in my drop bag.
“After finishing the race (and making Joe, Josh, and others wait a long time for me), we headed out. I fired up the Garmin and… nothing. Kinda embarrassing for RW’s Gear Guy to put new batteries in just that morning but not actually check that they had any juice. D’oh. Any case, five of us started picking our way off the summit, headed for a trail we saw off in the distance.
“Unfortunately, we soon hit some trouble. We came to the top of Huntington Ravine. It’s a nasty, avalanche-prone slab of mountain that’s a hard hike any time of the year. As we were slowly making our way down, hikers said we were nuts, warning us to turn around—it’s generally not advised to descend via that route. But we’d already gone up the mountain once on this day, so we we continued down.
“Joe bounded off down the trail looking for the best route while the rest of us picked our way down the broad, steep slabs of rock. At one point, I hit a small trickle of water on a rock face and it was enough to send me skidding 15-20 feet on my rump; wearing skimpy running shorts, I lost some precious skin…”
About bounding off, Joe Gray said:
“I went ahead scouting for trails down once we got through the ravine, however I found more crazy trails so really I was no help.”
And Pete Najem’s perspective from the back of the group:
“I was with Jeff the whole time bringing up the rear with Ferenc and Boj (Bryant Johnston) ahead of us and Joe way ahead of them. This tested my friendship with the self proclaimed ‘Last Hero and only Hope’ (Ferenc), haha. We did get scolded from a hiker coming up the trail for going down, apparently the trail is supposed to be used for descending only. Other than that I’d like to congratulate MacKnight for turning back before things got scary.”
The rest of the narrative, according to Jeff:
“By the time we reunited near the bottom, the shrubs and tree cover was growing taller, making it hard to ID any other trails in the area. It also meant we could no longer see where Joe had gone—we wouldn’t see him again until we were down at the base for the finish meal and awards.
“At this point, some of us guys were starting to hurt a bit. We hadn’t really eaten or drank water for hours. It was taking a good bit longer than we’d imagined. But, we were calm and patient, checking out some side trails to find the best way down. I had on a Garmin Fenix on race day, so the built in altimeter came in handy; we were at least able to get a sense of how high up on the mountain we were, to estimate how much further we had to go. Along the way, we encountered a few hikers who gave us rough directions down. We were happy when we popped out back on the auto road with about two miles of asphalt left to run. Ferenc was done, and hitched a ride in the back of a pickup truck.
“Gatorade tasted might good when we got back down to our cars, that’s for sure.”
Of course we can’t just leave it at this and had to let the Last Hero and Only Hope have the Last Word:
“There was one part where I swore I saw Jesus in a peach tree with dinosaurs underneath it. We crossed a tear in the space time continuum of the universe through a time portal to a cussing land of the lost. I was about to see the indigenous women (clad in only fig leaves) when we found the cussing trail again. Only to lose the trail…again. I had to Dr. Doolittle talk some gophers to find out where to go and only then have a hiker tell me, ‘you shouldn’t be running down this.’ FYI: You’re in climbing/rappelling gear dude with a cussing parachute in case you fall… no shit we aren’t supposed to be running down this! You don’t have to be Steven Cussing Einstein-Hawkins to figure that out. I wanted to shove his bivouac gear up his rear and turn him into a yoyo. Thanks for the tip Bear Grylls, real cussing useful.
“The worst thing was I twisted my ankle seven minutes in and it’s still not right to this day! Busch league Bullshit cockchaos!!! But I wasn’t sulking because we all know that sulking brings attention in a negative way, and Rule #6 is to bring attention in a positive way and at your own terms. Oh if I didn’t like Joe so much I would have hated him… He descended down that cussing mountain like there was snow and he was Bode Cussing Miller!
“Now I was bonking like Jenna Jamison’s noggin on a headboard and needed calories bad. So it was a true test to my name; I was about to be the Last Hero (by saving those guys like private Ryan) and The Only Hope we had, because I packed a small amount of food… Oh cussing wait! Boj had a candy cussing bar in the bag but that Muppet didn’t share it because it wasn’t mine! Mothercusser!!! Who gives a shit who’s it is, it was almost life and death… Ok, maybe a bit harsh, it was never death but I was cussing hungry, pissed, starving, pissed etc, and could have used that cussing candy bar.
“So at the end of the day I learned a lot: if I could take Doc Brown’s Delorian back in time, I’d do to all again!
“Posthumous: I love my friends and without them, wild shit wouldn’t be as fun. It was wild, especially when true people who know what they’re doing say: you’re lucky to be alive.
“Good thing I don’t believe in luck!
There’s already talk of a group getting together for a ‘cool down’ after the race on Saturday. Who will be in it? Who will get lost? Will Ferenc turn anybody into a yoyo? So many questions, and luckily we won’t have to wait too long to find out the answers.
Good luck to all running the Rockpile on Saturday! We’ll be there, competing and covering.
In case you were wondering what the above image, that’s the elevation profile of the Wachusett Mt 10k race, according to Garmin. It works out to approximately an even split: 5k up, 5k down. On the way up it’s a grind, but on the way down it’s an absolute hammerfest. The differences between the two halves are so glaring that it might as well be two completely different races.
Eric Macknight, with experience on this course from the prior year under his belt, took a conservative approach to the first half. “I let Freeman kind of take it a little bit for the last half mile going up, and then just did a hammerfest on the downhill,” recounted Eric. And Hammer he did, going sub-15 for the 5k coming back down (after doing a brisk 20 minutes for the 5k ascent). His 34:52 was enough for Macknight to break through and get his first win of the 2014 mountain race series.
Side note: This was all while wearing his brand new Level Renner singlet for the time.
Justin Freeman maintained his position behind Macknight, but Eric opened up his lead pretty much entirely all on the downhill. Justin finished in 35:43, which was just under a minute behind the winner but still 40 seconds ahead of Jim Johnson in third. It’s amazing that Jim Johnson even finished that quickly and that far up in the results given the size of the blisters that formed on his heels during the race. Each heel had what arguably amounted to the largest ever recorded* and surely was quite painful to deal with.
As is becoming the custom now, Todd Callaghan finished in the top ten and was the top masters runner of the day. Todd ran a 38:13 and finished 7th overall. Dave Dunham, the one who races as a senior but may in fact be immortal, wasn’t too far back. Dunham impressively finished 10th overall with a 39:52.
For the ladies, Kim Nedeau showed that shaking off the rust wouldn’t be an issue after staying away for so many years. “I found myself in first place at the turn around. I knew my body wouldn’t appreciate pounding down the hills but I went for it anyway, feeling as competitive as ever.” Kim’s feelings didn’t mislead her; all the work she did over the last few years ended up translating quite well.
Christin Doneski felt better than she did in last year’s edition, and the runners up front she was battling changed, but the end result ended up being the same: third place. However, as a consolation she was once again the top masters runner. This race wasn’t as close as the 2013 battle that featured a blur of a finish between the top three women. Abby Mahoney, Kristina Folcik and Doneski all finished (in that order) over the course of a scant 22 seconds. This year, there was nearly a minute separating first from third.
Beyond Doneski, this year the field up front was a little more unknown. There was the aforementioned Nedeau returning from hiatus, and then Irish Olympian Steph Reilly decided to mix it up on the mountains with the rest of the potential Mountain Goats. Big names and big talent were aplenty, and it took a big effort for Nedeau to finish ahead of Reilly. Kim’s 42:18 was enough to give her a decent 18 second cushion when she crossed the line.
Series standings have been updated, and leading through the first three events so far are Jim Johnson (287.28) and Christin Doneski (280.53). Next up is Ascutney on June 8th.
*Largest ever recorded on a mountain race featuring equal ascent/descent that took place in May and was won by a guy wearing a Level Renner singlet.
Eric Macknight won the Wachusett Mountain Race 10k with a blistering 34:52. You know that’s flying if you’re familiar with the course. Here’s our interview with the champion, who was racing in a Level singlet for the first time.
Part II of a multi-part year end review by Jim Dandeneau
June saw the 53rd Mt. Washington Road Race dominated by 45 year old Laura Haefeli of Colorado. Laura won by an astounding 5:43. Connecticut’s Eric Blake, 34, won his 3rd title finally dipping under the magical 60:00 barrier (by 3 seconds). Craig Fram, 54 (and the 50-54 record holder), dominated the division yet again with a superlative 1:09:52 even though he was still well off his amazing division record 1:06:58. Jacqueline Gareau, 60, the 1980 Boston Marathon winner, destroyed the 60-64 course record by almost 8 minutes running 1:33:24.
At the NCAA Div I Track and Field Championship in Eugene, OR Riley Masters, a Maine native running for Oklahoma and one of the favorites for the 1500 meter national title, got caught up with 120 meters to go, falling to the track finishing 11th. Abbey D’Agostino pulled away to win the women’s 5K with Emily Sisson of Providence College finishing 6th and teammate Laura Nagel 12th.
At the USATF national championship Molly Huddle finished 2nd in the 5K qualifying her for the IAAF World Track and Field championship in August. Ben True, after a pedestrian first 2 miles, took the pace and ran 3:55 for his last 4 circuits however was only able to finish a heartbreaking 4th in the men’s 5K. 2012 Olympian Donn Cabral finished 6th in the men’s 3000 meter steeplechase.
Kenya’s Stephen Sambu (28:08) and Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska (31:45) won the BAA 10K road race. Brighton’s Mark Reeder, 53, an age group sensation, ran a fantastic 34:48 in hot conditions.
Tim Ritchie (13:47) led 4 under the magical 14 minute barrier at the USATFNE 5K in Hollis, NH while Erica Jessman (15:30) reversed places with Olympian Steph Reilly (15:46) at the 3rd stop of the road race grand prix. Maria Servin, 50, a former Olympian from Mexico ran 17:31. Richard Larsen, 61, ran 17:07.
July saw Eric Blake win the insanely tough Loon Mountain race by 2 1/2 minutes with Hopkinton’s Christin Doneski, 42, dominating the female race winning by almost 4 minutes.
In Little Compton, RI, Amos Sang and Glarius Rop formerly of AIC took a shot at Dylan Wykes course record (22:38) coming up just short, running 22:47 and 22:49, 4:45 pace for the 4.8 mile race. Jessica Barton won the women’s division.
At the hot/humid Carver 5 mile USATF road race Tim Ritchie held off a very game Ruben Sança winning by 4 seconds in 23:59. Steph Reilly won the women’s race to increase her lead in the series while Sean Duncan (5th 24:30) started to take command in the men’s grand prix standings.
If you missed Part I, check it out here. As you can see, we were quite busy in 2013, and the clips thrown in here only represent a fraction of what we did. To see the rest, check out our YouTube channel. More to come on 2013.
Matt Pelletier started out conservatively but made a late push to finish second at the Hartford Marathon on Saturday. Matty P ran a 2:21:22, and although it’s slower than he’s run in the past, it’s not bad considering it included a bathroom break and a run in with a tourist taking selflies.
A few months back this was looking like an epic showdown. Chris Zablocki named a fifty pound rock after Matt and threw it around his backyard after runs in order to get ‘farmstrong’ so he could beat Matt. Matt has done a great job of helping to place a bull’s eye on his own back with the way he’s raced in the past. But then Chris went away to med school and Matt was bitten by some type of vermin and missed a couple of weeks. It still ended up being a heck of a showdown between Matt and Eric Macknight.
After the race, Matt gave this interview, which they comically lined up with an ad a ‘runner up’ theme for Lucky For Life.
I think I could have run faster than 2:19 had I not been bitten by the pit viper. The 2 leaders went through the 1/2 way point in 1:07. I wouldn’t have been with them at that point, but they slowed a ton in the 2nd half and I might have been able to catch them. That also means I would have had to run the race basically alone, which means I might not have done as well.
Training after the ankle swelling didn’t go that well. I was trying to force myself to jump right in where I left off, and it didn’t work out at all. I couldn’t run the times I wanted to in workouts, and I felt tired and run down. 2 weeks ago, I said to Ray that I just wanted to get through Hartford and rest up and start over again and focus on Boston. In the middle of August I was very fit and everything was going very well, then I got bit and missed 2 weeks, and couldn’t get going again. I knew going into Hartford that the time would be sub par, but that I could try and be competitive and focus on racing well and not worry about the time.
I allowed myself to start moving a little quicker after the turnaround at 17 miles. It’s where I started to fall apart last year. From 11-17 miles is a long gradual uphill and there was a headwind. I relaxed on that portion and once we turned around and came back down the other direction, I started to drop the pace.
The last few miles played out well until 24 miles. At 21.5 I caught Eric, and at 22, Matt Kiplagat was on the side of the road laying down getting stretched out by a volunteer. I continued to roll on and people said that the leader was dying. After seeing Matt on the ground, I thought maybe if I really started moving I could catch the leader. When I was coming through a water stop around mile 23, there was a woman running in the other direction (like mile 10?) and she was darting from one side of the road to the other taking pictures of herself. As I ran by, she stepped backwards right in front of me. I had to put my hand out to stop her from knocking me over and I basically punched her in the back. That took a lot of the wind out of my sails and I just tried to maintain to the finish without getting caught by Eric.
Eric and I had similar plans going into the race. We had dinner together the night before and he said that he thought he could get under 2:20 and possibly under 2:18. He said that he planned on running even splits. That had worked for him the year before. I told him that if he was between 1:10-1:11 I would run with him, but if he felt like he could go faster, to leave me behind and go for it. We ran together with a pack behind the 2 leaders (who were out of sight) for the first 3 miles. At mile 4 he and I were running together in 3rd place. I had to stop to pee so I told Eric that I was going to pull off for a second. I threw a surge in and banked some time and pulled off the road. When I jumped back in, I was in 8th. Over the next 4 miles I passed everyone else and eventually caught back up to Eric in 3rd. At 11 miles, I slowed and Eric went for it. He probably put a min. on me by 17 miles. I was content to get 4th and just wanted to maintain the pace I was running. Just before I hit the turnaround, I yelled to Eric who was running back towards me that it was all downhill and he was killing it and to keep it up. Once I turned, I felt better and the downhill and tailwind allowed me to pick it up and try and catch Eric. I passed him at 21.5 miles and was worried that if he could latch on, he could catch me by surprise in the last mile (like Zablocki did in VCM) so I pushed until I ran into the lady taking selfies. I never turned around to see where Eric was. When I crossed the line I was happy to get 2nd, but even happier for Eric who took 4 min. off his PR. I think had Eric decided to race me for 3rd and throw out his time goal, he would have beat me. I always race for a time goal first and place is secondary, but this race was an exception for me. I feel that Eric really made the race.
My chances for a shot at the A standard are still there, but with every race that passes and I don’t get it, the window shuts just a little bit more. I’m hoping in Boston to latch onto a group and run even splits. It also depends on the weather, and how fit I can get.
At the expo, there was the NEF picture of Chris hanging up at the expo. I thought about getting a picture of me attempting to lift and throw the figure of Zablocki, but with him not here to defend himself, I decided against it. Plus, had he been here, he would be the Hartford Marathon champion, and my picture would have made me look dumber than usual.
A shake up in the New England’s Finest program: Chris Zablocki won’t be making the trip. The timing of the race didn’t work out as he’s smack in the middle of exams at med school…in the Caribbean. Poor bastard. That leaves us with…
There are other contenders too, these are the only ones that we had poster shots of though. I guess it’s really just the poster shot preview. But even though Matty P will be there, he doesn’t appear to be in top form. We got this update:
“I got bit by a spider/tick/mosquito/pit viper. I had to take 2 weeks off completely because my ankle swelled up to the size of a softball. I’m not 100% going into the race this year. Mostly just hoping not to get chicked.”
Could this swing the door wide open for Eric Macknight? As was pointed out earlier today by Jeff Goupil, Eric did just recently run a 67:41 half (that was apparently a solo effort too). Eric told us before that he’s got something up his sleeve? Perhaps it’s another spider/tick/mosquito/pit viper, at the ready if Matty is looking strong at the race. It could all depend on which Pelletier shows up. The one pictured above, or this one (Game Face Matty?):
Eric Macknight (Whirlaway) is one of New England’s Finest, and he’s ready for the Hartford Marathon tomorrow morning. To help get the region primed for this exciting, competitive race we decided to show you what Eric’s been up to lately. If you check out his blog, you can see for yourself: workouts, races and of course, plenty of pics of food and various items from around the home (along with some screaming goats).
Up first is his last race, the Brocktrot 10k:
September 29th (Sunday): 5:45am wakeup. Bathroom. Oat bran with milk and brown sugar. On the road by 6:15am. Arrived at the race venue by 8:10ish. Inside to register and back to the car to organize my shiznit. Warm up at 8:25am. 3 miles total (2.5 miles, then another 0.5+ mile to the starting line). Some strides and light stretching before a 9am start.
I saw my competition was cut out for me from the showing of Kenyans/Africans. Off the line well and felt out the early race strategy. Lead the 1st half mile or so. Chilled out and let them swarm me. Downhill 1st mile. In the group through in 4:54. The Africans communicated to each other in another language and threw in a couple surges. I covered the first one and held on for the 2nd one. Once we hit the first uphill section, it strung out and turned into a hammerfest. I moved into 3rd place, but once we hit the next downhill section. Gone. All three of them. Left me in 4th place by myself. ARE Racing Team member Jamie caught me around 3 miles. Woke me back up. Back into a groove and followed right behind him. Passed him with confidence just before 5 miles on an uphill and said we needed to work together. Charged through the last mile up the hill and could see 3rd place. Ran out of real estate and finished up in 32:00 flat for 4th place.
Back to the car to change up and cool down by running the course all over again. 7 miles (48:59). I realized there was maybe 2 fast miles overall on the course. The first one and the 5th mile. Everything thing else had uphill or turns (or both). Happy with the effort and final race before Hartford. After the awards and texting Goup, the guy who won ran for AIC and ran 24:0x at Franklin Park. The guy who finished 2nd won the Hartford Marathon last year in 2:15:xx. I don’t feel so slow (haha).
Out to lunch with a few buddies before driving back to NY. Home by 2:15pm or so. Crashed hard in bed for about 3 hours. 3pm-6pm. Woke up in a haze to head downstairs to sit on the couch for the remainder of the night. Snacked and decided to not shakeout a few miles in the evening. 89 miles for the week for the start of the taper. A couple weeks left until the marathon.
A few days later was his Final Workout Before Hartford:
October 3rd (Thursday): 4 miles (28:35) on my own at 6:20am. Out and back through the neighborhoods. 15+ out, 13+ back. Foam roll, protein shake for breakfast, and made a chicken wrap for lunch. Home to have some graham cracker snacks to fuel up for the workout. Chilled on the couch for a bit before heading upstairs to use the bathroom and change up.
Over to the track with Goup at 5:45pm. Individual warmups. 3+ mile (20:17) on the normal loop. The workout was quick, but with sufficient rest. 3xmile (half rest, 800), 4×400 (half rest, 200). Football practice was in session on the field under the lights. Worked out well. Coach moved the golf cart off the track and the area was illuminated very well. Squeezed a Powerbar Gel on the walk over to the track from the parking lot. Changed into flats. Some strides and started up.
4:43, 4:46, 4:43, 65, 65, 64, 65. Boom. Cruised right through and felt strong. Total time for the 6 miles was 32:54. Rest was kept honest, but nothing crazy. Focused on the intervals. Goup had a good workout too. Cooldown 2.5 miles (18:10) through the neighborhoods. 16 miles on the day and ready to roll in 1+ week at Hartford.
Stopped at Hannaford’s for some quick dinner. Kashi frozen pizza and some yellow Spanish rice for burrito mix. Stopped at the mailbox place to drop off the rent checks. Home to heat up the pizza and cook up the rice for lunch the following day. Used my new silicon lily pad top that suction cups to pots/pans/bowls. Some yogurt with granola. Utilized my new mini spatula spoon. Bed at a decent hour.
Guest blog by Ian MacLellan
I am a runner myself and ran a number of the USATF-NE Mountain Running races three years ago. Hill sprints were always my greatest skill in high school cross-country, and my mom will tell you that I always liked taking the sketchy ways up and down mountains, so mountain running was a good fit for me. I’m also a proud New Englander and wanted to give back to the local running scene in any way that I could.
Mountain running is a very hard sport for spectators to watch and engage with. It doesn’t happen in an arena, so spectators must climb up the mountain themselves just to catch the runners a handful of times. Fans must combine those brief glimpses with finishing times to learn about what happened in a race.
After my own races, I always want to tell people about everything that happened during the race (mostly how I really wanted to drop out, but didn’t), but people think about times, not stories. I’m fascinated by running literature, because there is so much drama that a final finishing time and a race photo don’t say anything about. Writers can cram this drama into the retelling of a 400-meter race, and I wanted to try and make a documentary film that did the same. I wanted to share those little moments to show what drives the elite mountain runners up those hills (hint, it’s not money) and what is stopping them from succeeding.
I also made a very short film on my dad finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon and hope to make more running features in the future.
The final race in the USATF-NE mountain series took place in North Conway, NH last Sunday. The Cranmore Hill Climb was the culminating event and served as the US and NACAC Championships.
In the men’s race, Joseph Gray (aka Joe Geezi) started out conservatively and overcame a late surge from Zachary Ornela to secure another championship. Joe talked to us shortly after the race:
Speaking of Christin, we had already put up some coverage of the women’s race, but here’s some more. Afterwards we got an interview with Meggan Franks, the top finisher from Team Canada and also the top foreign finisher (13th overall). She’s totally #OnTheLevel: