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Happy Birthday Pre

In honor of the great Pre’s birthday today, we decided to rehash a discussion that’s probably taken place countless times: Without Limits vs Prefontaine.

In picking a favorite, there’s a lot to be considered. Which is more accurate? Which tells a more interesting story? Which version of the characters do you like better? Both are very different in terms of style and even in the way key scenes are portrayed. For example, Pre’s foot injury is given two dramatically different originations. Are you a fan of the pool diving injury or the Pink Power Ranger “romancing” injury?

Yeah, they’re both Hollywood versions of the story (ie somewhat bastardized), but that’s also what makes it a little more fun to waste time on. See previous Pink Ranger comment.

Here are some key elements to consider:

Jared Leto vs Billy Crudup
R. Lee Ermey vs Donald Sutherland
Ed O’Neil vs Dean Norris
Henri Lubatti vs Jeremy Sisto

Which do you prefer?

In other news, we have just over 24 hrs to go until Rupp takes the track here in Boston to take a shot at sub-3:50.

Why Runners Get Hurt

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (courtesy of RunnersConnect)

Recent research has shown that as many as 79% of runners get injured at least once during the year.

Stop. Think about that number for a moment.

Nearly 8 out of every 10 runners you see at your next race have been or will be injured sometime that year.

Recently, a lot of the attention in regards to running injuries has been focused on the bio-mechanical aspects; specifically, footwear and the minimalist movement. And while I believe 100% that finding the optimal foot strike and running gait for each individual person is critical, it’s not the first place runners should start looking when it comes to the predominance of running injuries.

In my coaching experience, there’s often a much easier solution to the running injury problem – training. And that’s what we’ll cover in this article.

The two primary reasons runners get hurt

I believe that runners primarily get injured for two reasons:

  • Structural imbalances, such as having one leg shorter than another, bio-mechanical issues,  or experiencing a severe weakness in a certain muscle group.
  • Progressing their training volume and running speeds at a pace that their body is not ready to handle. Or, as coach Jay Johnson would technically define it, “metabolic fitness precedes structural readiness”.

As a running coach, I deal in both of these injury realities and have confronted both in my own running career. As I mentioned before, there is no doubt bio-mechanical and structural deficiencies are an important part of the equation. However, this post will focus on the importance of proper training progression since structural imbalances are something that need to be addressed outside the training cycle, is a slow process, and often requires the help of a good physical therapist, podiatrist, or chiropractor.

Structural vs. metabolic changes

Don’t be intimidated by the “science” sounding title of this article. Structural versus metabolic changes simply means that a runner’s aerobic and anaerobic fitness develops at a faster rate than their tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bones. For example, you may be able to head out the door and hammer out a long run or a tempo run at 8 minutes per mile (or whatever your tempo pace is), but your hips might not be strong enough yet to handle the stress of the pace or the length of the run and, as a result, your IT band becomes inflamed.

This experience is very common for runners who get recurring shin splints when they first start running. Their aerobic fitness is allowing them to continue to increase the distance of their runs because they no longer feel “winded” at the end of each run; however their shin muscles haven’t adapted to the increased pounding caused by the increase in distance and they quickly become injured.

In my opinion, a runner has two ways to combat these types of injuries: (1) continually address the structural system during training; and (2) progress the volume and speed work at a level the body is capable of adapting to.

Addressing the structural system

To address the structural system, I think runners should start with a running-specific strength routine that includes lots of core work so they can identify any weak areas. Research has also shown that hip strength , or lack thereof, strongly correlates with running knee injuries. Therefore, a hip strengthening program may also be beneficial.

By strengthening the core and running specific muscles, you can “speed up” the progress of the structural system and begin adding in longer and faster workouts earlier in the training cycle.

Furthermore, for beginner runners, or those who are unable to run the volume they desire, you can perform running specific strength exercises that improve your strength and flexibility while still providing an aerobic component. To accomplish this, I often have runners perform what I call the “machine” workout.

While addressing the structural aspect is important, I think the most critical component to staying injury-free is ensuring that your training plan follows a patient and planned progression while gradually introducing running at your desired goal race distance and race pace.

Jumping into speed work too quickly

When I analyze generic schedules, I often see a quick progression from easy running to full-blown speed workouts. I think the transition from mainly easy aerobic runs to any form of speed work needs to be buffered with introductory speed dynamics, such as strides, hill sprints, steady runs, and short fartleks. This concept is especially true for beginner runners.

Furthermore, most long-time runners have heard of the training concept known as the “base building” period. Base building refers to a portion of the training cycle where the runner focuses on increasing mileage and forgoes harder workouts. However, I believe the traditional base building cycle may actually contribute to most running injuries.

While slowly increasing training volume is a good thing, most runners exit the base building cycle and introduce speed work too quickly. While they’ve upped their mileage and training volumes and feel confident in their new strength and endurance, they’ve gone numerous weeks, or even months, without doing any type of speed work and expect to jump back into race pace without any consequence. When you neglect doing faster pace work for an extended length of time, you lose the muscular readiness to run fast without increasing injury risk.

To combat this, runners need to include strides, hill sprints and even short fartleks into their training at all times. This doesn’t mean runners have to be laser focused year-round, but simply adding in a few strides and hill sprints a few times per week will go a long way towards warding off injuries.

In addition, as has been much discussed in previous articles, you have to make sure that you take your easy runs slow and give your body a chance to recover from the stress you’re inducing.

Race specific running

Finally, as I’ve discussed previously on this blog, you need to train to the specific demands of the race. So, if you want to run 10k in 40 minutes, you need to train your body to do two things: (1) handle 6:25 per mile pace without breaking down; and (2) handle 6:25 mile pace for 6.2 miles without breaking down.

So, in-line with what I’ve been discussing, you first need to get your body adjusted to running 6:25 per mile. For example, your first workout might look like: 12 x 400 @ 1:35 w/90 sec rest. Later in the training segment, as your body adjusts to the workload, your workout might become: 8 x 800 @ 3:12 w/90 sec rest. Now, you’re doing 5 miles of volume at race pace instead of 3, but because you’ve slowly introduced work at race pace to your body, your structure is able to handle the stress. You final workout 10 days before the race might look like: 10 x 1000 @ 4:00 w/60 sec rest, hammer # 5 and 8.

By being patient and gradually introducing both race pace work and specific volume at race pace, you can hit all your time goals while staying injury free.

I am interested to hear if you like the more “theoretical” nature of this post or if you prefer the specific “how to” articles better. As always, I enjoy comments and feedback, so please don’t hesitate to comment below or share via facebook and twitter.

*I want to acknowledge that a lot of my thoughts on this subject were inspired from Jay Johnson, who also wrote a piece on this topic in his blog and Mike Smith, the head Cross Country Coach at Kansas State University.

Find this and more great information on the RunnersConnect website.

Treating plantar fasciitis with minimalist shoes

Guest blog by Camille Herron

As I’ve detailed going back to August, I literally “split my foot in half”, which started with bee stings (including one on the bottom of my heel). While we knew I had cracked the calcaneus, we didn’t know the extent of the damage to the soft tissue. I’ve been trying to comeback since October, and while the heel bone itself has felt fine, there’s been lingering “scar tissue” on my heel, which gives me ocassional pain (localized to the heel/medial heel) and limits my pushoff, foot spring, and foot strength. It’s tricky cause aerobically I feel fine and can run my usual easy day paces and mileage, but my foot is weak on hills and with speedwork. I can now sympathize with ~Ryan Hall, as he struggled to hit his typical speeds last year while dealing with PF.

I finally decided to get an MRI and see what’s going on, so we know how to treat it right. It turns out I have, as characterized by the radiologist, “moderate to moderately-severe plantar fasciitis” and a partial tear in the aponeurosis (the plantar attachment) with adjacent edema and thickening. That doesn’t sound good! I can’t imagine what they would have done with me had we gotten the MRI when the foot injury happened! I probably would have been put in a cast and not able to run for MONTHS. Here I am… I’ve already run 2 marathons with this foot!

What Normal Plantar Fascia looks like

My Plantar Fasciitis w/ partial tear in the aponeurosis and edema and thickening

Sooo… now that I know my problem is PF and have all this scar tissue that needs to be “stretched/worked out”…. LIGHT BULB moment.

The past 1-2 years, I’ve been gravitating away from my usual ~minimalist shoes/barefoot running (which I’ve been in for 9 yrs.- never had a PF problem) and wearing slightly beefier shoes (for me)– more along the lines of ~marathon racers/lightweight trainers. I thought this was good for my foot problem by helping to rest it and reduce inflammation. In hindsight, it probably was beneficial for the early stages of the healing process, but now that it’s ~healed and developed lots of scar tissue, I need to work my foot to stretch and strengthen it back to normal.

It felt like I got to a point where the ART treatments, self-massage/self-graston, golf ball, barefoot running (which I blogged about, has helped in the past), and stretching/strengthening, wasn’t making a difference, probably because I was in the wrong shoes for my 16-20 mile daily runs (which tightened it back up and led to massive scar tissue). I have so much scar tissue on that heel that I probably need more aggressive treatment and active-foot-use now. I’m up for recommendations on what to do and who to see (~Graston, dry needling, PRP/Prolotherapy, etc.). I actually did my undergrad Sports Medicine internship project on ESWT (which I got to sit in on with one of our patients).

I also must point out that treating PF totally depends on the person and trial and error of what helps. I read online about ~avoiding being barefoot, wearing supportive shoes, getting orthotics, etc.. However, as I mentioned, these things might help it to calm down/heal, but longterm… the scar tissue and plantar fascia needs to be stretched and strengthened back to normal length and functionality. Most people try manual and mechanical therapies done at home or with a healthcare specialist, while sticking with more supportive running shoes. However, I’ve been in flats/barefoot for most of my adult running career, so I’m comfortable trying this.

Anyone remember Puma H Streets? The shoes I trained in from circa 2004-2007.

My old Brooks T6s, which feel like high heels compared to my Inov-230s, but both are very flexible

I still have some very minimal shoes in my closet, 5K-10K type racers (and some street/retro shoes). When I started trying these out last week, it was instant relief! I was pretty stiff and sore though for a few days, since I haven’t worn shoes like this for a while, but after that adaptation period… I could finally get out of bed in the morning or stand up from sitting down, without hobbling around for a while. I’ve found that the key shoe elements for me right now are firmness and flexibility(and probably low heel-to-toe, as too much heel elevation “encourages” a heelstrike). My heel is also sensitive to how the insole and upper fits around the heel (nothing pressing into it) and doesn’t like arch support. I almost wonder if the scar tissue is pinching a nerve (Baxter’s nerve?).So far in the racing flats, it feels like my foot has gone from being “dormant”, like running on a stiff, peg foot… to coming alive! I can feel myself getting up more on the ball of my foot and pushing off more forcefully.  The flexibility of the shoe is very key for me, as my foot needs to be able to roll, bend, and toe-off with ease (since my plantar fascia is so tight and sensitive). It feels like my arch is trying to relax and flatten, but the plantar fascia is still too tight. I can sometimes feel my heel/arch spasm and relax mid-run, probably because the scar tissue is gradually being worked out. As my friend, Joseph, pointed out– it’s all about getting that “proprioceptive feedback”, as the foot tries to straighten itself out.This is where I stand right now. I hope by sharing my experience, it will help others suffering with chronic PF to “look outside the shoebox”. I’ll see how the next month goes in the more minimal shoes, and hopefully I can find the right healthcare professional to try some more aggressive treatment methods. I haven’t figure out the right shoes for the marathon yet. My next major race is the Mercedes Marathon, so that will be a good test to see if my foot is getting back to normal so I can run my normal speed.

**Disclaimer** I am not a physician, so it’s best to seek out medical advice from a professional first. What I’ve shared in the article above is purely my own experience.

Camille Herron is a 2:37 marathoner and a heck of a blogger. Be sure to check out Camille’s blog, which is a great source of info.

Level Legion Blog Network

Have a blog and want to share it with Level Legion? Many runners have their own blog these days and in many cases they can be a great source of training and racing information, and in some cases pretty freakin’ entertaining too. We recognize the hard work that is put into maintaining these blogs and want to help get the word out about what you’re doing and also make it easier to track down the blogs of your fellow runners.

Recognize this blog?

What we plan on doing is creating a link list for blogs here, and it’s pretty simple to get on it. Just contact us and let us know you’d like us to add your blog. Send your emails to: EJN at Levelrenner dot com. Sorry I had to spell that out (damn spammers). All that we ask in return is to provide a link to our site on your blog. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just as simple as what already appears on most blogs under the ‘blogs I follow section’. Let us know if you’re interested or have any questions. We’ll roll it out soon and hopefully the list keeps growing. We plan on updating it monthly or so to rank the top blogs, and who knows, maybe have prizes to give away to bloggers in the Level network. It’s all evolving, so join us and be part of it all!

WMDP Club of the Year

Guest blog by an Anonymous Wolf

Stoneham, MA – The Western Mass Distance Project has been more than humbled by its wonderful reception to New England running this year. The Club started, originally, as a means for local Western Mass runners to rally their post-collegiate potential and keep this crazy dream we call running alive. It since has become something that has an impact at the regional and national level.

The Wolves would like to thank all of the members of the USATF-NE for voting the Western Mass Distance Project Co-Club of the Year for the 2012! You are all amazing competitors and fellow runners. We are inspired by this award to strengthen our efforts in 2013 to become a bigger, faster, and more diverse club in the upcoming season.

In running, the proof is in the results. A simple sport on paper; you’re 1st, 2nd, etc., etc., but this year has enlightened this Western Mass group as to the possibilities of this “simple” sport and where we can all take it; as a New England organization and beyond.

In college, we are spoiled by scheduled practices/schedules catering to our runs, and countless teammates to drag us through those days we would otherwise fold. Post-collegiately, this luxury is no longer available and a real passion for the sport must be cultivated. Even the most passionate of us can let our demons hold us inside on a cold morning or justify nipping off the last couple miles of a run after a long days work. It is in the running community that we must draw our inspiration for pushing the limits to their appropriate boundaries and leaving the light life for the ladies and gents back at the office.

This year our experimental club has taught all of us Wolves that the motivation to train does not need to come from physically being out on the roads with our teammates and our competitors, but simply knowing we’re all out there and we’re all accountable.

It would seem winning is the obvious goal, but I think what we have all learned is that the real goal is the Process.

Respect the Process.

Follow the exploits of this young wolfpack as they respect the process year round on the team website.

Lance Armstong’s Vertigo

Guest blog by Jim Hansen

“Hello, Hello
I’m at a place called Vertigo (Donde esta?)
It’s everything I wish I didn’t know.” (U2 Vertigo)

Watching Lance’s confessions on Oprah was far from pleasant. Here is a man who went from the highest of highs in terms of public acclaim, to someone who is now feeling a little untidy about being found out as a cheater, liar, and world class bully. I don’t think that Lance was entirely truthful either during his conversations with Oprah as he seems more determined to keep his money and influence, as well as his ability to race triathlon and running events again, than totally coming clean. I think he is hoping he gave the public what it wanted and that this will all soon go away so he can race in the Ironman triathlon someday It appears he won’t admit to doping after 2005, because the statue of limitations is 8 years, and that might conveniently allow him to compete in sports sooner rather than later. There is a lot more  that Armstrong needs to say, and maybe Oprah is not the one to say it all too. Co-doper, Tyler Hamilton, says this in a Wall Street Journal article:

Hamilton had sounded like this, too, when he first began confronting the truth. Hamilton’s own admission had been much smaller in scale, but in the early stages it was also painful, awkward, halting, often incomplete. Coyle, his co-author, said that when he first began talking to Hamilton for “The Secret Race,” Hamilton’s answers came so slowly he could transcribe every word and comma easily, by hand, with no abbreviations.

“When I first started telling the truth, it came out like water trickling out of a faucet,” Hamilton said.That’s what Hamilton recognized in Armstrong—the slow, brutal process of a man coming to terms with his deception. Coyle recognized it, too. “People underestimate how difficult it is to tell the truth when you have lived a secret life for a long time,” Coyle said. He compared the process to digging out a “buried city in the sand.”

“This isn’t like a syringe in a toilet stall,” Coyle said. “This is a life. With people and all these plotlines and secrets that are interlocked and nested together.”

There is a part of me that sees that blood doping in professional cycling and using illegal drugs as just being part of the norm today: a hidden business, but business as usual. Many, if not most, of the top professional cyclists have been implicated in drug scandals. Many young professional cyclists have been faced with a terrible decision: to dope or not. Some of these cyclists gave in and achieved fame and money, while others walked away with not so much as a consolation prize, but with their integrity  intact. As the devil tempts Jesus, after fasting for 40 days in the Wilderness, he lays out the power and riches that can be His, if He only gives in to his temptations (from the U2 Song “Vertigo”):

All of this can be yours
All of this can be yours
All of this can be yours
Just give me what I want-and no-one gets hurt.

Lance made it to the top of the world, but it was all a lie. It must have seemed easy to Lance, Tyler, Floyd, and all the others to give in and attain what they wanted, thinking that no one would get hurt. A lie is not an easy secret to hold. These, once mighty men, have been humbled, but as Tyler infers, Lance is only at the beginning of the process. I am not even sure that is is the doping that has finally caught up with Lance. I am of the opinion that it is his selfish bullying character that people, deep down, are most angry and intolerant about. Maybe his apologies will go over well with the Oprah crowd, but I think of all the people he has hurt with his attitude  words, and lawsuits. That is the Lance Armstrong that needs the most attention. Being contrite for your doping is one thing, but changing and fixing that Lance will probably be a bigger task than winning 7 Tour de France bicycle races.

Kathy LeMond, wife of 3 time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, says that Lance is more embarrassed and not truly sorry in a Sports Illustrated article. Greg LeMond said of the interview to VeloNews:

“I didn’t see the need for redemption, the remorse of someone who is truly sorry,” LeMond said. “It was the ideal way to see the real Armstrong. It shed a light on him and I think people could see he is not remorseful.”

Betsy Andreu was not as forgiving as Tyler Hamilton in thinking that Lance’s confession is a first step towards healing. In another Sports Illustrated article before the televised airing, she said:

SI: Is Armstrong’s confession incomplete, in your eyes, unless he owns up to saying the things you heard him say in the hospital room?

Andreu: He has one chance to tell the whole truth. If he does not tell the whole truth, then I think he has completely shot his chance at redemption and forgiveness. And he is going to forever imprisoned.

In the Oprah interview, Lance still played the wise guy, when talking about Betsy, saying that he never called her “fat”. He also refused to “go there” when talking about Lance’s confession to using drugs which Betsy and her husband Frankie overheard while Lance was getting treatment for his cancer. Betsy was one of the first and fiercest whistle-blowers when it came to Lance and his drug use.

Another person that Lance Armstrong tried to ruin professionally and financially was his former Bike Mechanic, Mike Anderson. He told Sports Illustrated:

SI: Lance has been calling some associates ostensibly to apologize. Has he called you?

Anderson: No he hasn’t. I don’t think he will. Again, it won’t be genuine.

Frankie Andreu probably said it best when talking about Lance’s confessions to Bicycling magazine:

Lance has always had a lot of control, power, and influence. During the investigations he lost much of that control as he scrambled around trying to figure out what was happening. He lost his power and influence once the USADA report came out. As only Lance is capable of, I feel he is now back in control. Lance waited until all the governing bodies had made their decisions regarding his sanctions and then he chose his next step. He waited for some time to pass and picked the time, place, and forum to come out publicly with his admission. Now he holds more information than everyone put together and his risk of falling from grace is removed. If anyone had something on Lance Armstrong to keep him quiet it’s worthless now. Lance has control now because he can decide what, when, and how to reveal information regarding his racing days and the doping that took place. Ultimately he can decide who he takes down with him.

In my eyes that makes him just as dangerous as before.

According to Frankie, it seems that the whole confession is just another slick choreographed move by Lance. I guess time will tell if anything that Lance Armstrong says is truly genuine. The quotes and articles above came from some of the people most publicly hurt by Lance Armstong, so maybe they have a bone or two to pick with him. What about those closest to him?

According to an article by Selena Roberts, for Sports on Earth even Lance’s own mother was worried about Lance’s own lack of empathy towards others back in 1994. This was before his first Tour de France win. Linda Armstrong sat down with Greg and Kathy LeMond:

…searching for advice and an answer to a disturbing question: Why didn’t her son feel anything? “She was worried that Lance didn’t care about anything but himself,” Kathy LeMond recalled. “His own mother.”

Of course the stories come from the LeMonds, who lost out on millions of dollars when Lance got Trek to dump his bike line, but a story they tell of a young cocky Lance, details that peculiar side of Lance:

The LeMonds wanted to help. They could see Lance was slipping away from reality and into a place absent of empathy. Also in 1994, the same day that Greg had dropped out of the Tour de France before the mountain stage, Lance had placed a call to Kathy at the LeMond’s home in Belgium with a taunting, kick-the-champ-to-the-curb request. “It was clear to him that Greg was finished and he said, ‘I’d like to rent your house,’” Kathy recalled, stunned because, at that raw point, Greg had not made a decision about his future. “I was like, what are you talking about? That’s how sick he is.”

You will hear plenty of people tell of all the good things that Lance did for cancer awareness with his Livestrong organization, and yes, I was one of the first people to buy a Livestrong bracelet when they first came out, but in the end, I don’t thing the Lance Armstrong story is a story about cancer awareness, or cheating in cycling for that matter. I think, in the end, that his story is a story about a world class thug, and I hope for once, people finally get the strength to say say that they don’t want to hear from this bully ever again until that part get fixed. Lance’s ban from sports is ultimately about his   illegal drug use. Changes of criminal activity are due to his lying about it under oath. The truth about Lance Armstrong is that he is a bully and he went after people who spoke the truth.

I am not sure if banishment from sport is the proper response to Lance Armstrong’s severe character flaws.  If he is ever allowed to compete in sanctioned events again, I would certainly be interested in what a “clean” Lance Armstrong could do in an Ironman triathlon even, even though I dislike the idea of him being in the spotlight again. I am somewhat skeptical that he should receive a lifetime ban from competition when his cohorts in crime received much less, but the proof of his true contriteness will come out over time. For all the riches and acclaim that Lance has achieved in his lifetime, he is humbled by the simple fact that he cannot do what the typical weekend warrior can do anytime they want and that is to be involved in a competition where you test yourself athletically against yourself and others to see how far you can push yourself under your own power. Lance Armstrong had his opportunity to do so, and he came up as a colossal failure.

“Lights go down
It’s dark
The jungle in your head
Can’t rule your heart.”  (U2 “Vertigo”)

…Or can it? In conclusion, I think that Lance is just talking with his head (what is best for Lance) and not with his heart. I believe that redemption is something that comes from the heart and involves a bit of kneeling before (asking forgiveness) and serving those (making things right) with the people you have hurt. I think we will know the day that Lance has fully been brought to his knees. It hasn’t happened yet!

“Check mated
Oh yeah
Hours of fun…” (U2 Vertigo)

Meanwhile, I am sure we will be hearing lots from Lance and if you didn’t get to see the interviews, don’t worry, a movie will soon be coming out and I am sure we will also hear about a forthcoming book.

Meanwhile a former once promising American professional cyclist who raced in Europe before sustaining a horrific crash that left him in a coma and with a serious brain injury says that he raced in Europe and never took a performance enhancing drug. Never heard of Saul Raisin? Maybe you should head over to his Raisin Hope website or read his book Tour de Life. It is now on my list of books to read. Maybe we have the wrong cycling heroes? There are plenty of virtually unknown guys who tried to do it right!

On the afternoon of April 4, 2006 twenty-three year old pro cyclist Saul Raisin charged toward the finish line of a European tune-up race in preparation for his first Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy). Meanwhile in Dalton, Georgia, Saul’s parents waited for the simple but comforting text message he always sent to let them know he’d finished the day’s stage safely: “OK.”

It never arrived.

Through urgent phone calls the Raisins learned their son had crashed, fallen into a coma, and would require emergency brain surgery. They rushed to Europe where they learned that Saul’s doctors didn’t expect him to survive. If he did make it he’d be paralyzed for life. In shock, the Raisins discussed their options, including donating their son’s organs. Then he began to wake.

Prior to his crash Saul was in the process of building an impressive racing resume. He’d won the Best Young Rider jersey at the Tour de Georgia, captured ninth place overall at the Tour of Germany, turned in the strongest American performance at the 2005 World Championships, and won a mountainous stage in the first race of 2006. Trainers were in awe of his early-season strength.

After the crash that strength paid huge dividends. Tour de Life is the story not merely of Saul Raisin’s miraculous return to life, but of the awe-inspiring resumption of his quest to win cycling’s most prestigious race, the Tour de France.

Check out Jim’s blog Recover Your Stride.

Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble

Guest blog by Jim Johnson

Photo of the starting line by SNAPacidotic

Saturday was race #2 in the 2013 Granite State Snowshoe Series put on by acidoticRacing and sponsored by Snowshoe Magazine.  The host race was Kevin Tilton’s Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble (results) at the Whitaker Homestead in North Conway, NH.  The race is a fundraising event to benefit the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring Foundation.  This was the third year in a row this race has been held and part of the GSSS.

This year it was great only having to drive 15-20 minutes up the road to the race.  I woke up in the morning to a nice dusting of an inch or two of fresh snow everywhere and it was snowing pretty good heading up Rt. 16 through Conway. I made it to the race early so I could run over the course w/ Dave  Dunham and flag some of the trails that we didn’t want to do until this morning (because it was still being used by skiers last night after we left).  We also had to tape across the stakes that had been set by Kevin yesterday afternoon.  We headed out at about 8:15 and did the entire 4 miles of the course, which had a nice top layer of powder on top of the already groomed xc ski trails.  I then ran another mile + on snowshoes back up to a junction to set more flags, then back down and around the field a bit to warm up right before the race.  My foot was starting to kill me on the way back down from flagging the last bit.  It was the worst pain I’ve had in a while in the foot…but after stretching a bit at the car and staying loose right before the race, it seemed to get better by the time the race started.

74 brave souls endured the cold morning and snow flurries to make their way out on the slightly longer than 4 mile course.  I got off to an OK start and moved ahead by the middle of the field.  I headed into the woods and started the small climb up the first of a few hills.  I probably felt the worst during this section. I just felt flat and gassed.  I am not sharp at all and it takes me a while to warm up to the pace and effort lately.  The more I race the more I hope to get back that edge.

Photo of my bad start by SNAPacidotic

Trying to stay ahead of Kristina and near Chris Dunn… by SNAPacidotic

Photo near the start by Justin Macomber

By the time we popped up and down and around the first half mile of the course, it was climbing time.  The major climb begins in the first mile and lasts for maybe a half mile or so.  It’s pretty steady, but not steep.  The condition of the trail made it relatively easy, as most any line you picked was pretty solid and had minimal affect on your pace.  Halfway up the climb, I turned to see that Chris Dunn appeared to be in 2nd and a slew of people lining up behind.  It seemed from the vantage point, that everyone was close…but going uphill for an extended period of time makes that illusion that everyone is right there running you down.

As soon as I started the descent off what has to be one of the highest if not the highest point of the course, I started to open it up a bit.  I felt pretty burnt out, but kept up an honest pace as I shot down and around and back up to the second major climb, which is the same uphill section we do in the Summer Series at Whitaker on Tuesday nights.

After summiting the second of the two big climbs, it’s mostly all downhill, with some moderate rollers.  I hit the powerline section and looked back a few times but didn’t see anyone.  The powerline stretch hooks a sharp right an hits some sloppy single track for a stretch before winding it’s way back down to the powerlines again, but further down the course.  Then you run back down the powerlines continuing for a bit before hooking left and back up the other side for a stretch until you hook right and back onto the xc ski trail in the woods.  From that point, it’s a load of on and off xc ski trail (groomed) and single track cut-across sections (ungroomed).  I tried to maintain pace in this section but just felt a bit tired.  I knew at this point, I had the race in hand (unless my foot blew up).  It’s all flat in this section and the last mile has got to be the easiest for sure.

Photo by Justin Macomber

I passed a few photographers and spectators during this last stretch so you know you’re getting close.  Then the race dumps out onto the field, where you do one full lap around the perimeter before hitting the finish line.  I was glaring at my watch over this last section and over the last few minutes, wondering what the time was going to be.  I had forgotten that I broke 27 minutes back in the first year (2011).  I ran 26:53 then on a slightly shorter course (not by much) distance-wise.  Then in 2012, I ran slower but still won in 27:27.  This year, I cruised into the finish in 26:56.  I really wish I knew I ran 3 seconds faster in 2011 and I may have been able to find a kick to try to PR on this course, but alas I am happy w/ a sub 27 and a third win in a row here at Whitaker Woods.  Because the course was slightly longer, I think my effort was probably the best it’s been.  I don’t quite remember the exact conditions last year, but I think they were fast and I believe the course was pretty firm in most spots, so I’ll gladly take a faster time from this year.

The prize for winning was yet another homemade goodie courtesy of the Tiltons (last year it was a big gold championship belt like the wrestlers get, and 2 years ago it was a snowfall measuring stick w/ some clever depth indicators on it).  Jess worked w/ the shop teacher at Kennett to create this lovely wooden snowshoe cutting board (she did the design).  I also got a $25 gift certificate to the Moat.  Scott Mason is 20 for 20 in winning something at the GSSS raffles.  I was just about to joke right before the last prize was announced, that Scott hadn’t won anything and it was a big surprise….when to NO ONE’s surprise, he won the LAST prize in the raffle.  I say it’s fixed.  :)

Top 10 Overall

Place Time Name Age Club
1 26:56 Jim Johnson 35 BAA/Dion
2 29:10 Dave Dunham 48 CMS/Atlas
3 29:57 Danny Ferreira 36 acidotic
4 30:00 Chris Dunn 44 acidotic
5 30:30 Ryan Welts 32 acidotic
6 31:10 Phil Erwin 45 acidotic
7 31:16 Humzu Jafferji 24
8 31:48 Chuck Hazzard 52 Trail Monster Running
9 31:56 Amber Ferreira 30 acidotic
10 32:02 Jason Massa 45 acidotic

74 Total Finishers.  Full Results Here.

I cooled down a couple more miles over the course, picking up some flags.  Foot started to bother me again, so I called it at 2 miles.  11 miles total for the day, all on snowshoes.  Then home to see my girls!!!

Here’s a video taken by Tim Lindsey again w/ his GoPro (of the first 11 min. or so):

Jim is fast becoming our go-to source for the snowshoe scene. Check out his blog DoubleJRunning! Also, that’s a very sweet shot of Dave Dunham in his Team USA one piece racing suit. Action Dave must be jealous.

Level Renner 3k Champion

And the first ever Level Renner 3k Champion is…this guy!

The blurriness of this ghettotastic pic off of our underground equipment adds an element of mystery to it. So who is it? He pulled away from the seeded heat late in the race and won easily (official results not up as of this posting). For his efforts he won himself a Level t-shirt and a pair of Skechers GoRun 2′s.

If only there were cheetahs around here to race.

Level Renner 3k

That’s right, Legion, we’re sponsoring our first race. The Level Renner 3k is the men’s invitation section of the 3k at the GBTC Invitational. How awesome is that? If you’re not already planning on running, you should make it a point to get down there. Even if you just show up to watch, you won’t be disappointed.

The Level Renner 3k starts at 11:20 am (get the full schedule of events here). Here’s the entry list for our race:

Level Renner Invitational Men’s 3000m
Dan Kramer
Ryan Zillman
Brian McNamara
Chris Kibler
Malcolm Plunkett
Ryan Irwin
Brandon Newbould
Matthew Haringa
Sean Maguire
Garrett Ash

The winner of this prestigious event will get themselves: the Level Renner t-shirt (guaranteed to increase your attractiveness on the 10 point scale by at least 2 points), some bumper stickers (why not help us spread the word?), an exclusive interview, a high-five and a pair of GoRun 2 shoes courtesy of Skechers. We’ll hook you up.

For the full invitational section entry list, check here. The men’s invitational mile looks to be pretty darn exciting and, as of the current website listing, is the only one to feature a rabbit (Sean Duncan). Instead of another Ashe/Duncan battle, we’ll see Duncan pulling Ashe et al towards a faster time. Either way, should be exciting. Also of note: David Goodman makes his indoor debut for NE Distance. It’ll be our first time seeing David Bedoya racing as a member of the BAA, although we’re not sure if it’s his debut for them.

Also got word that Victoria Barnaby will be singing the national anthem. To see her in action, check this out. Not only will she be singing but she’ll also be running the Bill Squires Invitational Women’s Mile tomorrow as well. What doesn’t she do?

Come see us there, we’ll have a table set up with the usual stuff.


Guest blog by Josh Ferenc

Jan 7 - Jan 13

Getting back into it goes different ways for different things, or it has for me. Getting back into shape a few years ago for the first 50k I did was laid back and carefree. I’ve been in decent shape ever since and was in destruction shape this summer. Had I been in that shape for VT City, it would have been a totally different race; four people would have had different finishing positions. This last statement is a perfect example of what great running does for me, gives me the clarity of confidence.

This time around, of getting in shape, I feel a cuss of a lot different about it. It wasn’t my choice to shut down the engines, it was an outside organism wreaking havoc and stopping me. This is mind blowing, and really has fueled my fire but in a different way than I could have guessed. Instead of being pissed at the world and getting angry, like Kevin Bacon, and dancing away my frustrations, or showing a domination of masculinity, like Tom Cruise, in an epic (manly?) game of volleyball, the natural fit (not sheepskin) was to appreciate what it was and celebrate it by being being in it: OUTSIDE IN THE WOODS!

Recharging the engine is fun, extremely challenging, but thankful and grateful to be able to do it again. And that “it” is just running in the trails with my girls and my mother cussing DAWGZ.

Destruction mode is just around the corner.

I’ve come to the realization that this go around is going to be epically harder than ever and I’ll need to work harder than ever. In college, Miller, Bridgewater and myself had a go-to phrase, “what ever it takes.” No matter what Pete Thomas said, we never questioned, we said yes, and did work. (I understand that a non-working high profile runner uses the same mantra, but ours was state blue collar bad ass; doing workouts on side streets with no track and no indoor or outdoor facilities. It’s easy to do “whatever it takes” when every running commodity is at your fingertips).
So, I truly understand, “whatever it takes,” real running in the real atmosphere and being outside in nature and the universe (if your mind is blown, you’re welcome).

Monday - Voltroned with Greg and the snow shoes and became a snow shoe bionic machine and got after an awesome 9 mile run on the White Dot behind the house. It finished down the switchbacks, which is always awesome, in the dark. Felt good after yesterday’s race, surprisingly good. The conditions were great; tips were gliding on every down hill.

Tuesday - Same run, except I reversed the route and went up the switchbacks to start. This is insanely hard to start, and I never realized how much fun it is to come down the backside of the White Dot trail. I also didn’t realize how much longer the gradual uphill is that leads to the switchbacks. I felt like I ran down hill for the whole run back.

Wednesday - In the winter time on the hill behind my house a lot of trails seem to show themselves. I decided to rough a trail and try to create a loop. This was unreal difficult and the percent grade was easily 18-22%, the hill looked straight up. The path I tried to follow was an old logging cut. This is from way back and as I found out, there are a lot of these cuts up the side of the hill. Originally they all spiraled to different perpendicular cuts, but I had to adapt to this trail. There was some newer growth and I had to make some adjustments. I wanted to make a trail that was primarily straight without any switchbacks. I was successful (and exhausted) in all the untouched snow. Great workout and amazing fun. Ended down the fabled switchbacks.

Thursday - I was feeling good and felt like it was time to test the fitness in familiar territories: mile repeats back and forth on the marathon course in Grafton.

I set my sights as realistic as I can be (because there is nothing that I can’t do), and settled for 3 by mile with 3min jog off rest in between. I would go back and forth to keep the miles consistent.

Surprisingly, I felt good on the warm up. I was telling myself to stay smart and within myself and not get discouraged. I was going to try and hit 5:30 or under. The stride felt good to open up and strong, but definitely not peppy or quick. I opened up with a 5:09 on way less effort than I thought. This got me wondering, “those blue bombers I ordered from some health lab in the Bay Area are really paying off…” yea right, but something was at work and sure as cuss wasn’t my double dose of doxycycline. Haha.

I jogged off the three minutes, recovered my breathing and told myself, “donut again.” I got a little excited as I envisioned myself in the VT City marathon on the bike path destroying the group I was in. This one stretch of the course plays tricks because you can see the finish of the mile and it’s exciting. So… I rolled a 4:52, whoops, but whatever, I’m over it and I felt great. (I also won the race in my head that led to the 4:52, always a bonus).

This did, however, take some jungle juice out of me and the 3 min rest went by quicker than I would have liked. I focused myself a third time and thought to myself to relax and roll. This third mile was with effort over the last 400m, I really thought I was going to effortlessly get to the end, but with a quarter to go had to really focus myself to my form and breathing, and still ended with a 5:10. Very happy, very excited, be very afraid…

Friday - My running plans fell apart and I was left happy with a rest day and amped to roll out a large weekend.

Saturday - United with Fyffe and Greg at Greg’s house. Hit the trails of Pisgah, which were runnable, but tough. Had a great run and great time.

Sunday - The weather was in our favor, the gods saw their own and delivered great conditions in the woods. Greg came out to the shed and we brought with him an awesome idea: Athens Lookout. I’ve been thinking about this run for almost two weeks and dying to get out there. It was not a SS day, and totally a trail shoe day. I opted for the Raptor which was a tremendous decision. That is what the show is for (and heel round house kicking people in the face).

This run was epic. The weather was warm and the fog was fantasy-esque. It was like running in a snow scene from the Hobbit, cussing gnarly. I almost forgot what I was doing due to being beyond grateful to be outside to experience this awesomeness. Very satisfying and very epic.

The ridge was in complete fog but was insanely bright. The Knife’s Edge was awesome, I could have run back and forth on that minute of trail all day, very cool.

Week Total: 63 in over 8 hours (1 day off)

Thanks to Josh Ferenc for sharing this with the Legion. To follow his transition to ‘destruction mode’ more closely, check out his blog Wild Neotony. As a side note: Josh has a way with words. Here’s a list of words and phrases he used here that blew my mind: destruction mode, Voltroned, jungle juice, the gods saw their own, roundhouse kicking, use of cuss (once again). Quite often when I read his stuff I’m either laughing out loud or wish I had thought up some of those phrases, haha. Great stuff Josh.

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