Tag: Scott Graham

Graham’s Toughening Up For Boston

The Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition

Four Weeks to Go: A Check on Training

By Tim Ritchie

The 118th Boston Marathon is now just under a month away. The Legion has been training through one of the toughest and coldest winters we have had in a long time. With Spring now officially here, though Winter not quite gone, training is starting to reach its peak. The Legion has run some great races, put in some solid long runs and have had some bumps along the way. This week we look at how things are going and what their weeks have been like at this high point. You can see we all are in this together but we all have different ways of getting there. Our hope is that you continue to be inspired and encouraged by the Legion and that four weeks from now we can share our common goals of being a part of this great event in whatever way we are able! Now, onto the logs:

Scott Graham

Scott is our seasoned veteran when it comes to marathon training, but even he still learns to go with the flow, enjoy training and makes sure to listen to his body.

I don’t really like to be a slave to a fully structured training plan.  I guess many years ago I was but these days I try and listen to my body and manage my training based on what it’s telling me…except for long runs. Those are scheduled and never missed.

Over the years I’ve done countless long runs on the Boston Marathon course. My club, the Greater Lowell Road Runners, makes this task very easy for runners. We all met up early Saturday morning in Chelmsford. An army of volunteers drove the runners down to Hopkinton and set us free. On these organized runs, every 3 miles or so the club sets up water/Gatorade tables and keeps track of all runners and also provides a sag wagon if need be. When we reach the 21 mile mark at BC they collect us and drive us back to our cars in Chelmsford. So all a runner has to do is, well RUN. How hard could that be? The club provides this service for the month of March, so we usually get five good runs on the course (maybe that’s why GLRR won club of the year this year…).

Graham GLRR Team Boston Training
Anyway, last Saturday’s 21 mile run on the course went very poorly for me. I started out with the lead group but by mile 3 I was dropped and running alone. Most people might think that that’s an awful way to do a long run, but not me. I believe it makes you mentally tough. You have to remember you are out there to put time on your legs and harden your mind. Every runner goes through difficult points in a race and if you’re mentally tough you can work through them. So I ran alone for most of the run and was passed by a couple of other GLRR members. Good that I got my one bad long run out of the way.

Sunday: Ended up being a rest day. My legs were just too dead.

Monday: I was still feeling the long run so I did 2.2 miles on a treadmill. I know it doesn’t even seem worth it but this accomplished 2 things for me. First, it got me running. Second, I was able to kick up the pace toward the end so it forced me to really lengthen my stride and pick up my turnover rate.

Tuesday: I was ready to get back to work: 5.5 miles.

Wednesday: Another 5.5 miles.

Thursday: Ran in the morning. It was raining, but my training partner (Peter Floss) and I got out and did a hard 6 miles.

Friday: We decided to take it very easy because the long run on Saturday was looming over us. So 5.5 very easy was in order.

Graham GLRR Boston Marathon training
Saturday
: Another GLRR long run. Once again I started with the lead pack but this time I was able to hold on until mile 10 and didn’t really start dropping back until mile 17.5 at the turn on Comm Ave.  I struggled through the hills but managed to finish only a couple of minutes behind the leaders. Twenty-one miles in the bank and I felt good.

Sunday: I felt good enough to get out and do 5.5 miles just to get my legs moving. A huge improvement over last week.

Snow Not Stopping Graham

The Level Legion: Inside The Race

Last we left the The Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition, they were providing some insight into their recent training for the Boston Marathon. With just over six weeks to go now, we’re getting close to taper time. However, it’s the perfect time to get in races for various reasons, whether it be for a marathon pace workout, changing things up with a dose of speed, or even just for a confidence booster. With every race, each runner has their own unique story to tell.

Scott Graham just competed at the Dion US Snowshoe Championships in Woodford, VT over the weekend. Scott ran a 68:15 for 10k and finished 142nd. Here’s the story, straight from Scott:

If there is no report then it didn’t happen. Well then, I guess it really did happen.

Boston Legion GrahamSo lets start with my training for the prior week to set the stage.

Saturday - I went out on a 14 mile run all over Concord, MA. It was a great day and I felt super. After that, I spent the next few hours breaking up the iceberg I had going on in my driveway. I didn’t want to be viewed as the village idiot any longer. After I finished up my back was a little tight.
Sunday - I went to do an easy 5 mile run with the group. I was hurting but no rest for me.
Monday - 9.6 miles
Tuesday - 9.4 miles
Wednesday - 6.2 miles
Thursday - a very easy 4.1 miles
Friday - day of rest.

My back at this point was in major revolt mode. Sleeping was difficult. So I decided to start taking Advil every couple of hours to see if I could loosen it up enough for the race. The bad part about advil for me is it really goofs up my stomach. But I figured I could run with a goofed up stomach and couldn’t run with a locked up back. Advil it was.

Now I needed to pack for the race. Not knowing what the weather was going to be at race time I decided to pack EVERYTHING; I had a big duffle bag ready to go Friday night. Earlier in the week I also did a quick check on my Dion snowshoes. Good thing I did because one of the bindings was on the hairy edge and I figured I might need a set of deep cleats for the race. I got on the Dion website and saw that they were out of the deep cleats. NOOOO! I called up Bob Dion to see what could be done and he assured me that all I would need was my ice cleats and he could put a new set of bindings in the mail right away. Try that with Tubbs or Redfeather! The bindings showed up Thursday night and in one minute I had them changed. The shoes looked FAST. My equipment was set and I was ready to go.

Saturday morning started early. Real early. I was up at 4 AM. My back felt OK, not great but runable. I went through my race morning routine and was on the road at 5 AM. A quick stop a DD for 2 bagels, 2 Cokes and a banana and I was on my way. When I left the house it was 5 degrees. I was a bit nervous about what the temperature would be in Woodford, VT but I couldn’t control that so I had to put it out of my mind. As I drove through central MA I noticed that they didn’t have half the snow we had. That was a bit different. Then once I turned north on rt 91 things started to change. Snow was piling up and it was getting colder. I noticed at one point my dashboard read -8. I arrived in Woodford 2.5 hours after I left home. No traffic makes for a quick ride.

I checked in and found a nice warm spot in the lodge to stretch and relax. Soon it was time for the junior race. I checked my watch and it went off right at 9 AM exactly. I love it when a race director does that. The kids ran a 5K course that wound around the base of the mountain, and the kids ran great.

Next up was the senior women’s race. Once again the gun went off right at 10 AM to the second. Right from the gun Amber Cullen Ferrira took the lead (a Westford, MA alumni). We saw the women a couple times before they headed up the mountain to complete the bulk of the course. Amber was already taking total control of the race even in the early stages.

With about 800 yards left to the race we could see them coming back down the mountain. To say Amber was in the lead would be a HUGE understatement. She was in the lead and 2+ minutes later came the second place woman. Amber was amazing. The second place woman was another runner from acidotic RACING, Kristina Welts. So aR took 1st and 2nd. Not too bad for a bunch of hicks from NE.

Now it was time for me to get ready. My right foot was already complaining about being cold. I took off my trainers and changed up my socks. Both items were wet. No wonder my foot was cold. Now was decision time. What to wear? It seemed to be warming up. So I went with the under-dress this time. I knew I would be getting hot as I climbed the mountain. So I went with a base layer up top and my acidotic Racing singlet. For pants I just went with some sporthill sweats. On my feet I wore my racing flats with a pair of short gators. On my hands I had a pair of light gloves with a thin pair of mittens. To top it all off a poly hat. I was ready for speed. Well I was ready to slog up the mountain.

I went outside and did a quick warm-up. A couple of quick strides up one of the hills did the trick. I knew the race would start on time so it was time to line up. I seeded myself back about two-thirds of the way. This was a national championship and I knew I didn’t want to get in the single track area and clog up the course. The race director said a couple of words and pointed out one thing out that held true. He said “This is a New England-style course. It constantly changes. Lots of ups, downs, wide open trails and single track. You will never be able to get in a rhythm on this course”. So true.

Right at 11:30 the gun sounded and the field went out like it was black Friday at Walmart, where they were giving away free donuts to the first 50 customers at the midnight opening. In the first 100 yards I think I was already 100 yards behind the leaders. Holy Cow this was a fast field. We wound around the base of the mountain then hit our first steep climb. It was short but it already caused some people to walk and clogged up the trail a bit. About 8/10′s of a mile into the race we finally headed out to start the 2.5 mile climb up the mountain. The climb was mostly on single track and this caused a lot of conga lines. Once again, people who went out too fast were clogging up the trail. I didn’t mind, I had seeded myself exactly in the right position. The trail was tight and it was impossible to pass with out the person in front of you stepping aside.

We weaved back and forth across the mountain. I was holding my own but I was starting to get tired. In fact at one point one of my snowshoes caught the edge of the snow bank and I went down. DAMN!!! One of my major goals was to see if I could complete the race with out falling. NOPE!!

We finally reached the top and I was looking for some rest going back down. It wasn’t happening. First the single track down the mountain was always twisting and turning so you had to stay focused and run in control or you’d be making snow angels face down. Second, the race director Tim decided to make sure you had great views by running you UP towards the top a second time. I don’t know about the rest of the runners but all I saw was the snow under my feet because I was so beat up.

A couple of times we hit wide open areas to run and I was able to let the “big dogs run”. With about 2K to go I noticed a couple guys up ahead were coming back to me. I told myself ‘I need to catch these guys’. If they were in my age category I would be pissed at myself for not trying. Time to light up the engines. I started pushing hard. Two kilometers is what, 1.2 miles? GO OLD MAN GO!!

I knew I had to catch them before we hit the switch back part of the course going down the final hill. I knew I wouldn’t be stable in that area. I caught them and tried to stretch out my lead.

1K to go. Here comes the switchbacks.

Sure enough they were all chewed up with lots of deep holes. I was stumbling all over the place like a drunk during an earthquake. I could hear the guys catching me.

Viger Graham Snowshoe Nationals

Graham hits the switchbacks very ‘gracefully’. Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

With a quarter mile to go I was back on level ground and there were 3 guys right on my tail. Lets see what these legs got left. I did a full systems check: legs feel good, breathing was under control. Funny but climbing the mountain I was a mess. It seems my breathing has not been so good the last year. I have good endurance but once I need to take in a large volume of oxygen I just can’t expand my chest enough. But it was go time.

I started to dig deep. I had nobody in front of me so it was all about holding off the guys behind me. What we had left was in the shape of a backwards S, with the first 2 sections being flat to down hill. I knew I could hold them off on these sections. The third section was up a slight hill, and here is were I figured the race would be won or lost. The final section was down the same hill we just ran up. Here we go!!!!

First section, they are about 10 yards behind me. Hold steady.

Second section, still 10 yards back. OK it’s go time. Drive that stiletto into their hearts and give it a twist.

My legs responded and I was flying up the hill. I took a peak over my shoulder and they were shat out my back door. I turned the last corner to the finish and I could see they were all dropping further back.

Drive to the finish. Leg responded again. Where were these legs going up the mountain? I crossed the finish line and was dead tired. I grabbed my knees and just wobbled for a couple of minutes.

I knew I had given it all I had but the competition was off the chart. One thing I wanted to make sure of was that I didn’t finish DFL. Success!

I went back into the lodge and changed up quick. I was soaked and I knew if I stayed in these wet clothes I’d be a shivering mess in short order. I’m glad I packed everything. Now it was time to check the results. I didn’t have to wait even a second; by the time I got back outside they were posted. I was 8th in my age category and 142nd over all out of 213 male runners. WOW, I don’t think I’ve ever finished in the back 1/3 of any race but then again I’ve never run in a national title race before. I was satisfied.

Now for the hardest part of the day: driving 2.5 hours back home. I bought a couple of Cokes to keep me awake and listened to an audio version of “Born to Run”. Go figure!!!

A good day was had by ALL.

Graham Enjoying the Journey

by Tim Ritchie

The Level Legion: A Quick Look into Training

Last we left the The Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition, they were telling you a bit about why they are racing the Boston Marathon. Now, let’s take a look at how they are doing so far. We are 8 weeks away from the big day and everyone is well underway with their training. Each of our runners has a unique approach to training and our hope is that you can find some comfort and encouragement in their responses. We have here a quick check in on our runners’ general outlook on their training to date and a sample of what their weeks have been so far. Enjoy and keep up the good work, runners!

Scott Graham

Boston Legion GrahamI really enjoy the training. Years ago I learned that the race is the reward for all the training, but the training is where a lot of the magic happens. The bonds you form with the people you train with are very special. I joke with my wife that I spend more time with my training partners than her. You really get to know your training partners; you know all about their families, their likes, dislikes, struggles, work, strengths and weaknesses. You support them when they are struggling because you know they will be doing the same for you at some point. They become your closest friends. I’ve had two very close friends over the years that I’ve done thousands of runs with: David Katz and Peter Floss. David is taking Boston off this year but Peter will be toeing the line once again.

Last week I was sick so it was a very down week with only 13 miles. But overall I’ve been averaging 40+ miles a week with a high of 60 miles. I’ve also been able to get in 5 long runs at this point and plan to start doing 18+ milers next week.

Here is a sample look at one of Scott’s February weeks:

Monday: Easy 8 - 10 miles.

Tuesday:  7 miles, 1 mile warm up 5 at tempo, 1 mile cool down

Wednesday: easy 5.

Thursday: Track workout - 1 mile warm up, 6x 800 with 400 rest, 1 mile cool down.

Friday: easy 5.

Saturday: 15 miles.

Sunday: easy 5.

Boston Legion: Scott Graham

By Tim Ritchie

Last week we introduced to you here The Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition, three men and three women, all talented runners in their own right that we believe comprise a good cross section of the runners in the northeast region. Each brings a unique perspective and background to their training, racing and experiences. It is our hope that you will see yourselves in the hearts, minds and legs of this Boston Marathon Edition of the Level Legion and that through them we can all support each other as we train, race and cheer for the 118th Boston Marathon. Now that you know who’s on the team, it’s time to start getting to know them better. Next up:

Scott Graham

Age: 55
Club: Greater Lowell Road Runners (GLRR)
Hometown: Westford, MA

How did you get started in running?

I started when I was about 11 years old. A friend’s father would take us out on a 1.5 mile run after he finished his workout during the summer so we could get in shape for hockey season. Then when I was in 9th grade I did a 25 mile walkathon. I was the first person to finish of over 1000 people. I realized then I had a knack for endurance.

What has been your most memorable running experience?

Boston Legion GrahamI’ve run well over 1000 races in my life, but the one that sticks out the most was finishing my first Boston Marathon. I had no idea what I was doing. I just ran as if I was running a 10K. Well you can guess what happened. Cramping took hold of my by mile 15 and it was a painful slog to the finish. After I crossed the line I made my way down Boylston Street to meet my wife and mother. I ended up sitting in the middle of the street. I was mentally and physically broken and in tears. I told both of them to NEVER let me do something that stupid to my body again.

What does it mean to be a part of the Level Legion?

It means you’re tougher than most runners from other parts of the country. You have to deal with extremes, heat, cold, snow, rain, wind, hills and mountains. It also means that doing the Boston Marathon is a rite of passage. If people find out that you’re a runner the first question is: Have you ever done “Boston?” They never add the word marathon onto it. It is just understood in this area.

Have you run the Boston Marathon before?

27 consecutive times.

Why did you choose to run the Boston Marathon?

First of all it is my favorite race. Nothing I’ve ever done has compared to it. (Well there was that one Ironman I did that was an absolute blast). Also it gets help me get my training in at the toughest training time of the year. In addition, when you are standing on the starting line and you’re a qualified runner you have such a sense of pride because you know you earned the right to stand on that line.

Why the 118th edition?

It’s a couple of things: First of all, I want to be there to show the world that you may slow us down but you’ll never stop the runners’ spirit. Second, I have this consecutive streak going that I have to continue.

What are your goals (broad or specific) for this year’s Boston?

I have a couple, as always, finish at all cost. Second, go sub 3:10. Third go sub 3.

What are you most excited about?

It’s kind of funny: Over the years I’ve learned that the race most times is very anti-climatic. You are either in shape and run to the best of your abilities or you’re not in shape and you just have to gut it out. So I’ve learned to get much more enjoyment out of all the long training runs with friends. You spend a lot of time with these people and you better like them.

What are you most nervous about?

Nothing really. I know what I have to do to get my body in the right place to run the race.

Learning Curve

The Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe race was to be my third official race attempt, and my fifth run overall with the snowshoes on. After the way things went at Sidehiller my confidence was on the rise. Training runs were feeling better and better and it seemed as if I was getting the hang of it. Instead of smoothly gliding through the trails and working my way up the field, I fell repeatedly,  damn near got a snowshoe where the sun don’t shine, and ended up getting Dunham’d (again) at the finish. I think some of that may need further explanation.

The day started off with so much promise. Felt great early that morning, got to the race with plenty of time for a warm-up, and then it all went down hill. My pre-race jog time disappeared once I realized that I had forgotten to switch out the cleats on the snowshoes the night before. It’s not much of anything to change them, only I had never done it before so I wasn’t exactly familiar with the process. I don’t have a separate pair of deep cleats, but my Dion back country snowshoes have deep cleats on them so it was just a matter of transplanting them. For those who don’t know, the 121′s are basically just smaller version of the back country hikers. This is an important detail because I soon realized that in my haste I just switched cleats from one 121 to the next. Damn.

Finally done, I swept the pile of snowshoe parts onto the car floor and was off and running to the start. For a warm up, the two minute jog would have to suffice.

The start was a little intimidating with over a hundred runners all lined up on the glorified single track trail. Once the gun went off the air was filled with snow being kicked about and it was a struggle to just to see where I met step down. To either side of the trail there was a bit of a slope so you didn’t want to stray too far to the sides. The snow was deep and the pace was going to be slow (for me at least).

All confidence was lost about a quarter mile into the race when we hit the first hill. It was far larger than any hill I’ve run up in a long time. Or at least it felt that way. For certain I had never tried running up a beast like that in snowshoes. For the next 3.75ish miles, I was in survival mode.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 9.51.54 PM

Course map, according to my Garmin. Twisty enough for ya?

Perhaps that’s why the next seven minutes or so of running featured not one, not two, but three different full on collapses by me. It was just at the end of January where Scott Graham and I were talking about racing and falling and he uttered words that echoed in my head: “You’re time will come. There are only two types of snowshoe runners: those who have fallen and those who are going to fall.” Those who are going to fall…those who are going to fall… Damn, he was right. It seemed strangely coincidental and oddly prophetic that I would fall so soon into my very next race after hearing that warning.

Stunned a little embarrassed, I picked myself up and attempted to get going before I got trampled or tripped anybody else up. I immediately thought: Now that I’ve fallen I can go on… and before I could finish that that thought I was down in the snow again. This spill was a little more awkward and it felt like I nearly got a tree branch in the nether regions.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 9.52.13 PM

Elevation, also courtesy of my Garmin.

Runners started to fly by me and I just let them go. Better wait a few seconds before the coast is clear to get going on the single track again. I turned around to see the branch that nearly pierced my keister and saw that it was in fact my own snowshoe. Good Lord. There I was, a grown man in the woods that almost got his own snowshoe stuck up his ass. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it had the deep cleats on it! No one should get cleats of any size jammed there, let alone the deep ones.

After falling twice in the first mile I started to think ‘okay, that means at this rate I should fall down eight times total for the race’. It’s not good when you set the acceptable amount of falls so high. Before I could finish that thought i fell again. Incredible. But I was still on track for only eight spills during the race.

Now I had had enough. I got up, set my focus and hardened my determination. From here on out I would be all business. The terrain never got any easier and I was going to have to rise to the challenge. The whole course was unfamiliar territory to me, and taking a look at both the elevation and a satellite map of it after, I can see just how crazy it all was. No wonder it was all so slow!

Unfortunately things were so spread out that there really weren’t many runners ahead pulling me forward, and nobody behind threatening to pass either. Out in front, so close but yet still so far out of reach, was the speedy Melissa Donais. She was one of the runners that flew by me on the second spill, and also a measuring stick of sorts for me in these races. She crushed me at Whitaker Woods but only finished just in front of me at Sidehiller. Perhaps today was the day that I took her down.

Since the terrain was all single track and non-linear, you really had to pick your spots to pass. At least you do when you’re a novice. Perhaps I was thinking about it too hard because all of a sudden I was right up on Melissa and stepped on the back of her snowshoes. There’s really no excuse for that when you’re not running in a pack. It was amateur hour in the woods. Luckily neither of us fell. I apologized, she let me slide, and then I was off trying to chase down the next guy.

There was nobody really catchable, at first, but that was okay because concentrating on my form and not falling was enough to get me through. After what seemed like forever but in reality was only five minutes, I did start to reel somebody in. Just when I was about to roll up on him, he stopped at an intersection, waited for me to get a little closer, and then asked which way to go. I said ‘to the right’, pointed, and just flew by. For some reason I felt bad about that. Is there some sort of gentlemen’s rule where you let the person go first? Not sure about the subtle nuances about off-road racing  yet.  I was fine with it mainly because had I stopped I felt like there would’ve been some type of discussion (albeit brief) about it when there was no need for it.

Finally, after all of that effort, all of that climbing, all of that falling, I had made the last climb, flew down the last decent (which was the first ascent) and was within sniffing distance of the finish. My tired mind couldn’t process anything beyond the thought of crossing the line and collapsing somewhere warm. Little did I know that I was about to be Dunham’d yet again. There it was, karma coming around to get me, all because I ate his damn cookies after the Whitaker Woods race. Dave snapped off a couple of pics and shouted encouragement as I passed by. The nerve of that guy! I wanted to say something witty but could only muster vague grunts, and possibly something along the lines of ‘ah, you got me again’. Then Dave replied “yes, you got Dunham’d”. It was pretty funny to hear him say it, but it also made it seem more real. I need to get faster!

Narcisi Dunham Horse Hill

EJN getting Dunham’d, courtesy of Dave Dunham.

My legs and lungs burned as I willed my way over the last hundred meters or so. Seeing the line come closer and closer was a relief that I’ve only felt in full or half marathons. Result: 21st place and 45:00. I’m pretty sure I passed the line in 44:57 or so, but who’s counting? Nacho Hernando won it in 33:03. Nacho is a legit guy, and although he’d beat me in any distance over any surface right now, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be a whole twelve minutes behind him in a half marathon on the roads. He beat me by twelve minutes here in a four mile race! How crazy is that? Snowshoe racing is a different world.

Shortly after I crossed, Chris Dunn came up to me and uttered perhaps the most encouraging phrase I had ever heard: “Now that was a real snowshoe race!” Thank God someone was able to verify that for me. I don’t know if I could handle anything any realer than that at the moment.

Unfamiliar with getting Dunham’d? Check out the last paragraph in this entry.

Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition

The Level Legion

Your Very Own…

by Tim Ritchie

A few weeks ago, John Hancock (principal sponsor for the 118th Boston Marathon) released the names making up TEAM USA, the American athletes who will toe the line in April as part of the elite field. These are some names that we know, love and can rally around come Marathon Monday. Names like Flanagan, Ritzenhein and Keflezighi will be in our heads throughout the excitement for the race itself. This got us thinking: we have a whole bunch of names right here in our own backyard. They may not be well known and they may not be lining up to go for the win, but their stories and their races are just as important to us. They are…

The Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition

…and they are your very own.

We will introduce to you here three men and three women, all talented runners in their own right that we believe comprise a good cross section of the runners in the northeast region. Each brings a unique perspective and background to their training, racing and experiences. It is our hope that you will see yourselves in the hearts, minds and legs of this Boston Marathon Edition of the Level Legion and that through them we can all support each other as we train, race and cheer for the 118th Boston Marathon. Over the next few weeks, we will provide some insight, quotes, training and anything else we can to inspire you through the miles, the minutes and the moments.

We are very excited to present this outstanding group of runners to you. Let’s meet them now:

The Men

IMG_3225

L-R: Rivera, Graham, Harvey

Jose Rivera

Age: 39 (40 day of Boston Marathon)
Club: Central Mass Striders & Tri State Running
Hometown: Webster, MA

“I never dreamed of running a marathon, never mind being able to run Boston. Boston was something for the elites, not for me. But I am happy that I am here, because I deserve to be here. I have worked and trained hard to be here. I am a part of this great event as well as all 36,000 others that worked hard to be here. I am so looking forward to running Boston!!!”

Scott Graham

Age: 55
Club: Greater Lowell Road Runners (GLRR)
Hometown: Westford, MA

Brian Harvey

Age: 26
Club: Boston Athletic Association Unicorns
Hometown: Boston, MA

“I keep my log on athleticore.com – check it out if you’re interested in excessive (and nerdy) detail on all things numbers. I hope people enjoy following my training. I very much look forward to keeping my eye on the other runners!”

The Women

IMG_3226

L-R: London, Millett, Encarnacion

Anne London

Age: 31
Club: NACHO AC
Hometown: Cambridge, MA

Aly Millett

Age: 25
Club: Greater Boston Track Club
Hometown: Charlestown, MA

Karen Encarnacion

Age: 48
Club: Somerville Road Runners
Hometown: East Walpole, MA

Lots more to come, both from and about this select group of talented runners. Stay tuned!

Winter Snowshoeing

By Scott Graham

Scott Graham practices what he preaches.

So you live in New England and you’ve never tried this sport/torture. Well let me tell you something, you’re missing out. As I type this I’m looking out my window seeing our first snow storm of the new year. Most runners would say to themselves “UGH, I either have to go out in that mess or get on the dreadmill.” But if you’ve taken up snow shoe running you have a sense of excitement, as if it were Christmas Eve. Especially the light fluffy stuff like today’s storm. In addition you get to do your run on the trails avoiding all the knuckle head drivers who try to run you off the road as one tried to do this morning to my running group.

One of the most beautiful things you can do in the winter is break fresh trails in snow shoes. The woods are alive with fresh powder. You will find fresh tracks of an array of animals, rabbits, coyote, deer and in Westford’s case, black bear.

Now I bet you’re thinking to yourself, “Gee that sounds like fun, but will I get a workout out of this?” The answer is YES!! I can’t highlight the word “yes” enough. This will be one of the toughest workouts you’ll ever do if you try and do it at your normal training pace. You’re heart will rip out of your chest like the creature in the movie Alien. So before you begin, reset your expectations. Know that you’re not going to cover as much ground and you’re going to be going much slower. But there also some advantages. First, if you know the area you are in, you don’t have to stick to the trails. Do a little bush whacking. Explore areas you’ve never been to. Go to the top of a hill and fly down the back side. The sensation on snow shoes is amazing.

What equipment do you need? Well snow shoes….duh!! But you’ll need running snow shoes. These are lighter and smaller then your normal snow shoes and allow for a more natural stride. However finding them can be a little difficult. Many of the national brands make them but they are tough to find in stores. So you may have to order over the internet. I’ve owned a couple of different brands and the brand that has become the runners choice are Dion Snowshoes. These shoes are made in Vermont and are different than all the other makers. They come in 3 pieces, frame, binding and cleat. Why is this important? Snow shoeing really pounds the equipment. With all the other manufactures the shoe comes in one piece. If you break any part of it you’ll be throwing out the set. Most of the manufactures do not even warranty their equipment. With Dion’s you can swap out the broken part. How tough is that? Well at one race a few years ago with 3 minutes until the start I noticed that my binding was ripping apart from a rocky trail I had run the day before. I yelled over to the owner of Dion’s: “Bob, do you have any spare bindings”. In 30 seconds we had the snow shoe taken apart and put back together with a new binding. REALLY, just 2 screws with a quarter turn each. I promptly paid Bob for the new binding after the race. Try that with another brand. Now, I do not work for Bob Dion and get nothing for recommending his products, but they are the best. Dion’s sells a couple different frames, bindings and cleats. The best set up for running/racing are the 121 frames, the quick-fit bindings and the deep cleat. This set up will set you back a few $$’s but it’s well worth it.

OK now you have the right snow shoes, what should you wear? Dress in layers, thin layers. Trust me you will get hot. VERY FAST. The worst thing you can do it over heat and have to walk. You’ll start getting cold very fast. Another thing you might want to invest in are a set of snow gators. These are covers that go over the tops of your shoes and go up over your calf. They help keep the snow out of your shoes which will keep your feet dryer and warmer. Speaking of shoes, just go with a set of training shoes. Heavy boots are NOT an option. You’ll be work hard enough without that kind of weight.

Now you’re all dress up and ready to go, where do you run. Well there are tails all over the place, even in Lowell. Shed Park and Lowell-Dracut state forest to name two right in the city. All the suburbs have lots of conservation land that you can have loads of fun in.

Now you’ve been out for once or twice and you want to test you metal in a race. OH BOY are you in for some fun. There are a couple of series right here in New England. First there is the Granite State Series, then there is the WMAC series. An there are a bunch of independent races. But you’re in luck. This year the national championship (yes there is such a thing) will be held in Woodford, VT. You do have to run a qualifying event but there are 5 year age categories and they take quite a few runners. If you’re interested please go to the National qualification page to understand how and where you can qualify .

What race should I start out with? Great question!! Trust me on this one. One person I know who’s name rhymes with Fason Gooy decided it was a good idea to do a half marathon snow shoe race as his first event. DON’T DO IT!! Select something in the 5K range as a starter race. Poor Fason Gooy had one heck of a day his first race. You have to remember a couple of things. First, you’re going slower. So your going to be out there anywhere from 2 - 5 minutes PER MILE longer than your normal 5K time. Second, your working your whole body. There is a lot of balance and corrective actions going on while your running on these things, so you’re going to get a full body workout. Third, most of these races have the word “Mountain” in the race name. So many times one of the key race features is your running UP a mountain only to be followed by running back down the mountain or in my case falling down the mountain. Yes, falling does occur often, but in most cases you fall off the trail and you’re in waist deep snow so you’re laughing at yourself. You just get back up and start running again. Lastly, most of these races are very low key events and everyone is out to have fun. Many times people will stop to check that you’re OK and help you up if need be. The are also two other things you have to know before you bust off the starting line. At the start there is a lot of snow flying. So much some times you can’t see where your going. Be prepared. Second if you’re out on single track and there is a faster runner behind you, step aside so they can pass you. No sense in blocking people. Someone will do the same for you. Trust me.

So take advantage of the wonderful New England weather and get one of the toughest, most fun work outs you can get in the winter months. Heck if you really like it you can run the sand dunes with snow shoes in the summer.

This was originally published on the Greater Lowell Road Runners blog. Want to try out snowshoe racing or are just looking to get some in? You’re in luck. Dave Dunham has organized the Maudslay Snowshoe Run tomorrow morning at Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, MA. It’s free, except for a minuscule parking fee. Check out the event’s Facebook page to get all the details.

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