Tag: Issue 16 Sep/Oct 2013


By Ian Nurse, DC

I love hills. I always have. I’ve never felt comfortable on a track trying to keep pace with my teammates but give me a hilly course or a few Summit Ave. repeats and I feel like I can hold my own. That’s why in the winter of 2012 I knew something was wrong when those hills I used to devour became my biggest fear and challenge. Over the span of a few months the slightest of inclines would seem like a mountain, and I was routinely losing my breath on hills that I used to bound up.

“I must be getting sick,” I reasoned to myself. However, I never got sick, nary a cough, sniffle, or fever. Despite the lack of symptoms, I felt chronically fatigued. It became an effort to get out of bed let alone run a few easy miles. Finally, I gave up on the impending sickness theory and went to see my doctor and have some blood work done. The result of which would lead me to an important understanding of a condition that according to recent studies affects over 50% of runners: iron deficiency anemia.

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.38.01 PMAnemia literally means a deficiency of red blood cells. However, there are many different types of anemia that can affect us: pernicious, aplastic, and sickle cell to name a few. As runners, we are most susceptible to iron deficiency anemia. Why is that important to runners? Well, as I’m sure most of you already know, red blood cells contain an iron-containing protein called hemoglobin that is responsible for carrying oxygen to our muscles. Less hemoglobin means less of that vital oxygen that we need to carry us up and over each and every hill.

So why are runners more susceptible to iron deficiency anemia? There are actually a few different reasons. First of all, the action of running literally breaks red blood cells with every foot strike. Termed “foot strike hemolysis,” red blood cells are damaged as the foot hits the ground and, thus, after thousands of steps, hemoglobin can be dramatically reduced. A second reason is that iron is lost in small amounts through sweating. While the numbers aren’t enormous for each run, when added up over the course of a long, hot summer, the loss becomes significant. Lastly, as runners we are often overly health conscious and, therefore, tend to shy away from consuming the best source of absorbable iron: red meat. While there are other sources of iron (including dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, egg yolk, and oysters), the far and away leader in terms of most readily absorbed comes in the form of heme iron which is derived from animal proteins like ground beef.

Unfortunately, the detection of iron deficiency anemia is a little more complicated than a simple blood test. Most doctors screen for anemia by drawing blood and performing a complete blood count (CBC) in which the red blood cells, hemoglobin, and hematocrit are measured. With iron-deficiency anemia, one’s hemoglobin and hematocrit will be on the low side (termed hypochromic/microcytic) but may not fall outside of the established levels. Thus, one’s doctor may not even diagnosis anemia in the first place and, further, won’t have a direct measure of one’s iron levels. For this reason, it is imperative that you ask your doctor for BOTH a CBC and an iron panel. The iron panel will provide the most important number for runners: the total stored iron, also known as ferritin. While there is some debate, most agree that ferritin levels below 40 ng/ ml for men and 30 ng/ml for women are significant enough to affect running performance.

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While it can take years to deplete the body of iron, unfortunately, it also takes time to restore what has been lost. Thankfully, with the proper diagnosis and the help of supplementation and proper nutrition it usually only takes 6 months to replenish one’s iron stores (in other words, to feel back to normal bounding up those hills). Deficient runners should include 60 mg of iron in the form of ferrous sulfate via a liquid or pill supplement into their daily diet while trying to restore and just 30 mg while trying to maintain normal levels. However, one must be careful to avoid calcium, coffee, and tannins from tea and wine for the hour before and after as they hinder iron absorption. To further aid absorption, iron should be taken with vitamin C and a vitamin B complex. I try to take mine first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It’s also important to have your ferritin levels re-checked after 3 months. Failure to absorb iron could be an indicator of a more significant digestive issue such as Celiac disease, while excessive levels of iron can become toxic.

While it was a long road back, I’m happy to say that I love hills again. Actually, with my iron levels back to where they should be, I love them even more now!

Ian Nurse is The Level’s resident doctor. He ran 2:25 at Boston this year. This article originally appeared in the Sep/Oct 2013 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen). Feature image courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

Running Economy

Guest blog by Kristin Barry

Runners in general are a competitive, driven group. We focus on how we can run faster, get better, notch another PR. But sometimes we ignore certain training elements that could help us achieve our goals.

How fast you can run is based largely on three components: (1) your V02 max – the maximum volume of oxygen your muscles can consume per minute; (2) your lactate threshold – the specific pace at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood stream; and (3) your running economy – the amount of oxygen used to maintain a certain pace or – put another way – the energy cost of running at a given speed. While much is written about the importance of and how to improve both V02 max and lactate threshold, running economy is often overshadowed or ignored completely. Running economy should not be minimized, however, as a little bit of attention to it can reap considerable benefits and elevate your running performance.

Why is Running Economy Important?

Running economy is defined as the amount of oxygen used to maintain a given speed. It follows that the less oxygen a runner uses to run at a particular speed the better. If two runners are racing a marathon at 6:00 pace but runner A is more economical than runner B and is using a lower percentage of her V02 max (thanks to the better economy) then the pace will feel easier for Runner A and she will be able to hold it longer. In addition, Runner A can run at a faster pace before feeling the same amount of fatigue as Runner B. Running economy is important because if two runners have an identical VO2 max and Runner A uses only 70% of that VO2 max at a particular pace but runner B has to use 80%, then the pace feels easier for Runner A. She is using oxygen more efficiently. Put simply, better running economy allows you to run stronger and longer at any pace and it is worth investing time into improving yours.

Running economy graphic
How Can You Improve Your Running Economy?

Now that you understand why running economy is important, here are a few simple ways you can advance your own running economy and become a more efficient runner:


Better running form translates into better running economy, as it means less wasted energy and more efficient use of oxygen. Running form drills teach you proper movement patterns and improve running technique, ultimately reducing the energy cost of running. Some simple drills that can be incorporated after an easy run twice a week include: high knees, butt kicks, back pedals, cariocas (grapevines), quick steps, high skips, and long skips.


Likewise, plyometrics help running economy by improving power, neuromuscular communication, and strength. Specifically, the explosive bounding exercises give you more power and force with each stride and teach your body to recruit more muscle fibers and can improve stride stiffness. More active muscle fibers equates to more power with each stride. A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that runners improved by an average of 3.9% in a 2400 meter race after performing a plyometrics program for six weeks (http://www.runnersworld.com/ workouts/more-evidence-infavor- of-plyometrics). Clearly plyometrics are a good addition to your running routine and some easy ones to integrate include: skipping, jumping, hopping (single leg and double leg), bounding, squat jumps, and box jumps.

Short Hill Sprints

Popularized by Brad Hudson, hill sprints are very short bursts at maximum speed up a fairly steep grade. Specifically, they consist of a 10-12 second sprint up a steep grade (approximately 6%), followed by a walk down recovery. A complete recovery is critical because these repeats are done at maximal effort and the goal is to recruit as many muscle fibers as you can to achieve maximal power output. Because hill sprints are demanding, Hudson advises that you begin with 2-4 repetitions and gradually build up to 10-12. Furthermore, Hudson recommends that hill sprints be performed once a week initially and twice a week after you build up to 10-12 repetitions. Adding hill sprints to your running routine will help you develop speed, power, efficiency, and better running economy.

Dedicating just a little time each week to running economy can reap big gains for your running. Do not fall into the habit of neglecting running economy. You will be glad you decided to give it a little attention.

Kristin Barry has written for such magazines as Running Times. We are happy to have her on The Level. This article originally appeared in the Sep/Oct 2013 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).

The Long Run Revisited

By Michael Gauvin

There is no one factor or program that guarantees success when training for the marathon. Consistency over many years is probably the key to success at all distances but if we assume that our runners are doing what it takes to stay healthy and keep their sessions regular, how do we structure a program that can get them to the line as prepared and confident as possible?

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and place far too much emphasis on particular aspects of a fully constructed program. I am not claiming to be the expert on what it takes to optimize training for any distance as I think there are too many variables based on each individual. I have tried to stick to a simple philosophy that can be adjusted accordingly depending on your desired outcome, ability level, and injury profile.

Whether I am coaching high school athletes or experienced marathon runners, I follow a simple formula for how I structure each program:

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Depending on the event the athlete is training for the “hard” days will be set up in a periodized fashion to ensure the runner is ready for the big day. We also attempt to set up the hard sessions to focus on multiple paces to create a well rounded runner.

So what does this have to do with the Long Run?

As I mentioned earlier there are many programs out there that prescribe long runs at “easy, just survive” paces of varying distances throughout the 12-18 week program.

There is a time and place for easy long runs as part of a comprehensive approach but…

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So we treat the many long runs as “hard” days in our cycle. This allows the runner to treat the long run as a quality session because she will have 2 easier days pre and post session. Let’s now look at the what, when, why, and how of these runs.

What: The Progression Long Run

12-20 miles total miles dropping down pace through the run.

When: Depending on what cycle you are in and your total weekly mileage, progression runs can be incorporated after you have a couple of easy cycles under your belt. Longer more intense progression runs are used primarily during the middle to late portion of the training period.

Why: Specificity of training and focusing on your goal pace is the optimal method to achieve results. Gradually exposing the runner to paces that she will be attempting to run for 2 ½ to 3 hours not only builds confidence but also helps the runner become efficient at that pace over time. Treating some long runs as “hard” days and allowing for ample recovery pre and post is a great way to reach your goals.


  • Select a marathon race and desired time for that distance (calculate your goal pace too)
  • Work backwards from the goal race and create cycles that follow the hard-easy-easy approach
  • If you don’t want to do this, just try to treat every 2nd or 3rd Sunday long run as a workout
  • Gradually extend the time spent at goal marathon pace (MP)

Workout Notes:

  • Do not force a drastic increase in pace; listen to your body and start easy
  • Feel free to finish the progression long run at a fast pace (5k pace or faster) for the last 2 minutes or so
  • Make sure to follow this session with a nice easy recovery day (or 2)
  • Keep in mind this type of session is just one of the focus areas of a well designed marathon training program. You need to also make sure you spend time at paces much faster than marathon pace and also much slower.

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Michael Gauvin has a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology and coaches cross country and track and field at Ludlow High School and works with members of the Western Mass Distance ProjectThis article originally appeared in Sep/Oct 2013 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen). Feature image courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

Variations on the Ladder Workout

By Lesley Hocking

(Editor’s Note: In a previous issue, Hocking gave us her take on the traditional ladder workout, now the Legion is ready for some advanced theory.)

The ladder workout is a stand-by for elite and recreational runners alike. In this format, the distance increases on each interval, traditionally run on the track in even lap distances (400m-800m- 1200m-1600m). Creative coaches will adjust the distances and paces to fit their athlete’s needs, so that a long sprinter might be doing a workout in 10m increments (70m-80m -90m-100m-110m-120m-130m-etc.) with only 20m recovery between efforts. In contrast, a long distance runner workout might consist of 500m-1000m- 1500m-2000m. The sprinter’s workout might continue until the athlete experiences failure to hit the desired race pace, while the distance runner’s ladder would likely have a clear-cut endpoint. The reason for such a difference is that the goal of the long sprinter is to maintain proper form and efficiency in a fatigued state, while the distance runner also needs to be able to dole out an effort over a known amount of time, requiring an acute sense of energy management. In other words, it’s a lesson in knowing where the finish line is and saving just the right amount of energy for the whole race.

This fall, I suggest turning your favorite ladder workout on its head. Instead of building in distance, start with your longest interval and work your way down the ladder. This can be particularly powerful in a fartlek format. Consider a rotation of 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, all with 1 minute jogging intervals between them. The first set may feel easy, as the athlete naturally accelerates on each shorter timed interval. But starting with the second set, the longest interval is performed just one minute after the completion of the shortest, fastest interval. I find in this approach that the athlete has to have a renewed sense of pace management, so that the injection of speed in a 1-minute interval doesn’t leave him so anaerobically taxed that he cannot finish the following interval.

For those athletes ready for another twist to their traditional ladder workouts, consider doing a workout with even intervals ( for example, repeat 800s), but varying instead the length of recovery between each interval. One sample workout might go from 2 minutes rest to 90 seconds, 60 seconds, and then 30 seconds with all intervals run at the same pace. The second half of the workout, the athlete would lengthen the recovery time again, this time trying to cut down in pace by 5 seconds per mile for each interval. The complete workout for someone trying to run a 36 minute 10k would look like this:

800m @ 3:00; 120 sec jog recovery
800m @ 3:00; 90 sec recovery
800m @ 3:00; 60 sec recovery
800m @ 3:00; 30 sec recovery
800m @ 2:57; 60 sec recovery
800m @ 2:55; 90 sec recovery
800m @ 2:52; 120 sec recovery
800m @ 2:50

Lesley Hocking’s coaching services are available at NERunningServices.com. This article originally appeared in Sep/Oct 2013 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen). Feature image courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

Level 10k Recap

Even with the best of preparations, there’s something about race day that seems to fill you with doubt. Being new to race directing, we got our first taste of that: Will the weather be favorable? Will people show up? Will my family find Kyle waiting on the side of the road?

All three were major concerns, and all three worked out in our favor. The last even gave us some insight into what some of the more established races handle: coordinating rides for the elites. When we heard that Kyle Feldman wanted to compete but needed a ride, we knew we had to make that happen. The thought of some form of cosmic bad luck screwing up the pick up definitely added to the anxiety.

The weather was beautiful, the people showed up, and the Powers Family found Kyle along the way. The race would be run after all.

Yep, the race was finally going to happen. If it didn’t sink in earlier, it certainly did when the runners were gathered at the starting line, awaiting our command to go. Included in that group were a couple of runners who could reasonably expect to win— uncontested—on a day like this. It’s safe to say that if you told them, “It’s a first year event with under 200 runners,” both Ruben Sança and Glarius Rop would think, “Yeah, I got this.” But this field had some depth and the two were going to have to do some work to earn it.

Ruben couldn’t have looked more relaxed when we approached him just before the start. When asked what he thought he had in him for the day, Sanca (the Cape Verdean Olympian) responded with “hopefully under 31.” Hopefully under 31. How far under 31 was he hoping for? Quite far would be my guess.

Just before ‘go time,’ Brockton Mayor Linda Balzotti was handed the mic and kicked things off by welcoming everyone to the City of Champions. Mayor Balzotti went on to wish all runners well in the race, “One of which we hope will become an annual tradition.” We hope so too.

With an olde school “GO!” the field was off. Two laps around the park, including three trips up the infamous Tower Hill. The runners surged up the hill only a matter of seconds into the race on their way to complete the first of two loops.

Over the course of this smaller first loop (approx. 2.5 mi), Rop was in control. Said Sanca of the early portion of the race: “He made a couple of surges on me and I kind of never really went with him. I just slowly, you know, came back to him.” Ruben was still a couple of steps back as they approached the hairpin turn just after two miles that signaled the start of the Tower Hill ascent. On the other side of that, the real racing would begin. “I think It was right before three miles, on the flats, I made a small little surge,” said Sanca. Rop didn’t respond to the surge, but he did make a strong move on the downhill to catch back up to Ruben. Ruben upped the pace on the next uphill because he figured the downhill surge must’ve taken the juice out of Rop’s legs. Sança opened it up on the flats and gradually widened the gap over Glarius. Sanca didn’t know it, because he never looked back.

The next time the leaders came by the small group gathered by the hairpin turn, the race was pretty much over. Sanca pushed on by, going past and looping a small parking lot before setting his sights on Tower Hill for one last push. Just beyond: the finish line.

The only thing in doubt now was if Sança would break thirty minutes. So much for hoping to break thirty-one. With a couple of guys like Ruben and Glarius, a fast race was expected. Not sure how many people thought one of them would be running alone toward the line, with no competition on the horizon and a clock reading 29 and change looming close.

Well it happened. Ruben crossed the line victorious in 29:54. Glarius ran a smoking time of his own, finishing in 30:41. As stated in the beginning, this was a deep field. Tadesse Girma Biratu took the last open cash spot with his 32:03 third place finish.

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Lindsay Willard leads the way, courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

Anthony Gonsalves
(4th, 33:01) led the next wave, which included Jason Eddy (5th, 33:06) and Orlando Cordero (6th, 33:57). Eddy continues his comeback with another strong one while Cordero was under the weather. Jim Pawlicki finished 7th in 35:39, but that was only about 24 hours after placing 24th at the Chamberas 6k XC race (the 2013 XC Grand Prix opener). Not a bad weekend for Jim.

The first master came through next, and that was Joe Shairs (35:39), one of Pawlicki’s CMS teammates. The first vendor was right behind the first master. Jordan Kinley stepped out from behind the Karhu table to run a 36:06 and sneak into the top ten. Closing out the top ten was our women’s champion: Lindsay Willard. Including Lindsay, five of the next seven finishers were women, which showed the depth of the women’s field.

Speaking of Lindsay, she battled with Kyle Feldman the whole way but was able to pull away to win in 36:21. Kyle was right behind her in 36:39. Early on, it looked like Willard would run away with it but Kyle dug deep and made it a race. Showing no signs of the months long struggles with injury that wiped out her spring and much of her summer, Kyle closed the gap on Lindsay at about 4 miles and threatened to take over.

The two battled for the next half-mile or so until Lindsay was able to regain an edge. Lindsay had overcome her own obstacles to get to this point. Having had knee surgery earlier this summer, Willard recovered fairly quickly and got back to what she does best: racing all the time. Displaying the fortitude that she’s forged over race after race, she slowly put the clamps down and opened up a gap that would allow her to cross the line victorious.

Dianna Chivakos (14th, 37:33), Nicole Casey (15th, 37:46) and Kate Hails (16th, 38:01) wrapped up that first wave of women. Janet Holmes was the top masters runner (33rd overall, 42:42).

As for Kyle, she got a ride home. This time it was from Lindsay. That was, of course, after they went out for another run (post awards ceremony). It’s tough to just call it a cooldown when it ended up being a 20-mile day for Lindsay. Show up, win the race, add on a bunch of mileage, and then help with the elite athlete transportation. That’s totally on the level.

Congratulations to all the runners who made the first annual Level Renner 10K a success. Too may age group winners to mention but the top three in each division did all walk away with a coveted pint glass and a good story to tell. So did the 30+ people who took home raffle prizes.

This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2013 issue of Level Renner, and was accompanied by plenty of great photography from both Scott Mason Photo and Krissy Kozlosky. It’s free, so download your copy today. You can also check out our web coverage here, including video highlights and interviews.

Sept/Oct 2013 : Issue 16

 We’re on fall side of Labor Day now, so put away those white shoes and put on your cross country spikes and road flats. It’s time to embrace autumn and take the racing scene by storm.  This issue is sure to get you motivated to train hard and race fast. Enjoy your copy of the hippest, free-est underground running mag in the entire universe!

As always, the digital copy is free, but if you would like to purchase a hard copy you may do so via the hp MagCloud site.

September/October 2013

Issue 16

Table of Contents

issue xvi

Click cover to start reading

The Warm-up
• Editor’s Note
Level Communications
• Electronic Epistles
Lane 1: Performance
Lane 2: Body Shop
Lane 3: Nutrition
• Brown Bagging It by Kathy Ireland
Legion Profiles
• Sam Alexander
• Rich Paulson
• Christin Doneski
• Kristina Folcik-Welts
Club Spotlight
• L Street by Alma Ramos-McDermott
• 2013 Mtn Series Recap by Dave Dunham
• Survey & Music
Featured Event
• Level Renner 10K by EJN
Lane 4: Commentary
• Don’t Judge Us by Muddy
• Biking by Joe Navas
• Marathon Spells by Ray Charbonneau
Level Art
• McAllister & Lynch
The Cool Down
• Learn the Legion


Sept/Oct Issue: Sneak Peak

The next issue of Level Renner will be released sometime tomorrow.  To see some of the great stuff we have in the Sept/Oct Issue, check out the Table of Contents.

The table of contents for issue 16. Photo by Joe Viger.

The table of contents for issue 16. Photo by Joe Viger.

Subscribers will get an email notifying them of the release of the newest issue (we’re giving away a cool prize too). Not a subscriber yet? Get on that now by filling-in the info on the upper right sidebar. It’s easy. It’s free. It’s on The Level.

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