Tag: Josh Ferenc

Is Ferenc the Hero for VCM?

We kick off our lightning round of Vermont City Marathon elite runner previews with The Last Hero and Only Hope, or Josh Ferenc as he’s more officially known. We basically just asked one simple question to many of the elites: Are You Ready? They had free reign to answer in any way they saw fit.

The question was asked: Are you ready?

To be perfectly honest, I’m more unsure than I’ve been in a very long time. To really elude to my true thoughts could admit weakness and of being vulnerable, and I just won’t do that. I’ll never bet against myself, I’ll never count myself out, no matter what. I have to be realistic. I haven’t done any individual specific training for this marathon other than some solid long runs on the weekends. No workouts that would give me the feedback that would offer any clarity now.

Throughout this process of getting to Sunday’s marathon in Burlington I have been asking myself a lot of questions and doing a lot of self reflection on my daily runs. In my vision quest for answers in the universe of nature, I’ve captured the attention of my beginnings from the Quarry of the Gods. Through my question asking I was presented, not with answers, but questions to my questions.

Shot of Ferenc finishing the 2012 VCM that was featured in the Nov/Dec '12 issue of Level Renner. Courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

Shot of Ferenc finishing the 2012 VCM that was featured in the Nov/Dec ’12 issue of Level Renner. Courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

In the booming ominous voice only my ears and body could handle I was asked: Where have all the good men gone and where are all the Gods? Where’s the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds?

This was a stealthy shock of electricity to my soul and I knew. I knew I needed to become a white knight upon a fiery steed. I need to forego my nights where I toss and I turn and I dream of what I was to need.

The Old Gods smiled a sinister smile upon me and one spoke clearly: I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero, till the end of the night.

Then the giggles of the fair beautiful goddesses chimed in a sultry whisper: He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.

I understood these beauties, they needed me to fulfill a destiny and they wanted me to hold out to the morning light, they wanted me to be sure and be larger than life. So far, all of the requests and questions were within my abilities.

The Massacre of Sleepy Hollow is still fueling my confidence and the taste of souls still drips from my jowls. Relaxing has been the hardest part as I’m super anxious to hit the streets and see where my fitness lies. Do I go out to run 2:25, or play it safe (if it’s considered safe and not too fast) of 5:40′s? Who the cuss knows?!!!

So I counseled my own again. Through a vivid dream I was reached and told that somewhere after midnight in my wildest fantasy somewhere just beyond my reach, there’s someone reaching back for me, and the gods would be pulling me through the race if I needed them too.

I would need to consider the elements. I would be racing on the thunder and rising with the heat, I would be a Superman and sweep the goddesses off their feet.

It was beginning to get clearer and clearer of my goal and what I would need to do. Up where the mountains meet the heavens above out where the lightning splits the sea I could swear that there’s someone somewhere watching me through the wind and the chill and the rain and the storm and the flood I can feel the approach like a fire in my blood.

I’ve convinced myself that, “I got this,” and just need to get to the starting line. I feel like I have more people cheering and rooting me on this time around, which adds a bit of pressure. Well, in actuality, I’m the only one that adds any pressure. With a little help from my friends (Gods) everything will work itself out. I can only do what my fitness and physical capabilities will allow. The good thing is, I’m cussing awesome at subjecting myself to races and I will be able to tough, grit and grind.

To all those thinking positive thoughts, thanks. To all those thinking negative thoughts: that adds friction and friction makes fire; so, also thanks because I’m going to light a fire late in the race and will need that fuel!

I’ll need a miracle, but I’d rather be a hero. There needs to be a hero, and who better then the Last Hero Only Hope?!!!

For more on Josh, check out this segment that a local news station in Vermont ran on him recently:

Three’s Company: Josh Ferenc aims to be top local marathon finisher for the third straight year

Thanks to Scott Mason Photo for the pics featured here.

VCM Elite Men Preview

Here’s a release from the Vermont City Marathon highlighting this year’s invited athletes. The men are up first, to be followed by the ladies shortly.

KBVCM Invited Athlete – Men’s Top Seed Highlights – 2014

Blair Teal – Gastonia, NC.  First time KBVCM participant who has run 2:20:31 in 2011 and 2:21:20 in 2013 in North Carolina marathons.  He is in great shape and looking to break the 2:18 (O.T. std mark) in Burlington.

Dave Berdan – Owings Mills, MD.  Another first-time KBVCM runner who has run 2:21 in the past year and several low 2:20’s marathons over the past couple of years.  Recently ran 51:24 in a 10-miler in the Baltimore area.  Dave is also in great shape and focused on the 2:18 O.T. goal at VCM.

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Pelletier strikes a familiar pose at VCM (2012), courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

Matt Pelletier – W.Greenwich, RI.  Matt is a 4-time KBVCM Overall Champion who ran 2:19:02 as a runner-up last year in a classic battle with Chris Zablocki.  Matt’s coming off a winter injury and is focused on running strong again at VCM but not sure if he will be in shape to break the 2:20 mark.

Tyler Andrews – Concord, MA. Another first-time KBVCM racer who recently finished Boston in 2:21:30 (1st sub-25 year old finisher).  Tyler hopes to recover over the next few weeks and run as part of the lead-pack aiming for a sub-2:20 finish.  Tyler is the WR-holder 1/2M treadmill at 1:07:18!

Michael Wardian – Alexandria, VA (DC suburb).  Mike is a multi-time KBVCM Men’s Open Runner-up who is now a Masters athlete and just ran 2:23:30 at Boston then 2:27:45 a week later at the Big Sur marathon.  Mike recently won the North Pole marathon in far northern Norway.  Mike is also the 4-time US 50K championship winner.  An “unofficial” ambassador of KBVCM.

Several Open Men will be running KBVCM as their “inaugural” marathon who have fast 1/2M results over the past 18 months….Will Sanders (Andover, MA), Timothy Mulligan (Whiting, NJ) and Jonathan Charlesworth (Boston, MA) could run in the mid-2:20’s.

We also have a strong Masters Men field (behind Wardian).  1st time KBVCM participant James McQuade (New York, NY),  2010 VCM runner-up Bob Landry (Ludlow, MA) and runner-up Tom Thurston (Waterbury, VT) entered.  All three of these men have the potential to run under 2:40 this year.

Top Vermonters:

Josh Ferenc – Saxtons River, VT.   Josh is returning to KBVCM for the 3rd consecutive year in 2014.  Josh has taken the top Vermont Men’s title the past two years with very solid 4th and 6th place Overall finishes.  Josh’s marathon PR is 2:30:51 which he set in 2011 at  KBVCM.  Josh won the Stowe 8-miler and FJG Race to the Top of VT (Mt.Mansfield) in 2012 and has an ultra-marthon/mountain-trail running background.  Josh is a science teacher at Bellows Falls High School.

Tom Thurston – Waterbury, VT.  Tom has become a perennial top Men’s Master finisher at KBVCM having placed 3rd in 2011 and 2012 and made a last mile surge in 2013 to grab the 2nd Master Men slot.  Tom has lowered his marathon PR each of the last 3 years finishing in 2:41:50  in 2013.  Tom works as an elementary school teacher in Waterbury and has an Olympic Trials bicycling background.  We will be looking for Tom to run strong again in 2014.

New News:

Several Ethiopians have registered for KBVCM in the past week.  In the men’s division, Getachew Asfar has run 2:24:22 Cowtown Texas Marathon (Feb ’14) and 2:20:49 at the Kentucky Derby Marathon (April ’14) .  He has a PR of 2:15:59 at the Akron Marathon in Sept. 2013.

Suleman Abrar ran 2:25:16 at Balbao Spain in 2013 and won the Cleveland Marathon last weekend in 2:24:15.  Can Suleman run in the low 2:20’s or faster a week after his win?  We’ll see this Sunday.

Both of these athletes reside in the Baltimore, MD area and will travel to Burlington with their personal rep/agent.

Sleepy Hollow Kicks Off Mountain, ATR Series

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Kasie Enman orchestrated a heck of a race, including her own outstanding win. Courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

The first one is in the books, and boy was it a doozy. The Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race served a couple of different purposes this year and it had more than enough mud to go around for each of them. Traditionally this race has been on the USATF-NE mountain circuit and is once again for 2014. This race is a bit of a hybrid in that it’s also a trail race, and in that role it served as the USATF-NE trail championship race and was also the trail segment of the new All Terrain Runner series. That’s a lot to process right there.

With all that in mind, there was more than just pride on the line. Series points, titles, and of course, bragging rights. Enter Josh Ferenc (aka the Last Hero and Only Hope): ”I was just going to attack the whole time. I knew that it would be really really tough for someone to hang with me.” And attack he did, right from the gun. There’s a brick walk on the far right side of the start area, and while everyone else at the front opted to dive right into the soft, sloppy slope, Josh shot up the launching pad that was the walk way. In fact, in the video below you can see the point at the start where EJN looks over and is thinking “that Ferenc is a clever SOB…”. Josh had a singular goal in mind: to run his race, pushing the needle as close to that redline as he could go, no matter what the competition had in mind for a plan.

There’s a preme for this race, where the first man and woman to hit the high point (just over a mile in) are awarded the coveted King of the Mountain status (and get some sweet syrup). On his way to putting a hurting on everyone (including himself), Josh picked up that preme as well. Said Josh of his effort: “I gave everything I had today. I was really hurting.” It showed in the results too (well, not the hurting part at least) as he ended up with a 2:05 lead over second place Jim Johnson.  Johnson and Kevin Tilton are no slouches (and also no strangers to less than favorable trail conditions), but couldn’t quite keep up with Josh. Jim edged Kevin by seven seconds, which is much closer than it sounds on a trail like that.

The wildcard in it all was Nate Jenkins, the elite road runner who was lured back onto the trails by the new All Terrain Runner series. Would Nate be able to hang with the trail animals? Or would Nate tame said animals? Jenkins held his own in the deep field and ended up finishing 4th in 43:13. Johnson, Tilton and Jenkins are all CMS teammates too, so it was a good day for the Striders.

For Kasie Enman, the race might’ve been the easier part. Kasie is not only some elite, globe-trotting Salomon runner, but she’s also the race director for Sleepy Hollow. “I was nice and tapered, felt good. I also didn’t get to warm up because I was race directing, so I used the first lap as a warm up.” Kasie gave a nice little pre-race speech, then quickly hopped onto the line, and during her ‘warm up’ she picked up the King of the Mountain preme as the first woman to mount the summit.

Kasie impressively finished 16th overall with a 46:44 and must’ve been pretty comfortable with the home course advantage. Kasie was able to put some distance between herself and her nearest competitors, which happened to be a couple of Somerville Road Runners: Kath Hardcastle (49:02) and Kate Hails (52:40).

Top masters runner and defending mountain series champion (overall) Christin Doneski was in unfamiliar territory: 4th place. Although her 53:43 was good for top masters runner on the day and 46th overall, Christin was faced with stiff competition for the overall win. The fact that she was even that close despite having recently run the Boston Marathon was a feat in and of itself. Between the marathon fatigue and the deeper field, it made for a challenging day. On her race, the conditions and her fitness, Christin said:

First, I have NEVER run in conditions like that. I was actually in a very good mood going in to this race. I was worried about my fatigue (from Boston and my post-marathon cold) but I was happy to be there and thought the sloppy conditions would be fun. They were fun and exciting initially but by the end my legs were pretty tired. Having to really pick my feet up for every step took it’s toll. What do you call it “post-holing” when you stride and one leg sinks in to mid calf….well whatever it is called I did that a number of times and it really brings your momentum to a stand still. The conditions were certainly part of the fun, but also an area in which I was entirely inexperienced. That said, I know coming off Boston definitely impacted my climbing. I am usually much stronger on the uphills than downhills and I was not as strong on the uphills as I would have liked.

Post-holing really is the perfect way to describe that energy sucking phenomenon that plagued runners throughout the race (and just added to the fun of it all).

Speaking of the masters, Todd Callaghan got exactly what he wanted: mud. Todd knew those conditions would play to his strengths and he capitalized on the opportunity by running a 44:20. That was fast enough to place him 9th overall and make him the fastest masters runner on the day.

Next up is the mountain series is the Pack Monadnock 10 Miler, while the window is now open for All Terrain Runners to get their track 5k in.


King of the (Muddy) Mountain

Josh Ferenc didn’t care who he was up against, and he didn’t hold back. Nothing was going to interfere with him running his race – not the elements, the competition, nor the terrain. In sloppy conditions, Josh ran a 40:44 for 10k at the Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race. Ferenc didn’t disappoint in the race, nor in the interview. It’s a little bold, a little brash, but makes for a refreshingly honest and entertaining couple of minutes.

Ferenc 3rd at 50k, Voltron Style

Guest blog by Josh Ferenc

Editor’s Note: Ethan Coffey and Emily Harrison both won and set new records at the 50 km Road Championships over the weekend (in Caumsett State Park on Long Island, N.Y.). Josh Ferenc competed and made the podium, running an impressive 3:04:16. Here’s a firsthand account on the race and the trip from Josh.

Survival Musts

Let’s start this with a great big ol’ “holy cuss!” This past weekend I embarked in a vision questing miracle trip to the USATF 50k road championships in Long Island. I’ve been here twice before and left with a 2nd place the first adventure here and a disappointing 5th the other.  So I know what comes with the race, having been successful once and very disappointed the other attempt.

I had done the long runs and the distances needed for the race but definitely didn’t have the “in between” efforts I should have. Only the divine could have survived the way I did. Holy cuss…

I was rolling to the event Voltron style with Greg and Fyffe. It was to be a dude adventure where the pressure of disappointment was not going to be tolerated: I had to step up and not let my people down.

The car ride down was eventful as we spoke of politics, life, unmentionables, and general topics that drifted through my ever racing mind. I was in charge of reserving a hotel/motel/holiday inn and did one better: Rodeway Inn.

Now, on the line of the internet it had a 3.5 star rating out of 5. It wasn’t a 3.5 star hotel, that was just it’s rating. Upon arrival at the check in desk, the clerk let’s me know that the room I reserved would not be available. I then proceed to do my best Seinfeld and explain that she knew how to take my reservation, but didn’t know how to hold the reservation. The whole point of me calling 10 days prior was to assure I would have the room available that I needed… Instead of a non-smoking room with double beds, we now had a smoking room with double beds. What the cuss!!!

Greg and Fyffe weren’t to bothered by it but I wanted to keep at the poor women until she either conceded and gave us a free room or provided… Never mind.

We wanted to run so we hit the room to change before heading to the course. Now, smoking rooms are bad, but our to be room was a mixture of a Tijuana brothel where you paid in cigarette cancer smoke. It was bad. The room was probably the site of many an amateur movie where bad things with lots of diseases were filmed. Great pre-race environment. The only benefit was that our hotel stay got us 20% off at TGIFridays. I did a lot of head shaking and knew a huge effort tomorrow was in order. Cuss.

The course run was good, I felt fine on the 3 miler Greg and I did and I was getting less nerved up and more anxious and excited.

When we got back to the hotel we found our room cleaned and it appeared to be normal, except for the lingering smoke smell. Whatever. It was dinner time so we walked to the TGIFridays. No sidewalks were plowed so Fyffe and Greg walked in the unplowed sidewalk snow banks while I opted for the road. I wasn’t scared of a car hitting me, I’m going to live to be 98 and I feel super human.

Fyffe and Greg on a 3ft sidewalk snow bank.

After a mini game of Frogger to cross the highway we made it to dinner. It wasn’t bad. The bar tender was able to shed a little more light on our hotel of choice, (I’m paraphrasing) “yeah, strippers and hookers work there, a lady with a duffel bag of cash was there…” Awesome. I’ll enjoy digging the crabs out of my pumpkin patch when I get home…

I was hoping for a good night sleep and wake up as rested as possible before my quest towards 100% of everything I have.  But a good nights sleep was out of the question, it ended up being an epic Wild West story night. Haha. I didn’t need any sleep anyways…

Mid story time in the brothel cancer smoke shed.

I woke up the next day ready to eat and head to the site to get my head wrapped around ten 5k laps. The laps are esthetically pleasing and I really like the course (except one hairpin turn which BLOWS). Main goal: stay within myself. I had “mantra” going though my head. I figured it was going to be an even-run effort with the needle pinned on the fastest grind I could do, so the mantra was, “wallflowers don’t get laid, I need to hit the dance floor and GRIND!”

Race time: the weather was cold and damp but never got wet (that’s what she…). I looked the part as I was rolling with the Wild Neoteny signature series hat and arm sleeves which aptly read, “Last Hero, Only Hope” and was the appropriate decision (I needed a miracle). The plan was to go hit at race pace, 6 min miles, and hold it as long as possible. Looking at the field there appeared to be about 5 guys to challenge up front. Two years ago there were 3 guys up front but I still managed to finish 5th, which meant I faded badly. Not this year.  To win would have been a whole winter of different training, and winning was just a bit out of the question and just finishing was priority number one, with holding as close to 6 min pace as long as possible being priority number 2. The realization that I could run 3:15 was a nerve racking truth and would have been demoralizing (but a possibility).

Once the race started it was evident that there were only 4 dudes there, with me clearly the 4th guy. This settled in quickly and the only way I could move onto the podium was by staying within myself and having one of them come back. This also had nothing to do with my race so I just focused on me.

At 1.5 Joe Gray initiated for my to join him and Micheal Wardian. This would have looked super cool, race hob knobbing with them but I’m already super cussing cool so I elected to not ruin my race and stick to the game plan.

I was running hot every mile to start and commited to it. The first mile has a long gradual downhill and hit 5:51, second mile has a small roll to it, 11:42, the third mile is flat with a hairpin turn in it. You hit the start for 5k and head out for the lap. I was 18:10 for the first 5k. I reminded myself to relax, I was in no mans land and would be racing by myself for a while until we started lapping people. Same story to open up the second lap, 5:42, 11:39, 18:00 5k. I thought I was slowing down but I was settling in to 5:50.

I had to really focus on chilling and not continuing to gradually pick up the pace. After two laps, the effort did start to become “real,” meaning I could feel it and it was going to be tough. I was on the edge the whole race, and with 8 laps to go I realized two things: you may not hold this pace, immediately followed by don’t ever think that again and of course you’ll do it, you have to.

In the mix of the third 5k I started to get a bit more comfortable. Same story, 5:45 fist mile then held that effort to finish up 18:16, cool. Again and again I rattled off even 5k’s which was high octane confidence fuel. The middle few 5k’s were becoming a blur. Fyffe and Greg were on the opening mile and I was hydrating and fueling perfectly.

Lap 4: 18:18
Lap 5: 18:21… And smooth.

After crossing half way I preplanned a mental shift. I knew that half way was a whole different race and I had to really really focus. Around this time I was hoping that the guys up front were beating the cuss out of each other and one or two may fade back. Just the idea made me relax a bit but every lap I could see no ground was being made up.

Lap 6: 18:09

I opened up the second half with one of my fastest laps which was more adrenaline than me making moves. I kept taking deep breaths and reminding myself to relax. It was on my seventh lap that I knew I had to pray for help. Now, to clarify, my praying and to whom I pray is its own entity and my own belief structure. I prayed to my ancestors from which my family derives, I prayed to nature, I prayed to my extended godly lineages, and asked for help. I asked for help with laps 7 and 8, where if I received help I could do the last two laps on my own.

I heard the hammer and chisel from the quarry of the gods in which I was cut. A flock of crows flew to the tree that over hung the course and started cawing wildly and my family was silent, which meant it was about to get real! In seriousness, immediate after my pray request a group of crows to fly above me and did caw wildly, this was inspirational and exciting. I just kept telling myself that I was going to get help these two laps and the last two laps are your.

Lap 7: 18:36
Lap 8: 18:30

Some time in the mix of things Greg and Fyffe let me know that Gray had stepped off the course. This is unfortunate, but does benefit me as I moved up to 3rd. Joe has been on fire lately, traveling around the world and absolutely crushing souls. Afterwards he said it just caught up with him and he was tired and his legs were flat. If it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone (including me) so I had to continue to grind even splits as long as possible. Some dude I don’t know was wailing everyone in first while Wardian was in second. With two laps to go, it didn’t look like Wardian was putting any more time on me since half way and to catch him would have been improbable.

Lap 9 was one of the most fun laps. I kept telling myself positive things and knowing only one lap was left was uplifting. Every lap before, Greg and Fyffe were calmly providing updates and encouragement but upon the opening of the last two laps they started getting pumped and wild and really fueling the effort.

Lap 9: 18:51, but still feeling ok. I was gradually slowing down each 5k, but it was 2-3 seconds a lap and not at all discouraging.

Lap 10 was great, all I had to do was finish. My legs were about 5 miles away from cramping, but the good news of 3 miles left was awesome. I pushed as hard as I could the opening mile of the last lap. I thought “what the cuss, take a risk and put everything you got into it.” Evidently that was a 6:02 mile. This made me smile, 2 miles left. On the downhill of the second mile I tried to surge and felt like it was one of my best miles in the whole race, where it was my slowest at 6:22. Worst case scenario now is I hobble in at 8-9 min mile pace but the legs didn’t cramp and I attempted another surge the last mile. I hit the last mile at 5:55 and cruised in for a new PR (barely) and a third place finish.

It felt great to have a positive experience where everything went great. Greg and Fyffe immediately came over to congratulate me where I instantly let then know that “it was too easy…” Hahaha.  I may have overextended and ran a bit above expectations. That was confirmed during the ride while we were leaving the Island when I asked Greg his thoughts. Greg shook his head and said to me, “dude, that was a miracle…” Hahaha.

It really was awesome to roll Voltron style with my bros. They added an extra element where I didn’t want to disappoint them for making the trip. Sharing time with my buddies is more fun than a gutterpig…

Check out full results here, and of course follow Josh on his blog Wild Neotony.

Blake Conquers the Rock Pile

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Matthew Byrne tries to hold off a late surging Simon Gutierrez right before the finish. Gutierrez ended up just getting him for fourth place. Courtesy of Joe Viger.

Eric Blake broke the tape on top of Mt Washington for the third time back on June 15th. This time, he also PR’d and went under one hour for the first time (59:57). It wasn’t the US Championship this year so the race wasn’t as competitive as it was last year (results here), but that didn’t keep Blake from running better than he had in the past.

What did you do differently in training to get you so ready for it?

Eric Blake steals a look back at the competition as he approaches the 7 mile mark.

Eric Blake steals a look back at the competition as he approaches the 7 mile mark.

I had some really good treadmill runs at 8%-15%. They were longer this year (50-60 mins). Also I have an oxygen sleep mask and slept at 13000 feet for this whole build up, and then slept at sea level the week before to rest up. I also introduced some cross training on a exercise bike with the altitude mask. It’s not a coincidence that all the other Americans to break one hour were training in Colorado. I’m the head XC/Track coach at Central Connecticut State so I’m not going to train at altitude anytime soon and the oxygen mask seems to work.

How did conditions compare to your those of your previous victories? When you passed me (at about 6.5 or so) the wind was brutal!

Wind was tough at times but I believe the better you are racing in tough conditions the LESS those negative conditions effect you. Also at times it was a tail wind and I tried to let that help.

What does it feel like to have a sub-60 time on that course?

It was great to finish inside the hour mark. I missed the 7 mile marker (it blew over) so I thought I was running slow. I came up onto the finish and noticed I had a shot at one hour after seeing 59:10 on my watch. At that point I really felt I was getting energy from the fans and that help push me to the line.

In the video below you can see just how much Eric dominated the field that day. Those of you who have run the race will probably recognize the pained look on the faces of most runners. Those of you who haven’t run it (or just aren’t familiar with it) will probably notice that it doesn’t look easy for anybody, including the leaders.

It was absolutely incredible to see so many people get excited when they saw the bright green Level t-shirt up there. It couldn’t have been easy to spare the energy to smile, wave and/or shout out something against the wind on your way by. It lets us know we’re doing something right, and we definitely appreciate it.

Notable Runs

In 2012, Sage Canaday not only won the race but he set an American record in the process (58:27). With that mark, Sage set the bar pretty high for himself for the 2013 edition. Despite that, Sage didn’t feel any additional pressure this year, although he “would’ve liked to have defended my title and run under 60 minutes.” According to Sage, Joseph Gray took it out right away, with Blake and himself chasing for the first couple of miles. Blake took over after that and Sage “had no power in my legs to respond and was fighting just to hold on for 3rd.” As far as his build up leading up to the race, Sage had this to say:

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Sage Canaday shoots a look back, courtesy of Joe Viger.

Not a bad day for him, all things considered.

Josh Ferenc may have come through with one of the surprise races of the day. I say ‘may‘ in this case only because of his battle to get back to full strength after overcoming an illness. He’s shown flashes of his old form in winning a couple of USATF-NE mountain series races, but then the tough conditions at this year’s Vermont City Marathon slowed times enough where his end result probably didn’t reflect his actual fitness level. Josh finished 6th, in 1:05:36, which was a PR for him by about 50 seconds. If not for some difficulties in the last 1200 meters, Josh was even entertaining thoughts of a 1:03, but all things considered he still ended up being happy with his time.

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Josh Ferenc, hands to the ground, in an all out effort right at the end of the race. Incredible shot to go along with an incredible effort. Courtesy of Joe Viger.

Because of his stellar race, and because he always provides entertaining material, here are a few thoughts on the race from the Last Hero and Only Hope

What did you think of the conditions?

I thought the conditions were awesome. I ran without a shirt (why cover up a glorious physique?) until 6.5, then a couple gusts made my man-meries hard so I threw the shirt on for the last bit. The wind was epic and it was awesome when it was at my back.

How do you run a time like that so soon after a marathon?

The whole marathon lead up was mostly mountain training workouts. I had three weeks in between the marathon and Mt W, and just knew it was going to be whatever was in the tank. Glad my tank is cussing huge!

Why run down after? How long did that cooldown end up going for?

Running down after, usually, is to just to get down, take in the sights I miss grinding my soul away and get down faster than the cars to refuel. However, I got caught up with some speed shades and was talked into a gnarly cluster cuss run with Joe Gray. We ended up getting lost and going down the Huntington ravine, which just added to the gnarliness. The run down was just over 2 hours. Joe and I weren’t friends for seven minutes, but all is good now.

Eric MacKnight surprised a few people on his run up the mountain, including the Level. It wasn’t that he ran so well (1:07:37, 10th overall), no. After all, Eric has established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the mountains this year, as is evident by his second place position in the standings. It was more the clean shaven look he was sporting. From the spectator’s perspective, the wind was so bad where Eric ran by at about 7 miles into the race that the there was legitimate concern that the wind blew all his facial hair off. Eric has assured us that this was not the case. This was Eric’s first time in the race, although he has prior experience hiking up the mountain. Of the race he said: “It’s a unique race and loved every second of it.”

Abby Mahoney ran just off of her PR to finish in fifth place, just over seven minutes behind the winner (Laura Haefeli). The 1:25:49 that Abby ran may not seem bad to you, but she feels like she’s in better shape and is hungry for more.

This was my sixth Mt. Washington, but fifth finishing (I dropped out in 2010). This wasn’t terribly slow (my PR is 1:25:02), but I just know I’m capable of running a lot faster than that and I don’t know why I can’t seem to break that barrier! When I first started hill training back in March, I was about 3 minutes slower on all my workouts than in the past so I thought I’d be lucky just to break 90 minutes this year, but then fitness started coming back. After the two mountain races (although they are so short in comparison), I really thought I had a chance of running at least a minute faster than I ran on Saturday. Not sure if it was the wind or if it was my mental state! I could see Brandy (Erholtz, second place) and Regina (Loiacano, third place) the whole race and I knew I should have been up with them, but couldn’t go. I thought the weather was pretty good. The wind definitely slowed me down a little, but I don’t think it affected me too much. It was a little warm for me at the bottom, so I welcomed the breeze when we got above tree line. For years I’ve been training with Dawn Roberts and Ashley Krause. They both ran super and finished 8th and 11th (Ashley has a 6 month old, so we are both thrilled with being “back”). We live near some good hills and do most of our workouts on Mt. Tom. There is a paved one mile hill with 10-13% grade. We do lots of repeats there. Mt. Tom is an abandoned ski area, so we also get on the old ski slopes for repeats.

So, as negative as all that sounds, I am not really that unhappy! It was a great weekend, amazing views, and got to see friends that I only see once a year! Looking forward to Cranmore!

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 9.10.35 AM

Laura Haefeli breaks the tape, courtesy of Joe Viger.

Lastly, we checked in with Dave Dunham. It seems quite fitting, especially since Dave did own the course record for this race (60:50, 1988) and is still very much a main part of the mountain running scene here in New England.

Dave’s take on the weather…

We’ve had a long stretch of “good weather” the last few years, so maybe people have thought of that as “normal”. Normal average wind speed for June is 27 MPH. According to the observatory the wind during the race was 26-35 MPH with maximum gust of 40. Basically an average day. I like cooler conditions so for me it was a good day for racing.

Was training going well for you heading into this?

My training was going very well for the race. Mileage is the key and my mileage has been high. My major mistake was thinking (hoping) I could run three races in 6 days and not have it impact (this one). I was just a bit off from doing Hollis 30+ hours before Mt Washington, but I had to do Hollis…I was leading the 45-49 age group! I’d probably not do that again if they line up that way in the future.

Does the way you approach the race change with age?

I haven’t changed much how I race Mt W as I’ve gotten older. I’ve always raced the mountain, not the competition…basically just run as hard as I can and hope to beat the guys in front of me. I tried to go with Craig (Fram) but just didn’t have it.

You seemed like you had quite a bit of energy when you started running back down the mountain. How is that possible?

My favorite part of the race is the run back down. This year was awesome, incredibly clear sky so great views on the way down.

I was initially surprised to see Dave go bounding by me (near the top) on his way back down. Seeing that, and hearing the stories from the others who conquered the Rock Pile only adds to the allure of this great race and I for one can’t wait to be a part of it. Let the training for the 2014 edition begin! Let’s see if I’m still eager to do it after Loon.

Any notable performances that we missed? Please give those hard working runners a shout out in the comments below!

Special shout out to Joe Viger for providing some incredible photography to Level Renner for this one. Be sure to like Joe Viger’s Facebook page and check out his website to see more of his great work.


Last Hero, Only Hope & King of the Mountain

The fourth mountain series race was this past Sunday (June 9th), with runners this time attacking Ascutney Mountain in Windsor, VT. No moose sighting in this race, and the Sasquatch was subdued. Josh Ferenc picked up his second win of the series (the first coming at Sleepy Hollow). Ferenc ran a 29:54, and the rest of the field started coming in 44 seconds later. Macknight, Newbould, Krause, Callaghan, Dunham…some of the usual suspects right there. Callaghan was the top masters runner again (5th overall, 31:37) but Dunham gave him a fight and was right behind him.

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Josh in action at Sleepy Hollow, his first 2013 series win. Courtesy of Scott Mason.

For now Josh isn’t quite a threat in the overall series standings. Missing the last two races hurt him there. Meanwhile, Macknight and Newbould took turns winning the last two and have put up solid races throughout. At the moment Newbould enjoys a slim lead over Macknight with two races left.

The women’s race was close, but there was no epic finish this time. Abby Mahoney again took down Christin Doneski, and both runners placed in the top twenty (16th and 19th, respectively). Doneski had to settle for knowing she was the top master in the race.

Mahoney, like Josh Ferenc, has only run two of the races this year. But also like Ferenc, she’s won both of her appearances. Although currently not threatening the series leaders, people still know she’s in contention when they see her on the line. Doneski is still sitting pretty on the top of the board through four, with Karen Encarnacion and Sarah Schlaack right behind her.

Next up is the ol’ Rock Pile, Mt. Washington. Although it’s not part of the series, it’s still one of the most iconic races around and brings out more than just the mountain goats.

VCM Elites: Pelletier & Ferenc

We snuck in a quick Vermont City Marathon preview the Saturday night before the race featuring Matt Pelletier and Josh Ferenc. The two threw down some solid races out there, to say the least. We checked in with both of them again.

Matty P

378035_581283798558716_436690848_nHere are my splits from the race:

1. 5:38
2. 5:13
3. 5:19
4. 5:16
5. 5:24 (headwind)
6. 5:21 (headwind)
7. 5:11
8. 5:06
9. ——
10. 10:07
11. 5:05
12. 5:11
13. 5:07
14. 5:18 (windy along the water)
15. 5:17 (windy along the water)
16. 5:36 (big hill on battery St.)
17. 5:18 (windy)
18. 5:06
19. —-
20. 10:41 (windy)
21. 5:25
22. 5:22
23. 5:22
24. 5:16
25. 5:19
26. 5:35
Fin. 1:18 (2:19:04)

My plan leading up to the race was to come through the 1/2 in under 1:09, and then get faster in the 2nd 1/2. On race day, I threw the time goal out the window and just wanted to be competitive and get the win. I knew I couldn’t let it come down to a kick with Chris because he’s out kicked me in a shorter race before.

When the gun went off, I was content to let other people set the pace for the first couple miles. Chris was fine with being out front in the first mile so I let him stay there. As we hit the downhill in the 2nd and 3rd mile, everyone slowed down and I moved to the front to take advantage of dropping the pace down without much effort and seeing who would decide to keep up. We still had a big pack, so once we came back by the park I moved to the back of the pack as we were turning into the wind. I was ok with staying there and letting the pace slow and conserving energy on the downhill on the beltway. I moved to the front as we approached the fluids table only to find that my bottle was not in the front where it was supposed to be. It was set up in the middle of the table, and I had to come to a complete stop to find it, normally I would have just kept running past the table, but with it being so cold I wanted to make sure I got the energy gel that I had taped to the bottle. I don’t think anyone else got their bottle at that table. There was no order to how they were set up.

I caught back up to the pack pretty quickly, and offered my bottle to everyone but they all seemed to be fine. When we turned around and started to climb back up the beltway, it was much warmer without the headwind. I decided to ditch the winter hat, and switch to a baseball cap to keep the rain out of my face, and ditch my long sleeve shirt which was under my singlet. It was quite a task to get the wet singlet off, then the shirt, then put the singlet back on, all while running a 5:06 mile just before going through the 2nd relay exchange. The next few miles don’t stand out to me, other than I remember thinking we were running quite faster than I expected to with the weather. In the 1st neighborhood section I got a little gap on Chris (who was the only one still with me) and I thought to myself “is it really going to be that easy?” As we weaved through the windy bike path I kept the pace fast to see if he would give up on me. The wind was pretty bad along the water here, and the waves were slamming into the wall and splashing onto the bike path. It was blowing me all over the place. My lead on Chris was short lived as he was back up with me by 14 miles, and back in the lead and pushing going up Battery St. Gapping him really messed with my head. Why did he let me get space on him, only to come back up to me and start pushing the pace on the toughest mile of the course? I let him get a couple strides on me on the hill. I wasn’t sure if he was planning on dropping out or something at the top and wanted to put a last ditch effort in to shake it up. He led all the way through the park, and I moved back to the front on the other side going down the hill. This was the windiest section of the race. I wanted to try and push here and see if he would let me go again.

Once we got into the 2nd neighborhood, He let me get another big gap on him and this time I wanted to make sure he didn’t come back on me. I really pushed through here to see if I could break him. I held this lead all the way to mile 23. I turned here and saw that he was right behind me. I dropped the pace back down and tried to move back away before he caught me, but he was too strong. At 24 miles we were running right next to each other. We were both breathing very heavy, and I knew we were both pretty close to empty. I decided to just let him make the moves and cover everything he did and hope for the best at the finish. I didn’t want to get ahead of him and not know where he was. I wanted to be able to see him when we got to 26 miles. He very slowly creeping away from me, and at 25 miles, he was 3 seconds ahead of me. Once we went through the mile mark, he made a strong move to pull away and I covered it for about a 1/2 mile but he just kept pushing. At about 25 1/2 he was pulling away and there was nothing I could do about it. Everything tightened up and it was all I could do to stay vertical. The flooding on the bike path and muddy grass finish didn’t help me move any faster. He just kept lengthening his lead. I don’t think he even knew that he had dropped me. He just kept pushing all the way to the line, never looking back. I wish I had the ability to find whatever it is he found and use it to pull away so confidently.

Matty nailed that race report. I felt like I was right there with him the whole way, and I swear my quads started twitching when I got to the part about the last half mile. To wrap it up, we turn to the Last Hero & Only Hope..

Josh Ferenc

I’m very pleased with the outcome. It was very exciting to be able to be stress free and catching people. Hunting is always more fun then being hunted. As far as my fitness… It’s hard to tell. After Sleepy Hollow I found out that I’m more fit than I feel/thought I was and then to be able to run relaxed and stress free an entire marathon is a great feeling. I feel like my training is getting better but it’s hard to gauge because I’m running so slow. No matter what the circumstance I always expect big epic results. I’m not tip top health wise but I’m getting there.

The toughest part of the day was the acceptance of what will be will be (before the race started). I wanted to be able to contend and fight up in the front but the reality is I wasn’t ready. There wasn’t really a toughest part of race day physically. I ran a smart race and put myself into a position to be successful. The true toughest part was seeing the guys ahead of me coming back and me not being able to do anything about it (calf cramp).

The last 4 miles were the remains of what I had, calf made it so I couldn’t go any faster. Had I kept rolling I may have caught them, but that’s too easy to say, and I didn’t. They finished well, as did I and it was a great feeling and I felt great doing it: 2:32:18. It was very enjoyable (that’s what she said, every time too). I am a charismatic megafauna, finished 6th overall and 1st VT!

VCM Splits: 2013

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 1.24.21 AM1-2: 11:32
3-5: 17:12 (28:44)
5:48 (34:33)
5:46 (40:19)
5:41 (46:01)
9-10: 11:31 (57:32)
5:46 (1:03:18)
5:43 (1:09:02)
5:43 (1:14:46)
5:44 (1:20:31)
5:38 (1:26:09)
5:47 (1:31:56)
5:40 (1:37:37)
5:35 (1:43:12)
5:36 (1:48:48)
20 miles 5:44 (1:54:32
5:49 (2:00:22)
6:02 (2:06:24)
5:56 (2:12:20)
6:03 (2:18:24)
6:05 (2:24:29)
6:20 (2:30:50)
1:29 (2:32:18)

I’m stoked about the race and it’s another successful step to my global dominance.

Loyal. Level. Legionnaire.

For more from Josh’s perspective, check out his always entertaining blog (the Vermontsters entry). We may have borrowed a line or two from that to mix in with his contribution here. Couldn’t resist. All pics here courtesy of Scott Mason.

Late Night VCM Primer

The 25th Annual KeyBank Vermont City Marathon is only hours away now, but for all you night owls out there we thought we’d sneak in a quick one about it. Amongst the thousands of runners in the field, we’ll highlight two here: the Reigning Champion and Last Hero and Only Hope

pelletier m vcm mason resize

Matty P on his way to his 4th VCM victory, courtesy of Scott Mason.

The Reigning Champion is, of course, Matt Pelletier. Matty P won it comfortably last year with his 2:21:30, and he’s actually a four time champion there. Ahead of the 2013 race, Matty said:

The weather sucks up here. Totally not conducive to fast times. Weather tomorrow not looking much better. Low 40′s, raining, and steady winds of 20mph. Tomorrow is going to be a battle of attrition. I wish I could say I was looking forward to it. It’s one of those days when you feel like the last 6 months were all for nothing. The upside is we all have to run in the same bad weather. We’ll just have to see how it goes. Hoping to not dip too far into the well too early and fall apart at the end like I’ve done in the last two.

Despite the ‘falling apart’, he did quite well in his last two marathons (W in Vermont and a 3rd place finish at Hartford, both in 2012).

Lastly, we turn to Josh Ferenc, aka the Last Hero and Only Hope:

This race is a “cuss you” to my whole being sick. I dont feel great but I’m using this as part of my kick start to kicking ass and competing. This is for my being and all my beings that are a part of me.

This will be just the beginning!

Also, I just want to see if I can… Loyal Level Legionnaire!

Josh ran a 2:30:50 last year and finished fourth.

How will they do tomorrow? The good news is that we don’t have to wait long to find out. If you already raced today then we don’t have to wait long to find out about that too. Check in with the Level with your pics and results and let us know how it went.

Walking On Fire

“Friends, I normally try to avoid boasting. But when I have material that will surely intimidate possible racing opponents, I like to make it freely known:

“A couple nights ago I walked across hot coals barefoot. Four steps, and I didn’t pussyfoot it either. I walked calmly, like a man. Racing Sleepy Hollow this weekend and I’m calling the New England mountain goats out – I might not be in any kind of shape to race, but I’ll come at you with everything I’ve got.”

Brandon Newbould, 5/2/13

Brandon ran a 2:25:45 at Boston so it was surprising to see him not only racing again so soon but to be coming out firing like that. Surprising, yes, but also wildly entertaining and the type of stuff we love. A couple of days later I was on the phone with him and after talking about hot coals, he told me what Josh Ferenc had been up to. Josh had blown the doors off the field at the Muddy Moose 14 Miler the previous weekend and it was shaping up to be an epic race at Sleepy Hollow.

Josh ended up winning again at Sleepy Hollow, and two minutes later the chase pack came in (Eric MacKnight, Newbould, Jim Johnson and Todd Callaghan). Not only can these guys run but they can also provide some entertaining material. Here’s a Q&A with Ferenc and Newbould from the days following the race (over email):

How were you feeling going into it?

Josh: I was feeling like a big bag of cuss the whole week leading in, which didn’t do anything helpful for my psyche. I had a nice showing the week before on a 14 mile trail race but wasn’t sure that would translate to a 10k or would make a difference with added competition. I wanted to do well, especially because it is a VT race, and I wanted to live up to the hype of being VT runner of the year by New England Runner mag (not all of the hype is self made). But once I got there I felt scary, like the energies and power of Voltron coming together.

Brandon: I don’t really know, I tried not to think about it. I mean, I wasn’t prepared to race at all, but I was excited to tangle with anyone else dumb enough to put themselves through the mountain series. I’ve never tried to race within a month of a marathon finish before, so this was new territory for me. I took a couple weeks after the race to purify myself with homebrew and saunas, then started running easy through the woods about a week before Sleepy Hollow. The only running I did faster than 8′ pace was some strides mid-week. The marathon training and racing was still fresh in my head even after the break, so I was excited to get into the mountains (where I belong?) for the summer. If I knew what was coming I probably would have experienced more foreboding.

The lead pack charges up the mountain. Courtesy of Scott Mason.

The lead pack charges up the mountain. Courtesy of Scott Mason.

Pre-Race: What was the strategy? Was there any particular runner you were especially wary of?

Josh: I was concerned with Jim Johnson because you never know with him. He’ll sandbag you before the race, then be in the mix. Eric MacKnight is also very fast. He won Northfield in a fast time (still not as fast as my average pace… ;) and this course is very similar. Jim proposed leaving Eric home, but I bit the bullet and gave him a ride to the race. Owls kill things and all (99%) are loyal to the brethren of Keene State. Through the grape vine (Jim) I heard Brandon Newbould would be there. He’s always tough and he destroyed my taint at the DHJones 10 miler. He’s from Alaska, so of course he’s tough. He was raised wrestling grizzlies.

Brandon: When I left Alaska to come back East I thought there wouldn’t be any rednecks out here. Then I met Ferenc. I’m comfortable around guys like that, and I thought one way or another that we would have a showdown out there – even though it really looked to me like Ferenc was beaten by Kim Kardashian in a trail race the previous week (look up the results, I’m not lying). Turns out it wasn’t much of a showdown, and I had to deal with a few other guys. I knew Todd Callaghan and JJ would be there. Todd races with the tenacity of a gila monster so I didn’t count him out, and JJ is sort of a wood nymph. That is, he’s a tricky little fella, and he’s dangerous. Mack the Knight showed up race-day, which was financially irresponsible. That struck me as a bold move so I was prepared for a fight with him. Then again he’s my teammate, but then again (again) I knew he would race ferociously. That last part turned out to be downright clairvoyant.

How did the race go?

Josh: I went to the race for two reasons; see some friends and kick some ass. Saw my friends in the parking lot then kicked their asses…haha. It went well but I had to work harder than ever, and I was very fortunate to win. Anytime you can win with tough competition, it means it went well (at the least). I committed to a race plan and executed it nicely. That course favors a runner like me.

Brandon: Have you ever played with porcupines? They have really unexpected range with their tails, that’s why people think they can shoot their quills (they can’t). This race was kind of like messing with a porcupine – I thought I had the upper hand, I was fine, then wham, I got nailed a few times. Mack took it out but I pulled him in on the first climb, then Ferenc got right on my ass and started quietly chanting a mantra. What a creep. I couldn’t tell what he was saying. Maybe it was “es ist ganz einfach,” like the guy in Saving Private Ryan right before he pushes the knife into his opponent. Because then Ferenc sort of gently eased by me (enjoy those pancakes, friend) and I was dead. I like my downhill running fine but it wasn’t there that day. JJ caught me, Todd caught MacKnight, Macknight caught Todd, I caught JJ, Macknight caught me, Gonads & Strife. That was the race up front. Oh, and Ferenc got out of sight on the second climb, turned into the forest and traversed around the mountain back to the course. At least that’s what I figure he did since I don’t know how else the guy put two minutes on all of us.

Ferenc: I love his interpretation of my heavy breathing as a mantra… hahaha. I breath like a fat kid running towards the last Twinkie on Earth (on all my runs). Haha

Post-race: Any lessons learned? What’s next?

Josh: I learned that I’m more fit than I thought I was, Brandon ran a marathon then didn’t leave his couch except to walk on hot coals (which I wish I knew before hand, I wouldn’t have worried as much about him catching me the last mile). The clinking and clanging ain’t change in my pocket but brass balls banging together (glad that sound is back). My race strategy and tactics were almost perfect.

Brandon: I learned that breathing heavily in Vermont is dangerous. After the race we were all hacking like it was an indoor mile in January, then all the next day I was continually alarmed by what I can only describe as vibrantly colored pollen jellyfish coming out of my lungs. I learned that next time Ferenc passes me I should probably trip him, and I learned that this is going to be a great mountain series. JJ ran that race on one leg and still had a good showing, and that precocious youngster MacKnight does not respect his elders. I’m all-in for the mountains this summer and I’m starting to train again now, so this is going to be a lot of fun.

And Christin Doneski reacts to this by just shaking her head and says “boys…”. Okay, I made that last part up, but it seemed like a funny reaction. Had to give her a shout out here since not only was she the first women’s masters runner, but she was the first woman of any age across the line and placed 11th overall. That’s pretty bad ass.

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