Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fall Racing Recap

Just a quick post to let you know what I've been up to...

Following the North Coast 24 hour, it took nearly a week for the swelling to subside enough to see my ankles again, and another week of sore, easy jogging until I started feeling somewhat back to normal.  Within a couple of weeks, though, I was back on the track, helping Laura prepare for her crack at TNF, and starting to feel pretty good.  With some low-key local events offering a nice opportunity to socialize with friends and training partners, I put together a small fall season to keep myself fresh and engaged in preparation for my next big outing.

Dr. Mike's Doggie Duathlon
photo: Michele Halstead
First up was the inaugural Dr. Mike Doggie Duathlon.  Dr. Mike is one of my great friends and training buddies, and a true legend of the local triathlon scene; he is a multiple-time USAT All-America and has been ranked #1 nationally in his age group.   For the past several years Mike has battled MS, though it hasn't been much of a fight; he basically did not let it slow him down at all, and if anything has actually gotten a bit faster, at least in the running discipline.  Mike put in a great winter of training and was in great shape heading into the spring, only to be blindsided with a diagnosis of metastatic melanoma.  He's battled on and appears to be making great headway, and is still in great shape; I run with him at least twice a week, and he hasn't lost a step despite surgery and chemotherapy.  So this duathlon was a great celebration of Mike and his incredible spirit and determination, as well as a fundraiser for the Melanoma Research Foundation.

My plan was to tune up the CX bike and cruise my way through an easy, fun day at the back of the back.   Unfortunately Phil had other ideas; he had just finished an epic day at Grindstone and wasn't up for running, so he badgered me into joining him on a relay team.  I ran the two 2-mile legs while Phil took care of the 12-mile bike segment.  This was theoretically a great idea, but it ensured that I'd have to run hard to put on a good show/not embarrass myself.  There was a challenge from a young post-collegian on the first leg, and I had to work pretty hard in cold, rainy conditions to split 11:11 for the opening two miles, giving Phil about a 20-second lead.  Phil managed one of the fastest bike splits of the day and gave me back the baton with enough cushion that I could run a relaxed, tempo-type effort on the second leg to secure an easy team victory.

Gump, at the start of the Monster Sprint
photo: Martin Weiner
Eight days later I abandoned Jodi and the girls in the midst of trick-or-treating for the New Paltz Monster Sprint.  Halloween is a big deal in our weird little town, with haunted houses, pumpkin-carving contests, and a huge parade that shuts down Main Street for much of the evening.  This was the second year that the Monster Sprint led off the parade; this is a one-mile out-and-back race from the finish of the parade, uphill to the start of the parade, and back down to the finish.  I figured I'd have a built-in advantage as Forrest Gump, but I didn't count on 4:05 miler Joe Gentsch showing up dressed as the Flash.  I was able to hang with Joe for the opening, uphill half-mile, actually leading for a few strides and making the turn only about three seconds behind, but he put me away quickly and easily on the way back down, running 4:50 to my 5:12.  Second place was enough to nab one of the very cool, real marble, headstone-shaped awards, though, so I was pretty happy with that.

Six days later Laura and I were the co-RDs for yet another ridiculous undertaking, the Apple Cider Donut Challenge.  Following on the heels of the New Paltz Pizza Challenge, we conceived a 50K loop that incorporated stops at six different orchards, each of which made their own apple cider donuts.  Each runner would have to eat two donuts at each stop for a dozen total donuts, or face time penalties for failure to finish them.  Time bonuses were awarded for drinking hard cider at those orchards that make their own.

Four donuts to go.
photo: Martin Weiner
We weren't really sure if anyone else would show up, but as it turned out, ten of us took off on a beautiful Saturday morning to eat our way around New Paltz and Gardiner.  Laura and I ran together and opened up a quick lead after the first donut stop, less than a mile into the race.  The course was mostly road and rail trail, and therefore didn't require any real marking except for one tricky section of trail, about half a mile long, that I had flagged with surveyor's tape the previous day.  Unfortunately, when we reached that section (just before donut stop #2, at the six-mile mark), the marks had all been taken down.  I let Laura run ahead and stopped to escort the rest of the field through that section, which was very difficult to follow due to thick leaf cover; by the time I reached the second orchard with the last of the stragglers, Laura had over twenty minutes on me, with Joe Gentsch (attempting his first-ever run of longer than 16 miles) following close behind her.  I settled into a nice, solid tempo, and eventually reeled in most of the field; by the fifth orchard (21 miles, donuts 9-10) I was only a few minutes behind Joe.  Those two donuts were pretty rough, though, compounded by the fact that I felt compelled to drink some cider, as I knew Joe had.  I started to struggle over the next few miles, wishing I could vomit but unable to make myself do it, and was doubting my ability to catch Joe--until I jogged into the final donut stop at mile 25 and found him sitting on a stone fence, caked in dried sweat, with a blank, glassy look in his eyes and half of a donut hanging out of his mouth.

Sometimes we forget that ultras are hard.

The fall stretch concluded, as always for me, with the Rockland Alumni XC Run, a 5K cross-country race at Bear Mountain with a team competition for alumni of Rockland-area high schools.  As always, this is one of my favorite days of the year, and the race is simultaneously one of the most fun and most painful experiences I have each season.  I have a separate website for that race, though, so I won't bore you here.

Generally it was a good fall, mixing these fun, slightly harder efforts in with a good solid training base.  None of these races required a taper or any extended recovery, so I've been able to build back up fairly consistently, and training is going pretty well heading into the winter; I'm pointing to Rocky Raccoon in February as my next big effort, so it will require a big push training-wise between now and then.  I'll have a few more posts coming before the end of the year, so keep checking back, and good luck to everyone in the lotteries this weekend.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ultrarunner Xmas: A TNF Preview

image: Lake Run Club

After surviving Thanksgiving with the North Carolina branch of the family (we're really not sure how everyone voted), I can finally turn my attention to Christmas.  I know, I can hear you from here: But aren't you Jewish? Of course I am!  Where did you think that nose came from?  I'm not talking about December 25.  I'm talking about the the first Saturday in December, the most hotly anticipated day on the ultrarunning calendar (after the last weekend in June).  The two biggest lotteries in the sport both take place while the top runners in the world are battling it out at the season's unofficial finale, the North Face championships in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco.

There's no real point in delving into the lotteries right now.  You can read about the lottery procedures for States and Hardrock.  The latter is a race that I'd love to pace one day--maybe this year if Brian or Phil gets in--but really have no interest in running myself.  States, though...I won't be able to retire until I get into that one.  Based on the odds, it's going to be a couple of years.

So let's ignore those depressing statistics and focus on the amazing battle that will take place on Saturday, as the deepest fields of the year on both the men's and women's side get ready to throw down, chasing the $10,000 winner's purse and a shot at UROY consideration (though I think Jim and Kaci might have those in the bag already).  iRunfar has their men's and women's previews up, and will be providing live coverage as usual on Saturday.  Here are one fan's picks:

The last two women's winners, Magdalena Boulet and Megan Kimmel, return for the rubber match in 2016.  Nine of the current GUR top 50 are in the field, second in depth only to WS100 this year.

1. Megan Kimmel
Current GUR rank: 58
2015 TNF finish: 1
The defending champ and skyrunning specialist has displayed fine form all year long.  I hesitate to pick against Magda, but Megan's results this year, combined with what was honestly a dominant performance last year, make her a slight favorite in my mind.

2. Magdalena Boulet
Current GUR rank: 10
2015 TNF finish: DNF
This season has not quite lived up to the dominating standard she set in 2014-2015, and even with a win here, she won't be able to unseat Kaci Lickteig to retain her GUR #1 ranking from last season.  But she still has the strongest credentials in the field at any distance, and her most recent big race (fifth at UTMB) was her best of the year.

3. Ruth Croft
Current GUR rank: NA
2015 TNF finish: 4
The Taiwanese-based athlete doesn't qualify for the GUR (I guess I'll have to change that for 2017) and flies a bit below the radar being somewhat hidden in the Far East.  But she backed up an impressive win at CCC with a fourth-place finish in 2015, and this year was third at Transvulcania.

4. Cassie Scallon
Current GUR rank: 17
2015 TNF finish: DNF
A 50-mile specialist of sorts and a former Sonoma champ, she's had a bit of an up-and-down year, but her dominant CR performance at Bandera, a top-20 at Comrades, and a relatively light race schedule this fall (she's raced only one ultra since mid-August) have me thinking she'll be rested and ready to contend for the podium.

5. Ida Nilsson
Current GUR rank: NA
2015 TNF finish: NA
The Swedish dynamo has won both the Rut 50K and Transvulcania this year; she should be in the hunt for the podium in this very deep field.

6. Lindsay Tollefson
Current GUR rank: 113
2015 TNF finish: NA
The only woman in the field with the flat speed credentials to rival Magda, has relatively little experience at the distance, but certainly has the chops.

7. Keely Henninger
Current GUR rank: 47
2015 TNF finish: 7
A very consistent year, with a win at Black Canyon and top finishes against stout fields at Gorge Waterfalls and Chuckanut.

8. Laura Kline
Current GUR rank: 42
2015 TNF finish: NA
I speak from personal experience when I say that she is an absolute beast and is going to be very, very tough.

9. Sarah Keys
Current GUR rank: 20
2015 TNF finish: NA
Another Skyrunning specialist, she certainly has the strength to handle the 11,000 feet of climbing on this course.

10. Emily Peterson
Current GUR rank: 45
2015 TNF finish: 5
Another top returner from last year, has been remarkably consistent this season.

Hedging my bets
11. Kasie Enman
12. Stephanie Howe Violett
13. Sandi Nypaver
14. Anna Mae Flynn
15. Helene Michaux

Eleven of the current GUR top 50, including (as with the women) the last two winners--Sage Canaday and Zach Miller--will line up on Saturday.  This will mark the first-ever meeting between Miller and Jim Walmsley, the odds-on favorite to be named the 2016 UROY.

1. Jim Walmsley
Current GUR rank: 1
2015 TNF finish: NA
How could you pick against him?  His only loss this year came when he ran off course at WS100 while on CR pace, with a one-hour lead, with less than 10 miles to go.  He has SEVEN course records this year, including a massive takedown of Max King's JFK CR two weeks ago.

2. Zach Miller
Current GUR rank: 32
2015 TNF finish: 1
The prospect of Zach and Jim--both speedsters with a penchant for running off the front--going head to head has most ultra fans salivating.  I wouldn't pick anyone over last year's champ/CR holder--except Walmsley.  Plus, Zach hasn't raced since UTMB in August, though I can't imagine he'd be here if he wasn't recovered and ready.

3. Sage Canaday
Current GUR rank: 34
2015 TNF finish: NA
The 2014 TNF champ, Sage has only three ultras to his credit this season, including a win at Black Canyon and a third at Transvulcania, before blowing up a bit following Jim's insane pace at WS en route to an 11th-place finish.  He's had some excellent results in short tuneups on the trails this fall.  It'll be interesting to see how he deals with what will likely be a very aggressive pace early on.

4. Hayden Hawks
Current GUR rank: 46
2015 TNF finish: NA
The surprise winner at Speedgoat this year, he was also fourth at the World Mountain Running Championships, and like Walmsley (and several others in the field) has blazing track speed.

5. Alex Nichols
Current GUR rank: 13
2015 TNF finish: DNF
He's not the most consistent runner in the field, but when he's right, he's very dangerous.  And this year, he's been awfully right, including a runner-up finish at Speedgoat and a win at Run Rabbit Run.

6. Cody Reed
Current GUR rank: 10
2015 TNF finish: NA
Three huge wins this year: Miwok, Tamalpa, and UROC.

7. Miguel Heras
Current GUR rank: NA
2015 TNF finish: NA
He's a two-time TNF winner, though not since 2012; at 41, he's not the every-race force he used to be.  But a win at Les Templiers this fall shows he's ready to go.

8. David Laney
Current GUR rank: 121
2015 TNF finish: NA
The 2015 UROY has had a quiet year, but showed his form with a fourth-place finish at UTMB in August.

9. Paddy O'Leary
Current GUR rank: 30
2015 TNF finish: 13
This northern California racer is tough and fearless, and he knows the course well.

10. Coree Woltering
Current GUR rank: 52
2015 TNF finish: NA
Was a top-20 contender even before three weeks ago, when he smoked a solo 5:30 at the Tunnel Hill 50-mile.

Hedging my bets
11. Jorge Maravilla
12. Tim Freriks
13. Dan Kraft
14. Brendan Trimboli
15. Eric Senseman

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Momentum Physical Therapy

I'm very happy to announce a new sponsorship of sorts; hopefully more of a partnership really.  I've been working off and on over the past few months with Dr. Greg Cecere at Momentum Physical Therapy in New Paltz, and we've decided to make him an official part of the Gunksrunner family.

A New Paltz native, Greg studied at the University of Delaware and then worked closely in New York alongside Chris Johnson, a well-known PT among runners in the city.  He opened Momentum, his private practice, upon returning to New Paltz a few years ago and has built a loyal following in the area.  Greg is a fairly accomplished runner himself, and many of his clients are runners (including Harbert Okuti, who Greg helped to top-20 finishes at Boston and New York this year), but he sees all manner of athletes and non-athletes alike.

photo: Lacey Seidman
Greg is not your average physical therapist.  While he certainly uses modalities familiar to anyone with PT experience, much of his philosophy and treatment relies upon his extensive knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms that underlie pain and dysfunction.  Of particular importance in this respect is the role that the brain and the nervous system plays in our perception of pain.  Greg understands this better than any health professional I've ever met, and is adept at tailoring treatment and recovery plans that adhere to these principles.

In addition to sports injuries, Greg treats patients for injury prevention, stride and gait analysis, post-surgical rehab, orthopedic rehab, and chronic pain.  He even makes house calls.  Last month he fixed a very persistent "lace bite" injury that had been bothering me for over a month after North Coast in basically two sessions.  Right now we're working on a chronic Achilles issue I've been ignoring for the past couple of years.  True to form, Greg is working on the neurologic pathways that govern feedback and pain responses, using noxious stimuli and movement retraining.

One aspect of treatment I'm eager to explore more with Greg is a pre-race routine that we tried prior to Cayuga Trails this spring.  I was in great shape and ready for a huge day, and Greg proposed a treatment that he thought might help spur me to reach my full potential on that day.  Unfortunately, I came down with Lyme disease (again!) the week before the race, so we never really got to see how that worked out.  I won't say too much more about it right now, but we're going to try again with some upcoming races in January/February, and I'll go into some more detail then.

Greg is a great guy and is completely dedicated to his patients.  I'm very excited to explore avenues by which we can advance this partnership moving forward.  In the coming weeks and months, I'll hopefully feature some of Greg's writing on this site, as well as some videos.  As I get up and running with my sports cardiology/exercise physiology career (more on that later as well, stay tuned), I'll be partnering with Greg to offer comprehensive coaching and sports medicine services, including PT, stride/gait analysis, and injury prevention and recovery.