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  • 06 Sep 2019 1:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Tail of a Lost Cat

                Having less commitment to civilization, feline pets are more like boarders than dependent pets; unlike dogs or goldfish, they can strike out on their own, fully capable of making a living.  They can enjoy an unleashed pleasant afternoon under a birdfeeder, a walkabout lasting several days or a much longer adventure.  Such was the case with Ari, one of the race director’s childhood pets who launched himself into the woods of Dorset, Vermont and remained stubbornly AWOL for several years, until presumably memories of kibble, snuggles and a well-placed scratch on the chin inevitably drew him back. 

                And so, the Lost Cat half and full marathon and 50K retraces the scene of his adventures as we wandered up and down mountains, over highways and on the omnipresent Vermont dirt roads.  There are few events that can claim an appeal to everyone: mountain climbers, trail runners, road aficionados and even adventure racers, but this is one of them. 

                While adventure athletes typically run in teams and are expected to be competent in a variety of sports, we were all singletons equipped with only our packs and our running shoes.  Normally, adventure competitors receive their maps at check in, but we never did.  Try preparing for a long-distance event with no clue about terrain, elevation changes, aid station locations, etc.  Granted, we did know the precise distance we hoped to travel, but to safeguard landowners’ privacy, no maps were posted.  Anywhere.  There were no friendly “You’re almost there” signs, let alone distance indications to upcoming aid stations.  We were truly lost cats, seeming wandering aimlessly on a loopy course, retracing the steps of the fabled lost cat.  It was at once scary and liberating.


                I missed one turnoff, but it was totally my fault; others were not as lucky despite the course being well-marked.  I chalk it up to the dizziness of disorientation, of not having a true sense of where I was and where I should be heading.  Usually when I run a trail event, I may miss a marker or two, but still have a pretty good sense of where I should be heading.  Not here.  On my travels I encountered three fellow lost cats—two of whom regained their bearings and the other who passed me twice, going and coming.  He asked me if he were following the trail.  Baffled, I indicated the many markers, and thanking me profusely, he scurried on his way, never to be seen by me again.

                My downfall came from the assumption that the folks at Nor’east Trail Runs would present a mostly trail race with a few pavement stretches mainly to get to other sections of trail.  So basically, I trained for a trail marathon when I should have been including a lot more road work.  Ouch!  After roughly ten miles or so (who knew?) my feet in their relatively stiff Innovs felt as if a mountain lion had been smashing down on them.  We were warned about the two-mile highway section near the beginning and, while it seemed endless, made me think that “Hey, I could capture a fairly fast (for me) time.”  I forgot about the fact that we were also cautioned to expect “real Vermont hills.”  And while I totally relish the challenge of riding a roller coaster, it does not exactly sync well with cutoffs. 

                The trail sections reminded me somewhat of Merck Forest, Vermont where my friend Matt Miczek joined Nor’easter for a 25K snowshoe adventure trudging up Mt. Antone not once, but twice, hanging on to friendly trees to prevent falling backwards.  And that was with snowshoe crampons!  But in the end, what got to me was the final eight miles or so road section.  The hills were fun, and it was entertaining and, I admit somewhat discouraging, to view the beautiful country houses and awesome gardens, but the flat maze in the middle section seemed to continue indefinitely, with little plan as to where it was headed.  At one point I thought I had it figured out, but then the road took yet another discouraging turn. 


                How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s all downhill from here!”  How many times have you actually believed it?  Well, this time it was true.  The final downhill mile began hopefully on pavement, soon converted to typical Vermont dirt road and then degenerated into Ferngully construction.  At one point we had to climb over a five-foot pile of stones to navigate a section that was more riverbed than actual jeep-friendly passageway.  What a great ending! 

                Next time I might consider hybrid sneakers and an Osprey (backpack, not pet) as a few times I found myself rationing the contents of my water bottle.  While it worked out fine, had it been a hot day I would have been in trouble.  The neat thing about the Lost Cat is that it delivers for every type of runner and while your adventure does not have you shifting from running to kayak to belay, you do get to alternate between different forms and styles.  Neither the pure trail runner or the pure road racer is favored, but rather a competent mixture between the two.  And then there are those real cats from 2nd Chance Animal Shelter waiting at the finish to provide emotional support after Sunday’s 5 and 10K, should you decide to stay in town, explore Dorset and either double or volunteer.


    Do check out www.netrailruns.comfor their winter schedule of snowshoe races!

    By laura clark


  • 06 Sep 2019 1:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Advanced Marathoning, 3rd edition, by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas.  Human Kinetics, 2019.

                I have come to accept the fact that I have a rigid personality. Children’s toys must be returned to their correct receptacles, regardless of the fact that for kids play is a freewheeling jumble of imaginative possibilities.  Books are meant to be read cover-to-cover, no furtive peeking allowed.  And I approach magazines, which beg to be flipped through, in a similar fashion, starting with the editor’s notes and all the way to parting shots.  Sad, but true.  Little did I suspect that when I opened Pete Pfitzinger’s 3rd edition of Advanced Marathoning, I was about to experience a major breakthrough. 

                Yes, I did dutifully read the forward, but that was a given being that it was penned by Molly Huddle.  Although we have never met face-to-face, Molly and I are connected by our mutual friend Diane Sherrer, a Finger Lakes coach and sportswriter, who tragically died of cancer.  Diane encouraged Molly to carry on, when as a high schooler, she felt she could never measure up.  Diane was there in the rain, sick and all, to present me with a dollar store princess crown after my first 50 miler. 

                So, with this awesome beginning, did I continue reading in my customary die-hard pattern?  Nope.  A quick scan of the chapter listings indicated a few departures from the first two editions.  I had done my homework, checking out coffee-stained and dog-eared previous editions from the library.  Expectedly, profiled athletes had changed over time and the training tables were less rigid to account for modern lifestyles, but I was surprised to discover that entire chapters had been added.  The mailman delivered my copy two weeks before my first marathon of the season, The Lost Cat in Dorset, Vermont.  A bit too late to provide training advice, but handy with the tapering suggestions.  Whenever I was tempted to overreach, I consulted that section.  Sometimes I obeyed; sometimes not, but at least I had a rough plan.

                Then it dawned on me.  My next marathon was four weeks away, Nipmuck Trail Marathon in Ashford, Connecticut.  I located the new section on “Multiple Marathoning,” with suggestions on what to do if your next event is 12, 10, 8, 6 and foolishly 4 weeks away.  Apparently, all I had to do was recover and taper with a few medium-long runs thrown in to assuage guilt.  So a week after Lost Cat I found myself at the Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts 8 Mile Uphill Road Race, with an off-the-books downhill return to my car.  Ouch!  Not exactly sure if that is what the authors had in mind. 

                Now that I am in serious taper mode, I turned to the new section on the “Older (And Wiser) Marathoner” to see where I had gone wrong.  I may be older, but the preceding scenario leaves my wisdom in doubt.  One takeaway is the realization that although I still go long, it is more difficult to make myself go fast.  Sort of like the last three-fourths of a race where you figured you have suffered enough.  Except this is my life and not a race.  My other realization? I have signed up for a strength training class.  After work and after the days get dark. My summertime vacation from resistance work, while granting me a few more hours of scarce northeast outdoor daylight, did nothing to nudge my body into race shape.

                And yes, I did read the rest of the book, but thoroughly enjoyed the liberating experience of extracting the advice I needed immediately.  If you own the first or second edition, do consider updating with the third.  As a librarian, I recognize that often there is little reason for yet another edition of a book except to boost a repeat round of income, but this is not the case here.  While the structure of the basics is the same, there is so much new material that you will essentially be perusing a familiar format with more relevant and expanded information.

    Reviewed by laura clark


  • 06 Sep 2019 1:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kicksology:  The Hype, Science, Culture & Cool of Running Shoes, by Brian Metzler.  Velo Press, 2019

                As a kid, I anticipated the moment every summer when I would open a new box of Keds, smell the freshly glued rubber and close my eyes, envisioning outracing my friends in a game of Capture the Flag.  Comparable to the similarly addictive thrill of inhaling a freshly opened box of September crayons, both landmark events offered the promise of unlimited possibilities.    As an adult, nothing has changed.  Feeling rather smug that my chosen primary sport requires no mechanical fix-it skill, no entourage of complicated equipment, my motto has always been “Have sneakers will travel.”  Sure, heart rate monitors, cell phones and GPS devices have intruded somewhat, but they can still remain a matter of choice, not necessity. With the exception of the barefoot advocates, all you really need is a pair of sneakers.  Is it any wonder then, that our craving for perfection fixates on this truth?

                Brian Metzler, founding editor of Trail Runner, is a confirmed shoe addict who has wear-tested hundreds of pairs of sneakers in his quest to discover the magic bullet that will propel him to fame and injury-free glory.  Now we too can run in his shoes and gain access to his hard-earned insights.  The result is a fascinating journey from the early Boston Marathon’s leather uppers, to Bill Bowerman’s long-suffering wife’s waffle iron, on to Phil McKnight’s Just Do It! marketing brilliance and then a fast-forward to Hokas, Altras and hi-tech unaffordable models.

                Basically, Metzler is on a quest to coax a PR run from a middle-aged, increasingly injury-prone body. Along the way he rediscovered the truth of Dr. George Sheehan’s “We are each an experiment of one.”  Which explains in part why we get so attached to the perfect pair of shoes when we are lucky enough to find a brand and model that seems “made for us.” And once that happens, do we, like Metzler, bombard the shoe company when seemingly minor tweaks are added to a favorite model, or do we simply hoard a supply for the inevitable rainy day?  For as Metzler explains, companies are, in fact, out to make a buck and are therefore compelled to market “new and improved” tweaks.  Ironically, it is from the originally small start-up brands, like Phil Knight’s Nike, or Hoka or Altra with seemingly less at stake, where game-changing innovation usually occurs.

                And so on to expensive tech with Nike’s Vaporfly.  For folks budgeting for the Boston Marathon entry fee a mere $250 for a magic bullet sneaker with a guaranteed qualifier built in would seem a small price to pay for living the dream. But as Metzler discovered, shoes like that are designed for elite bodies sporting elite speed, folks who are capable of running not a few, but 26, 5-minute miles strung together in rapid succession.

                Never one to give up, Metzler then turns his sights to the latest trends in custom-made shoes.  After all, in a sport where 50 to 70 percent of recreational runners are sidelined by injuries every year, the most obvious fix would be the shoe.  Similar to the design-your-own-bear studios, runners can, for a price, select colors and basic components.  On the horizon, however, are shoes with mechanical propulsion feedback, designed to sense the particular way in which your “experiment of one” interfaces with the ground. And I totally get the appeal. With my left foot slightly larger than my right, I am forced to suffer through compromised toenails or a floppy fit.

                Although Metzler barely mentions it, more worrisome to me is the fact that this expensive equipment may trend toward an upwardly mobile population, leaving talented but less wealthy individuals unable to compete on an equal footing.  And what about internationally?  Remember those elite carbon fiber compression swimsuits that created such controversy at the last Summer Olympics?  How much success is due to the athlete and how much to his sponsors?

                Either way, though, as Metzler concludes, we ordinary athletes could most likely gain more from strengthening our bodies than by seeking a special magic bullet.  But it is not nearly as much fun!

    For further reading:

    Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, by Kenny Moore.  There is more to this complex Renaissance Man than a mere waffle iron.

    The Boys of Winter, by Charles Sanders.  Learn about the 22 young men from Adams, MA who lived for nothing more than a perfect black diamond Thunderbolt run down Mt. Greylock. Upon hearing their country’s call, they formed the core of World War II’s famed 10th Mountain Division. Those who returned included Bill Bowerman and the developers of Sugarbush, Vail and Jackson Hole.

    Even today folks of all ages skin or snowshoe up Thunderbolt as a winter rite of passage.  It is worth a trip!

    http://www.thunderboltskirunlcom/skirunners.htm

    http://www.thunderboltskirunners.org

    Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE, by Phil Knight.  Trace the journey of the original start-up shoe company that revamped brand marketing.  Disney move over.


  • 25 Jun 2019 3:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sports Nutrition Handbook: Eat Smart. Be Healthy. Get on Top of Your Game, by Justyna and Krzysztof Mizera.  Velo Press, 2019.

     

                Athletes searching for a workout edge that does not involve possible overtraining are often drawn to investigate nutritional science.  And then, like me, they find themselves bewildered and in over their heads.  What is the optimal combination of protein, carbs and fat pre- and post-workout?  And where on that scale does The Wall reside? What supplements are beneficial and which are ineffective or downright harmful?  It seems like the more you read the more confusing things become.

                Enter the Mizeras, nutritionists and trainers, who have worked with both elite and everyday athletes in disciplines such as running, cycling and bodybuilding.  By focusing separately on carbohydrates, proteins and fats, they attempt to isolate the various components of an effective diet.  To their credit, they manage to do this in simplified layman’s language without lapsing into scientific jargon.  Taken individually, the chapters make sense.  But there is so much information, by the time I worked my way through mentally eating and drinking, my brain had hit overload.   

                While numerous case studies furnish real-life examples, what really made a difference was reviewing each chapter, relying this time on the plentiful charts, tables and green-highlighted asides to provide a clarifying roadmap.  And the sample recipes feature readily identifiable ingredients, making me believe I might be able to handle creating their salmon burgers from scratch. Perusing the sample snack and meal plans for various sports was where I really got into trouble, however.  Calculated to the .1 of caloric, carb, fat and protein intake, the optimal combinations are more math than I am willing to undertake, and since I am by no means a sponsored athlete, beyond my job description.  Still, if you are looking for that extra edge to help you crush your Boston qualifier, it would all be worth it.

                And while the authors seem fully aware of the dehydration/hyponatremia debate, it appears that while they stress the importance of electrolytes, they favor a sloshing stomach approach.  Having just finished re-reading Good To Go, Christie Aschwanden’s critique of recovery products, I am inclined to believe the studies she cites that mention most elite marathoners cross the finish line marginally dehydrated.  And they are still alive! According to Samuel Cheuvront, of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, while dehydration certainly contributes to heat-related illnesses, it is not generally the cause of heatstroke.  I am even more inclined to trust in my Dad’s saying, “The truth lies somewhere in between.”  Witness Usain Bolt’s McDonald’s chicken nugget Olympic fueling strategy, where he opted for formula food rather than unfamiliar offerings.

      And so, while I have learned much about sports nutrition from this book, I still tend to assume a somewhat lax stance toward filing a detailed flight plan.  This probably has more to do with my mindset—I have never been known to follow a marathon training plan, a lapse I sometimes regret.  Sometimes on the surface it works, as in this past weekend’s trail race when I won the age group honey jar, but only because the first place groupie neglected to claim the prize!  Ultimately is a matter of personal choice and what you fervently believe works best for your body.

     Reviewed by laura clark

  • 19 May 2019 7:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sport Smoothies:  More than 65 Recipes to Boost Your Workouts & Recovery, by Fern Green.  Velo Press, 2019.

    I must admit I have been a hit or miss (mostly miss) smoothie drinker.  I know they are quick and easy to blend and provide, at the very least, an encouragement to drink more liquid pre-and post-workout.  Pre-, I am just in a hurry to get out there and as for post-, I do sip water on my runs and figured I had it covered.  For me, smoothies are rather like stretching, a debatable ritual, reserved for rare moments of free time.

                Fern Green, a chef, food stylist and author, seems to understand exactly where I am coming from, making implementation as pain-free as possible.  Individual sections: Pre-Workout, Post-Workout & Recovery, Muscle Building, and Carb-Loading are preceded by a tan two-page chart detailing calories, protein, fat, carbs, fiber and sodium for each recipe, enabling you to pinpoint location by merely flipping through a sea of white paper.  There is a supplemental Table of Contents on the front cover flap, facilitating easy access to appealing recipes.

                I shared the volume with a friend, Alex Raftery, who is a Culinary Institute of America chef and she was impressed by the eye and texture appeal.  Pages are sturdy and would stand up to frequent use without tearing. (I did spill a bit and discovered that, if attacked instantly, most evidence can be wiped clean with a paper towel!)  She was particularly impressed by the layout: a picture of the 4 to 6 ingredients needed on the left side and the resulting shake on the right, accompanied by concise directions and nutritional benefits.  A food stylist’s delight!  The only drawback to the format was that the book had a bouncy binding.  The pages would not lie flat, a disadvantage when you need both hands to measure and slice.

                Many of the ingredients are those you might have on hand already: bananas, strawberries, blueberries, yogurt, spinach.  Others might take some shopping: coconut or almond milk, chia seeds, Medjool dates, almond butter.  But none are so exotic as to necessitate searching out specialty stores. For my first batch, I selected smoothies which relied on basics like bananas, strawberries and yogurt and for liquids, chose coconut milk and water. In this way, I was able to blend a variety of drinks without excess shopping. For my next round, I plan to sample a few unfamiliar ingredients, easily getting an introduction to various new foods combined with old favorites.

    I brought the first batch, Yo Strawberries and Pink Basil to our Saratoga Stryders Mix-It-Up-Mondays casual trail runs.  Yo Strawberries was a big hit, with a familiar pink milkshake color.  Since folks were rushing to the trailhead directly from work, they appreciated the fact that I was able to whip up the concoction that morning, seal it in a thermos and have a sip-and-drive snack.  The recovery drink was less successful.  I am not quite sure why, but perhaps the combination of basil and strawberries is an acquired taste or else folks were in too much of a hurry to get home.

    While I had occasionally blended a random selection of smoothie ingredients, I was never really certain if what I had concocted would enhance my workout.  Now I can confidently match my nutrition to my training plan, increasing my liquid intake beyond plain water as well as painlessly adding more fruits and veggies to my diet.

     

    Reviewed by laura clark

     

     

     

     

     

               

     


  • 19 May 2019 7:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    RunLites by Mangata reviewed by Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian. Photo above by Pamela Delsignore at Moreau State Park.

    Originally published May 8, 2019, on TrailRunner.com. Photo of Laura Clark by Erin McCabe.


    RunLites are an amazingly versatile hand held light and must-have item that should take up residence in every runner’s gear bag. I went from being admittedly skeptical to totally sold.

    The Nitty-Gritty:

    RunLites are sold separately in two different parts:

    • A pair of LED lightweight USB rechargeable light units with two settings each of 40 lumens and 80 lumens along with a two-pronged charge cable. $24.95
    • Your choice of open-fingered gloves, polar fleece mittens or winter gloves or sling carrying devices. To clarify, the sling does not mean you broke your arm and are going for a run anyway, but a summer-time alternative which additionally can be worn over a favorite pair of good luck gloves. Prices vary with the mittens and gloves going for $32.95, the half gloves for $24.95 and the slings for $19.95.

    In this way you could conceivably order one pair of RunLites that you could interchange among different carrying devices depending on the weather.

    The product I tested was the half-glove. I drew black, but if you are into expressing your inner self through your choice of running gear, know that there are a plethora of styles and colors to choose from, all in a breathable fabric with UV protection.

    During my initial test runs I had two basic concerns:

    The square, compact RunLites fit into the glove by means of a velcro’d front pocket, with strips on the back and front of the pocket as well as the unit, allowing the lights to protrude outside the pocket. With all the jostling that trail running entails, I was concerned that the packs would fall out, or at the very least, wiggle around preventing deliberate focusing. Not the case, and I soon learned to stop worrying.

    My biggest concern had to do with the intensity and span of the illumination. Again, a nonissue. My first foray sensibly took place on the familiar trails behind my house. As I live in the country, dark means dark, with no ambient mall lighting or car headlights to contend with. Naturally, I had forgotten to carry a just-in-case headlamp, so I was totally dependent on my untested hand lights. With a wingspan of 40 feet there was more than enough power to light up the trail. I almost felt as if I were running in daylight. Moreover, the ability to hand-direct the beam wherever I wanted saved me from having to tilt my head up, down and all around, distracting my eyes from the trail. For a night run on unfamiliar trails, it would make sense to pack and additional headlamp. And as the initial charge is advertised to last from 8-10 hours, an epic race would naturally call for several backup LED light units.

    Pleasant Surprises:

    My final testing included an evening group trail run, and while we managed to beat the descending darkness, I turned on my lights anyway because the trail was especially rooted and rutty. The folks beyond the bend ahead of me were delighted to discover they could keep track of where I was when they were as much as 5-7 minutes ahead of me! This would be a perfect way to keep tabs on your friends during a totally dark run.

    It wasn’t until this time that it was both not raining or snowing and warm enough to run without a jacket. At a loss as to where to stash my car key, I finally discovered that each glove contained a small, secure velcro’d pocket. Problem solved! Not only that, but allergy season had just begun and I made use of the hitherto unnoticed terry cloth thumb covering.

    It snowed here two days ago, but I have discovered that in almost-freezing temperatures I can still tolerated naked fingertips if I supplement with a pair of hand warmers.

    I can think of many other off-label uses for these lights: wearing even in the daylight when running on the roads to alert on-coming traffic, midnight camping excursions to the porta-potty, walking the dog…and my favorite, being able to return from a run and retrieve every last bit of mail from my roadside mailbox!

    This is one of those gear items that I can’t imagine how I ever did without. Even better, I now have a gift idea for my granddaughter when she heads off to college next year—perfect for late night study break runs or simply navigating her way around a darkened campus.



  • 01 May 2019 2:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This article originally appeared on Trailrunner.com, 4/25/2019

    Training for the Uphill Athlete: A Manual for Mountain Runners and Ski Mountaineers, by Kilian Jornet, Steve House and Scott Johnston. Patagonia, 2019. Reviewed by Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian. Images courtesy of Patagonia. Above photo: Steve House and Kilian Jornet on top of the Täschorn, Switzerland. Photo: Steve House Collection.

    In the April, 2019 Trail Runner Magazine, Doug Mayer penned “Running to Extremes’” where he expressed his concern that too many runners, inspired by social media posts, are venturing onto alpine terrain without having acquired the necessary skills to make it out safely.

    Here, in the Uphill Athlete, follow author Steve House as he discovers a similar lesson, and consequently taps into Scott Johnston’s 30-plus years of training experience and the incomparable Kilian Jornet’s hard-won insights. Although I revel in uphill challenges, regarding them as speed work in disguise without the stress of interval training, the feats of endurance depicted here have nothing in common even with the notoriously strenuous Mt. Washington Uphill Road Race. Except, perhaps, a willingness to train hard and suffer more than the average flatlander.

    What struck me at first glance was this book’s similarity to the amazingly detailed Jack Daniels’ Running Formula, the gold standard for countless college coaches. Presented in the Uphill Athlete are the periodization levels and training plans requisite for aspiring alpinists, promising great rewards for those willing to put in the work. The difference, of course, is the reality that adherence to proper training could be a matter of life and death and not just a finish line triumph.

    After reading this book, I am awed at all that goes into Kilian’s seemingly effortless mountain conquests. And even more impressed that the authors are quick to point out the current concern about overtraining syndrome, which has felled so many promising athletes like author Steve House and Olympian Ryan Hall. As Christie Aschwanden points out in her scientific expose of recovery products, Good to Go, the best and cheapest recovery tool is sleep accompanied by an awareness of what your body is capable of at each particular stage of your life.

    To offset this somewhat grim reality, the journey is replete with panoramic, Sound of Music photos where it is so tempting to squint a bit and superimpose an image of yourself over whatever seemingly insignificant human is summiting the mountain. And better still, some of those shots depict hardy ski mountaineers and skimo racers. This is particularly timely. I have spoken with Mike Owens, who teaches Skimo at Magic Mountain in Vermont and he informed me that Skimo is currently the fastest growing winter sport. It harkens back to the early days of skiing when the lack of ski lifts led enthusiasts like my husband to skin up a mountain and then enjoy a wild downhill reward. I was thrilled to learn about this sport—one which I fully intend to experiment with next winter.

    Highlights for me are the inspirational athlete essays, providing real-life examples of the principles illustrated in each section. Kilian Jornet and Jeff Browning figure prominently as well ski mountaineers Javier Martin de Villa and Luke Nelson. But my favorite essay, and significantly the book’s conclusion, was written by Emelie Forsberg (Sky Runner) who writes, “I do not run to compete. I do not train to win races. I run because it brings me joy.” This reinforces the authors’ belief that despite all the exercises and schedules they present, training should above all be fun. How many times have you entered a race on a course you have never explored, with no expectations, only to discover that your more relaxed attitude produced an amazing result?

    Even if, like me, you will never summit the Jungfrau Marathon or run the John Muir Trail, this book enables you to discover a kinship with those who do, as we are all ultimately runners striving to do our best.

    --laura clark



  • 03 Apr 2019 1:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Running Outside the Comfort Zone: An Explorer’s Guide to the Edges of Running, by Susan Lacke.  Velo Press, 2019.

     

                Susan Lacke had never felt at ease in her surroundings.  As a lip-reading deaf person with an odd accent she had never integrated into either regular society or the community of deaf sign language speakers.  It was only during her first 5K that she finally felt that she belonged.  No one really cared that she couldn’t hear, only that her legs could propel her from start to finish.  Shortly after, she became a freelance writer, again in a world where hearing was secondary to written communication.

                But then something began to happen.  Stressed out over trying to qualify for Boston, running seemed more like a job than a release.  Trying to regain a semblance of her own self, Susan did what many writers before her had done (Bill McKibben in Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously, and Kirk Johnson in To the Edge: A Man Death Valley and the Mystery of Endurance), using her profession to restart her joy.  McKibben and Johnson were mourning the death of a loved one; Susan, the death of a lifestyle.                                                               But unlike McKibben and Johnson, Susan did not try to reinvent herself:  rather, she revamped her outlook by approaching her chosen sport in an adventurous manner.

    She ditched Boston and focused only on those events that were outside her comfort zone. Some undertakings, like the Grand Blue Citizen’s Mile, part of the Drake Relays, seem positively doable.  But not to Susan who, like many of us, are still haunted by overbearing phys ed teachers. And I totally get it.  A bullying gym teacher was the prime reason I refused to go out for basketball in high school, despite wanting to be on the team with my friends.                                     Other events, like the Caliente Bare Dare 5K in Florida are outside of nearly everyone’s comfort zone.  And many are just bizarre and a testimony to the author’s internet surfing skills.  Who heard of the Red Bull 400 in Park City, Utah, an uphill run on the ski jump built for the 2002 Olympics where rope netting was erected to keep athletes from slipping backwards and oxygen masks were stationed every 400 meters?  Or the Frozen Dead Guy Days Coffin race where costumed teams tote coffins in honor of Grandpa Bredo, originally cryogenically frozen but now relying on dry ice from charitable neighbors?  Another winner is England’s Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll which initially seems weird but benign:  you chase an eight pound wheel of cheese down a hill.  The catch?  The hill is pock-marked with ruts and divots which are impossible to avoid if you are truly competitive and frantically hurdling downward in search of supper.  More telling, no one is officially in charge so there are no signups and no liability.  There is no website.  Folks just show up at noon on the third Monday of May.

                Miraculously, due in no small part to Susan’s enthusiastic husband Neil, Susan did show up at all these events and survived to write about them.  But that is only part of the story.  Her real challenge came when she revisited her old neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona, where Carlos, her first coach and mentor had trained her and recently succumbed to cancer.  She dared herself to run the trails at their old stomping grounds and commune with her best friend.  Once more, I get it.  Since my husband’s death I have avoided the Finger Lakes National Forest, the site of the Finger Lakes 50s where my husband and I had camped and run every summer. As Susan comments, she had dodged South Mountain “…because I knew that when I came, I’d have to acknowledge the present.  Things were different now.  But it was going to be okay.” Perhaps it is time for me to go back too….

                Each chapter is a self-contained adventure, written in a witty, often hilariously understated style that reveals, in a no-holds barred fashion, the author’s self-examination of her weaknesses, foibles and strengths and hints at future goals.  Most of all, in the words of her husband Neil, she recognizes that “There’s more than one way to be a runner.”  Are you ready to reset your running and expand your adventures and meet the place Where the Sidewalk Ends and the unexpected begins?

     

    Reviewed by laura clark

  • 03 Apr 2019 1:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Running Beyond: Epic Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning Races, text and photos by Ian Corless. White Lion Publishing, 2019.

                It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.  Edmund Hillary

     

                Once upon a time, the query most long distance runners found themselves defending was “Why would you want to run 26 miles?  I don’t even like to drive 26 miles!”  Nowadays that question has ramped up to encompass 100 and even 200 mile events.  Obviously, Edmund Hillary’s and Tenzig Norgay’s assault on Mt. Everest was just the starting line.  But was it?  Read Christopher McDougall’s Natural Born Heroes and discover the mountain prowess of ordinary civilian Cretans that enabled them to flummox the entire Nazi operation by kidnapping a German general.  Or, for a world view, delve into Ian Corless’ Running Beyond where he quotes pioneer Bruno Brunod:  “Older generations were already skyrunners.  My grandfather crossed the mountains working.”

                If this is news to you and you feel you need to catch up, there is no better resource for an overview than Running Beyond with photos, elevation profiles and course descriptions of 35 iconic international skyrunning and ultra events.  At first glance, this hefty, oversize volume would appear to be a typical coffee table book with Corless’ stunning pictures highlighting each race.  But wait! While some of the photographs are of the typical “get your scenics here” variety, others beckon you to partake of the runners’ experience –his agony as he struggles and his ecstasy as he skims over jagged rocks, seemingly not touching the ground.  And interspersed are old-fashioned black-and-white portraits and impressions.  As someone who thinks in color, I have always eschewed classic uncolorized films and even Ansel Adams’ elegant views of nature.  But this time, juxtaposed with the standard color, I finally get it.  The stark portraits, often featuring rakish angles and cut-off views, highlight the focused concentration required just to stay alive.  And through the black and white landscapes which echo this struggle, we experience every nuance in the lichen-covered mountain rock and scraggly, straining plant life. 

                Each chosen race is assigned its own brief chapter, making it easy to hunt and peck.  Skipping around, I first visited those events that were familiar to all runners:  Western States, Everest Trail Race, Comrades, Mount-Blanc, before branching out into the unknown.  Perhaps because of their mythical qualities or simply a desire to  probe deeper into Harry Potter’s roots, I  discovered myself inordinately attracted to those races closely tied to the fell running heritage:  Dragon’s Back 300K in Wales, Lakeland 100 in England  and Glen Coe Skyline 55K in Scotland. I could picture myself extending the 17th and early 18th century pedestrian heritage of the British Isles into this century.

                Besides inviting you to imagine possibilities, or at the very least, daydream yourself into a different body and different set of circumstances, many of the author’s interviews with athletes and race directors provide insight into why something like skyrunning or ultra running which “seemed like a good idea at the time” can be a good idea during the heat of competition.  While we can expect the moment when we wonder why we subject our bodies to such duress, as Corless states, “Amphitheatres of rock, grass and trail have replaced the Coliseum and today our gladiators are runners…Running Beyond is a gateway to what is possible.”

     

    Reviewed by laura clark

  • 12 Mar 2019 3:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Trifecta Finish to 2019 Snowshoe Season

                The end of any season presents a common dilemma regardless of the sport.  Do you stick to your usual game plan, or in anticipation of rest days to come, do you throw caution to the winds and ramp up the intensity?  Matt Miczek and I opted for the latter approach.  We commenced our trifecta weekend warmup with Garnet Hill 5K, tackled the Nor’Easter 25K on Sunday, took a deep breath on Monday for a much-needed laundry day and then attempted our cooldown on Tuesday at the Gore Mountain Citizen’s Races 3 miler. 

                This was the second year that the Dion Snowshoe Series visited Garnet Hill and we were greeted by a sunny, mildly chilly day with perfect snow conditions.  The trick for Matt and me was to turn in a credible performance yet remain fresh for the following day. Typical for a ski venue, the route was up and down with a few level stretches and a challenging break for some woodsy single track. For the first time, I actually looked around a bit and nostalgically noted trails my daughters and I used to cross country ski.


    Jim Tucker – Garnet Hill

     

    As I was finishing my loop, I glanced up and noted that Emily Stanton, the Gore Race Director, was just taking off for her 3K.  In typical fashion I thought, “I could double up and join her for a slightly warmer cooldown.”  Fortunately, I remembered Sunday’s commitment and reigned in my enthusiasm.  But next year our Stryder group has already planned to bring our skis and take full advantage of our race day trail pass.

                On Sunday Matt and I gave my car, Sir Thomas, a break and piled a superabundance of gear into his vehicle.  In retrospect we should have taken Sir Thomas, with his serious studs, as we encountered unexpected snow squalls during the final haul up to the Merck Forest & Farmland Center outside of Dorset, VT.  Mentally, I revised my clothing options, glad I had not packed frugally.  We arrived at the Sap House in time to see the 50Kers complete either their first long pull up Mt. Antone or the tagalong “baby” loop which we would soon learn was anything but babyish.

                We were greeted warmly by race organizers Eliza and Adam, who issued us a mandatory survival kit: hand warmers, laminated map and a space blanket.  While I should have felt reassured that I had these items on my person, this fact did little to alleviate my pre-race nerves.  Normally, I mostly worry about selecting an optimum clothes combination, but this brought home the fact that tackling a 3.5 mile ascent into the Taconic Mountains, with some grades at 45% and over 4,000 feet of total elevation gain was serious business.

                  I have completed PEAK Snowshoe Marathon three times, with a net elevation gain of approximately 8,000 feet, but that was in the beginning of the decade. PEAK no longer exists and has been replaced by FRIGUS in the same Killington, Vermont area.  Still, with the promise of similar elevation, I was hoping for a comparable format at Merck.  PEAK consisted of four 10K loops, half up, half down.  For me, this made it an “easy” marathon because at the beginning of each new round I knew I had only to trudge upward three miles and then enjoy a mostly runnable descent.  The tricks you mind plays to get you through this stuff!

                At first glance upward at Old Town Road, it appeared as if I might expect a similar journey.  We soon turned onto beautiful woodsy single track for a doable ascent.  Except then we started to head downwards…Had I reached the top and failed to stop and enjoy the view?  Not likely.  After a bit the trail steeped upward once more, this time into deep snow where the trick was to mimic your neighbor’s footsteps.  Those climbers lucky enough to discover a match were more fortunate than I who found myself struggling in the wake of different-sized paces.  At the steepest point (natch) Matt and I ran into each other as he was cautiously descending and I was posting upward.  We met at the same savior tree and gave it a grateful hug.  As Matt watched me go, I demonstrated the climbing technique I had invented at PEAK:  Keep your free hand ready to latch onto any and all puller trees and dig your water bottle into the snow to provide an extra point of contact.  It worked great for balance, meaning for all intents and purposes I was crawling rather than running upright.  Oh well, at least I didn’t fall down backwards…

                Like many Adirondack Mountains, the Mt Antone Taconic version features a false summit.  From a nearly prone position I glanced up (something you are not supposed to do when “running” up a mountain as it is very discouraging).  I saw: A Summit!  All too soon, I discovered it wasn’t the correct summit but it did speed me up a bit.  After a much easier but still considerably slanty journey through frosted trees from the screen set of Frozen, I did pause to enjoy the view and eat some of my peanut butter and cheese crackers, which contained so much fat and salt and other bad-for-you artificial ingredients there was no way they could possibly freeze.  Currently, I am reading Running Beyond by Ian Corless with otherworldly photography and scary course descriptions of the world’s iconic skyrunning races.  While Mount Antone was not a mountain with attitude, I truly felt as skyrunners must:  suspended between earth and sky, floating somewhere in the clouds encased inside a private adventure bubble.

     

    Ben Kimball – Merck

     

                Coming back down to earth, I descended the Old Town Road once more, providing a source of entertainment for puffy cloud-like formations of bleating sheep.  At this point I felt like latching onto one and using it as a pillow, but with the thought of the baby loop to come, I refrained.  Matt and I shared a dropbox at this juncture and I gleefully jettisoned my water bottle for an unencumbered few kilometers.  I helped myself to his applesauce pouches, another product that does not freeze under duress and threaten a huge dental bill.  On the way out, I met Blue Jacket Lady, who was looking pretty discouraged.  This puzzled me as she had just completed the baby loop.  Then I started downward and still downward on a nice woodsy trail and I got it.  What goes down must go up.  Mentally that was more difficult than climbing the mountain which I had fully expected to be there.

                Round 2:  As I ticked off each milestone, I kept on telling myself, “Done!  I won’t have to do that one again.” On the way back as I traversed the ridgeline, I approached a time warp where the tree-lined precipice and huts below looked exactly like those seen at PEAK during a similar juncture in the race.  At what point do all races start to look the same?  This happens to me a lot and I would be curious to know if it does to others also, or if it is simply my mind’s way of dealing with stress.  Then, another applesauce, another not so babyish baby loop and another stretch across bare Arctic farmhouse tundra populated by draft horses and warm birds cheerfully chirping in the barns, and I was DONE!  Usually at the end of races, you get a warm afterglow feeling that enables you to stay out and cheer on new arrivals, but not here.  The tundra did me in and I headed directly towards the Sap House and parked myself in front of the heat blower. 

                When I came to, I was surprised to discover that not only did I earn a vial of finisher’s maple syrup, but a larger carafe for woman’s winner of the 25K.  I was actually the last woman standing as others had dropped.  I may not be fast but at least I proved I can stick it out.  Not only that, in the raffle that I was not present to win due to the fact that I was still running, Adam and Eliza were gracious enough to set aside my free entry to their August Lost Cat half, full or 50K.  I am so excited to return for a Nor’easter summer event!

                A day later, at Gore Mountain, Matt and I finally got to do our cooldown.  After all, who wants to cool down after running for hours? We were both surprised that post- event euphoria carried us through, with Matt pulling off his fastest time of the series.  So much for the cautionary tale about resting days, months, years, after major efforts.  By the next day, however, reality caught up and it was all I could do to make it through a workday.  But by stringing together a stage race like this one, we topped off 2019 with a trio of events we will long remember and feel proud of.    


    Jen Ferriss - Gore


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The Saratoga Stryders, a 501(c)(3) affiliate chapter of the Road Runners Club of America. P.O. Box 1467, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

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