Saturday, March 30, 2013

Getting Back To Training

So far training has been going along alright.  My hamstrings have been suffering from the Syracuse Half Marathon but I do have a significant month-long break from racing to train hard and rest hard.  The weather here in Up State New York has been nice as we are warming up for spring. I am eager to get back to solid training and to get ready for a fun summer of racing.  I have a full schedule that will probably continue to change as new opportunities come my way. As for now, my peak race for early summer will be the Cayuga Trail 50 miler June 8th. The competition is going to be fierce with the likes of Dave Mackey and Sage Canaday and many others. If  I can mix it up and compete well with these guys, then the skies will be the limit for myself and Mammut. I hope this race can act as a platform for Mammut to enter the trail running media scene.  Most people have no idea what Mammut is and they need to know.  I will also be racing at Cranmore for the USA Mountain Running Team July 21st which will also be  a big competition.  Loon Mountain, The Great Adirondack Trail Run and potentially some other races will be great events to test myself and my gear.

I will also provide my first series of product reviews on all of my new Mammut gear which has been the best collection of any form of running clothing I have encountered.  Check out Mammut people!  They make great stuff. Solid trail shoes, the best apparel, and wearing a mammoth is always "COOL!".

Today, I ran a 2 hour  rustic trail run out by Greek Peak Ski Resort up in Tuller Hill State Forest. I ran a solid 18 miles with some snowy sections forcing me to walk and post-hole most sections.

Had a nice run for April Fools Day.  After work, I headed out along the back sections of Virgil, NY up the steep hills.  The sun was out, it was windy, and snow showers often were blanketing the area.  I ran up and down the steep hills overlooking the lush countryside which was so magnificent.  Upstate New York really is a gorgeous place to be.  Once I came out along Route 13, I turned back and decided to navigate a gnarly uphill slope reminiscent of Loon Mountain with a super steep pitch up the face of a high hill which was a snowmobile trail.  I made it to the top, turned back around and bombed the downhill.  I headed back and truly got in a solid workout considering yesterday's long effort out on the snowy trails.  Today, I had some leg turnover but it was more of a relaxing distance run of 13 miles to just work the body and start keying myself for next month and the rest of the summer.  I hope to be in even better shape so that I can mix it up in the trail/ultra scene here in America.  I am primed and ready to go so truly it is just a matter of not getting lost and having that confidence to perform my best.

Thoughts for today---Hoka One One Shoes---They say they make you fly and I am curious to see if that is the case.

*Kahtoola and Redfeather snowshoes----Curious how their snowshoe lines perform.

*I love my sponsor Mammut so much and cannot wait to get some more gear!!!!!  (Best technical apparel on the planet not to mention the best trail shoes in the market)

Tuesday--April 2nd- 68 minute uptempo hill run.  I did a loop out along the backside of Highway 13 into Homer up along Wolf Road in Homer and then looped back through town. Nice vertical. Solid pace say 5:40's through wind and cold.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snowshoe Hangover and Syracuse Half

So, after riding the sore legs and high of Snowshoe Nationals, I needed much rest.  School has ramped-up in terms of school work and my jobs are in full-swing again.  It was nice having that 4 day racing vacation and it was well deserved.  I ran a snowshoe run at Limehollow Nature center on Friday and boy was I flying. I really think I have this snowshoe running thing down!  I know I am still tired leading up to the Syracuse Half but at least my legs have recovered but on Sunday we will see how my recovery has come along


I also had scheduled the Syracuse Half Marathon which in my tired state I planned on having it serve more of a hard run then a fast peak performance.  My father was in town to celebrate me making the National Snowshoe Team with my lovely girlfriend Ashlee.  We all went out to eat the night before which was perfect.  Central City Bar and Grill in Cortland has some of the best food and drink around and I love their Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip!  I had some garlic parmesan boneless wings and we talked and had a great time.  I also was able to sell my father a pair of Hoka One One Stinson Evos at the Finger Lakes Running Store and I have a feeling he will continue to love Hokas for quite some time. We all settled in for tomorrow's big day.

The next morning, I think we were all tired as we rolled out of bed and headed to Syracuse.
We arrived at the race venue with 30 minutes to spare, just enough time for myself to jog around a little.   I then got my gear ready, put on my new CEP compression sleeves and off we went.  The cold morning with temps in the mid 20's made for a day of just trying to find ways to warm-up. We went out the first mile in 5:16 and I wanted to run a little easier than that.  I still kept pace with David of Saucony who was my pacing buddy and we hung together pretty well throughout.  The pace still felt relaxed but the hills were already causing my hamstrings to tighten up.  I have not run this fast in a while so my body was kind of going through culture shock.  Every downhill, I hammered and made up ground. Every up-hill,  I relaxed into a solid pace so that I could run the downhill hard.  We were running at around a  5:20 average per mile up until about mile 5 where David made a move and separated from me.  I just stayed relaxed and kept running my pace.  At this moment, my hamstrings were really tight and it was hard to stride out properly. I had to slow.  I chugged at 5:30-5:35 a mile or so for quite some time through the next few miles to hopefully regain my legs.  I was tired and felt tired and did not have that pop in my step.  It was ok because I was in 7th at the time and that was not a terrible place considering the Stotan Racing Team bringing a bunch of their guys.  I had David in my sights as well as Chris Rauli I believe as a Stotan coach kept yelling for him throughout the race so I learned the name quickly.  I chugged along the winding streets of Syracuse which was a well-designed course. We past through residential sections, a corporate center, a canal towpath of sorts right out of Venice and much more.  The hills had razzed up my legs though my CEP compression sleeves really helped my calves out. I had great circulation with those and my calves never felt fatigued which was a nice feeling since normally they do get sore or tired.  I went through halfway in 33 minutes or so and just focused on the people in front of me.  Slowly, by mile 9, I regained some pop in my legs and now I could force a pace change from 5:35 down to 5:20.  I accelerated forth and by the Venice section around mile 11, I caught Rauli and passed him.  David was still in the distance and with the last 3 miles to go I was closing and fast.  What seemed like a 45 second lead soon became about 10.  I was right on David's shoulder or so lurking in the distance and was surprised at the strength I had at this moment.  Then, within the last 800m, David pulled away again and I just brought it in.  I placed 6th in a competitive race and had a great time.  Yeah, my hamstrings have seen much better days, but the race was fun and I am glad to share this experience with my father. Of course trail running is where it is at because of how different the running is and how fun and scenic it can be.  That is why if I ever decide on road races,  I hope to find those races that are scenic and unique, often hilly and difficult because that has now become my strength.  It was a fun event and now I am taking  a month to work on school and my jobs and enjoy the beginnings of spring here as well as put in a solid training block for the trail running season.  The first race I am officially running will be the Allegany 22k race in Salamanca, NY which runs through an amazing State Park section in Lower Western New York.

There I am in the bright Yellow heading uphill with the leaders

Snowshoe Nationals Start of Men's 10k (I am out of frame on the left)
Coming down the first big uphill

Photos courtesy of Pat Hendrick Photography:
Coming into the finish
All photos of my finish of the Syracuse Half.

Training as of late has been a long process. My hamstrings have been stretched to quite an extreme and I have to take it easy with them so that they can rejuvenate for a month-long training cycle before my first competitive trail race of the season. I hope to get in a nice series of runs and so far, I have been taking it easy though I have noticed my uphill efforts do not make the hamstrings worse, just steep uphills. I will have the chance to learn more about how my body will handle this recovery phase in the upcoming weeks.

Monday, March 18, 2013

2013 USA Snowshoe Nationals In Bend, Oregon--Historic 4th Place Finish---Gets me on the Team!

The Sights, The Sounds, The Experience!

Here is a link to the Bend, Oregon Video coverage of the event highlighting Mario Mendoza. I appear at the start of the race on the far side striding to the lead and at the USA Snowshoe team photo.

The USA Snowshoe National Teams! 2013

The Fast Start to the race. I am pictured right in the slight lead with the orange top and the Dion on my back!

The US Men's Senior Snowshoe Team! I am pictured here by the Number 4!

Excellent Photo by Joe Viger as I am picking people off going for fourth place!

Views of the Condo----

View from our balcony-So pretty

Dion Snowshoe Uniform
Dion Snowshoes!!!!!!

The whole trip to Bend, Oregon was a true experience of a lifetime!  I have truly fallen in love with the sport of snowshoe racing. The running, the people, the experience is unlike any other collection in the universe.  When it snows, go out and buy some great snowshoes!  

 After work, Thursday afternoon, I drove to the Binghamton Regional Airport because I ended up with a last minute flight.  I gave myself plenty of time which is nice though it was difficult finding the airport as you wind through the back-country roads of Upstate and it made me doubt my trip.  Eventually, I zigzagged my way to the top of a high hill-top right where the airport was located.  I will say that Binghamton has some incredibly nice staff and the whole flight situation with that airport went as smooth as butter and I might greatly consider Binghamton as my airport of choice.  

I hopped onto my plane at 5pm off to Detroit, then Salt Lake City, then off to Bend, Oregon.  I flew into Detroit with only 20 minutes to make my flight.  I was starving but I sprinted through the terminals to just catch my connecting flight. Thank goodness I run, otherwise, I would have missed that flight.  I was so hungry at this point without having a solid lunch.  At Salt Lake City, I sprinted to the nearest food stand and stuffed my face. I then boarded my last plane to Bend, Oregon.

Pre-trip----I was to arrive at 11pm Oregon Time which would be like 2 in the morning in New York time so I was going to be tired.  The moment I stepped off of the plane and headed towards the baggage claim, I was shocked to see all of the best athletes of snowshoe running: Brandy Erholtz, Josiah Middaugh, and Eric Hartmark.  They are good! Look them up.  We all got into the van our host Mark Elmore(Director of the USA Snowshoe Association) had for us.  The conversation was a little awkward at times but little did we all know we would bond from such an incredible experience together.  We made it to our luxurious condo nestled in the woods at the Mount Bachelor Resort.  We got into our rooms: I had a sofa bed and it was off to sleep.  

Day 1---The morning came quicker than I would have liked. Bob Dion, owner of Dion snowshoes was up and at em with his wife Denise and they were planning on going for a run with a large group of people.  Brandy was up and of course I was awake too. I asked Brandy if I could run with her and she said "Yes".  Brandy has been an insanely great mountain runner in the US winning many mountain running competitions, and placing well at the World Mountain Running Championships.  We went out along the river trail right by the resort location and the crisp morning air was cool but not as cold as it has been in Upstate New York.  Bend, Oregon is also a town of about 80,000 and is a mountain town.  It has great high volcanic peaks that coat the horizon and the fresh smell of lush sugar pines coat the landscape.  Bend to me is a place unlike any I have ever been to. The lush pines coat the landscape, the buildings of Bend are new and often built with wood or to embody that wooden lodge theme, and the lifestyle here is laid back and organic.  We ran on the river trail talking about ourselves, running up and down the hills with the large river rushing alongside of us.  The run was only a shakeout--45 minutes in the books and then we had a photo opp with some of the Bob Dion crew after we got lost trying to find our place (all the buildings looked the same).  After the run, it was packet pick-up, media day, and the tour of the course.  

Tour of the Course:  My initial views of the course was that it was going to be fast, the uphill was steep and the downhill section was absolutely crazy.  Brandi, Charlie, and myself kept post-holing through the deep snow.  We trekked the course over an hour and it was nice to see the layout and get acquainted with the ups and downs, the terrain, and the views.  This course had amazing views from the summit of the uphill and the sunshine made the hue of blues, whites, and the green of the pine trees embellish the landscape as a true snowshoer's paradise.  After the snowshoe tour, we headed to the check-in.  Josiah and Brandi had their interviews with the local Bend TV network as we picked up our packets and had the chance to window-shop around downtown Bend.  It was fun just hanging out with everyone.  We then headed back to our rooms then waited to head out as a crew for dinner.

With dinner, we walked and walked around the town for quite some time until we decided to head to the Old Mill district and stopped at a delicious rice place. The food was soooo good. Had my rice bowl and a chocolate-dipped cookie that inspired the gang to all buy one. We then headed back after a long day and decided to rest up before race-day.

Photos of the course:  

Hut on the course

Day 2--Race Day---  It was a beautiful morning at Messiner Sno Park.  I felt ready to race and the weather was cool enough in the high 30's for gloves and tights but the sun was shining and the compeition was heating up.  I warmed up with Josiah Middaugh who has been a six-time USA Snowshoe champion. This guy has won Xterra numerous times and is a real multi-sport legend.   He talked about me leading the race and I laughed saying I would keep pace with him and Eric Hartmark, the two most seasoned athletes in the field.  Over the course of a day, we had become close and had bonded. This whole experience for me was already a dream come true and just being in Oregon with great athletes made me feel like I could do no wrong.  Whether I made the team or not was just secondary to the memories and the experience of running in my first true National Championship.  

We stretched, warmed up, used the restroom, and did a little jogging and strides in snowshoes.  I was representing Dion snowshoes at the competition and proud to as well. I also preached the love that Mammut has given me and the awesome apparel and trail running shoes they have made. I wore my Mammut Go-far Green Hoody religiously during the whole weekend to hopefully get some publicity for Mammut!  It was race time and I felt ready to go!  Everyone lined up, as the anticipation was building.  I was enthusiastic and had the energy flowing through my veins.  I was ready to race.  With the blow of a horn, we were off!

Photo taken from Bend Newspaper. I am in the orange far left!

The race went out hard as we all settled into place.  I tucked in behind Josiah, David Le Poro, and Eric.  We ran really relaxed and smooth until the first steep uphill. I kept clipping Eric's snowshoe with my own and I guess I was raring to go.  The first uphill, I decided to take it easy as the pace slowed into a crawl up the climb.  Josiah and the crew separated themselves from me as Mario Mendoza shot out along side of me.  Once at the top of the climb, the top guys had made some room on myself.  I maintained my position up until the steep downhill. I slipped on the descent and fell down sliding down the slope about 2/3 of the way like as if I was on a sled.  A few people passed me on my great skid as I regained my footing and bombed down the rest of the downhill section which had us lose about 1k of vertical feet at least.  I started picking off a few competitors as we neared the 2 mile mark.  

This is where I made my BIG MISTAKE!  I was supposed to make a right hand turn into a single-track section, but instead I ended up running through low flagging and heading straight on a nordic trail section that had no one on it.  I noticed not seeing any ribbons indicating the course and turned back after a minute or two on the trail.  I had people in my view as I entered the turn but then soon did not see them and continued forward, BIG MISTAKE! At this point I was frustrated. I had lost my chance to make the team as I was probably in 20th place.  I kept thinking about my sponsors and family who did so much to help me with this trip.  I just could not let them down let alone myself.  I dug deep and entered a feeling of flow I have never been in before.  My mind entered some primeval trance as my competitive instincts kicked in at full throttle.  I picked up my pace into a snowshoe sprint.  I was running the fastest I have ever run in snowshoes in my life.  I entered the second loop catching and passing people left and right.  I bear-crawled up the steep uphill section picking off groups of 4's at a time.  I was making up ground.  At the top section I continued to pick people off one by one until the same section where I had made the wrong turn I entered it the correct way and then soon lost sight of people up ahead.  I passed one more guy through the single-track section then it was just me and the woods.  I was huffing and puffing from exhaustion.  The altitude was tough and so was my pace. I was on a death march just praying to find the finish.  I again veered off the course and then my mind entered an odd fog.  I had lost my bearings and soon jogged in the wrong direction.  I suddenly stumbled upon the 5th place finisher and then tucked behind him as I knew which way was the correct way to go.  He then mentioned something about 5th and then cleared the trail to let me pass.  I was astounded. Was I now in 5th place.  Earlier ago, I though I was in around 20th maybe worse and somehow I had battled my way into 5th?  I turned up the jets and pushed the last single-track straight-away through the deep lush pines until I could hear the roar of the crowd. This had to be for hometown favorite, Mario Mendoza and so I knew that I was close. My pace was slowing as I used my last bit of energy.  I pushed for every step until I came out of the woods and could see the finish line.  I turned the corner heard my name called saying I was 4th!  4th?  4th?  WHAT????  How did this happen????  I swear I ran a 27-28 first lap for my 5k and now I was the 4th place finisher.  My time came to be 51:55 which with all things considered, was pretty solid.  I kicked it in to the finish, crossed the line and collapsed to the ground in sheer exhaustion and disbelief. I had made my first National team running a stellar last 5k maybe in the 20-21 minute range on a tough course.  I had done it!

4th Place---National Team Member!!!!!

All the hard work, the training, the sacrifices, and I had reached my summit, as a Snowshoe National Team Member.  I was shell-shocked. I could not believe what just happened. I had run from being so angry at myself for making a wrong turn to running the race of my life. I had done it.  My first Snowshoe team in my first snowshoe season!  I am still shocked at my performance and so happy it worked out.  

The whole Bend experience was amazing. Not only was the course beautiful with great high vistas of the surrounding mountains but the sharp downhill was enough to wear down the competition.  After the race, it was officially time to shower and then get ready for the awards ceremony.

Top 5 women!
The awards was a fun experience. We all met at the Tower theatre for the awards and we had the front row seating.  Our crew did very well in the races as Brandy placed 2nd for the ladies and Josiah won the race, Eric placed second, and I placed 4th, all of us making the USA Snowshoe team!  Mark Elmore led the way with the ceremony as we picked up our medals and had a nice photo op. I felt like a movie start getting my photo taken by tons of people it felt like some low-key version of the Grammy Awards.  

We finished the awards ceremony with medal in hand and decided it was time to celebrate our hard work!  We decided to head back to the Old Mill District for some pizza and beer.  The food was amazing and it felt great to share all of the experiences we had out there on the course.  We hung out together and had a blast then it was time to go to rest for another day in the snow.

Grabbing some pizza--Victory Dinner.

The Medal!

The USA Men's National Team!

Day 3---- Relay Day---The next morning it was relay time with the Dion Snowshoe team. I was representing Bob Dion and Denise Dion on a solid relay team we happened to be very excited about.   I began the race as the opening leg and with very well-deserved sore legs went out relaxed with a Paul Smith college kid.  Each leg was only a mile or so which I planned to run the first half relaxed then stride in the last 800m.  I hit the nordic section after the short single-track and then started increasing my stride.  I rounded the turn and made the sprint for home.  It was really fun to go out there and set up the team and everyone ran incredibly well.  Our team placed third overall in the Open/Mixed Division which was awesome.

Picking up the pace on the relay leg on the Nordic Trail section

The Dion Snowshoe Mixed Open Team.

After the race, we all hung out at the park and I won a Kahtoola snowshoe crampon system which I cannot wait to try next winter.  

After the relay, it was time to say my goodbyes.  I packed up my belongings, hung out with Brandy and then loaded up to head to the airport.  It was such a great experience that I will never forget.  I had made such great friends in this trip with some incredible people that I will cherish forever. Brandy, Josiah, and Eric; when I first met you three, I was very intimidated with hanging out with snowshoe royalty but over the course of the stay, I realized what great people each one of you truly are.  Bob Dion and Denise were so generous in helping me out with this trip and I thank them for giving me some fabulous Dion Snowshoes gear.  I also have to thank Race Director Mark Elmore for helping out with lodging, transportation and for being in such great spirits on the trip.  Tim, you also helped to keep the ball rolling as well as Richard Bolt for designing a killer course.  

I also want to thank my amazing array of sponsors:  My family, Ashlee, my father, my title sponsor: Mammut Outdoor Sports, Karhu/Craft, the Finger Lakes Running Company, OK Runner, Chris Dunn and Acidotic Racing, Dion Snowshoes, Sierra Designs, and Smartwool socks for all the help and great gear, guidance, and motivation to perform at my peak level.

Thank you everyone. Without your support, this dream could not have become a reality for me. Thank you!

The Guys

Eric and Myself--Mammut Hoody!

The view of the mountains from the airport

Detroit Airport!!!

The Official Race Results Taken from USA Snowshoe Website:
        1     1 Josiah Middaugh        1 M3539          Vail         47:08.2 
        2     2 Eric Hartmark          2 M3539          Duluth       50:04.1 
        3    34 Mario Mendoza          1 M2529          Bend         51:08.5 
        4    15 Cole Crosby            2 M2529          Cortland     51:55.2 
        5    44 Ryan Phillips          1 M4044          Sturgis      52:16.0 
        6    47 Daniel Prahl           3 M2529          Portland     54:13.9 
        7    39 Charlie Nowacki        3 M3539          Arvada       55:15.1 
        8    53 Nicholas Scalfone      4 M2529          Mountain V   55:39.7 
        9    52 Eric Sambolec          4 M3539          Ithaca       56:05.4 
       10    10 Chad Carroll           2 M4044          Fairbanks    56:22.6 
       11    62 Jordan Neeck           1 M2024          Phillips     58:39.2 
       12     6 Bob Bolton             1 M5054          Rapid City   58:46.3 
       13    19 Nicholas Eiben         2 M2024          Plymouth     58:53.7 
       14    37 Jack Mulvihill         3 M2024          Paul Smith   59:07.3 
       15    23 Michael Green          3 M4044          Avon         59:27.7 
       16    68 Kevin Cooper           4 M4044          Beaverton    59:36.0 
       17    65 Kris Borchardt         1 M3034          Kronewette   59:55.9 
       18    57 Jonmark Smith          5 M4044          Yakima     1:00:07.1 
       19    63 Rob Class              2 M5054          Woodbury   1:00:11.1 
       20     7 Kevin Brinegar         6 M4044          Fairbanks  1:00:47.7 
       21    29 Eric Kowalik           4 M2024          Paul Smith 1:01:08.3 
       22    54 Brian Schur            7 M4044          Kennewick  1:01:15.9 
       23    17 Alex Decino            5 M2529          Portland   1:02:28.0 
       24    71 Ryan Voyson            5 M3539          Star       1:03:07.5 
       25    41 Christopher Peterson   5 M2024          Paul Smith 1:03:18.2

Mammut sent me my first care package as an elite trail/mountain runner!
Here are some of the photos of the schwag!

When I arrived at home from USA Snowshoe Nationals, I was lucky enough to receive my Mammut Pro apparel for this Spring/Summer Racing Season out on the Trails!!!!

The order all pieced out.

My Hydration and Headlamp!

All of my Gear!!!!!!

The whole order---cannot wait to try it all out.

My Green Gear!

Next up on my schedule is the Syracuse Half Marathon March 24th and then I plan on beginning my trail running season May 4th in Salamanca, NY and then will try and peak for the June 8th Cayuga Trail 50 miler in Ithaca, NY which will bring some of the best ultra trail runners in the country.

Thank you everyone and have a wonderful season out on the trails!!!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Snowshoe Nationals---Only a few days away

Tuesday March 12----Ran at Limehollow Nature Center after work. THere has been on and off rain here that has taken away all of the snow.  As I set out on my run, I was slipping and sliding on straight ice and actually fell multiple times.  I ran very relaxed because with only a few days out from the big race in Oregon, a simple fall could cost me so  I took it easy. I broke trail on any icy section, and ran tough on the wet gullies and was drenched.  Limehollow, truly has miles upon miles of trail which is nice. I love the Wilderness Way section which is about 2.5 miles long and winds through the best birdwatching sections in the nature preserve.  My pace was not blazing but I did manage to run a solid 80 minute run for about 12.7 miles which is due to my pace once I was off of ice.

My trip to Bend, Oregon is going to a great trip as I hope to make the National team. Training has been going really well and I feel like I am in shape to really make a difference at Nationals and to hopefully put my name out there as one of the best endurance athletes around.  I would like to thank Bob Dion of Dion Snowshoes for getting me some awesome gear for nationals and of course Chris Dunn of Acidotic Racing who has been a great mentor and friend in the sport of snowshoe and I hope to represent well for both.  For my new sponsor Mammut, I hope I can bring some credibility to the company and share what great things are happening at Mammut.  For my friends and family in NJ, NY,  TN, and OK, I hope to represent you well.  This trip signifies a lot for me; for once, I have made it as a competitive athlete. I have spent my days dreaming of competing at the highest level and this race signifies an opportunity to truly test myself and showcase my ability.  At the ripe age of 24, I feel I have entered the beginning of my elite running career and I hope I can inspire and prove to people that hard work truly pays off. If you are competing in Bend, I will see you there.  Be safe and on Saturday , all will be decided.  Top 5 gets you a spot on the USA Snowshoe National Team.  Can it happen?  You never know but I can assure you that I will be giving it all I have!  Thank you again everyone!