Sunday, July 28, 2013

European Adventures part deux


After my race in Heusden, I played the waiting game.  I took bets, changing my plans, and prepared myself mentally in the event that I was allowed to race in Monaco.  And two days before the event, I received the good news that I would be flying to the Riviera and competing in one of the most prestigious 5ks of the year.  Flying into Nice, France I was able to get my first glimpse of what awaited me.  Lined up on the tarmac were rows upon rows of private jets.  No big deal right?  On the short drive from Nice to Monaco, one could visually see the increase of wealth.  Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces, Ferraris, and Bentleys litter the sides of the roads.  Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Chanel occupy the small shops.  An espresso cost 10 Euro, and when asked where one could get lunch for under 20 Euro, the hotel concierge laughed and muttered, “you couldn’t even dine at the McDonalds for that.”  Sidewalks were (literally) paved in marble, a “jogging” sidewalk was made out of the same material as a running track, and Pellegrino flowed from the hotel’s shower head.  Okay, okay, that last one was made up, but still, the excess and wealth were dizzying.

The race itself proved to be fast.  Very fast.  I hung on in the first few laps, with the first 1k, 2k, and 3k being reached in faster times than I have ever spilt.  Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.  While the early pace was a bit quick for my liking, I made a few tactical errors that cost me dearly.  The leaders ended up running a world leading time, and multiple guys broke 13 minutes.  I finished alone in 8th.  While the time was not bad (13:13), I was disappointed I didn’t take the risk to hang on a bit longer.  I need to make the leap and not be afraid of failing.  Putting myself in uncharted territory is the only way to continue to learn and improve.

After Monaco I came down with a nasty cold and had to withdraw from my last European race.  I decided to return to New Hampshire early to be able to rest and recover.  Over the next few weeks I will plan out the rest of the summer and fall racing, and look forward to getting back on the track.  With my early summer European adventure behind me, I look forward to see what the rest of the summer will bring.

Until next time,

Ben
The famous curve on the Monte Carlo F1 course

Monte Carlo Casino

Port Hercule 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

European Tour, part 1

Groggy and with heavy legs, I arrived in Hasselt, Belgium for the start of my European tour.  A 5k in the neighboring town of Heusden was on the docket, and after three rather sleepless nights attempting to adjust to the time change, I toed the line.  After about 600 meters, my body was not responding well and I knew it would be a long night.  Finding myself in the front of a train of runners, I desperately tried to keep the pace honest, hoping that I would start feeling better and blow the cobwebs out of the system.  "Relax the shoulders, find a rhythm, relax the shoulders, find a rhythm" chanted throughout my head.  But the body was anything but relaxed.  The rest of the race did not fair any better,  but somehow, the body kept moving.  With a lap to go, I was able to muster enough strength to close hard and finish third in a new personal best of 13:11.  Shocked that I was able to run that time based on how I felt, I know that there is a lot more to take off this year.  I just hope to be able to find the right race to run it in.  Looks like I have only one possible race before the break for World Championships- a 5k in Monaco- that promises to be fast enough, but getting my name on the starting list is proving to be a difficult task.  If no Monaco, my European tour will take a hiatus and I will return to New Hampshire for a few weeks before a second trek across the pond to race a few more late summer meets.  So for the moment, I am in another waiting period, waiting for the green light to race the race I want.  So here is to the future of waiting, and hopefully getting another chance at running the times I know I can.


Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Taking it easy


Last week things did not quite go to plan.  The plan was to qualify for the Track and Field World Championships this summer in Moscow, and to do that, I needed to run the world “A” standard and to finish in the top three at US Nationals.  I was able to run both the 10k and 5k “A” standard earlier this spring, so when I arrived at US Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa, the end all goal was to finish within the top three.  Unfortunately, this was a task that I was not able to do, coming up short- twice, with two fourth place finishes.  While the two races played out differently, with one loss easier to swallow than the other, the fact remained that I fell short of my goal.  So, I have decided to return to New Hampshire to rest and refocus for a few weeks before heading over to Europe for the summer racing circuit, eager to prove that not all is lost.

And there is where today comes in.  Resting, recovering and refocusing in style.  After a short sixteen mile morning long run, I spent the afternoon hacking, slicing, and duffing my way around the Quechee golf course.  Playing on one of the nicest golf courses in New England is always a treat, and playing on an empty back-9 is nothing short of bliss.  And after golf?  Nothing refuels the body like a Worthy Burger.  A train-depot-turned-burger-joint where kilt clad men grill local grass-fed beef on wood-fired grills to utter perfection.  Not a bad way to refresh the mind.

Now time to sleep, wake up, and start a new week and new month with new eyes.  Back to the grind, slowly chipping away one day at a time, with eyes ahead onto the next race, the next meet, the next goal.

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Weekend


Saturday:
This past weekend was my five-year* reunion from Dartmouth College.  The asterisk is there because due to taking a year off from school, I technically graduated only four years ago (that and the fact that Dartmouth officially didn’t recognize this as my five-year reunion for some reason... I swear I graduated).  However, despite the technicalities, it was a time when my roommates, teammates and classmates of old returned to Hanover to relish in what used to be.  It was great to be able to see everyone and to catch up with those in “the real world.”  I had a few of my old roommates out to the house for some grilling and backyard shooting, which is always a blast.  I will look forward to seeing them all again soon, when another roommate of ours gets married this fall.
My "graduating" class of Dartmouth '08 with our coach, Barry Harwick
Sunday:
Today marked the end of my middle school running program for the spring.  To celebrate we raced our last race, a four miler, around Lebanon, NH.  It was a great community event with a live band and catered BBQ.  The new Saucony uniforms looked great on the kids as they sped around the course, knowing full well that the faster they ran, the more BBQ there would be to eat.  This spring has flown by.  It seems like just yesterday I was driving back from Florida to start coaching the twenty young runners of Indian River.  I look forward to being able to work with the group again this fall!

Elizabeth leading the charge in today's race
Thank you all for a great weekend.

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A middle school “Track Meet”


With the absence of a nearby track facility, my after school spring running program has been strictly that, running.  But throughout this spring, I decided to teach various track and field events to the runner’s of Indian River, to expose them to all aspects of the sport.  The kids have loved learning the different events, and it was great to watch as the runners realized that there is a lot more to track and field than just distance running. 

The beauty of track and field is that there is an event for everyone.  Watching the kids gravitate to either the throws or jumps, or become excited by aspects of hurdling and sprinting, only shows the power of track and field as all encompassing.  And so while there wasn’t a track or official implements for the kids to use, for the last practice of the year, I devised our very own mini track meet.

The meet consisted of five events, a modified track pentathlon.  First, the kids raced the 50 meter low-hurdles in a head-to-head, single elimination bracket.  After this, we moved to the 60 meter sprint, in similar format.  Following the running events, we transitioned to the shot put, tossing a weighted bocce ball.  From the throws, we headed to the sandpits for long jump and triple jump.

While practices are now over, two more road races are left on the schedule, giving the runners a few final chances to race before summer break.  And with the kids beginning their summer vacations, my sights switch from coach to athlete, and I look to make my final preparations for the races ahead.

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Uniforms!


In the famous words of Deion Sanders, “if you look good, you feel good.  And if you feel good, you play good.”  And thanks to the extreme generosity of Saucony, the runners of Indian River School will be the best looking team out there.

The new threads
With my return to New Hampshire, I have been able to get back to coaching middle school runners in Canaan.  This spring I have twenty-two energetic youngsters clamoring to run.  But in season’s past, when we showed up to races, clad in whatever athletic gear the kids had on hand, we were a rag-tag group of misfits.  No longer.  The new Saucony uniforms provide a sense of pride to all the runners, establishing them as a bona fide team.  When one runner first pulled on his singlet, he proudly exclaimed: “these are better than the baseball team’s!”  And after a brief pause, “I’m going to wear mine to school to show it off to all the other teams and make them jealous.”

Two runners excited to first pull on their singlets!
With the new uniforms in place, I look forward to a great rest of the season.  And who knows, maybe these uniforms will make all the other kids jealous, and I’ll have an even bigger team come August.  Thank you Saucony for dressing my team, and giving the runners uniforms to be proud about!

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Saying goodbye to Hometown, Maine


This past weekend I drove up to North Yarmouth, Maine to say goodbye to the town that I grew up in.  Since I was only a few months old, my family has always lived in the same house.  Even after living in New Hampshire for a few years when I was five, we returned to the house they built on Colonial Drive.  Now, at the end of the month, my parent’s will move on to new adventures.

While I, personally, have moved out of my parent’s house years earlier, it is strange to say goodbye to the town that raised me.  Today, I ran my last long run on the same roads where I ran my first mile so many years ago.  Boxes fill the house stuffed with reminders of the past.  Piles of old clothes, running shoes, and memories litter the garage awaiting trips to goodwill and yard sales.

I am grateful for all that North Yarmouth has given me in my life.  I always believe that it takes an entire town to raise a person, as you are so heavily influenced by those people around you.  Volunteering at a local road race this morning, I was surrounded by those very people.  The coaches, teachers, neighbors and friends.  So while I will no longer have geographic ties to North Yarmouth, the town will continue to be apart of me, as it has helped shaped the person I am today.  And for that, I am truly grateful.

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A first in years


This past weekend I did something that I haven't done in years- I toed the line for a 1500m race.  While the 1500 was my forte in college, since graduating I have only run the race a handful of times so my expectations were quite low.  Added to the fact that my most recent races were ten times the length- "rusty" could have adequately described my experience.  I forgot how quickly you had to get off the starting line to get position and by the time I had realized that the gun went off, I was already deep in the back of the pack.  With such poor positioning comes the trick of moving through the field.  Again, I was "rusty."  Being used to road races where I could go anywhere on the road to pass or strung out track races, I was not prepared for a large pack of runners moving at the same speed.  Finding myself stuck, boxed in by people all around me, I had to sit and wait for my opportunity to weave my way to the front.  Luckily, with roughly 600m to go, I was able to find an opening and finally begin to race.  I pushed hard the last lap and was pleasantly surprised to find the leg turnover to be able to win.  With the training and races that I have been doing, to be able to race fast and close hard in such a short race just proves that strength equals speed.  The 1500m was a great first track race of the season, a rust-buster to clean out the pipes and while the time was not extremely quick, it was a great indicator of fitness coming off World Cross Country.  Serving as proof that the leg speed is still there after the long hard grinding races of this winter, this past weekend's race is a nice confidence booster to the track season ahead.  It is going to be a good year.

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The last of the oranges


With the snow melting and temperatures raising in the Upper Valley, it is time to load up the car, pick the last of the citrus, and return home.  The end of winter means the return to the quiet serenity of New Hampshire and the farewell to blue hairs and planned communities of central Florida.  Boy am I excited.  While Florida has been warm- devilishly hot at times- and an escape from the running misery that is wintertime in New England, I have longed for my return almost as long as I have been away.  But for some reason, the powers to be seem to want delay my return even longer.  The culprit: a major oil leak in my truck and sole mode of transport north.  Great.  But never fear, the delay will be but momentary.  

However, through all my complaining, and the monotony of a thousand miles run on a single ten mile stretch of dirt road, my training this winter has been productive.  The endless miles lay a base for the season to come and stands for a testament that you can train anywhere if you set your mind right.  With only a few hundred miles to go before I get back to the bliss of New Hampshire, I will put my head down and finish the final touches of my winter prep and get ready for the start of track.

Until next time,

Ben

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bydgoszcz, Poland

I just wanted to start off this update with a big thank you to everyone who has expressed love and encouragement over the last few days.  I greatly appreciate the outcry of support and I am touched by the immense following.  

The course comprised of six laps of mud, ice and slop, with multiple knee-high dirt mounds to hurdle (created to "break up" one's rhythm) and no straightway longer than 50 meters.  Add in running up and down an alpine ski slope, below freezing temperatures, and you have yourself a proper cross-country course.

The race itself was a grinder of the highest order.  I got off the line well and settled near the front of the main pack.  By a lap into the race, the lead group had dwindled down to roughly twenty runners and from every lap thereon, the pack would get smaller and smaller.  My goal was to hang on as best I could, as I hoped to be dragged to a decent finish.  Luckily, I was able to do just that.  Counting the laps down in my head and pleading with myself to just hang for one more lap, just hang for one more lap, I was able to hang on to a sixth place finish, a mere three seconds out of fourth place.  But even more exciting was what happened behind me.  Everyone from the US had amazing races.  We placed two runners in the top ten (something that hasn't happened in decades), four runners in the top twenty, and all six athletes in the top forty.  Amazing.  Going into the event we believed that if everyone had their best day we could get our four scoring athletes in the top twenty-five and have a solid chance at getting a team bronze.  Never did we think that we could do one better and receive silver, beating the perennial favorite, Kenya, by two points.

The entire event was a great experience and I am honored to help the US win it's first silver medal since 1984.  The race serves as a huge confidence booster, demonstrating that we belong in these races and need not to except the notion of east African running supremacy.  Chalk one small victory up for Team USA.

Until next time,

Ben

Here are some photos from the race:
Note the expression on everyone's faces.  American's: pumped.  Ethiopian's: "who are these white guys next to us."  Kenyan's: "what just happened."
First US team to finish second at World XC since 1984.

The course: snow, ice, and lots of mud.



Slop




Race Highlight Video:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What a day

Wow.  I'm speechless.  Today in Poland was historic for the men's World Cross Country team. We finished an unheard of 2nd place, beating perennial favorite Kenyan by a mere two points. Everyone on the team had fantastic races as we place four guys in the top twenty.  Incredible.  I will post more on the race, with pictures when I return stateside.  I am honored to be apart of such a team and proudly wear the red, white and blue. Thank you everyone for helping make today so special.  I am speechless.

Ben

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Racing in the Big City


Two years ago I made my first trip to the largest city (by area) in the contiguous US.  Entered into the longest road race of my career, I toed the line at the Gate River Run not knowing what I was getting myself into.  The race, while painful, ended up going better than I could have expected, and I was able to finish second with one of the fastest times ever run in the thirty-odd year history of the race.  Beginner’s luck.  But besides my running success, I fell victim to a few unsettling experiences, clouding my views of the city of Jacksonville and causing my desires to never return.  

Luckily, time has a funny way of muddying up one’s memory and this year after being asked to return to the 15k race, I decided it fit perfectly into my schedule and was excited to race.  Returning to Jacksonville would never have occurred had I not remembered the wonderful race organizers and the fantastic event that is the Gate River Run.  Being able to forget my misfortunes of before, I drove up the coast of Florida Thursday evening in preparations for Saturday’s race.  

The race, which winds its way through much of downtown Jacksonville is extremely flat, with the only hills coming from running over two bridges.  The first bridge is located just after the first mile and is a relatively gradual and short.  The second however, is a monster.  Located in the final mile of the race and spanning over a half mile in length, it truly is a wall.  The race is set in a “chase” format where the women’s field starts 6:35 minutes ahead of the men.  Whoever crosses the line first (male or female) wins the equalizer bonus of five-thousand dollars.  This chase format usually leads to faster times and a more spectator-friendly finish.  This year however, the men’s race went out relaxed.  Everyone, including myself, were waiting for the three-time defender, Mo Trafeh, to put in his signature early race surge.  When it didn’t happen, the field stayed relatively bunched together late into the race.  When the real racing began after the seven-mile marker, the field quickly dwindled down to five guys cresting over the final hill.  When the dust settled at the finish line, I was lucky enough to be able to come out ahead and win.  However, our early race tardiness extinguished all hopes of catching the lead women and the extra equalizer bonus, as three women were able to hold us off by mere seconds.

I am very happy that my earlier vows to never go back to Jacksonville were ignored and I allowed myself to return to such a great event.  My second visit erased all previous ill-will, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent there.  Thanks to all who made the Gate River Run such a wonderful event, and one I hope to race many more times in the future.

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Just around the corner


With February coming to a close and Punxsutawney Phil claiming an early spring, time has come to start planning the spring running program at Indian River School.  This spring will be slightly different than the past, as scheduling dictates that practices will begin before my return from Florida.  However, thanks to the wonderful and generous support of the Dartmouth Endurance Racing Team (DERT), who energetically volunteered their time throughout the fall season, not all will be lost.  The addition of DERT to the running program has been a huge asset and only furthers the connection between the college and community, providing great role models for the middle schoolers to look up to.  

Without access to a track facility, once again, the spring program will be centered around various local 5k trail and road races.  Focusing on road races, rather than track meets, allows for a larger community involvement and the ability for family and friends to compete alongside the IRS runners.  I am grateful that the Upper Valley is home to so many wonderful races throughout the year.  Being able to find races within an hour drive from Hanover almost every weekend of the spring and summer only shows the popularity of running and societal’s demand for healthy activities.  It is great to be apart of such a community.

While snow continues to fall in the Northeast, and I battle it out in eighty degree temperatures here in Florida, I begin to get excited for the spring running to start- both that of Indian River School, and my own track season.  I just hope that Phil was right, and spring is just around the corner.

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Avoiding Nemo

With alleged snow accumulations toppling thirty inches in much of the northeast, I was lucky enough to escape to the warmth of Florida in just the nick of time.  After flying home from St. Louis a week ago today, I spent less than twenty hours at home before Sarah, Otzi and I packed up the truck and began our drive to Clermont, FL where we will be based for the rest of the winter.  

Leaving home for an extended training camp is always tough (especially for a homebody like myself), so it is important to make sure to bring things that make your new residence feel a bit more like home.  For me, this was my one-hundred pound ball of fur and drool named Otzi, my burr coffee grinder, aeropress and last but definitely not least, Sarah.  We broke the fifteen-hundred mile journey over three days so that we could continue to train along the way, stopping at various state parks to be able to run on trails and escape (however momentarily) the drone of the interstates and highway madness.  Food is always a difficult subject when in comes to travel.  How easy would it be to be the Otz-man and only need to pack his forty pound bag of feed to nourish his invigorating hunger for a month.  Alas, Sarah and I are “foodies” and repulsed by the grime found off highway exits.  This lead us to pack shopping bags worth of road food as well as cause us to make wild and lengthy detours in search of proper meals.  Luckily, with only a touch of turbulence, we were successful.

Now that our road trip is behind us, we are settled into Clermont and sipping on fresh orange juice.  The weather has been great, the running plentiful, and I have had more running partners in the past three days than I have had in the previous three months.  I look forward to finally getting into shape, stockpiling on Vitamin D, and avoiding getting eaten by gators.  And I might even try to get some sprinting lessons from Tyson Gay.

Until next time,

Ben

Floridian dirt roads- mile of orange groves on one side, cattle on the other.


One of my training partners running a sub 3:30 mile today.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Cafe in Austin

Three weeks ago I was sitting in an Austin, Texas coffee shop owned by one of the most infamous modern-day American athletes. Looking around at the cycling paraphernalia on the walls, the overabundance of the color yellow, and a seeming fascination with the postal service, Juan Pelota's was a coffee shop with a skeleton in the closet- one that was finally confirmed a few weeks later on national TV to none other than Oprah Winfrey.

Cycling's doping shakedown has opened many people's eyes to the extreme extent few will go to cheat and deceive. And the sad truth is that doping in any sport, hurts all sports. Once "superhuman" performances are tainted by cheating in any form, all performances begin to be questioned. The faults and mistakes of a few, hurts the reputation and honest work of many. Running is no exception, having it's own disgraced members, even those continuing to compete after suspension. While the system for testing is getting better, it cannot catch all cheaters, as revealed in the cycling scandal, cheaters are always one step ahead of the testers. The major step we must take is to ban, not suspend, convicted cheaters. Taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) not only helps athletes compete at a higher level, it allows cheaters to train at a higher level. By increasing the amount of training one can handle naturally, cheaters can make more physical adaptions than previously possible, and consequently, they can race "clean" at a higher level long after the PEDs have left their bodies. I say "clean" because with in-competition testing, even "dirty" athletes could have all PEDs out of their system at a race in order to pass a test. It is this reason that convicted drug cheats should be banned for life from competitive sports. One and done. Athletes that have taken PEDs are able to train at a higher level than previously possible, placing them at an uneven level even after the drugs are long out of their system. Drugs ruin the creditability of sport and allowing known cheats to return to competition only diminishes the hard work and sacrifices of the honest athlete.

So instead of talking about those few who decide to cheat and destroy the culture of sport, lets pay tribute to the honest, hard working athletes out there. A cheater may reach redemption as a person and in life, but we should ban them from returning to sport. With such harsh penalties, the dark cloud of drug speculation surrounding incredible results can diminish and honest athletes can receive the unquestioned accolades they deserve.

Until next time,


Ben