Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mountain West Redux

Last Saturday was quite a glorious day for a cross country meet. And, the hosts (Mountain West Track Club) and the athletes (1,500 strong) certainly put on a great show. The meet is an opportunity that few high school athletes get to experience. A challenging course that is double flagged througout. Thousands of cheering fans and top quality meet organization. What more could you ask for as a fan of distance running.

As the buzzard circled around overhead, he was left with a few lasting impressions.

First, what a great festival of races, color, excitement and determination. To look out over the north end of the University Golf Course and observed the sea of tents, the legions of runners and the hordes of fans put a smile on the old birds face.

There were some great individual performances. Drew Coco of Whitefish continued his dominant season and ran away from the boys field over the last mile.

The suprise of the day on the boys side had to have been Ryan Ketterling of Joliet. A solid performer in years past, he made a huge step forward with his strong 3rd place finish.

On the girls side, Kelly Dennehy of Butte made a stunning surge over the last 100 meters to make up almost a 20 meter deficit and finish fractions of a second out of first place. The state meet should be a doozy on the AA women's side with Dennehy, the Aragon sisters of Billings Senior, Keely West of CMR and Heidi Turner of Bozeman.

From team standpoints, the Bozeman girls will be hard to beat. And, if they can continue to run at this level, a Nike Team National slot isn't entirely out fo the question. But how about the Whitefish girls. Running agains the best large schools in Montana and several Washington powerhouses, the "A" school pulled out a 3rd place finish. And, this despite their nornal #1 runner (Loni Hanson) running a sub-par performance. Pretty impressive stuff.

On the boys side, the team titles at state in all classes looks to be as wide open as it has been in years. The boys team titles should rival the AA girls individual races for excitement.

See you back in Zoo Town for state on October 25th.

Before then, see you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Geb Again

Haile Gebrselassie

Berlin Marathon

World Record


'Nuff Said

Friday, September 26, 2008

Small Victories

Okay, so sometimes all that you can do is take the small victories.

Since my patellar fracture, the road back has been long (or short if you want to talk about running miles) and slow (literally and figuratively). On top of that, I've been fighting a tight IT band the last week. So, to add salt to the wounds, I've had to back off my mileage even more. And, damn, when you are doing limited mileage as it is, backing off isn't where you really want to be.

But, in exchange for backing down the mileage a bit, I've tried to make the "quality" count. (Of course, quality is all relative right now !!!!) And, over the last two days, I've had a couple of small positives.

On Wednesday, I did my first run of averaging under 7:00 per mile - doing a 5K course in 20:30.

Today, I did a hard mile in the middle of my 3-mile run and was able to go sub-6:00 (5:55).

Neither are stunning achievements. But, given the fact that it's only been about 8 weeks since I was able to even start running again, I guess that's some decent progress. And, even a month ago, I was really struggling to be at 8:00 pace. So, I guess I'll take the good where I can find it, try to stay positive and keep moving forward.

I know that it's going to come back and that I'll be back to where I would like -------but, why does it have to take so damn long :-)

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

AK at the MM

It was the classic running sandbagger story. My training hasn't been going well lately and I've been running like crap. So were the paraphrased words of Alan King in the week leading up to the Montana Marathon 1/2 marathon event. Yet, in spite of the pre-race gloom and doom, AK went out and had an exceptional time trial last Sunday. And, I say time trial since he finished the race about 10 minutes (almost 2 miles) ahead of 2nd place. Running 5:22 pace, he hit the line at 1:10:22. Not a bad day for feeling like doggy doo.

To see full results of the Montana Marathon, check out http://perfect-timing.org/results/2008/mtmarathon/index.html Among others, finishers included ultra and trails studetee Nikki Kimball and Senator Max Baucus.

Next up for Alan will be the UM Cross Country Invitational as part of the Big Sky Distance Project.

The Muddy Buzzard

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mountain West & The Crystal Ball

Montana's own super-sized prep XC meet is this coming weekend in Missoula. The annual Mountain West Classic brings together over 1,000 total runners from the AA, A, B and C ranks and usually includes a couple of teams from Idaho and Washington. Among other things, it's a great opportunity to see how everyone stacks up against each other at the midway point of the season.

As with most years, it's also a good chance to answer and few questions and to raise several questions for fans, coaches and athletes to ponder over the last 4 weeks before state.

Are the Bozeman boys and girls strong enough to sweep the AA titles at state?

How strong are the Whitefish girls on the A level?

Is the best race of the day going to be the AA girls with Keeley West, Kelli Dennehy, Heidi Turner, the Aragon sisters (Alexa and Dani) and Auarlea Fain?

At Mountain West can Drew Coco of Whitefish dominate on the big stage the way he has done in the smaller meets so far this season?

Who can pull off the win in the Class B boys race - Darby, Manhattan, Loyola, Glascow?

Who will pull off the biggest suprise of the year at state?

Can the Hellgate boys show that they weren't a one year wonder?

All good stuff coming up this weekend and in the last weekend in October in Missoula.

Stay tuned for more HS XC info on the muddy buzzard.


Cubs and Kittens

In the first race out of the gate for the Cats an Griz, youth ruled the day on the men's side.

For the Griz, redshirt freshmen Lynn Reynolds picked up where he left off last track season and ran an impressive 5th overall with a time of 24:52.

Close behind in 11th at 25:08 was the Cat's trud frosh Patrick Casey.

Both are homegrown Montana products (Dillon and Laurel respectively); and, it's good to see them being successful at the next level.

For full results fo the MSU Invitational, see http://www.montana.edu/cats/frameset3.htm

The Muddy Buzzared

Greasing the Wheels

If only it were that easy. Wouldn't it be so cool if, as part of an injury, you could just go to the "body" shop, get some new parts, a grease and lube, maybe bang a few dents out the fender, a glossy new coat of paint and then be back on the roads as fast as ever and only having missed one or two days.

But, as I'm finding out, it's not nearly that easy to come back from a major injury, especially when the odometer has over 70,000 miles on it. I've been pretty lucky in my 30 or so years of running and racing. I've had one stress fracture (1984) and some patellar tendinitis issues around 2005. But, even at that, I've not had a serious injury that not only kept me from running but prevented me from even keeping base fitness.

But, that all changed back on April Fool's Day of this year. On that fateful Tuesday afternoon, I had the misfortune of fracturing my kneecap. Even though surgery wasn't needed, there was a pretty extended healing period. First up was 8 weeks in a full leg brace to keep my leg immobilized and let the fracture knit back together. Turns out that when you have your leg in a brace and can't bend it, there are some serious limitations to the types of physical activity that you can undertake. Can't swim, can't walk, can't ride a bike, etc. Also can't drive, sitting is a bit of an issue, and don't even get me started about what it takes to go to the bathroom for a number 2.

So, we're now up the first of June. By this time the quad in that leg has atrophied to nothing and I have no range of motion. So, off to Physical therapy. I've got to tell you, it's a bit of frustrating experience to go from running a 2:30 marathon to the big success story being the ability to actually contract what is left of your quad muscle. Over the next month, which included a visit to Zombro, I was able to get the range of motion back and begin strengthening the leg. But, still no running. So, now we're up to 3 months - and it's pretty clear that all my fitness is long gone; plus, it's going to be a long road to get it back.

The first running steps took place on the 4th of July weekend on some soft trails. 4 minutes walk; 1 minute run for 20 minutes. Hey - a whole 4:00 of running. Well, running is a bit of a misnomer. Maybe 10:00 pace (maybe 12:00) that was awkward at best. More of a hop, hop, stumble, stumble. But, at least it was progress.

Over the next several weeks I followed the old Gallowalk concept. Walk a bit, run a bit. By late July, I was running more than walking - and my run segments were getting into the low 8:00 pace range.

Onto the last weekend of July and Camp Vermillion. My first continuous runs!!!! Again, slow and awkward. But, the knee seemed to be structurally okay. No pain at the fracture site and the joint, tendons and ligaments all seemed to be okay. The problem was that due to the muscle atrophy in the quads, there were imbalances that led to the kneecap not tracking properly. So, a bit of pain. Nothing severe; but, still an irritant. Add that to the fact that I was horribly out of shape and it was hard to get overly excited about being able to "run". For the next month, it was mostly a matter of run a day, rest a day with runs being 2 to 4 miles.

By early August, I was running several days in a row before taking a break with no apparent ill effects. Plus, lots of stretching and strengthening work to try to get the leg back in order. I lot of work; but, the hope was to be able to be able to actually have some semblance of racing fitness by Montana Cup.

So, here we are into mid September. I'm running pretty much every day. My quad is getting stronger and there is actually some muscle definition returning. The kneecap is tracking better (not quite 100% - but coming along nicely). I'm doing about 30 to 35 mpw with much of it at 7:30 pace or better. I've even had the ability to do a workout of short hills (uphills - I'm still pretty tentative on downhills). This Wednesday I did my first tempo run. A short 2 miler with a goal of 6:30 pace. I was able to hit 6:15's; but, damn, it was a lot of work. I'm really longing to get back to the days where 6:30's are hit during long training runs.

Now, however, the body is rebelling a bit. I'm sure it's a bit of compensation as the leg is getting it's alignment back together; but, my right IT band has flared up. It's incredibly frustrating to finally be coming back to some semblance of normalcy and then have to take a couple of steps backwards. And, that's where the title of the post comes from. If only I could grease the wheels and jump back on the roads full force it would be a grand and glorious thing.

But, that's not going to happen - so, it's a matter of keep trying to be smart - stretch, ICE, be smart with mileage and efforts, etc. Here's to hoping for the best.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, September 20, 2008

One Tough SOB

We all know Scott Creel as an animal on the roads and especially the trails. His Ridge Run performances are legendary. On more than one occasion he has finished the race with equal mixtures of mud and blood.

But, earlier this year he had what he describes as a "climbing injury". Too me, it looked more like his lower leg made a visit to Hannibal Lecter's laboratory. To Scott, it was just another day on the trail. Went into the doc, had them throw in a few stitches (for the sake of a good story, let's say that he threw back a shot of whiskey and told them to hell with the Novocaine) and went merrily on his way.
After taking it easy on the stitches for a few days he was back at is, good as new.
Leave it up to Creel to have the presence of mind to take a picture of the wound. Hell, you never know when scars, cuts and scrapes are going to come up in dinner conversation; and, it's always good to have a shot like this to pull out of your wallet in order to throw down the "do better than that" gauntlet.
So, next time your running down a dark back alley, take a tough bastard like Scott with you.
See you on the roads, tracks and trails.
The Muddy Buzzard.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Colter Run

Saturday was the annual John Colter Run in Three Forks. This race is the oldest and highest profile trail race in Montana and is know for it's killer hills, tricky footing and the crossing of the Gallatin River.

My personal choice for highlight of the race was the performance of Anders Brooker of Missoula. Most of us know Anders Brooker as the well natured little shop keeper (Runner’s Edge) who has his hands in most of the running and racing activities in the greater Missoula area (somehow, I can’t quite bring myself to use the phrase “Missoula Urban Area”). But, many of you may not know that he also has a pretty solid running pedigree of his own.

During his high school years, he was one of the best cross country and distance runners in the Class B ranks as part of the powerhouse Plains Horseman teams of the late ‘90’s. He parlayed that success into a stint on the U of M teams. But, the business itch was too strong and he left school to start up a top tier running specialty store. His personal running has taken a back seat for the last few years while he developed the store, acted on the Board of Directors for the Missoula Marathon, hosted marathon training classes, coached track and XC at Missoula Hellgate (Class AA XC boys team champs in 2007), got married – in general, lived a full and busy life.

Well, this year, inspired by entry into the New York City Marathon (along with his dad Tim), Anders has ramped his training back up. And this past weekend he showed that he still has some wheels. Anders’ time of 45:59 is a strong, solid time that would make him competitive in virtually any year of the race.

For those of us who know Anders, he’s all about giving back to the sport. Given his performance this weekend, I thought that it was time that he had his moment in the sun again and be recognized for his great performance on Saturday. As the Aussies would say – Anders, good on ya’ mate!!!

As for the overall race, the top end was dominated by young athletes from Bozeman. As is the case with many races in Montana, we'll see a surge of young grad students from MSU and UM put up some good performances in the fall and spring. Even when they don't stick around after their grad school stints, their presence at the races serves to force everyone to step up their game and race just a little bitter harder. Out of a total of 164 men finishers and 112 women, the top 6 on the men's side were:

Bernhard Ronning Bozeman 43:41
Anders Brooker Missoula 45:59
Anders Folleras Bozeman 46:37
Doug Neil Bozeman 46:58
Kyle Cram Three Forks 47:08
Brian Wieck Helena 47:21

The first masters man was Rob Maher of Bozeman, placing 16th overall with his 52:55

On the women's side, the top 5 were:

Stephanie Howe Bozeman 50:16
Sarah Graves Billings 51:33
Kathy Peterson Dillon 54:58 (1st Master)
Jen Reiter Billings 55:00
Claire Rennie Bozeman 55:50

For full results on the race, check out http://perfect-timing.org/results/2008/johncolter/index.html

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard