Who’s the best All Terrain Runner?

With this new USATF-NE series, we hope to answer that question. We might even be starting the discussion, but that’s okay. The USATF-NE offers great, competitive series in various disciplines related to long distance running.

In this saturated racing market, it seems like people are going out of their way to find a new challenge. Mud runs, obstacle course races, color runs…you name it, it’s popping up and gaining in popularity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But why go chasing fads when that challenge you’ve been looking for has been right there the whole time? For example, if you’re really craving a muddy obstacle race, then look no further than Sleepy Hollow. Just think of mountains as nature’s original obstacle, plus the shin-deep mud in early-May Vermont will give you the sloppy fix you’ve been craving.

If that weren’t tempting enough, then consider that you can register for every race in this all-encompassing, challenging series for less than the cost of just one of those obstacle course races out there.

It’s time to get the road warriors out to the mountains. Let’s see how the harriers fare on the track. Instead of listing out all of the cross-over combo possibilities here, we’ll just say that we look forward to seeing runners of the region crossing over into new territory and testing their limits perhaps in a way they never have before.

Take a few minutes to roam the site to learn a little more about this new series. Scroll down to read the latest series-related news.

Snowshoe Leg Won by Loonatic Enman

The NH & NE Snowshoe Championships were held back on March 7th in Moultonborough, NH at the Castle in the Clouds. Adding the snowshoe event to the All Terrain Runner Series meant that it would be a first ever snowshoe race for many in the field. Who would it favor? The marathoners with their legs accustomed to the long grinds? The mountain goats, already used to tackling challenging terrain?

Back when we selected this particular race we had no idea that the course elevation profile would look much more like a mountain race than that of a trail race. Slide the advantage over towards the mountain goats, slightly. After all, not every mountain has sunk their hooves into sugary single track before.

Well, it turned out that the mountain goats had their way with the course; Jim Johnson and Kasie Enman emerged victorious and both picked up big series points with their respective wins. JJ was first overall in 54:19, and Kasie won a very tight battle with former US champ Amber Ferreira.

Kasie ran a 56:42 and narrowly beat out not one but two Ferreira’s! Amber was right behind Kasie in 56:53 while Amber’s husband Danny was just behind her in 56:55.

NH & NE Snowshoe Champs 03.07.2015 Viger Enman

Enman in action, courtesy of Joe Viger.

Here’s our interview with the reigning NH & NE snowshoe champ (and former national snowshoe & world mountain running champion), Kasie Enman:

Would you have done any snowshoe races this season if it wasn’t for this event being part of the ATR series?

I’m sorry to say, but no. I’d be all over a race on snowy trails in just my running shoes, but I haven’t been able to fall in love with lugging extra objects when I’m on the move. It’s for the same reason I choose running over skiing and biking. I will say, getting to borrow the top of the line Dion snowshoes for this race made a huge difference from the last snowshoe race I did almost a decade ago. I fell down at least two dozen times in that first race and only 3 times last weekend. I did give myself a monster bruise on my right calf though from repeatedly kicking myself.

How often do you race (or even just run) in snowshoes?

I had run in snowshoes twice before this race. Both in 2006. Nationals were in Vermont that year so I ran a qualifier race and then nationals.

Did you feel like you had an advantage coming in being a former national champ? Or were you more nervous since you haven’t been competing in this discipline at all lately?

Maybe you can tell from the previous question, but I would not say that I came into this race with any advantage based on my snowshoeing experience. I was unsure of where I stacked up and how people’s abilities translated. Except for Amber. I figured she clearly had one up on me since she had been National Champion recently, more than once, and had done at least one other snowshoe race this season. I wasn’t really expecting her to be there at all though because I knew she was gearing up for Ironman South Africa. I saw her for the first time when Chris Dunn announced her at the starting line.

Also, not to set myself up with a whole bunch of excuses, but I was feeling really unsure of my chances at even finishing the race since I was dealing with a couple injuries. I had to bail out of the Amherst 10 miler plus a lot of training this winter because of a bum ankle and to top it off, I strained my back skiing the Thursday before the race and hadn’t been able to do much of anything since. My first attempt at running with the back issue was during the warm-up and it was really painful. Luckily the pain numbed out after a little while and the ankle held out.

How tough of a battle was it with Amber?

My thought process was that she was fit and experienced so if I could just keep her in my sights, it would be a really great sign that I wasn’t as far away from good form as I thought. The start was crazy because we had a very short distance before funneling into single track. I was just focused on not tripping. Once things settled down enough so that I could turn my focus away from my feet, I looked up hoping to locate the top women. Fortunately, since passing was not going to be an easy task on the single track, I found myself in the back of the train that Amber was leading. So I just focused on maintaining. There were 2-4 guys between us most of the race and I would describe the situation, at least through halfway or so, less as Amber and I “racing” and more as me trying not to get gapped too badly.

Do you think the course’s more mountain-like profile played to your strengths?

Amber was crushing the uphills, evidence of how fit she is right now. The turning point of the race for me though was directly tied into the terrain. As soon as we hit the first downhill I started eating up ground. I think this just came down to comfort level. My experience this past year racing down crazy mountain scree fields helped me out. For the first time, I started thinking maybe we had a race on our hands.

I also started thinking that I was an idiot for not doing a better job studying the course map. When we came by the finish line for the first time, I was right behind Amber. I actually thought for a second that it might be time to sprint it in right then, but luckily picked up on the fact that there was another loop. We started climbing again and Amber started pulling away again, but this time I knew I could close the gap on the final downhill. I caught back up and decided if I was going to make a move, it had better be during the downhill. I tried not to be a jerk by asking Amber to move out of the track after she had led the entire race, so there was a sloppy moment as I slipped and post-holed my way by in a less than graceful pass. I think we both laughed.

To my dismay, the downhill ended rather abruptly after that. I think we only had maybe 400m left to race. I was half expecting Amber to blow right past me again on the flat into the finish and told myself I had to somehow figure out how to sprint in snowshoes without face-planting. I joked with Ethan Nedeau after the finish that I never would have guessed the indoor track mile would have prepared me so well for the snowshoe race. He said he was pretty sure he was running faster on the final downhill than on the indoor track😉

I was pretty surprised to pull off the win, but definitely happy. Especially after I found out during our cool down (I invited myself on Amber and Danny’s post-race run) that Amber is planning on trying to complete the ATR series too. Game on!

What would you rather do, run up Upper Walking Boss at the end of a mountain race or try to hold a fast pace while snowshoeing through sugary single track?

Upper Walking Boss, hands down. I’m a Loonatic. There is no safe word.

2015 Full Series Dates

**UPDATE 4/1/15: Here’s the final 2015 ATR schedule (including final outdoor track event and date for the Merrimack River Trail Race):

1/25: Indoor mile at the GBTC Invitational

3/7: NH & Northeast Snowshoe Championships

5/9: Merrimack River Trail Race (10 mi)

4/12 – 6/30 (or date of USATF-NE champs): Window for submitting outdoor track 5000m times

7/5: Loon Mt

8/22: NH XC Festival

9/6: Season 20k Road Race

Remember, your best 5 of 7 races will score so you can theoretically miss two and still be in the hunt.

Website to be updated soon with 2015 schedule, rules, scoring and prizes very soon. Now it’s out there. Set your calendars and then get after it in training. See you at Harvard on 1/25!

Jenkins & Doneski Excel on All Terrain, Coming Out on Top in First Annual ATR Series

By Jenny Gardynski, as originally published on the USATF-NE website

In 2014, USATF-NE launched a new sort of series, the All Terrain Runner (ATR) series. And it’s pretty much what it sounds like; it challenges runners to compete on a variety of terrain – the roads, mountains, trails, cross country courses and the outdoor track.

The series was the brainchild of Eric Narcisi, the 2014 USATF-NE secretary, Whirlaway Racing Team member and web producer over at Level Renner. Following the culmination of this new series, Narcisi feels it was a “huge success,” stating that “I had so many people tell me that they were experiencing different disciplines for the first time.” For instance, the series winner on the women’s side, Christin Doneski, told him that she had never run a track or cross country race before. “Yet because of this series, there she was, in unfamiliar territory but in a familiar position (in front of the pack),” he added. The men’s series champion, Nate Jenkins, is known for his road dominance, said Narcisi, “but there he was back in May trudging the Vermont mud at Sleepy Hollow.” And at the Loon Mountain Race in July, Jenkins went head to head with some of the finest mountain runners not just in the region, but in the nation.

Ultimately, Narcisi said that the series is all about getting people out of their comfort zones and experiencing more of what the association has to offer. “We anticipate many more people stepping out of their comfort zones and putting themselves to the ultimate test in 2015,” he added. “I, for one, can’t wait to line up with the rest of the All Terrain hopefuls this winter on the indoor track to kick off the new series.”

As many runners prepare for the second edition of the ATR series, which will include an indoor track and a snowshoe race, we caught up with the 2014 series champions.

Photo Credit: LevelRenner.com

Jenkins of Central Mass Striders, who made it a goal to win the first annual series and plans to compete again in 2015, said the series was fun and unique, adding that “it is a great way to try and draw together the very varied and often very separate areas of USATF-NE.” While he’s not all that excited about the snowshoe race in the second series, Jenkins admits “that is kind of the point of the series, isn’t it?” Who knows? Maybe he will excel at snowshoeing just like he did at mountain running in 2014, something he doesn’t consider himself the biggest fan of.

Doneski of Whirlaway Racing Team reported that the series pushed her to try new things all while enjoying the company of the series participants, which she described as “a really supportive, genuine group of runners who wanted to race hard but also laugh and have some fun.”  While she wasn’t expecting to win this year and doesn’t expect to win next year either, Doneski shared that she’s in an interesting point in her running career. “My road race PRs are most likely behind me, but I feel I can still get better, stronger and faster in the endurance and adversity-based races: mountains, trails and ultras.” Her ultimate goal is to grow old still running races and pushing herself to try new things and to keep setting new goals.

Both runners had a tough time picking their favorite series race; though the men’s winner enjoyed the mountain and track racing the most. The women’s winner said her initial favorite that comes to mind was Sleepy Hollow. “It’s so hard in so many ways; the course is super challenging (which I love) and the conditions are so unpredictable (2013 was dry and fast and 2014 was very wet and muddy and really tough), and it’s right after Boston,” she said.  “However, I also loved Loon.  Again, it’s a challenging course, but I spent a full year from 2013 to 2014 regretting that I did not run all the way up Upper Walking Boss.  I was looking forward to racing this year and redeeming myself.” Doneski happily reported that she did not walk a single step this year.

So, where can we expect to see these two competing in 2015? Jenkins shared with us that he has fortunately made some progress in fixing his long-standing coordination issues in his right leg, so his top goal for next year is to continue that progress all the way to a return to the marathon – something he hasn’t done since the World Championships in 2009. His second goal is to run an Olympic Trials Qualifier, with a third goal of achieving a personal record at any distance.  “I haven’t set one since back surgery in early 2011,” he added.  Jenkins’ final two main goals will be to win the ATR series and the USATF- NE Grand Prix.

Doneski currently has her 2015 calendar clear, but knows she’ll be looking to run the USATF-NE Grand Prix as well for Whirlaway, noting those dates will go on the calendar first.  Then she will look to the Mountain Series and the ATR and see how those dates match up with her other races and her family plans.  “And of course there is still that desire to run an ultra, but that might need to wait for my children to need me less and I am in no hurry for that,” she said.

Lastly, Jenkins shared that the ATR series represents something he’d like to see more of from USATF-NE – trying new things. “Will everything be a hit or a win?” he asked. “Heck no, but anything is better than nothing.”

Mark Your Calendars

You’ve probably already seen our sweet new poster by now. It’s worth looking at again. It’s a Scott Mason work on a Scott Mason photo. Basically it’s a Scott Mason original. He’s pretty quick on the shutter, but maybe you can prove to be a more elusive target than even these guys were. Ready to get on the track and prove yourself? The first leg of the 2015 ATR Series is January 25th at the GBTC Invitational Indoor Track Meet. The event to be contested: the mile.

ATR 2015 Indoor poster

And keep an eye out for our complete 2015 schedule. Now that the 2015 Grand Prix series slate has been finalized, we can figure out the ATR series. In case you haven’t seen, here’s the Grand Prix road race series slate:

Feb 22, Five College Realtors 10 miler, Amherst, MA
Mar 15, New Bedford Half Marathon, New Bedford, MA
May 24, People’s United Bank Vermont City Marathon, Burlington, VT
Jun 11, Hollis Fast 5km, Hollis, NH
Aug 9, Bobby Doyle 5 mile, Narragansett, RI
Sep 6, Seasons 20 km, Acton, MA
Sep 20, Lone Gull 10 km, Gloucester, MA

The New ATR

The first ever USATF-NE All Terrain Runner Series just recently ended, so what better time than to start announcing the details on the 2015 edition? As some of you may have seen, the series will be expanding next year to also include indoor track and a snowshoe race.

Kicking off 2015, the event will be the mile on the indoor track at the GBTC Invitational on January 25, 2015. There won’t be an open window in which to seek out races like we did for the outdoor track event in 2014. For more information on the event check out the GBTC website.

Next up will be the snowshoe race event. For this new addition we chose the NH & Northeast Championships in Moultonborough, NH on March 7, 2015. This race is part of the Granite State Snowshoe Series and more info can be found on their website. Snowshoe racing is being added as a showcase event and its success here will determine its future inclusion in the series.

The addition of the two new events brings the series total to 7. A big change for 2015 is that only your best 5 scores will count towards your final score. That means you can miss up to two events without potentially suffering in the standings and the chase for the cash.

2015 Slate

1/25/15 – GBTC Invitational – mile
3/7/15 – NH & Northeast Snowshoe Championships
Trail – TBD
Mountain – TBD
Outdoor Track – TBD
Road – TBD
Cross Country – TBD

As you can see there’s a lot up in the air still. We’ll announce more dates as the various USATF-NE series solidify their 2015 schedules. The road Grand Prix series should be set fairly soon and things will fall quickly into place after that.

Rules will be updated to reflect the new 2015 series shortly.

Before we move on to 2015 we still need to properly recognize our winner from 2014. Here’s a quick presentation made at Doyle’s after the USATF-NE XC Championships on 11/9/14:

Finally, here are our overall and age group winners (and their prizes):

Men

Nate Jenkins – 1st overall – $1,000
Alex Hall – 2nd overall – $500
Todd Callaghan – 3rd overall – $250
Dave Dunham – 4th overall – $100
Eric Narcisi – 5th overall – $50

Women

Christin Doneski – 1st overall – $1,000
Ashley Krause – 2nd overall – $500
Jacqueline Shakar – 3rd overall – $250
Emer O’Donoghue – 4th overall – $100
Diane Levesque – 5th overall – $50

Age Group

Todd Callaghan – 40-49 winner – $250
Christin Doneski – 40-49 winner – $250
Dave Dunham – 50-59 winner – $100
Jacqueline Shakar – 50-59 winner – $100
Brian Gallagher – 60-69 winner – $100
Diane Levesque – 60-69 winner – $100
Richard Paulsen – 70+ winner – $100

IMG_5100Can’t wait to hand these awards out on Sunday! It’s been very interesting to see how this first edition of the series would unfold. Heading into the final event, these are your leaders:

Overall
Nate Jenkins
Christin Doneski

40-49
Todd Callaghan
Christin Doneski

50-59
Dave Dunham
Jacqueline Shakar

60-69
Brian Gallagher
Diane Levesque

70+
Richard Paulsen

Will they finish strong enough to cement those titles? We’ll see. Cash is paid out to the top five overall men and women and then again to the top age group winner. Medals go three deep for overall and age groups. There is double dipping!

The t-shirts are being made up and shipped out as we speak and should be here by race day. They are looking quite spectacular and can’t wait to see the select few people who ran each event, the All Terrain Runners, wearing them proudly.

Now a few things to know ahead of this Sunday’s cross country race at Franklin Park…

Schedule
10:00 – Men’s Masters 8k
10:50 – Women’s Open & Masters 6k
11:30 – Men’s Open 10k

As far as scoring goes, it’s going to be a little different for the men’s race. Since the masters and open men will be running different distances, a virtual split will be used to determine scoring for the men’s races. To properly score this, a theoretical 8k split will be assigned to the open men based off of their overall 10k pace. These theoretical 8k splits for the open runners will be combined with the 8k results from the masters and scored just like the rest of the events in the series. Since the masters and open women run in the same race, there will be no need to do this for the ladies. Masters men: please enter and compete in your masters race as you normally would. You do not need to run the open 10k to count in the series scoring.

For more info, check out the USATF-NE race entry form that has all the details.

Please check out the standings and make sure you are properly accounted for. If for some reason you don’t think your results are properly reflected there, please let us know now, especially if we don’t have down as having completed all four prior events. We’d like to make sure everyone who earned a t-shirt gets one.

A Champion Will Be Crowned Soon…

Ferenc, Enman Win at Sleepy Hollow

The following was originally published on the Level Renner website:

The first one is in the books, and boy was it a doozy. The Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race served a couple of different purposes this year and it had more than enough mud to go around for each of them. Traditionally this race has been on the USATF-NE mountain circuit and is once again for 2014. This race is a bit of a hybrid in that it’s also a trail race, and in that role it served as the USATF-NE trail championship race and was also the trail segment of the new All Terrain Runner series. That’s a lot to process right there.

With all that in mind, there was more than just pride on the line. Series points, titles, and of course, bragging rights. Enter Josh Ferenc (aka the Last Hero and Only Hope): “I was just going to attack the whole time. I knew that it would be really really tough for someone to hang with me.” And attack he did, right from the gun. There’s a brick walk on the far right side of the start area, and while everyone else at the front opted to dive right into the soft, sloppy slope, Josh shot up the launching pad that was the walk way. In fact, in the video below you can see the point at the start where EJN looks over and is thinking “that Ferenc is a clever SOB…”. Josh had a singular goal in mind: to run his race, pushing the needle as close to that redline as he could go, no matter what the competition had in mind for a plan.

There’s a preme for this race, where the first man and woman to hit the high point (just over a mile in) are awarded the coveted King of the Mountain status (and get some sweet syrup). On his way to putting a hurting on everyone (including himself), Josh picked up that preme as well. Said Josh of his effort: “I gave everything I had today. I was really hurting.” It showed in the results too (well, not the hurting part at least) as he ended up with a 2:05 lead over second place Jim Johnson.  Johnson and Kevin Tilton are no slouches (and also no strangers to less than favorable trail conditions), but couldn’t quite keep up with Josh. Jim edged Kevin by seven seconds, which is much closer than it sounds on a trail like that.

The wildcard in it all was Nate Jenkins, the elite road runner who was lured back onto the trails by the new All Terrain Runner series. Would Nate be able to hang with the trail animals? Or would Nate tame said animals? Jenkins held his own in the deep field and ended up finishing 4th in 43:13. Johnson, Tilton and Jenkins are all CMS teammates too, so it was a good day for the Striders.

For Kasie Enman, the race might’ve been the easier part. Kasie is not only some elite, globe-trotting Salomon runner, but she’s also the race director for Sleepy Hollow. “I was nice and tapered, felt good. I also didn’t get to warm up because I was race directing, so I used the first lap as a warm up.” Kasie gave a nice little pre-race speech, then quickly hopped onto the line, and during her ‘warm up’ she picked up the King of the Mountain preme as the first woman to mount the summit.

Kasie impressively finished 16th overall with a 46:44 and must’ve been pretty comfortable with the home course advantage. Kasie was able to put some distance between herself and her nearest competitors, which happened to be a couple of Somerville Road Runners: Kath Hardcastle (49:02) and Kate Hails (52:40).

Top masters runner and defending mountain series champion (overall) Christin Doneski was in unfamiliar territory: 4th place. Although her 53:43 was good for top masters runner on the day and 46th overall, Christin was faced with stiff competition for the overall win. The fact that she was even that close despite having recently run the Boston Marathon was a feat in and of itself. Between the marathon fatigue and the deeper field, it made for a challenging day. On her race, the conditions and her fitness, Christin said:

First, I have NEVER run in conditions like that. I was actually in a very good mood going in to this race. I was worried about my fatigue (from Boston and my post-marathon cold) but I was happy to be there and thought the sloppy conditions would be fun. They were fun and exciting initially but by the end my legs were pretty tired. Having to really pick my feet up for every step took it’s toll. What do you call it “post-holing” when you stride and one leg sinks in to mid calf….well whatever it is called I did that a number of times and it really brings your momentum to a stand still. The conditions were certainly part of the fun, but also an area in which I was entirely inexperienced. That said, I know coming off Boston definitely impacted my climbing. I am usually much stronger on the uphills than downhills and I was not as strong on the uphills as I would have liked.

Post-holing really is the perfect way to describe that energy sucking phenomenon that plagued runners throughout the race (and just added to the fun of it all).

Speaking of the masters, Todd Callaghan got exactly what he wanted: mud. Todd knew those conditions would play to his strengths and he capitalized on the opportunity by running a 44:20. That was fast enough to place him 9th overall and make him the fastest masters runner on the day.

Next up is the mountain series is the Pack Monadnock 10 Miler, while the window is now open for All Terrain Runners to get their track 5k in.

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