Sunday, December 21, 2014

News: Underreported Stories; Stress Fractures; Kenyans; Ron Hill; Fatigue

Stories on Alysia Montano and Tatyana  McFaddin, one pregnant, the other continuing her dominance.  Both under reported during 2014 HERE.

Journal paper on stress fractures, what causes them, how to heal from them, manage them HERE.

Physiology isn't the only reason for success by Kenyan runners HERE.

What have you done every day for the last 50 years?  The UK's Ron Hill has run at least one mile HERE. Hill finished fifth in the 1975 Boston Marathon.  Can you name the Minnesotan who finished three places in front of him?

It was the Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi who is credited with the quote: "Fatigue makes cowards of us all."  Scientific studies has shown that a bit of motivation can counteract that fatigue HERE. the power of positive thinking.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

News: USATF MN Indoor Meet #2 Results; End of Season HS Individual Rankings; From the Choir to Cross Country; Tyler Pennel Interview

Results from the USATF Minnesota Indoor Meet #2 at Bethel are HERE
Dyestat final individual boys' rankings HERE, girls HERE.

MIAC student-athlete spotlight on St. Ben's Jenna O'Donnell is HERE. From the choir to cross country: "When coming to the College of Saint Benedict I had no intention of being an athlete. My plan was to focus solely on my academics and to join the choir."

Belated listing of first UMAC Indoor track athletes of the week from December 9 HERE.

Interview with 2014 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon men's champion Tyler Pennel HERE.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Aaron Bartnik: Running to the Beat of a Metronome

THEN: Aaron Bartnik winning the 1999 MSHSL
AAXC Championship. Photo by Dennis Hahn
A healthy Aaron Bartnik led the Gopher men's cross country team from start to finish this year.  During his interview Bartnik talks about dealing with potential career threatening injuries. Using a metronome app to help him stay healthy, his last HS XC race, what he learned from this year's experiences, and his goals for the future. 

Down the Backstretch: Your junior year seems to be a good year for you.  You won the MSHSL XC championship as a junior at Eden Prairie.  This year you had a breakout season leading the Gophers.  Aside from being injury free what helped you be successful this cross country season?

Aaron Bartnik: Being patient has been important. I had to accept that I wasn’t going to see exceptional results immediately after my first injury-free season. In addition to this, I have prioritized a healthy lifestyle. I am never going to get the most out of myself as an athlete if I am not eating well, getting enough sleep, and staying healthy.

DtB:  How did you cope with the frustration of being seemingly cursed with stress fractures?  Why did you keep coming back from the injuries?  I’ve been told that there were points where you considered quitting.

AB: It was a couple difficult years of continuous injuries. I tried as hard as I could to stay positive, but it got difficult at times. After spending an hour or more cross training every day for a couple years in a row, I started to question things. So yes, I most certainly considered quitting. I came to the University of Minnesota to run, not to aqua jog.

While I had fantastic high school cross country experiences, I often wondered how good I could be at the next level. I didn’t know how I would develop with the increase in training that comes with collegiate sports, and I wanted to test the limits of my body.  Could I be one of the best on my team? One of the best in the Big Ten? One of the best in the nation? 

NCAA athletics is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I knew I would never be able to answer those questions if I moved on and gave up on my collegiate running career. My main motivation for persevering came from this internal desire to be the best athlete I could be. In addition to this, I wanted to give back to the University that gave so much to me. Being a Division I athlete is a huge privilege, and I wanted to represent the school that has made my college experiences so great.

DtB:  The solution for you has been working to change your stride.  Changing one’s “mechanics” has been in the news a lot of late within the distance running community, not to lessen the chance for injury but on the premise that if you can become more efficient, you’ll use less energy and be able to run faster.  How does one go about changing one’s stride?  Is it something that is easy to change or did it take some time to feel comfortable with your “new stride?”

AB: It was a difficult task and I had to be patient with it; I am thankful for being introduced to physical therapist Blake Butler at TRIA Orthopaedic. Blake was able to identify numerous inefficiencies in my stride, including but not limited to a low turnover rate and a lack of activating my glutes.

My stride rate was at about 160 foot strikes per minute, and as a result of this slow turnover rate, I had a lot of vertical movement. We suspected this was the primary stressor of my bone related injuries. My goal was to get my stride rate up to 180. 

I installed a metronome app on my phone, set it to a tempo that was uncomfortably quick but reasonably achievable, and I matched my foot steps to the beat. Over about two months I worked my way up to 180 beats per minute. 

It was a mentally exhausting exercise. I had so much to focus on with the movement of my own body, that the repetition of the metronome didn’t bother me too much. In addition to the issue of turnover, I performed a set of muscle memory exercises every day that taught me to activate my glutes when my heels hit the ground.

DtB:  Do you have to consciously think about it?  Do you find yourself reverting back to your “old stride” at all?  When you get tired?

AB: It comes pretty naturally now, but it is definitely still a work in progress. I have a little mental checklist that I go through every run to make sure I am doing all the little things right. And still today, over a year after changing my stride, I will still occasionally use the metronome and focus entirely on form for a run.

DtB:  If somebody who had watched you last year and then looked again this year would the change in your “mechanics” be noticeable or are they more subtle than that?

AB: I think it would be very noticeable if they saw me on an everyday run, but maybe not as much in races. Turnover naturally increases with pace, so I always had decent turnover in races. Considering that races only count for a small percentage of my total running, it is what I am doing in practice that is more important when it comes to injury prevention.

DtB:  Do you have any advice for other runners dealing with stress fractures?

AB: When dealing with the mental side of injuries, setting goals is important. It was helpful for me to remind myself of my goals every day. On a personal level, you have to know what things you are willing to making sacrifices for. If you are passionate enough about your goal, you will be able to persevere through any injury.

On the physical side of things, I think it is important to find the root cause of the problem. Stress fractures commonly stem from poor running form, a muscular imbalance, or dietary issues. If you don’t have a plan to overcome the injury, consult help. While the stress fracture will heal with time, there is a good chance it will happen again unless you find the underlying problem.

DtB:  Both your high school and college coaches have noted that you were often able to produce top performances on very limited training.  Bruce Mortenson says he thought your third place finish in the MSHSL XC Championships was more impressive than when you won State your junior year.  I would guess that being able to do that would elicit both hope and frustration.  Sort of “What could I do if I was ever healthy?”

AB: I actually consider myself someone who needs a big base of aerobic training to run well. I firmly believe in the importance of training with consistency. It wasn’t until almost a year of staying injury-free when I started to really feel like myself racing again. 

The state meet my senior year was an exception. To this day, I am extremely proud of myself for that race. The metatarsal stress fracture I developed about a month before the state meet had limited my training to at most a couple short runs a week. I was probably hurting more at 4K of that race than I was at the finish line of any other race that season. 

Plus, I lost to two extremely talented athletes in Adam Zutz and Cole O’Brien. You can always play the “What if I were healthy” game, but I understood that injuries are a natural occurrence in running, and that I would get back to performing at a top level with time.

DtB:  The NCAA Championships this year was another of those “double edged sword” experiences.  You made it to Nationals.  You were within striking distance of making All American, but the body wouldn’t respond.  Was it just the illness the week prior to the race?  Is there a clear answer as to why you weren’t able to make the move you wanted to in that race?

AB: I do believe the illness was the primary cause of my sub-par performance. I was ready to go mentally, but running a 10K against the top runners in the NCAA is no easy task healthy, let alone sick.

DtB:  It was your first chance at the NCAA XC champs.   What did you learn that might help you get back there again next year and get the result you want?

AB: Seeing all the top-caliber runners before, during, and after the race, my biggest takeaway is that everyone is human. I think it is important to not limit yourself when comparing your performance with others; not a single athlete in the NCAA is unbeatable no matter what Flotrack says. Plus, my disappointment in this year’s NCAA result will only motivate me to achieve more next year. The plan is to qualify for nationals with the team next year, and for me to significantly improve on my performance.

DtB:  What are the goals for the upcoming track season, aside from staying healthy?

AB: I definitely want to break 14 minutes in the 5K this year, but more importantly, my biggest goal is to be as competitive as possible within the Big Ten.

DtB:  Are you thinking of running post collegiately or is it too early to make that kind of decision?

AB: It is too early to tell. I know very little about post-collegiate running,  and I definitely didn’t go to college with plans of running competitively after graduation. But, if I continue to develop as an athlete, and feel that I have something to prove after my collegiate eligibility, then I will most certainly consider it.
Now: Bartnik racing on the track. Photo courtesy of
U of MN

News: Reflections on Bill Miles' Retirement; Jon Peterson; WR Stats; USATF

From Wayzata, some reflections on Bill Miles HERE.

Competitor Q&A with Team USA Minnesota's Jon Peterson is HERE.

For those of you who love statistics, there are comparisons between the men's and women's World Records HERE.

Lauren Fleshman  on USATF HERE.  Jon Gugala writes on USATF actions at the convention HERE

Varied Comments on the Latest Doping Crises

Varied comments on the latest doping crises in the sport.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

News: 10 Best Mile Moments in 2014; Davina Carr; USATF Club Champs Men's Race Short? Bowerman Awards

Bring Back the Mile lists the 10 best mile moments in 2014 HERE. Plenty of Minnesotans on the list.

Outside magazine article on Sally Bergesen and her crusade to change the running industry HERE.

Bismark Tribune story on U-Mary pole vaulter Davina Carr is HERE.

Let's Run questioning the length of the 10K(?) men's USATF Club Championships HERE.

The MDRA's Best of 2014 Contest

It's that time of year when people look back over the past 365 days.  This year the MDRA is reliving the best performancess of 2014 by Minnesota runners.  Why?  The simplest reason is that there is a lot of running talent in the State.  So, there's a lot to celebrate.  From now until the end of the month the MDRA will post a question on their Facebook page each day.  They will select two performances during the year and ask people to vote on which one is the best.  Today's events involve an ultra runner and a track runner. .  To participate go to the MDRA Facebook page HERE and add your vote.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Commentary on Bill Miles: How He Taught the Game

Bill Miles and friends watching the NXN Nationals.  Bill's the one with the
beard. Will Leer isn't the only Minnesota guy with facial hair.
Photo supplied by Lance Elliott(last guy on the right)
In 1972 when I moved to Minnesota I was immediately impressed by the running scene.  The comprehensiveness of the community from High School to Masters.  On the High School scene I noted twins from Cretin High School, sort of that time's Hasz twins, but these were guys.  The Roth twins were as successful as Megan and Bethany.  Their coach was a young guy named Bill Miles.

Today Bill Miles retired from coaching at Wayzata High School.  He gathered his team together and told them of his decision.  One of the coaches who was at the NXN Nationals said that Bill was "emotional" about the success of the team, their runner-up finish.  The thought crept into my head: "Is this it?"  Was the 2014 season Miles' swan song? Was he merely waiting until after NXN to tell them the news?

This week I saw the tweet from Wayzata telling the team to come to a meeting today.  I had called Gopher coach Steve Plasencia earlier in the day and when he returned my call he said: "Is it about Bill Miles?"  It wasn't, but my intuition was right for once.  The news had seeped out after Bill told the team.  News travels fast in the social media age. I started to think: What a legacy.  What a commitment to the kids.  To the sport.

The things that came to mind weren't how many championships won or successes, but rather how many lives he has touched.  How many kids who he's helped discover themselves, their talents, their dreams, their path in life.  Coincidentally I happened to be talking with Stillwater's Scott Christensen at this year's MSHSL XC Championships at St. Olaf.  He was talking to Connor Olson's father.  The pair were talking "shop."  Scott said that he hoped that nobody thought that the rivalry between Wayzata and Stillwater was something personal or heated. He relished having the challenge of competing against strong opposition.  It wasn't so much about who won, he said, but rather that they made each other better.

Christensen said he was glad the teams in Minnesota had each other to measure themselves against.  To push each other to new heights.  Wayzata, Stillwater, Edina, Hopkins.  They all wanted to win, but, more importantly, they all helped get the best out of each other.  In today's celebrity culture, it's easy to forget the lessons one learns from sports. As Cannon Falls', now the University of Minnesota Duluth's, Emi Trost had said after winning the MSHSL Class A girls' title last year: "Ten years from now nobody is going to remember who won.  What's important are the relationships, the friendships we've made."

Miles said the same thing in another way at the 2014 MSHSL track championships.  He'd overheard Hopkins' Joe Klecker talking to Chaska's Joey Duerr after the 3200.  Joe was telling Joey, who had been fighting to stay upright down the final straightaway:  "I didn't want to pass you because you looked so bad,"  Miles said Klecker told Duerr.  Not that Joe was worried Joey would run into him, but rather he was concerned with his rival and friend's physical condition.

The next day Klecker would end up splayed out on the track, giving every last ounce of what he had trying to get to the finish first in a battle with Stillwater's Eli Krahn and Richfield's Obsa Ali in the 1600.  These were guys who pushed themselves to the limits, but also had an unspoken bond that went beyond the playing field.  Miles was proud of that character in the athletes he coached and coached against.

Sportswriter Grantland Rice said it best years ago:  “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name.  He writes - not that you won or lost -But HOW you played the Game."  Bill Miles has played it well.
By Jim Ferstle

Monday, December 15, 2014

News: Chris Daymont; Fayetteville-Manlius' Coach, Bill Aris; Self Propelled Commuting; Cheryl Treworgy; LeMond

Chris Daymont(third from the right) accepting her USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of
Fame Induction trophy

Wall Street Journal article on Fayetteville-Manlius High School's Bill Aris is HERE
Ultra runner Ellie Greenwood writes about car-less, "self propelled" commuting HERE.

Long interview with one of the pioneers in women's running, Cheryl Treworgy.  Cheryl spent some time at Hamline in the mid 1970s and is Shalane Flanagan's mom HERE.

Greg LeMond has new book out exploring the science of fitness HERE.
Nick Willis(orange cone pointing at him), Will Leer(bearded again in yellow),
and Kevin Sullivan(#72) on the starting line at the Honolulu Marathon on Sunday.
Willis and Leer had just rescued an injured runner on their way to pace
Sully in the marathon.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

News: HS Rankings; Fatigue; Emily Gordon; Sub 2 Hour Marathon; Willis & Leer to the Rescue; Leer Beard of the Year

MileSplit HS rankings HERE.Click on the boxes at the top for individual and team rankings

Sports scientists attempt to define what causes fatigue HERE.

Sports scientists wagering on whether or not a sub 2 hour marathon will be run by 2019 HERE.

John Cotton Burton, 1923-2014. A Life Well Lived

John Burton's obit takes up nearly an entire column in the Star Tribune this morning.  If one were defined by one's accomplishments then John Burton's legacy is worthy of the man.  Obit is HERE. Separate story is HERE.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

USATF Junior Olympic XC Champs and Footlocker Results; Emma Benner Won JO 17-18, Grace Ping 6th in 11-12 Girls

Facebook photo gallery is HERE. Full results for all the races are HERE.USATF summary of USATF Junior Olympic XC Champs is HERE. Emma Benner won the 17-18 race and Grace Ping was sixth in girls' 11-12 race.

YouTube video of Footlocker races  HERE. Running Times summary of Footlocker Championships with links to full results are HERE. Photo album is HERE.

Grey 7th at USATF Club Nationals XC Championships

A week long bout with the flu didn't stop Team USA Minnesota's Jon Grey. He finished seventh at the USATF Club Nationals XC Meet Saturday in Bethlehem, PA to qualify for the US team that will run in the Bupa Great Edinburgh XC Meet on January 10, 2015.  Grey was only 11 seconds out of first in 29:18 for 10K.  Ryan Hill won the race in 29:07.  Medtronic Twin Cities 2014 men's champ Tyler Pennel was 8th in 29:20.69. Former TCTC runner Joe Moore finished 11th in 29:39.83. Gopher grad John Simons finished 65th in 30:43.76 and was a non scoring member of the team champion Zap Fitness Reebok.  Full men's and women's results are HERE.

Twin Cities Track Club's Kylie Blakeslee was 103rd in 21:56.96 for 6K.  Her teammate Melissa Agnew was 110th in 22:02.99.  Medtronic Twin Cities 2014 champ Esther Erb finished 40th in 20:51.10.  Full men's & women's results are HERE.

Run 'N Fun's Ben Sathre was 52nd in 30:33.30.  Teammate Dan Greeno was 53rd in 30:33.94.  Hamline grad Devin Monson was 80th in 30:57.52, and Run 'N Fun's Mason Frank was 152nd in 31:49.27.


Run 'N Fun finishers in the Masters 10K men's race : Jon Keillor 22nd in 33:36.69, Kelly Mortenson 40th in 34:18.75,Gregory Hexum 63rd in 34:52.02, Brent Roeger 77th in 35:14.05, Pat Billig 87th in 35:33.41, Eric Johnson 97th in 35:44.17.  Masters Men results are HERE. Women HERE.

Race highlight videos for Men are HERE Women HERE.

Friday, December 12, 2014

News: Aaron Bartnek; USATF Club & Junior Olympic Nationals Previews, Carrie Tollefson Inducted into Footlocker HOF

Gophers Aaron Bartnek chosen as the 2014 recipient of the Fred O.Watson Award HERE.

USATF Club Nationals preview is HERE. USATF Junior Olympic XC Championship preview is HERE.

Will Leer on the USATF Convention Experience

To those of us out there who give a damn,

Last week (yes, the entire week) was my fourth time attending the USATF Annual Meeting. This year’s edition convened in Anaheim, California, a stones throw from Disneyland. It was five days of endless meetings, post-meeting socials and cocktail hours. Breakfast meetings started at 8:30 am and late-night negotiations would routinely last until bar closing (between 1 and 2 am). If you don’t geek out on track, you were certainly in the minority. Or, rather, you simply were not there. This is our sports yearly Comic-Con where all of the die-hards come out to play.

Now, before delving too deeply into what I am sure lots of you would like to hear, namely the juicy gossip from a bearded attendee, let me share with you the overarching feeling with which I left this years Annual Meeting: Hope. As I traversed the two main conference floors of the Hilton Anaheim, at times literally running between meetings like a crazed Pheidippides, all the while passing likeminded tracksters in the hallways, exchanging frantic text messages, phone calls and high fives, it hit me: our sport is good people. My father, always one to take the opportunity to correct my grammar as a child, will likely cringe as he reads the previous sentence, but I stand by it. 

Those who were not so fortunate as to have their travel, accommodation and/or registration paid for, came to Anaheim on their own dollar, just as they had for meetings in St. Louis, Daytona Beach, and Indianapolis, etc. By a very conservative estimate, attending the Annual Meeting costs $900 per person. And the USATF faithful gladly shell this out year after year. Why? Because they care. Because at the Annual Meeting they have a voice. Or at least they thought they did. And this is why some people are so upset right now. But I will touch on this later. As I said before, I left with the feeling of hope. 

My primary role at the previous two Annual Meetings has been as the Athlete Advisory Committee event leader for the middle distances (800m – 1,500m). This position requires the wearing of many different hats. In any one meeting event leaders fight for athlete’s rights, advocate, negotiate, and vote on rule changes, and lend insight into how funding can be most effectively allocated. We are also there simply to be present and visible. Attendees of the Annual Meeting love to see and hear from athletes. “What matters most to you, the athlete? And how can we help?” a Committee Chairperson might ask. Suddenly all eyes and ears are directed to your response, which promptly becomes item number one on the agenda. In spite of this, every one of our requests/complaints/suggestions isn’t immediately and magically resolved. But it is clear that people care and are there to help, to the best of their abilities. 

For example, here are a few of the positive changes I personally witnessed:
·      As the old adage goes, “better late than never”, Andrew Bumbalough’s disqualification from the 2014 Indoor National Championships was reversed and his 8th place finish was reinstated.
·      The American Record for the 25km distance, previously held by convicted drug cheat, Mohammed Trafeh, was returned to its rightful owner.
·      Sanya Richards-Ross successfully lobbied for the removal of an unnecessary preliminary round in the sprint races should a sufficient number of athletes “scratch” out of competition.
·      The chairs of both the Men’s and Women’s Track and Field agreed to fill the fields of distance races to the best of their abilities. Namely, 24 hours prior to the race start, fields will be filled according to the descending order list.
·      With regards to the overfilled fields at last year’s Indoor Track and Field Championships, it was agreed that a maximum field size would be set for the 1,500m/1-mile and 3,000m finals. In the event more athletes than the selected maximum run the qualifying standard, a “B” final will be run outside the window of time reserved for the television broadcast, wherein the “A” final will be contested.

These may not seem like enormous changes, but to me they illustrate that we still have an organization willing to hear the wishes of its athletes and do its best to help. Keep in mind the above listed items were merely the victories and positive changes I witnessed. I assure you there were many, many more. If there were never any changes, the 500+ people who attend the Annual Meeting each year would not continue to show up.

So now to address what everyone is upset about, namely the board of directors decision to overturn the vote of the constituency to nominate Bob Hersh for the IAAF Council and instead choose current USATF President Stephanie Hightower. If you would like more information as to the specifics of the role of IAAF Council, please read David Greifinger’s opinion piece on

From the outset of the Annual Meeting, the USATF National Office took the strategy of pushing the numbers. From the purely financial side of things, USATF is doing better than we have in decades. Net assets, sponsorship revenue, budgetary expenses, and athlete funding have all increased. Our federation is sitting in the best position it has since I began my career as a post-collegiate athlete seven years ago. This is great news. Ideally, a financially healthy federation means more support to athletes and better results in the major championships. We are, and intend to continue to be, the world’s number one track and field team!

But money doesn’t change everything. In fact, for many (people and corporations alike) having more resources should allow the freedom to focus your attention on becoming better. What better means in this instance, I don’t know. But it certainly is not the back room type dealings we witnessed in Anaheim.

Will Leer wins the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games
In the aftermath of the board’s decision to overturn the nomination of Bob Hersh, USATF’s director of communications, Jill Geer, issued a press release in which she made the bold claim that “very few organizations in our everyday lives are ‘pure democracies.’ ”  While that may very well be true, in our instance democracy counts. Nearly all of the elected positions within USATF are accountable to the membership. And a vote this lopsided (392-70 in favor of Hersh) speaks loudly for the constituency and their collective desire. While the 85% majority vote was indeed in favor of Mr. Hersh, it was equally against current USATF President Stephanie Hightower. I will grant the board that this is an important year at the IAAF with the election of a new President (current President Lamine Diack has held the position since 1999). This should usher in a new era for the IAAF with new leadership and new direction. We need to be prepared for that change, as hard as it may be, and clearly the board decided, by its 11-1 vote, that Mr. Hersh was not amenable to the newly defined role of IAAF council.

This still doesn’t answer the important question “Why?” In her remarks to the floor at the Opening Session, Mrs. Hightower spoke of the need to eliminate the rifts between “us” and move forward together. This decision, without a clear explanation of it’s intent (Hell, just tell me that you think Bob Hersh was doing a crappy job!) does not lead the membership to trust the board. By not explaining their motivations it leads people to believe their actions are more dubious than they truly may be and appear as an effort for the board to procure more power. Like her or not, on her blog, Lauren put it quite well:

"I don’t know enough about Stephanie Hightower to know if she would be good at the job or not, or better than Bob, etc. But I do know that at this meeting… she completely disregarded the wishes of the people she is meant to represent… She claims she wants to end divisiveness among us and then leads a huge political power move to get what she wants. How can we expect a person like that to represent us well at the IAAF? How can we trust the board? … I mean, what is really at stake here that’s worth tearing us apart?"

Then again it could be as simple as “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” As members of the board themselves, Mr. Hirsh and Mrs. Hightower both had the ability to lobby for votes. Clearly Mrs. Hightower did a better job at convincing them she was the better person for the job. If we want to change things of this nature from happening in the future, it is up to us to change the game. 

All of this being said, we may be okay. This whole conversation could end up being for naught. That would be ideal. It remains to be seen whether or not Mrs. Hightower will be accepted in to the IAAF community. After all, politics on their highest level are ridiculous. If that is also the case with the IAAF, then who better to represent us than Mrs. Hightower. At least we know her voice will be heard.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

News: HS Rankings, IOC Plan to Cut Track Events

DyeStat final HS XC team rankings for girls' is HERE, boys' HERE

Mpls Park Board Fees

Interesting City Pages story on Park fees.  Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon pays the most.  Road running events comprise 14 of the 25 on the list. Two triathlons and one walk event.  HERE.