Thursday, June 14, 2018

COURAGE EARNS THE BRONZE

Following is an article that I wrote today about NCAA track and field bronze medal winner in the steeplechase, Paige Stoner.

EUGENE, Ore. — Prior to the finals of the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at Saturday’s NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships held at historic Hayward Field, Pottsville Area graduate Paige Stoner had to make a bold decision.

Her choices were to sit back and let the favorite, Boise State’s Allie Ostrander, dictate the pace, or go for broke and challenge the reigning steeplechase champion.

Like she has all season, Stoner chose the latter and went for the win.

The 3,000-meter steeplechase, which derives its name from the horse racing steeplechase, is a brutal event. The distance is a little less than two miles, within which runners must hurdle a total of 28 immovable, 30-inch high barriers as well as a 12-foot wide water jump on all seven laps. After the legs fatigue, hurdling the barriers becomes increasingly difficult, causing many a runner to trip and fall to the track.

The Syracuse University junior placed third in the event in a personal-best time of 9 minutes, 46 seconds. It was the perfect cap to what has been a superb season for Stoner in nearly every race she has run.

In the fall, Stoner proved herself to be one of the top harriers in the country in her final year of eligibility in cross country.

At the Atlantic Coast Conference Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, she battled
Dorcas Wasike, a Kenyan native running for the University of Louisville. Stoner found another gear in the last 100 meters of the race and prevailed in a time of 19:52 on the 6-kilometer course, capturing the ACC championship.

In miserable conditions, she placed second at regionals in Buffalo, New York, then she went on to run the exact same time of 19:52 to earn a 17th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
Stoner’s success continued throughout her indoor season, when she raced at distances of 3K and 5K. In her own words, Stoner prefers an “honest” race over a tactical one. In a tactical race, competitors tend to bunch together at a relaxed pace, then as the race winds down, the runner with the fastest sprint usually prevails.

At Indoor Nationals held at Texas A&M, the race was a slower, tactical race, but Stoner placed 8th in a time of 16:02 for 5 kilometers, earning All-America honors.

During her outdoor season, Stoner competed in a grueling 10,000-meter race, which is 25 laps around the track. She ran a personal-best time of 33:55 and finished in 6th place.
In addition to being an accomplished runner, Stoner participated in soccer, gymnastics and swimming during her youth. She enjoys running the steeplechase because it appeals to her all-around athletic abilities.

She won her first steeplechase race of the season at the University of Virginia in late April, clocking a time of 9:57. Once again, she earned an ACC championship, winning the event and dropping her time to 9:50. A time of 9:48 at regionals earned her a spot at nationals.

Thursday evening, she ran easily in her qualifying heat, landing her in the steeplechase finals.
After the first lap of the finals race, Stoner’s face displayed grit and determination, as she remained right on the heels of Ostrander. Glancing side to side, and looking up at the large screen, she was surprised that the rest of the field was not brave enough to go for the win, as she and Ostrander were running far ahead of the pack.

With about 600 meters to go, however, the scorching pace took its toll. She could feel the strength leave her legs, and with 300 meters remaining she surrendered second place. In the end, Ostrander defended her title with an outstanding time of 9:29. Stoner finished third, 17 seconds back.

True to her hardscrabble Pennsylvania roots, Stoner ran a Rocky Balboa-style race. She challenged the champion, she made her work for the victory and she left nothing on the track. Stoner is the third best collegiate steeplechase runner in the nation.

Over the summer, Stoner will work as a counselor at a Christian cross country camp. Faith is a major part of her running. She will then travel to Switzerland with a group of runners from Athletes in Action to compete against elite European runners.

Stoner has a year of track eligibility remaining. Although she enjoys running the steeplechase, she said she needs to work harder on her hurdling technique if she is to improve. She has the speed and strength to run the steeplechase, the 5,000 meters or the 10,000 meters.

Whatever long distance race Stoner elects to run, she will compete with a deep faith, gritty determination and a foundation of hard work.

Look for her again at nationals next year and remember that the 2020 Olympic Games are only two years away.

Monday, June 11, 2018

TRAVEL EASE

On the 4th of July I will be flying out of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and I have just made a purchase on Amazon that will ease some of my traveling woes. From now on, whenever I travel, I'm taking my YMWILL Portable Silicon Travel Bottle Set https://www.amazon.com/YMWILL-Portable-Silicone-Travel-bottles/dp/B07BQC687N",  with me.

These 3 ounce, lightweight, silicon travel bottles conform to the TSA standards, so there are no worries when you prepare to board the airplane. I like that the Travel Bottle has a wide mouth so that I can easily fill and clean it. The bottle also has a leak-proof, three-layer design that is triple-sealed, soft and flexible.

I use the travel bottles when I go to the gym: One for my shampoo and another for my liquid soap. Rather than buying expensive travel-size toiletries, I simple fill my Travel Bottles, rinse them when they're empty, then fill them back up. These bottles are ideal for camping, and the can be used for baby food, salad dressing, and sauces.

The YMWILL Portable Silicon Travel Bottle Set is a great inexpensive, no fuss way to take your toiletries with you wherever you go. This is a great gift for dad or the grad.




Friday, May 11, 2018

A RUNNER FOR THE '80S; A RUNNER FOR NOW

Following is my column, written for the Republican Herald newspaper, published on May 11.

Among the 3,500 runners who ran the Yuengling Light Lager Jogger 5K on April 21 was Wayne Parfitt, a resident of Newport News, Virginia, and a 1983 graduate of Pottsville Area High School.
A distinguished cross country and track runner at Pottsville, Parfitt was a member of the 1982 cross country team that defeated the nearly invincible Blue Mountain team of harriers, snapping the Eagles’ remarkable streak of 144 consecutive dual-meet victories. He was invited by a group of Berks County runners to join their Junior Olympics team. That team went on the win the National Junior Olympics team title in 1982.

After graduation and before pursuing his higher education, Parfitt concentrated on running marathons. He ran his first marathon in Philadelphia at the age of 18, and a year later he returned to Philadelphia to turn in an incredible time of 2:31:09, earning him the No. 1 ranking in the country for marathon runners ages 19 and under.

Parfitt went on to run for Williamsport Area Community College. He ran for one year and became the state champion among Pennsylvania community college runners.

In 1986, Wayne Parfitt officially retired from running and competition.
Due to obligations associated with raising a family and pursuing a career, Parfitt “paused’’ his running pursuits, not for a year or two, but for 30 years.

When he returned to competition, he did so with a vengeance. In 2014, at age 49, he ran the Richmond Marathon in a time of 2:56. After an absence of 32 years, he returned to the Boston Marathon in 2016, and at age 52, he has achieved a personal age-group marathon time of 2:54:09, ranking him as one of the top over-50 marathon runners in the country.

At the Yuengling Light Lager Jogger 5K, Wayne made the 6½-hour drive from Virginia to run in his hometown for the first time since 1983. It was as if he just released the pause button. Parfitt won his age division, clocking a time of 19:28, placing 10th overall in the massive field of runners.
Wayne Parfitt quit running because, according to him, “It wasn’t fun anymore.” Today, his passion for the sport has returned, and the reason, as he states, is simple. “I found the fun again.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

RUNNING AND AMERICA'S OLDEST BREWERY

In less than three weeks, 3,500 runners will line Mahantongo Street for the 6th annual running of the Yuengling Light Lager 5K race Saturday, April 21.

As it has done with its beers, America’s oldest brewery has brewed a winning formula, hosting the largest 5K race in eastern Pennsylvania.

When registration opens for the Yuengling Light Lager Jogger 5K in October, the maximum capacity of runners is reached within about a week.

Runners enjoy the challenging race course that starts and finishes at America’s oldest brewery, the post-race block party, their Yuengling Light Lager Jogger-branded pint glass, official race T-shirt, the two free Yuengling Light Lagers for those age 21 and over, a chance to visit the Yuengling gift shop, and the opportunity to have their picture taken with company president, Dick Yuengling, who has attained rock star status among runners.

In addition, a portion of each participant’s entry fee is donated to Operation Gratitude, which annually sends more than 150,000 care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, plus personal letters of appreciation, to new recruits, veterans, first responders, wounded warriors, care givers and to individually named U.S. service members deployed overseas.

The family of the oldest brewery in America has long been vested in the running community.
It has been my privilege to know Dick Yuengling since he was my Little League baseball coach many years ago. Back in the ’90s, when I was running races in southeast Florida, he graciously offered for me to stay at his condo near Fort Lauderdale, and I gratefully accepted.

Dick’s daughter, Jennifer, the sixth generation of Yuengling brewers, serves as vice president of operations for the Yuengling Brewery.

An excellent softball player at Pottsville High and Bucknell University, Jennifer took up running a few years ago and has now become an avid runner. She has run race distances from 8 kilometers to the half marathon. Although a full marathon may be in her future, running now serves as a stress release from raising a family as well as running a Fortune 500 company.

Approximately 15 years ago, with the help of one of their beer distributors near Tidewater, Virginia, Yuengling teamed up with the very popular Virginia Beach Marathon.

Today, the race is known as the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon, an entire weekend of running events that features an 8K, half marathon and a full 26.2-mile marathon. The weekend attracts more than 27,000 runners.

This year, the participants became the first to try Yuengling’s new product, Golden Pilsner, a delicious new brew that Jennifer Yuengling describes as a “lifestyle beer.” When talking about the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon she notes, “We’re not the biggest brewery, and it’s not the biggest race.”

But if you drink the beer and run the race, you’ll agree that quality beats quantity in both brewing beer and hosting a race.

Yuengling beer and running doesn’t end there.

Monday, registration opened for the 5th annual Yuengling Oktoberfest 5K Run/Walk, which will accompany the Oktoberfest festivities at ArtsQuest Center on SteelStacks Campus in historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The city of Pottsville has benefitted immensely from the presence of the Yuengling Brewery, and with 3,500 runners and their families descending upon the city, hotels, restaurants and business will see an increase in traffic on race weekend. Roma Pizza will offer specials to the runners, and The Wheel restaurant will feature post-race live entertainment.

Yuengling has helped put Pottsville on the map for beer-lovers, and runners as well.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

ATHLETES GEL


Having suffered a complete hamstring tear in 2013, a mere three weeks after a successful effort at the Boston Marathon, my cascading injury cycle shifted to my left knee, probably a result of favoring a permanently weakened hamstring.

Meniscus surgery followed in 2015, and today, running as well as walking, is accompanied by pain, brought on by the onset of arthritis.

Physical therapy, hyaluronic acid injections, and an array of over-the counter topical ointments have failed to offer pain relief.

A few weeks ago, an Australian company, Athletes Gel, www.althetesgel.com, asked me to try their topical gel. Athletes Gel is all-natural ointment, which uses wintergreen, capsaicin, arnica, and clove. I’ve researched all of these anti-inflammatory medicines, and this product blends them together perfectly.  It smells great, dries fast, is non-greasy, water proof, does not stain, reduces inflammation quickly and activates pain relief minutes after applying directly to the skin.

I was using a popular brand-name capsaicin product on my knee when my sample of Athletes Gel arrived. The next day I applied Athletes Gel to my feeble knee, and the results were truly remarkable.

Athletes Gel seems to work instantly, and in addition to the pain reduction, it increased the flexibility in my knee.

I am rationing my sample until Athletes Gel hits the market on March 25.

If you suffer from pain or soreness from working out, from arthritis, or from every day overuse of muscles, I highly recommend Athletes Gel. Athletes Gel will help any athlete suffering from sprains, strains, external bruising and conditions relating to muscle fatigue, minor sports injuries and pain.

You’re going to be hearing more about this product in the coming weeks, as you will be hearing more from me. Thanks to Athletes Gel, I am able to run pain-free, thus my distance and frequency of workouts will increase.

Give Athletes Gel a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Visit them at: www.athletesgel.com.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

GO TO 'MILL

A New Year has arrived, and for some, getting in shape or improving one’s physical fitness may be on this year’s resolution list.
Recent Arctic cold along with snow and icy conditions make outdoor running both difficult and dangerous.
Whether you are a beginning runner or an experienced one, treadmill training is an excellent alternative to outdoor running.
The newest generation of treadmills allows one to select virtually any type of workout. One can climb mountains or choose a workout that simulates running on the beach. You can run or walk, and you may select a pace that allows you to challenge yourself or a pace that is light and easy.
In order to adequately simulate outdoor conditions, it is advisable to place the treadmill setting on at least a 1 percent grade. A steeper grade, of course, will provide a more challenging workout.
Select a specific amount of time, or a prescribed distance you would like to run. Choose a pace with which you are comfortable, and you are ready to begin.
If you’re brand new to treadmill running, do not hesitate to clutch the side bars as you begin your workout. You may want to begin at a very slow pace, and increase it as you gain your balance. After a few minutes you should be accustomed to the treadmill belt, and you will be able to run safely and comfortably.
Many runners complain about the monotony and boredom of treadmill running, but that problem can be easily addressed. A lot of today’s treadmills synchronize you with television, a movie, or you can use your phone to listen to your own running playlist. Another technique is to use a towel to cover up the display screen, so as not to read the time and distance as frequently.
Some treadmill programs automatically vary your workout, by alternating speeds and elevation. If not, however, you can increase your speed, and create a type of ‘‘interval’’ session, where you run fast for a certain amount of time, followed by a slow period, then back to a fast interval.
Try to run as relaxed and naturally on the treadmill as you do when you run outdoors. Keep in mind that you may experience muscle soreness, aches and pains that you do not normally feel with outdoor running. This is natural, as you are employing different muscle groups for balance on the treadmill.
Running produces an incredible amount of body heat. Most novice runners tend to wear too many layers of clothing when they run outdoors during the winter. You will produce a lot of sweat when you run on the treadmill. The environment should be cool, and a fan of some type is also advisable. At the conclusion of the workout, drink plenty of water in order to avoid dehydration, and always keep a towel handy.
Treadmill running may require a short period of adjustment, but once that has passed, it can be both enjoyable and beneficial. Treacherous outdoor winter conditions may diminish your workout or cause injury. On the treadmill, you can map out your workout so that wind, ice, or even a chase by a stray dog cannot deter you.
Simply, with proper preparation, you can beat Mother Nature and make treadmill running work for you.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

ACC CHAMP AND ALL-AMERICAN

Following is a column I wrote, which was published today in the Republican Herald newspaper.

While some college students were spending their final days of summer vacation at the beach, Pottsville’s Paige Stoner, a senior cross country runner at Syracuse University, spent her August mornings and afternoons grinding out 70-mile weeks.
On the weekends she would toss in her weekly long run, a distance of 18 miles, in preparation for a season of high expectations.
After a successful track season, in which she placed 15th in the steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, for her 2017 cross country season, Stoner and her coaches, Chris Fox and Brian Bell, had mapped out an aggressive training plan that they hoped would maximize her extraordinary running skills.
Her season began with an invitational meet at Penn State. Still logging long, intense miles during the building block phase of her training, she placed second at the 6K distance.
Building speed and strength for races against the best runners in the country centered around workouts on Sweet Road, a challenging incline near the Syracuse campus. A typical workout would consist of a 4 to 5 mile run, with four minutes of hard running, followed by a short rest before beginning another four-minute interval. As the sessions neared their end, Coach Fox instructed Stoner to run at all-out race pace for the final four minutes.
Stoner’s next meet was held in Boston where she placed 24th, in a race that included many of the runners she would face at nationals.
On Oct. 28, Stoner ran the Atlantic Coast Conference championship meet in Louisville, Kentucky.
Her coach instructed her to, “Be patient, hang with the leaders, and don’t make a move until you have about 800 meters to go.”
She ran most of the race in a pack with four North Carolina State runners and a runner from Louisville. At the 4K mark, the race came down to Stoner and her Louisville adversary. With 300 meters to go, the Louisville runner surged into the lead, but Stoner responded, passing her with 100 meters to go and winning the ACC cross country championship with an extraordinary time of 19:52 on the 6K course. She finished a mere three seconds ahead of her opponent.
At the Northeast Regionals, held in Buffalo, New York, Stoner braved 20-degree temperatures and 30-mile-per-hour winds to place second and qualify for nationals.
A week later at the NCAA Championships held in Louisville, Kentucky, Paige Stoner, from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, faced the best collegiate runners in the nation and placed 17th, earning All-America honors.
Stoner is an exceptional runner and an excellent student. More than that, she is a humble young lady who, when asked what advice she would give to young runners who want to run like Paige Stoner, replied, “Don’t overdo it in high school. Run 30 to 35 miles a week, and keep it fun. Do other things. Swim and play Frisbee.”
We haven’t heard the last of Stoner. Track season is coming up in 2018, and she has another year of track eligibility in 2019.
Oh, and the next Summer Olympic Games will be held in 2020.