Momentum Physical Therapy

I'm very happy to announce a new sponsorship of sorts; hopefully more of a partnership really.  I've been working off and on over the past few months with Dr. Greg Cecere at Momentum Physical Therapy in New Paltz, and we've decided to make him an official part of the Gunksrunner family.

A New Paltz native, Greg studied at the University of Delaware and then worked closely in New York alongside Chris Johnson, a well-known PT among runners in the city.  He opened Momentum, his private practice, upon returning to New Paltz a few years ago and has built a loyal following in the area.  Greg is a fairly accomplished runner himself, and many of his clients are runners (including Harbert Okuti, who Greg helped to top-20 finishes at Boston and New York this year), but he sees all manner of athletes and non-athletes alike.

photo: Lacey Seidman
Greg is not your average physical therapist.  While he certainly uses modalities familiar to anyone with PT experience, much of his philosophy and treatment relies upon his extensive knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms that underlie pain and dysfunction.  Of particular importance in this respect is the role that the brain and the nervous system plays in our perception of pain.  Greg understands this better than any health professional I've ever met, and is adept at tailoring treatment and recovery plans that adhere to these principles.

In addition to sports injuries, Greg treats patients for injury prevention, stride and gait analysis, post-surgical rehab, orthopedic rehab, and chronic pain.  He even makes house calls.  Last month he fixed a very persistent "lace bite" injury that had been bothering me for over a month after North Coast in basically two sessions.  Right now we're working on a chronic Achilles issue I've been ignoring for the past couple of years.  True to form, Greg is working on the neurologic pathways that govern feedback and pain responses, using noxious stimuli and movement retraining.

One aspect of treatment I'm eager to explore more with Greg is a pre-race routine that we tried prior to Cayuga Trails this spring.  I was in great shape and ready for a huge day, and Greg proposed a treatment that he thought might help spur me to reach my full potential on that day.  Unfortunately, I came down with Lyme disease (again!) the week before the race, so we never really got to see how that worked out.  I won't say too much more about it right now, but we're going to try again with some upcoming races in January/February, and I'll go into some more detail then.

Greg is a great guy and is completely dedicated to his patients.  I'm very excited to explore avenues by which we can advance this partnership moving forward.  In the coming weeks and months, I'll hopefully feature some of Greg's writing on this site, as well as some videos.  As I get up and running with my sports cardiology/exercise physiology career (more on that later as well, stay tuned), I'll be partnering with Greg to offer comprehensive coaching and sports medicine services, including PT, stride/gait analysis, and injury prevention and recovery.

Team inov-8: Coming Home

Quite possibly my favorite shoe of all time.
Last year I partnered up with Salming, a Swedish sporting-goods company which broke in to the domestic running shoe market in late 2014.  I felt very lucky to be included among their first crop of sponsored athletes in the US, and I put in many happy miles in the Trail T1 and the Race, an ultra lightweight road-racing shoe.  I greatly enjoyed my relationship with the company and I'm thankful for the support they give me, and I stand by their shoes, which are of excellent quality.

I'm thrilled to announce, however, that at long last I'll be rejoining Team inov-8 in 2016.  Inov-8 was the first company to take a chance on me, back in 2011.  Over the past few years, their team has moved in a number of different directions, as have I.  I couldn't be happier that we've found our way back together.

Inov-8 is known overseas as the industry leader in the absolutely insane niche of our sport known as fell running.  In the last few years they've expanded into orienteering, road running, and Cross Fit; but the trails remain their bread and butter.  They make shoes that are lightweight, flexible yet supportive, with incredible traction, and across a wide range of heel-toe differentials.  There is a shoe for every ultra runner in the inov-8 line.  Usually more than one.

The inov-8 team has seen many accomplished runners come and go, both in the US and internationally.  I'm the first to admit that I'm not on the level of many--maybe any--of my teammates, or even on the same level as many of the runners who are no longer associated with the team.  I'm under no illusion that this is a purely, or even mostly, performance-based relationship.  Whatever middling ability I've cultivated as a writer--and my willingness to contribute my writing to the inov-8 blog--is a major part (maybe the biggest part) of what I bring to the table.  And I'm ok with that.  I'm going to represent this company to the best of my ability, with pride and with joy.  I'm going to do everything I can to live up to the faith they've shown in me.  Hopefully we'll find some good stories to tell, and hopefully you'll join us for a fun ride.

As Max said when leaving Montrail for Salomon early last year, there are always mixed feelings when making a change of teams or sponsors.  You feel loyalty to those who have backed you in the past.  You don't want to feel like a "sellout".  You've made relationships that you are leaving behind.  These are never easy decisions.  But this one was made much easier for me because there is no other shoe company I want to run for.  Right now, I feel like I'm back home.

Inov-8 isn't my only sponsor.  I'm lucky to have support from a number of fantastic companies, including Mountain Peak FitnessRed Newt Racing (and, through the MPF/RNR team, GUUD, and Merrell), Orange Mud, and Yard Owl.  Check out my new and improved Sponsors page and please patronize these fine companies (in a non-patronizing way of course).

Team Mountain Peak Fitness/Red Newt Racing

I'm extremely excited to report that I've been invited to join the Mountain Peak Fitness/Red Newt Racing Trail Running Team.  This team is born out of the marriage of two amazing companies.  Mountain Peak Fitness is a coaching, training, and adventure company based right here in the Hudson Valley.  The group's founders, Elizabeth and Joe Azze, are both coaches and personal trainers who have grown this business out of their love of the outdoors and of endurance sports.  MPF offers coaching and personal training services, as well as leads adventure groups for runners, cyclists, and hikers. 

Red Newt Racing is the brainchild of Ian Golden, the owner of the Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company and the race director of the Virgil Crest Ultras and the Cayuga Trails 50.  Red Newt is Ian's race management company, which has recently expanded to include not only those two races but several other gnarly trail races throughout New York, including the first stop of this year's US Skyrunning Circuit at Whiteface Mountain.  Red Newt will also provide their expertise and support for Charlie Gadol's races: Manitou's Revenge, possibly the toughest 50-miler in the country, and the inaugural Cat's Tail trail marathon.  Ian is a fantastic race director who puts on a world-class event and has hosted the US 50-mile championships at Cayuga Trails, and Red Newt is quickly growing into a major player on the trail running scene.

The MPF/RNR team is supported by the FLRTC and also Run On Hudson Valley, a new specialty running shop in Croton-on-Hudson.  Both shops are excellent and you should definitely check them out.

I was a bit taken aback when Ian asked if I'd like to join, as I'm not quite up to the caliber of most of the other athletes in the group, and I'm humbled to be included on a team with such luminaries as Cole Crosby, Iain Ridgeway, Ben Nephew, Carlo Agostinetto, Ryan Welts, and many others.  Hopefully I can put up some performances this year that justify my inclusion.  Please, check out Mountain Peak if you are considering a coach, and if you're looking for a great race this year, pick at least one of the Red Newt events.  I'll be running in at least three of their races, including Cayuga, so hopefully I'll see you out there.

Salming: No Nonsense!

I've been lucky enough in my running career to receive support from some great shoe companies: from Nike, in college; to Brooks, when I ran for the Haddonfield Running Company during medical school and residency; and as part of the Inov-8 pro deal team in 2011.  And I'm thrilled now to announce a partnership with Salming, which entered the US market last year and is making great strides on the running, triathlon, and trail running scene.

The great Borje Salming.
Salming was started by hockey legend Borje Salming, the first Swedish player named to the NHL Hall of Fame and widely considered one of the greatest Swedish players of all time.  Like many industry giants, they make products for multiple sports: hockey, as you can imagine, but also floorball, handball, squash, and running.

The running shoes are borne out of Salming's holistic approach to evaluating running form, exemplified by their innovative RunLAB in Gothenburg, which incorporates real-time stride analysis, motion capture, and video to measure individual biomechanics and then derive coaching plans aimed at increasing performance and decreasing injury risk.  Salming's running shoes have garnered multiple awards overseas and debuted in the US late last year.  While the RunLAB has not yet reached US shores, the brand is committed to bringing the insights gained there to their shoe design.  Specifically, they focus on producing light, flexible shoes that allow for a "natural" foot strike and greater ground feel and proprioception.

Now, let's not get into a huge thing here.  Few things polarize a friendly running discussion more than the debate over "natural" running, heel-striking vs. forefoot striking, barefoot running, minimalism, maximalism, and Born to Run.  (BTW: They're making a Born to Run movie!  With Matthew McConaughey!  Tell me you're not gonna watch that.)  It's my blog, so I'll tell you what I think (and feel free to comment below) and then we'll move on: I think that the minimalist movement, although it got co-opted and taken too far, spurred some of the best advances in shoe technology and design in the past thirty years.  Whether or not you run in minimalist shoes, you've benefitted from the impact it had on the industry.  Without people talking about heel-toe drop and foot strike, you never see Hoka One One, Altra, Scott, or a host of great shoes from New Balance, asics, and the rest of the shoe giants.

So where does Salming fall on the spectrum?  They are certainly committed to the "natural" movement in shoe design, but in actuality the shoes do a nice job of walking the line between traditional and new-wave.  They have no zero-drop models; all Salming shoes (at least to this point) have a 5mm heel-toe drop, which is significantly less than the standard 10-12mm seen in most traditional designs, but obviously a big difference over the zero-drop offerings that have proliferated in recent years.  (For reference, that's right in line with many of the Hoka models--the Stinson and the Bondi are both around 4mm; the Conquest and the RapaNui are in the 5-5.5mm range.)  This does help to promote a more midfoot/forefoot strike, but without some of the strain on the calves and Achilles people notice with zero-drop models.  They are all light; the heaviest shoe, the new Trail T1, checks in at just over ten ounces.  Stack heights are low, which does increase the ground feel and responsiveness, to some extent at the cost of cushioning, but not overwhelmingly so.  They are modern shoes with a classic feel.  Overall, they embody the brand's tagline, "No nonsense."  These are no-nonsense running shoes.

The Distance A2.
So far I've been putting in miles in the Distance A2, which I've been enjoying a lot.  I tend to like low, light, flexible shoes, and these certainly fit the bill.  Salming hasn't quite yet mastered the "anatomic toe box" they talk about; the last is still fairly traditional, and it is certainly not up to Altra standards in terms of really expanding the toe box, but hopefully they will get there in subsequent models.  The Trail T1 hits the US in about three weeks, so I'm very, very stoked to check those out.

I couldn't be prouder or more excited to be representing Salming in 2015 with a fantastic group of athletes (including local legends Bec and Laurel Wassner!), who are all much, much more accomplished than I.  I'll be sporting the gear starting at next month's Mount Mitchell Challenge and throughout the rest of the year.  Please check them out and hit me up with any questions you have about the shoes or the brand.  Gonna be a great year!

Orange Mud: Ultralight Hydration

Photo: Joe Dean
Let me start by saying: I really like gear, but I don't often use it.  I love having stuff, but when I run, I'm usually a minimalist.  I generally race with only a handheld, unless the race is unsupported; in training, I won't usually carry anything if I'm running for less than three hours, unless the heat dictates that I carry water.  But last year I started using the Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest on some of my longer runs and unsupported FA-style events.  Honestly, it's a great product.  You can carry a fair bit of gear and two 16-oz bottles without any significant bouncing, and it's incredibly lightweight.  I had very few complaints; on longer efforts I did feel like I was adjusting the chest straps a little too frequently, and the sternal strap can be a bit limiting, but all in all, a huge improvement (from my perspective) over Camelbacks, waist belts, and the like.

The Orange Mud handheld
Last year a friend turned me on to Orange Mud, a small hydration company based out of California.  I first found their handheld, which is one of the better examples on the market that I've found: quite light, very adjustable, with a much more comfortable strap that my previous handhelds, and enough room for a few gels or small packable items.  It wasn't until the end of this year, however, that I discovered the HydraQuiver, the flagship product in the Orange Mud line, and fell in love.

The HydraQuiver is a vest, but unlike the UD vests, the hydration has been moved from the front to the more traditional alignment on the back.  At first, I was concerned with bouncing, as I was under the impression that the elimination of bounce in the UD line had come from shifting the weight to the front.  But the HydraQuiver, instead of distributing the weight in the small of the back, as you'd expect with a Camelback, keeps the weight centered in the upper back, between the shoulder blades.  The result is a completely bounce-free ride, with easy access by reaching behind you.  If you can scratch the back of your neck, you can pull out the water bottle.

When I first put on the Orange Mud HQ, it felt much too tight in the armpits.  But as soon as I started running and my arms came up into their normal carriage, all the tension vanished.  The pack rests comfortably with no bounce and no tension (and no sternal strap).  I have yet to tug on a strap to adjust it during a run.  As great an experience as the UD line provides, the Orange Mud HQ is better; I literally forget that I'm wearing it, and have started taking it on shorter runs of 60-90 minutes, just because it's so comfortable.  The back is padded for comfort, and there is a pocket that will easily accommodate a phone, some nutrition, keys, and other small sundries. It's my go-to choice for running hydration right now, and I anticipate racing with it this year, even in supported ultras, which I never would have thought possible before.

I'm proud to announce that I've joined the Orange Mud team as one of their ambassadors (or "am-badass-adors" as they like to say) and will be happily promoting their gear.  There are several other products worth checking out in the Orange Mud line.  The HydraQiver Double Barrel is the same idea, with two rear bottles; the VP2 has extra space for more gear, during longer efforts.  There are several new products launching this year, including a gym bag which looks very well-planned.  They also have some cool logo gear (including the super-hipster trucker hat, which almost never leaves my head now) and they also make a neat towel/car seat cover.  It's definitely worth checking them out.

Ridge Rockin' with the Depot

Last month I posted about Rock the Ridge, a new 50-mile race/hike that's being held for the first time this year to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Mohonk Preserve here in New Paltz.  I didn't say anything about running the race at that time. I've been planning since last fall on running the Ice Age 50K in Madison this month, a race I've wanted to do for quite some time, and with RTR falling just one week before Ice Age, it didn't seem doable for me.  Also, though I support the Preserve and their fundraising efforts, I wasn't too keen on going around, hat in hand, in order to raise the $250 in pledges necessary to compete.  But as the race approached I got more and more enamored of the idea of running an ultra right in my own backyard, on the trails I train on every day.  I don't know exactly what happened, but all of a sudden one day I decided I HAD to run RTR.  So I asked my friends Geoff and Mike, the co-owners of the Bicycle Depot, if the shop would be interested in sponsoring me for the race, and they graciously agreed.  So, my first sponsorship for 2013: the Bicycle Depot!

The Depot is one of several excellent bike shops in our area, and in my opinion is the best one.  They offer a wide range of road and mountain bikes, accessories, and apparel.  They have a full-service shop for assembly, repair, tune-ups, you name it.  They have a full fleet of rental bikes that they re-stock every year, so they remain in great condition.  And, they are just about the friendliest group of bike mechanics and business owners you could ever imagine.

Mike and Geoff are strong supporters of the local racing scene as well as the local community in general.  In addition to being one of the main sponsors of the Spring Dual Against Cystic Fibrosis, they are longtime supporters of the ridge, the Preserve, and the Mountain House.  They've donated brand new bikes as raffle prizes for local events like "No Petrol Day" and the New Paltz Regatta, and they've formed partnerships with other excellent local businesses like Rock and Snow (another huge ally of the Preserve and one of the main sponsors of RTR) and the Mudd Puddle Cafe to help support our unique community.  I'm proud to represent the Bicycle Depot and hope that I can put in a good showing this weekend.  In terms of the race, Ben Nephew is the overwhelming favorite, but hopefully he'll take it easy on me and we can run together for awhile, at which point, I don't know, maybe he'll get eaten by a wildebeest or something.