February 2021 Newsletter
Ultrarunner, web developer, knitter, quote unquote farmer.
Former UVRC president, co newsletter editor, and UVRS coordinator.
The 20 Minute 5K
By: Geoff Dunbar
Hi UVRC, time for a letter from a board member. Not feeling inspired to write a motivational manifesto about the club, I’ve decided to write about my favorite subject: me!
Let’s go back to the late 1990s, as I was in my late 20s. I wasn’t a runner growing up, but as adult life began to take shape, I added running to playing rec-league soccer and pickup ultimate frisbee. My memory is a little hazy (and training logs sparse) but my first actual motivation for running was to run a half marathon, and perhaps a move up to a marathon. However, balky IT bands, a recurring theme through my running life, made training for and running the longer distance races difficult. At some point I decided to focus on shorter distance races, and decided that a 20 minute 5K would be a good goal.
When I first worked on the 20 minute 5K, I really didn’t have much idea what I was doing. I do have some running logs for that time, and there was a lot of running the same route over and over, but just trying to do it faster and faster. I didn’t really understand speed workouts or long runs, let alone periodized training or anything advanced. However, through some combination of youth, hard work, and athleticism, I got there! December 2000, the Seattle Jingle Bell Run 5K, 19:50. Yay!
The next several years were tough on speed, as we had our two children in 2000 and 2003. I actually was a pretty consistent runner through these years, as it became hard to do any other sort of sports due to time and scheduling. One great thing about running, is that putting on a pair of running shoes and getting out the door needs less planning and preparation than just about any other sport. Plus the baby jogger meant I could combine child care and exercise in one package. However, these years had a lot of short, slow runs pushing a heavy load, and any 5Ks I did were nowhere near the 20 minute mark.
Things changed a bit once the kids hit the pre-school/elementary school stage. With some more “me time”, and a middle aged body that was better suited to endurance sports than youthful team sports, this is when I really decided I was a runner. I also started to understand some more about how to train for running. My wife Nancy (an excellent high school runner) got me a Hal Higdon book, I think it was “Run Fast”. It explained pretty well the principles behind training to run faster; spoiler: just running farther and faster every day is _not_ the way to go. Also, we connected with a running club, ChuckIt, that had a Tuesday night track workout, a group coach, etc. Once again, I set the goal of running the 20 minute 5K.
However, this time, with training properly, the 20 minute 5K was pretty easy! January 1st, 2006, the Resolution Run 5K in Seattle, WA, 19:52. Equipped with a weekly track workout, a weekly long run, plenty of easy-run miles, it turns out that 20 minutes was nowhere near the limit. I quickly dropped down in the 19s, and pretty soon into the 18s. I think this progress shows the importance of intelligent, directed training vs. just running. So, if you want to get faster, educate yourself. The UVRC coaches are an excellent resource, as are any number of books, websites, podcasts, etc. You’ll be surprised what you can do!
We moved from Seattle and ChuckIt running club, on to California, and then New Hampshire. In California, I ran with the Tamalpa running club, a great club. Then here in Hanover, I was one of the founding members of the UVRC (another great running club). Through all these years, the 20 minute 5K has not really been a goal, but I’ve run one every year from 2006 to 2019. My PR when I feel like bragging was a 16:55 at the Hollis Fast 5K. But honestly, between you (my close friends) and me, that is a BS downhill course. My real PR is a 17:39, run for UVRC in a NHGP race, the Manchester Run For the Fallen 5K 2011.
In 2020, things got tricky again. I turned 50, and that is not a friendly age for running fast! Also, due to some pandemic thing, there were no races. However, one day in October I set out on the rail trail and ran a 5K time trial. Downhill, GPS measured, but I came in just under 20. For 2020, I’ll take it, and claim 15 years in a row. Going forward, I’d like to keep it going for a few more years, but a 20 minute 5K is definitely a challenge again due to aging up. Time goals can be really rewarding, and a great way to keep up consistency and motivation. I hope to see you guys out there soon at TNT again, grinding away. Listen to your UVRC coaches, and you get really desperate, find a nice downhill race.
Run Safe with UVRC - Free Cool Face Masks for Our Runners
By: Jim Burnett
At our UVRC Board meeting a couple of months ago, Krissy Flythe, the Lebanon Recreation and Parks representative to the board, announced that she had discovered a pile of rollover funds in the UVRC account, due in part to lower expenses resulting from canceled club activities and events, and suggested that we might want to consider spending some money on a meaningful project. Installing a water fountain on the rail trail was one idea, supporting a local charity that promotes running was another. "How about face masks to protect our runners from COVID-19?" = great idea. Tim Smith and Paul Coats looked into what type of mask (one layer or two, etc.) was most effective, Dorcas DenHartog suggested checking out Podium Wear, the company Hanover High School had recently purchased masks from and I contacted them and got the ball rolling. I suggested we give the masks ($15 value) to new members and those who renewed for 2021. We also thought this would be a good “carrot” to get runners to renew their membership. Even runners can be forgetful…
I volunteered to process the 200 masks - slip them into envelops with a cover letter and pass them along to Krissy to apply postage and mail them out to those who wanted a face mask with a cool UVRC logo on it. The response was slow at first but then picked up and, as a result, on Friday January 29th I dropped off about 50 masks to be distributed to new and renewing members. I will say that the ordering and processing seemed like an onerous task at first, but then I started to get positive feedback from grateful runners and I couldn’t wait to distribute another mask to help keep our runners safe.
I have already started to compile a list for the next wave of mask distributions and I look forward to hearing from more of you who want to get in on this free offer. There are 150 masks left. Wouldn’t it be great if we had to order more?
Lastly, I want to give a shout out to one of our UVRC members and newsletter contributor, Jennifer Hansen, who suggested that the club might want to add a line to our Mission Statement about safety, diversity and equality. See what we came up with, below, and please check out our upgraded website. Thanks to the efforts of Amanda Kievet, Alex Hall and Geoff Dunbar, among others, our website has a new look and we are making an effort to keep updating important messages like where we stand on COVID-19.
Run on runners, wear a cool UVRC face mask and run safe.
Link to UVRC website: uppervalleyrunningclub.org
Revised Mission Statement...
We run the Upper Valley
The Upper Valley Running Club is a diverse community of runners that promotes and encourages running as a healthy activity and competitive sport. We are committed to creating a safe, equitable and diverse environment for all our members.
Fairlee Town Forest
By: Jennifer Hansen
Fairlee Town Forest, Fairlee VT
The system contains three high points, the highest being Bald Top (1776'—first photo). Eagle's Bluff is another nice viewpoint. (second photo). Wood roads are gentle; trails have some easy inclines and some steeper sections.
Variable - I did a nice 6.6 out-and-back from Lake Morey to Bald Top one afternoon, and a comfortable 3.8 out-and-back from Blood Brook Road to Bald Top one morning. You can put together longer loops combining dirt roads and forest trails.
Ease of Navigation
Well-blazed and signed trails throughout.
Parking areas are well-noted on the maps, and are easy to find on the ground
Many hikers, some dogs, X-C skiers
Lake Morey may lie under ice right now, but the Fairlee town forest is open for business. It contains several miles of very runnable hiking trails. Try them out in winter or make a note to visit there later this year.
I used the Cross-Rivendell Trail map and the Fairlee town forest map to plan a couple of routes. The CRT map gives mileages on the CRT, but not the other trails, and you can cross-reference with the Fairlee map and estimate to get some non-CRT routes. I'm looking forward to trying some more routes in the future.
How does running benefit the immune system?
Got a question for the coaches? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send it on!
How does running benefit the immune system and is there more immune boosting benefit when running outside compared to inside?
To run is to use and exercise the body-machine you were born with and that you have developed over time. Running can only benefit your immune system if you eat and drink healthy foods and fluids and breathe clean air while stressing your body and allowing it to recover in equal measure. The beauty of running and exercise is that they can accelerate your fitness and health by fortifying your immune system as you go. Ergo, never stop running.
Jim Burnett is the president of the Upper Valley Running Club
This is such a good question, because while the link between aerobic exercise in general (not just running) and improved health is not disputed, the causal link does not yet definitively show that exercise improves immune function. Many of the ways we know exercise to help us stave off disease and illness are secondary effects, for example: exercise helps us maintain healthy body composition, lower blood pressure, etc. ergo we are less likely to get heart disease, diabetes, etc. It is not necessarily the case that our immune system, per se, has benefited from exercise.
That said, the "immune system" is a pretty complex and multifaceted thing, so trying to define exactly what counts as strengthening the immune system would get us into the weeds pretty quickly. One theory about how exercise may benefit the web of our immune system is that exercise increases circulation, effectively helping the disease-fighting cells in our blood get all around the body faster, thereby helping these cells identify and destroy disease cells more rapidly. While it paints a nice image, this theory is not yet proven.
To me, one of the clearest links between exercise and health is the effect exercise has of lowering cortisol and other effects of stress, such as inflammation, while promoting feel-good hormones like endorphins. In terms of a direct effect on the immune system, things are once again murky. But we do know that chronically high cortisol and inflammation levels lead to an increased risk of infection and disease across the spectrum. So again, a secondary effect that, while it may not be about the immune system per se, demonstrably leads to better health outcomes. I will add here that exercise is, in fact, a stressor, so all training, particularly hard training, needs to be accompanied by sufficient recovery in all its modalities in order to not negate its own benefits.
As far as outdoors v. indoors, I would say that in most cases, some exercise is better than no exercise, so if it's a choice between running indoors and not running, run indoors. There are cases where running indoors may, in fact, be better for health, such as in the case of air quality concerns or very cold temperatures. (Particles in the air, from smog/pollution to smoke to pollen can be detrimental to lung and/or function, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. While it's not true that "getting cold gives you a cold," breathing hard in frigid temperatures can irritate sensitive airways and make them temporarily more susceptible to infection. The "frigid" point is going to be different for everyone.) There may also be cases where running indoors is the only option from a safety perspective, so again, indoors is better than not at all.
But in most cases, I would argue for the benefits of running outdoors. Assuming the air outside is sufficiently clean, it strikes my sensibilities that if I'm going to be breathing hard, I want the freshest air, not some recirculated air that smells like rubber. Pollutants and particulates can get trapped in indoor air, and not disperse as they would outside. I also have a hunch that it's good for us to feel what's going on in our natural environment, and the physical and mental health benefits of time in nature are multifold, though science is really just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding all the effects. Tuning into natural daylight helps set our circadian rhythm so we sleep better, and sleep is crucial for everything health-related. To boot, we should get outdoors because outdoors is where we will encounter sunlight, and sunlight prompts us to produce Vitamin D, and, well, we know how important Vitamin D is for health!
I think Carly hit the big physiological points, leaving me little to add. But I'll start by repeating one of her points; as far as I understand it, exercise/running doesn't directly change your immune system. But it most certainly helps get through an ailment and speeds the recovery.
I'll also add that adrenaline has all sorts of good effects on the respiratory system. I suffer from hay fever and find that in heart of that allergy season the easiest breathing of the day is in the middle of a long run. In fact the same is true for colds and anything which leads to congestion.
About outdoor vs. indoor. As Carly said, one place may have cleaner air then the other. But I think a bigger point is, in which venue are you more likely to engage? Work out in a place which makes you happy and makes you want to be there again the next day.
Tim Smith is the former two-time president of the UVRC, and coaches winter TNT for UVRC.
Tim, that's a fascinating point about adrenaline. I had never really thought of it that way. I have severe food allergies and am more familiar with epipens then I care to say, so of course I know that epinephrine is a bronchodilator. But I had never considered that the release of epinephrine could be one reason why I too breathe easier in workouts than I do under many other circumstances. Cool!