Thursday, November 3, 2011

In running season, change is only constant | SeacoastOnline.com

In running season, change is only constant | SeacoastOnline.com

By Bob Wiles
November 02, 2011 2:00 AM
As I enjoyed a run through the woods behind Portsmouth High School on Saturday morning, it occurred to me that the last year has slid past me very quickly. It seems like yesterday that the limbs on the trees were just budding and now they are surrendering their exhausted leaves to the autumn winds.

It reminded me that we runners also move through cycles during the year. Parts of the year are centered on training and some months are ideal for racing. Sure, there are folks who race all year long, but even those hearty souls tend to make use of different surfaces and distances that change with the seasons. Road races give way to snowy trail races and outdoor track events move to shorter indoor tracks.

The point is that nothing stays the same. We are always in a constant state of evolution. Hopefully we spend most of that time moving forward, but sometimes things get in our way that cause us to regress. And sometimes we are forced to find the silver lining in those moments when we aren't moving forward as we had planned.

Taking time after the fall races to let our bodies recover is an important part of training. While we may surrender some aerobic fitness during this recovery, we are actually preparing ourselves to be better next year by giving tired muscles and small twinges a chance to fully heal. In this case, it is a very good trade-off to sacrifice some fitness that will quickly be re-gained once you start up again in a couple of weeks.

Want proof that taking a little time off to recover is not going to ruin your chances of running well next year? Look at America's finest track runner over the last decade, Bernard Lagat. He takes the month of October off every year to let his body recover from a long racing season. In fact, he gained 12 pounds in the month of October this year while enjoying his rest! If our nation's best runner thinks that taking a month completely off from running and apparently eats everything that crosses his face during that month, surely us mortals can allow ourselves a little recovery time and a couple of slices of thanksgiving pie in the coming weeks.

And speaking of taking a break, the time has come for this column to go into hibernation for a few months. When we began the Seacoast Running column in March, the goal was to discuss interesting running-related events taking place in the Seacoast during the primary running season, which we decided was roughly March through October.

Over the last eight months I have tried to offer some helpful advice on training and racing and share my strategies for attacking some of our most popular race courses. This summer also saw a handful of rare opportunities to meet and interview running icons who visited us on the Seacoast. Having Dick Beardsley and Dean Karnazes visit our town and running with all of us on our favorite routes is not something that happens every year and we were very lucky to share that.

I think my favorite aspect of writing this column each week is that it created opportunities to meet more runners in the area than I ever had before. I have really enjoyed chatting with countless runners at races all year long. My favorite thing is hearing parents tell me about their children and how they are falling in love with running and enjoying their progress.

I also learned that a ton of people who are not runners follow the running scene on the Seacoast. I found myself discussing races and other running events with people at cookouts, youth soccer games, even at the grocery store, all because they had read this column and were interested in the running community.

The Seacoast Running column will resume in the spring and I will once again try to find interesting and helpful topics to write about each week. There were several instances where suggestions or questions from local runners served as the starting point for a column. That is something I am very grateful for and I'm looking forward to more of that next year.

For now, I'll wish everyone a fun and successful conclusion to the fall and I'll see you next year!

Bob Wiles lives in Kittery, Maine. He can be reached at bob.wiles@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

These are the best months of the year to run on the Seacoast | SeacoastOnline.com

These are the best months of the year to run on the Seacoast | SeacoastOnline.com

By Bob Wiles
October 26, 2011 2:00 AM
A couple of weeks ago I sang the praises of the local running community. Individually we are modest and easy to forget when a car passes us along the side of the road, but collectively we are an awesome sub-culture of healthy and passionate souls.

I was reminded of this over the weekend as I ran out around New Castle and down into Rye with a couple of friends. Exchanging subtle waves with dozens of other runners out on a Sunday morning enjoying the beautiful fall morning along the coast convinced me that we are in the middle of the "Perfect Storm" in terms of running...right now!

We have smoothly transitioned from hot summer days and nights into the cool, dry autumn months. Sure, we now have to wear a shirt most of the time and even a hat or gloves on some mornings, but in my book, October and November are a couple of the best months of the year to run on the Seacoast.

Visually, we get to watch the amazing scenery evolve right before our eyes as leaves transition from bright green to all sorts of beautiful hues, from electric yellow to fiery red. A variety of migratory birds chirp greetings down to us as they pass overhead, destined for warmer vacation spots in Florida or the Outer Banks. Tangent: Geese offer us a great example of working together in packs. They take turns up front and enthusiastically offer each other constant encouragement. They draft off each other and help each other re-connect with the main pack when someone falls off the back.

In terms of weather, there is a reason why fall marathons usually see the fastest times. Cooler temperatures and low humidity offer perfect conditions for comfortable running. My standard approach for dressing to run in the fall is that I want to be chilly standing around before I start moving and after a couple of miles it usually feels perfect.

To really overload your senses with everything that is majestic about the fall, I'd recommend venturing into the woods for a few miles. One of my normal routes consists of a combination of roads and trails, and this time of year it is always a treat to slide into the woods and run along trails lined with freshly fallen leaves.

With trails behind Portsmouth High School, the Urban Forestry Center, Mount Agamenticus, Odiorne Point State Park and countless others, you could check out a new trail system each week throughout the fall and never repeat yourself!

Another great aspect of fall is the opportunity to try cross country racing! For folks who took up running as adults, we missed out on the delight that is XC. However, there are dozens of cross country races within a short drive of us and it is an experience that every runner should enjoy. Something about dashing through the fields and woods with trees close on each side really reinforces the pleasure of just being outside and having fun.

Yes, I'm quite sure that fall on the Seacoast is a perfect combination of ingredients to cook up some amazing running. Great people, amazing scenery and beautiful weather ...; what else could we possibly need?

I've just had a great idea! Anyone who wants to meet me at Portsmouth High School this Saturday can join me for a run through the cross country trails and through the Urban Forestry Center. Heck, maybe we'll run down to Odiorne State Park as well! I'll be there and ready to go at 8 a.m. See you soon!

Bob Wiles lives in Kittery, Maine. He can be reached at bob.wiles@gmail.com.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Great Bay 5K could see season-best times from runners | SeacoastOnline.com

Great Bay 5K could see season-best times from runners | SeacoastOnline.com

Great Bay 5K could see season-best times from runners

By Bob Wiles
October 19, 2011 2:00 AM
With only one race remaining in the 2011 Seacoast Road Race Series, hundreds of local athletes have trained and raced their way through the wet spring, a hot summer and now into a cool fall. The real reward for any race is the journey itself, but the cumulative effects of a well-executed racing season also generally bring runners to their finest form in the fall. That generally being the case, I'm excited to see how many locals turn up for the Great Bay 5K on Oct. 29 and run a season-best time.

To help the well-seasoned SRRS participants demonstrate their fitness, the scenic Stratham course features one of the fastest 5K layouts in the area. By starting and finishing at different venues, the Great Bay race does not have to go up as much as it goes down, making for a fast scamper along flat and gently downhill roads with just one minor bump in the final mile to keep runners under the legal speed limit.

The starting location for this race has been modified in recent years, but the course is certified and is assuredly a full five kilometers. Next weekend, runners will start in the parking lot at Stratham Hill Park, not even a stone's throw from the starting line of the Stratham Fair Road Race just a couple of months ago.

After escaping the parking lot with a couple of right-hand turns, the course offers a fast straight section down the left side of Route 33, turning left onto Stratham Lane just before the first mile marker. And it isn't just any mile marker ... it is the Mackenzie Mile. This race is one of the few races to offer prize money for the first man and woman to reach the mile. Why do they do it? To instigate a fast pace and ensure that runners and spectators enjoy an exciting race!

The second mile on this course is arguably one of the fastest around. With about a third of a mile on Stratham Lane before turning left onto Dearborn Road, there isn't a bump in sight to slow runners down. Just be sure to cut tangents and run the shortest possible route, as Dearborn winds a little bit and staying on the same side of the road the whole time will add distance to your route.

The final mile will turn left onto Orchard Hill road and then right onto Tidewater Farm Road. From there you will have basically a straight shot through some nice residential neighborhoods and down into the driveway to the Great Bay Discovery Center. The finish line is on a quick downhill section, so there is no reason to hold anything back as you cross the line.

With the start and finish in different locations, runners will want to choose their parking spot wisely. There is just over a mile separating the beginning from the end, and the easiest way to cover the span is by taking Depot Road.

When I park for this race, I choose somewhere near the start. This makes registering and checking in very easy, and then after the race I use the mile back to my car as part of my cool-down. Late October can be pretty cool and windy, so someone more clever than I am once suggested taking a jacket down to the finish during your warm-up as a good way to avoid getting chilly immediately after the race ends.

The awards ceremony is at the Great Bay Discovery Center, and being the finale of the SRRS, it usually serves as the awards venue for the overall series as well. Whether she chooses to run the finale or not, Durham's Nicole Toye has already done enough this summer to claim the overall series crown on the women's side. In fact, she has completed the series with the minimum possible points total to emphatically announce her return to the local racing scene this year.

On the men's side, things are slightly more interesting. Nick Crowell of Portsmouth has run just five of the first seven events, meaning he needs to race the Great Bay 5K in order to fulfill the requirement of doing at least six events. If he does race, he needs to finish in the top five to claim the series title. Considering he won this race last year, it is a fairly safe bet that he will be able to complete the task if he undertakes it.

If for some reason Crowell does not race, Somersworth's Rob Levey will win the men's title, having already completed the obligatory six races with a sufficient point cushion over third-place runner Chris Ritchie of Hampton.

Regardless of how the final race plays out, the 2011 Seacoast Road Race Series has been another exciting one, and with the Seacoast Half Marathon serving as the bonus race again this year, the excitement will continue into November for hundreds of the SRRS participants who are registered.

Bob Wiles lives in Kittery, Maine. He can be reached at bob.wiles@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

HubSpot part 2: Crazy in a good way

My thoughts about inbound marketing pioneer HubSpot had to be broken into two installments when I realized that my head was full of too many observations to stuff into one entry. In part 1 I talked mostly about HubSpot’s people and what makes them unconventional. In part 2 I’ll look at some of the remarkable and bold things they are doing that makes them crazy (crazy in a good way, not ‘eating an airplane' crazy).

Traditional businesses might act tough and believe passionately in their goods or services, but how many of them are TRULY unafraid of their competitors? Know many who have the guts to re-tweet their competitors if they see something that would be helpful to their customers? HubSpot will. Every company keeps tabs on the other guys. Most will convince themselves that the other guys aren’t doing anything good. It makes selling this idea to customers easier. But when HubSpot sees an idea from a competitor that they think their customers would benefit from, they’ll share it.

This confidence reminds me of another Boston superstar…Larry Bird. Larry Legend was perhaps the best trash-talker in the game and there is a famous story of Bird telling his opponents exactly where he was going to take the game winning shot from at the end of a close game. Then, moments later he came down the court, got the ball exactly where he said he would and proceeded to knock down the game winning shot in the defender’s face. When you know you’ve got the goods you don’t have to keep secrets. You can throw the other guys a bone and then still wipe the floor with them.

This leads into product confidence. When you believe in your product as strongly as HubSpot does, you can stand behind a simple and firm pricing model without going through round after round of heated negotiations which usually result in relatively meaningless concessions on each side. It generally accomplishes little, other than satisfying an egotistical need to ‘win’ a pricing battle. By putting out products which have the capability to make an amazing impact on customers’ businesses, HubSpot can offer possibly the simplest and most straightforward pricing model I’ve ever seen. And in my opinion the prices are cheap! Combining a top shelf product with a simple and reasonable pricing model means less time squabbling over money and a quicker transition from lead to customer.

Another example of HubSpot’s confidence is their transparency. Not only is the kimono wide open…its laying on the floor around their ankles. I guess a simple example is this blog. Everything I’m writing about is stuff that I saw while walking around at HubSpot and from chatting with HubSpotters. A more tangible example is their content-rich website and the efforts they make to give away content. HubSpot creates and gives away more content than most companies sell. Because they are a software company and not a social media consultancy, they tell you exactly how to do everything it takes to be successful in the new arena. Once you’ve digested all the free content you’ll see that their software tools will help you put your new ideas into action.

In a world where people say, ‘Not my job’ far too often and people get slapped for not driving in their own lanes, HubSpot encourages people to develop new ideas and give them a try. Their VAR program is a perfect example of this, but it isn’t the only one. Employees are constantly thinking like innovators rather than merely punching in each day to do the tasks that are clearly defined in a job description. While traditional companies drive change and innovation from the top down (if at all), Hubspot has a culture of innovation which leads to new ideas all the time. Not every new idea will be a winner, but by encouraging people to be creative and granting them the freedom and tools to test their ideas, HubSpot has greatly accelerated the rate of innovation.

So, from what I can see, Hubspot is complimenting the competition, giving away tons of stuff, telling everyone exactly what they are doing, and constantly trying new things when they already have something that works great. See why I called them crazy?

Injury Causes New Perspective on World of Running | SeacoastOnline.com

Injury causes new perspective on world of running

By Bob Wiles
October 12, 2011 2:00 AM

I used to think that the cliché, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone" applied only to ice cream or playoff baseball, but a recent running injury has shown me that it can hit much closer to home.

Running is such a habit for all of us that we sometimes go through our daily routine without appreciating the beauty of the fall foliage we're running past or even the health benefits we're realizing for ourselves. Sometimes we just run because we're runners.

Like grocery shopping on an empty stomach, I've started noticing great things happening everywhere I turn. For starters, you guys are everywhere! Because I took my own running for granted, I think seeing runners out on the road while driving somewhere didn't even register with me. Now I'm hyper-aware of how many dedicated soldiers are out putting in the miles every single day, and I'm admiring (and envying) every one of you.

My house is 6 miles from Great Island Common in New Castle, and my son insists on visiting the playground there at least once per week. Last Thursday evening I passed exactly 17 runners on our way there! The weather wasn't even that great last Thursday, but you were all out there. More of you like to run in small groups than I realized. Some like to fly solo, but packs of 2-5 are very common as well.

Collectively, our Seacoast running community is a powerhouse. When we put our minds to it, we can turn a first-year event from a smattering of runners who all have a loose connection to the cause into an instant classic with over 1,000 runners. Take the Turkey Trot in Portsmouth as an example. In its first year the new race had nearly 1,000 finishers and then last year grew by 30 percent. I can't wait to see how many folks turn up this year to earn their pumpkin pie later in the day!

The Seacoast Road Race Series is probably the best display of our local running obsession. With almost 900 runners taking part in the series this year, participating events can almost bank on more than 1,000 entries preregistered and another few hundred showing up on race day.

In fact, I was volunteering at the latest installment of the series last Sunday at the Great Island 5K and saw the amazing force of our local running community in action. Hopefully I'm not unique in this regard, but I have to admit that when I show up at a race to run I sometimes get a serious case of tunnel vision. I block out most of what is going on around me as I warm up and prepare for the race. We have all run races with thousands of other athletes but the combination of nerves, focus and preparation usually makes me pretty oblivious to everything else that is going on if it doesn't affect me at the moment.

But as a spectator all of that goes away and I got to take it all in with amazement. In fact, I was able to enjoy some nice conversations with folks that I normally wouldn't get to if I was preparing to race. While I was out on the course and runners started flooding by me, I had a startling realization about the volume and diversity of our running community.

I don't think it really matters if you are at the front of the pack, in the middle, or in the back. When the gun goes off we all get into our own zone and focus on the task at hand. Even if you make an effort to notice the folks running alongside you, you'll notice only a few because for the most part you'll all be moving along together. It wasn't until I stood in one spot and watched the entire progression of 1,200 runners whip by that I appreciated what an awesome army we have.

By taking up a spot on the course, I was able to see the entire forest rather than just focusing selfishly on the singular tree that I am. It gave me a new perspective on the entire world of running, and admitting that is slightly uncomfortable.

While running is a largely individual sport and training can sometimes be a lonely task, I'll never again forget that each of us is an important part of a community of runners on New Hampshire's Seacoast, and that community is a large and powerful force.

Bob Wiles lives in Kittery, Maine. He can be reached at bob.wiles@gmail.com

Saturday, October 8, 2011

HubSpot: Making or Breaking All the Rules? Part 1

Yesterday afternoon I spent a few hours at inbound marketing pioneer, Hubspot's offices in Cambridge, MA to get a tour from UX Director Josh Porter. While I was there I was lucky enough to catch a recording of HubSpotTV and take in happy hour with 20-30 other Hubspotters at a nearby bar. But it was much more than a tour and a beer. It was a shocking flood of ideas and observations that left me wondering if what I had just seen was real, and if so...how on earth is Hubspot thriving despite breaking almost every rule of business that I've learned over the last decade???

Don't get me wrong...I love the company I work for and we do a ton of great things. It's just that almost every rule of office behavior and business practices that I thought were typical from my own experiences and from talking with other businesspeople over the course of my career seem to have been thrown out the second story windows at Hubspot.

Skipping the very obvious low hanging fruit, I won't even delve into the fully stocked beer coolers (yes, plural) that make their home in the cafeteria. At 4 PM on a Friday afternoon when I arrived, dozens of young professionals were congregating in the cafe to watch the recording of this week's HubSpotTV segment. Some were grabbing beer from the complimentary coolers and taking a seat to listen to the panel discussion. Others were having a water or soda and others were quietly working on laptops. But the first striking observation that I made was that this company is made up of young people. At 34 yeras old, I felt (and looked!) like a dinosaur at Hubspot. While I'd estimate the average age at my company to be somewhere north of 45, I'd bet my Return of the Jedi lunchbox that the average Hubspotter is less than 26.

As I was introduced to a few people and started talking with them, I also quickly noticed another common trend...they're all new! Extremely smart and knowledgeable about inbound marketing, but new. Granted, at a company that has only been around for 5 years there aren't going to be people at Hubspot with 10 year anniversary plaques on their desks, but other than CEO Brian Halligan, I didn't meet anyone who has been there longer than a year. At most companies, employees don't even really know what they are doing until they've been there for a year.

Yes, that's right...I met the CEO on my first tour of the building. Its probably because he was situated at a cubicle like everyone else and not hidden in an office the size of my house, far removed from the ground troops. Aren't CEO's supposed to signify their superiority in a multitude of manners, starting with real estate? Not at Hubspot. As Josh walked me around the building I was caught quite off guard when we stopped along a row of desks and he said, "Hey Brian, this is my friend Bob." He stopped what he was doing and we had a brief conversation, but to be honest I spend the whole time trying to wrap my head around the whole scene.

At this point, my head is spinning and I'm wondering, "WHERE AM I???"

Over the last decade I've seen paranoid employees hoarding knowledge, often to the detriment of projects or relationships, in the name of maintaining exclusivity and job security. "If I'm the only guy who knows how to do X, I can't be replaced." Definitely not the mindset at Hubspot. I was talking with a NJ native named John over a Belgian beer at trendy Artbar and he shared an anecdote about information sharing at Hubspot. He called it crowd-sourcing and basically someone had thrown an open question to the rest of the folks via their internal Wiki about a tool to help a customer and he got 4 good answers from co-workers in a matter of minutes. Working together synergistically to get results for customers without fear or hesitation seems to be the collective mindset at Hubspot.

This might be partly because every Hubspotter I spoke to at some point in the conversation said, "Everyone here is smarter than I am." After I heard that statement for the fourth time I stopped the person and said, "You know, everyone here says that. I'm sure someone holds that dubious distinction, but I bet it isn't you or any of the other people who claim ownership of the title." But I think the statement is a manifestation of two ideas that the folks at Hubspot seem to share. First, they are a humble group. I mean, they are only setting the marketing world on fire...why would you get a big head??? And second, they all admire and appreciate the value of their peers. Quite different from companies where the SOP is knocking down co-workers to make sure you look good in comparison, even if you aren't pulling your own weight.

So far we've established that Hubspot is a company made up of young, fresh, smart people with a mutual respect for each other and a willingness to collaborate for the good of the company and their customers.

In part 2, I'll share the other half of my observations from my visit to Hubspot, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ultrarunner Dean Karnazes to share his remarkable story in Portsmouth | SeacoastOnline.com

Ultrarunner Dean Karnazes to share his remarkable story in Portsmouth | SeacoastOnline.com

By Bob Wiles
September 28, 2011 2:00 AM
Earlier this year, ultrarunner Dean Karnazes ran from California to New York, covering almost 3,000 miles in 75 days and raising $178,000 for anti-obesity charity Action for Healthy Kids. In 2006, he ran 50 marathons in 50 days, one in each state. Karnazes has also ran across the five greatest deserts on the planet, and he's accomplished countless other mind-boggling endurance running feats.

Through it all, Karnazes has never lost his joy for running. It's his job and race-specific training can be a grind at times, but he keeps it fresh.

"Sometimes if I need a mental and physical recovery day, I'll just throw my credit card and a cell phone in my backpack and go out wandering for a six- or eight-hour run," Karnazes said. "If I feel like stopping at a coffee shop along the way, I do. I don't worry about pace, I just go exploring. I never run the same route twice."

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, Karnazes will speak at The Music Hall in Portsmouth as part of The North Face "Never Stop Exploring" speaker series. Runner's Alley is also a presenter of the event.

Karnazes' motivational talks are fascinating and inspirational. Through his epic adventures, he has experienced life to the fullest and continued to find happiness out on the roads and trails of America and beyond.

When he speaks about the joy of running, the sincerity and enthusiasm easily sneaks into his relaxed southern California voice, "When you see kids running, they are experiencing joy and being free. They love to race and run fast, and they learn to find joy along the way."

During his Run Across America, Karnazes stopped at 15 schools to speak with children and inspire them to lead active lifestyles and never stop exploring. "Stopping to speak to a group of children right after running 40 miles was an interesting juxtaposition mentally, but their excitement was always unbelievable," he said.

Karnazes started running at age 6 as an easier way to get back and forth from school to help his mom. "I fell in love with running and have continued to explore and push the boundaries," he said.

The thought of running for six or eight hours to help recovery seems insane to most runners, but Karnazes has built his body into an ultrarunning machine over the years. His bones and muscles have adapted to requirements of his activities, and his body's ability to clear lactic acid has baffled scientists. But Karnazes believes that our bodies were designed for running and that by being very active at an early age we can stay strong and help avoid injuries.

In addition to the amazing sights he's seen along the way, Karnazes has also met some amazing people. On day 67 of his 75-day run across America, Karnazes literally ran into the White House to meet Michelle Obama. The two of them teamed up to promote "Let's Move," the first lady's campaign to raise a healthier generation of kids.

Not content to just run across his home country, Karnazes is currently planning a global expedition in conjunction with his 50th birthday next year. "The United Nations recognized 204 countries, and my goal is to run a marathon in each of them."

With a focus on raising money for an important cause in each country, Karnazes hopes political differences among nations can be set aside. "Running unites people," he said. "Some countries will use the money to create clean water systems or to fight malaria and others might focus on anti-obesity programs."

Karnazes ran a marathon in Bristol in 2006 during his Endurance 50 and noticed that New England is a beautiful place. "I'm hoping that the leaves have started changing when I'm in New Hampshire next week."

"We're super excited to have Dean coming to Portsmouth," Runner's Alley owner Jeanine Sylvester said. "Dean is such an inspirational and well-known figure, and we are very happy to be able to share his story with the Seacoast running community."

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Portsmouth Track Boosters Club, Sylvester said.

Bob Wiles lives in Kittery, Maine. He can be reached at bob.wiles@gmail.com.