Words of occasional wisdom from Bruce Oakley

Archive for January, 2012

Know the score

Posted by boakley59 on January 19, 2012

The first race in the 2012 Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix series is Sunday’s One Hour Run in Russellville. The White River Roadrunners have quite a few runners racing, enough to constitute men’s and women’s teams in the club team competition. Team results are tallied using cross-country scoring, so for those of you who did not run cross-country in your younger days or do not have children on school teams, I’ll explain what that means.

In cross-country scoring, every eligible runner is given points matching his place in the finish order of all eligible runners. (For the ARRCA Grand Prix team series, eligible runners must be Grand Prix registrants and dues-paying members of their local running club, and their team must have a minimum number of scoring runners.) The points are added for the first few eligible runners of a given team (high schools and colleges usually count five runners per team; the Grand Prix counts four men or three women). The team with the lowest point total wins the event. A team may enter more than the required number; a team with fewer than that number of finishers is not figured in the standings. The additional runners on larger teams do not count toward their team’s score, but they can push runners from other teams farther behind, thus increasing those scores and helping their own team win.

An example will help. Say the White River Roadrunners send eight eligible runners to the Hill Lovers 1-Mile Stumble, and Team Bandylegs sends the minimum of four. WRRR takes 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 14th places, with TB taking 2nd, 4th, 6th and 13th. Unattached runners finish 11th and 12th. The unattached runners are irrelevant to the team count, so their finishes are discarded and for the team tally, 13th and 14th places become 11th and 12th among eligible runners. The first four finishers for WRRR score 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 = 16 points. The four finishers for TB score 2 + 4 + 6 + 11 (was 13) = 23. WRRR wins 16-23. The WRRR finishers in 8th, 9th and 10th didn’t count in the WRRR score, but they pushed the last runner in TB back to 11th place, fattening the TB score. The WRRR runner at the back of the pack gained valuable racing experience and will outkick the last TB runner next time!

It’s good to have a fast team, but it’s great to have a deep team. A team is only as good as its weakest scorer. A team that runs well together generally scores better than a team with a hotshot and some other guys.

That’s how single events are scored in the Grand Prix team challenge. For the yearlong challenge, the teams are then awarded position points for 1st through 10th against the other teams in a given event. The first place team gets 30 points in the “championship” races and 20 points in the non-championships. Each subsequent place is worth 3 points less in championship races (27, 24, down to 3 for 10th place) and 2 points less in the others (18, 16, down to 2 for 10th). At the end of the series, the team that has accumulated the most position points is the winner.

Teams win individual races with low point totals, which gain them high position points in the overall series. The team challenge includes 21 races, but a maximum of 16 will be counted toward a team’s total, and a team must have 10 scores to be eligible for year-end awards. This rewards teams that are persistent and prevents loaded teams from accumulating big points in a few races and then dropping out of the competition.

The Grand Prix, of course, is built around its individual challenge, where Grand Prix registrants are awarded position points for 1st through 10th places in a number of men’s and women’s categories: Overall (every runner), Masters (age 40+), Grand Masters (age 50+), Seniors (age 60+) and five-year age groups. The 30 by 3 and 20 by 2 scales described above apply here as well. The major categories are “topless”: A Senior can tally points in Grand Masters, Masters and Overall, a Grand Master can score in Masters and Overall, a Master can score in Overall. The five-year age groups have floors and ceilings, no overlap from other groups.

The individual challenge includes 20 races, but only a runner’s best 10 will count, five championship and five non-championship. An individual must have at least five scores to be eligible for year-end awards. Again, persistence and series participation is favored over mere speed.

This year, the White River Roadrunners are renewing our own challenge series, with men’s and women’s overall, 60 and older, 0-9, 10-14, 15-19 and 10-year age groups. We have nine races in our list, with only a runner’s best six counting. A runner must finish at least four to be eligible for year-end awards.

Click for the combined schedule of Grand Prix and White River Roadrunner challenge races, and a Grand Prix WRRR teams-tracking page.

Roadrunners! Beep beep.

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A bit of a stretch

Posted by boakley59 on January 17, 2012

So now you’ve left the holidays and the offseason behind and you’re digging back into your routine, ready to chase after new distance and speed goals. Please don’t leap from the couch right into a workout as if you haven’t been slacking for a week or two. Remember to warm up and stretch those muscles, or they’ll snap back at you!

How and when do you stretch? Different times take different actions, but simple principles apply.

First, different strokes for different folks. Research (Does stretching prevent injuries?) suggests that you need to do what works for you: If you usually stretch just a little, don’t decide to do twice your normal routine before a big race. If you usually stretch a lot, don’t skip it before trotting to the start line. Bad stretching is worse than no stretching. Make a just-for-you routine, paying special attention to areas where you have a history of trouble.

Second, conquer the cold, feed the fire. When you’re cold and tight, do gentle dynamic stretches to warm up. Don’t do long, slow stretches or jerky, bouncing, quick moves or you’ll tear muscles rather than loosen them. Before a run, you should do dynamic limbering motions, rather than long slow stretches. These are gentle dance-type moves just to get the blood flowing and wake up those tired areas. Work your way top down, from your neck to your shoulders to your arms, back, butt, thighs, calves, feet.

When you’ve finished a run, then do slow, steady stretches while your muscles are warm and at their most receptive, because this will build suppleness and prevent injury. You may ease some post-workout soreness besides.

Third, get to the core of the matter. When you’ve got a spare half hour or even in stolen moments as you go through your day, do some core strengthening exercises and stretches to build support areas. You will run easier and more efficiently with strong, supple muscles and connecting tissues.

Fourth, you know it flows downhill. Injuries generally indicate a problem farther up the chain. Trouble with the feet may come from the Achilles tendon or an imbalance with the calf; knee pain often starts with the iliotibial band at the hip. When you start feeling strain, think about what’s going on higher up and look for ways to build strength from the top down.

The five most common running injuries are knee pain, ITB syndrome, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. Easy exercises for these are half squats for the knee, side leg raises for ITB, heel walking and big toe raises for shin splints, calf drops for the Achilles and the tripod arch raise for plantar fasciitis.

Check out Runner’s World online for a fantastic years-deep archive of articles and videos on proper stretching and strengthening exercises. The site is easy to navigate with category tabs, pull-down menus and a search engine that will guide you to a specific solution to any strain, injury or fear you might have. Another great place for running information is the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training, with training programs built on the best and latest research.

A little advance work will pay off handsomely in the home stretch.


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On the road again

Posted by boakley59 on January 15, 2012

Holiday overindulging already a distant memory? Back on the roads wondering what happened to all that energy and that trim look in those flashy racing threads? Suddenly gasping for air after a short burst that you were knocking off without a care a couple of months ago?

Yeah, it happens. You get knocked off your schedule for a few weeks and you wonder (worry) if you’ll ever get it back. It won’t be easy, but the good news is it should be easier than it was before. You have been through the routine now, so you know what to do; you know what you can take; you know what it takes to move forward. You’ve marked out a trail; you’re just returning to it after being away for a while.

So, reconnect with your running buddies, revisit your startup schedule from last season and get going. If you haven’t gotten restarted yet, run a few days a week of gentle mileage for a couple of weeks to re-establish your base, then step back into your training program with your new farther, faster, funner (!) goals.

The ladies of Women Run/Walk Arkansas Clinic Batesville are meeting at 8 a.m. Saturdays on the Penguin 5K/10K course. Some meet at the Southern Bank parking lot to avoid running over the river bridge until race day; others are meeting at the starting line across the bridge in Kennedy Park to run the whole course. That’s every week until race day, Feb. 25. The clinic will be starting about that time as well, with Tue-Thu-Sat runs in store. The speed group is at BHS track most Mondays at mid-afternoon, and general road runs are Tue/Thu mid-afternoon. Updates to the schedule are at Run-Coach.

I’ve also updated the White River Roadrunners Challenge series schedule and rules (10-19 age group is now 10-14 and 15-19, to even things up for still-developing younger legs), and we’re still putting together a schedule for the team competition in the statewide Grand Prix. Let me know if you’re in the Grand Prix and planning to run any of the races on the schedule and I’ll add you to the listing at Take one for the team.

In case you missed it, I have my own Facebook page now (not sharing Suzy’s anymore), so you can catch me there for comments or advice if you’re not looking in here regularly. For what it’s worth, I note that Facebook is not like real life: On FB, it’s when you stop cohabiting and separate that your status updates to “married.”

Anyway, I hope everyone’s getting the kinks out and enjoying a new year, eager to get back into top form. Don’t fret that you’ve missed some time or stepped aside from your program for a while, because we all need to take breaks to recharge. The February Runner’s World has an article talking about the twice-a-year training breaks one elite coach imposes on his teams so that their legs are fresh at peak season. They break from the hard stuff for one to two months each time, so they do “maintenance only” for about a quarter of the year. Stepping back is part of the plan. Enjoy the rest and recharge, then go back to it with new strength. You’ll find you’re starting off this year at a place you were struggling to get to last year.

Don’t forget your stretching and core exercises!

Beep beep!

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WRRR Challenge Series

Posted by boakley59 on January 9, 2012

The White River Road Runners welcome 2012 with a revival of the club’s yearlong points challenge. (Click for current standings.)

The championship series encompasses nine races, and all club members and Independence County runners finishing any of the nine will automatically be entered in the competition. Visiting runners at local events will also be able to register to join the free challenge series.

Runners will be scored at each race against other competitors in men’s and women’s overall categories and men’s and women’s age groups of 60 and older, 50-59, 40-49, 30-39, 20-29, 10-19, 15-19, 10-14, 9 and younger. Points will be awarded on a decreasing scale to the top 10 finishers in each category, and every runner will receive one point for finishing.

The series is designed to encourage the broadest participation and give runners of all training levels a chance. Nine races are in the series, but only a runner’s best six scores will count toward the final total, and a runner must complete four races to be eligible for final awards. Some of the events offer additional races, but only one race (noted in the list below) counts in the points series. Runners who complete all nine races will receive “Iron Road Runner” recognition.

Age group for the competition will be a runner’s age on May 12 at the fifth race in the series, the White River Medical Center “Run the Wave” 5K in Batesville. Some races do not yet have firm dates; any series changes will be announced well in advance on the running club’s Web site,

The nine races in the series are:

Penguin 10k for Special Olympics, Feb. 25, Kennedy Park, Batesville (This event also offers a 5K not in the series)
• High Rock Hop 5+ Mile Trail Run, March 31, The Farm, Batesville (This event also offers a 10-mile run not in the series)
• 1040 Tax Fun Run/Walk, April 14, Eagle Mountain Elementary School, Batesville
• Pioneer Day 5K, May 5, Court Square, Melbourne
• White River Medical Center “Run the Wave” 5K, May 12, Batesville
• Army National Guard 5k, July date to be determined, Lyon College, Batesville
Sprint for Seniors, June 23, West Baptist Church, Batesville
• White River 4M Classic, Aug. 4, Main Street, Batesville
• Sara Low Memorial 5K, Sept. 8, Batesville High School
• White River Half-Marathon, Dec. 8 Dec. 1 (NOTE: Date corrected 10/26/12), Main Street, Batesville (This event also offers a two-runner relay not in the series) | Course map

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Take one for the team

Posted by boakley59 on January 1, 2012

White River Road Runners, many of you know the club is hoping to make a showing in the ARRCA Grand Prix team series in 2012. This year, our own 4-Mile Classic and Sara Low 5K are both in the series. We had a men’s team for the opening race, the Hour Run in Russellville, Sunday, Jan. 22; and we’ve got men’s and women’s teams lined up for River Trail 15K Feb. 4 and the Chase Race 2 Mile in Conway on March 10. (Team schedule update below, last updated: Feb. 10)

The team competition encompasses 20 races, but only the team’s best 16 races are counted. A team must compete in 10 races to qualify for series awards. (You can’t win eight events and rest on your laurels, nor can you outnumber a faster team by running more events.) Grand Prix registration of each team member at least five days before that runner’s first race is required; there’s a $15 fee and online registration is available at The Hogeye Marathon Relay is a team event only, four runners (all male or all female, no mixed teams) go 6-7 miles each; no individual Grand Prix points are awarded.

For men, a team is four runners. We can have different sets of four at each race, so if we have more members willing to run a few races each, no one will need to stretch their calendar. Colyn Bowman plans to try to meet the Iron Man challenge of running all 20 races, and Brian Yeager will run as many as he can. Matt Walker is planning to enter 4 or 5, with his preference being trail runs and longer distances. I’ll flesh out the list below if any of you are willing to represent the club in a few of these races.

For women, a team is three runners (except at Hogeye Relay), with Betsy and Kevan Beth Tucker planning to run several of the races and needing another few runners to take a few races each. Betsy has picked out 13 races and Kevan Beth will likely run several of those. Claire Chapman and Betsy’s friend Sarah Ward Jarvis also plan to join the Tuckers. My dear Suzy has signed up for the Grand Prix but not yet chosen any races. Likely candidates are the 5Ks, Go! Mile and 2 Mile Chase. I’ll fill out the list below if any of you can help out.

I expect that fielding a team will offer chances to carpool and such, plus I’d be happy to work out group training if anyone has improvement targets. You needn’t think you’re not fast enough; our fastest runners may not be able to get to enough races to qualify us for final awards, so even a slower team at a given race will push us forward in the competition. If you’re planning to go to several of these races anyway, please consider joining the Grand Prix and helping us represent the club around the state.

The 2012 Grand Prix schedule and our committed runners:


Jan 22: Hour Track Run, Little Rock Russellville, Colyn Bowman, Brian Yeager, Brenden Bishop, Tristen Driver
Feb 04: River Trail 15K, North Little Rock, Colyn Bowman, Brian Yeager, Davy Insell, Shane Tucker
Feb 11: Valentine’s Day 5K, Russellville, Colyn Bowman, Brian Yeager
Feb 19: Run the Line Half Marathon, Texarkana, Colyn Bowman, Brian Yeager
Mar 10: Chase Race 2M, Conway, Colyn Bowman, Tristen Driver, Dan Driver
Mar 24: Spring Fling 5K, Cabot, Colyn Bowman
Apr 7: Capital City Classic 10K, Little Rock, Colyn Bowman, Davy Insell
Apr 14 15: Hogeye Marathon Relay (team event only — need 4 runners; 1040 Tax Run date), Fayetteville, Colyn Bowman
May 5: Toad Suck 10K, Conway, Colyn Bowman
May 26: Rock Run 8K, Little Rock, Colyn Bowman
Jun 16: Go! Mile, North Little Rock, Colyn Bowman
Aug 4: White River 4M, Batesville, Colyn Bowman, Davy Insell, Matt Walker
Aug 11: Watermelon 5K, Hope, Colyn Bowman
Sept 1: ARK 5K Classic, North Little Rock, Colyn Bowman
Sept 8: Sara Low Memorial 5K, Batesville, Colyn Bowman, Davy Insell, Matt Walker
Sept 15: Arkansas 20K, Benton, Colyn Bowman, Matt Walker?
Oct 13: Chile Pepper XC 10K, Fayetteville, Colyn Bowman
Oct 20: Survivors Challenge 10K, Fort Smith, Colyn Bowman
Oct 27: Soaring Wings Half Marathon, Conway, Colyn Bowman, Matt Walker
Nov 3: Mid South Marathon, Wynne, Colyn Bowman, Matt Walker
Nov 17: Spa 10K, Hot Springs, Colyn Bowman


Jan 22: Hour Track Run, Little Rock Russellville, Betsy Tucker
Feb 04: River Trail 15K, North Little Rock, Betsy Tucker, Carol Earles, Sarah Ward Jarvis
Feb 11: Valentine’s Day 5K, Russellville
Feb 19: Run the Line Half Marathon, Texarkana
Mar 10: Chase Race 2M, Conway, Betsy Tucker, Nicole Thomison-Driver, Suzy Oakley
Mar 24: Spring Fling 5K, Cabot, Betsy Tucker, Suzy Oakley
Apr 7: Capital City Classic 10K, Little Rock, Betsy Tucker
Apr 14 15: Hogeye Marathon Relay (team event only — need 4 runners; 1040 Tax Run date), Fayetteville
May 5: Toad Suck 10K, Conway
May 26: Rock Run 8K, Little Rock, Betsy Tucker
Jun 16: Go! Mile, North Little Rock, Betsy Tucker, Kevan Beth Tucker?, Suzy Oakley?
Aug 4: White River 4M, Batesville, Betsy Tucker, Kevan Beth Tucker?
Aug 11: Watermelon 5K, Hope, Betsy Tucker, Suzy Oakley?
Sept 1: ARK 5K Classic, North Little Rock, Betsy Tucker
Sept 8: Sara Low Memorial 5K, Batesville, Betsy Tucker, Kevan Beth Tucker?, Suzy Oakley?
Sept 15: Arkansas 20K, Benton
Oct 13: Chile Pepper XC 10K, Fayetteville
Oct 20: Survivors Challenge 10K, Fort Smith
Oct 27: Soaring Wings Half Marathon, Conway, Betsy Tucker
Nov 3: Mid South Marathon, Wynne
Nov 17: Spa 10K, Hot Springs, Betsy Tucker, Kevan Beth Tucker?

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