Written by Student Assistant Sean Davis
As a runner, the health of your legs will determine the success of your season. Ben Demaree, a senior for the Santa Clara Bronco cross country team found out just how true this is.
Demaree was a stand out runner in high school in Portland Ore. and came to Santa Clara determined to make an impact. Demaree quickly established himself as one of Santa Clara's top runners and by his sophomore season he was named All WCC when he placed 13th in the conference championship meet.
After his sophomore season Demaree rightly had high hopes for his junior season, but he was unfortunately plagued with injury that limited his performance all year. Some runners would call it quits after a season long injury, but not Demaree. This highly motivated Bioengineering major, who carries a 3.875 GPA, is determined to come back stronger then ever to finish his senior season with a bang.
Demaree was kind enough to take some time off from his research in the Biomath department at UCLA to answer a few of our questions.
SCU: One of the toughest aspects of being a runner is staying healthy. Last year you had an injury that kept you from running. What are you doing this summer to rehab your injury and come back strong for cross country?
BD: The first and probably most important change I made was decreasing my weekly mileage to a fraction of my former totals. I've learned that as a runner I can be just as competitive substituting a couple of my runs each week with cross-training sessions, so long as I make the most of the time I do spend on the trails. That said, I've also limited my runs to soft surface, like trails and grassy fields. Beyond modifying my training strategy, I've started wearing compression socks to enhance the circulation in my lower legs. I was honestly pretty skeptical of this type of treatment at first, but I'll admit that my legs have been feeling better since I started using the socks.
SCU: What was it like dealing with your injury? First off, what was your exact injury that kept you out? What was the toughest part of being injured and how did you stay mentally and physically strong as you were recovering?
BD: The condition is called popliteal artery entrapment syndrome (PAES), and it's pretty uncommon among runners. Essentially, it means that the popliteal artery, which runs down the back of the leg and behind the knee, is being "squeezed" by surrounding muscles to the point that blood flow through this area is significantly reduced. This means less blood is delivered to the muscles of the lower leg, resulting in pain and swelling in severe cases. The toughest part of the injury was just coming to terms with the diagnosis and trying to find ways to work around it. It's different than a stress fracture in that it won't just heal on its own with rest. Instead, I've needed to be really proactive but cautious about my recovery, stay patient and remember to think long-term.
SCU: After a season battling injury, what kind of goals are you setting for yourself for next season? (Both in cross and track)
BD: I definitely want to return to running my pre-injury times, being competitive not only at the conference but also regional level. Running sub-24 for the 8k in cross country is a realistic goal for me if I can stay healthy. For track, I'll probably focus on the 5K and 10K events, though I don't want to nail down any times at this point. We'll see how cross country goes first.
SCU: What are you doing this summer to achieve those goals? What does your summer mileage look like and what kind of training are you planning on doing to prepare yourself for cross? (i.e. interval runs, long runs, fartlek runs, tempo runs ect)
BD: I've already hinted at my general approach, but specifically I'm trying to run 60-70 miles per week, along with two days of cross-training activities (like biking). The main focus of the first phase of my training is simply logging miles and stockpiling my aerobic fitness. Towards the end of the summer, I should be ready to transition to more high-intensity workouts like fast tempos and even intervals. Still, it's critical that I make sure my body can handle longer training runs before I really start to push my limits in shorter, faster workouts.
SCU: What is the one aspect of running that motivates you to get out of bed every morning and hit the trails or the track? What has driven you to fight through adversity and given you the motivation to keep getting better?
BD: Running has been a constant presence in my life and I don't know what I'd do without it. It gives my life balance. College kids know how overwhelming school and social life can get sometimes, so it's nice to have an activity that puts my mind at ease. I'm at a point where staying motivated is just something that happens naturally because it's what I've been doing for ten years.
SCU: As a distance runner, would you consider yourself a cross guy that runs track or a track guy that runs cross? Which discipline would you say is your greatest strength and which do you enjoy more? Or are they equal in your mind?
BD: I would primarily consider myself a cross guy only because I feel more comfortable training and racing in that type of environment. Track runners are some of the most tactically intelligent athletes. I consider myself a pretty smart runner, but when the race is on the line I've found that I perform better in long, grinding battles rather than sit-and-kick situations.