Runners Of Vermont is an ongoing series here at the VTRunCo where we get to meet and start to get to know some of the amazing people that call Vermont home and share our affinity for running. So, sit back and enjoy. The people profiled here are the main reason Vermont is such a great place to live and run. Also, if you know someone that lives and runs in Vermont who you think should be profiled here… Let us know. We’d love to be introduced and give them the opportunity to share their perspective on Vermont’s running scene.
Name: Josh Ferenc
Occupation: Domination Instructor/Science Teacher at Bellow Falls Middle School/XC & Track Coach
Current Residence: Athens, VT
Hometown/Birthplace: Greenwich, CT
Website: Josh Ferenc: Wild Neoteny
Facebook: Josh Ferenc & Josh Ferenc: Wild Neoteny
How did you first get involved in running and what was it that kept you coming back? Did you develop your habit easily, or was it something you had to work at?
I first joined the track team in high school due to the amount of females that participated. I knew I was fast, and knew I loved to compete, so it was a great fit. My dad ran track as a stepping stone to stay fit for hoops, which is another reason I joined. As for XC, I let the soccer coach know what an @$$hole he was (which ended my soccer career), and that really let me focus on getting in shape for basketball. Our XC team in HS went on that year to be ranked 15th in the country, and arguably the best team in NH’s history. Perfect storm of aligning stars. I was and still am the most competitive and optimistic person I know. There is nothing I can’t do, so when I saw that the harder you worked the better you could be, I was all-in to out work everyone else.
Racing… Did you start racing right from the beginning? What has been your favorite or best racing experience… Your worst… Why?
I can’t remember a time I didn’t race or compete at things. Even at an early age, I would race to be the first one done on a school test (if I was first, it usually did not yield a great score, but I was done first!). The first race I was in I thought I could win, and gave everything I had to win. I never accepted age gaps to be a reason, or how people were bigger and stronger. I believed I was the toughest and refused to accept anything less. My best race experience has evolved over time. In high school, it was to be the best of the best in New England. In college, it was about competing at the highest level against anyone from anywhere in the nation. Now, it’s about traveling and experiencing places all over the world. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to be competitive (competing for Team USA internationally) and make a name for myself where sponsors or racer directors want me to be in their races (Julbo in Colombia & race directors in Finland). I love being the Charismatic MegaFauna!
There is not worst thing. You could say that not taking advantage of any and every opportunity is the worst thing.
Do you have a favorite distance…Why?
My favorite distance right now is 20-35 mile trail/mountain races. I am really enjoying the distance and the last year has brought me to some amazing places to race/run. I plan to continue bumping up in distance as opportunities present themselves.
Any pre-race rituals or superstitions?
There are a few mental terrorist games I do with myself to visualize and pump myself up. The main ritual is repeatedly telling myself positive affirmations. And caffeine. It used to be RedBull. Now is Cold Brewtus.
Non-racing experiences… Besides racing and training, what are some other ways you enjoy running, or running has improved your life? Your favorite non-racing experience… Your worst?
If I never raced again, but could travel all over the world to run, I would totally do this. I love running with my “girls” (my dogs Lena and Ellie) and this is my most precious happiness with running when not racing. I love running with them. A very close second is running with my friends and brother. I love going into the mountains and running all morning. I don’t have any worsts for this.
Running In Vermont… What do you love about it? What do you wish was different?
I love living and running in VT! The feel of the trails and rolling hills/mountains are incredibly primal and very remote feeling. Thousands of miles are logged and I never see anyone. I wish there was a little more openness on the tops of some of the hills and more above tree line. I recently returned from Utah, and it definitely had a VT feel in some of the trails.
Do you have a favorite route/trail here in Vermont?
My favorite route is right out my backdoor in Athens. It is part of the Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association trails. I run it as much as possible, and love the vastness of the trails. They stretch for over 20 miles in two different directions and are incredibly challenging to do everyday. A lot of vertical feet gained in very little miles.
During a typical New England winter what do you do to stay in shape, keep motivated, and have fun? Do you continue to run? Do you engage in any other activities?
I still run a lot in the winter. I have great trails that are snowshoed on and a lot of snowmobile trails. Once they pack down, it makes for some epic running! Not to mention the great dirt roads.
Can you provide some advice for running during the cooler months then into and through winter?
My advice would be to look in the mirror and ask yourself how badly do you want it. If you can look at yourself and get out the door day in and day out in any and all conditions, then you’ll be a more resilient human. The mirror test is a great one.
Do you have a mantra or strategy to get you out the door when you don’t feel like running, through those tough moments in training, or during a long event?
Every day you don’t run, I am! I tell myself that someone else is going to work harder on the days I don’t, and they will have the opportunities, not me. I don’t like this, so I stay razor focused on my agenda. The fire is incredibly hot right now for training and I have created a very lofty 2018 goal list for training and racing. I do not want to miss opportunities.
Favorite/best piece of running gear you own or wished you owned?
Best gear I own right now is a La Sportiva Hail Waterproof Jacket. It collapses incredibly small and is completely waterproof. Things may change after 2018 if goals, companies and stars can align.
Favorite thing to eat during a long run/race?
Easy! Untapped Maple Packets!
Favorite aid station food?
Cold Pepsi/Coke, but has to be cold.
Favorite reward? Do you do anything to treat yourself… food or other… after a long training cycle/race?
No, but I am going to start as this is a great idea.
Next season what event or events are you are most looking forward to… Why?
Looking forward to adding to my sponsor list, and also to getting back to Utah. I have also added races to the calendar in Iceland, France and Norway, and I am waiting to hear back from the directors about the fine details! I have some races within the USA also, and looking to hit a few US Championships.
What are 2-3 Vermont running events/races that people should check out?
Most definitely need to check out the Race to the Top of VT in Stowe on Mansfield, especially if you want to suffer better in running and biking! Another race has to be the Under Armour Mountain Series 50k at Killington, one of the toughest races I’ve ever run.
What’s the best piece of running or training advice you’ve ever received?
I have two, as one is for training and the other is how people would look at you. The first advice came from my hero, my dad, as I was starting to get known in high school, and in the paper. He saw my competitive attitude, and asked me this question, “How do you want to be seen? As a superhero or villain?” This was great advice, as I was able to stay incredibly wild yet humble in success to “my people,” because when I raced, I wanted to be a villain to all my competitors yet a hero to my team.
The other piece of advice came from my college coach, Pete Thomas. He encouraged me to “do whatever it takes,” to get better. I accepted this and did whatever it took to be a better runner, which in turn helped me as a human, as I did whatever it took to do the right thing. He also went further with “do whatever it takes,” and said that when you do this, you put yourself into a position to be successful, and then in any race, you can look at your competitors and say, “they are trying to take something from me that I have worked for.”
Do you have any running/training tips or tricks you’d like to share?
On days you feel good, run comfortable, fast, long; and days you don’t feel good, get out the door and take your time and run easy to recover. Just run!
Who are some Vermont runners that inspire you… Why?
I’m your favorite athlete’s favorite athlete :). My favorite VT runner would be these three: Tim Eno, Larry Sayers and Justin Fyffe.
Anyone out there you want to give a shout out to? Sponsors/Friends/Partners/Coaches/Etc… Why are they important to you?
I’d like to come back to this question in 2018, but for now, most def:
JULBO: They, with Nick Yardley, are amazing and have given infinite support over the years. Julbo is a superior product, and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to work with them as a sponsor!
Darn Tough Socks VT: I feel I’m the toughest runner in VT, so I need to wear a sock that can hold me. With a lifetime guarantee, they put their money where their mouth is (just like me), and stand by all their hard work!
Untapped Maple: Best way to fuel is with the deliciousness of VT’s purest maple syrup!
Cold Brewtus: An awesome VT based coffee brand that fuels the long runs.
VTRunCo: Love this ideology of getting people together and get after it together!
Thank you for taking the time to read this far. Stay tuned for our next installment of Runners Of Vermont. Our goal is to post a new interview every week until we’ve profiled everyone that lives and runs in Vermont!
Train Smart. Run Well. Do Good.