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Dispatches : Athletes

My Hometown: Snowboarder Danny Davis on Highland, Michigan

“Michigan is a beautiful place, it raised me well,” says snowboarder Danny Davis, who won the snowboard superpipe at this year's Winter X Games. Davis hails from Highland Township (population 19,202), less than an hour from Detroit. “It’s a funny place,” he says. “Classic Midwest: lots of Detroit Red Wings fans, dirt bikes, pond hockey, and a lot of horses and lakes.”

Why do you love Highland?
I love Michigan, and I love the people there. I have lots of family there, and everyone is friendly. All the mountains have night riding, which makes for a lot of hours on my snowboard. There are also many lakes, which means lots of fishing. Of course it's good to have the Tigers and the Red Wings close-by, too.

What’s don’t most people know about Highland?
Bob Seger is from our area, and I love that.

Best time of year to visit?
Summertime. It’s all about boats, fishing, babes, and Tigers games in Detroit. Please go visit the Great Lakes and all they have to offer at some point in your life.

Favorite place to get outside?
Our local hill, Alpine Valley, is ten minutes away and is where I grew up snowboarding. That place raised me. Alpine Valley has 306 feet vertical, and you can get in about 300 runs a day. 

Best restaurant?
Highland House; best breadsticks and Greek salads on the planet.

Must-see attraction?
Red Wings game.

Best place to stay?
In the woods or on the dunes—camping—on a lake. 

Need to Know

Getting there: Highland is 50 minutes from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

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Eyes on the Pack: How Meb Keflezighi Will Blitz the Boston Marathon

American marathoner Meb Keflezighi doesn't wind up on the podium—including the top spot at the 2009 NYC Marathon—from sheer luck. It requires months of hard training, perfect pre-race preparation, and some smart strategy once the race starts. That combination has helped him claim third place at Boston in 2006. He'll be back in the hunt this year. We caught up with the 38-year-old to learn how he watches, waits, and makes his move to victory.

The Start:

I definitely like to be in the front, hopefully not in the lead. It’s a narrow start. You don’t want to get stuck in the middle. This year, the start is going to be very emotional.

If the Early Pace Is Slow:

You have to wait. Somebody will go. Kenyans usually hammer early, so you have to know their background. A couple days before the race, I’ll study names and numbers. If three or four take off, I have no choice but to go with them—just make sure those guys are legit. One might falter, two might survive. Or vice versa, but that one guy has it won already. Ethiopians will never take the lead. Never. They’re going to wait till the last 5K, the last mile, even the last 500 meters.

Once the Pack Shrinks:

You’re trying to beat their psyche. You have 25 miles to solve it.

If Ryan Hall Starts Singing Like He Did in the 2011 Chicago Marathon:

I always believe as elite athletes, we should make it very comfortable through 18 or 20 miles at whatever pace it is. But if he’s singing at mile 23 or 24, then he has the energy to do whatever he wants.

Where to Make a Move:

The course can’t tell you. No way. It depends who’s in the mix and what their strengths and weaknesses are. That’s where the intelligence of competition comes.

Read the Competition:

You have to test them uphill, downhill. Study their mechanics. If they’re leaning back going downhill, you know they’re fried. Uphill, if they put their head down, okay, he’s trying to do everything he can just to pump.

If they’re right behind you, they’re trying to draft off you. Somebody trying to draft will clip your feet. It happens all the time. That’s a sign of fatigue. They cannot concentrate enough to stay away.

If they are not next to you, they’re struggling. When they’re struggling, take advantage of it—whether it’s 10 miles to go, five miles to go, or three miles to go. You just have to make a calculated decision.

Once you get to those Newton hills or Heartbreak Hill, take advantage of your strength. If they let you go, you gain confidence, spread the gap, and you’re going to be home free.

In a marathon, if you have [created] 20 feet or 20 meters [of space]—it’s hard to make up with two miles to go. In a 5K or 10K, you can probably pick it up, but in a marathon, your mind says Go, your body says No, thank you.

The Gap:

If I’m in the lead and people cross the road right behind me, I know I have a good gap—because otherwise they would be courteous to let the runner go first. If you hear less people cheering after you went by, you know you have a gap. If you hear someone saying their name and ‘Come on!’ it’s very close.

I’d rather do anything and everything to get away from everyone with a mile to go versus making it down to the last 400 to 500 meters.

Nobody likes to lose, nobody likes to get passed. In 2010, I spent every ounce of energy I had with a ruptured quad and I finished, but Ryan [Hall] passed me. He played it smart. But misfortunes do happen. Unless it threatens my life—if I fall and I’m bleeding, then I have to think twice. But if I can manage to go at a decent pace, I’m gonna go. Even if you’re hurting, it’s hard to stop in Boston.

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My Hometown: Olympic Freeskier Joss Christensen on Park City, Utah

Park City graced the cover of our September 2013 issue when readers voted it the Best Town in America. U.S. Freeskiing Slopestyle gold medalist Joss Christensen, leader of the first American sweep in skiing history at the Olympics, agrees. Here, he talks about life in the “perfect ski town.”

Why you love Park City?
It is big enough to have everything I need but small enough to have room to get away. I am 30 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport, which is huge for me because I travel all throughout the year. I love the mountains, and Park City allows me to play in the mountains no matter the season. 

What is one thing most people don't know about Utah?
Our state bird is the California Seagull. I find that pretty interesting—and funny.

Best time of year to visit?
I would say anytime in the spring. You can either experience really warm and sunny days for skiing or hiking and biking, or you can be skiing fresh snow. Just depends on the weather. In my opinion, all options are good!

Favorite place to get outside?
I really like to go right behind my house up in Summit Park. There are a few trailheads just a short distance from my place, so I can go jump on my bike or walk up to the trails in only a few minutes. It’s really beautiful up top.

Best restaurant?
Davansa's! First off, you can practically ski to it, but the pizza and sandwiches are really tasty and affordable. It is quick and fun.

Must-see attraction?
I spend most of my time at Park City Mountain Resort. Between the awesome skiing in the winter and the hiking and mountain biking in the summer, the views and terrain are amazing. 

Best place to stay?
My house. I constantly have friends from almost everywhere staying at my house. So come stop by Joss's Wonderful B&B! Come ski or bike with me and my friends; you'll see why I will probably never leave!

Need to Know

Getting there: Park City is 40 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport.

Population: 7,558

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Stuntman Alex Honnold Also Rock Climbs

In December, I wrote about Alex Honnold for the cover of Outside, ahead of his planned ropeless climb of Taiwan’s 1,667-foot Taipei 101 tower, now the world’s fifth tallest building. Sender Films had recently sold the project to the National Geographic Channel as a live television special. It was going to be the biggest thing yet for the 28-year-old nomadic climber, who’d already been featured on 60 Minutes for his life-or-death free-solo climbs in Yosemite. It would also arguably be the most significant media events in rock-climbing history.

Then the whole thing kinda fell apart. The building climb was postponed indefinitely after the adults at National Geographic began to worry about things like safety and liability. There had been talk of putting mattress-like crash pads on the balconies among the thousand other details that needed to be sorted out if this was to be as big as Discovery’s Nik Wallenda live high-wire acts or Red Bull’s Stratos stunt.

Lost in all of the hype—and one really awkward photo—was the fact that Honnold remains a remarkable climber who’s doing more than anyone to push the boundaries of his sport. For those of you interested in following his career, the time to get excited isn’t when the dog-and-pony show—as professional climbers call it—is in full effect, but when Honhold disappears. This is how he’s done most of his amazing free-solo climbs in Zion and Yosemite national parks. So it went on January 15, when Honnold made the first free-solo ascent of Mexico’s 1,500-foot 5.12+ Sendero Luminoso. With him was a minimal crew of friends and cameramen. The climb was among the most difficult and committing routes that anybody has ever dared to climb without a rope. It also provided the material for a very successful North Face viral video.

Honnold’s next feat—the Fitz Roy Traverse, in Patagonia, with Tommy Caldwell—had almost no commercial application (or advertisement). That climb took five days, between February 12 and 16, and was explained in detail by Alpinist magazine. (The late Chad Kellogg was on Fitz Roy at the same time.) It was just one of those pure climbing feats that reminds everyone what a guy like Alex is really about: Knocking off some of the most difficult routes on earth, in the most outrageous style, and making enough money doing it to avoid washing dishes or guiding clients.

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