Tuesday, January 27, 2015

All About It

Another week gone in January and all of a sudden we're almost in February! We're a month into official winter and compared to 2014, it really hasn't been that bad.

2015 is off to an amazing start. We've seen some of the best early-season performances we've ever seen. One that I missed last week was Matt Jablonski's WIN at the University of Washington Preview meet in the 3000 meter race. In this YouTube video posted by Loyola Blakefield, you can watch the last 45 seconds or so of the race, where Matty Blaze unleashes a massive kick that helps him take down none other than German Fernandez as he crosses the line first:


Then it was onto this past weekend, where I should have gone to Miami. Indeed, not only is the Miami Half Marathon one of my favorite weekends of the year, but Miami was also host to the MISS UNIVERSE pageant. Kicking myself for not going.

Pete Mulligan ran the marathon there, and I assume he was pacing the 4:40 group as he finished at 4:38 something. Then there's Megan DiGregorio. Earlier in the week I thought Meg D was coming to our Club Challenge workout. When I asked her if she was coming on Saturday, she replied with "I'm actually in Miami running the half tomorrow" - ?!?!?! Our little jetsetter friend must have booked a last minute flight and decided she needed a little Vitamin D. She finished 4th in the half in a perfectly fine time of 1:23:53 (chip), but still complained about it.

A Miami veteran himself, Terence Baptiste ran the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park. The conditions were cold and there was plenty of snow on the ground, but T ran a 1:22:16 - a great January time for him! And it was good enough to earn him this week's Purple Drink Athlete of the Week.

Saturday we saw the return of Denise Knickman to competitive racing, as she won the BRRC Frozen Fingers 5M in 34:10.

And out in Green Bay, a result I forgot to include in the email, Brennan Feldhausen was racing a marathon relay on Saturday. It was originally slated to take place on a 450m indoor track (it's around an ice skating track). Teammates could swap out whenever they felt like it. I think he said that they were going to do it on an outdoor track after the temperature hit 46 that day (warmer than here!)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Club Challenge Workout Postponed

Due to the predicted wintry mix for tomorrow (Saturday), I'm going to postpone our Club Challenge workout. It's one thing to go for a run in it, it's another to put a bunch of cars on the road unnecessarily.

A few of us are planning on just bumping back by a day and running the workout on Sunday. Depending on the output of tomorrow's weather, this may end up just being canceled as Howard County tends to stay a little icier than we do.

From my early conversations it looks like the girls are going to aim for a February 7th (Saturday) workout down there and I've suggested to the guys we could put something on that day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Uncharted

To boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before; Uncharted territory.

On Sunday, in Phoenix, that's precisely where Alyssa Godesky went as she ran a 3:04:31 marathon and finished 5th in the process. As I sifted through our historical records, I found that's the 13th fastest time run by any of our women. Over the past couple of seasons we've come to expect big performances from Alyssa, but this one truly is next level when you consider that her best time coming into this race was 3:26, run off the bike this past fall.

The last time she ran an open marathon? Marine Corps 2008, where I think she finished ahead of The Bachelor, Andy Baldwin (who is in Baltimore quite a bit these days) and ran a 3:31.

So a 3:04 is kind of a big deal. And she pretty much even split the race. Really great stuff!

Also in Phoenix, our old friend Julia Webb ran a terrific half - 1:18:07 for 5th herself!

Down in Clearwater, PJ Anderer tackled an early season 50k. That's a tough distance any time of year, but especially when it's January in a place that's much warmer than here, for a person who doesn't like running in the warm. PJ did well to finish 12th in 4:27:34.

Our Purple Drink Athlete of the Week went to Alyssa.

CLUB CHALLENGE WORKOUT is THIS SATURDAY!

We will be starting the workout on the start line at 8:30am. Warm up and do whatever you need to prior to that. The suggested workout is:

1 mile easy
3 miles up
1 mile easy
2 miles up
1 mile easy
1 mile up

10 total. Good workout, then we'll go eat somewhere.

Also, don't forget to sign up for Club Challenge on Striders' website. Fill it out, make sure you select Falls Road as your club and mark that you are "elite." Yes, I realize you don't think you're elite. Not my rules. Just do it.

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

"Well c'mon Cinderella, we gotta get you ready for the ball!" - Dumb and Dumber

Every good Cinderella story contains a couple of things: a fat mouse, a pair of shoes, a nice old lady, a bunch of mean girls, a really naive person, a dude with money and a castle.

In this fairytale, Sean Caskey was the "wide-eyed Disney ingenue" who, for some reason, committed to doing the Dopey Challenge. What is the Dopey Challenge, you ask? Well a few years ago the folks down at Walt Disney World decided it would be cool to package their half marathon and marathon together and call them the Goofy Challenge. The half was on Saturday and the marathon Sunday, making for a tough two-day double.

Then they realized, in an obvious way that only Disney would, that they could stretch out the magic by a few more days, add a 5k on Thursday and 10k on Friday, and call it the Dopey Challenge if you completed all 4 races. More money in their pocket and more medals for you.

Anyway, the interesting thing about this whole process was that, despite nobody from our group ever having done this challenge, Sean wasn't the only one who was - Ryan Stasiowski was racing as well!

Rather than fill it with fluff, I'll get to the point. Stas finished 2nd overall in the Dopey Challenge standings we believe, as he closed things out with a 2:48:22 marathon. Meanwhile the Prime Minister of Swag, Sean Caskey, fell ill following the Thursday 5k and overcame this sickness by doing an around-the-world at EPCOT and closing his weekend out with a 2:55:13 marathon - pretty awesome all things considered. We think he was 7th in the overall standings.

Great job to both, but Stasiowski took this event way serious and Caskey had fun, took fun pictures and entertained, so he won that week's Purple Drink Athlete of the Week.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On a Tuesday

The first post of 2015!

After the hustle and bustle of mid December, it really gets quiet. There aren't a ton of races around Christmas, and even if there were, most people are a little preoccupied. For us, we fill the time with our favorite Christmas tradition: the #TWSSChristmas photo contest!

Click here to see the gallery

It's always fun to see how folks are spending their Christmases, running or not, and we had a lot of submissions this year. Naturally, it appears as though hardly anyone voted, which means they either didn't care to or didn't know how to. I'll declare a winner this week.

My trip home to New Jersey was pretty balmy, enough so that I was able to make it into the chilly Atlantic Ocean following each of my 3 runs. The 3rd was part of the Polar Bear 5k in Asbury Park. I could hardly believe it had been 4 years since I last did this year, but indeed it was December of 2010 that I last ran it. It was still a 5 miler back then, although race day featured an incredible Nor'easter that shortened the race to a 5k. The sea looked angry that day and I made the decision to not go in.

This year was much milder and after my amazing 19:11 5k (gun time, 9th place) in which Conrad basically lapped me (3rd, 17:44, after stopping and waiting for me at the turnaround), he and I ran into the ocean and dunked ourselves. Not to be outdone, Amy and my little sister, Meghan, accepted the challenge and also went in the water after the race. For their terrific race AND getting in the water, they each earned a share of the final Purple Drink Athlete of the Week of 2014.

That brought us to the final week of the year, split between 2014 and 2015. In 2014's waning moments, Erik T. Orberg recorded the last race result - an 8th place at the Vienna Silvesterlauf (5.33km) race in Austria. A couple spots and 12 seconds faster than 2013!

A number of people kicked off the new year in style:

At the Resolution Run 5k in Patterson Park, Justine DiGregorio took the team's first win, Jen Sheely was 6th and Karen Menge laced up her shoes and did her first race in who-knows-how-long.

Down in MoCo, Conrad Laskowski was 4th at the New Year's Day 5k, while Andy Sovonick made a return to running and Tom Stott picked up where he left off at the end of the year.

On New Year's Day we also bid adieu to our dear friend Brennan, who, after 7.5 years in Baltimore, moved to Milwaukee to begin a new job with the Brewers. It was a sad day and he will be missed, but his spirit lives on every time you make a memory. Or send a text.

In a year that was truly full circle, I was glad I was able to spend New Year's Eve with the same crew as last year (Brennan, Zero and my brother) when we went up to New York for the Central Park Midnight 4 miler.

Over the weekend there was a heated battle at the Frozen 5k in Virginia, featuring Team HPB athletes Alyssa Godesky and Leslie DiMichele. Alyssa fought bravely for the win, but in the end Leslie's final move proved enough for the win (19:27 to 19:34). Stephanie Granlund also raced, starting the year with a strong 28:11.

Earning our first PDAW of the year was Karen Menge - it's unnerving sometimes to jump in a race after a long hiatus, but we respect the gumption of getting back out there!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

No Flex Zone

Two years ago, 10 intrepid souls, all members of the Falls Road Racing Team, boarded the aptly dubbed "Sausage Wagon" and traveled from Baltimore to Lexington, Kentucky, for the 2012 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships. For 9 hours we endured fog and rain. We had no radio (the antenna was broken) and just two compact discs (John Denver and Ke$ha). I powered the 15 passenger van through the mountains. We stopped in Morgantown, West Virginia, home of the WVU Mountaineers, for lunch at the Black Bear Cafe. A few sipped moonshine. We continued on, finally arriving at our destination. The next day the team raced, and finished 31st out of 42 teams. Conrad was our top runner, finishing 145th in 33:11. The only time it didn't rain the entire weekend was for the couple of hours around the race. The Fellowship of 9 who raced vowed to one day return, in better shape, and do this race again.

Fast forward 2 years. The 2014 USATF Club XC Champs were in Bethlehem, PA, at Lehigh University. The field was enormous, and incredibly competitive. The nation's top teams were taking a crack at bragging rights, along with a top prize of $5000 for the fastest team. It was a 1:30 start, which meant I could go to Celtic Solstice in the morning and then drive there to see the guys race.

It had somehow gotten colder since the morning, and the wind made it feel even chillier. But the course was in good condition, and it was quintessential cross country weather. I made it in time to catch the very end of the women's 6km, where our friend Julia Webb finished 39th in 20:46. Then it was onto the men's race, with a field of about 600.

If you've never watched a cross country race, or it's been a while, you definitely need to check it out. It's so exciting, and because it's a long race run in a relatively small area, spectators get a similar rush running from spot to spot to cheer. While I wish it had been a bit warmer, it was fun watching our guys race. No surprise, Conrad was again our top finisher. He ran 31:51, which is insane, and that was only good enough for 156th place, which is even more insane. 155 dudes running faster than 5:07 per mile for 10k on grass. John Ealy, who I'm very excited is getting a chance to run with us more (not to mention was instrumental in getting the team outfitted with Under Armour singlets and shorts!), had an awesome race. It's easy to forget that NYC Marathon was just 6 weeks earlier, but John came out of that and got himself into pretty mean shorter distance shape. He was our #2 guy at 32:34 (222nd - so 70 people in 40 seconds).

Steve Febish was our 3rd guy, running 34:36. Interestingly, he ran 34:43 2 years ago. So that's cool. His locks were flowing in the wind. He looked glorious. In a bit of a surprise, Tim Burns aka Bethlehem Steel or Lehigh Thunder, came in at 35:06, ahead of Ed Aramayo (35:40). If we had a most improved from 2012, that would go to Ed. That year he ran 37:26 for 310th - beating just 28 people. This year he was almost 2 minutes faster, but finished 452nd! Sean Caskey did pretty well. He was hilarious at the end, with about 200m to go he put his head down and tried to outkick this guy. It was a serious push of the NOS button. Unfortunately, he pushed it too early and got dusted at the end. 36:01 for Sean.

Newcomer Will Thompson was a wildcard. I'm pretty certain he's never run cross country, and rather than warm up with the team, he took a nap in his car. Comes to the line wearing this vest and carrying a GoPro, which he claimed he was going to race with (fortunately, he didn't). Will was even-Stevens out there, steadily moving up as others blew up. He ended up finishing in 37:47, which was a distance PR.

Matt Franco died a slow and steady death out there. I had high hopes for him since he was the only one to do an XC race prior to this race. But he ran 37:56. Not to be outdone, Nick Klastava was the Ed Aramayo of 2014. Nick ran 38:44 and finished 538th. He beat 34 people or something. But hey, he didn't finish last. That honor would definitely have gone to me had I raced, so kudos for racing.

In the end, Falls Road finished 47th out of 68 teams (official), with an average scoring time of 34:09. That's not too bad! I mean, it was no ZAP Fitness scoring 61 points, but c'est la vie.

John Ealy earned his first ever Purple Drink Athlete of the Week honor after his awesome performance.

Next year's race is out in San Francisco, and I hear some momentum building to go out and race. For now, enjoy the photos from the day!

2014 USATF Club XC Nationals Photos

The Cool Kids

Celtic Solstice is Baltimore's premier winter event. Some may say it's the year's best race, in large part due to the party under the tent. In its 15th edition, Jim and the gang went bananas on the race premiums - insane Brooks jackets.

Of course it's also a very competitive race, which there aren't many of this time of year. Our own stock of runners was a bit depleted; a bunch of the guys were up in Bethlehem racing the USATF Club XC Nationals that day, and a few of our other fasties were laying low following their marathons last weekend. With past winners Brian Godsey and Dave Berdan nowhere in sight, the door was open for Carlos Renjifo of Howard County Striders to take his first win in 7 tries. He not only one, he decimated the field with a 90 second margin of victory.

Our first runner was Nick Gehlsen, who finished 3rd in 27:24. Then I saw that his chip time was just a second or two behind 2nd place and I thought START ON THE LINE!! After Nick it was the ageless wonder, Elijah Kosgei, in 4th at 28:24. I haven't seen Elijah in probably a couple of years. Dude's got a metric ton of children and is taking classes again I think, so it was nice to see him back out there. He hates the cold but got it done, and I was glad to see him racing as his actual age (46) instead of his usual "I'm 40 every year." PJ Martinez ran a fine 29:02, Jeremy Gworek got into sneaky shape (29:14) and Terence Baptiste surprised us with a 29:43.

Coming in a little over 30 minutes, showing some excellent December fitness, were Mike Zero (30:16) and old man Steve Levin (30:25). Tom Stott had one of his best Celtics, running 30:51. Brennan Feldhausen just missed breaking 31 minutes (31:03, although I doubt he cared too much) and Bobby Van Allen continued his trail to former glory, running 31:21. Cory Donovan finished at a solid 31:32 and PJ Anderer came in at 31:45.

Then it was time for some fast ladies to finish! Carly Page and Suzanne Andrews ran most of the race within a few seconds of one another, and while Suzanne got her on gun time, Carly had the faster chip - 32:09 to 32:12. Great race for both! For Carly, nearly a minute faster than her spring 8k, and Suzanne just always surprises me with how fast she is when I think she's not running. Little Justine DiGregorio finished 10th in 33:09, and Eileen Fleck, who I missed out there, was 15th in a really strong 34:20. Sara Damiano came in at 34:53, Meg McNew strolled across at 35:56, and Patty Stott finished a strong fall campaign, running 40:17.

The morning was a little brisk, but not anything we're not accustomed to on Celtic Saturday. Brennan got to "take the walk" at the beginning of the race, wearing a Bart Starr Green Bay Packers' jersey (courtesy of Jim). The tradition is that bagpipers and Irish wolfhounds lead out the couple of folks who have done this race every year, and with Brennan leaving Baltimore, Jim asked him to be an honorary leader of the procession. Very cool.

Many thanks to Jim, Karen, Pete, Meg D, Dan, Amy, all the Falls Road staff, and especially all of you who came out and volunteered. This race is no small undertaking, and it requires a lot of help. I know they all appreciate your efforts, so thanks!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

About a Week Ago

Well, way more than a week ago at this point, but catching up on December!

Most years, marathon season has been wrapped up by Thanksgiving. People begin to hibernate, or start to look ahead to the spring. Three brave souls pushed their fall marathon season to the first weekend of December, and it was like hitting Triple 7s at the slot machine - money came pouring out!

First up was Erik T. Orberg at the Memphis Marathon. Erik came into the race with a 2:35 personal best from earlier this year at the Vienna Marathon. Prior to that, his 2:39 at Philly last fall had also been a personal best. Erik's been rolling for a couple cycles straight, but this time he took a vastly different approach. His run mileage decreased in favor of riding his bike more, and as a result I think the quality of his run workouts improved. Not that he wasn't putting forth his best effort before, but he seemed to have a level of focus I hadn't seen before. ETO went Walking in Memphis and absolutely owned the day, grabbing the win in addition to another new personal best of 2:33:40. Afterwards he must have been 10 feet off of Beale, because who wouldn't be after winning a marathon?! Here's a great Twitter conversation he had with hilarious Twitter entity @BMoreRunning:


On Sunday, December 7th, a date which will live in infamy, it was Dustin Meeker and Melissa Tanner's turn. They were taking on the fastest race in the west: California International Marathon. But just because it's a net downhill doesn't mean there aren't any hills to run up! The pair had both run big races in July at the Eugene Marathon; Dusty narrowly missed breaking 2:30 and Melissa dropped a 2:55. But at CIM, they were looking for more. Much more.

Dusty is one of the diligent workers we've ever seen. He has this amazing ability to go lap after lap at the same fast pace, and when it's time to work out, he is all in. His first marathon was just last fall at Philly, and when you start off with a great result, it can often be hard in your second and third tries to "just get faster." When you're fighting for seconds, so much is how you feel on that day. Dusty must have felt pretty good as he dropped a steady tempo, holding 5:34/mi for 20 miles. How would he respond in the final 10k? He was almost identical through 20 at CIM as he was at Eugene, but this time he demolished the final 6 miles and ran a 2:27:53 - good enough for a 2.5 minute PR and he became our 3rd runner under 2:30 for the year (first time that's happened!)

Melissa came into the race with a 2:51 lifetime best, but that was a few years ago, and has had mixed results over the past 2 years. Melissa is nothing if not patient, and her metronomic style allowed her to negative split her way to an insane new personal best of 2:47:24 - a 4 minute PR and the 2nd fastest in team history!

A 5k is on the opposite spectrum of a marathon, but it doesn't mean that performances are diminished. Lillian Pinault has been on fire all fall, and continued it with her 2nd win in a 5k at Charlie's Run 5k. Most notably, she ran 19:51, which is the first time since she's lived here (almost 7 years) that she's broken 20 minutes for the distance, and it's the first time she's done it on the road. That's awesome!

So it was a pretty incredible and amazing weekend thanks to these 4, but naturally it was a very difficult choice for the Purple Drink Athlete of the Week. In the end, I gave it to Melissa.

But, I awarded Dustin the AutoZone In the Zone Award and Erik earned the KC Masterpiece Award. Naturally, Lillian won the NOS Award. They were just too good to leave out!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hall of Fame Running Coach Tom Donnelly

An interesting article, and interview, with my college track and cross country coach, who was recently inducted into the national coach's Hall of Fame.

http://www.ustfccca.org/2014/10/featured/qa%e2%82%82max-podcast-ustfccca-hall-of-famer-tom-donnelly-of-haverford