The last weekend in July doesn't typically produce big-time events (or results). It's mid-summer, and most folks are trying to fleece the heat, or are preparing for bigger fall plans. But this year, a few of our athletes were brave and took on some incredibly challenging endurance events.
So a few quick shout-outs to the relay team of Diane Heiser and Carly Page, who ran the BRRC summer classic: the 2 person, 10 mile relay. They averaged well under 6 minutes per mile and crushed it! And Sunday was the Errbody Get Money 5k, where Megan DiGregorio, Meg McNew, and Denise Knickman went 1-2-3 and indeed, got money. Dan Miranda and Sara Damiano also raced the wickedly competitive Cranberry Carver 5M in Massachusetts.
But I want to focus on three extraordinary performances from Sunday, with the theme of bravery in mind.
Joel Gladfelter has had, in short, an incredible year of racing. He's come quite far from the days of "Barf," who had never broken 18 minutes for a 5k and his marathon PR was nestled in at 3:08. We saw the transformation a couple of years ago and he'll be the first to tell you that running - and this group - have helped him on his journey. Joel ran an unbelievable race at Boston, and unlike many of the others who ran, got right back into it, recording PRs at shorter distances, and winning his favorite race for the first time ever. He had signed up for a marathon...in July...and over the past 6 weeks lost a bit of focus. He wasn't doing the same workload he did leading up to the spring marathon, and while he wasn't burned out, it didn't seem like he was "looking forward" to this event. A bit of fortune smiled upon racers this weekend when the temperature broke and it cooled off a little. The marathon he had chosen to run was called the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Marathon. Of course being a smaller race, Joel wanted to be competitive, and a win was certainly not out of the realm of possibility - but he found out a 1:13:xx half marathoner was entered and it took a little wind out of his sails. But Joel's positive attitude rang true, and he went into the race with "zero expectations" and not nervous at all. He ran as even an effort as he could on the rolling course, and enjoyed the day. Before the race I reminded him of what a water station volunteer told me at a tri a couple years ago: If you can see them, you can catch them. Joel took that with him, and as he ran most of the race by himself, he moved up from 6th to 4th, and finally to 3rd, with a mile to go. He ended up running a 2:57:26. If you think about it, a sub 3 hour marathon would have been superb a few years ago, but now has become the standard for Joel. Awesome, awesome race my friend!
Alyssa Godesky is another one who has evolved over the years into an absolute superstar. She was always good, even great, at endurance events, but has moved into the upper echelon of the sport of long distance triathlon. I've always felt that you can't coach drive - either you have it, or you don't - and Alyssa has it. If you consider her first Ironman, where she had nary swam a yard or turned a pedal, you could tell she was going to go onto great things in the event. Three years later she's now on the verge of turning professional, and came into the weekend having already qualified for Kona (through winning her age group at IM Los Cabos back in March). In addition to the early season Ironman, she's also raced 3 half-irons, setting PRs there, and even dropped down to the Olympic distance, recording a massive personal best at that. To say she's firing on all cylinders would be an understatement! With her ticket to Hawaii already printed, there was nothing to lose for her at Ironman Lake Placid this weekend. To some, it would mean using the race as a training day, or to work on nutrition or a particular phase of the race. To Alyssa, it meant let it ride and see where she falls among the field of stellar professional and top age group women. With a new swim start initiative, she positioned herself right on the front line - something 2009 Alyssa might not have done. She says she's been swimming the fastest intervals of her life recently, and it paid off with a big swim PR of 1:02:53. The pro women had started two minutes ahead and she had caught some by the end of the swim, and a few more as she ripped into the bike. Her first half bike split, in the rain and on a very challenging course, was a 2:40 - which would be a great half iron split. She was now among the front couple of age group women, and finished the ride with a 5:36, another best for her. Onto the run, and she was stride for stride with a (much taller) girl. Her pace was locked in and she looked strong, ready to compete for the day. When the race got tough, she got tough, and fought to a 3:43:24 run. Unfortunately when my computer was stolen, I lost all my great spreadsheets so I can't verify right now if that is a PR, but I'm pretty sure it is, or at least close. Most importantly, she finished 5th overall amateur, 14th overall (including the pros), and won her age group by leaps and bounds, in a new Ironman best of 10:29:53. Breaking 10:30 is absolutely a remarkable achievement, and to do it on Lake Placid's epic course makes it even sweeter.
Mike Mashner epitomized brave this weekend. Mike's done two Ironmans before this. Arizona 2009 was his first, and for it being his first he had a great race, going 10:21 or something. He sat out 2010 and came back for Louisville 2011, where he had an even better day, going 9:49 and narrowly missing a coveted Hawaii slot. Again, he took 2012 to focus on different events, but signed up last year for LP this year, and set about the arduous task of preparing. Along the way he was going to run the Philly Marathon in November, but a hernia forced him to abandon the race, and running, for the better part of 5 months. Mike did what he could through the winter months, going to PT, riding when he could, getting in the pool, and finally got back into running. While it wasn't where he wanted it to be, I thought his run fitness came back quicker than expected as he cruised to a respectable finish at Cherry Blossom, and then successfully defended his title at the sprint triathlon near his home. He then tackled his first Eagleman, posting a great swim, strong bike and, all things considered, really solid run. From EM that gave him about 7 weeks until Placid, and he felt like he still had a ways to go with bringing his run volume up. Mike's a strong, fit guy who excels at these endurance events, having captured 3rd at last year's incredibly difficult S.O.S. Triathlon, so even without a bevy of 100+ mile rides or 20+ mile runs (see also: none) leading up to race day, Mike believed he could achieve. He had an amazing swim split of just over one hour, and got onto the bike ready to rock. Along the route he lost a water bottle that contained most of his first half bike calories, and then he missed the special needs station where the his 2nd half bike calories resided. He adjusted his game plan and tried to get in whatever he could, when he could, but came off the 5:30 bike split having consumed far less than he planned for. This is a deficit you don't want as you embark on a 26.2 mile run, already 6.5 hours into your day. But Mike not only endured it, he crushed it, running a 3:22:20 for what was his fastest IM marathon ever! He emptied the tank to do it, losing 9 pounds on the day and ending up in the med tent, but he was rewarded with a 10:01:58 and 10th place age group finish. Just 12 minutes slower than his best time, on a much harder course and with far less preparation, I'd be pretty psyched!
To say I'm impressed by these performances wouldn't even cover it, unfortunately my vocabulary isn't deep enough to find a better word to capture - perhaps awed, amazed, wowed - can help put in perspective how awesome the three of you are. You succeeded not only because you're talented and work hard, but because you were brave enough to try. So congratulations on your terrific performances!
And of course we had to assign a Purple Drink Athlete of the Week, and with her best performance at an Ironman ever, signifying one of the last times we'll see an age next to her name (soon it will say PRO), it went to Alyssa. Be sure to read her race report!
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