Thursday, October 17, 2013

Queen Killer

In the 8+ years I've been here now (geez I'm old) I can isolate a handful of weekends and put them in a box labeled "best weekends ever." We've had weekends with tons of wins, PRs, and with such variety of events that I've felt they could never be topped - yet somehow, you all find a way. Since my email this week was already long enough, I'll highlight a few of the outstanding performances from last weekend:

Dave Berdan won the Baltimore Marathon

Dave has run this race a few times, with his best ever performance coming in 2011 when he led the first half of the race before fading to 10th in a new PR of 2:21:19. That year, every fiber of my being felt like Dave's decision to run Baltimore was what prevented him from qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials. Which is why it's hard for me to understand why he would continue to run this race when there are other faster, better marathons to run. Especially this year, when it was announced there would be no prize money. Dave still ran. He amassed an insurmountable lead and won the race by 8 minutes. He ran 2:30:06.

Let me tell you why Dave Berdan is a champion. I've seen a lot of people believe they could run certain times, maybe qualify for Olympic Trials. They put in hard training, just like Dave does. They went out to a fast race where fast people would be. And, more often than not, they fell off pace. Sometimes they drop out. Most of the time there's an excuse to follow, a reasoning why they didn't run fast. Who else would go to the Baltimore Marathon, a notoriously challenging course, and be willing to run that kind of time on their own. Winning that race meant a lot to Dave. When things don't go his way, he dusts himself off and tries again. Dave is loyal to those who support him, and respects the sport.

Denise Knickman finished 5th

Let's face it, D's not getting any younger. At 29+ years of age (you think I'm crazy posting a woman's age??) she has endured tens of thousands of miles. Like Dave, she loves her hometown race, and regardless of how she's running, if she's able to toe the line, she does. She's been dealing with the effects of time and has struggled with some injuries. Her times have gotten slower across the board. Yet there she is, chugging down Eutaw Street, headed toward a 3:09 marathon. It was a time that was faster than she ran her 2 years ago.

The Relay Teams Crushed

Now, if I'm being totally honest a) this was expected and b) it is just a relay BUT, that doesn't take anything away from the performances. Putting together relay teams can be an...experience. Finding people to commit to a relay, run fast, stay uninjured - it's a challenge. On the men's side, we always know that Howard County wants to win this. They had an injured teammate so Tim Burns was a last minute sub, despite the fact he doesn't run for them. I like seeing that kind of sportsmanship so hats off to Tim. And a fast UMBC/Adventures for the Cure team meant it wouldn't be necessarily a walk in the park for Falls Road. Steve Laurie, who few outside of the Canton Crew and Dusty/Nate really know, was the lead-off. Steve has run 1:04 for the half marathon before, and used to live out in Oregon. He hasn't raced in a long time, but committed to this relay. He ran great, and handed off to Conrad who is seriously on some next level stuff lately. He makes the Black Eyed Peas look so two-thousand and late. He averaged darn near 5 minutes per mile on his own in the front of the race before handing off to Nate. Nate had a strong third leg and handed off to Dustin, who looks to have had the fastest anchor leg of the day, clocking a sub 5 last mile on his 7.5 mile leg. The team won in 2:18:12, marking the first time a relay has crossed the line first.

The ladies' team of Melissa Majumdar, Amy, Carly and Melissa Tanner didn't have as much to sweat. They ended up winning by 24 minutes over the next best women's team. But that didn't stop them from keeping it honest. In an attempt to see if they could outrun the co-ed team, they ran an awesome 2:47:51.

The co-ed team of Julie, Arjun, Sara Breedlove and Ed was out to see if they could take down the very fast Under Armour team which featured just one "co-ed." Arjun has been fighting illness and fatigue for the past month, and his status on the team was questionable. Like an Indian phoenix he rose from the ashes on race morning and managed to run not just a good 2nd leg, but a great 2nd leg. Sara B and Julie each ran phenomenal races, and Ed, whose fitness has really come around recently, blasted the anchor leg to bring them home in 2:38, just a couple of minutes behind UA.

Cory Donovan Runs 3:13 at Chicago

Cory is an excitable guy, which probably makes running a big city marathon just about the worst thing he could do for himself. Big marathons like Chicago, NYC, Boston - they're energy suckers. It's not like Baltimore where you run down to packet pickup at lunch or after work, and show up on race morning 20 minutes in advance after running from your house. No, these behemoths require you to walk around an enormous expo, and entice you with their cool city-vibes. They pack the corrals to the gills and you spend energy weaving through slower people until you find your rhythm. Cory found this out as he ran over 8 minutes for his first mile, but then around 6:30 on his 2nd to try to make up for it.

Cory has sustained an incredibly high volume of miles for the past couple of months. He followed the Hansons training plan but instead of capping at 60ish miles, he cracked 80, and spent a lot of time over 70. That's some big numbers for someone who has never run that much consistently before! But he stayed healthy, and did all the right things when he wasn't running. His workouts were consistent, and they were good. His long runs were terrific.

He had to believe he could break 3:05, otherwise what was all that work for? He managed 35 great kilometers before fading a little over the last 7k, but he ended up with a 3:13. And if that's a "blow up" shoot, I'd take that.

Alyssa Godesky Goes 10:14 at Kona, Places 10th in F25-29

I think that not everyone can fully grasp times when it comes to Ironman, but let me tell you - this is a big freaking deal. We talk about breakthrough breakthroughs, and performing when it matters most on the world's biggest stage, and time after time Alyssa continues to trump her own accomplishments. This was Ironman #9 for Alyssa in 4 years. It's hard to believe this is the same athlete who didn't swim and barely rode before her first IM in 2009. But, it goes to show you what's possible when you dream big, have a plan, and execute it.

Alyssa's first trip to the Big Island was a year ago. She had qualified the previous November at IMAZ after running down the girls ahead of her. She'd made significant improvements in the swim, bringing her time from 1:24 in 2009 to 1:03, was riding stronger and running faster across the board. It's probably fair to say that anyone heading to Kona for the first time has stars in their eyes, and tries to balance competing with enjoying the experience. On that day last year, with very strong winds, Alyssa managed to finish in 11:06. It wasn't her best time, but it was a great race.

Fast-forward 12 months and the amount of work she's put in has been unreal. A number of weekend blocks with over 300 miles on the bike had given her a huge boost in cycling fitness. She podiums in nearly every race she does. She's tested herself and proven that she can handle whatever her coach throws at her. Qualifying for Kona this year was almost a formality; she went to Los Cabos in March, picked up her spot, and then went to Lake Placid in July to see how she'd fare in the overall. There she was 14th, with almost a perfect race - personal bests in each discipline and a new PR of 10:29.

In year 2 at Kona, it was strictly business. Most were saying that the conditions on Saturday were the best they'd been in 30 years - but you still have to race the race, and it's still Hawaii. Swim, 1:04. Much improved from last year. Her transitions are lightning quick. On the bike, with a tailwind, there were points she was pushing 30+mph for miles. Only towards the end of the bike did the headwinds pop up, but she finished with another new (full) PR of 5:24. Now it's run time, and as we were following we got a little worried in the third quarter when results weren't popping up. But then there it was, on the big board. 10:14:07. A 3:38 marathon (PR) to close out what ended up being a 72nd overall female and 10th in her age group day. That number, remember, is in the World. 2013 has been a pretty awesome year for Alyssa, and I'd have to guess 2014 will bring more of the same. Just remember us when you're famous!

There were so many awesome performances from over the weekend, and none of you needs me to tell you that. Continue to set goals for yourself and work to achieve them. You have an automatic support crew in this team, and if you ever need help in your quest, all you've got to do is say the word.

This week, we awarded the Purple Drink Athlete of the Week to Denise. It was, as you can imagine, a brutally difficult decision. I get so excited to follow along on weekends like this, because seeing you all succeed helps keep me motivated to continue on my own journey.

Fortunately, the year is far from over. We still have big races basically from now until Thanksgiving. Please make sure if you're racing you keep me posted so I can remember to include the results!

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