Wednesday, November 20, 2013


16. A number we associate with "candles" and "bars," but also with one word that could sum up the weekend of racing in Philadelphia:


In March Madness, the Sweet 16 is the barometer, the measuring stick for success. To be among the final 16 teams playing at the end of the season means you've done something right: performed when it mattered, and executed a solid game plan.

In birthdays, the Sweet 16 is a coming-of-age recognition, a graduation to adulthood. No training goes into turning 16 per se, but the resulting celebration rewards the trials of growing up.

The reason for all the symbolism is that in Sunday's Philadelphia Marathon, we had 16 runners from our group out there competing. 16 people who have committed every day of the past few months to this one day. Outside of Boston, there's never been a weekend with so many people in marathon action. With that lengthy intro out of the way, I bring you Philthy Rich Race Weekend Recap Part 2.

As training partners, and Dragons, Dustin Meeker and Nate Brigham are seemingly inseparable in training and racing. They're also great leaders among the group, and have done an amazing job in setting up the fall for many of the folks racing this weekend. This marathon wasn't Nate's first rodeo, but for Dustin, as long as he crossed the finish he'd establish a best time. His previous marathon ended in a DNF, and after a tough fall last year he ended up not racing a marathon. Fueled by confidence in his fitness, Dusty went out fast on Sunday, leading the Falls Road train through the streets of Philadelphia. Admittedly his last 4 miles were pretty rough, but he crossed the line in 2:33:27, good enough for 18th place overall. Nate ran a little more conservatively. He discovered early on that his legs weren't responding the way he wanted, and as a veteran marathoner and patient runner, he maintained an effort that would leave him with enough in the tank to power through the end. It worked out, and while it wasn't his best time, it was a little faster than he ran at Boston back in April. 2:34:34 for 27th was Nate's result.

Phil Turner has run a few marathons before also, running mid 2:40s, before breaking out with a 2:40 earlier this year. Phil's 1:13 win at the NCR Half suggested that he was capable of running well under 2:40, and on Sunday he went out and executed. His slowest mile was a 6:06 mile 8 (which is not an easy mile). Everything else he kept in a 7 second range between 5:55 and 6:02 or so. Impressive. He ended up at 34th at 2:36:35 - averaging under 6 minute pace for the race. He's already plotting for Boston in the spring. Steve Febish has spent most of the fall running with Dusty and Nate, and on Sunday committed to going big. Steve's previous marathon was Eugene last spring, where he ran a little over 2:50. After winning the Baltimore Half a few weeks ago, he believed he could run a low 2:30. He went out on the pace, and paid for it a little in the back half - but finished up in 2:37:06 for 39th. Our 5th guy under 2:40 was Erik Orberg. Erik has the least running "pedigree," having only picked up running in the past couple of years, but has exceptional talent and drive, and above all an extraordinary work ethic. His 2:49 at Boston earlier this year motivated him to set his sights much higher, and the training he's put in this fall has been unbelievable. On Sunday, he executed one of the best plans I've ever seen, even-splitting his way to a 2:39:25 for 53rd.

David Cobb took a big chunk out of his previous marathon best - 6.5 minutes, to be exact - as he ran 2:51:16. He's had a great fall since he met up with us in early September, and is looking forward to 2014. Curt Forst, who I missed out on course, ran 2:52:20, which I'm pretty sure is a best time for him. I haven't seen Britt Kern in at least a few months, but I spotted him as he crossed the line. He looked pretty cooked, but he managed another sub 3 hour finish (2:58:59). On chip time he finished ahead of Megan DiGregorio, but technically finished just behind her, as she crossed in 2:59:09. Meg was far from pleased with the result, but it's important to have a little perspective. If blowing up and having a bad day results in a sub 3 hour finish (3 for 4 now since May 2012, with the one outside of 3 hours being just over 3), it's really not that bad of a day.

Nicole Wilson improved her Baltimore time by a couple of minutes, running 3:12:11, and Jeremy Gworek, who has had a tough fall, came through at 3:17:23. In his first ever marathon, Jon Miller found out that going out fast has its consequences as he crossed in 3:22:29. Aaron Thomas ran 3:41:42, and I mistakenly called this Lillian Pinault's first marathon but she corrected me that it's actually her second (but first in 5 years). She had a rough go out there, but got through it in 3:49:49. Sneaky Pete Mulligan ran, I didn't know that he was planning on it, and actually did it for him rather than his usual pacing gig. He finished at 3:54:57. And I'm guessing Jan Cook, who ran 5:23:03, had more than a few Guinnesses out there.

16 people. 9 under 3 hours. 5 under 2:40. 1 marathon. Wow. In all my years of watching races, I don't know if I've ever seen a more comprehensive performance from one team. And honestly, what's most impressive isn't that you finished, or ran well, but that you had the courage to try in the first place. A lot of runners don't even get that far.

In addition to the marathon, there was also the half on Sunday. Conrad Laskowski, aka Conrad the Barbarian aka Conrad the Destroyer, went out and did what Conrad does: run fast. A 4:50 first mile was a little ambitious, and most people would pay the piper soon after. But Conrad's not just anybody, and if anyone can endure a fast first mile and have the strength to keep going, it's him. He ran a lot of the race by himself, but in the end managed to hold off another runner in an epic battle for the line. They were awarded the same time (1:07:58) but Conrad took 12th to the other guy's 13th. The time was an 80 second PR, and 6 minutes faster than he ran at PDR in September. It's puts him at #2 now on our Top Ten list!

It seems like just last week that Nick Klastava ran his marathon, but it was over 8 weeks ago! Plenty of time to recover and build back up for a second fall race. A smart choice was a half rather than another marathon. On Sunday he wasn't able to get the result he'd expected, but a 1:22:06 is far from a bad time. Plus, he had great perspective about the year as a whole, which has been incredible. He's taken his fitness to a level he's never seen before, and had fun while doing it.

Some of our superstar ladies, Alley Firey and Grace Rochfort, both ran great races just a few weeks after running their first marathon at Baltimore. Alley went 1:49:14 and Grace narrowly missed breaking 2 hours, finishing at 2:00:11.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the terrific races at the "Who Knew Philly Had an 8k, Because Certainly None of Us Did" 8k on Saturday. Tim Burns and Andy Sovonick duked it out on the course, with both fellows running personal bests en route to 36th and 37th places, respectively. Tim ran 26:37 to Andy's 26:41.

As I mentioned in the email, it's not often that I award dual Purple Drink Athlete of the Week awards, but this week was too epic not to. 21 people ran a marathon, another 10 ran halves, and there were so many unreal races that I had to do it. So congrats to Carly and Erik, you guys definitely earned it!

We gave a KC Masterpiece Award to Christa for her efforts this weekend. A big half marathon PR followed by actively spectating the Richmond Marathon, then driving straight to Philly and watching everyone run on Sunday. Wow.

Conrad earned our NOS Button Award, and Sara D took home the AutoZone In the Zone award.

AND of course I can NOT forget the tremendous effort by the support crew: Molly and Dan at Richmond on Saturday, and then Cory, Christa, Meg M, Melissa T, PJ, Dave P, Joel, Sara B, Andy, Amy, and probably a few others I'm forgetting at Philly on Sunday. YOU guys are the difference makers! When the race gets tough, it's seeing those familiar faces, getting shouts of encouragement, or a reminder to stay relaxed, that can help getting to the end!

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