You wanna hot body?
You wanna Bugatti?
You wanna Maserati?
You better work, bitch.
The team performance at Club Challenge was, in my opinion, the best I've ever seen. People ran huge personal bests and dug deep to pull out a 6th consecutive team win. But most important, as this race tends to do, it brought everyone together and provided a much-needed morale boost in what has been an absolutely draining winter.
My first Club Challenge was 2006. I went back into my running log, and well, here were my post-race thoughts:
"Very hilly, extremely challenging with the wind and my attitude was completely negative. Falls Rd was 2nd to HoCo, and I don't think I want to do this again."
Despite running an abysmal 1:04:10 with incredibly positive splits, I also remarked that I felt the course was at least 600m short. That may be a first - someone saying the course seemed short.
The race was canceled in 2007, and when we went back in 2008, we fought valiantly but came up short yet again. Finally, 2009 was our year, and we were able to come away with the Team Championship. Since then, we've been fairly dominant at this annual race, with 2012 being a highlight as we swept the entire competition. But, there have been some close calls, like 2013, when we lost the Men's and Women's Team title but came away with the Overall title by the slimmest of margins.
The face of the team has changed a lot over the years. In 2006, Spider Sillery and Chris Nowakowski went 1/2, and some of our top performers included Ryan Schmidt, Jake Marren, and Rodney Timpson. Part of the "challenge" of this event is rallying the troops for a race that ultimately isn't an "A" race. We get it - it's not a great time of year, the course is hard, there are more important races to prepare for. But this year we were missing our TOP 6 male scorers from 2013 and our top 2 women - who also happened to go 1/2 in the race.
Howard County, as we know, does not like losing on their home turf. And new this year was the inclusion of our friends from Georgetown Running Company. Besides the winter being annoying, it's been a few months since most people have raced so it's hard to gauge the fitness of the team. I knew people were working hard, and was confident they'd give their best - but would it be good enough?
The answer was a resounding yes. Conrad Laskowski took charge of the race, only relinquishing the lead at mile 8 to Luke Meyer (GRC). Conrad finished 2nd in a new PR of 52:40 (:15 faster than his winning 2012 time) and Graham Peck missed his 10 mile PR by just one second (53:27) as he finished 3rd. Ed Aramayo led the next pack as he finished a little under 57 minutes, and Steve Febish was right behind. Awesome work for Febish, who has been on the injured list most of the winter. Dan Miranda came up huge with his best race there in years, and he came in just ahead of first-timer Erik T. Orberg. One of the guys who came up really big today was Tim Burns. Tim ran like garbage here last year (1:02:38) and since he had to move to Chantilly for work, we haven't seen him much. But he came up huge. So did Max Hacker, who was unable to race last year due to injury. He even split the race, which is unreal. And Matt Franco closed out our scoring 9 as he finished under 58 minutes.
The next 3 acted as displacers: Nick Klastava (6 minutes faster than last year), Joel Gladfelter (59:25 = 1 minute PR), Brennan Feldhausen.
There were new scoring rules and new categories this year. GRC won the Men's Under 40 competition, but in the Men's Overall we managed to win by a 1 point margin. 1 point. That basically means any of the guys up front who finished ahead of a GRC runner, you reverse the positions and we get beat. Or if Brennan hadn't picked it up after going out at an easy 5 mile clip. Every runner counts, no matter where you are in the field. Always remember that!
The girls competition was going to be interesting. GRC didn't have enough to score as a team, so it would once again likely be a race between us and a reinvigorated Howard County. Through the first couple of scorers, we were going scalp for scalp. Megan DiGregorio started things off great, holding off HCS' 1st runner to finished 2nd (1:03:05). Emily Hurley ran a great race after just getting back from Africa. Sara Breedlove came up huge with a 1:04:50 (PR), 3 minutes faster than her best here. Carly Page put on her big girl pants to run a 50 second PR and really started to set the team apart. And how about Suzanne Andrews? Runs a 1:12 or something last year, comes out this year and runs 1:07:47. Huge! Denise Knickman pulled out some time from her 2013 result and came in under 1:08.
Close that out with displacers Christa Wagner and first-timer Julie Wolfe, and voila - Women's Under 40 and Women's Overall Team Champions!
Of course with the new scoring in place it's virtually assured that if you win both the Men's and Women's, you won't be beat in the Co-Ed/Overall Competition.
The performances of our scorers and displacers doesn't diminish anyone else's day, and there were some really great runs - especially from a bunch of Club Challenge first-timers. After a really cold week we were fortunate to have some relatively warm weather. Temps around 40 made it much more bearable. The support we had on course was tremendous, so big shout to:
Tom & Patty Stott, Andy Sovonick, Melissa & Tarala Majumdar, Cory Donovan, and Amy Flashenberg.
It's been fun to compete at this event every year, and to have been fortunate to be so successful, but of course any given year brings a new set of obstacles. I'm beyond proud of all your work to achieve this win, you should be too. Congrats team!
And while it was a difficult task to award a Purple Drink Athlete of the Week, I am keeping tradition of dual M/F PDAWs this week and was really impressed by Joel and Sara B. Joel absolutely attacked this race, despite him thinking he'd run 1:01, and as always dug deeper than seems possible to come up huge for himself, and the team. And Sara B, I mean to be the 3rd scorer and have a 3 minute course best, that's so clutch.