Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

How many PBJs can you eat in a day? When you ride north of 125 miles with 16,500 feet of climbing, apparently a lot.

It looked like an Alpine stage of the Tour de France, but it was right here in Maryland - the Garrett County Gran Fondo featuring the Diabolical Double. And while it may have just been overcast here in Baltimore (and at least 70 degrees), out in the mountains it was wet and cold, with extended periods of cold rain and generally very high humidity. This made for not only a long, soggy day, but also a dangerous one on the slick, twisty descents.

For both Mike Mashner and Andy Sovonick, this ride would be the longest they've ever ridden, and easily the hardest. Up and down, up and down, all day long. Over the course of a day like that, you're bound to run the gamut of physical and mental well-being. While the event was not officially a "race" they did time 5 climbs for the KOM competition. The climbs were brutal, unrelenting, and when you thought you were done with one, it kicked up some more. The last 1.5 miles or so were beyond vertical as riders ascended back to the top of the Wisp ski resort. A tough way to finish, for sure, but that's how a boss would do. After many, many hours, the ride was over and the 3 hour drive back to Baltimore commenced.

In the KOM competition, Andy finished 55th and Mike was 86th out of 576 or so. Our friend Michelle Miller was the 3rd fastest female in the ride, and had the fastest split among the ladies on the final climb (by nearly 30 seconds!).

Props to these guys, who earned the Dr. K Toughness Award.

Other events from the weekend included Stephanie Granlund's great half ironman at Syracuse. A couple of months ago the idea of a half ironman seemed like a daunting task. With distances that long, it's never an easy day, and her preparation for it had to be focused. She nailed it, and finished the race strong. Also in Syracuse was Jon Michel, who was marginally disappointed to not earn a slot to the 70.3 World Championship, but was pleased with how the race went. I saw him on the street yesterday morning and his comment was that his butt was sore.

The Baltimore Women's Classic boasts a big field and often quite competitive one. Kiera Harrison took 3rd in 18:09, and Carol Smith finished 4th at 18:22, just a split second ahead of Megan DiGregorio. Christa Wagner ran a terrific race, running an even 20:03 - bummed that she didn't slip under 20 minutes! She led in Denise Knickman (20:13) and Marci Benda (20:19). Kate Finley crossed at 20:38 and Jen Sheely finished in 21:29.

But our Purple Drink Athlete of the Week went to Joel Gladfelter. For as long as I've known Joel, there have only been two races that have mattered: Boston Marathon (which he has no shot of ever winning) and Z's race. Named after Joel's running mentor, the Irv Zablocky Memorial Run is an annual footrace held in Hughesville (or wherever), Pennsylvania. For years it was Joel's white whale; the race he could never seem to win. He would finish in the top 5, maybe as high as runner-up to his friend, but could never get across the line first. As he got older, the light he was chasing dimmed. Until last year, when the race moved from its previous 3.55 mile distance to a 5k. Now, I don't know if it was that, or divine intervention, but whatever got into Joel that day propelled him to the win.

Joel was back this year to defend, but realized he wasn't in great shape. On Tuesday he ran a 5k in 18:21. No way that would be good enough on Saturday. Battling a rising high school senior with a 10:10 3200m PR, Joel got dusted at the start. It took him 2.5 miles to claw his way back to evens with the youngster, and it was Joel's racing savvy that opened the door for the win in 16:48. Awesome, awesome job. And if you've seen any of the pictures (all on the race's FB page) you can see just how hard he was working. That's how hard he is always working, I've never seen anyone able to turn themselves inside out like Joel. Great job buddy.

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