Sunday, February 28, 2016

GRC embraces hills in spring season opener

The GRC took to the hills of Columbia, MD for the RRCA Club Challenge ten mile race and although the terrain wasn't as friendly as the above pictured gymnasium packed full of runners from all over the region, the team still managed to achieve some great early season results as well as stock up on fruit snacks from the finish line tent.

After last year's iteration of this race was cancelled due to snow, favorable temperatures greeted the runners this year, as they did two years ago, such that tights and running pants were unnecessary. What a February treat!

The women claimed victory in the elite women's category, while the men finished as the second place elite men's team, and the group combined for an overall second place coed elite finish. In addition, the runners delighted in the commemorative and chic knit gloves received at the finish line. Well done to all!


4. Jerry Greenlaw 52:59.56
6. Paul Balmer 53:06.36
9. Evan Jurkovich 54:05.39
11. Paul Guevara 54:27.46
13. Dickson Mercer 55:02.78
20. Dave O'Hara 56:45.13
24. Matt Hassett 56:57.76
40. Kyle Cooke 59:04.33
43. Brian Young 59:33.95

4. Kerry Allen 1:02:56.59
5. Frances Loeb 1:03:21.75
6. Julie Tarallo 1:03:29.27
7. Maura Carroll 1:03:36.10
9. Sarah Bishop 1:04:35.69
15. Keely Eckberg 1:05:36.20
40. Mary Grace Pellegrini 1:11:33.47

Monday, February 15, 2016

Coach Jerry Reports: Trials Recap

It was a truly phenomenal weekend in Los Angeles for GRC.  To be succinct before I launch into my lengthy diatribe, Kieran, Teal, and Emily performed at a level that exceeded my always optimistic expectations, and I couldn't be more proud of them.

Kieran's performance was beyond question the greatest ever by a man in a GRC jersey, and no amount of tape applied by overzealous USATF officials to hide our logo could obscure that fact.  Going into the race we knew that the heat, which was beyond oppressive, would mean that time was irrelevant, and Kieran's goal was simply to beat people.  We also knew that Kieran was not afraid of the heat.  To the contrary, Kieran viewed the heat as an opportunity, and  had complete confidence in his ability to outlast his opponents in what promised to be a war of attrition that would reward those who wanted it the most.  When the gun went off Kieran settled in to a reasonable pace with a large group of athletes, and as Kieran held steady and bided his time, the pack dwindled, and athletes ahead of him started to fade.  Kieran kept plugging away and moved up gradually through the middle miles.   As I counted places on the course in the second half of the race, I was able to communicate to Kieran that he was in the top 50, then the top 40, and each time I relayed this news, Kieran gave me a thumbs up, and kept right on rolling.  By the time I saw Kieran with about 5 miles to go he was 35th place by my count, and while he had started show some signs of wear, he was buoyed by the knowledge that he was still moving forward.  When he passed me for the last time with less than 2 miles to go, he was hurting big time, but when I told him that by my count he was in 26th place, there was no doubt that he was going to continue his charge to the finish, and he picked up the spots he needed to secure his place in the top 25.

It is still almost incomprehensible to me that Kieran was 24th in the Olympic Trials.  His achievement is incredible on many levels, not the least of which is that he went directly from the hospital to the airport on Thursday morning after staying up most of the night with Zyra and young Caoimhe.  More fundamentally, Kieran has developed in less than 3 years with GRC from a guy who I wasn't sure could make the team into a true national class runner.  The list of athletes he beat in LA, in the most important race of the year, reads like a who's who of US distance running including, to name just a few, Scott Bauhs, Bobby Curtis, and Fernando Cabada (and those guys finished--there are some much bigger names among the guys who didn't).  Think about that for a moment.  Kieran, who didn't run in college and who has literally never run a track meet in his life, beat guys, in a race everyone peaked for, who are NCAA champions, consistently ranked in the top 10 in the US on the track and roads, and have been members of multiple national teams.  No one, least of all me, is going to contend that Kieran is a better runner than Bobby Curtis or Scott Bauhs, but on the day that mattered, taking the conditions as he found them, Kieran beat them, along with many, many other national class guys.  That he did so is a testament to his preparation, which was superb, and even more so to his sheer force of will.  Kieran got on the starting line determined to do something special for himself, his family, and his team, and he absolutely was not going to be deterred.  His complete faith in his ability to compete on the highest level in the biggest race of his life is truly awe inspiring.  The future is indeed bright for Kieran, and there is plenty of room for growth.  He was fit to run 2:14, and he will get his chance to run fast in good conditions before long.  In the big picture, we're already looking forward to making an even bigger splash at the Trials in 2020.  In the shorter term, a firm goal for 2016 is for Kieran to lead GRC back into the top 10 at Clubs.  What he'll do between now and then is something we'll figure out in the coming weeks.  For now, Kieran has got a  few blisters to heal, and lots of diapers to change!

As everyone who has ever heard of GRC knows, Teal fulfilled a dream she has had for her entire adult life by qualifying for the Trials at CIM in 2014 with an amazing PR of 2:42:13.  Teal's approach to running the Trials was not just to be satisfied to be there, and she intended to run a big PR.  Teal's preparation for the Trials was outstanding, and she was most definitely in sub 2:40 shape.  While it became clear the week of the race started that the weather was going to preclude fast times, Teal was determined to make the most of her opportunity, and she did not disappoint herself or her veritable armada of family and friends who came to support her, all whom were outfitted in Team Teal t-shirts that were, well, teal.  When the gun went off, Teal was not afraid to get out strong, and she settled into a large group of women with much lower seeds, and she continued to grind it out, mile after mile, lap by lap.  Teal never looked particularly comfortable in the intense heat, but she never looked to be in great distress either, and as the race wore on, she stayed focused, and continued to roll while others around her faltered.  Teal competed all the way to the tape, and her 72nd place finish in a field of 202 starters was an incredible accomplishment, as is amply demonstrated by a review of the list of athletes who she beat, which includes several runners who were viewed by pre-race pundits as having a shot to finish in the top 10.  And despite the deplorable conditions, Teal's time of 2:50:35 is her second fastest ever.  Teal has now established herself as a marathoner who can compete with the best non-professional runners in the country, and she will be back in 2020, an A standard under her belt, ready for another opportunity to live her dream.

Emily went into her third Olympic Trials planning to improve on her 40th place finish in 2012, and after an outstanding training cycle she was fit to run at least 2 minutes faster than her PR of 2:39:55.  Emily brought her family to LA, and was ready to put on a show for the two little ones, even if they might not be old enough to remember seeing their mom kick some booty.  The race did not go as planned, however, as the horrendous heat affected Emily very early on, to the point that she told me around mile 8 that she felt "horrible."  I've been coaching long enough to know that when a runner talks to me during a race, it's not a good sign.  As the miles wore on, Emily continued to tell me she was struggling in the heat, and her goal shifted from running fast to merely finishing which, given the conditions, was no easy task, but in a fashion befitting her years of military service, she kept soldiering on.  Then a funny thing happened on the final loop--Emily got her proverbial second wind, and started to move up.  After picking off several runners in the last 5 miles, Emily finished strong, with a big smile on her face, in a very impressive 102nd place.  While the conditions prevented Emily from showing what she was capable of doing, she never quit on herself, and as others literally wilted in the heat in the last 10k, she proved her toughness by not backing down despite knowing full well that she would not meet the goals she worked so hard to achieve.  I am extremely proud of Emily, who trained incredibly hard in very difficult  circumstances to prepare for a big PR, and I am really looking forward to continuing to work with her as we set our sights on a fourth Trials in 2020.

There are a few other points that I'd like to make.  First, as proud as I am of Kieran, Teal, and Emily, I'm equally proud of the way the entire team worked together to get our athletes prepared for their (figurative and literal) day in the sun.  Without the help and support of the team in workouts and on long runs, there is no way Kieran, Teal, and Emily could have achieved what they did in LA.  While the success of Kieran, Teal, and Emily belongs to each of them, it is also belongs to the team, and that spirit of working together is one of the reasons that GRC is so special.

Second, our experience this weekend was enhanced greatly by the efforts of our generous sponsors Pacers and New Balance.  The athletes were fully equipped with everything from custom-designed uniforms to shoes to hats to warm up gear, and it made us feel appreciated and supported, and part of something bigger than ourselves.  Kathy and Joanna were in LA, and we were able to enjoy some quality time with them at the invite-only after party Kathy took us to as her guests.  I can say with confidence that outside of family and teammates, no one was more excited about our great performances than our patrons at Pacers.  With their support, we will continue to make a name for ourselves on the national stage.

Finally, it was truly my pleasure to be out there this weekend.  To see GRC athletes compete toe to toe with the best runners in the country in a race of such consequence was beyond thrilling for me.  At the Trials in 2020, we're going to have an even bigger group doing even bigger things.  We've got a lot of work to do between now and then, and I'm going to enjoy every part of the journey!


Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Couple Thoughts on the LA Trials

I will leave the expert analysis to Coach Jerry, but I want to just quickly offer a couple thoughts I had, as well, while I was baking out there on Figueroa Avenue.

Also, definitely read Charlie's story about Kieran.

First, Saturday was an absolutely amazing day -- a peak moment -- for our club. The fact that there was literally a watch party to root on three of our teammates competing in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials ... and the fact that all three of them, as coach might indeed note, competed with such distinction ...

... I was blown away. (I loved interrupting conversations to be like, oh, sorry, that's my teammate coming down the road -- you know, running in the Olympic Trials. #GRCPride. I posted a few tweets with videos, and you might detect that during Teal's I suddenly lost my shouting ability.)

I thought it was such a cruel hand to be dealt: our athletes train through the holidays and Snowzilla then have to compete in the hottest damn trials in the race's history. And man, it really was hot out there. (The day before the race, when I was running in the Claremont Wilderness Trail, I saw a kid ask her dad if it was still winter ... and the dad was like, "Wait, what month is it??")

Other than the one underpass that Emily D, my sister, my bro-in-law, and I spent some time recovering under, exhausted from yelling, I saw zero shade on that course. What I saw was that the temps rose quickly, the sun was beating down, and the conditions exacted a very quick, painful toll on the entire field.

Yet Kieran, Teal, and Emily ran fearlessly.

Kieran, I could tell from the get go, was not suffering like others around him and was going to execute his race plan. Teal, I could see, was going to put herself out there and not let up -- and she didn't. Same for Emily.

They all had fire -- and it was such a tough day to have it. The side-of-the-road perspective for this trials, frankly, was painful at times -- just hard to watch. It wasn't fun to see so many amazing runners reduced to a shuffle by such brutal conditions. Lot of carnage, as the saying goes.

And I think -- times and results not withstanding -- that was what really impressed me about our teammates: the way they all ran on a combo of smarts + heart.  Every time I saw one of our own, they were focusing on the back ahead of them and really racing. Which is significant. To be even within a shadow of their personal bests in those conditions was amazing.

Kieran was seeded 145th out of 169 and finished 24th. The guy a spot behind him is a 61-minute half marathoner.

Teal was seeded 117th and finished 73rd.

Emily was seeded 139th and finished 103rd.

We all should be really proud of them - and I know we really are. Soak up the inspiration -- and as Teal says, Dream Big.

FLASH: Men break hearts at the Love the Run You're With 5k

Arctic conditions couldn't stop a clean podium sweep for the men at this morning's Love the Run You're With 5k in Pentagon City. A reliable source reports that Stewart's petition to the race director for Kyle's disqualification was denied - apparently, "Minnesotan heritage" is a perfectly legal advantage in the running world. Rumors indicate that Stewart is currently formulating plans to spend the next 20 years in Minnesota in order to improve his cold-weather racing tactics.

Photo credit to Pacers Running
1 1 144 Kyle Wagener 23 M 1/50 M1929 Washington DC 0:15:55
2 2 441 Stewart Reich 23 M 2/50 M1929 Frederick MD 0:15:57 0:15:57
3 3 606 Ryan Witters 27 M 3/50 M1929 Washington DC 0:16:04

5 24 414 Laura O'Hara 35 F 3/165 F3039 Alexandria VA 0:20:01

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Olympic Marathon Trials 2016: Live updates!

Men's results:

1. Galen Rupp 2:11:12
2. Meb Keflezghi 2:12:20
3. Jared Ward 2:13:00

Women's results:

1. Amy Cragg 2:28:27
2. Desi Linden 2:29:00
3. Shalane Flanagan 2:29:26

If you're trying to live track, use this website!


Kieran O'Connor 2:21:36, 24th place!

Teal Burrell 2:50:35, 72nd place!

Emily Potter 2:55:10, 100th place!


Kieran O'Connor 2:14:43 (estimated finish 2:21:47)

Teal Burrell 2:42:15 (estimated finish 2:50:49)

Emily Potter 2:46:13 (estimated finish 2:55:25)


Kieran O'Connor 1:57:30 (estimated finish 2:21:13)

Teal Burrell 2:21:13 (estimated finish 2:50:05)

Emily Potter 2:24:18 (estimated finish 2:52:59)


Teal Burrell 2:07:38 (estimated finish 2:54:58)

Emily Potter 2:10:42 (estimated finish 2:59:15)


Kieran O'Connor 1:35:05

Teal Burrell 1:54:04 (estimated finish 2:48:26)

Emily Potter 1:56:35 (estimated finish 2:52:36)


Kieran O'Connor 1:21:35

Teal Burrell 1:37:46 (estimated finish 2:47:29)

Emily Potter 1:39:41 (estimated finish 2:51:28)


Kieran O'Connor 1:08:30

Teal Burrell 1:22:02

Emily Potter 1:23:31

GRC viewing party

Go Kieran, Teal, and Emily!


Teal Burrell 52:55 (by on location reporter Charlie Ban)


Kieran O'Connor 25:56, 69th place (estimated finish 2:16:21)


Emily Potter 24:37, 91st place

Teal Burrell 24:55, 116th place

Check out this article about Kieran!

Scotia native O'Connor caps memorable week at Olympic Trials by Mike MacAdam

In other news...

Frances Loeb ran 9:49.7 at the Boston University Valentine Invitational on Friday night, for #2 on the all-time list. Whoa!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Olympic Marathon Trials 2016: Coach Jerry checks in from LA!

From Coach Jerry:

8:42 AM local time -- "We're all here safely and getting ready for the gun to go off.  After pulling an all nighter in the hospital, Kieran slept like a baby on the plane despite a family of 5 children in front of him conducting a riot at 35,000 feet, and he then took a 4 hour nap.  The weather here is an issue in a different way--it's hot.  I'm heading out in a minute to find a place to buy sun screen, and we're revising race plans to cope with the conditions.  The highlight so far, if you want to call it that, is that our uniforms did not pass muster, so per the fashion police at USATF, we have to put tape over the pacers logo (the GRC logo is okay for some reason) even though it's so small no one could possibly read it anyway.  And to further show the arbitrary nature of the rules, Carlos is going to run in his high school jersey, which has huge printing across the front, and that's acceptable.  Go figure.  We're going to the technical meeting at 4 to get bibs and chips, and last minute logistical instructions, and then we'll get some dinner, and rest up for the big day."

Photo by Rusty Burrell

1:03 PM local time -- "The Man is making us cover up the Pacers logo on the singlets, but he can't stop us from wearing the sweet Pacers/GRC trucker hats Kathy Dalby just gave me!  They haven't gotten the thumbs up from Dickson yet, but I'm sure they will."

Be on the lookout during the broadcast for some sweet team headwear. Below, Dickson shows off his affinity for the trucker hat style.

Photo by Emily Dufton

6:08 pm local time -- "We sat through the technical meeting and picked up the bibs.  If any more proof was needed that USATF's uniform rules are totally arbitrary, they informed Emily that her uniform had to be altered in a totally different way than Kieran and Teal.  Because of the uniform rules we can't wear the patches, but I managed to sew patches on the GRC shirt I'm going to wear during the race, so Lauren and Nina will be out there with me."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Olympic Marathon Trials preview

Photo courtesy of Kieran O'Connor
Although the Super Bowl occurred just a few short days ago, distance running enthusiasts know that the real nationwide athletic attraction of early February this year is the Olympic Marathon Trials, being contested in Los Angeles, California on Saturday morning. Trials fever has settled over the Pacers/GRC–New Balance family, as we've watched our qualifiers conquer long workouts, endure longer runs, battle plunging winter temperatures and Snowzilla-related training adjustments, and achieve PRs on both the roads and the track, all of which are noteworthy accomplishments in and of themselves but have only been intended as preparation for the more important day that lies ahead.

The entire team has been working hard to do its part to help the qualifiers out in various ways, such as jumping in to take on the pacing burden of a long track workout, planning a visit to Hains Point to help battle headwinds (and simultaneous tailwinds, typically) on a tempo run, or just keeping everyone distracted during mind-numbing long runs with endlessly entertaining and hilarious stories, in classic GRC fashion. The qualifiers have been the ones doing the hard training but the team is just as excited to see some of its own toeing the line with the nation’s best.

Photo by Kerry Allen

The US will bring the top three finishers in both the men’s and women’s Trials races to Rio to compete for Olympic glory. In the women’s race, there are two heavy favorites to make the Olympic team, Shalane Flanagan and Desi Linden. These 2012 Olympic marathoners have qualified for this race with times of 2:21:14 and 2:23:54, respectively. Flanagan's training partner Amy Cragg owns the next fastest qualifying time, having run 2:27:01 in 2014, and there are a large number of women who have run around 2:28, including quasi-local Stafford, VA resident Serena Burla, who all have a chance to break into the top 3. The men’s side is not quite so locked in, but 40-year old veteran Meb Keflezghi is a favorite, with a qualifying time of 2:08:37, along with injury-plagued Dathan Ritzenhein, who finished in fourth place in the 2012 Trials and enters this year's race with a qualifying performance of 2:09:35. Don't count out Luke Puskedra, who ran 2:10:24 in Chicago last year, and the infamous Galen Rupp, who will be making his marathon debut.

The Pacers/GRC–New Balance team boasts three athletes in the race: Teal Burrell (who qualified with a 2:42:13 performance at California International Marathon in December 2014), Emily Potter (qualified with a 2:42:56 marathon in Edmonton in August 2015), and Kieran O’Connor (qualified with a half marathon performance of 1:04:40 in Philadelphia in October 2015). This will be the third Trials for Emily, but both Teal and Kieran will be racing this high caliber event for the first time.

Photo courtesy of Teal Burrell

Teal, who also can be known as the Queen of Beach Drive, has been preparing for this race for years. Never one to be satisfied with anything less than the lofty goals she sets for herself, she is laser focused on the Trials after she did not quite run as fast as she believed she was capable at the Jacksonville half in early January, even though she still nabbed a big PR of 1:18:55. Although winter training has not gone as smoothly as she'd prefer, due to pesky weather and precipitation snags necessitating some rearranging of runs, she's been hitting PRs left and right in workouts and is primed for another PR in LA.

Emily is a Trials veteran, and will look to improve on her 40th place finish from 2012. She has been racing her face off over the past few months and has been turning in some impressive times as well as showing incredible speed and range for a marathoner. Although she'll be without her typical training partners, young daughters Evelyn and Adelaide, who ride along in the jogging stroller daily without protest, she will be right at home on yet another starting line.

Brand new father Kieran will be taking a break from diaper duty to take to the streets of LA. He has been pushing through extremely difficult workouts with ease, such as ten miles on the track in sub-5 minute pace, and according to Coach Jerry, "he's in way, way better shape now than he was when he ran his qualifier in Philly, so he's ready to run a giant marathon PR." Be sure to look out for his equally giant beard in LA.

Photo by Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography

For further background reading, be sure to check out this RunWashington article, written by the GRC's own Dickson Mercer, covering this year’s local Trials qualifiers.

Another great read is Teal’s blog, Miles to the Trials, where she chronicles her amazing progression from a marathon novice with a dream to a national class athlete, and will make you laugh, cry, squeal, gasp, and decide you also are ready to shoot for the Trials yourself after reading her candid and heartfelt writing.

The marathon will be broadcast live on Saturday from 1-4 pm ET on NBC. This is a big deal! They probably had to put a European soccer game on another one of their channels or something. The men's race goes off at 1:06 pm with the women following at 1:22 pm. It will also be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra to appease those millennials who don't own a TV.

Our racers will all be sporting unique New Balance race kits for the occasion rather than the familiar GRC royal blue. Look for all three of our racers to be wearing navy and red tops with bright red shorts. With an out-and-back, looped course, and races being contested concurrently, we are expecting to see all three of our racers during the broadcast. The course begins with a 2.2 mile loop and then settles into a series of a six mile loop run four times, which will make for easy spectating as well as hopefully providing a surprise-free run for the marathoners. Although flat, the course is not expected to be extremely fast due to the numerous sharp turns.

We can't wait to see what our inspiring trio will achieve in LA! Be sure to also follow along in one of the below sources for up to the minute results.

Live tracking of the race will be hosted by FloTrack. We're still unsure exactly how this will play out, so check back here for updates.

Teal's husband, Rusty, is well known in running circles for his live tweeting prowess. Follow along @rustabust as he spectates the race in LA. A quick disclaimer that this is not an official running account and there is a good chance that you'll also get to read multiple tweets relating to home brewing and DC sports teams, Rusty's other passions, but who would say no to that!

Another option is of course @GRC_Race_Team on Twitter, as well as the newly launched @grc_running on Instagram, both of which we can't necessarily confirm that we'll be updating with zest and vigor, but you never know!

And we'll be posting live splits here on the blog, if social media sometimes confuses you. You're not alone!

Send 'em!