Sunday, December 31, 2017

Global GRC: Frances Loeb wins Pacific Mini Games Half Marathon

GRC has gone global, as proven by Frances Loeb's victory in the Half Marathon in the Pacific Mini Games, an international competition in Vanuatu, where Frances is serving in the Peace Corps. Frances reports, "I had such a blast representing my island, Erromango, in the half marathon in the Pacific Mini Games. It was a close race for me with talented runners from New Zealand and Solomon Islands but all the support from my Peace Corps people, my village and my parents visiting me all the way from the US pushed me through! The best part was giving my host dad the gold medal and a victory dunk in the ocean when I got back to my village."

"Before the race, I was kind of freaking out because everyone in my village kept telling me they thought I would win because they saw how much I was training. And the word got out I was running this race all over the country. Four other Peace Corps volunteers told me about how people in their community asked them about corps volunteer who was running the half marathon. I started trying to tell everyone, like my host family and the other volunteers that had flown down to the capital to watch me race that there was no way I could win and I was just shooting for second or third. And actually, I watched this woman from the Solomon Islands who was also in the half marathon win the 5k two days before the race and she was a tough runner and racer. I had no idea what kind of shape I was in and wasn't feeling very fast.

So race day comes and everyone goes out pretty fast so I start off the race in last place. By the second mile I was solidly in third place and can see he Solomon island woman and my goal is just to keep her in my sights and towards the end pass her for second place. I was going out very conservatively and feeling really good. At a really long downhill around mile 5, I start to really close the gap and I wasn't planning to pass her that soon but I noticed that the New Zealand woman wasn't insanely far in front (the benefit of such a small race, I could see the next people in front and because there weren't like 50 people in between it didn't feel as daunting to close the gap) and I was feeling really good so I figured I should pass now and see if there's some chance I could close that gap by the end. I passed the New Zealand woman earlier than I would have wanted to, around mile 8, because I was scared that she would come back and get me but it was another long downhill and I just felt like I had to really pass and get some distance then.

In the end I ran a 1:24:59 and she was I think 43 seconds behind me. I was feeling great until the last 2 miles that were really rough, I was so tired and dying. The last like 300 meters when I was pretty sure I had the win I just could not move but I pushed it in. I was SO surprised I won, I thought I could run only ~1:28 based on my rough tempo workouts the 3 weeks before. I had been doing the workouts later in the morning closer to 9am in the heat and humidity and then the actual race day started at 5:30 and was rainy so that helped with my time. I think I got lucky that everything came together for me and that I ended up being so mentally tough and motivated just thinking about how happy my village would be and how my parents had flown all the way across the world to be there. I also got lucky because it felt cool for me but I think the New Zealand woman was not adjusted to the intense humidity and maybe went out too fast.

It was so special because no one from team Vanuatu ran for the women. While I was technically an independent since I'm not a Vanuatu citizen just a resident which allowed me to participate, I wore a uniform that had the name of my island and Vanuatu on it with a cool graphic of the island / Vanuatu flag and was kind of representing Vanuatu. A ton of people wanted to take a picture with me after. And most importantly, my village was THRILLED to hear the news. So many of them called me to congratulate me and tell me I made them proud and told me the story of where they were when they found out I won. I got a ton more of that when I made it back to the village. They all told me they had been praying for me. And when I called my host dad and told him I won, he cried. When my boat came in from the airport when I got back, they grabbed me and threw me in the ocean since I won."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Weekend Review: December 9-10, 2017

We had a fantastic weekend at Clubs.  There were excellent performances on both the men's and women's sides, it was a great team bonding experience, and most importantly, we honored Lauren in a truly meaningful way.

The men placed 8th, which is their best performance ever at Clubs. Our top 4 of Lucas, Stewart, Luke, and Ryan S were separated by only 20 seconds, our 5th and 6th men, JLP and Kyle, were close behind, and the spread from 1 to 6 was an outstanding 58 seconds.  We had so much depth that by Coach Jerry's calculations if Lucas hadn't run, we still would have finished 10th.  By 1 mile into the race, Lucas wished he was doing something other than running, as he did not feel like himself right from the gun, and had what he called his worst race in 2 years.  To put Lucas's talent level into perspective, while he had a terrible race by his standards, his 60th place finish is the 4th best ever for a GRC man, and to his great credit Lucas fought to the tape to put the team in a position to succeed.  Stewart learned his lesson from last year's irrational over-exuberance, running a patient, controlled race.  Stewart's patience was rewarded with a 70th place finish, which ties him for 8th on the all-time GRC list.  In his 10th Clubs, Luke ran yet another strong race, placing 76th.  Luke is a highly valued team member and a truly superior athlete, as well as a wonderful role model for the younger guys.  Ryan S rounded out our top 4 in an outstanding 80th place.  Ryan is heading to flight school within the week, and while we'll miss him at practice, he will continue to represent GRC, and we're looking forward to more great results from him.  JLP and Kyle both worked extremely hard to make the A team, and they proved they belonged by finishing in 123rd and 128th place.  Developing young athletes is an important part of our mission at GRC, and it was awesome to see JLP and Kyle step up to the A level on Saturday.  Graham was right with JLP and Kyle through 8k when he had the misfortune of taking a nasty fall caused by a non-competitor on the course, resulting in a partially dislocated shoulder.  Graham is okay, but he was disappointed to not be able to finish in our top 5, and prove me wrong for putting him on the B team.  Among other noteworthy performances for the men, Lars had a major breakthrough, crossing the line as our 7th finisher in 168th place.  Lars's time was a 10k PR, which is remarkable given that the course was quite difficult, and the conditions were brutal.  In the masters race, Wertz was 20th.  After finishing 10th last year, Dave was disappointed to take a step backwards, but he's fully motivated to take his shot at a podium finish next year.

Start of the Men's race. Photo Cred: Sean O'Leary.

Solid A Team Debuts for Kyle W. and JLP. Photo Cred: Sean O’Leary

Sean B., Ryan “Crop Top Szn” Witters, and Tyler Dye finish hard. Photo Cred: Sean O’Leary

For the women, Maura L was an outstanding 20th place, the second best finish ever by a GRC athlete.  Maura L trails only the great Frances Koons, who was 8th in 2014, and she will have a real shot at a top 10 finish next year.  This caps an excellent fall for Maura L, and for someone who has had a string of bad luck in major races, this result validates her aspiration to legitimate national-caliber status.  Our second finisher was Maura, in 76th place.  Maura doesn't like to admit it, but she is an excellent xc runner, and she proved it yet again with another outstanding run at Clubs.  Steph was 119th place, and after struggling with her health throughout the fall, and feeling terrible right from the gun on Saturday, Coach Jerry is extremely proud of Steph for taking one for the team.  Julie and Emily K rounded out our top 5, finishing 134th and 143rd, and they both performed exceptionally well despite being way outside of their comfort zones.  Julie is a true marathoner who had not run a xc race since college, and Emily is a mid-distance runner for whom 6k surely felt like a marathon, yet they both rose to the challenge to help the team place 14th, which was a great result under the circumstances.  Chelsea was our 6th finisher in 179th, followed closely by Natalie in 186th. We greatly appreciated both of their efforts, as Chelsea's training has been limited by her busy teaching and coaching schedule, and Natalie ran the full at Richmond less than a month ago.  Our mid-distance crew also ran very well, with Jackie in 193rd, Alyson in 202nd, Alexa in 208th, Angelina in 214th, and Jesse in 237th.  Jesse's participation was emblematic of how important Clubs is to GRC.  Jesse has competed in more USATF championships on the track than she can count, and for a national caliber 800 runner to willingly endure a race where she knew she would be bringing up the rear, and her primary goal was to finish without walking, was really significant to her teammates.

Start of the Women’s Race. Photo Cred: Sean O’Leary

 Maura L. grinds it out. Photo Cred: Sean O’Leary

Very few GRC athletes consider themselves cross country specialists, and Clubs is a major commitment in terms of time and resources, yet we make it a priority because it gives us the one chance each year to compete together, as a team, in a meaningful competition.  We all came away from the trip committed to doing even better next year in Spokane, and are already looking forward to everybody training together next fall to achieve a common goal. 

At Jingle Bell 15k, our Houston crew of Outlaw, Evan, and Dickson were 3rd, 4th, and 5th, getting in some solid marathon-pace work.  Charlie was close behind in 6th.  In the 5k, Mitchell ran 16:34, and then immediately volunteered handing out medals at the finish. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

FLASH: 2017 Club XC Nationals Results

Official team results are in: The men were 8th, the B team was 33rd, and the C team was 46th.  The women finished 14th.The GRC men finish return to the top 10 for the first time since 2013. 

Women – Open 6km
Maura Linde 20th 20:31
Maura Carroll 76th 21:29
Stephanie Reich 119th 22:13
Julie Tarallo 134th 22:24
Emily Koehle 143rd 22:31
Natalie Patterson 186th 23:22
Jacqueline Kasal 193rd 23:36
Alyson McGonigle 202nd 23:50
Alexa Squirini 208th 23:57
Angelina Oputa 214th 24:21
Jesse Carlin 237th 26:21

Men – Open 10km
Lucas Stalnaker 60th 31:09
Stewart Reich 70th 31:18
Lucas Meyer 76th 31:23
Ryan Speir 80th 31:29
John-Louis Pane 123rd 32:04
Kyle Wagener 128th 32:07
Lars Benner 168th 32:36
Cabell Willis 202nd 32:58
Alex Archer 203rd 33:07
Sean Barrett 218th 33:10
Ryan Witters 221st  33:10
Tyler Dye 223rd 33:12
Austin Hayslett 236th 33:23
Hashem Zikry 265th 33:43
Joseph LoRusso 297th 34:09
Lukasz Olenginski 310th 34:24
Russell Chase 339th 35:17
Paul Guevara 350th 35:34
Christopher Van Es 366th 35:03

Men – Masters 10km
Dave Wertz 20th 34:09

Thursday, December 7, 2017

PREVIEW - 2017 Club Nationals

It’s that time of year again. The 2017 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, more affectionately known as “Clubs Clubs Clubs ️,” is right around the corner.  Pacers Running//GRC New Balance takes Clubs very seriously. For months, the team has practiced on the rolling grass hills of the Cell Tower Field on Saturdays to prepare for this moment, which is the team’s one chance to compete against our peer teams in a national championship setting. Every January, Coach Jerry and the team reiterate the goal to have both our men’s and women’s teams finish in the top 10 in the same year. It would be a very special achievement for the entire GRC family to achieve that goal in Lexington on Saturday.
The women returns to Clubs after placing 6th in Tallahassee last year. Although they will be without a few of their top runners this year, a top 10 finish is still in reach. Maura Linde will lead the way having just run 34:13 for 10k on the roads. Stephanie Reich was 26th in 2016, and Coach Jerry says she’s ready to “give it her best shot.” Maura Carroll is an “excellent XC runner” who will try to build on her 60th place finish last year. Julie Tarallo ran a major half marathon PR in November (1:20:40) and is ready to “mix it up,” especially since she hasn’t raced a spiked-up XC race since college. Emily Koehle, a mid-distance specialist in college, is relatively inexperienced in XC, but Coach Jerry affirms that she's in excellent shape and is ready to run well.  Chelsea Bollerman is healthy again after sitting out in 2016. Natalie Patterson is fully recovered from the Richmond Marathon. Mid-distance specialists Jesse Carlin, Jacqueline Kasal, Alyson McGonigle, and Angelina Oputa will also line up at 11:45 AM, ready to give a go.

The men look to return to the top 10 for the first time since they finished 9th in Bend, Oregon in 2013. Look for Lucas Stalnacker up with the leaders. Having just run 23:46 for 8k and hanging with the leaders for significant portions of the Philly RNR Half and Army 10 miler, Lucas could close in the club record for best finish (Kieran O’Connor, 46th, 2013). Stewart Reich is in great shape (let’s be honest - when has he not been?), and is armed with the knowledge from his experience of going out too hard last year. Luke Meyer was 7th in Lexington in 2008, and while he's not quite at that level 9 years hence, he is healthy and fit, and ready to improve on last year’s 78th place finish. Ryan Speir, fully recovered from his excellent marathon debut in Chicago, will try to stay close to his Navy teammate Stalnacker. Sean Barrett has regained his fitness after being deployed for the last couple years, and is ready to make a strong return to Clubs. Kyle Wagener is making his long-awaited A team debut after running numerous PRs in 2017. Newcomers Alex Archer and John-Louis Pane (JLP) are both fit and ready to contribute. 
This is the strongest B team in GRC history.  The depth of the squad is demonstrated by the fact that GRC stalwarts Graham Tribble, Cabell Willis, and Ryan Witters are included, and with Tyler Dye, coming off a huge half-marathon PR, track specialist Luk Olensinki, and newcomers Hashem Zikry and Austin Hayslett on board, the goal is to finish in the top 20.

In the masters race, David Wertz will look to improve on his excellent 10th place finish in 2016, and he's fit and ready to take a shot at the podium.
More importantly, the GRC teams return to Lexington five years after losing our teammate, Lauren Woodall Roady, at the 2012 National Club Cross Country Championships. Both teams will run will run with Lauren in their hearts on Saturday, as we do every time we race. If you haven’t already, please read Colin Raunig’s reflection on running and life here.