The Runaround – 11/26/12

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One of the nation’s fastest milers has moved to our backyard. Jack Bolas, a 3:37 1500m runner from Team New Balance, has moved from Wisconsin to Washington D.C., hoping to make his mark as one of the United States’ next great middle-distance runners.

Bolas, a 4-time All-American at the University of Wisconsin, is hoping to sharpen his speed so that he may go toe-to-toe with the likes of Leo Manzano and Matt Centrowitz Jr.

“The mile and 1500m is about having a kick,” says Bolas. “It’s such a fast race, and you have to be ready when it comes to the final lap.”

Listen to our conversation with the mile extraordinaire at 22:25 into the replay of last night’s show.

And what makes The ManCave 5k Baltimore’s best racing event in the winter? Listen to the podcast to hear what Greg, Brad, and Ryan had to say about it. Join us on December 2nd to not only have a great time and a free beer, but also to benefit prostate cancer research.

An Encounter with the Ultra: A Baltimore Elite’s Recap of his first 50-mile Race

Graham Peck, who competed for Virginia Tech’s triathlon team, has chosen to focus on the longer distance races this year.

Baltimore’s own Graham Peck chose to take a step into some unchartered territory. A realm which most runners would not entertain entering in their wildest dreams. After finishing the Chicago Marathon in 2:25, Peck, a Dulaney High School grad, opted to make the JFK 50-Miler–one of the most highly-regarded ultramarathons in the nation–as the next stop in his race itinerary.

Graham took the time to jot down some thoughts regarding his experience, and though he makes long-distance racing look easy, he admits he’s still a little bit sore from the race. Along the way, he exchanged some words and strides with one of the top runners in the ultra-racing scene.

My expectations going into JFK were to enjoy the 50th running of a great race and to leave 5-10 minutes out on the course so that I could recover quicker. It’s been a long season already. Well, that went out the door pretty quickly… oops. Here’s some quick background on the year before I jump into the actual race report. Running the Chicago Marathon under 2:30 was my big goal this fall. Everything came together on race day and it really was the perfect season of training for me leading up to the 2:25 on race day. 45 degrees with light winds on the fastest course in the world doesn’t hurt either. Not running technical trails, not going to the point of exhaustion/cramping on long runs, and not power walking hills were all on my list of things to do this summer and fall.
 
This past spring I had been training for a half marathon and tried to “tack on” a marathon at the end of the season. Although I didn’t have a bad race, it was not up to snuff with the half marathon I had nailed 6 weeks prior. Based on that experience, I figured that whatever time I did end up with at JFK would not be my 100% best-case scenario performance anyway. It’s the 50th running, the race director and two-time winner has high hopes for me, family (including my dog, Mack) and friends are on the course, and there are several elites here to kick my ass on their terrain… so let’s have some fun, right?
 
The hope was to run 6:30 and maybe I’d be able to sneak into the top 10. 2:20 for the rugged first 15.5 mostly on the Appalachian Trail would leave me with 35 miles of very runnable terrain where I’d need to average 7:00/mile to get just under that 6:30 mark. Onto the race!
 
The first few miles are mostly uphill on the road where I ran around 7:00/mile in a good sized pack in about 12th place. A couple of people mentioned the phrase, “early days”… apparently this is common jargon in the ultra-running world but I found myself singing the theme song to the TV show, “Happy Days” instead. Emily Harrison passed me while walking up the steepest section of the asphalt road paralleling the AT and I couldn’t help but think she’d freeze to death in her sports bra and spandex shorts if she had walked like I was. I had a long sleeve shirt, a hat, and gloves on still.
 
I let the ninja trail runners float past me once we were on the AT. I had no desire to start racing people with 5 hours of running ahead of me. I noticed that Ellie Greenwood (ultra-running goddess) had been on my heels for a few minutes and couldn’t help but ask her, “Do you actually like running on these damn rocks or are you looking forward to running on the flats?” She informed me, “I love this rocky stuff!” Shudder… I couldn’t wait to get off and onto the fast section of the race. She then said that “early days” things again, took off, and was out of sight within a couple minutes. Sunday, Monday, Happy Days…
 
Hopping off the trail I was in about 16th place (despite my mom telling me I was in 11th… wishful thinking?) and my split was 2:08. 12 minutes ahead of schedule! The temperature had warmed up to almost 40 (29 degrees at the start line according to a bank sign) so you could get away with a singlet, shorts, and cotton gloves the rest of the way. I know that all 15ish of the folks ahead of me don’t have the marathon speed that I do if I have my act together… so maybe I will be knocking on that top 10 door.
 
I spoke to every runner along the way while soaking up the great scenery the C&O Canal Towpath has to offer. Before I knew it, I was looking at my watch at three and a half hours and still feeling pretty good. Reeling in almost all of the people who passed me on the AT was a big confidence booster. This really is like a road race. I can do this thing! My 3-mile splits for the first 21 miles on the C&O Towpath were: 20:01, 19:04, 19:59, 20:06, 19:10, 20:14, 20:08. I’ll take it.
 
I caught up to Zach Bitter and we ran together for almost an hour I’d guess. I didn’t know who he was at the time. I could tell he knew he was experienced with these races compared to me, though. Later I found out that he had won the Tussey Mountain 50 miler (US 50 mile road racing championship) a month ago. Yikes! He actually knew my name after we exchanged marathon times and (maybe jokingly) mentioned that I might get the best of him once we got on the roads. We held a good pace and worked ourselves up to 7th place. I’m not sure who said it but one of us pointed out that there’s no way in hell that 10 people are going to break 6 hours. If we keep it up, one of us will have a shot at top 5. He was kind enough to share his gatorade bottle with me. Not something that every competitor would do when you are both in contention for a spot at the top of the heap of a big race. Thank you, Zach!
 
I came through the 30.2 aid station at 3:45. 20 miles at 6:45/pace gets me a 5:59? Holy moly, I could be the 20th person (not counting the handful this year) in JFK history to break 6 hours at this thing. Now that’s actually a distance I can relate to. It’s not some 4 hour trek in the woods anymore; it’s 20 miles of road racing. I haven’t run 20 miles on the road in over 2:15 since… ever! My brain was telling me 5:59 might actually be doable but the increasingly more frequent twinges in my legs had other plans. Press on!
 
I noticed that nearly every runner had a handheld bottle with them. Uh oh, they know something that I don’t. Over the course of the first 41 miles, I had 3 s-caps, 1-2 little cups of water/gatorade/coke at each aid station (10 aid stations so far), a few gels, a power bar, a PBJ, some fruit, and some chips. I have no experience with running for 4+ hours so I wasn’t sure if this was enough but the answer for this 165 lb guy proved to be, NO.
 
Somewhere around mile 36, Zach stormed away from me and a couple other runners passed me before I managed to find someone, Jim Sweeney, going my pace. My form was not what it had been. Stomach, legs, and mind were not all firing 100% l but I reminded myself of something David Horton tells first time ultra-runners, “It never always gets worse.” Mr. Horton was right.
 
As the vast majority of JFKers do, I walked up the very steep hill leaving the C&O Towpath and gave up around 30 seconds to Jim who was in 10th place. There were two bootleg beer stops over the next couple miles and I’d be lying if I told you the thought of dropping out and having a few beers while waiting for my dad didn’t cross my mind. But hey, 10th was right there for the taking. I got my form back together and was running strong once more and got a 10-20 second gap over Jim.
 
I was really hitting my stride again but unfortunately, my hamstrings really ceased up on me around mile 45. Both at the same time? I didn’t even know that was possible. I was moaning like a drowning cow and hunched over a fence when Ellie and Jim caught me. They offered some encouragement but the young buck with marathon legs was gassed. From then on I was walking up every hill and pondering how comfortable the roadside ditches would be.
 
Emily caught me with a mile to go and we exchanged some words before I had to walk the bunny hill with 1/2 a mile to go. She darted into the finish beating me by over a minute in the last 800 meters. Ouch. Well played.
 
Still, 6:18 is well under my goal time and it’s something I’m proud of. I’ll be back for more at JFK at some point. Not in 2013, probably not in 2014, but sometime before I get too old. Some better nutrition planning and a couple 3+ hour training runs/races should do the trick to get me into that 5:50′s range, maybe faster?

The Runaround – 11/19/12

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Rarely do we interview an athlete who has earned more medals and accolades than they have candles on their birthday cake. Tatyana McFadden–winner of several Paralympic medals and World Championship crowns–has established a very extensive resume for herself, despite only being 24 years old. But her success has not come easy. McFadden has overcome overwhelming odds, illness, and adversity along her path to Olympic stardom. Her story, undoubtedly, is incredible.

We talked to Tatyana about her most recent successes and her plans for the future on last Monday’s show.

We learned last week that the University of Maryland is leaving the ACC and joining the Big 10. Greg, Brad, and Ryan, all three of whom are Terp alums, discuss the pros and cons of the conference realignment. Will the men’s track and field program be restored? Listen in to the crew’s opinions in the first few minutes of Monday’s show.

Last week, Johns Hopkins University Head Cross Country Coach Bobby Van Allen brought home his first NCAA Cross Country title. We talked to him about his women’s team, who captured the team title at this year’s NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.

Baltimore pride!

The Runaround – 11/12/12

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USATF has named its male and female Athletes of the Year: Ashton Eaton and Allyson Felix. Were they the appropriate choices?

We talk about it in our discussion from Monday night on The Runaround. Ashton Eaton, who set the Decathlon World Record at the Olympic Trials in July, left his mark in multi-event history by claiming the gold medal at the London Games. His mark of 9,039 points shocked us all; the image of the Olympic Trials Champion hugging his mom in tears is a moment that American track fans will remember forever.

In case you forgot, we talked to Ashton exclusively after he set the world indoor heptathlon record at the World Indoor Track and Field Championships.

But he’s not the only male USATF athlete to have set a world record and to have stood at the top of the Olympic podium this year. What about Aries Merritt? He won the gold medal in the 110m hurdles in London and set the world record of 12.80 seconds in Brussels–an astonishing .07 seconds faster than the previous WR set by Cuba’s Dayron Robles. Should Merritt have been the top honoree?

Prior to 2012, Allyson Felix had only achieved silver in the Olympic 200m run (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008). As if being second-best in the world is a bad thing. She proved to us that she was ready to become the golden girl after wowing fans across the world with her 21.69 run at the U.S. Olympic Trials 200m final. She won convincingly in London, beating Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce–the 2012 100m champion (Ahem…we interviewed her as well.). Felix scooped up two more coveted golds during the Games: the 4×400 and the 4x100m.

But what about Sanya Richards-Ross? She was the Olympic 400m champion and propelled the U.S. to a 4×400 win, as did Felix. Was it Felix’s gold in the 4x100m that made the difference? After all, they did beat a very talented Jamaican squad.

Tune in to Monday’s show to hear Greg, Brad, and Ryan talk about USATF’s Athlete of the Year selections, the marathons that benefitted from the cancellation of the NYC Marathon, and the Maryland State Cross Country Championships.

Where have we been?

Planning for the ManCave 5k has left us…well…a little short-handed on time. For the past few weeks, we have focused our coverage on local running, particularly at the high school level.

Josh Billings of MedStar NRH joined us last week to talk about how the Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill can help YOU through the most nagging of running injuries. Whether your goal is to run your first 5k or to run a sub-2:20 marathon, adding the Alter G to your running regimen is the best option for those who are training through injuries.

Listen to our discussion about running injury prevention, the cancellation of the NYC Marathon, and more by checking out the November 5 show.