Friday, November 28, 2014

Individual and Team Races at .US National 12K Road Championships

November 28 2014. On November 16th, on the banks of the Potomac on an unseasonably chill day, runners were watching the cold made visible by their breath and thinking of the miles to come. Except for the trick of getting from the end of warm up to the start of the race, it was a good day for running.

Age Groups.

Overall and M40.  Top 40-44 year old runners on the USATF circuit had other appointments to keep on this day. That in no way phased local heroes, Michael Wardian and  Philippe Rolly, who surged to the front of the Master's pack, passing the 1 mile mark in 5:06. Wardian, running for Pacers/New Balance out of Arlington, Virginia and Rolly, running for the Baltimore Washington Athletic Club, out of McLean, Virginia ran tight through the first 5K, with neither runner gaining an edge, clocking 16:03. But reality began to set in shortly after that as Wardian steadily pulled away, creating a gap of 16 seconds by the 8K mark. Wardian built the lead steadily thereafter with the result that the pride of Arlington defeated the pride of McLean by 50 seconds, to take this prestigious national Masters title in 38:24.  
Michael Wardian, confident in victory, as he heads to the finish line at the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia. [Photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

Wardian beat last year's winning time by 5 seconds. Rolly clocked in at 39:14. Frankie Adkins, from Asheville, North Carolina was, by contrast, in 'no man's land' for much of the race, between the two runner lead pack and the trailing pack. Adkins had a 3 second lead at the mile, but by the 5K had built that to 11 seconds, and by the 8K to 19 seconds.Patrick Kuhlman, of Washington, D.C., cut that by a second over the next two kilometers, but with the smell of the finish line in the air, Adkins found his second wind and sped in to claim the third spot on the podium in a time of 40:00 flat.
Winners of the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [left, Frankie Adkins; center, Michael Wardian; right, Phillippe Rolly; Photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
Overall and F40. Jen Rhines, who was eligible to run in the Masters division for the first time, chose, instead, to run in the Elite division. That was all another local hero and defending champ, Perry Shoemaker, needed to know. Shoemaker sped to an early lead and was never headed as she displayed her increased fitness this year, running almost a minute and a half faster than her winning time last year.
Perry Shoemaker, left, taking the Women's Masters title and Tom McCormack, right, setting a new record in the men's 60 and up division at the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [Photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
Her winning time of 42:54 gave her a winning margin of 3 and a half minutes. While Shoemaker  was speeding to victory, Alexandra Bigelow of Asheville, North Carolina, was trying to claim her second consecutive second place finish. Last year, however, she did not have running legend, Joan Benoit Samuelson, to worry about. Bigelow established a seven second gap over Samuelson in the first mile but was unable to expand the gap. The lead was 8 seconds at the 8K and the 10K. With the finishing line approaching, Samuelson was closing the gap. But this time Samuelson  ran out of race course before she could overtake the defending silver medaist, who claimed the second spot on the podium overall with 3 seconds to spare in 46:24. The 57 year old Samuelson took the third spot on the podium for the overall competition, an amazing accomplishment.
Joan Benoit Samuelson heading to victory and a new record in the Women's 55+ divisionat the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [Photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
 And, by the way, in doing so, she broke the F55 age group record for the 12K. Third place in the age group went to Melissa Senall of Fairport, New York and the Genesee Valley Harriers, in 47:22.

M45. Like the M40 group, the local Pacers/New Balance team also claimed first in this age division. Edmund Burke, of Silver Spring, Maryland, clocked the first mile in 5:23 and never looked back, sprinting to a winning margin of 30 seconds. The 9 second gap at the mile had increased to 18 by the 5K and 21 by the 8K, as Burke steadily built his final winning margin. His winning time was 40:35. Steve Kartalia of Westminster Maryland and the Baltimore Washington Athletic Club, was locked in a real battle with the pride of Worcester, Massachusetts, Francis Burdett. Kartalia trailed by 4 seconds at the mile but clawed that back to pull even at the 5K; he then made his move and between 5K and 8K established a thirteen second gap, which he was able to build on. In the end it was Kartalia in second in a time of 41:05 and Burdett third in 41:33.
Winners of the very competitive M45+ division in the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [left, Francis Burdett; center,Steve Kartalia; right, Edmund Burke; Photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

F45. Alissa Harvey, running unattached out of Manassas, Virginia, sped ut to a 6:28 first mile, establishing a 22 second gap back to second; the gap did not shrink. In the end, Harvey took the crown in 47:47, a 6:25 pace per mile. Audra Naujokas-Knapp, of Rochester, New York and the Genesee Valley Harriers, claimed second in 51:08. Tina Klein of Kennesaw, Georgia and the Atlanta Track Club took third in 55:56.
Winners of the W45+ division in the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [left, Tina Klein; center,Audra Nojokas-Knapp; right, Alisa Harvey; Photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

M50. This age division was quite competitive but not at the front. Eric Stuber of Playmakers Elite and Lansing, Michigan, ran 17:12 for the first 5K to establish a 13 second gap which he added to the rest of the way home. In the end, Stuber won in a time of 41:04. Ruben Henderson, also of Playmakers Elite, out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, threw down a first mile of 5:22 to stand in 4th place overall, but paid for it a bit over the next few kilometers, as Stuber passed him between miles 1 and 3. Nonetheless Henderson steadied himself and maintained his rhythm to take second in 42:37, displaying a 5:43 per mile pace. Jeff Haertl of Atlanta, Georgia and the Atlanta Track Club, ran a very steady race, clocking 5:47 for the first mile and finishing in 43:03 for a 5:46 per mile pace overall. That was good enough for a solid third place finish.
Winners of the M45+ division in the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [left, Jeff Haertl; center, Ruben Henderson; right, Eric Stuber; Photo: Facebook,]

F50. The Ann Arbor Track Club was well represented by Ann Arbor, Michigan native, Laurel Park, who ran a strong first 5K to establish a 14 second lead over Doreen McCoubrie of Malvern, Pennsylvania and the Athena Track Club. McCoubrie had run the first mile as if she were ten years younger, in 6:12, pretty impressive. But the day belonged to Park who came home first in 47:15, with McCoubrie a minute back in 48:16. McCoubrie's teammate, Julie Hankin, also of Malvern, PA. ran her own race, coming home third in 51:38.

M55. This race belonged to the remarkable athlete from Tucker, Georgia, Ken Youngers, running for the Atlanta Track Club. Hitting the first mile in 5:39, Youngers pretty much maintained that pace and built his lead throughout the race, finishing in 42:46, another tour de force. Charlie Andrews of Rochester, NY and the Genesee Valley Harriers was not able to close on Youngers but ran a very strong race to finish second by a good margin in 43:14, averaging 5:48 per mile. In this tough age group, Pete Gibson, of Murfreesboro, NC and the Colonial Roadrunners, found that it took a sub-6 minute pace to make the podium. Luckily Gibson was up to the challenge, finishing in 43:57 for a 5:54 pace and the third place medal.
Winners of the M55+ division in the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [left, Pete Gibson; center, Charlie Andrews; right, Ken Youngers; Photo: Facebook,]

F55. Not surprisingly this age division was dominated by the legendary runner, Joan Benoit Samuelson, who took the 12K record in the process. For details of her race, see the description of the 'Overall and F40' division above. At the mile marker it looked like the race for second would be a real barn burner as Elizabeth Cooney of Somerville, Massachusetts, and Ida Draim, of Alexandria, Virginia, were separated by just one second. Thereafter, however, Cooney pulled away steadily to claim second place in a fine 52:29 time. And Draim needed to worry about a long-time rival, Suzanne Coffey, also of Alexandria, who was not far back. At the 5K mark, Draim was up by 9 seconds, but Coffey would not go away; she trailed by 7 seconds at the 8K mark. Then Coffey gamely made her move, taking the lead for the final podium position away from Draim, to lead by 6 seconds. But now it was Draim's chance to turn on the burners, which she did, overtaking Coffey in the last 2 kilometers to win by 8 seconds and claim the third spot on the podium. What a battle!

M60. We have come to expect this division to be dominated by the lad from Mullingar, Ireland via Johnson City, Tennessee, Tom McCormack; no surprise. Not only did he win, he broke the record he established last year. Running with the top fifty-somethings, McCormack got clear of his rivals with a 5:41 first mile. That is even more amazing when one realizes he was just running slightly faster than a steady pace. He built on his huge lead througout the course, finishing in 42:55 (gun time) for a 5:46 per mile pace. This fleet, but modest, runner's chip time was 5 seconds faster, and that is what should count for the new record, 42:50. Rick Becker traveled across the country from Selah, Washington to contend and did not disappoint. Not many runners can keep McCormack in sight but Becker was up to the task for the first 5 kilometers. Becker was not daunted, however, when McCormack started to pull away, and kept his own strong rhythm, to finish second in 44:16, carrying a sub-6 minute pace for the entire race. Joseph Reda from DeForest, Wisconsin, made up the third member of the triumvirate, claiming third in 46:16.
Winners of the M60+ division in the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [left, Joseph Reda; center, Rick Becker; right, Tom McCormack; Photo: Facebook,]

It was a pleasure to see the veteran runner from the Atlanta Track Club, Kirk Larson, back on the roads again after missing the summer and early fall. Not quite up to his usual fitness, he had to settle for fourth, but definitely on the road again! 

F60. It seems as if I am repeating myself. This age division also had a clear favorite, the astounding performer from Freeport, New York, Kathryn (Kathy) Martin. The defending champion and record holder, Martin again had an incredible race. She set off briskly to pass the mile marker in 6:29, just the pace she wanted. Unperturbed by other younger runners around her, Martin maintained a 6:32 pace to take the top spot and lower her record once again. Her chip time (which should count for the record) was 48:49 for a 6:32 overall pace.  
Kathy Martin, cruising to a stop after finishing 1st and breaking the record at the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [Photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

Coreen Steinbach, the bemedaled runner from Pompey, NY and the Athena Track Club, is typically the favorite if Martin  is not around. She showed that again by taking second place, beating off the challenge from another strong runner, Sharon Moore, of Rochester, NY and the Genesee Valley Harriers. How does it happen that the three top runners in this division all hail from the Empire State?! Steinbach's lead was 4 seconds at the mile and at the 5K but then Steinbach found another gear and established an 18 second gap between 5K and 8K. She was able to build on that and finished second in 55:56. Moore came home in 56:38 to claim third.
Winners of the Women's 60+ division in the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [left, Sharon Moore; center, Coreen Steinbach; right, Kathy Martin; Photo: Facebook,]

M65. Lloyd Hansen finished off his road racing year in fine fashion, taking another dominating win home with him to Salt Lake City. Hansen hit the one mile marker in 6:27 and never let up. To be honest, not only did he not let up, he accelerated after he hit the 5K mark. Averaging 4:01 per kilometer for the first 5K, Hansen was a second per K under 4:00 pace at the 8K, 7 seconds at the 10K and a whopping 24 seconds under at the finish. No split was taken at the half but if it had been, it would surely have shown a negative split. That strong finish led to a victory in 47:36. Four national road championships entered this year and four victories. Couple that with two national cross country titles and a couple of titles on the track and you have an awesome year.
Lloyd Hansen's (distorted) photo finish establishing his winning time at the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [Photo: Facebook,]

Two stalwarts of the road racing scene, one for the Genesee Valley Harriers and the other for the Atlanta Track Club, battled it out for second and third. Jim May, from Williamson, New York and Jerry Learned, from Gainesville, Georgia locked horns with Learned gaining the early edge, up by 6 seconds at the mile and by 5 seconds at the 5K. But Learned  is coming back from a hamstring injury and was not able to maintain the kind of pace he was aiming for. May made his move between 5K and 8K, turning a 5 second deficit into an 8 second advantage. He was able to build that lead over the final 4K to take second place in 51:43; Learned finished in third 25 seconds back. So Jim May made the podium for the second consecutive week. Learned pulled his hamstring a few days before the 5K road championships at Syracuse, gamely ran that race but probably set himself back a bit. In any case this is his first race back and he was not quite up to his former fitness; he ran almost two minutes slower than his 2013 time.

F65. Alice Franks of Rockville, Maryland, was the class of this division, taking the title by over ten minutes, in 57:04. Kathleen Doswell took second in 69:10, with Sandra Timmons, of Alexandria, Virginia ten minutes back in third place.
Kathleen Marshall Doswell
Kathleen Doswell, 2nd place finisher in the women's 65 and up division at the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [historical photo from Facebook:]
M70. Another race, another record. The 'Silver Bullet' from Milford, Michigan, Doug Goodhue started out as if it was just another day at the office, hitting the mile mark in 6:29. The trick is that he forgot to slow down. He eventually hit the tape in 48:38 (gun time), with a chip time of 48:33 for an overall pace of 6:31 per mile and a new record for runners 70 years of age and over. Pretty amazing stuff!
Doug Goodhue's (distorted) photo finish establishing his winning and record time at the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [Photo: Facebook,]

Przemyslaw Nowicki, of Holmdel, NJ and the Shore Athletic Club and Monte Piliawsky of Ann Arbor, Michigan running for the Ann Arbor TC are two outstanding veterans whose minds were on the team race but also tangled for second and third individually. They both hit the mile mark at 7:29 and were still dead even at the 5K mark. But Nowicki was able to hold that early pace for another 3K, building a 14 second gap by the 8K mark. Nowicki took the second place with a final time of 55:50, leaving third place to Piliawsky in 56:11.

F70. Just like the F60 division belonged to New York, this division belonged to Michigan and to the Playmakers Racing Elite team. Ruth Thelen from Saint Johns, Michigan led her Playmakers Racing Elite team home in 67:05. She was followed in by Ellen Nitz with a time of 76:18 in 2nd place and by Janet Wallen in third place at  81:00 flat. Clear cut results and very gratifying for the ladies from Playmakers Elite.

F75. Heide Moebius, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had this division to herself so she raced folks in the younger age divisions and beat a number of them.. She took the crown in 65:01; at the age of 76 she was the oldest runner and the oldest national champion! Three cheers for this exceptional runner!
Team Races. Although the team races are not quite as central to road races as they are to Cross country, they are important and this is one of the races that contributes , potentially, to the USATF Club Grand Prix. Unlike in Cross Country, all age divisions are scored the same way. Teams are placed according to the lowest accumulated time of the team's first three runners to finish.

Women. Only one of the age divisions, the F60+ group,was contested by more than one team. But that was not a tight race. Even with the ace, Janet Thelen, aged 70, dropping down to run in the F60+ class, the Playmakers Elite team from Michigan did not have the horses to hold off the Genesee Valley Harriers from upstate New York. All three of GVH's scoring runners, Sharon Moore, Cindy Ingalls, and Jeanne Herrick crossed the finish line ahead of Playmakers Elite's first runner. Genesse Valley was able to win this one in a total team time of 1:00:04. Playmakers Elite was able to finish within six minutes of GVH because they ran with a pretty tight pack (Lynn Driver, Jean Bolley, and Ruth Thelen) even though they did not quite have the speed to match Genesee. The F40+ division was also won by GVH. Their team of Melissa Senall, Audra Naujokas-Knapp, and Linda Grossman blazed home in a time of 2:32:21. Playmakers Elite, in addition to their second in the F60+, took home the victory in the F70+ division. Even without Ruth Thelen, who opted to run on the Playmakers' F60+ team, Playmakers (Ellen Nitz, Janet Wallen, and Shirley Larsen) had an impressive win, with a time of 3:58:22. Finally the F50+ first place medal was claimed by the Athena Track Club of Pennsylvania. The scoring trio of Doreen McCoubrie, Julie Hankin, and Betsy Stewart sped to a 2:33:15 winning time, not even a minute slower than the winning F40+ team, a fleet team indeed.

Men. All of the age divisions on the men's side were fully contested.

M40+. In the M40 division, it was three local clubs who scored their first, and presumably, last points in the Club Grand Prix competition.The Baltimore Washington Track Club was the class of this field with their three scoring runners caiming the first three spots in this division's team competition. The total time for Phillippe Rolly, Steve Kartalia, and Conrad Orloff was 2:02:20 (40:47 average), strong enough for a 24 and a half minute victory. The race for second was a little bit tighter but the Potomac Valley Track Club's trio of James Cooper, Ted Poulos, and Mike Cannon took care of business in 2:26:52. And the D.C. Road Runners Club (Eric Winslow, Chris Johnston, and Doug Landau) followed them across the line in 2:33:39.

M50+. This was the hottest team race of the day. The Playmakers Elite squad of Eric Stuber, Ruben Henderson, and J.D. Pepper fought off the Atlanta Track Club and the Genesee Valley Harriers by taking the first two spots with Stuber and Henderson and then relying on Pepper to beat or match the other team's 3rd runners, which he did. Even so, Playmakers' winning time of 2:07:50 (42:37 average) only led to a 3 minute victory. The race for 2nd was much, much tighter. The first two runners for Atlanta, Jeff Haertl and Vasan Neovakul, were in ahead of GVH's  first runner but then had to wait for their third runner, Nathan Skipper. GVH had a tight pack and all three of their runners came in before Skipper. The team of Charlie Andrews, Joe Mora, and John Vankerkhove  laid down the 43:44 time that Atlanta had to beat . Skipper had to finish under 45:23 to give Atlanta the second place finish. In the end, Skipper hit 45:13 to ice the win by ten seconds! Had he faded at all or lost focus at any point, GVH would have had the silver medal. But he ran tough for the team.
The Atlanta Track Club's M50+ Silver Medal Winners [left, Nathan Skipper; center, Jeff Haertl; right Vasan Neovakul] at the .USNational Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [Photo: Facebook,]

M60+. The Atlanta Track Club took this one handily. Each of their runners beat their counterpart on every other team. The trio of Tom McCormack, Kirk Larson, and Jerry Learned hit a time of 2:23:31 (47:51 average) to take the crown by almost 14 minutes. Ann Arbor Track Club found themselves in the same position that Atlanta had been in the M40 contest. Their first two runners, Lloyd Hansen and John Tarkowski finished ahead of the first runners of the other contestants, Genesee Valley Harriers and the Shore Athletic Club of New Jersey. Then Ann Arbor, too, had to wait to see if their third runner, Mitch Garner, would collect a fast enough time to net the second place medal that could be theirs. [A note is in order; Garner  is not usually Ann Arbor's third or even 4th runner-but Aaron Pratt and Wally Hayes were not running in this race. Ann Arbor is certainly well stocked with runners 60 years and up.] Jim May, Mitch Moore, and Gary Sterber finished in a tight pack to set a time of 2:38:22 for GVH. Spider Rossiter, 1st runner for the Shore AC, was able to edge May but the next two, Arthur Noland, and  J.L. Seymore were not quite able to keep up with Moore and Sterber. Nonetheless, the Shore AC posted a time of 2:40:14. That would be enough for third place if Garner  took too long. Garner needed 61:09 or better to get Ann Arbor the silver medal, and a time of 62:00 or better to nail down the 3rd place time. As the clock ticked past 58 minutes with Garner still on the course, his teammates might have been a little anxious. But not to worry, Garner got the job done and finished well enough to give Ann Arbor an overall time of 2:37:13 and the silver medal. Genesee Valley took the bronze.
The Atlanta Track Club's M60+ Gold Medal Winners [left, Kirk Larson; left-center, Jerry Learned,right-center, Tom McCormack] joined by M50+ runner, Vasan Neovakul, far right] at the .US National Masters 12K race in Alexandria, Virginia [Photo: Facebook,]

M70+. This division belongs to Doug Goodhue and the Ann Arbor Track Club. Each Ann Arbor runner beat his counterpart on the two other contenders, the Shore AC and the Clifton Road  Runners. Doug Goodhue gave them an 8 minute cushion and Monte Piliawsky added another 4 minutes. By the time John Farah crossed the line to give them their third runner in, their cumulative time was 2:45:17 (55:06 average), a 17 and a half minute victory over Shore. In the race for second, Shore had the all important 1-2 punch of Przymeslaw Nowicki and John Nowatkowski. Even though their third runner, John Kuhi, trailed the third runner of Clifton, he hung tough and gave them the time needed to nail down 2nd place in 3:02:46. Clifton had a tight pack (Tom Pena, William Ash, and Matt Lalumia) and often that is enough, but not this time. Their total time was 3:08:46, a fine performance for the third place medal.


November 28 2014. Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

I give thanks for
the joy of breathing the fresh air and
the grace of running mile after pain free mile
when possible, and
for the grit to hang in there the rest of the time
and get the workout done anyway!  :)

But above all I give thanks for the camaraderie of runners, old and young.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Masters Records Fall at .US National 12K Road Championships

November 18 2014. The Neustar .US National 12K Road Racing Championships were held on Sunday, November 16, 2014 in Alexandria, Virginia. Normally the big excitement is on the winners of the race and while that is important, a number of records, overall and age group were smashed. It was a cold, cold, subfreezing day in the nation's capital. But that did not deter the runners--a pair of gloves here, a jaunty hat and colorful socks there and they were off to the races. Our focus is on masters runners but in this case we have to look first at the Women's Open Elite race.

Three-time Olympian, Jen Rhines, is now 40 and already has the 10K Masters record in her possession. She is fleet enough to still run in the Open Elite race but her time is eligible for the Masters record even though she is not eligible for any Masters prizes. Former Olympian, Colleen DeReuck, held the record at the start of the day. Ten plus years ago, on May 2nd, in Spokane, Washington, DeReuck set a time of 40:48 which had stood up against a number of assaults over the years. At 7 am the open elite women sped away from the line to test their mettle on the road. Molly Huddle prevailed overall but Jen Rhines got her record; we will remember that long after the frost is just a faint memory.
Jennifer Rhines, about to cross the line and claim her new 12K Masters record in 40:31at the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on November 16 2014 [photo:Facebook, Clay Shaw]

With time to spare, Rhines crossed the finish line triumphantly in 40:31! This gives Rhines two Masters records, with more to come, no doubt, over the coming year.

The Masters Men's race itself was a triumph for Michael Wardian of Arlington, Virginia, who came across in 38:24 for the overall Masters win.

Michael Wardian, speeding to the finish line to win the masters crown at the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on November 16 2014 [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
For the women, it was Perry Shoemaker, of Vienna, Virginia racing to the line in 42:54, running a minute and 23 seconds faster than her winning time last year. That's a big improvement in one year-- Cheers for Shoemaker!
Perry Shoemaker (left) takes the overall women's race while Tom McCormack (right) lowers his own record for men 60 and over. At the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on November 16 2014 [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

The course layout is different but it is unlikely the course itself could account for more than a small fraction of that improvement.

And although the main show was Rhines's assault on the overall masters record, the race was graced by another former Olympian, and Olympic gold medalist, Joan Benoit Samuelson, from Freeport, Maine. She did not disappoint. The Women's 55-59 age group record was held by Christine Kennedy at the start of the day. She also set her record on May 2nd in Spokane, Washington, but only 4 years ago. Anyone who knows Kennedy knows that is not likely to be a soft record. One of the most decorated Masters runners of the past few years, Kennedy is one who is pushing  the envelope for masters women runners. Nonetheless, if the clock can be believed, Samuelson stormed across the line in 46:27, nearly two minutes under Kennedy's record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson's record-breaking 12K at the  .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on a frigid  November 16 2014 [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

At the age of 57, Samuelson carried a 6:14 pace per mile across the nearly 7 and a half miles of a 12K, a pace that many a younger runner would be envious of.

One other record was broken on the women's side. The decorated Master's runner, Kathryn (Kathy) Martin, of Freeport, NY set the record last year for women over 60 and this year improved on that record.She just eclipsed 49 minutes last year with a 48:59 and nipped that by another 5 seconds to lower the mark to 48:54, a fine grandmotherly pace of 6:34 per mile. And she has one more year in the age group to lower it even further.
Kathy Martin, putting on the brakes after crossing the finish line with a new 12K record in hand at the  .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on November 16 2014 [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

 Earlier this year, Martin broke Shirley Matson's 10K record from 2002 so it has definitely been another record-breaking year for Martin.

On the men's side we had two record setters, Tom McCormack of Jonesborough, Tennessee and Doug Goodhue of Milford, Michigan. Not only did they establish records but they also went 1-2 in the Age-Grading championship. [See below.] With temperatures below freeing, records were not necessarily the first thing on McCormack's mind, After all, he already held the record by virtue of his excellent race last year, his first on the roads for a national masters championship, in 43:04. McCormack was mainly focused on running a good race and turning back all contenders for the age group gold medal. That he was able to do, winning his division by over a minute. But McCormack was surprised and delighted to learn that he had also lowered his previous record by nine seconds. The time of 42:55 will be a little bit tougher a challenge for runners to come.

Doug Goodhue, on the other hand, was a bit more focused on the record. Last year he had apparently set the 12K record for those aged 70-74 with a time of 49:20. At least that is what we all thought. However it turned out that the great Illinois Masters runner, Warren Utes, had run a 48:57 12K when he was 75. So that, at the very least, tarnished the record in Goodhue's eyes. If he could run just a little faster this year, he woul dnot only have the 70-74 age division record, he could claim that it was the fastest 12K time for a runner 70 years and older. As it turned out, Goodhue had one of his strongest races in recent years, racing past his 49:20 of last year, racing past Utes's 48:57 from 1995, to arrive at the finish line in 48:38, a 6:32 per mile pace at the age of 72-not bad at all!

Age-Grading. Just a reminder that age-grading is a procedure that rates times for masters athletes according to how good they are relative to the best possible race time in the world for an athlete of that sex and age. If the best possible time for a given athlete is rated at 40 minutes flat and the athlete runs 50 minutes flat, the age-grade is 80% because the best possible time amounts to 80% of the time actually run. If the athlete had run the race in 40 minutes, the age grade would have been 100%.  A time 85% or above is considered 'national class'; 90% or above rates the title, 'world class.'

Women. Not surprisingly the record breakers fared well in this competition. Kathy Martin and Joan Samuelson went 1-2 with age grades of 101.21% and 97.89% respectively. Martin keeps pushing back the boundaries of what sixty plus year old women are thought to be capable of. She, Christine Kennedy, and Joan Samuelson  are setting challenging records that women coming up will strive to match. Heide Moebius, age 76, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania finished in 1:05:01 for a grade of 94.09%. Sixty-six year old Alice Franks crossed the line in 57:04 to net a 90.72%. After that, one of the younger generation and the overall winner, Perry Shoemaker, finally crashed the party. Not only did she win, she can claim a 'world class' performance, grading at 90.19%.

Women's Age-Grading Medalists at the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on  November 16 2014-From left, Perry Shoemaker 5th,Alice Franks  4th, Heide Moebius 3rd, Joan Samuelson 2nd, and Kathy Martin 1st.  [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
Men. The top 5 male age-grading performances were all world class.Four of the five make regular appearances on the circuit but they made room for a fellow who may be a regular inn the future, but, like McCormack last year, came into Alexandria relatively unheralded. Rick Becker of Selah, Washington, celebrated his recent 60th birthday all over again by clocking a 44:16 (5:57 per mile pace) world class time, rated at 91.25%. He just beat out Eric Stuber of Lansing, Michigan, who took the 50-54 crown in 41:04 (5:31 per mile pace), to rate at 91.06%. The indomitable Ken Youngers took the 55-59 division in 42:46 for a 92.80% age-grade.
Men's Age-Grading Medalists at the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on  November 16 2014-From left, Eric Stuber 5th, Rick Becker 4th, Ken Youngers 3rd, Doug Goodhue 2nd, and Tom McCormack 1st.  [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
As mentioned above, the class was topped off with Doug Goodhue, the silver bullet from the wolverine state, at 93.63%, and Tom McCormack, the fleet Irishman from the East Tennessee foothills of the Smoky Mountains, headed the class at 94.99%.

In a soon to follow post I will report on the individual age division winners and the results of the team competitions. But in the meantime:

Hats off to the record breakers, Rhines, Samuelson, Martin, McCormack and Goodhue!

And three cheers for the age-grading winners, world class athletes, one and all.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jen Rhines goes after another Masters Road Record

November 15, 2014. Alexandria, Virginia is the site tomorrow for the  .US National 12K Road Race, presented by neustar. As well as being the national 12K championship for both Open and Masters elite runners, it is also the culmination of the USA Race Circuit (USARC). In order to enter the Open portion of the event, a runner must have finished in the top 10 in at least one of the USARC races earlier this year.

One such entrant is three-time Olympian, Jennifer (Jen) Rhines, who will use this race as her first attempt to break the American 12K record. Once an athlete has a 40th birthday, she or he is eligible to contest masters records; Rhines passed that marker on July 1st of that year. On the men's side,  the great Ethiopian distance runner, Haile Gebrselassie, is already rewriting the Masters record book. On the women's side, Jen Rhines has also begun.

Jen Rhines [photo:]

On October 13th, at the Tufts 10K in Boston, Rhines broke the 10K record of 32:50 which had been set by another former Olympian, Colleen DeReuck, in June 2004 in New York City. And she took the record by a whopping 18 seconds, running 32:32.

In her first year of masters eligibility, DeReuck broke masters records in the 5K, 10K, and 12K; in her 2nd year she broke records in the 20K, 25K, and the marathon; in her 3rd year she broke the record in the Half Marathon.  So Rhines has her work cut out for her if she is aiming to take all of those records down. But it will be great fun for the rest of us to see which records she can add to her collection. DeReuck's 12K mark is 40:48 which she set in Spokane, Washington in May 2004.

Last year was the first year for this race, which is, admittedly, at a distance less commonly raced than many others. USA Track and Field chose the distance to provide a reasonable compromise distance that would allow outstanding track distance runners to move up and the top road distance runners to move down in distance. It worked out well last year in that Molly Huddle moved up and Shalane Flanagan moved down and they had an epic race, matching stride for stride until the last half mile, where Huddle pulled away for the win. None of the elite Open runners last year were Masters-eligible so the Masters Event record was established by Perry Shoemaker who ran 44:14. Because the course was changed this year, there is no course record.

So Rhines is almost certain to establish a new course record and break the event record. Will she break DeReuck's record? DeReuck's 10K record was at a 5:17 per mile pace and Rhines ran 5:14 pace. The 12K is, of course, 2 kilometers longer so one would expect a slower pace. DeReuck's 40:48 12K record pace was at 5:28 per mile. Suppose we look at Shalane Flanagan's best road 10K time and her 12K time of 37:50 in this event last year. As noted above, Flanagan had a terrific duel with Huddle last year, finishing in 37:58. This year, in August, she ran in the Joan Benoit Samuelson's Beach to Beacon 10K. In that race she also had a terrific duel, although this time with the newly emerging great British runner, Gemma Steel, losing at the tape in 31:27. Her pace in the 10K was 5:03.7 while her pace at the 12K was 5:05.5. This is just an example and certainly not definitive but it would appear the extra 11 to 14 seconds per mile gives Rhines plenty of room for an off day, should that occur for any reason. The course layout this year is new but it appears to be at least as flat as last year's course which had a short hill in the first mile and a short hill between miles 5 and 6. So the course is not likely to be a problem. There are 23 currently entered in the Women's Open Elite race; even if there is a scratch or two before the race, it seems likely Rhines will have others to run with. That is a plus; she does not need to set her own pace in a vacuum.

Jen Rhines (3rd from the left) and her Open Elite cohorts lined up for the start of the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in April 2014 []
What about the weather? That is my one concern. The Elite Women's race starts at 7:15 am. The latest Arctic incursion means that temperatures will likely be sub-freezing for the entire race. Luckily no precipitation is forecast and the wind should be moderate (4-5 mph). It should be instructive to see if Rhines and her coach, Terrence Mahon,  employ any special devices or gear to deal with these conditions.

Were it not for this cold weather, the record-breaking attempt would look like as close to a sure thing as one ever gets in road running. But the weather has played a wild card. Let's hope Rhines has the cards in her hand to defeat the weather and break the record. It will certainly be worth the watch on early Sunday morning at 7:05 am (EST).

Go, Jen!