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!

1 comment: