Friday, May 15, 2020

Virtual Club LDR Competitions-Round 1

May 14, 2020.  Virtual Racing has replaced actual racing due to the 'sheltering at home' and 'social distancing' requirements imposed by State and Local governments to combat the Crovid-19 pandemic.

Phase 1: Intramural Competitions. In my May 1st story I noted that the Garden State Track Club [GSTC] had already completed an Intramural Virtual 5K competition. I learned subsequently that another New Jersey team, the Shore Athletic Club's [Shore AC] Men's 60+ team also ran an intramural competition in place of the Penn Relays, cancelled for the first time since 1895. Because they ran it as a 4 x 400 meter relay, they could run it in one place at one time, on a track, with only two runners racing at a time, and with no baton passing. Social distancing and safe hygiene were practiced. The race was close, coming down to the final 50 meters. Team A [Brian Hill, Bob Andrews, Harry Nolan, Scott Linnell] took the win 4:44.97 over Team B's [Greg Calhoun, Hal Leddy, John Kilduff, Tony Plaster] 4:47.12.

Phase 2: Intra-Club Competition
Multi-Age Division-Dual Meet
Between May 2nd and May 10th, the GSTC and the Atlanta Track Club [ATC] held a virtual competition with multiple awards, involving Men's 40's, Men's 50's, Men's 60's, and Women's 40's. Unlike USATF contests, it appears that everyone ran within their ten year division; no older runners dropped down to a lower division. All virtual runs were to take place during that time window, allowing runners two weekends and the week between. The competition had a number of levels. There was team to team competition in each age division, and there was an overall Club competition across all of the team competitions. They used road race scoring in that they added up times. Unlike the USATF Masters Championships where only the top 3 score, they scored as many as possible in each team competition, limiting the number to that of the team with fewer entrants. If ATC entered 7 and GSTC 6, then 6 were scored. They also reported scoring by road (top 3 runners) and by cross country (top 5 runners) rules for who to score. They always added up times (road rules) rather than add up places (cross country rules). Because this first race was to be fun and engaging, they decided to give out other awards, some based on age-grading, some on pacing, and one for the most creative course, which often meant a screaming fast point-to-point downhill (overall) run. Keep that in mind when you see the times. The organizers indicated they might constrain individuals to start and finish at the same point on future contests but wanted to make this first one a lot of fun.Still, athletes had to run alone for the most part, and their training has been largely solo as well for the last few months. That worked against fast times. Some runners, as always, are coming back from injuries. At least one runner tested positive for Covid-19 and had to recover in the week leading up to the last running date, May 10th!

M40 Bryan Sydow, who finished 3rd in M45 at the 2019 USATF National Masters 5K Championship in Atlata last year, posted the fastest time at 15:52!
Atlanta's Brian Sydow clocks 15:52 to post the fastest virtual time
All ATC photos supplied by Brian Sydow; Mark Zamek supplied the pictures for GSTC.  

But GSTC's Jonathan Frieder, back to his old self after losing much of 2019 to injury and subsequent rehab, was only 4 seconds slower.
Garden State's Jonathan Frieder blasting to a 15:56 5K

When his teammate, Shawn Williams, clocked 15:59, it looked like GSTC was sitting pretty.
Garden State's Robert Riordan [L] and Shawn Williams [R] after their socially distanced virtual 5K

But ATC's Jack Westrick and Bfent Fields were not having any of that, as they came in the next two places at 16:12 and 16:20. When Dave Ferrugia and Chuck Schneekloth posted identical 16:29 times for GSTC it was all over. The cry went up: "We know it was close; who won?!"
Dave Ferrugia blasting to his 16:28!

The answer came back, "No one; it was a tie, 48:24 to 48:24!" Who would believe the teams could be that evenly matched?

M50 Mark Zamek, who finished 2nd at the 2019 USATF Masters 5K Championships in Atlanta, turned in the low time of 16:28!  
Mark Zamek checks to make sure his pacing is on track for a 16:28!

Brad Slavens,who has come back strong after a couple of rough years, kept ATC close with a 16:46. But then it was all GSTC with John Hogan clocking 16:59, and Joe Hegge 17:13 to give GSTC 

John Hogan, relaxed after cracking 18:00 for his virtual 5K
50:40 and the victory. Michael Strickland strided into a 17:29 and Fred Weir turned in a  17:44, just 2 seconds ahead of his ATC teammate, Chip Hawkins, to close things out for ATC at 51:59 

Chip Hawkins, pumped for his 17:46 virtual 5k

These were two excellent team efforts but Garden State had the clear edge in the M50's in  this scoring regime.

M60  The 60's went the other way. Ken Youngers, who finished 2nd in the 2019 USATF Masters 5K Championships in Atlanta, led ATC with a blazing 17:02. 
Ken Youngers barely touched the ground, clocking a 17:02 for the top age grade of 96.09%

GSTC countered with Gary Leaman's 18:00, an impressive time for the 5th place finisher in Atlanta last year; that kept Garden State close. But Mike Anderson and Phil Richey, ATC's reliable journeymen, put it away for the team, coming in with 18:40 and 19:20!  
Atlanta's Mike Anderson wore a GLRR singlet for good luck. It must have worked as he clocked 18"40 to help cement Atlanta's win in M60's

Gus Stanzione and Russ Forsythe closed out GSTC's top 3 scoring with 21:42 and 21:53. 
Gus Stanzione, ready to roll for GSTC

ATC enjoyed a 6 minute victory margin, 55:02 to 1:01:35.

W40 Sonja Friend-Uhl, a close 2nd overall at the USATF Masters 5K Championships in Atlanta, turned in a 17:35 to get ATC the lowest time on the books. But GSTC countered with Melissa Gacek, who has been on the USATF Masters 15K Overall podium for the last 4 years, and Olena Rozhko, who finished 10th at the USATF Club XC Championships at Lehigh this past December. 
Melissa Gacek with a selfie of her virtual 5K effort of 18:31

They got GSTC back in contention with a 2-3 effort in 18:31 and 18:34. When their GSTC teammate, Maria Metzger finished in 19:26, almost a minute ahead of ahead of ATC's Jill Braley, the 4th place finisher in Women's 40-44 at Atlanta last year, that gave GSTC the win here. Alicia Eno closed things out for ATC with a 23:32. Thanks, in part, to their guest runner from Minnesota, GSTC took the honors, 56:31 to 1:01:27.


M40: Brian Sydow 15:52   Jonathan Frieder 15:56   Shawn Williams 15:59

M50: Mark Zamek 16:28   Brad Slavens 16:46   John Hogan 16:59

M60: Ken Youngers 17:02   Gary Leaman 18:00   Mike Anderson 18:40

W40: Sonja Friend-Uhl 17:35   Melissa Gacek 18:31   Olena Rozhko 18:34


MEN: Ken Youngers 96.09%   Mark Zamek 92.83   Jonathan Frieder 91.80

Other 'World Class' Age Grade Scores: Brian Sydow 90.06

WOMEN: Sonja Friend-Uhl 95.04%   Melissa Gacek 83.95   Maria Metzger 80.80

If the races are scored by looking at the top 5 runners on each time, there are changes in the Men's divisions. The Women's results either do not change at all or GSTC wins by default. Atlanta only had three runners.

M40 Recall that Ferrugia and Schneekloth tied at being the 3rd (and 4th) runner in for GSTC at 16:29. So one of those two is #4 and #5 is Todd Wiley at 16:33. That brings GSTC's 5 runner total to 48:24 + 33:02 = 1:21:26. For ATC, #4 is Chad Hales 16:22 and Giovanni Pipia  16:57. ATC's 5 runner total is now 48:24 + 33:19 = 1:21:43. Instead of a tie, GSTC wins by 17 seconds.

Note: This was not part of the agreed upon scoring so is just an added note for my own entertainment. Suppose the teams had gone to full XC scoring, by place, as well as scoring 5 runners. Then it would have been Atlanta with Sydow (1) 15:52, Westrick (4) 16:12, Fields (5) 16:20, Hales (6) 16:22, and Pippia (11)  for 27 points. Close this way too, but Garden State would have wound up with Frieder (2) 15:56, Williams (3) 15:59, Schneekloth (7) 16:29, Ferrugia (8) 16:29, and Wiley (9) 16:33, with their 6th runner, Robert Riordan displacing ATC's 5th place finisher by running 16:52 for 10th. That gave them 29 points. In this scenario ATC would have won 27-29.

M50 This division got much tighter as Atlanta's # 3-5 runners were a tight pack, even though running solo, many miles, and probably some days apart! GSTC won by 1:36 under the 3-runners score regime. Garden State added Rudi Trivigno at 18:00 and Harold Porcher at 18:07. That raised GSTC's score from 50:40 to 1:26:47. Atlanta's Chip Hawkins and Lester Dragstedt clocked 17:46 and 17:47 to raise Atlanta's total  from 51:59 to 1:27:32. 
Lester Dragstedt on his way to a scorching 17:47 in the M50 Virtual 5K Competition!

Atlanta wound up half a minute closer but still did not upset GSTC. The final margin was under a minute!  ATC 1:27:32  GSTC 1:26:47

M60 Moving to 5-runner scoring just increased the gap. Atlanta and the Boulder Road Runners have been the big dogs in this division the last couple of years, with Atlanta taking the Grand Prix title in 2018 and 2019, just ahead of Boulder. GSTC added Peter Auteri and Francis Beideman at 22:23 and 23:45 to raise GSTC from 1:01:35 to 1:47:43. Atlanta's Casey Hannan and Neil Feather clocked 19:45 and 20:18 to bring Atlanta from 55:02 up to 1:35:05, a margin of over 12 minutes.

W40 GSTC had two additional runners, Heather McDermott and Aya Leitz, who ran their 5K's in 20:33 and 20:54.
Karl and Aya Leitz capturing the NYC Skyline for their Virtual 5K Background


In the original description of the contest, there was to be a total Club Competition as well, summing times over each of the 4 divisions. The idea was that the top X scoring runners for each team would be scored and totaled from each division and the results added across divisions. If ATC had 7 runners in a division and GSTC 9, for example, then only the first 7 runners would be scored.

M40 ATC has a total of 4:02:07 from 14 runners, while GSTC totals to 4:02:53.
Additional scoring runners include:  
ATC Kevin Gibson 17:02 Tommy Carroll 17:07  

Kevin Gibson cracking his 17:02 Virtual 5K

Fred Dolan 17:21 Mark Castleberry 17:31 
Mark Castleberry, in glorious isolation, on his way to a 17:31 Virtual 5K

Steve Bell 17:40 Nathan Deeter 17:43 Mike Gerber 18:22 Chris Weiss 18:46 Ben McLain 18:52.  
GSTC Robert Riordan 16:52 Trevor Emmit 17:22 Jason Timochko 17:27  
Jason Timochko, speeding to a 17:27 virtual 5K!

Chris Sallade 17:36 

Steve Bonica 17:40 Carlos Piñiero 17:57  
Carlos Piñiero inspiring the next generation for fitness!

Steven Segaloff 18:07  
Steven Segaloff cruising down the road to his 18:07 virtual 5K.

Rob Liberto 18:47  
Rob Liberto signalling a successful Virtual 5K Run

Tim Kilroy 19:38 (Matthew Leingang 20:18 David Wise 22:42)
GSTC's Tim Kilroy with one of his biggest fans out to support him on his virtual 5K effort!

M50 ATC has 2:22:50 from 8 runners, while GSTC has 2:26:33.
Additional scoring runners include: 
ATC David Matherne 17:52 Gary Droze 18:03 Dave Lee 20:20
GSTC Harold Porcher 18:07  
Singleton, [L[, Harold Porcher [C], and Rudi Trivigno set off on their socially distanced virtual 5K

John Hendy 19:29 Stephen Katz 19:48 Dave LaCouture 20:29 (Brian Harris 20:32 Karl Leitz 21:15)
Brian Harris ready for his Virtual 5K

M60 ATC has 1:55:44 from 6 runners, while GSTC has 2:23:38.
Additional scoring runners include: 
ATC Kirk Larson 20:39 (Davis Vaughan 20:50)
GSTC John Bergasc 35:55

W40 ATC has 1:01:27 from 3 runners, while GSTC has 56:31.
No additional scoring runners beyond five.

So, ATC would have a winning total of  9:22:38 since GSTC totals to 9:49:35. 

My two cents: Interesting attempt to look at strength across the entire team, but I now realize this scoring regime goes against the grain of encouraging folks to join in at whatever level they are at. One of the GSTC runners who earned a 'most inspiring' award, for example, ran several minutes slower than the next slowest runner. So I would not want to put much emphasis on this overall club result. The other contests are better indicators and show two very closely matched teams. 

Mark Zamek's Additional Awards
 As chief organizer, Zamek tried to spice things up by announcing additional awards for Age-Grading Personal Bests, Best Downhill Performance, Best Negative Splits, Best Pacing, Masters Bests, Most Improved, and Most Inspiring. Most were GSTC only, but the Downhill and Inspiring categories included both GSTC and ATC.  

Best Downhill Course Start to Finish Elevation Drop in feet

Shawn Williams GSTC ↓  358'
John Hogan GSTC   327'
Brian Sydow ATC   236'
Ken Youngers ATC   236'  
Jonathan Frieder GSTC   223'
Todd Wiley GSTC 192'
Most Inspiring Competitors

1. John Bergacs GSTC

During his running career John has torn his right ACL and his left meniscus; he has broken his tibia and fibula. He has had six heart procedures and 4 cardiac ablations for an atrial flutter, and atrial fibrillation and had a pacemaker installed in 2017.  The fact that he is running is a miracle.
2. Shawn Williams GSTC
Shawn was diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus several weeks before the competition. The entire team advised him not to run. In spite of that, Shawn waited until the final day of the competition window and blasted a 15:59 5K! 

3. Kevin Gibson ATC

Kevin was laid off because of the corona virus outbreak. He doubled up on his training and made tremendous improvements in his running.  Kevin wins our "up and comer" award too.  

4. Ken Youngers ATC
Finally back up to speed after back surgery 2 years ago. His determination and work ethic are truly special. Ken wins our "comeback" award.   

That was a terrific dual meet competition, generating lots of enthusiasm in the midst of a difficult time for road racing.
Phase 2:
Single Age Division--Tri Meets

David Westenberg, Greater Lowell Road Runners [GLRR[ and Mike Anderson ATC organized an M60's contest over 5K. When GSTC and ATC organized their multi-division competition they asked GLRR if they wanted to join in at least for the M60's. GLRR was happy to make the M60 competition a tri-meet. The original agreement suggested scoring top 3 as in USATF MLDR Road Race Championships, but GLRR indicated they were okay with scoring 4 or 5 to encourage more participation. They also agreed to score top-3 by road time and top-5 by age-grading time [Open Eqivalent Time] would be appropriate. As one might suspect from the review above, ATC  dominated.

Top 3 Road Time
Once again, Ken Youngers had, by for and away, the fastest time. David Westenberg, known more for his 1 Mile exploits, showed that he could navigate a pretty fancy 5K too. His 18:14 was enough to stay close to GSTC's Gary Leaman's 18 minutes flat, the 2nd best time. GLRR's Charlie Muse and John Hadcock turned in terrific times to put pressure on ATC. But Mike Anderson was ten seconds faster than Muse and Phil Richey five seconds faster than Hadcock, giving ATC the win by 1:27. GSTC's M60 squad ran hard but could not keep pace.

 ATC Ken Youngers 17:02   Mike Anderson 18:40   Phil Richey 19:20.....55:02
GLRR David Westenberg 18:14 Charlie Muse 18:50 John Hadcock 19:25.....56:29
GSTC Gary Leaman 18:00 Gus Stanzione 21:42 Russ Forsythe 21:53......1:01:35

Top 5 Equivalent Age-Graded Time
 Age-Grade calculators allow one to calculate an age grade percentage, as above in the Age-Grade Podium for ATC vs. GSTC. But one can also identify the Open Time that would line up with the age-graded percentage. For example, the 17:02 that Ken Youngers clocked at age 63 age-grades at 96.09% and has the Open Equivalent time of 13:30. GLRR again gave ATC all they could handle but ATC's depth in age-grading allowed them to emerge on top. GSTC posted some impressive open equivalent times to finish 3rd.  GLRR's  Peter LaGoy and Kevin Christie added 20:20 and 20:31 times while ATC's Casey Hannon and Neil Feather clocked 19:45 and 20:18. Kirk Larson's 20:39 at age 68, moved him ahead of Hannon and Feather in Open equivalency. That gave the following Open Equivalent times:

ATC Ken Youngers 63 13:30 Mike Anderson 62 14:56 Phil Richey 62 15:28 Kirk Larson 68 15:41 Neil Feather 65 15:50.....1:15:25

GLRR David Westenberg 62 14:35 Charlie Muse 63 14:56 John Hadcock 61 15:29 Kevin Christie 62 16:24 Peter LaGoy 60 16:32.....1:17:56

GSTC Gary Leaman 60 14:38 Peter Auteri 68 17:00 Francis Beideman 70 17:39 Russ Forsythe 61 17:39 Gus Stanzione 60 17:39.....1:24:35

ATC  and GLRR M60's teams have agreed to arrange a rematch, perhaps at the 1 Mile distance later this spring or summer. The other new thing in the works is that the Boulder Road Runners [BRR] have initiated discussions for a possible 60's series. It might be just M60 but they indicated they would try to involve Women's 60's teams as well. The initial distances will be optional 5K or 10K with the scoring to be on age-grading, either % or Open-Equivalent. The final guidelines are under discussion. The first competiton would take place in the week surrounding Memorial Day, between Saturday, May 23rd and 12 noon on Sunday, May 31st. ATC, GLRR, and Shore AC, at least will take part along with BRR. GSTC felt the timing of this first BRR event would not work for them. Even without GSTC, it matches four of the strongest M60 teams. ATC, BRR, and Shore AC have been at the top of the M60+ Masters Grand Prix podium the last two years. GLRR has not committed to the Grand Prix but they took the honors at the 2019 Club Cross Country M60+ Championship at Lehigh last December. It should be quite a match-up!

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