Sunday, October 11, 2015

Welcome to Brother USATF's Travelling Show...

Last Sunday's men's race of the Medtronic TC 10 Mile had a little bit  of everything. It had the deepest, most competitive elite field of the TC Marathon weekend.   Wearing numer 20001 was an Olympian hoping to use the race as a part of his preparation for making his third US Olympic team, Michigan native Dathan Ritzenhein.

The TC 10 Mile course recordholder Abdi Abdiraham was given #2000.  Number 2003 was worn by Jared Ward, the 2015 US Marathon and 25K champion who is also a Griak Initational Gold race champion when he ran for BYU. He's also the current leader of the USATF Running Circuit otherwise known to this current crop of elites as "Brother USATF's Traveling Salvation Show."

At the end of each race when the runners are leaving to catch their planes, said Sam Chelanga: "We say: 'See you next week.'"  They've each chosen the USATF Circuit to work on their perparation for the Olympic Marathon Trials.

Newly minted US citizen Chelanga, the 2015 USATF XC Champion, two time NCAA XC champ, NCAA 10K recordholder who had post collegiate setbacks with stress ffractures in both 2013 and 2014.  Now training under Bernard Lagat's coach James Li, Chelenga has been healthy and said after the race that he was not planning on running track.  His goal in 2016 was the US Olympic Trials in the marathon. To get ready for the marathon Chelenga took to the roads.

At almost every USATF Running Circuit event he encountered some of the Traveling Show members.  Dean of the squad for the Fall being Tyler Pennel. Pennel ran every circuit race  from the USATF 10K Champs at the Peachtree Road race in Atlanta on July 4 to the New Haven 20K on September 7, and the CVS in Providence, RI on September 20.

As the the 2014 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon champion, Pennel was hoping to add another Twin Cities race title to his resume in last Sunday.  He'd spent most of 2014 racing a sub four minute mile on the track and a summer track season.  That transitioned  to the 10K, 20K, and 5K US Road Champs events leading up to the TC 10.  The top six from the race in the New Haven 20K were entered in the TC 10. Six out of the top seven made it to the starting line, as Luke Puskedra passed to compete in today's Bank of America Chicago Marathon, where he was first American in fifth place in a PR of 2:10:24.

The New Haven Six were left to battle each other for the top spots at Twin Cities. Battle they did. The lead pack of a dozen or so going through halfway in 23:47, thinning out to four men left with a mile to go.
Ritzenhein made a move with about two miles to go,  but it didn't break up the pack.  Pennel, who is confident of his prowess on hills took off near nine miles where the last "uphill" is.  It's just a slight incline, but Pennel put the hammer down and the race for first was on.  The top three gapped Spisak, the tallest of the four, who was the first to be unable to hold Pennel's surge.  Next to drop back was Ritzenhein.

Laying on the massage table after the race, Ritz was smiling, but said he had hoped to be in the mix when the race entered the final downhill drop at the St. Paul Cathedral, but he wasn't able to match Pennel and Chelanga as the foursome turned past Ramsey Hill and headed for the finish. Pennel said the move in the last mile had been what he planned, and it seemed to be working, if only he could shake Chelanga, get a piece of daylight between he and Sam before the big drop.

The drop came and so did Chelanga.  Sam was hanging on, hoping that Pennel had spent his energy too early, but the closer the finish came the more he knew he had to put on a spurt of his own to come away with a win.  Pennel tied up slightly. Chelanga gave one last spurt to win by one second.  Ritz finished five seconds bak of Pennel.

All three will probably meet at least one more time in the USATF final event, the USATF 12K Championships in Alexandria, VA on November 15.  Then they'll take a break before going into the final training cycle leading up to the February Olympic trials in LA.  Ritzenhein says he'll be going South where the weather is warm instead of heading to altitude.  The weather in LA is likely to be warm, he said.  So, it's more important to be acclimated to the heat than any boost altitude training might provide.

If the trio can duplicate their top three finish for the TC Ten at the Trials, they'll be overjoyed. All three still have the track Trials 10K to fall back on as Ritz did in 2012 when he finished fourth in the marathon trials in Houston.  He'd rather book his spot on the first try this time.

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