Friday, May 12, 2017

Do Not Go Gentle

A gusting North wind, some injuries, and a lack of fitness turned the Medtronic TC 1 Mile into a tactical game with the top contenders feeling each other out early and throwing in mid and late race surges in a race to win, rather than an attempt at breaking course records.

The men's field that had three champions and two course record holders was a group that could have threatened defending champion Ben Blankenship's course record, but a twisted ankle and slow recovery knocked out 2015 TC 1 champ Garrett Heath.  Heath had "rolled his left ankle" several weeks ago, he said, and, unlike before when this has happened, Heath did not recovery quickly.
Still he held out hope that his powers of healing would return and he'd be able to give it a go.

He went back and forth on race day.  One moment contemplating putting on his racing flats and letting it rip.  The next deciding that it wasn't worth the risk of the possibility of making the injury worse and losing more than a few weeks of training and racing.  He settled for helping out with the announcing of the races, rather than being a major player in rhe event.

Nick Willis, who was hoping to regain his course record and the $10,000 bonus that goes with that feat,  found that his lack of fitness, racing sharpness, did him in.  He and defending champion and new men's course record holder Blankenship assessed each others fitness over the early part of the race with Blankenship taking control for the last half  as he not only wanted to win, but to dominate the competition.

Blankenship said that last year's Olympics probably took its toll as everybody tends to put a lot of effort into getting ready for being at their best at the Games.  They take some down time in a post Olympic year and, instead, build toward being ready to qualify for and compete in this year's London !AAF World Championships in August.

The gusting North wind was not a great impediment, but induced a bit more caution that when the air is still.  Nobody wants to be a windbreaker for the rest of the field.  The women's race turned out to be the tight finish as the eventual winner Emily Lipari and runner up Sarah Vaughn battled down the last half mile and were only separated at the finish by one tenth of a second.  At one point their hands and arms were connected as if they they were going to  com across the line together, hand in hand. "Sorry for the confusion!" said Lipari.  "We were just battling down the stretch and ended up bumping arms."

Christy Cazzola, who finished third last year, was coming back from an injury sustained in a fall.  Her fitness was not at the same level as last year and she profusely thanked race organizers for inviting her to come and, in essence, begin her racing season.  She ended up in ninth but was happy to have the chance to get a "rust burner" done and be ready for the rest of the season with some momentum rather than wondering where she could find a race with a strong field to test herself against.

Much of the attention, however, was on Gabe Grunewald, who is fighting a more debilitating opponent, her forth battle with cancer.  Looking lean and sporting a the scar from her operation to get rid of tumors in her liver, Gabe was at the front of the pack for the early part of the race.  She finished sixth and was upbeat when talking to everyone after the race.  Running is her outlet to help her cope with her disease.  She admitted to shedding tears every day, and bouncing back from that to train and consult with medical experts on her options to try and vanquish her opponent in this "race."

In many ways she personifies the attitude in the Dylan Thomas poem:
"Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, Rage against the dying of the night."

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