Riverbank One Day Classic – Joe Fejes’ Women’s Race Preview

The Riverbank One Day Classic race will be held on the brand new track at Riverbank High School in the Central Valley of California. This 24 hour, 12 hour and Team Relay races will be run on a certified 400 meter track and will be both an IAU Bronze Label event and USATF Sanctioned. This is the 2nd annual running of the race c0-directed by Jon Olsen, the 2013 International Association of Ultrarunners’ 24-hour world champion.

For the elite athletes, this is a great opportunity to make the 24 Hour National Team which requires a minimum 140 miles for men and 125 miles for women within a 24 h10275578_10153428070398267_1179432807538863412_oour time span. The USA team will be made up of six men and six women team who will compete in Belfast July 1-2 at the World Championships.

Below is Joe Fejes’ infamous race analysis and predictions, which we always look forward to!  But as we all know, anything can happen on race day….and we are on track for lots of drama to unfold this weekend.

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World record potential (emphasis added) this weekend from a dream team lineup of ultrarunners, especially the gals.

On Saturday (February 25-26) at 9 am PST, the Riverbank One Day 24-hour race will be held at the brand-new Riverbank High School Track in Riverbank California. The current weather forecast for Riverbank calls for absolute ideal race day conditions with a high of 56 and a low of 37 under partly cloudy skies with slight (10%) chance of showers.

Please understand that my predictions are my opinion only and are certainly do not represent the views of anyone else. Advance apologies to all participants if you believe any of my commentary (or lack thereof) is false, hurtful or defamatory. Hugs, kisses and free counseling for anyone that is offended or insulted.

I’m trying to be a kinder, gentler prognosticator in 2017. Also, to avoid any claim of gender inequality (sexism), bias or favoritism I have decided that my projected picks will cover the ladies first instead of the men as I usually do.

Women:

The women’s field at Riverbank is potentially the strongest talent level ever assembled in the history of 24 hour ultrarunning. In fact, don’t be surprised in the top 3 ladies podium at Riverbank duplicate their feat at the 2018 24-hour World Championship in Belfast Northern Ireland.

12794679_859925037470672_5983761215829266423_oGina Slaby (age 34): Lt. Gina Slaby, logistics support officer with Fleet Logistics Center Puget Sound burst on the ultrarunning scene three months ago, breaking Ann Trason’s100 mile World Record by running a 13:45 on the track at Desert Solstice under less than ideal conditions.   She broke Ann’s 13:47 record that had stood for more than twenty-five years with approximately two minutes to spare.

What might be even more impressive than her 100-mile World Record is her marathon resume. In February 2016, Gina ran a 2:44 marathon at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Los Angeles finishing in 31st place. She previously qualified for the Trials with a 2:40 marathon at the 2013 Chicago Marathon.

In 2011 at the Twin Cities marathon she also qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials with a 2:39 personal best time despite running on a broken foot the last 10 miles.

So far in her relatively brief ultrarunning career Gina has won all 15 of the ultrarunning events she has competed in including the 2016 Vermont 100 (18:05) and the 2015 HURT 100 (27:06).

Gina certainly has the speed, talent and mental toughness to break Mami Kudo’s 158.63 World Record. In fact, Gina’s 2:39 marathon best is ten minutes faster than Mami’s (2:49). Speed alone however isn’t the only variable in the mileage equation. A successful 24-hour runner must also sustain their pace for the duration of the event to achieve big miles.

Mike Morton, the American 24-hour record holder with 172 miles, is a master at b1_1739sustainability. I competed against Mike at Hinson Lake when he ran 164 miles as well the 2012 World Championship in Poland when he broke Scott Jurek’s American Record. In both races, Mike never appeared to possess blazing speed compared to some of the shorter ultra-distance specialists. Mike’s marathon and 100 mile personal bests are only 2:36 and 13:11 respectively. In my opinion what set Mike apart from other elite 24 hour runners was his uncanny ability to effectively maintain his groove for the remaining 11 hours even after having run his best 100-mile performance.

For Gina to run 158.64 miles and break the women’s World Record, she will likely need a 100-mile split of at least 14:30 (8:42 per mile).

For comparison sake, below are a few historical 24-hour track performances and corresponding 100 mile splits:

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-2-36-48-am

At Desert Solstice, Gina’s strategy was to put “time in the bank” by running an 8-8:15 minute per mile for as long as possible and then progressively slowing down. It will be interesting to see if she changes her pacing strategy significantly at Riverbank. Note: one concern with a “progressive slowdown” strategy is the 37 degree forecasted temperature at night may feel a wee bit cold to some of the runners when their pace slows significantly. I’ve seen many 24 hour runners drop from the race once they start to shiver. Having to add layers of clothes to keep warm also isn’t an ideal solution. As a result a consistent pace strategy might be optimal under the circumstances.

Here is the pacing strategy I would use if I were trying to break the record:

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-2-42-37-am

Then Gina is a much faster runner than I am and might be able to handle a faster starting pace (i.e. 8-8:15) than my (8:30). Her marathon best (2:39) is 8 minutes faster than mine (2:47) and her 100 mile best (13:45) is almost an hour faster than mine (14:41).

Pete Kostelnick, a 2:41 marathoner ran his 163.8 mile performance at Desert Solstice with the pace per mile average listed below:

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-3-00-34-am

Before the race starts on Saturday, Gina must also decide what her race goal is.

  • to win?
  • to qualify for the US 24 hour team by running at least 140.1 miles?
  • to break Sabrina Little’s 152-mile American Record?
  • to break Mami Kudo’s 158.63 world record?

The pace required to achieve each goal is substantially different.

If, Gina’s goal is to qualify for the team by running 140.1 miles, then her required 100-mile split would only have to be 16:20 (9:48 per mile pace) (or even slower if you run even splits like Bob Hearn).

A possible compromise between qualifying for the team (140.1 miles) and breaking the World Record (158.63 miles) would be for her to attempt to make the US Team and break Sabrina Little’s 152-mile American Record. 15:25 would be an ideal 100 mile split for 100 miles if she chooses this goal.

Another intriguing factor in the race will be that Gina’s husband Steve Slaby will also be competing and will be trying to make the USA men’s 24 team in his 24-hour debut. Steve and Gina regularly train and race together. However, under USATF rules they will be prohibited from running laps together otherwise they will potentially be accused of receiving unfair assistance regardless of their intent. Note: on a 400 meter track it is virtually impossible for two equally talented runners NOT to run laps together. They must make an intentional effort to stay apart from each other.

One other challenging fact is that although Gina is already an accomplished ultrarunner Riverbank will be her debut at 24 hours. The 24 hour is a much different animal than the 100-mile run. Very few runners run reach their potential in their first attempt. It even took Mike Morton a few attempts (153) and (163) at the 24 hour before he realized his best performance.14542354_10209354912701445_2038296706847998826_oPam Proffit Smith MD (42) People often overlook the fact that Dr. Pam Smith was the former 100-mile World Record holder on the track until Gina broke her 14:11 (8:31 pace) mark at Desert Solstice. Ann Trason’s 13:47 100-mile record was actually run on the road. Pam has both the speed (2:55 marathoner) and experience to win the race and break Sabrina Little’s 152 American Record. She currently has the 9th best American performance in the 24 hour having run 143.66 miles in her 24-hour debut May at D3. Breaking the world record will be daunting but not impossible for her based on her 100-mile personal best time. To break the WR, she will undoubtedly have to mimic Mike Morton’s ability to sustain a consistent pace for almost 9 hours after running within 30 minutes of her best 100-mile time. She is currently sitting in the 4 slot for team USA.15774928_10100771991395053_3555420075341002728_oCourtney Dauwaulter (32): I loved the title of recent interview with Courtney. “Meet the Unknown Woman Taking the Ultra World by Storm”. Yes indeed, my good pal Courtney has been on fire! Last September, Courtney shocked the ultrarunning world by winning the 2016 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile and taking home the $12,000 first prize. In December, she won the Desert Solstice ending up with a 147.49 miles which ranks the 5th best on the American 24 hour performance. Her 100-mile split during Desert Solstice was 15:08 which is plenty fast enough to go 152+ and break the American record.

Courtney only has two knocks against her:

  • Fashion faux pas-her trademark baggy basketball running shorts rivals the ugly ass orange ones that the great Ray Krolewicz wears;
  • She is a Mountain Trail Runner

I am perplexed why Courtney is even running Riverbank since her USA team spot is virtually certain. However, a quote from her recent interview gave me insight on her likely motivation “I’m intrigued by longer distances and timed events to see where your brain goes and what your body is capable of, even when it feels like it’s failing,” she said. “I still have so much to learn; seeing what’s possible is the main drive.”

Bottom line is Courtney really gets and enjoys what the 24-hour race is all about. Even though she might not have quite the raw leg speed of a few of her competitors—look out for baggy shorts—she will be in the mix to win. 10864015_10152893813793719_1353847031228428133_o

 

Connie Gardner (53): My mentor and good friend Connie Gardner currently has the third best US women’s 24-hour performance with 149.36 miles set in 2012 at the World Championship in Katowice, Poland. At the 2012 World Championship she was the silver medalist and her performance also broke the American record. She is an 11-time USATF national champion in distances ranging from 50 miles to 24 hours. Her best marathon and 100 mile times are 3:04 and 15:48 respectively.

Connie is trying for perhaps the last time to make the US 24-hour team. She still has the speed, and motivation to run 140.1 miles and make the squad. In my opinion her best chance in achieving the 140.1 miles is by targeting a 100 mile split of 16:30 and letting her adrenaline and experience bring her home. Note: Connie also needs to be prepared to run further than Pam’s 143.67 assuming Gina makes the squad and Pam is relegated to the #6 spot.14380040_10154844232203888_6301859364710691532_o
Stacey Costa (48): Stacy is another friend of mine that I have had the pleasure of running with in multiple 24 hour races. Stacey notched 130 miles at the Dome indoor track a few years back and has a 17:28 100-mile split in the Desert Solstice 24 hour. Riverbank is only an hour drive from her home in Castro Valley California. Although 141 miles is a reach, don’t be surprised if the low expectations coupled with the hometown atmosphere propels her to a personal best. She may also find herself in contention if the thoroughbreds implode.

CONCLUSION:

Joe’s Prediction: Super tough call between Gina and Courtney for the “W”.

Gina has jet like world class speed as evidenced by her 100 mile World Record. The only issue for her is the “jet” hasn’t yet flown in a 24 hour race. She has a high degree of risk that she crashes and burns in her debut especially if she tries to duplicate her Desert Solstice pacing strategy. If however she starts the race at a slower pace between 8:20-8:30 and thereafter progressively stair-steps down her pacing a/k/a the “Kostelnick” method, then I predict she wins and breaks the World Record.

Courtney, in her trademark baggy basketball shorts, runs 152.04 breaking the American record but takes second losing to Gina.

Pam. I’m not sure if Pam’s goal for the Riverbank. Is she focusing on the 100 mile or trying to improve on her 143.67. If I were in her position I would probably conservatively in case both Connie and Gina threaten her team standing. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her a defensive and slower than normal pace from her at least until the race develops.

Connie: Connie’s race plan is entirely contingent on both Gina and Pam’s performance since Connie will need to run at least 143.67 to bump Pam from the team assuming Gina wins. If Gina falters then she can make the squad with 141 I see Connie exceeding the 140 but falling short of 144.

Stacy runs a personal best of 132 and has an easy drive back home with a smile on her face.

 

 

 

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