Sunday, October 15, 2017

Tunnel Light Shines The Way To Boston

"We all have time machines.  Some take us back, they're called memories.  Some take us forward, they're called dreams." ~ Jeremy Irons

We runners peddle both -- often in the same moment.

That is, the moment we cross a finish line.

Because the distance we've run, regardless of our time, leaves a memory - albeit some more fond than others, but we all still chase a dream of some sort.

Our Tunnel Light marathoners on Sunday, September 17 were without exception.

The dreams of running the Boston Marathon became more real for four of our runners - Todd Hunter, Yaya Herrera, Bonnie Scholz and Tammy Grado - as they met their gender and age group's qualifying standard for the very first time.

Little did Tammy Grado know at the time that one second of celebrating would have cost her a trip to Boston
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Six others traveled to Washington state with their BQ secure - and three of them - Derek Bailey, Juan Flores and Sandra Tezino - replicated their performance.

Derek Bailey was the first Volte to make his way across the finish line.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
And an eighth - Michelle McGill - recorded her 13th BQ from her last 17 marathons.

But, in the chasing of our dreams, we sometimes fail to remember that they don't always come true the first time.

Or the second time.

Or the third time.

In fact, Michelle McGill will tell you that she ran 14 marathons over five years before she recorded her first Boston Qualifier.

Officially, it was a marathon debut for Monse Louimeus, who finished in 4:23:35 -- an improvement on her 25.4-mile jaunt through The Woodlands in March in 4:29:19.

The best of the personal bests -- seven within the group - belonged to Judith Albarran, who shed 33 minutes and 39 seconds -- and maybe a few tears too - off her 5:07:32 debut marathon in Houston three years ago.

Yet we had surprises – and none of them had anything to do with a race result.

Unfortunately, a slew of work projects kept Rapha Machado from being able to join us.

Then, Carrie Hyde, who had trained as well as ever - all the way through the training cycle, heard from her appendix, which had had more than enough.

We’re all grateful that it immediately demanded an audience with the finest clinicians in Montgomery County just 36 hours before she would have join the larger group on the plane to Seattle Friday morning.

Oh, we weren’t done. 

Of course, the only direction to go was up.

With a little help from a pilot not to be named, Jared Hoffart pulled a “Jon Walk special” – as Volte head coach and founder Bill Dwyer tipped your scribe off in his e-mail – and flew to Seattle, arriving at 2 a.m. Saturday morning and surprising his wife Lauren.

And to help everyone soak the entire 26.2-mile experience in, Debra Myers and her husband Rob and her company Enfusia supplied all of our Tunnel Light marathoners with a care package of “Muscle Soak” products.

There were 20 of us (participants, that is) – and we had a few other local runners make the trip.

One of them, the current USA Track & Field 100-mile trail champion, Ronnie Delzer, of The Woodlands, won the race in 2:34:11.  His time was the fastest ever at Tunnel Light and the third fastest of the three Tunnel Marathon races since they started in 2008.

The majority of our Tunnel Light marathoners post-race!
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
The results from all 23 runners from our area are listed below:

4:33:53 - Judith Albarran, 37 (PR by 33 min., 39 secs.)
3:04:40 - Derek Bailey, 36 (BQ)
3:53:40 - Jon Braunersreuther, 54
4:36:33 - Kristi Chen, 50
4:04:39 - Erica Coleman, 52
3:52:45 - Mike Coleman, 52
2:34:11 - *Ronnie Delzer, 36, Vantage Point Endurance (BQ, PR)
3:17:19 - Juan Flores, 44 (BQ, PR by 5 min., 38 secs.)

One of the Volte "Bad Hombres", Juan Flores, BQ'd and PR'd again at Tunnel Light.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
3:50:52 - Laura Godfrey, 42
3:51:37 - Tammy Grado, 49 (BQ, PR by 13 min., 3 secs.)
5:40:19 - Falon Gunter, 34
3:34:21 - *Yaya Herrera, 42 (BQ, PR by 24 min., 46 secs.)

Yaya Herrera looks so happy that she'll be heading to Boston; so much so, it looks like she ready to leap and fly!
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
4:23:43 - Lauren Hoffart, 28
3:25:20 - Todd Hunter, 49 (BQ, PR by 17 min., 23 secs.)

Todd Hunter's smile is as ecstatic - and electric - as they come.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
3:21:15 - Alan Jones, 46, Finish Strong Coaching (BQ, PR)
4:23:35 - Monserrat Louimeus, 29 (PR - first official 26.2; TW was short)
3:55:29 - Michelle McGill, 50 (BQ)
3:08:21 - Mario Menendez, 42, Finish Strong Coaching (BQ, PR)
4:36:32 - Marta Mixa, 60
4:39:22 - Leanne Rosser, 48
3:39:38 - *Bonnie Scholz, 40 (BQ, PR by 31 min., 41 secs.)
3:41:04 - Sandra Tezino, 49 (BQ)
4:23:36 - Gabby Westbrook, 33

(Note:  The asterisks you see above represent the runners who actually ran a Boston qualifying time at the Fidelity Investments The Woodlands Marathon in March, if Boston would have accepted adjusted times.)

Volte head coach and founder Bill Dwyer said one of the many highlights of the weekend was being at the finish line for eight Boston Qualifiers.

“Everyone worked hard and it paid off,” he said.  “I was so very happy for everyone.”

More than a week or so after all had returned home and all of the group’s qualifiers were able to register for next year’s Boston Marathon, Dwyer shared about the hug (that wasn’t) that might have wrecked that trip for one runner.

“Tammy Grado sent me a note saying that she almost stopped to give me a hug just before the finish,” he said.

After the race, she had posted on her Facebook page, “4X a charm!! Sept 17, I Boston Qualified!!! Thank you Lord for giving me the ability and strength to run.”

And what she couldn’t have known then (and didn’t post) …. “and to not share my enthusiasm with Bill until AFTER the race.”

Tammy qualified three minutes and 23 seconds underneath her age group’s qualifying standard.

The cutoff?  3:23.

“Talk about living a charmed life,” Bill commented.  “She’s in!”

All of Volte’s athletes enjoyed the scenery, weather and the camaraderie.

“I loved my trip to Tunnel Light because I got to spend time getting to know my fellow Voltes,” said the youngest of our group, Lauren Hoffart.  “The race itself was tough but beautiful.  The course really made me feel like God was right there with me.”

The focus on all that we have to be thankful to God for was shared Saturday night before the race.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Perhaps that was a byproduct of the Saturday night devotional led by Jon Braunersreuther, who serves as a mission and ministry facilitator for the Lutheran Church in the greater Houston area.

Pastor Jon led our team's devotional at our Saturday evening pasta party.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
“I appreciate Leanne Rosser helping organize the Airbnb for half of the team and the pasta party,” said Dwyer.  “As well as Mary Carter helping me throughout the weekend and the amazing support provided by Alan Gastineau getting from point to point on the course.”

Dwyer said it wasn't easy.

Alan had made the trip a year ago when Sandra Tezino and Laura Godfrey qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon – and the team put the inside knowledge to use.

Sandra Tezino (right) getting her symbolic Boston ticket handed to her by Scott Sobelesky (who helped her qualify as a pacer a year ago).
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
It wasn’t just all happening in Washington state the third weekend of September.

Volte and friends had runners in Germany, Kemah and North Dakota.

Dirk and Criss Neumann completed the Baden Half Marathon together in 2:09:16 in their hometown of Karlsruhe, Germany on Saturday, September 16.

From Germany, with love!
(Photo courtesy of the Neumanns)
Monica Moreno finished a hot Toughest 10K Kemah the next day in 1:16:44, while a quintet of our friends also finished.  Erika Park led the group in a first place age group (40-44) time of 46:24.

Alvaro Trejo also kept it under an hour in 57:42 while his wife, Lusi, completed the four passes of the Kemah-Seabrook Bridge in 1:13:42.

Hector Lopez and Mario Vazquez also rounded out the group with finishing times of 1:14:06 and 1:16:43, respectively.

Volte friend Jon Walk completed his 54th career marathon, including one in his 34th state, as he finished the Bismarck (North Dakota) Marathon in 5:28:03.

He went 3:35:02 through the first 19 miles – a pace of 11:19 in mid-40 degrees temperatures, but walked the last 10K in hopes of trying to save a little to run the Virginia 10-Miler the following Saturday in Lynchburg, Virginia with his daughter, Waverly.

Sunshine Csikos Gets Hometown 5K Win

Charity starts at home or better yet, in your hometown.

"I was in Waco visiting family and found out about a race to benefit the scholarship fund at my alma mater, La Vega High School," said Mike Csikos.  "I thought it would be fun to support my school and run through my old stomping grounds in Bellmead."

Like any number of us would do, Sunshine found himself on the start line Saturday, October 7 for the La Vega High School Foundation 5K.

"I learned that the La Vega Pirate Foundation gives out over $40,000 annually in scholarships and educational support for deserving students," he added.

Given that the school's cross country athletes were a week away from their district meet, Mike realized that "you just never know what type of field is going to show-up for these smaller events."

He said that it's been a long time since he's run a 5K and had no expectations on his performance other than to give a good steady effort.

And he did so -- better than everyone else.

"I was able to lead the pack," Mike said.  "It was so cool to have a police escort which made me feel like an "elite" runner for 3.1 miles.  I ran a 22:19, finished in first and loved every minute of it."

Even better for Mike was that he had the opportunity to visit with some of his teachers and former classmates, which he said was nice.

"It was a good morning of why I love to run," he added.

In keeping with the charitable theme, we follow Greg Nettleton to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and his debut effort at the 26.2-mile distance.

"The Chicago Marathon was harder than I expected," he said. "But I ran and finished for Diana Nettleton raising over $4,000 to help Finish MS."

Some of our Volte friends made the trip to the Windy City too.

Mary-Ellen Wilderman-Hay finished her third marathon of 2017 with a personal best of 3:39:40 -- and her second BQ of the year.

One of our endurance community's true gentlemen, Ironman John Laskowski of Team Strive, Outrival Racing and now Mach 5 Racing, notched a marathon personal best as well with a showing of 3:59:10.

Rebecca Hughes finished in 4:10:12 while Ernest "Bartenderx" Oropeza stopped the clock in 4:43:19.

A couple of our athletes were at other marathons than Chicago on Sunday, October 8 and added to their marathon counts in different states.

Steven Lopez picked up state #16 by finishing the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 5:57:19.

"Pennsylvania is in the books!" said Steven.  "Very humid.  Just jogged this one and enjoyed the fall colors."

A little further to the northeast found Derek Bailey punching out state #20 in Rhode Island.

In Portsmouth was the Amica Newport Marathon where Derek finished in 3:27:47.

"Trash fire.  Don't go to a trash fire," was his only comment.

Some of us, though, would set a landfill ablaze for a time like that!

In all seriousness, we've all had that race - or two - were it just wasn't our day, but we add it to our toolbox of experiences to draw on at some other time.

And there are other times that we know it maybe isn't the wisest thing to race, while on the back end of an illness (your scribe speaking from experience).

However, there are reasons it's important to take a measured risk and compete.

That's so we not let teammates down.

If anybody in the last six weeks had the right to take a pass, it would be Amanda Cruise.

But Amanda had a pair of teammates that had been preparing for quite some time for last Sunday's Kemah Olympic Distance Triathlon Relay.

Still looking tough despite taking it easy is Amanda Cruise.
(Photo courtesy of Bayou City Race Series)
She figured she could take it easy on her run relay portion and still contribute.

And Amanda helped deliver a first place relay team victory.

Cruise-Zajac-Brokish covered the 1,500-meter swim (38:04), 40-kilometer bike (1:09:52) and 10-kilometer run in 2:31:20 with Amanda making her leg happen in 39:14.

Then nearly 20 Voltes and a handful of our friends made the trek out west for the second annual Texas 10 Cypress.

Brayden Park was the first of our runners across the line in 29:45 in the 5K.

If that time seems a little long, it is -- as runners missed a turn and ended up with a bit of bonus mileage going more than 3.1 miles.

Letty Gonzalez completed the unkown distance in 40:38, taking second place in her age group to go with Brayden's first place performance.

Gregg Harris crossed the five-mile finish line first with a 37:49 first place age group showing.

Brian Hanyzewski did so in 47:50 while Gabby Brockett, Tammy Ninke (:44) and Tabitha Young (:46) all finished within a second or two of each other in 1:07:43.

Tabitha picked up $50 in the post-race cash drawings while our friends from Huntsville Ray and Diana Sarno both completed the five-mile race in 1:05:16.

A pair of first-place age group and third-place age group finishes were won in the marquee 10-mile race.

Ninth overall, Rip Reynolds was fast at the front in 1:09:55 for one of the two first place efforts while Kimberly Simmons - seventh among all females -- secured the other one in 1:18:50.

Jerritt Park and Keri Amador were the third place winners in 1:17:06 and 1:22:40, respectively.

Focused and determined was Keri Amador, which netted her a third place age group placement.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Randy Harris notched a nice time of 1:13:49 in a tough age group.

Laura Hanyzewski kept things steady with a 1:34:05 finish while Katie Gill bettered her previous 10-mile best by a minute and five seconds with a 1:52:50 showing -- beating last year's mark that she had at Memorial Hermann Ten For Texas.

Desna McDonald and Lisa Johnson smiled all of the way to finishes of 2:01:42 and 2:03:11 while Alfredo Gonzalez stoicly ran the distance in 2:20:50.

Volte friend Michael Menster was first in his age group in 1:07:45, while Mary Garcia and Ken Johnson ran in 1:28:41 and 2:23:13, respectively.

Cole Harris and Brayden Park closed the morning by going 1-2 in the Lil' Texas Kids 1-mile race with an estimated finishing time of about 7 minutes even.  The two were five seconds apart as Brayden followed Cole across the finish line.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

IM 70.3 Augusta Peachy Keen For Mike Kuykendall

Writing the Volte recaps is a lot like race announcing:  You’re thrown a diverse set of data (or people running towards you at the finish line) and the challenge is to make it as good or better than the effort that everybody exerted.

Always a fun challenge to accept, though.  It’s why we’re here, right?

Augusta, Georgia is home of the Masters golf tournament. 

For you non-golfers or sportsmen even, it is the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. 

The winners are given a green jacket to wear after they win.

They get to choose the meal for all of the participants at the next year’s Tournament.

You want fried chicken?  You got it.

Pretty heady stuff, huh?

Of course, for most triathletes, the holy grail of the sport is the Ironman World Championships in Kailea-Kona, Hawaii.

For our Mike Kuykendall, he’ll be the first to tell you that – for the time being – IM 70.3 Augusta was his Kona.

Yes, Mike, you gunned out the IM 70.3 August course.  Congratulations!
(Photo courtesy of Mike Kuykendall)
He approached his most arduous race with the same type of preparation, skill development, training and pre-event race selection that many of triathlon’s professionals do.

We’ve certainly been impressed with our front row seat to Mike’s journey.

While Augusta sits just 135 feet above sea-level, Wikipedia states that Augusts has a “humid subtropical climate”.

Mike said that he would be the first one to attest to that.

Having done a half marathon in Augusta to check off Georgia myself, I can attest that Augusta is laid out – elevation-wise – a lot like Huntsville State Park:  the elevation change is fairly constant.

It is why Mike faced 1,700 feet of elevation gain on the bike.

However, for somebody that was told that many years ago that he wouldn’t be able to physically accomplish all that he has today, his description of the day was even more worthwhile.

“What an awesome Ironman experience,” he said.  “Trusted my training and beat my anticipated time en route to a personal best on the swim and the bike legs.

“Too hot and humid (91 degrees) for me to do much speed on the run.”

He covered the 1.2-mile swim in the Savannah River in 37:55 and knocked off the 56-mile bike portion in 3:15:20.

Mike’s half marathon time was 2:36:35.

“The three mantras of the day became ‘Work on the mile you’re in’, ‘Be in the moment’ and Philippians 4:13,” said Mike.

The day before, Saturday, September 23, our runners faced hills and turns.

Waverly Walk drew the hills card at the 44th annual Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she studied Elementary Education at Liberty University.

Waverly Walk finishing her fourth straight Virginia 10-Miler.
(Free courtesy race photos from
It was her fourth time to run the race, but the first time she traveled to it – and not as rested as she had been previously.

Despite a quick start down Farm Basket Hill, a result of getting positioned in front of (instead of behind in previous years) a string of 10 runners that were running the 4-miler abreast carrying the flags of the different branches of military, she would be the first to admit that it also wasn’t her day.

She still finished in 1:50-even, better than in her sophomore and junior years but about two minutes off last year’s time as a senior.

The turns, featured in the Woodforest Charity Run 10K in Conroe, were managed well by Rip Reynolds.

He captured his age group in 40:42, while Volte friend Vincent Attanucci was second in his in 52:45.

The next morning started in Blackfield, Hampshire, England where the Smith family – Jen and the kids – participated in the Solent Half Marathon and a companion 800-meter dash.

This may be a candidate for Volte Race Photo of the Year as Hope Smith brings her Mom in from a tough half.
(Photo courtesy of Jen Smith)
“Good news and bad news,” Jen said.  “Respectable finish in 1:43:11.  Bad news was that I got nauseous at mile 4 and walked/ran the last nine.”

She reported that Grayson was first in the 800, Hope was fourth and Michaela was sixth.

On this side of the pond, Penny Garza made the trip to the Run Houston Race Series event at the University of Houston and finished the 5K in 42:11.

The bulk of Volte was at Texas 10 Series Huntsville.

Twelve ran the marquee 10-mile race, three ran the five-mile and Brayden Park doubled up running the 5K and the one-mile race.

All alone - even with an untied shoe - is Brayden Park.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
After posting a second in his age group time of 25:09 in the 5K, Brayden put the burners on for a first place, 6:20 personal best in the mile race.

Our five milers ran fairly close together.

Katie Gill completed the course in 54:41 while Naika Vargas and her niece, Maria Rivera, who was visiting from Venezuela, both finished in 57:07. 

Naika Vargas running with her niece, Maria Rivera.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Maria took home a second-place age group award for her efforts.

Kimberly Simmons was our only first place age group winner with a 1:20:10 time.

A group of four took second in their divisions – Rip Reynolds in 1:10:38, Keri Amador in 1:25:18, Dana Formon in 1:30:41 and George Rux in 1:32:00.

“I was very pleased,” said George.  “The race plan went well.  I had a negative split and finished strong.”

Only 26 of the 181 finishers ran a negative split – and 15 of them ended up on the podium.

George’s negative split was 59 seconds while Kimberly was the only other Volte to do so with an eight-second improvement on the back half of the course.

Jerritt Park finished in 1:23:55 while Layton Gill got ready for the Medtronics Twin Cities Marathon with a time of 1:30:10.

Denise Powers led the rest of Volte’s women with a time of 1:34:16 with Laura Hanyzewski in chase, finishing in 1:36:12.

Desna McDonald raced Lisa Johnson to the finish and got the better end – this time.  Desna stopped the clock in 2:03:38, while Lisa had Desna in sight in 2:04:06.

"Too much fun; no such thing!" is the motto of Desna and Lisa as they finish Texas 10 Series Huntsville
(Photo by Bill Dwyer)
Mr. Steady, Alfredo Gonzalez, took on the hills in 2:29:15.

Alfredo put 23 seconds on one of our friends, Ken Johnson from Huntsville, who finished in 2:29:38, while Mike Menster was the first overall men’s master finisher in 1:05:30.

Running With The Gills In The Land Of 10,000 Lakes

Your loyal scribe is behind. 

And, yes, I’ve been called another word for “behind” by a couple of people here and there, but we’ll get caught up by going back in time week after week.

Given the majority of our group two weeks before had competed in the Tunnel Light Marathon in Washington state, that meant the spotlight the weekend of September 30-October 1 was all on Layton Gill.

The marathon spotlight, that is.

Because alongside every good man is a good woman, Katie Gill got the running in Minnesota two weekends ago started by running in the TC 10K – one of three companion events to the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.

"Look ya'll, no hands!" says Layton Gill near mile 7 of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
(Photo courtesy of Katie Gill)
She set the table for Layton by burning up the roads for a time of 1:05:05 – a great outcome that was a result of the diligent summer work at the track.

“This was a great finish time for Katie,” said Volte founder and coach Bill Dywer.

The pressure was now on Layton.

And better than LSU’s sputtering offense this fall, he delivered a performance Coach O would have been proud of.

Everybody here with Volte certainly was.

Layton cracked the 4:30 barrier with a 14 minute, 44 second personal best time of 4:29:50.

His debut marathon was earlier this year at the Chevron Houston Marathon in 4:44:34.

And he did so in conditions that were very Minnesota-like, according to Katie.

"Rain and hills, hills, hills," is how she described it on Layton's Facebook page.

He concurred.

"Beautiful course and so much crowd support," Layton said.  "It just felt like we kept going up hill.  It was an interesting course."

He quipped to his wife near mile 22 that "there has to be a downhill soon."

Volte friends Ben and Kim Chojacki also competed in the Twin Cities Marathon, posting times of 3:59:11 and 4:02:37, respectively.

Back to Texas later that evening was the tenth installment of The Woodlands Running Club Sunday Night 5K at Barbara Bush Elementary.

A small turnout, but one of great quality, of course.

Jerritt Park led the way with a 20:57 finish.  Leanne Rosser led all of the ladies with a time of 26:08.

Leanne slowed down for just a second for us to read the saying on her singlet!
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Friends?  We always have friends come out.

Our sponsor, Lindsay Perkins, of Fleet Feet Sports, came out with her husband Jim and the two of them completed the course in 36:49 and 37:18, respectively.

Lindsay found a little time from her job as Marketing Director for Fleet Feet Sports of Greater Houston to come run with us.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Ken Johnson of the Seven Hills Running Club made the drive down from Huntsville to finish in 38:39.

Having missed the change in start time from 5 p.m. to 4 p.m., fellow “run every day” streaker Vincent Attanucci of The Woodlands ran an impromptu mile run of 9:15.

During the weekend, some of our friends ran in the Blazing 7’s Trail 100K in Cat Springs on Saturday, September 30.

Irma Torres covered the 62 miles in 20 hours, four minutes and one second (20:04:01).

Luis Murillo opted for the much shorter 10K and took first place in 45 minutes and four seconds (45:04).