Friday, March 29, 2013

GO! St. Louis includes drug-testing

The top finishers in GO! St. Louis should expect the VIP treatment. They also should expect the USADA treatment. 

Organizers at GO! adopted a novel strategy for this year's half-marathon, offering $40,000 in prize money for the top finishers in the race. The prize money is the fourth-largest offered at the distance in the country and has attracted an elite field of up-and-comers. They also took the smart approach by taking on the added expense of drug-testing. 

GO! will follow the protocols established by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for drug-testing. The organizers didn't have to do this, but are wise in choosing to do so.

"We all agreed that drug-testing was an expense you have to budget for if you are going to put up any kind of significant prize purse,"  Ben Rosario, director of GO's elite athlete program, said in an email. "You owe it to the clean athletes running the race and you owe it to the sport overall." 

To many race organizers, particularly not-for-profits who stage one event a year, the expense is prohibitive. And, not only does it require the expense of analyzing the samples but it involves following 14 pages of guidelines to set up the proper on-site facility and chaperoning.

So, why bother? 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Peter Sagan: No hands on deck at Flanders

No, that is not an X-gamer who lost his way. The no-handed wheelie was performed by Peter Sagan, a 23-year-old Slovak who rides for Cannondale. His evolving English is almost as charming as his bike-handling, but no one would give a flip about either if Sagan wasn't a phenom of a road racer.He wouldn't have the largest repertoire of victory salutes -- which have included Forest Gump, Usain Bolt and The Incredible Hulk  -- if he didn't win so many races.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

GO! St. Louis Profile: Mario Macias goes the distance

After winning the GO! St. Louis half-marathon in 2010, Mario Macias has decided to return to somewhat familiar territory. This time, though, he's going all the way, competing in the 26.2-mile version of the race.

Macias, a resident of Colorado Springs, Colo., and a Mexican citizen, has a penchant for setting records. He broke the GO! course record, finishing in 1:05:09, and still holds the second-fastest time in the event. In February, Macias broke the course record for the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Ala., finishing in 2:18:48. Last year, he won the Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita, and the Carlsbad (Calif.) Marathon.

Among his more amazing achievements is first place in the 2011 Pikes Peak Ascent in 2:0:57, shown here, the second fastest time ever.

What lured you back to St. Louis?
"After winning the race in 2010 and not being able to return the past two years due to not being in the kind of shape I wanted, I decided to return."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

GO! St. Louis spotlight: Matt Llano would love some company

Matt Llano
Matthew Llano wants to be alone at the finish, but he'd sure appreciate some company along the way. Thus, he joined the elite field for the GO! St. Louis half-marathon, April 7, thinking that runners of similar abilities will bring out the best in each other. He hopes he's just that little bit more than the others.

A native of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and former resident of Chesapeake, Va., Llano was an All-American at the University of Richmond. He graduated in 2011 and moved to Flagstaff, AZ, last June. 

Llano finished seventh in the 2012 U.S. Half-Marathon Championships in Houston, where he set his PR of 1:03:26 at the distance. Most recently, he placed 25th in the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Fla., which doubles as the U.S. 15K championships.

We caught up with Llano, who shared his thoughts on the coming race:

What drew you to the GO! race, other than the prodding of Ben Rosario, director of the elite racing program?

"It seems like what the race is doing is providing a great opportunity for athletes like myself to have a chance to win prize money and change the trajectory of a career. He mentioned all the things the race was doing media-wise. That's a good thing, too, for someone like myself, trying to get my name out there. When you're trying to do this on your own, it's a different world."

Monday, March 25, 2013

GO! St. Louis Spotlight: Mattie Suver returns to St. Louis in triumph from World Cross Country Championships

Mattie Suver finishes first in the USA Club
Mattie Suver is starting to feel right at home in St. Louis. She finished seventh in February at the USA Cross Country Championships and enjoyed her time here so much that she decided to return two months later for the GO! St. Louis half-marathon April 7. The organizers of GO! have targeted runners like Suver by offering $40,000 in prize money for the half, the fourth-largest payout at the distance in the U.S.

She seems up to the challenge. A member of the American Distance Project, Suver has run 1:13:14 in the half, the second-fastest time in the field. She just returned from Poland, where she finished 26th in the World Cross Country Championships, contributing to the U.S. women's fourth-place finish in the team competition.

Despite her globe-trotting, Suver found time for a quick chat.

What drew you back to St. Louis for the GO! half so soon after the nationals in Forest Park?
"It was kind of in the back of my mind, but I hadn't set my race schedule. ... I was very impressed. Forest Park was a lot bigger than I was expecting. Everybody was super accommodating and treated us like royalty. You want to have a good experience and a good relationship with the race director. They put on such a great event that it was easy to decide to come back."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

GO! St. Louis Spotlight: Aaron Braun goes for GO! prize

Aaron Braun
We're getting ever closer to the GO! St. Louis Family Fitness Weekend, April 6 and 7. The second day will feature the same three events as usual: marathon, half-marathon and marathon relay. But the organizers are trying a bold experiment, offering $40,000 in prize money for the half-marathon. First prize is $10,000 each for the top man and woman at the distance. The purse is the fourth-largest for a half-marathon in the U.S., and some of the best up-and-comers in the country have taken the bait. 

Among them is Aaron Braun, 25, a member of McMillan Elite, based in Flagstaff, Ariz. Braun was the 2010 USATF National Club Cross Country champion and the runner-up in 2011 and 2012, the last of which was held in St. Louis. He finished fifth in the 2012 Olympic Trials in the 10,000 meters in a personal best 27:41.54 and has the fastest half-marathon time in the GO! field, 1:02.. We caught up with Aaron awhile ago and wanted to share the interview with you.

What factors contributed to deciding to compete here?

"I had known that I wanted to start my season with some kind of long road race in late March or early April. I ran my first half marathon in Houston in January, and really preferred to be able to find a half marathon to give that distance another try. Therefore finding the half marathon in St Louis the first week of April fit perfectly in to what I was looking for. Then when I started looking more into the details of the race, I got more and more excited about it; and eventually decided to commit to doing the race."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fabian returns to fabulous form

Fabian Cancellara's victory March 22 in the E3 Prijs Harelbeke harkens the past and future. One of the top riders in the single-day spring classics, Cancellara attacked with 39 kilometers and rode away from the lead group to win by more than a minute over those who dared to chase him: Peter Sagan, Daniel Oss, Geraint Thomas, Sylvain Chavanel, Sebastien Langeveld and Big Tom Boonen.