Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2009 HTC Awards Banquet

2009 HTC Outstanding Male Performance Award – David Riddle Speech by Eric Charette I am proud to present the Outstanding Male Performance Award this year. At our nominations meeting, I asked to present this award because of how much I respect the recipient. He represents everything that a runner and person should be, including hard work, determination and humility. Yes he has natural talent, but unlike some athletes who never reach their potential, he cultivates that ability and is always pushing his limits. You can look up his race times and think that you know him, but he is so much more than just the numbers. What I want to do is to tell you a few things that you didn't know, which show you the kind of person he really is. This years’ male performance award winner is David Riddle. Let me start with a story that I enjoy telling and after a year has passed it is difficult to remember which parts are fact and which have turned into legend, but either way it is 100% David. The stage was October of 2008 at the Liz Hurley race. I was warming up and going through my final preparations when I saw David running toward me. He seemed out of breathe, but I didn't think anything of it, as I know how hard he trains and just thought that he was doing strides before the race. Fast forward to the end of the race, in which David was the overall winner; This much is all fact. What is now legend was that the race was actually David's 3rd 5km tempo run for the day and the first two were run in the low 16's and his race time was 15:43. So he ran 3 5km's that morning and finished up running the last one faster than anyone else in the race. Knowing David's competitive nature, if he had to run the last one in the lows 15's to win, he would have dug deeper and done it. David's goal race for 2008 really was the marathon in December. Everything he did leading into the marathon, weather racing or training, was for the marathon. One of the amazing facets of David is that he can simulate race pace and intensity in his training. He doesn't have to race (every weekend, like some of us) to get mentally and physically prepared for a goal race. I don't know anyone else who is that focused that can be race ready without racing frequently. It just shows how disciplined that David is. Although it was not quite the result that David had hoped for, his 2:27:27 marathon debut was astonishing by almost every standard. His 5:38 pace for 26.2 miles earned him 5th overall. I think if nothing else, not hitting his time goal has driven him even harder in training ever since. Through the spring, David began to look at his 2009 goals, one of which was to chase his latest passion, to become a better trail runner. He was at all of the Mountain Mist training runs and showed that his endurance and strength would translate well from the road to the trail. While he didn't run the race, it is on his calendar for next year and we’ll all be watching (or some of us chasing). We already know from David's “fun run” at Recovery from the Holidays in Dec of 2007, when he ran well under 3:30 and set the course record, that he can run ultra distances. The part of that time that the results don’t show was that after each 3 mile loop, he stopped to stretch, grab something to drink, and talk with people like my dad and other aid workers. I think he also did his taxes and finished up his masters degree after the 8th loop! This shows how personable David really is. David showed his trail running prowess and development later in the spring at McKay Hollow in March. After kindly letting me lead for the first mile, he went on to dominate the rest of field. The best comment I heard about David in this race came from race director Blake Thompson, who said that as they waited at top of death trail for runners to finish, if anyone else other than David appeared at the top of the water falls in first place, that they must have cheated. For those of you who ran the race, you may have seen the course marker coming up War Path Ridge that guided (most) runners to O'Shaughnessy Point, and the one that sent David off over the cliff down into the Hollow. I am sure that with his good sense of humor this made him laugh a little. On that day, David not only defeated the field, but he conquered the course, which had thoroughly defeated everyone else. David ran a few more races throughout the year, chalking up notable wins at Winter Winds 2 & 4 Mile, and the Rocket Run 10 miler, where he set state age records at all three races. He was also the top local finisher at Cotton Row for the 10k and then came back and won the 5k later that morning. In fact, David won nearly every race he ran and was even crowned 2009 RRCA Alabama State 10km Champion with his win at the 3M River City Run in April. But it was his trip to Laurel Springs, North Carolina for the USATF 10k Trail National Championship that that showed that he has become a national class competitor. One thing I admire about David is that he doesn't just compete locally, but travels to other races to seek out better competition. He recognizes opportunities to race against others in his class and to be pushed to test his limits. David ran in 3rd place for much of the race, finally finishing 4th on a course that USATF said was the hardest 10km trail course that had ever been assembled, featuring 3100’ of elevation change and climbs of 18 and 22% grade. You know it is hard when you find out that David ran a slow 43:31 minutes. Rumor has it that a video of the event exists showing David walking with his hands on his hips! (For the online blog post only, here is the link to the video! David ended the HTC Gran Prix season with wins at the Monte Sano 10k and 5k, pushing him to an even 1000 Gran Prix points as he went 10 for 10 in HTC events. Yet amongst all of his wins, David is extremely humble and will probably have very little to say here in a second when he comes up to accept the award. If I know David, he is getting antsy now because he is going out after dinner for his second run of the day; seriously. It's what he did last year after the banquet. No matter which race it is through the year, you will either see David leading the way, or volunteering his time. I can’t recall a local race where he wasn’t doing one or the other, which shows his dedication to the sport and his commitment to the well being of running in our community. It is long overdue that we recognize the fact that we are fortunate enough to be blessed with such a talented and hard working runner. We all look for great things to come from David, including conquering the marathon and making Huntsville proud in Boston next year. No matter where you are at on the running ladder, you are always looking up. Depending on your fitness, this may change as to who you look to. One thing will never change and that is that I will always look up to David for the type of person and runner that he is. So I take great pleasure in presenting this award to a good friend, an elite runner and a true champion, David Riddle.