- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2008

When U.S. Olympic marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein cruises the streets of New York on Sunday morning, he will be cool.

Ice cool.

Ritzenhein, preparing for the Olympic marathon in Beijing next month, will do some research into keeping as chilled as he can, because the Chinese capital could be brutally hot and humid during his 26.2-mile competition. His project: to warm up with a cooling vest on his back.

“I have one here, actually,” Ritzenhein said Thursday in a teleconference for Sunday’s NYC Half-Marathon. “This race for me, the half-marathon, it’s a race and I’m going to take it as seriously as I would any other race. But I also want to get some good information out of it as well.

“And so this is a test run for me, like a trial. I’m going to practice everything I would do the morning of the race here. So I brought the ice vest with me here, and I’ve used it once in the past and over the past last summer, and so I’m trying to figure out what the best way to use it and so hopefully we’ll have that lined out by the time the race comes in Beijing.”

He may not need it Sunday if the temperatures, predicted to be between 69 and 85 degrees, stay near the lows from the 7 a.m. race start until about 8 a.m., when he should finish.

Ritzenhein is not the first to use cooling vests, and there is plenty of information available on the body-chilling approach.

In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, a few American marathoners and all the Australian Olympic athletes were fitted with Nike Ice-Vests designed to lower body temperature before racing. Whether the vests contributed to performance is unknown, but Americans Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor, who wore the vests before their marathons, earned silver and bronze, respectively.

Many Olympians will join Ritzenhein on Sunday, including Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, Benita Johnson of Australia, Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa and Madai Perez of Mexico. Although he failed to make the U.S. Olympic team this time, Adam Goucher, 33, will run, stepping up from his 5,000-meter specialty into what eventually will become a marathon career.

Blind ambition - It was painful to read the e-mail I received two weeks ago about two decorated Paralympic sprinters, each of whom failed a drug test.

The sad part is I know them, ran with them in several meets, including the 2003 World Blind Games where we earned silver in the 4 x 400 relay, and they aren’t bad people.

Royal Mitchell, 25, and Nelacey Porter, 23, both training at the U.S. Olympic training center in Chula Vista, Calif., have accepted three-month suspensions for doping offenses, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Each tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol acid June 13 at the U.S. Paralympic trials.

Unless they are successful in their appeals, there will be no Beijing Paralympics for them next month. Talk about a wasted opportunity.

Ducks in a row - It appears that a family of Ducks descended on Rockville last weekend for the Rockville Rotary Twilight Runfest 8K. Perusing the results of 1,987 finishers, you will find three 23-year-olds from the District: Darkwing Duck (Bib No. 2015), a male who flew to the finish line in 27:06. Trailing behind him was Quackly McDuck (2016), another male in 29:01, and Dewey Duck (2017), a female who landed in 33:32.

If that isn’t strange enough, a 21-year-old male runner from Rockville crossed the finish line in 28:17. His name: Steam Boat.

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