Sunday, May 2, 2010

48th Walter Childs Race of Champions Marathon

    Photo Credit: Barbara Landry
Holyoke Massacre - Part Duex
Jun of '68 was 3 months before I was born so I lack the first-hand knowledge to compare today's race to that '68 battle of wills. Nor could I begin to comprehend what exactly race directors were thinking holding a marathon in June at noontime. But that's what they did back in the day when greats like Jim McDonagh and legendary Ted Corrbit fought it out over the city streets in 100 degree heat. Jim would win in a time considerably slow for that era: 2:46:51 in what became indearly called The Holyoke Massacre of '68 aka The Holyoke Inferno. Jim followed up his '68 win with 2 more in '69 and '70 with times 2:33, 2:35, respectively.

Well today's temperatures, by comparison, were a bit more modest 70' by race finish thanks to a more sensible early-May 8am start. Never-the-less, by the time the last finishers came thtu the chute some 6 hours later, the roads were ablaze, with only the slightest of breeze, and temperatures topping in the low 90's. Yikes!

All good stories get better in the re-telling. Even in this day of the Internet and the ever reaching power of Google searches for the factual; in years to come, during stories told over beers at post race parties, this could very well go down as the second edition of that historic day.

Pete Stasz starts the race with the traditional pre-race introductions of past year winners: 5 timer Mike Carroll ('02-'06 and '08), Harry Lepp ('98 and 19 Holyoke's and 27 Bostons), Curtis Lintvedt ('79 - hope I got the right name here), Gina Ciampand ('08) and course record holder, Cherly Abert aka Cheryl Dube.

Cheryl was pacing Pat Bonnnett thru her 1st marathon at age 51. Props to Patty for finishing today in 4:15. A tough course and a brutal day. Baptism by fire. Welcome to all that is marathoning, Patty.

As they say - everybody races in the same conditions. The guns goes off. No one hastily rushing off at a irresponsible pace today. With a modest 6:30 mostly downhill mile, I find myself alone by a few steps. It didn't take long before four runners align themselves up front. Including myself, 5-timer Carroll, returnee Mike Tammaro of Narragansett Runners and an unknown who I believe to be Brian Allen (red in top photo). Brian takes the lead by mile 3 and brings the pace down from 6:30 to 6:20/6:15. I let Brian go but keep him close just in case: not wanting to let him get too far ahead knowing a chase down in the 2nd half with quickly rising temps would be difficult. Brian holds pace thru the final 2 loops under the welcome tree cover, clouds and a very nice light drizzle. The two Mikes I know are close behind but I'm not sure by how much.

Before Brian hits mile 9 he falls off pace within a span of less than a quarter of a mile. Approaching the water table before the right hand uphill exit out of the Reservoir onto route 141, he grabs water but goes left for a couple steps. I yell "Right!" in full voice. Later the guys at the water stop tell me they kept telling him right but he seemed to be totaly zoned-out. We take the uphill together. I ease back to let him regather himself but it's clear he cooked himself early in the get-go. He drops back by a good measure within the next mile and I'm on my own from mile 10 on. It's going to be a long, hot day!

The next couple miles vary around 6:30 to 6:20 varying with the terrain. Over the big downhills I clock some low 6's compared to some 5:40s last year. I hit the half in about 1:24 and small change. Not a blazing fast pace but was blazing was the Sun which has broken thru the clouds and light drizzle. It's getting hotter by the minute.

To use some golf terminology - today is about course management - deal with the heat; keep a comfortable and steady effort; stay under the red line. Use my lead to my advantage and force others to make mistakes in order to beat me - pushing too hard and too soon if they want to close down on me. I start recording my splits only around every 3rd mile; not too concerned by my finishing time. I just make sure I don't fall off pace too much. i tell myself "Just keep moving forward."

So a rather uneventful series of miles from 14 thru 22 with a lot of 6:20's and some 6:10's. By mile 22, however, the heat was getting to me.

My wife Barbara was there giving me extra waters and that helped. I had my full of water and Gatorade. Dehydration was an not issue. Body heat was. A climbing heart rate was. Maybe the single smartest idea I had in my 6 years of racing ...while getting together my race gear, I remember watching the long grueling climbs up the Alps and Pyreneess in the Tour-de-France. Spectators would pass water-soaked sponges to the riders to dowse their heads and keep cool. So I gave Barbara some sponges and a water jug of ice water. She handed me a sponge every mile and then every half-mile near the end when it was clear I was starting to wilter. I asked her to also hand our water and sponges to the other guys; in the same spirit that do it in the Tour-de-France. She says they took a couple here and there. I think that's what make sports like running and cycling so cool. Everybody is in it together for the love of the sport - joined in competetion in it's truest form.The lead extends over 3 minutes when I hit mile 23 on route 5. The sun is brutal and beating me up every step of the way. Mile 23 takes a long time. Mile 24 even longer. I'm dowsing my head constantly trying desperatly not to crack this late in the race. Thoughts of quiting creep in now and then. But I tell myself over and over again "Everyone else has to be hurting just a much as me." "To catch me they would have to put themselves in a whole new world of hurt."

With about 2 more uphill miles to go I figure even if I slow to 7 minute or 7:30 pace, catching me is gonna take something crazy insane fast. Not likely in this heat. So don't be stupid and blow up. Relax. No heroics needed. Do the best I can to maintain pace. Just don't walk.
With that single mantra to carry me forth, I reach that oh-so welcome familar sight - the traffic light at the entrance to Mountain Park: the final turn at 25.5 miles. All that is left is .7 miles of uphill that I've done many times in training runs.

It's in the bag now. I cross over the finish line, walking the final two steps, not because I couldn't produce two more strides. It was an affirmation that I survived the day. I crouch over. My body shakes and wobbles as the adrenaline vacates me and the mental and physical fatigue grab hold. 2:50:58. Mission accomplished.

My 1st marathon over the 2:50 mark since my 1st (Clarence DeMar in '05). Your 1st is always special but I think it's safe to say I'll never be more happier to run a 2:50. There were times today were I was close to cracking. I doubt I would have pulled it out today without Barb's help.

Big congrats to Karin George for her impressive 3:26 win in this heat. Like myself, Bill Romito, Mike Carroll and Harry Lepp, we ran just 13 days after running the Boston Marathon. I was told Karin won a tough battle today, re taking a lead she lost late in the day. Well done.

Tammaro and Carrol come in 2nd and 3rd. Of the top 10, 7 were masters (age 40 or greater) five in their 40's and two in their 50's. Impressive stuff.

Afterwards some well deserved beers with the two Mikes, Mark Bailargeon, Patty and Cheryl, Joe Fois and Bill Wheeler.

Barb got some great photos when she wasn't saving my a** out there today. I'll post them soon but now I'm real tired. So apologies in advance for the usual misspellings, poor grammar and race/name inaccuracies.

Photo Credits: Barbara Landry

Finally and so importantly - many, many thanks to the Harriers, the Walter Childs family, and all the race volunteers who gave up their Sunday so we could be afforded the pleasure and privilege of running this fine race.

A huge thank you to Attorney Jeffery M. Guiel who donated $500 clams in prize money. In his words, Jeff is an average runner. But he has the same passion for the sport as the 'elites' - as he so kindly reffered to us today. He donated the money in the hopes that it will inspire, as he has been inspired, and bring runners year after year to this small in size, but large in heart, great local historic race.

That's all for now. Take care. Happy running.
    Left to Right: me, 5 time champion Mike Carroll, and Exter Marathon creator Michael Tammaro
     Photo by: Mark Bailargeon

Place Name Team Age Age Group Time Pace
1 Bob Landry GSH 41 1 M 40-49 2:50:58 6:32/M
2 Michael Tammaro NRA 41 2 M 40-49 2:57:04 6:45/M
3 Mike Carroll TVFR 44 3 M 40-49 2:59:27 6:51/M
4 Adam Bulewich GSH 34 1 M 30-39 3:00:20 6:53/M
5 Sadik Tokgoz 41 4 M 40-49 3:03:52 7:01/M
6 Paul Letoile NRA 45 5 M 40-49 3:11:41 7:19/M
7 Brian Allen 38 2 M 30-39 3:15:21 7:27/M
8 Mike O'Hara 53 1 M 50-59 3:17:45 7:33/M
9 Jeffrey Zawadzki 27 1 M 0-29 3:23:47 7:47/M
10 Jay Seney SCS 50 2 M 50-59 3:25:20 7:50/M
11 Karin George SMAC 45 1 F 40-49 3:26:51 7:54/M

12 Dan Hrobak 25 2 M 0-29 3:27:09 7:54/M
13 James Howe 54 3 M 50-59 3:28:31 7:58/M
14 Shannon Coz 31 1 F 30-39 3:28:40 7:58/M
15 Michael Stocki 33 3 M 30-39 3:32:32 8:07/M
16 Paul Firisoli 30 4 M 30-39 3:35:15 8:13/M
17 Sri Bodkhe GSH 43 6 M 40-49 3:35:47 8:14/M
18 Seth Roberts GSH 58 4 M 50-59 3:38:15 8:20/M
19 Gina Ciampa 33 2 F 30-39 3:41:02 8:26/M
20 Michael Flaherty 53 5 M 50-59 3:41:14 8:27/M
21 Harry Lepp 53 6 M 50-59 3:43:16 8:31/M
22 Alexander Ocampo 23 3 M 0-29 3:43:17 8:31/M
23 William Romito EORC 56 7 M 50-59 3:43:53 8:33/M
24 Mike Maier 48 7 M 40-49 3:44:04 8:33/M
25 Todd Thomas 48 8 M 40-49 3:45:57 8:37/M

The mile splits I did capture:
13:01 2 miles
6:31 19:32
6:23 25:55
6:24 32:18 5 Miles
6:19 38:38
6:16 44:54
6:21 51:15
6:18 57:33
19:33 1:17:05
6:18 1:23:23 13 miles    half estimate 1:24:36
24:34 1:47:59
18:57 2:06:57 20 miles
6:26 2:13:22
13:35 2:26:58
6:57 2:33:55
7:01 2:40:56 25 miles
7:49 2:48:45 just happy not to be walking !
2:12 2:50:58 1:26:22 2nd half !

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