Monday, October 18, 2010

Race Report: 6-Hour Birthday Run

Sunday, October 17 was the 11th annual 6-Hour 60th Birthday Run. It's not just a 6-hour race, but it gives special honor to runners who turn 60 this year. The weather was absolutely beautiful, sunny, light breeze, temps in the 60's. Much better than the Arctic monsoon from last year! It's also the last race of the year in the New York Ultrarunning Grand Prix. It's always a good time, and a good chance to chat with runner friends and to make new ones.

A lot of the New York area ultra regulars were there, including Rudy Afanador, who'd been out for a while after knee surgery. And it was a reunion of Tim Henderson and his crew at Vermont - John Rosa, Jim Morris and me. And there were some runners I didn't know who looked fast. Last year's winner Byron Lane showed up, but said that he wasn't feeling well, and he ended up not starting the race. And Ray Krolewicz made another New York appearance.

I often say this is my favorite race, mostly for the social aspect, but while running I have other thoughts. It is a nice 2.1-mile course, mostly on trails, but in the second half of the race I really come to dread those little hills and sandy patches.

At the start of the race I went out in front, running alongside Aaron Heath, who I met at Caumsett, and who ran very well there. After the first lap, I pulled ahead of Aaron, but by the end of the 2nd lap I heard footsteps coming up behind me again. But these footsteps belonged to Rudy, and he soon sped away. I was also spending some time early on running near Beak Cosenza, who was running his first ultra, but who was preparing for JFK next month. Soon enough came Mike Petrina, a member of the Sayville running club, and a newcomer to ultrarunning I was told, but who had been putting in a lot of miles, and was looking really good. Another runner I didn't know joined the lead pack, which shifted somewhat, but by the end of the fourth lap, there were five of us within a few seconds of each other - Rudy, Mike, Beak, me and the unidientified runner. The pace was pretty fast, but I felt good and was hoping to be able to keep it up.

Eventually Mike and Rudy pulled ahead of me and the others fell back. Rudy has the course record, and Mike looked strong, so I just tried to stay patient and hope I could catch up. Somewhere after the halfway point I managed to catch up to Rudy. All the time I knew that I could finish in the top five and still win the 2010 Grand Prix, but I was hoping I'd be able to catch up to Mike. After about four hours, I caught up to Mike, who was walking and looking spent. Unfortunately, he'd been throwing up and had to call it a day. But I hope to see him in future ultras.

So the rest of the race I was trying to keep up the pace I could, and hoping that Rudy wouldn't be able to catch me. The last hour I was seriously bonking, probably since I was living on just water, Gatorade and Coke. That'll teach me to not eat. But I figured I could tough it out the last hour. As I came in after 20 laps with about 20 minutes to go, I was relieved to see that Rudy was already on the short loop. Thinking that he wouldn't be able to make up the difference, I took my short loops at an easier pace, and even tossed in some walking. With just a few minutes left, I decided to push a little to get back to the start/finish mat before the clock ran out, and I just barely did.

So I finished with 20 large laps and 4 small. Meanwhile, I was so worried about Rudy, I wasn't paying attention to Aaron, who I hadn't seen since the first lap. It ends up that he was really pushing at the end, and even though I had one more large lap than him, he racked up the small laps and ended up beating Rudy and coming to within .07 mile of me! I didn't know it, and I don't think he knew it. So it goes to show, never let up! I finished with 43.56 miles, Aaron had 43.49, and Rudy had 43.09. Tim was not far behind with 41 and change and Beak was 5th with 39+. For the women, Jodi Kartes-Heino defended her title with over 39 miles, Concetta Acunzo was 2nd with 37 and Alicja Barahona third with 36. For the 60-year-olds, the winners were Peter Martin and Natalia Service.

For me, this was my third win at this race, after 2005 and 2007. And with my wins at the Queens 50K in March and the Joe Kleinerman 12-Hour in June, and being the top local finisher at Caumsett, I lock up the Grand Prix win for the second time, after 2007.

The post-race food and beer were very welcome, and everyone had a good time in the beautiful afternoon. It was a good occasion to chat with old friends and make new ones. Thanks to Lydia for the ride, and to the RD's Fred von der Heydt and Myron Bellovin and the Greater Long Island Running Club for again putting on a great race!

Pics: 1. Top men - me, Aaron, Rudy - with RD's Fred and Myron; 2. Top 3 women - Alicja, Concetta, Jodi - with Fred and Myron; 3. Lydia and Alicja post-race; 4. Lanny, Admas and Harry post-race; 5. Happy runner

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