The 6-Hour 60th Birthday Run was started by the Greater Long Island Running Club in 2000 to celebrate the 60th birthdays of Barry Aronowski and Mike Polanski. It's been held every year as a celebration of those runners who turn 60 that year. This was the seventh time I've run the race since 2004 (every year except 2008), and it's one of my favorites. It's on a nice course in Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island (2.1 miles, about 2/3 trail, 1/3 pavement), most of the time the weather has been good, and there's a nice party afterwards with food and beer and birthday cake.
The weather for this year's event was picture-perfect, sunny with a light breeze and temps in the 60s. I was feeling good going into the race, so I thought I might be able to repeat my win from last year and nab my fifth ultra win of the year. As expected, it was a tough battle with Aaron Heath. But first, a little background.
Last year, I was leading late in the race, and I knew I would have one more big lap than Aaron, with race directors sending runners on a short lap, about 1/3 mile, as time ticks down. So I was a little overconfident, and seriously bonking, having not taken in enough calories during the race. So while I was slowing down on the big loop, Aaron was running some fast short loops, and unknown to either of us almost made up the difference, and he finished just .07 mile behind me.
So this year, Aaron and I started out running together at a good pace, and I gradually took a slight lead, but possibly due to some poor nutritional choices the night before, I had to make a bathroom stop after three laps which cost me a few minutes. I came out strong and tried to make up ground, but four laps later, another bathroom break. I came out running strong again, and I was hoping that with more than four hours to go, I could chip away at Aaron's lead. At one point, Ray Krolewicz told me he had about a five minute lead on me. On the one point of the course where you see runners coming towards you after a loop on the trail, I saw Aaron coming out of the loop, which was taking me four minutes to run, so I had at least a couple of hours to try to make up four minutes. The next several laps I didn't see him coming out of the loop, so I was thinking I was making up time, but then I saw him there again, and I figured time was running out for me to catch up.
I came into the start/finish area then with 24 minutes to go, alongside Jodi Kartes-Heino, who was running very well as usual. As we made the first turns around the parking lot I saw someone who looked like Aaron about 100 yards ahead, and I even asked Jodi, "Is that Aaron?" I didn't think I'd be able to catch up to him. She said, "Catch him and find out." I tried to catch him, and as silently as possible, but as I closed in on him on the trail alongside the little creek, I kept kicking dirt and gravel, but he didn't turn to look. I finally caught him, we exchanged a couple of friendly comments (seriously) and for a time we were running side by side with 15 minutes to go. I was confident that having caught up to him, I'd be able to then pull ahead, but he picked up his pace. I was thinking this could be a real exciting finish! But before long he put on a surge of power that I couldn't answer. I tried to keep as close as I could in case he couldn't sustain, but he did. My time for that lap was 16:12, my fastest since about halfway through. Back to the start/finish and on to the short loops, he stayed ahead, and ended up finishing .18 mile ahead of me, 45.41 to 45.23 miles. But I can't complain, it's a good total, and I'm happy that I finished strong.
But congratulating Aaron after the race, he told me that he never knew I took those bathroom breaks, and he thought I was ahead of him, and when I caught up to him at the end, he thought I was lapping him! Good thing for him his motivation to not be lapped was as good as motivation to not relinquish the lead!
Jodi ended up winning the women's race, for at least the third time I believe. She really does well here. Susan Warren and Alicja Barahona were 2nd and 3rd women. Jerry Panullo was third man. For those born in 1951, the men's winner was James Gawle from Massachusetts with more than 33 miles, and the women's winner was Patricia Carroll with 23.
As always, it was good to enjoy a beautiful day on the trails with so many friends, and a great way to end the New York-area ultra year. Next up: JFK!