Saturday, July 18, 2009

Back in the Day, 30 & 10 Years Ago

Thirty years ago this weekend, i ran my first St Mary's Feast 5.5 Mile race. It is held at 5 pm on a Saturday and needless to say, is normally a swelteringly hot day with very little shade along the way. This was race #11 of the year for me which also make it 11th ever, seeing this was my first year racing. I started out with my buddy Richard Collard  and after pulling away from him, ended up in a battle with Darryl Simoneau from Cumberland HS, getting out kicked into the finish. I finished in 30.30 for 5.5 or 5.7, or whatever the real distance was. My friend, Roland Davide, in my opinion, the best runner ever to come out of Rhode Island, easily won the race. Roland was on the comeback trail at the time with a lot of great running in front of him. 

Along the way, i logged many long runs with Roland, which helped push me to the extreme. We would run a Saturday morning 21 miler that was back loaded with some killer hills, pushing up the pace towards the end of the run. It was not unusual for us to run the last mile in 5-5.05 after running two shitty steep long hills leading to the finish at his house in Coventry. Of course, there were days when i would just grab his shoulder and say SLOW DOWN, we always ended up picking the pace up again anyway. I remember one long run leading up to the New York City Marathon in 1982. I told him of this 20 mile workout we could do on a rolling course out around the Scituate Reservoir. We headed out on the supposed 20 that ended up being 27 miles, the pace coming in was fast. I think Roland was pissed! We were wiped out, having no water for 27 miles will do that, but back then, who needed water anyway. Because of my indiscretion in getting the miles right, Roland told me i had to double up on my races the next day so i could join him at an afternoon race he was committed to running at the PM Pub. We both ran the Warwick 10k in the morning where i surprisingly ran 32 flat for a PR at that distance, Don't remember Roland's time, but i would guess it was 30 low change. Later that afternoon, we showed up at the PM Pub and went 1-2 for the 5 mile race after an early scare from Dick Tardiff, who rocketed out at the start, and we no doubt, enjoyed a few beers after the race. The photo in the local paper had us finishing side by side and many people said i almost beat Roland, Yeah, Right. He was a sub 30 10k guy, no way i was beating him at that point of my running career. I really enjoyed my time running with Roland Davide and he is part of the reason i got as fast as i did.

Shoot ahead 20 years to the same weekend as St Mary's and we have the Wachuset to Wachuset Road Race. Like St Mary's, it was a late afternoon 5 mile race and this year, it was hotter than hell. Race time temp was about 95 degrees. I made the trek up to this race with some of the Turtle boys, Dave Larsen, Mark Mitsmenn, Ernie Valliere and Chris McDonough in Dave's 1977 Eldorado. There is more room in this car than a school bus. One of the major draws here was that it finished at a brewery with live music and beer after the race, what is better than that! It also had 40% downhill and only 20% up in this point to point race, so the course profile seemed quite interesting. The race started in the parking lot at the ski area and came screaming downhill to Rte 140 and then headed along rolling hills until you hit the 4 mile mark where it went down for about 3/4 of a mile and then flat into the finish. My last mile of the race was a 4.40 mile, side by side with Dan Johnson from Providence, not bad for a 41 year old. We came in towards the finish and realized that you had to make a sharp 180 degree turn 100 meters from the finish. At the pace we were running, we thought, who the f--- thought up this finish? Dan, with the younger legs, got me in the sprint. The last mile was electric, it had to be one of the most exhilarating last miles i ever ran in a race. Side by side and neither would give, striding like gazelles, that is what racing is all about! 

Too bad this race only lasted for a few years, your entry fee got you a t-shirt, a pint glass and a growler of beer along with music and food. Why do these races always seem to disappear? 

 Wachusett to Wachusett 5-Miler
Westminster, MA, July 17, 1999
  1   1/98   M2029   24:20  4:52 ARTHUR GILKES          25 M   774 SOMERVILLE MA           CMS
 2   2/98   M2029   24:41  4:57 DANIEL JOHNSON         26 M   956 PROVIDENCE RI           BAA
3   1/176  M4049   24:43  4:57 SCOTT MASON            41 M   576 WARWICK RI              TNT
4   1/203  M3039   24:47  4:58 MAURITS VAN DER VEEN   32 M   775 SOMERVILLE MA           CMS
5   1/19   M0119   24:55  4:59 MIKE SMITH             19 M  3034 PRINCETON MA            CMS
 6   3/98   M2029   25:00  5:00 RICHARD BOLT           28 M   862 PEPPERELL MA            CMS
 7   2/19   M0119   25:21  5:05 NATE JENKINS           18 M  3037 TEMPLETON MA            UMASS LOWELL
8   4/98   M2029   25:39  5:08 KEVIN BECK             29 M   982 CONCORD NH              CMS
9   2/176  M4049   26:49  5:22 TIM BLOUIN             42 M   607 TEMPLETON MA            GLRR/NMC
10   2/203  M3039   27:09  5:26 JASON CAKOUROS         34 M   107 MILTON MA

Monday, July 13, 2009


For the last two years, i have been photographing the mountain races and i've had a great time doing it. Yesterday, i decided to be on the other side of the camera and try running one of these things. This would be the first time i have ever done a mountain race. The thought had crossed my mind many years ago when i was a much faster, but i just never pulled the trigger on it. It is also my first race this year without snowshoes under my feet. I knew coming into this that i was in no way ready to race, but what the hell, lets do it anyway.

The day started good with a nice easy 3 mile warmup with all the CMS and other mountain studs. Running wise, that is as good as the day got. Soon after, it was over to the start line to begin this adventure. A few words with Trail Pixie before the gun and we were off. I found that trying to figure out what kind of pace to run up the mountain is not easy, so i just went slow. At about the mile i broke into a power walk which is not much slower than running on the steep sections of road. I kept this up for the next mile or so when it was time to veer onto the trails to the top. This is where it got ugly. The rock strewn trails are steep technical climbs, not condusive to running at all. On top of that, there was much mud, running water and slick footing. For me, being in less than ideal condition, call it fat and out of shape if you will, it was torture. I pulled over a number of times to let faster people through, otherwise you could not pass. I finally made it to the top, it was great to come out of the woods and see the finish line right away. As i made it the final steps, there was Jim Johnson with his camera shooting away. I just had a blank stare towards the camera. Now i know what some of the mountain runners must think when they see me pointing a camera at them on the steep slopes i like to set up on. Oh yeah, Jim also won the race, congratulations JJ. After a long wait for the awards to be given out, we ran back down the mountain road. Probably not the best thing to do as my legs feel shot today, but the knees are good which is very positive.

Now i know what i have to do to get ready for Mt Mansfield in 7 weeks.

If i decide to try Ascutney again next year, i hope that they change the course back to all road.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Upper Walking Boss, Loooooon

A few days before the Loon Mountain race, race director, Paul Kirsch, mentioned that nobody ever shot photos from the Upper Walking Boss and he wouldn't mind seeing some from there.Well, it sounded like a good subtle hint to me and a great challenge too. I watched the start of the race down along the Pemigewasset River and then made haste for the gondolas for a ride to the top, well, almost the top. 

Once i got off the gondola ride, i had to get to the North Peak before the runners reached the same. I booked it up the Summit Trail, a 300ft rise in about 1/3 of a mile, a power walk mixed with some slow running, all while carrying two good size cameras. That little hike kicked the crap out of me, but i made it well before therunners. Now that i was there, it was time to start down Upper Walking Boss, a black diamond slope. My first reaction was, i'm not walking down there, but with a closer look, it did not look so bad. At least i wasn't running up it! Watch your step going down and it is easy. Once the runners started coming up, it was all worth it. I love to shoot where the runners are pushed to their limits and this is one of the best places i have ever been able the photograph. Anything you shoot at the local 5k could never come close to what you see here.
See all my photos here.

It was great to see Jim Johnson coming up the slope first, granted he wasn't moving too fast and seemed to 
be getting caught. He did get caught and then got it all 
back and then some on the descent. Good win, Jim.

 The grade where i started shooting was around 40-45%. You look at some of the pictures and have to be amazed at the angle these runners are to the slope. Absolutely brutal! A few of the runners did manage to run, slowly, all the way up the mountain. Talk about quad burn.

 As i worked my way down the course, taking photos all along the way, most everyone is in good spirits. You wouldn't think so if you saw what they were in the midst of running up. I got many smiles and mugging for the camera. I carried on some short conversations and joking around. I even had some runners ask why i was shooting pictures on the worst part of the course. Why shoot when you are running comfortably, that is too easy. Of course, i told them Paul made me do it :) 

These mountain runners are a great group of people.

Read these blogs for the real runners accounts of the race:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cranmore Hillclimb 2009

Yeah, I know, A little late on getting this stuff out on the blog this week. 

I had a great time shooting the race this year. I picked up a ride to the top of the mountain with the waterstop crew and then gradually made my way down the mountain while shooting 2000+ images. A stellar field made it an even better to watch. Too bad there aren't more spectators up on the hill to urge the runners on, they don't know what they are missing.

See my photos here and here

I also put out a video slideshow here.

See a fun slideshow of the race by Ken Skier here

Gotta love the look on Paul Bazanchuks face in the photo, kinda says it all, don't it.

See you all at Loon Mountain this week. Paul Kirsch wants to see some shots from the Upper Walking Boss, so that is where i will be. 40% grade, WOW!