Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I drink from the keg of glory, Donna. Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land” ~ Josh Lyman, The West Wing

Matt, Team Captain of SRR-Wind, drinking from the Keg of Glory

Race: Club Challenge Cup 26x1 Relay
Location: Somerville, MA
Goal Time: 5:30
Actual Individual Time: 5:45
Team Time: 2:38:06, Third place over all.
At the end of the day, I was able to laugh at my overzealous start. Joe O’Leary – coach and role model extraordinaire, who at 42(?) runs a track mile faster than I did at 18 – also had a good laugh at my first 200 after the race. “My first 200 was only 2 seconds faster and I thought I was going out too fast!”
But, before the end of the day, there is the beginning of the day. The morning was filled with summer thundershowers. Now, for those from the South and West, New England thundershowers are not the refreshing heat beating rains one gets in the late afternoon of the Dog Days. Nope, they are cold (comparatively), less intense and far longer. What would be 15 minutes of respite in Atlanta or Saint Louis is 3 hours of dreariness in New England. The storms threatened to make the track and running upon it a total mess. Things did not look good for the relay.

Rain, Rain, go away, the running clubs want to play.

The Club Challenge Cup 26x1 Relay is what it sounds like. Each team has 25 runners who run one mile (1600 meters, actually) and one runner who starts the race with a 592 and later runs a mile him/herself. The 12 Teams who were entered this year – including four from Somerville Road Runners – waited around wherever they could stay dry awaiting the start.
On the threshold of H-Hour, Brendan Kearney - race director, runner, and clandestine meteorologist – announced that the race would be pushed back half an hour, “as this cell of storms should pass over.”
“You’re a weather man now?” I asked.
“Well, I looked at the Doppler on my iPhone. I think I can see what the clouds are going to do,” was Brendan
“Okay, sure thing,” I scoffed.
[Aside] I would like to take this moment to apologize to Brendan. Your remarkable climatological skills with only a smart phone proved exceptional. I’m sorry for my misplaced derision. The rain cleared up right when he predicted it.
To borrow from team captain, Matt Noyes, we have a “long-established (read year-long) tradition of team naming.” Last year Somerville Road Runners’ three teams were: Blood (Fast), Sweat (Faster) and Tears (Fastest). This year: Earth, Wind and Fire. This year I made the jump from Fast onto the Faster Team Wind. And, I got to run the second mile (third leg, as Josh ran the 592 meter “speed leg” before he then ran our 9th or 10th mile).
Dennis put in a fantastic first mile. As he approached the hand-off, he looked quite confused. Unlike virtually everybody else in our club, I was NOT wearing an SRR jersey since I have not successfully been able to buy one yet (instead I had on my early 1990s Deion Sanders Falcons jersey); AND, he probably had no idea who I was. I looked up and just yelled “WIND!!! WIND!!!” Confusion subsided; crisis was averted.
When I received the baton we were in fifth place behind SRR-Fire, Cambridge-A, Greater Lowell - A and Wicked Running, I think. I set out on what felt like a good and quick pace. Well… one of those was correct. It was quick!
After the aforementioned overzealous 200, I came around the second turn. Along the front stretch, there was a puddle roughly the area of Kazakhstan and the volume of the Caspian Sea. Third place, from the Wicked Running Club, was going right to avoid the puddle. I just trudged right through the Caspian Sea in lane 1; and, by the end of the first lap I had put SRR-Wind into 4th place. The Wicked runner sounded as if he sped up when I passed and tried to stay with me. By the end of 500, however, something Wicked that way went – fading away behind me.

What time is it? PRIMETIME!!!
Laps 2 and 3, I put myself into a good pain position. I was running well. As I completed my third lap – I hit it at 4:18. While this was a bit slow, I knew I could still put in a good time with one last 80 on the last lap. I started to gun it – at least I thought. I was definitely putting in more effort, but as I came around and handed off the baton to Karen. I looked at the watch and had run a 5:45. My last lap for all the effort was only an 87, ungh.
Fortunately, from Karen on down, my team picked up my bad performance – leading to the final legs. Among those who picked me up was my personal friendly rival - Bill Hees. Bill ran a 5:44 to beat my time by one second - bastard!
Yet before that could happen, the first two teams had to fight it out. SRR-Fire and Cambridge-A were, in the eyes of the race director, neck and neck when SRR’s Greg, mile 24, got the baton for the next to last handoff. Brendan gave him quick update and some encouragement. “You have only about a hundred yard lead, kick it up!” It was only when Cambridge came through not handing off did Brendan realize SRR-Fire had a 100 yards PLUS one lap lead.
[aside] Apparently Mr. Kearney is such a savant when it comes to meteorology that he has forgotten how to count to four.
With a good kick from Greg followed by Alex and Joe, SRR-Fire maintained their lead to set the meet record – 2:19:26. Cambridge-A came in only a minute and a half back – 2:21:04 which would have been the meet record.

Joe O'Leary (lane 2 in yellow), coming in for the Bell Lap for SRR-Fire

As Cambridge-A was coming in for second, my team – SRR-Wind, Cambridge-B and Greater Lowell-A were within one minute of each other and running for the last podium spot. With the anchor leg and most of the team lining the track Aharon Wright took a close race – 30 seconds to Cambridge and 1½ minutes to Lowell and made it not so close opening up a 1 minute lead and securing our spot for third on the podium!

Robert, enjoying the Keg of Glory

Thanks to Karen Sarefin for the pictures.