Monday, July 23, 2012

No Race for the Weary

The is a copy and paste from the Greenfield Recorder. If there is a copyright issue here, please contact me and ill be happy to take it off. Go team SMAC Down!

Greenfield Recorder 07/19/2012, Page B01


No race for the weary


Recorder Staff

Team SMAC Down members pose for a shot Saturday morning at the Mount Greylock Vistors’ Center in Adams before embarking on a grueling, 26-hour, 200-mile, cross-state relay race that ended Sunday in Boston with a second- place showing. The team members are (standing), left to right, James Callaway, Donna Utakis, Carla Halpern, Mike Towsley, John McCarthy, Leeann Cerpovicz and daughter Allie Cerpovicz. In the front row, left to right, are Rebeka Slowzak, Garth Shaneyfelt, Marc Guillaume, Kristin Tetrault, and Luca Grisa. 

Driving from the summit of Mount Greylock to Boston would not be a short trip.

Try running it.

That’s exactly what a dozen members from the Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club did this past weekend, when they took part in the Mass Dash Relay to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The Mash Dash is in its third year of existence and covers 200 miles, beginning at the Mount Greylock Visitors Center in Adams and ending on the beach just past the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

The team, called Team SMAC Down, included captain Marc Guillaume (Greenfield), Garth Shaneyfelt (Greenfield), Mike Townsley (Bernardston), Carla Halpern (New Salem), Luca Grisa (Amherst), James Callaway (Keene, N.H.), John McCarthy, Kristin Tetrault, Donna Utakis, Leeann Cerpovicz, Allie Cerpovicz, and Rebeka Slozak. The 12 runners competed against 30 other teams and came home with the silver medal, finishing the course in second place in 25 hours, 58 minutes. The winning team finished in 23 hours, 58 minutes, 10 seconds.

But running a 200-mile relay is about more than just passing a baton and trying to finish ahead of the other teams. There’s much more to it than that.

The course was made up of 36 legs, with each team member running three. Each leg varied in distance, but Bernardston resident and SMAC Down member Townsley said the running ability of each team member also varied, so things worked out well for the team to perform at such a high level.

The team was broken up into two vans, so that when the first van was running, the second van could move ahead and give members a break. While a member of a van was running, the other members of the same van were able not only to support the runner, but also to provide water and other liquids to stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated was crucial with the temperatures soaring into the 90s with high humidity throughout the day, then dipping into the low 70s with high humidity at night. Townsley said many of the runners would inform teammates in the same van when they needed a drink and the van would move ahead to accommodate the request. Teammates would then jog alongside the runner and pass a drink to help cool the him or her down.

“It was a pretty good feeling to see all the members working hard like that,” Townsley said of the hydration efforts. “Hydration and team support was a major contributor to (our) success.”

Townsley also said that members of the team were able to stop off at the Daughters of the American Revolution State Forest in Goshen to jump into the Highland Lake and cool off. But aside from the quick swim, it was all about drinking water, drinking water and more water.

A trip from Adams to Boston as the crow flies would not total up to 200 miles, so as you can imagine, it full of turns that took the team through a number of towns.

Another issue was that, unlike a smaller, more normal-sized road race, was navigating a 200-mile course on See RACE Page B3

Race: Local heroes

From Page B1

which a runner could easily get lost on. With all the twists and turns, you might think runners might miss a turn and run off-course. But event organizers made sure this didn’t happen. All 200 miles were marked with signs at all of the turns and cones with blinking lights so that nighttime runners could see the turns.

“The people that put this race on did a phenomenal job,” Townsley said. “All corners and turns were marked with signs. It was a major concern going into the race. You’re out there and there’s no course officials. But the people who put on the race did a great job.”

Running a race at night was likely a new experience for many of the participants. Runners were required to wear flourescent vests, a blinking light and a headlamp for their safety. Townsley noticed a distinct difference running at night.
“Time tends to go a little bit faster,” he explained. “Even though some of the runners were running six to nine miles, it was like there was no difference in time from someone running less miles.”

After running during the early part of the night, Townsley said his van raced ahead to Hopkinton and arrived at the town common where the Boston Marathon begins. The team pulled out sleeping bags around 2:30 a.m. and tried to catch some quick Zs, getting about two hours before waking up and preparing for their next transition at 5:30.

“It was a little bit different, laying on a town common in a place you don’t know,” Townsley joked.

After starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, the team finally crossed the finish line around noon on Sunday. Many of the participants then headed into the ocean to cool down and celebrate the second-place finish.

A fitting way to wrap up a 200-mile journey.

Monday, July 2, 2012

2012 Charlemont Downriver Race

The Charlemont downriver race is a class 1-2 canoe and kayak race on the Deerfield River from the Zoar Picnic area to the Charlemont high school know as the Shunepike section. I have been told since Hurricane Irene the shunepike rapids have increased in number and size, but they are all still easy to read and very managable. With that in mind i choose my weapon, the 19ft West Side Exceed.

The magic of duct tape
I got to the race pretty early to patch up my boat. I had to replace a bungee on the rudder and patch up some screw holes and rig up a webbing brace. Nothing a little duct tape cant fix.

Modern wildwater boat vs. vintage boat

We had a great outing of canoes and kayaks. Included in the long kayak division, 14 ft kayaks and greater, were US Wildwater Team member Mark Wendolowski, Pro Female kayaker Elaine Campbell, class 5 kayaker and volunteer firefighter Jeff Berienger (off to fight fires in Colorado...good luck Jeff), local racers and former winners Tim Nutt and Lou Carrier,  Dryway racer Carl L, and myself.

After hanging around waiting for the water to make it down from the Dam release, we sat around talking shop. Lou, Tim, and I each had a 19 ft West Side Boat, the fastest boats in the group if you can handle the length and tippiness. Jeff was trying out his first 'pure' wildwater boat, a very tippy rounded hull, he was to spend as much  time controlling his stability than moving forward. Carl L had a vintage wildwater boat from the 70s (pictured on left)

The Charlemont race presents some additional challenges in that the river is not excluded from the local public and on a warm day as it was this Saturday, hundreds of tubers (maybe even
thousands) will come to float down the cool Deerfield rapids.

Mark in his Wildwater

The race started in 5 min groupings, with small kayaks first followed by long kayaks and then the canoe divisions.  The race started and immediately Mark shot out like a cannon. Tim and I quickly went after him. After the first rapid i was able to move ahead of Tim and move within 20 feet of Mark. I wanted to turn my head to see who was behind but did not risk flipping my boat.  Better to keep my eyes on Mark anyway.


Me, weaving through kayaks
 I weaved through the tubers, rafters, and eventually the short kayak class trying to get best lines of current without taken off anyone's hand. At one point the rapid hugged close to a rock and  myself and 3 short kayaks fought for the rapid. As a result, we got hung up and i lost the ability to accelerate from the rapid. My apologizes to the kayakers if i gave them a bit of a yell.  I was matching Mark stroke for stroke and keeping the distance between the two of us constant. Yet every time i gained some momentum from a rapid he would move ahead just as quick  Even though i was definitely in a faster boat then mark, i finished about 30 seconds behind.  I have to say though i am very happy with my paddle, after all he is a member of the US wildwater team


Race Organization
Downriver canoe and kayak races can be a real challenge to organize. With several divisions in kayaks and canoes, a point to point course, insurance, and having to work with local electric company to time the dam releases, i give anyone that is willing to organize this type of race a great deal of respect. Charlie Brackett has been running this race for years and does a fantastic job. Much like a trail race, this is a grass roots race with no bells or whistles (except the ones on you PFD). The cost is low at $15.00, which considering insurance and liability is really cheap.  

Be aware that changes to the schedule can happen at a days notice and this year was no different. The schedule release of 10:00 was pushed ahead an hour to 11:00, which changed our starting time from 1:30 to 2:30. My suggestion to future racers is to have a backup plan in case there is a delay. Bring a second kayak, some running shoes and /or bathing suit. Many racers took a few practice runs down the Gap while others including myself, socialized with other kayakers and canoeists and enjoyed the cool shade. If there is a delay, the Zoar picnic area is a great place to kill some time.

 This year the award ceremony coincided with the Deerfield River Festival which brings whitewater enthusiasts together and provides music, food, vendors, information, etc. 
My only complaint/suggestion for the NECKRA Charlemont downriver race would be to hold the award ceremony in the pavilion during the River Fest.  The festival would be provide a great opportunity to encourage more participation from other would-be racers, give out information about NECKRA and Birch Hill Canoe club, and would keep more charlemont racers at the awards ceremonies as many chose ( or had to go due to sponsors and support)  to attend  the festival rather than the Award ceremony held at the Warfield house.

At the award ceremony, Charlie Brackett announced this will be his last year organizing this race. I hope we can convince him otherwise, or we can find another member to give it a go. This is a fantastic race and should continue for many years to come.
Charlie given directions prior to the race