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At the Races

18th River to Sea Relay, Aug. 3, Milford to Manasquan – Team 1 Grumpy Grovers

18th River to Sea Relay, Aug. 3, Milford to Manasquan

No one on the Grumpy Grovers could figure out how Paul Kartanowicz ran The Frying Pan, the 9.1-mile leg in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the state, so fast year after year. Then he ran it more than three minutes faster this year than he did last year – at 6:05 pace.

No one on the Grumpy Grovers could figure out how Harold Porcher could run The Beast, the approximately 8-mile hillfest, so efficiently either. Then he ran it 11 seconds a mile faster this year than he did last year, 6:25 pace over terrain similar to Bradford followed immediately by three Mount Hebrons, followed by four more uphill/downhill quad-busters.

And no one on the Grumpy Grovers could figure out how Mike Skara could run 8 miles in the morning and another 8 miles in the evening with such strength. Then he ran the first leg almost 4 ½ minutes faster this year than he did last year and the second leg a minute faster, all well under 7-minute pace.

It was that kind of day for the Grumpsters, who took advantage of the most benevolent weather in my 16-year association with R2C to run what appears to be the fastest pace an Essex Running Club team has ever turned in: 6:32 per mile, for a final time of 10:04:11 that put us 14th overall in a field of 104. It shows what a good team having a good time in good weather (high of 79 degrees, clouds and light rain) can do.

The course was shortened by a half-mile this year because of bridge construction, so time comparisons are apples and oranges and nectarines; the R2C course has had three lengths in the past five years. But there’s no disputing: the Grumpsters ran pretty freakin’ fast this year.

How fast? Glen Freyer ran 6:33 pace for 8 miles in the morning … and 6:00 for 5.5 in the afternoon. Craig Van Doren, a first-time Grumpster, sailed on the tow path in the morning and was sub-7s running the wild card in the afternoon with Harold. Brian Foster ran Leg 5 for the second straight year and shaved 40 seconds off his time … then picked up six minutes for us on Leg 12 compared with our 2012 effort. I ran Leg 7 15 seconds faster than I did last year and even managed some sub-7s for the short dash to the finish. We needed the speed, beating one team by 14 seconds and another by 21 over 91 miles.

We race hard and play hard on R2C day, and fortunately we can laugh at ourselves. As when both vans forgot Harold at the end of The Beast. We also remember Grumpy Grovers past; our singlets were emblazoned on the back with “Running for Doug,” for Doug Williams, a Grumpster from the beginning in 2007 who was, sadly, taken from us two years ago. We figured Doug was up on the Relay Course in the Sky laughing at our goofs and lauding our good fortune.

We had plenty of both. And we’ll be back for more next year. – Phil Coffin

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