Friday, November 28, 2008

Friendly but Intense Competition

I'm a sucker for a good competition, especially if I can just relax and watch. So when I found out who was lining up at yesterday's Thanksgiving 4-Miler, I cruised on over for some pre-turkey spectatin' and hecklin'.

Three of my fleetest-footed runner friends--each of them excellent cyclists to boot--would be lining up against each other in this popular annual event. Stakes higher than normal. Grand Prix tie-breaker points on the line. Prizes too, a rarity for local running races. Side bets were placed and taunts were lobbed in a bit of pre-race psychological warfare.

The three combatants (all equally capable of winning):

Mike Smith--gazillion-time winner of the Santa Barbara Sprint Triathlon, including this year at 44 years old. 9-minute two-miler, sub-15 5K, and 31-minute 10K. He's been speedy ever since his track days at Westmont in the 80's. I first met Mike 20 years ago as we rode together off the front of a mass-start Gibraltar Hill Climb. I can personally attest to his tenacity.

Todd Booth--Most consistent top finisher in local running races, ranging from one-mile to a half-marathon distance. 39 years old but getting faster every year. Top California MTB expert-class rider and energetic leader of my team. Rumored to fancy those pink foofie Starbucks drinks, but I won't say that to his face.

Eric Forte--41-year-old Librarian, Father, and quiet philosopher of all thing meaningful. But don't let that fool you... he'll rip out your liver and eat it for breakfast, raw. I've personally witnessed fits of rage in the heat of competition. When he channels that force, he's nearly unbeatable. Case-in-point, last year I saw him solo away from the cat-3 field at the Orosi Road Race to win 10 minutes.

Here's what happened yesterday...

Pre-race smiles almost hide the intensity in the air. When/if Eric (L) moves back to town, and when/if Todd (R) gets a year older, there will be epic battles between these two in the 40+ age group.

Todd started really fast, and soon after this picture he had a nice gap. Smitty tucked in right behind Eric.

Not that those three would notice, but behind was a moving mass of humanity. Nearly 500 runners toed the line, making for a lot of justifiable gorging on turkey and pumpkin pie later in the day!

Todd's blistering pace shattered almost everyone. All except Eric, who clawed back and took the lead. They came through the two mile mark (shown here) in a remarkable 9:56!! Whose engine would better absorb that early pain?

Smitty followed just off the pace, but keeping it steady like he's done for 30 years.

Eric pulled away into the headwind on the gradually-uphill mile three.

Todd close behind but showing the strain of the early attack.

Eric leaves it all on the road during the final mile and finishes first in 20:49.

Todd 2nd, a bit disappointed perhaps, but a rocking fast time anyway.

And the old warrior Smitty takes the Bronze.

Post race, everyone is friends again.

Results and more pictures.

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