Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Holyoke St Patrick's day 10K

I trouped out to Holyoke to hook up with my cousins the O’Connor’s at the 35th annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day 10K.  As I drove through Chicopee I noticed that I was only about a ¼ mile from where I  lived as a kid on Pendleton Ave and figured I’d swing past the old house after the race.  Upon arriving in down town Holyoke I couldn’t help but noticing how rundown the city is.  Old mill buildings and 3 and 4 story tenement houses were in degrees of disrepair with most windows missing.  Now I’m thinking “what have I got myself into”, “where am I going to park my car”?  I drove to the location Dan O’Connor had given me “the corner of Chestnut and Dwight” and found that the O’Connor’s had commandeered a parking lot and were only letting their friends in.  Great, I will have a car after I finish this thing.  


I was greeted by Mike O’Connor, who was already enjoying a St Patrick’s day beverage, “No I’m not running, I’ve had 2 knee operations already” Mike said to me.  Soon I was saying hello to almost all of the O’Connor’s.  Tommy, Johnny, Jimmy, Judy, Irene, Michael, Danny and Kevin.  Francine, might have been there but I’m not sure.  Along with the O’Connor’s there was many of their kids (most are adults now), grandkids and many friends.  In all I’d say there were about 50+ in the group.  The weather was perfect, 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.  However 75 degrees is perfect for drinking adult beverages and watching a race but not so good for running if all the running you’ve done is in below freezing temperatures or 35 degrees and pouring.  This was going to be one hot race for me.  


I asked around to see who needed to get there race number and discovered that most of the O’Connor’s weren’t running, with the exception of Danny and Kevin.  Most of their kids were running.   OK I needed to get checked in and get my number.  I jogged over to the start area and quickly checked in.  There were over 5000 people registered for this race, making it the 3rd largest race in MA.  WOW.  As I jogged around I noticed that there was a pub on just about every corner and every one of them had outdoor taps running and people were packing them at 10:30 in the morning.  On the common across from where I was parked was a huge tent which was set up with more taps.  This was going to be one big block party after this race.  


I socialized with all the crew up until 12:30, then it was time to get ready.  I did some stretching and loosened up a bit with a light run.  I walked down to the start with Kevin and as I did a guy about my age grabs and says “Hey aren’t you Scotty Graham”?  I responded “yes”,  He introduced himself to me and said that he recognized me from my picture on my blog.  I was flattered because I recognized this guy by his name, Paul Bazanchuk, and he is one of the top 50+ year old runners in the country.  We headed over to the starting line together but the race officials wouldn’t let us jump in the front.  They wanted us to go around the side and to the back of the pack.  Paul and I decided that this was not going to work for us so we jumped over the barriers and got into the 4th row.  Paul warned me to take it easy on the start of this race because we would be climbing to the 3.5 mile mark, and the big guns were going to take it out at 4:30 pace. 


Soon the “GO” command was given and we were off.  I was running hard, TO HARD, I was going to pay sooner or later.  About ¼ of a mile in I passed the O’Connor PARTY.  Then I noticed Danny up in front of me.  Dan had jumped in from the ¼ mile mark to avoid the crush of 5000 people.  He wasn’t going to win so why not.  I ran up behind him and gave him a slap on the back and encouraged him to hang with me.  No doing, and I continued down the road.  Soon we were climbing, and climbing and climbing.  I was toast.  People were passing me in waves.  There was one guy in front of me who would do a cart wheel every now and then to get the crowd going.  This really pissed me off.  I marked him for a kill.


Finally we reached the top of the hills by Holyoke Community College.  The homes up there were very nice and well maintained.  A huge difference from down town.  Now it was time to open up my stride and see how many people I could reel in.  I started off slowly and began picking people off.  As I continued I was catching loads of people.  At the 5 mile mark the O’Conner’s were on the side of the road cheering us in.    I even caught Mr. Cart Wheel.  Now I can sleep at night.


I ended up running 43:34 which works out to a 7:01 per mile pace.  I was 169th of 5000 runners and 9th in my age category and 12 Irish American.  This was my slowest 10K EVER!!  This was even a slower pace then I ran Boston marathon last year (6:55 per mile).  This was one tough race.  I got back to the O’Connor’s tailgate party and was the first runner back.  Soon Danny’s son was back then came Danny, Kevin and the rest of the kids and friends.   Soon the party was in full swing.  Food, soda, Gatorade, and adult beverages were flowing.  I spent some time speaking with each of the O’Connor’s.


When I say there was a big party in down town Holyoke, I mean really BIG.  It was 9 square blocks with all the roads jammed with people, and beverage tents everywhere.  It was the largest block party I’ve ever seen.  And to think on Sunday it was going to be 10 times larger with the parade.  WOW


Around 3 PM it was time to hit the road so I headed out and swung by our old house on Pendleton Ave.  Funny we moved out of there when I was 9 years old but I remembered the way from the old dinner like it was yesterday.  The road was pot hole city, I think there were more pot holes then tar.  The two houses on the lot hadn’t changed much but there was a fence in between them now.  I can’t believe that 6 of us lived in a house that size.  Thanks Mom and Dad for moving us east and giving us a path to allow us to achieve so much.  We are truly blessed. 


Time to really focus in on Boston!!!



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