The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

The Meltdown in Williamstown

alternate title: The older I get, the faster I was
alternate title: Don't piss off Ed Whitlock

The History
Two years ago, at the Great Raisin River Foot Race, in Williamstown; I was about 100 meters from the finish of the 5K race, on track for a pretty good time. The PA announcer boomed, "Here he comes! Let's hear it for the fastest man in the World", and the crowd went crazy. I then realized that 78-year old Ed Whitlock was RIDING MY COAT TAILS to his own glorious 5K finish, and the silver-locked devil slingshotted off my draft and punked me at the finish line by half a second.

My elbow, followed closely by Silver-Locks, Ed Whitlock

That instantly became the "running" joke among friends and within the Cornwall Multisport Club.

Foiled!  Phil Barnes loses it at the line to Ed Whitlock again! (courtesy my friends in the Cornwall Multisport Club)
The joke would manifest itself into the Greatest challenge ever laid down at the Williamstown Fair: The Takedown in Williamstown. A rematch to settle the score, once and for all.

I trained long and hard, and developed a sure-fire strategy to cement a victory. And true enough, last year, after many, many, many kilometers of training I was able to pull off a feat which many people thought was unachievable. I smoked 79-year old Ed Whitlock by over 4 seconds.

Surely, the score had been settled. A wrong had been righted. Alas, no... during the awards ceremony, a fury was building inside Ed Whitlock. A rage so unquenchable, he just blurted it out: "Next year we do the 11K". Oh crap, he may just as well have said, "I triple dog-dare you".

Whitlock: "Next year we make it a man's race!"

August 7th couldn't come quick enough. All year, since the Takedown in Williamstown, I had been receiving regular updates on the "Great" Ed Whitlock. People would send me links to races he'd won, new records he'd set, clips to news articles lauding his achievements. Even non-runner friends were sending me news articles - "Hey.. have you heard about this 80 year old runner, Ed Whitlock? What an inspiration!" Yes, yes, yes, I know about this guy!!!!!

Race Day
The moment had finally arrived. The moment I had been dreading all year. The day I was about to eat humble pie. We found each other about half an hour before the start, and shared a few laughs. I asked how he was feeling, and got the worst possible answer: "Great". I asked him his strategy, he wouldn't tip his cards. A friend had pried it out of him earlier... straight 4:20s

...gulp... this was going to hurt.

The air-horn went off and we were running. My strategy was to stick to him like glue. Maybe I could get him to slow down to my pace, and then on the home stretch, I could turn on the jets. The race route was lined 3 deep for the first 200 meters. Everyone was cheering. "Go Phil!", "Go Ed!"; the crowd was into it. Soon we were on the main road, and I noticed the pace was pretty fast... maybe he's caught up in the excitement, surely he'll slow down...

We hit the first kilometer marker at 4:20 on the nose. I was breathing like a race horse. This guy is going to kill me! Toe-to-toe we continued, the 2 kilometer mark: 4:17. "Sacre-bleu!"

A water station in 50 meters, I pull over and grab a cup on the run... he just keeps going...  ...and that would be the last I saw of him. He just kept it going, while I melted like Frosty the Snowman running across the Sahara.

Eventually, I made it to the finish line. Along the way, I hoped he had blown up in the torrid humidity; but it wasn't to be, the old guy had kept it going... consistently splitting 4:20 or less the whole way. I hobbled in 7 minutes after him.

Here we are at the finish, my Mom took the picture, I can't honestly remember why we're laughing.
* * *

Some other reflections on the race

The day was a real douzy. The temp was at least 30, and with the humidex, it was probably approaching 40. It seemed to take it's toll on most runners. I have never sweated so much in my life.  A nice part about the day, was that my Mom and Dad had come up to run with us too.

My dad had a great 11K run, and my Mom ran with Laura. Andrew bested his time from last year, and Guylaine "PR'd" her 5K by over a minute.

In preparation for this race, I made all the classic mistakes: first and foremost, I didn't train properly (oops); I also made a critical mistake of not even warming up - Zero to 4:20 - a recipe for disaster. Ultimately, I was kidding myself -- I can pretty much fake my way to a "fast" 5K time.... but 4:20 for 11K would never ever be in the cards for me (my best 10K is 4:30 pace).

Old guys seriously had their way with me on Sunday. It seems that since getting dropped at the 2-and-a-half K point, there was a constant parade of old guys passing me. In total, eleven "geezers" (50+) would better me.

A little retribution...
With about 30 meters to go, a twelfth geezer, John Bakker, slingshotted off my draft on his way to the finish line. He even said, "na-na-na-na-bou-boo" on his way by. Well, that really pissed me off, and I mustered every ounce of self-dignity I had left, and sure enough, I nipped him just at line, I even had enough energy to give him a friendly punch in the shoulder as I passed him. The look on his face made the day!

The Meltdown, kilometer by kilometer...


How to blow up - or - how *not* to pace the Williamstown 11K

So that's that! No more duels.... ....although I bet I could take him in a beer mile.