|Rats Infest Fred Brown Relay
by Kevin Gorman
Weirs, NH - Sept. 22, 2001
Clouds rolled in and a light rain fell as the gun fired at the start of the 2001 Lake Winnipesaukee Relay. The weather, however, was not an ominous omen for Rat Infested. The eight-man team trekked over 65 miles of challenging hills to come in 5th place out of 134 teams with a total time of 6 hours and 39 minutes. Mike Burke, Tim Snow, Kevin Gorman, Mark Sferrazza, Rob Barker, Phil McNulty, Frank Nelson, and Harvey Blonder averaged close to six-minute mile pace on a rainy, cloudy, and finally sunny day.
Mike Burke started the race off for Rat Infested. His leg was the most competitive of the day. Just about every team put its big gun in the leadoff position. Burke, however, held his own and handed the baton to Tim Snow in 17th place. Burke ran over ten miles with nary a drop of water and drenched his uniform with sweat like water to a sponge.
Tim Snow ran better than the team could have expected. He passed nine runners in his eleven-mile leg while averaging a 5:45 pace. Snow ran tough the whole way and opted to tuck the baton in his shorts rather than hold it. The strategy worked for him as he ran the 5th fastest time of the day for his leg. Snow later joked about his baton transport technique, "You do know WHAT was holding it, donít you?"
If Kevin Gorman knew where Snow had his baton, that couldíve well been the end for Rat Infested. Yet, he did not, and Snow passed it to him in 8th place. Gormanís 9.3-mile leg started with a steep incline only to be followed by rolling hills for the next eight miles. The Kid managed to run 55:40, good enough for 3rd fastest. He picked off two more runners before handing off the hot, sweaty baton in 6th place.
Mark Sferrazza did his job in his four-mile leg. One man passed him, but Sferrazza ran with guts and kept him as close as possible. Prior to the race, the czar of hockomock.net was nervous about letting the team down, but he put his race face on and proved to be a valuable member of the team. Sferrazza took off fast and ended with a good kick. The HSR Summer Series Wednesday night runs paid off for him on this leg.
Despite a perilous handoff, Rob Barker quickly recovered and settled into a pace good enough for 9th fastest in his 10.8-mile leg. The CT import was a strong addition to the Brockton based team. Barker caught one man on his run, and the team was back in 6th. Barker loves to do two things: run and talk running, and both were evident on this day.
Phil McNulty ran the 6th leg (6.4 miles) for Rat Infested. McNulty, who was just coming off a two-week layoff due to illness, shook off the rust, and made his competition eat dust (8th fastest time for his leg). He opened up a sizable lead over the 7th and 8th place teams, and handed the stick off to Nelson still in 6th place.
Frank Nelson, the team captain, was in "the zone" both before and during the race. Running with a stone face, Nelson steadily closed the gap on the 5th place runner. At this point, Nelsonís fellow teammates rallied around him and offered encouragement over his 8.5-mile leg. He managed to close TNTís lead from three minutes down to 25 seconds in his mammoth effort. The 30-year-old ran with heart and determination proving worthy to wear the "C" for the team.
Harvey Blonder was Rat Infestedís anchor. He had an extremely hilly 4.4-mile jaunt in front of him. The wily veteran ran with not only his legs but also his head and overcame the 5th place runner to help the team to their top five finish. All members of Rat Infested were wildly cheering Blonder on as the teamís elder statesman crossed the finish line. He ran the 7th fasted time for his leg, but more importantly passed one runner.
Before the race, some were scoffing team Rat Infested saying a top ten finish was a pipe dream. As the race progressed, however, people started asking team members who they were and where they were from. By the 66th mile, there was no doubt who Rat Infested was or even their validity as they finished 5th in 6:39. No exterminator couldíve stopped Rat Infested on this day. Would even HSR boss, Peter Wallan, be proud? Letís not go crazy.
|2001 Rat Infested Photos by Carey & Paula Snow, Mike Burke, and Mark Sferrazza.|