On behalf of the Howard County Striders, we would like to thank our volunteers and sponsors for making this event a success!!!
Conducted by the Howard County Striders, the Run Through the Grapevine 8k last Sunday at the Linganore Winery tested runners’ abilities to climb extreme up and down hills, ford streams, cross muddy terrain, and avoid tangled roots and vines— as well as their ability to follow a marked race course that actually did pass back and forth through grapevines. Unfortunately, the top three runners in the race flunked the last part of the exam. Less than half a mile from the finish, the trio of Adam Wytko, Steve Olenick, and Sean Trombly were well ahead of the rest of the field but somehow missed the last turn into the last set of grapevines. Before they recognized their error, they had overshot most of the grapevines and turned up an earlier part of the course, eventually finding themselves wandering among cars in the parking area. Olenick and Trombly dutifully followed the leader Wytko in this escapade.
Not knowing the leaders’ errors, Ryan Hevner and James Blackwood were running just behind and did make the correct turn. “I thought I was running for fourth or fifth,” said Blackwood, who let Hevner pass him in that last set of ‘vines, “and I thought fifth was pretty respectable.” They were surprised to learn they had finished first and second when they crossed the finish line. “I had run the last half mile during warm-up,” Blackwood confided, adding “and there was an arrow [to mark the turn], too!”
The women’s race featured a different type of drama between two women who run the Grapevine race each year to see who’s the best. Although they train together regularly, Sherry Stick and Jill Krebs attacked each other mercilessly during the 8 km race. First one would go ahead, and then the other, up and down the extreme hills and through the root-tangled woods and especially on the muddy hill half-way through the race. “It was a real death match,” Jill said, “just like in the last few years.” This time, Stick emerged victorious, crushing her rival on the last agonizing uphill in through the last grapevine. “We didn’t have any trouble missing the turn,” Sherry said.
Of particular note was the performance of Keith Levasseur, who ran the Baltimore Marathon a few weeks ago in 2:46 while wearing flip-flops. Just the day before the Grapevine race, Keith had completed the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Run, negotiating snow (from Hurricane Sandy) up to a foot deep, as well as the usual assortment of ultra miseries. Keith finished the Grapevine 8k in an astounding 32:20 and placed second among the 30-34 men. He did not wear flip-flops this time. Keith and James Blackwood, along with Grace Tran (who also finished that 50-Miler!), also served on the “We R Wine Bottles” team that finished first in the Open Coed Team Division.
The 2012 Run Through the Grapevine closed its registration its limit three weeks before race day. 669 runners completed the arduous race. The top runners in each gender earned gift certificates to Feet First of Columbia, as well as cash awards. Age group winners and winning teams earned bottles of wine or gift certificates for wine from the Linganore Winery. After the race, the sun came out and many stayed around to lounge in the grass and munch of crackers and cheese and sip wine. Everyone who cross the finish line received a genuine Run Through the Grapevine wine glass so they could drink their wine.
Jason Tripp directed the race, which featured course marshals from the Howard County Strider racing team. The Striders thank Anthony Aellen, proprietor of the Linganore Winery in Frederick County, for the use of his grapevines.
For 17 years, the Run Through the Grapevine 8k course at Linganore Winery was actually a little short, so this year an extra hill was added around another grapevine to satisfy a more exact measurement. The unofficial story for the route change, though, was that Mark Buschman vowed to beat the best time of Pekka Stenholm, a former racing team member who had moved back to his native Finland. Mark and Pekka had met at the Berlin Marathon earlier in the year and must have had a discussion about the Grapevine. Race director Jason Tripp decided the course should be as accurate as possible, so a course extension occurred, and Mark failed by 20 seconds to beat the time (about 30:30). Everyone else reported slower times at the Grapevine “8k” this year, too.
The extra 0.2-mile didn’t bother Carlos Renjifo, who won the race by over 1:30, the largest margin by which anyone had ever won the race (29:07). Carlos led the field for essentially the entire race, although he inexplicably went off course twice. Once, he took second place Andrew Revelle off course with him, and third-place Mike Colaiacovo shouted to them to turn left rather than right. They quickly corrected themselves and resumed the competition. “I thought I could run in 27 or 28 [minutes] but I couldn’t,” Carlos said, not realizing the extra mileage had its effect. Still, he was the only runner in the field to break half an hour on the treacherously hilly course.
The women’s race was a much closer affair than the men’s. Initially, Howard Countian Rian Landers-Ramos assumed the lead, but then Jill Krebs took the lead after emerging from the second set of grapevines. Jill and her teammate Sherry Stick battled “back and forth through the woods.” Jill then took “a weird step” at four miles and Sherry was on her. “I could see she had her game face on,” Jill said. “I knew it was all over.” A perennial winner, Sherry hung on to win by 12 seconds (35:03).
Elkridge’s Donna Wecker outsprinted Jane Wickman of Germantown to claim the award as top master-woman (41:25). Although Donna regularly runs trails, she had never run Grapevine before and was not prepared for the steep hills and ankle-twisting grass. “The hills were brutal,” she said, “and there were soooo many of them.” Donna turns 50 in a few weeks and will then begin to terrorize the grand-master women.
The top master man was Mike Colaiacovo, who finished third overall (30:53) and earned and overall award. The next fastest master was grandmaster Keith McIntyre (34:03). Keith’s stunning performance was blunted only by his son Conner’s beating him.
The Run Through the Grapevine featured a plethora of team competitions. The Howard County Strider Men’s team, with Renjifo, Revelle, Buschman, and Colaiacovo crushed the opposition to win the overall men’s team competition with a perfect score of 10 points. The Baltimore-Washington Athletic Club consisted of Stick and Krebs with their old pal Diana Pool and new-comer Joan Namasinga had a nearly perfect score of 13 in winning the women’s team competition. Put together by Steve Anderson, the OMG men’s masters team won a prize for the seventh year in a row (although it was only men’s masters team). There was no prize for the best team name, but some of the outstanding samples were “Mac Attack” (the McIntyre family) and “Merlot is how we roll” (Ken Miller, Jeanine Rogers, and Laura and Ryan Guenin).
The 18th Annual and Newly-Recalibrated Run Through the Grapevine took place at the Linganore Winery in Carroll County on November 11. The race is staged each year by the Howard County Striders, who wish to thank the winery owner Anthony Aellen for the use of his grapevines and hills. Jason Tripp directed. Award winners received gift certificates for bottles of wine, which they could redeem immediately after the race. The weather was so nice this year that many stayed after the race to enjoy wine and lunch under pleasant autumn skies.
The race sold out two weeks before with a total of 650 registrants. Of these, 573 actually showed up and ran the race. “Not a record, but close,” said official scorer Jim DiSciullo.