As Hard as a 100-Miler — Just Different’

Ashley West
Ashley West, though she’s 16, had a hard time shaking Diana Fitzpatrick, who’s 53. Jack Graves

    Justin Kulchinsky, 38, who 15 years ago recorded the 1996 Montauk triathlon’s fastest 10K run split, covering the hilly 6.2-mile course in 34 minutes and 2 seconds on his way to a fourth-place finish, reappeared on the race scene in the Miss Amelia’s Cottage two-miler Sunday, and, not surprisingly, wound up winning it in 10 minutes and 59 seconds.
    In doing so, Kulchinsky, who owns Mayfair Jewelers in East Hampton, and who has had a long layoff, broke the 37-year-old former Harvard miler Amar Kuchinad’s local winning streak at two. Kuchinad had predicted he’d run the Amagansett course, which spans Old Stone Highway, Deep Lane, Town Lane, and Windmill Lane, in around 11 to 111/2 minutes, and he was pretty much right, finishing a few yards behind Kulchinsky in 11:05.
    Kulchinsky, whose 61-year-old father, Dan, also ran, placing 18th among the 35 entrants in 14:02, said that after the ‘96 triathlon here a long layoff ensued, “though I did one triathlon last year.”
    The women’s race was an even closer duel, though the two who fought it out, Ashley West and Diana Fitzpatrick, were separated in age by 37 years, West being 16 and Fitzpatrick, who met her husband, Tim, at this race in 1987, being 53.
    A serious cross-country and track competitor at East Hampton High School, West, who’s being trained by John Conner and Bill Herzog this summer, had a stronger kick at the end, finishing in ninth place over all in 12:42. Fitzpatrick, who runs 100-milers now, and who once ran in the Olympic marathon trials, was just a second behind.
    “She pushed me and passed me on Town Lane,” West said afterward. “So, I figured, ‘If I have to die, I die!’ ”        
    Fitzpatrick, who has a daughter two years older than West, and who was visiting from San Francisco, said, with a smile, she could imagine West thinking, when she passed her on the long straight, “Oh my God! It’s a race!”
     A frequent winner of races when she lived here, Fitzpatrick said that while visiting here over the July 4 weekend she arrived at one of Conner’s Wednesday evening workouts at the high school track in time to hear him say, “ ‘Okay, we’re going to do a mile time trial.’ ” That was when this extremely long-distance runner told Conner she had to go.
    “This race,” Fitzpatrick said, “is as hard as a 100-miler — it’s just different.”
    Whereupon Conner, who had made a point of publicizing Miss Amelia’s this year in light of last year’s dismal turnout, began to advise Fitzpatrick on how to train for a Marin County mile that she plans to do soon.
    Reciting the progression of alternate jog and sprint intervals he wanted her to do in order to pick up her mile pace, Conner said, “You think you’re going to die on that last 100, but,” he added, brightening, “the body remembers.”
    “I love this race,” said Fitzpatrick. “Almost everyone gets something, a raffle prize if not a ribbon. I have a friend, Sara Pearl, who spins now, who still has on her refrigerator the ribbon she won here 10 years ago.”
    “You’re going to get a medal for best-looking,” Charlie van der Horst, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said to Mike Bottini, a fellow trainee of Conner’s.
    Actually, Bottini, who’s 56, and who was one of last year’s two entrants — “the other was Paul Fiondella’s wife” — got one for winning his age group, in 12:20. Bottini was sixth over all, behind Kulchinsky, Kuchinad, 17-year-old Robert Beit, a Deerfield Academy cross-country and track runner, Mike Bahel, and Brandon West, Ashley’s older brother.
    Ashley’s younger brother, Nicholas, whose 5:12 set a record at the East Hampton Middle School this past school year, and who said he’s run a 4:48 mile since, was the eighth-place finisher in 12:28. The West brothers, however, are soccer players first and foremost. Brandon’s to matriculate at national Division III-champion Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., this fall. Nicholas, a center midfielder, will soon be a freshman at the high school.
    It rained on Sunday, for the whole day, but runners don’t mind the rain. “Fortunately,” said John Conner’s wife, Henrika, who thanked the timer, Bob Beattie, for having donated his services, “there was no lightning or thunder.”
    The race was a collaboration between the Amagansett Historical Association and the Old Montauk Athletic Club, whose beneficiaries have included the Bonac on Board to Wellness program and race, the Great Bonac foot races, the East Hampton Coaches Association, various high school varsity teams, including cross-country and lacrosse, East Hampton’s Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad, the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter, the I-Tri program, the East Hampton junior lifeguard program, the Hamptons Track Club, the Montauk Rugby Club, the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, Spokespeople, an advocacy group for cyclists, the Springs Youth Association, and the Springs School scholarship program.
    The road race season continues this Sunday with the 5K Ellen’s Run at Southampton Hospital. It is to start at 9 a.m., “rain or shine.”