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Runnin’ with Rani: Stover victorious at Mac-A-Thon 10K

Updated: 
April 21, 2017 - 12:05am

Patrick Stover said that he has never won a race against Billy Barnett.

But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s almost a given that anyone competing against a running legend, like Barnett, would most certainly be happy to settle for second place.

However, that all changed on Saturday when Stover devised a plan of attack before partaking in the 36th Annual Mac-A-Thon 10K and 5K footraces.

Stover said that a few nights before the race, he and local triathlete David Wild met up for a few drinks at a popular pub.

“We were strategizing on how we were going to take down Billy in the 10K,” Stover said of his friend, mentor, and training buddy. “I had the feeling that Billy was going to try and take us out early so I told David that one of us would need to stick with Billy and push the pace, while the other hangs back.”

Everyone knows that when it comes to running, pacing is key. Pushing the pace or going out too hard early on in a race burns precious glycogen and floods the body with lactic acid – two things that cause inevitable problems later in a race.

Muscles begin to feel heavy, listless, causing one to feel like they are moving through sludge. Definitely not a good feeling– especially when it happens early on.

Stover said that Wild was “all in” with his strategy but quickly added that it was all in good nature as the three are friends who love to compete against one another. Wild also extended an invitation to house Barnett the night before the race to alleviate him from having to drive in from Volcano on race morning.

Unbeknownst to Barnett it was all part of the plan, and poor, innocent Billy took the bait.

While Stover admitted that it was indeed “a bit harsh” to team up with Wild to meticulously strategize against a humble natured running talent like Barnett – a guy who dedicates a large part of his week teaching special education classes to 7th graders at Waiakea Intermediate School – who could blame them for trying?

Barnett has been the man to beat for nearly a decade. The Volcano resident has graced the top of the podium at virtually every road and trail race on the island, setting numerous course records along the way at distances ranging from a 5K to 50K. Barnett was simply born to run.

The race

More than 200 participants turned out for the 36th edition of Hawaii Island’s longest running 10K and 5K races. Race director, Kawika Spaulding, said that the event was in honor of Keahi Mendoza.

“He was only 18-years old and he recently passed away from a car accident,” Spaulding said. “He was here two years ago as a 16-year old and he broke the 19-and-under record which at that time, was the longest standing record in Mac-A-Thon history.”

After Spaulding shouted out the countdown to the 10K race, Stover’s plan unraveled to perfection.

Barnett and Wild bolted straight to the front with Stover hanging on within striking distance, a good ten yards back.

“Me and David went out really hard the first few miles. We sorta blasted each other,” Barnett said. “I stayed over his house last night, and talked some smack for a bit. But we just went out really hard and paid the price.”

That price was exactly what Stover had hoped for.

At the halfway point Wild began to drop off pace and eventually settled in a third overall position, while Barnett began to struggle with maintaining his lead. Stover however, remained strong in second place.

“After the turnaround, I slowly started closing the gap between Billy and I,” Stover said. “Then with a mile and half to go, I finally caught up to Billy and passed him. But I was so worried because I knew what he was capable of. So on the final mile I kept telling myself; ‘Hold him off, hold him off!’”

Stover crossed victorious to take his first Mac-A-Thon 10K win with a blazing time of 35 minutes and 58 seconds.

“This is my first Mac-A-Thon win and my first win over Billy,” Stover said with a smile. “I’ve done four Mac-A-Thons total. “I think this win is more special because this was a race where all of my friends were here. We are competitive and love racing but afterwards, we just all enjoy each other’s company.”

Barnett settled for second place with his time of 36:30, with Wild in third at 38:44.

“It was fun,” Barnett said of his race. “I felt great mentally but then I heard (Stover’s) footsteps around Mile 4 and he had the look on his face like he just really wanted it. I was hoping to pass him on the downhill at the end but again, he had that look on his face like there was no way he was going to let me pass him.”

Barnett’s passion resonates competing in extreme trail runs, ultra marathons, and 100-mile running events. This prompted author, Christopher McDougall, to feature him in the 2009 best seller, Born to Run, that sold over one million copies. Locally, Barnett set the 2016 course record at the prestigious Hilo To Volcano 50K Ultra and has competed in Oahu’s Hawaii HURT 100-mile trail run for several years.

What Stover and Wild may or may not have known was that Barnett has been slowly and steadily working on transforming his body over the last few months toward reaching another goal — the Northface Lavaredo Ultra Trail 75-Miler. The race on June 23 will be held in the Dolomites of northeastern Italy.

Barnett said that his last hard effort was at December’s Jingle Bell Beach Run 5K where he won and averaged a blistering 5:26 pace per mile. Since then, Barnett has kept himself to a strict heart rate no higher than 150 beats per minute and logged in long runs no faster than a 8-8:30 minute pace per mile. Not exactly a great recipe to running a fast 10K.

“My diet is high fat, no carbs, no sugar,” Barnett said after the race. “I’m hoping to train my body so that I wouldn’t have to eat so much on a long run, that my body uses more fat as fuel as opposed to glucose.

“I’ve been going for 10-weeks strong. There was a period where I felt like (junk) for a couple of weeks. But now I feel like I don’t need to eat that much during the day, I feel really good, and mentally my mind feels so clear. Too bad it didn’t really work out for my race today.”

First for the women and also claiming her first Mac-A-Thon 10K victory was Kona’s Bree Wee with an amazing time of 39:52.

While I tried really hard to chase Wee down as I pushed my 18-month old son in a baby jogger — who was I kidding? The undulating hills of the Old Government Road has a reputation of being one of the tougher 10K courses on the race circuit, and I also happened to be chasing the strongest female runner on the island.

I happily settled for second place in a time of 42:09. Lindsey Lawless and her husband, James, traded turns as they also pushed their son in a jogger. Lindsey finish third at 48:23.

The 5K division saw Hawaii County Firefighter, Tailiko Scarbrough, and 14-year old Alec Ankrum duking it out for overall bragging rights.

Scarbrough, a multiple 5K champion, longtime barefoot runner and Honaunau native, used his experience to outsprint Ankrum 18:45 to 18:56 respectively.

David Johnson finished third with his time of 22:24.

The women’s race also turned out to be an exciting race between Scarbrough’s wife, Heather, a multiple 5K and 10K women’s champion, and local triathlete, Winona Chen.

In the end, Chen had a faster turnover to win her first 5K women’s crown with her time of 20:42. Scarbrough kept it close to finish in second place at 20:53, with Holualoa’s Laura Ankrum rounding out the women’s podium with her time of 22:02.

As participants enjoyed the post-race morning filling their bellies with delicious macadamia nut pancakes, listening to live music, and watching as a beautiful and very pregnant, Dawn Velasquez, danced hula, all would agree that the success of Hawaii Island’s longest running footrace lies in the spirit of Mac-A-Thon.

“It’s about the kids and it’s about having the family out here,” Spaulding said. “People come back because they like the course, they like finishing near the ocean as they can jump right in the water after the race. It’s not the city, it’s about family, it’s about the pancakes — we make um fresh!”

For Stover, Saturday’s win will be one that he’ll always remember.

“I actually grew up in Honaunau and went to Honaunau Elementary School. So I know this area pretty well. When I come back to do this event it’s like revisiting my childhood again and like a reunion to see people that I haven’t seen in a long time. So this event always makes me feel like I’m coming home to family.”

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