Estwanik shows winner’s edge
Chris Estwanik and Martina Olcheski-Bell finished the year as they started it — winning.
The pair were crowned champions of the BAC Jingle Bell 5K yesterday, 11 months after winning the men’s and women’s titles in first road race of the year, the Gosling to Fairmont Southampton 7.2-mile event.
Estwanik also participated in the Butterfield & Vallis 5K in January, but beyond that he has been absent from the local road racing scene this year.
However, the 38-year-old showed no signs of losing his winner’s edge yesterday as he blasted away from the field of more than 300 runners to win in 15min 56sec, more than a minute clear of former Bermuda national team footballer Sammy DeGraff, who clocked 17:05.
Estwanik’s daughter Somers took part in the 5K walk that started 30 minutes ahead of the run. He had planned to jog alongside her and take part in the main race if he got back in time.
“She told me she and her two friends could do it by themselves, so I came back and started the 5K,” he said.
The six-times Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby winner has dealt with injuries during the past few years that have curtailed his racing programme, but he has worked to maintain his fitness.
“I’m doing more gym work and cross training — trying to keep my heart rate high. If I run too much, my body really starts to crumble a bit. I figured I get a couple of these [races] a year and go out, blast it, and have fun,” he said. “When you get back in to a race environment, your instincts take over. You realise it’s not a training run and you want to be competitive. I thought I could run about 16 minutes.”
He said it had been a fun experience taking part in such a large social race, which attracted more than 500 entrants in walk and run. Many got into the festive spirit by donning Christmas-themed costumes, for which a prize was given for the best — this year it went to a team dressed to represent the Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Estwanik said he appreciated the cheers of spectators. “It was great to see people on the side of the road cheering. That’s what is fun about Bermuda, there is such a passion and people come outside of their homes.”
Looking ahead, he added: “I’m working with a phenomenal physio, Nicky Stoddart over at CSOM, and I told her I want to get back to fitness where I can run four or five times a week again, and possibly consider May 24 [Bermuda Day Half-Marathon Derby].
“I have to take a patient approach. This has been a long process to get back to some degree of health. As you get older it is never perfect, but I’m trying to find that sweet spot where I am still able to do races and maintain health.”
Third finisher was Jondell Cumberbatch, 16, winner of the 16-29 age division and one of four teenagers in the overall top ten. He ran 17:13.
In the women’s division, Olcheski-Bell, 35, managed to put more than a minute between herself and her closest rival. She crossed the line in 20:19.
She is still readjusting to the shorter race distance, having competed in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, where she ran 3hr 18min 27sec.
After the 5K, she said: “I don’t usually start fast, so today I tried to go out fast from the get-go, and it was quite consistent.”
She is hoping to compete in the half-marathon during the Bermuda Marathon Weekend next month.
Second woman to finish was Suzanne Socki, in 21:28, followed by Lucy Ching in 21:30.
First in the walk was Howard Williams in 34:38, followed by Junior Watts in 35:56, and Christopher Heslop in 37:56. The women’s top three was Gilda Cann, in 37:58, Duane Deroza in 39:30 and Beverley Barton in 40:35. The Beat the Couch fitness group had a large number of participants who completed the course and reached the finish line at Bermuda Air Conditioning, on Mill Creek Road, to beat an actual couch that was wheeled around the 3.1-mile route by a team of athletes.
Age division winners in the 5K run, among the women were: Liana Medeiros (under-16) in 21:47; Kayla Raymond (16-29) in 22:12; Hilary Haldeman (masters) in 22:16; and Sharon Craig (over-50) in 25:35.
Among the men, age division winners were: Ryan Outerbridge (under-16) in 17:20; Philip Mace (masters) in 18:35; and Neil De Ste Croix (over-50) in 18:27.