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RACE TO FAIRGROUNDS WAS ALMOST A PHOTO FINISH

Who needs to flick on ESPN for road-race drama when we have the kind of show put on last Saturday at the Erie County Fair 5K? It came down to a four-man sprint on the final lap in front of the grandstand. Just three ticks of the clock separated the first three finishers.

The battle actually started on the internet the week before. Phil Krasinski of the Buffalo Area Runners, one of the self-described grumpy old men (35-39) who puts in the miles on the hills of Chestnut Ridge, predicted he'd win the race in a message relayed by the South Buffalo Athletic Club.

It was good-natured Krasinski bluster, who's not half as curmudgeonly as he tries to come off, but it led to a great race. It turned out to be Krasinski vs. Generation X.

As Pat Nolan later recounted it, a pack of 8-10 runners went through the first mile in 5 minutes, 12 seconds. Krasinski made a few moves but couldn't shake anyone and they went through two miles in 10:30 and change.

"All four of us were shoulder to shoulder as we re-entered (the fairgrounds)," Nolan wrote in his race recap. Krasinski started his kick but still couldn't shake them as they hit the horse racing track -- "I forgot to eat my bucket of oats that morning," Krasinski said.

At the finish, it was Pat Strothmann of Angola first in 16:06 and Nolan, from Buffalo, second in the same time. Krasinski, from Hamburg, hit third in 16:08, and Eric Czubaj of Buffalo was fourth. The official time gave Czubaj 16:14 but the lead runners thought he came in at 16:09.

Horses have given us far less interesting races on that track.

Smooth road

If you skate or bike in Delaware Park, you know that Ring Road is not in the best shape for a smooth ride. A group of skaters wants to do something about that.

"Blading For Paving" is a fund-raising event set for Sept. 5 in the park with the aim of collecting money for a fund to eventually reconstruct Ring Road and make it a whole lot smoother.

It goes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and organizers are looking for skaters, runners, walkers, bikers and parents with strollers to go as many laps as they want. It costs $10 and participants will be given a raffle ticket for each lap they complete, with all sorts of prizes drawn after the event. Call 879-6939 or 838-1249 for applications.

There are no immediate plans to repave Ring Road and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy says it should be rebuilt whenever that takes place. But Larry Piegza, the event chairman who got Outokumpu American Brass as sponsor, says the money will get the drive started.

Everyone would be in favor of a smoother road without potholes but one wonders what the effect would be on an already congested road if the skaters and bikers went even faster than they do now.

Meanwhile, the inner-ring jogging trail, which boneheaded officials insisted on making out of a form of crushed cinders instead of a more user-friendly crushed bark or even asphalt, still has not settled as those same officials promised. It remains the most underused part of the park.

The Ultima?

Calling itself "The Sports Drink of the 21st Century," Ultima has made a big advertising splash with its debut, taking out among other spots the back cover of the September issue of Running Times.

Ultima calls itself a replenisher and cites among its attributes: no simple sugars; 90 nutrients, vitamins and minerals; complex carbohydrates, fastest absorption, no artificial flavors or colors, and is the most "bio-available," whatever that means.

Ultima may be all that, Dr. Owen Anderson reports in the lastest issue of Running Research News, but it's not a sports drink and it's not going to do you any good in a long training run or marathon.

The reason why not is one of its touted claims, a 1.7-percent carbohydrate concentration, which Ultima's maker says allows greater absorption by the body.

"By definition," Anderson wrote, "sports drinks are supposed to provide enough carbohydrate to bolster performances in events lasting over an hour or so (e.g. athletic endeavors in which glycogen depletion of muscles becomes a factor).

"Most sports drink specialists agree that performance-enhancing drinks must contain at least a 5-percent carbohydrate concentration. Below that level, there's simply not enough carbohydrate to make a difference to your leg muscles."

As for all those 90 nutrients, vitamins and minerals, Anderson says, why not just get that nourishment during your regular meals? It's not going to benefit you taking them in during a marathon.

"The bottom line?" he asks. "If you like the taste of Ultima, go ahead and sip the stuff on hot summer afternoons, but don't use it as a 'sports drink' during your longer-than-one-hour exertions -- or as a carbohydrate-replacement potable after hard workouts. Ultima just doesn't have enough carbohydrate to do the job."

Upcoming races

Bond Lake A.C. Rut Race, European style cross-country run, 3.5 miles, Lewiston, 6:30 p.m., Mon., 283-4845; Checker's Tavern Run, North Buffalo, 10 a.m., Sat., 838-9482; Toyfest 10K Race, East Aurora, 9:30 a.m., Aug. 30, 687-5251; Nickel City Road Runners Aid to Athletes, 5K, (Buffalo News Runner of the Year race) 7 p.m., Sept. 4, 694-5154.

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