LENOX -- The motto of the Josh Billings RunAground is "To finish is to win." The Allen Heights Veterinary Clinic foursome did both -- for the second time.
The team of cyclist Josh Lipka, canoeists Tom Keefe and Bob Rapant and runner Steve Monsulick earned their second Josh title in as many seasons Sunday. When Monsulick crossed the finish line first, the clock read 2 hours, 20 minutes and 18 seconds. That turned out to be more than three minutes faster than the second-place finishers.
All the King’s Men, consisting of cyclist Robbie King, canoeists John Kazimierczyk and Mark Peters and runner Robert Gomez, finished in 2:23:44.
"It’s the Josh. You never know. Anything can happen," said Keefe. "We just planned to have fun and see what we could do."
The Vermont Sports Connection team that became the first kayak-based team to finish second in a Josh, doing it last year, was third this year, 32 seconds behind All the King’s Men.
Allen Heights is the first team to win consecutive RunAgrounds since Heaven’s Devils won the double in 2006 and 2007.
"As soon as we finished the race last year, Tom was signing us up to run it again this year," said Monsulick. "It’s such a fun race. I enjoy coming back here. You can’t complain about [winning]."
A year ago, Monsulick only had a 20-second advantage, but he pulled away from Tim Pipp of the Vermont Sports Connection to win going away. This year, Keefe and Rapant gave their runner a 3-minute advantage.
"It’s a lot different because you rarely run like that," Monsulick said. "Everyone always starts together. You don’t know where your big competitors are. It’s a little bit more challenging. But it’s also fun to be on a team."
The day got off to a good start with temperatures in the 50s under sunny skies and with little wind. Lipka said conditions were ideal for him. The pro cyclist got out quickly with a small group as the race began from the Price Chopper Plaza in Great Barrington.
Once the five got up into Stockbridge, the five became two as Lipka and Robbie King pulled away. They maintained their lead the rest of the way and worked with each other until the finish. It could have gone either way, but King crossed the tape first at the transfer point on Route 183 in 1:04:37. Lipka was King’s shadow.
"We don’t care about our place across the finish line, as long as we put our teammates in an ideal position," said Lipka, "which we did, ahead of everybody else. Now we don’t have to duke it out with other boats."
King was the cyclist for All the King’s Men, who finished seventh two years ago.
"You go from 200 down to 10, to six, to five and finally two just coming out of Stockbridge," said King. "Man, that boy has got some power. It’s pretty awesome to ride with him."
Keefe and Rapant were in the water first, quickly followed by Kazimierczyk and Peters. Keefe and Rapant, both Josh veterans, quickly pulled out in front. Nobody was able to catch up to the Allen Heights paddlers.
The boaters -- canoe, kayak and even paddleboard -- had difficulties navigating the northwest end of the Stockbridge Bowl. While the Bowl was smooth at the race’s start, by the time the armada hit the water, wind created rough conditions.
"I wasn’t sure" if they would get caught, Keefe said. "It was so rough out there that there were times that I was staying ‘Stay in the boat.’ We took three really big [waves] over the bow and had some water in the boat."
Not enough, however to cause a problem. Monsulick cruised home alone to win the Josh title.
A cyclist was injured in Stockbridge when he rear-ended a car that suddenly stopped in the path of bike course in the center of town. The biker was thrown onto the vehicle’s back window and landed on the trunk, according to police. The cyclist, who was treated at the scene, was more upset about not finishing the race, than the accident, said Stockbridge Police Chief Richard Wilcox.