Kai’s Wonderful Day at Serpent’s Back Duathlon

A satisfying win for Kai Costanzo in Montauk on Sunday
Kai Costanzo’s Montauk Lighthouse triathlon record, set in 2001, still stands. Jack Graves

Kai Costanzo had been planning to do the Serpent’s Back Duathlon’s relay with his cousin, but the latter was a no-show at Ed Ecker County Park in Montauk Sunday morning, so Costanzo ran, biked, and ran his way to the win in 1 hour, 25 minutes, and 36 seconds, a time that compared favorably — perhaps very favorably inasmuch as the bike leg, billed as 12 miles, was long, most everyone said — with the 1:34 Chris Daily of Farmingdale did last year.

It was a satisfying win for Costanzo, whose stores in Montauk and Key West, Fla., sell his Kai-Kai sandals along with other gear for surfers and beachgoers. He arrived at the duathlon in a truck, the driver’s side of which had been singed in a fire at the Key West building he owns following Hurricane Maria a year ago.

He had been in Moab, Utah, his favorite mountain-biking spot, when he learned of it, he said, thinking at first that the fire had consumed a building whose lease he’d been trying to get out of. No, the caller said, cutting his celebration short, it was the other building, the one he owned, that had burned down. It’s being rebuilt now, he was happy to say.

All one heard in the woods on the mountain-bike leg was labored breathing, he said, so he, partly as a psychological tactic and partly owing to the fact that he would rebuild in Key West, was impelled to sing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” as he pedaled along.

Nick Wetzel’s and James McGroarty’s relay had the day’s fastest time, a 1:18:06.

Costanzo, 36, still holds the Montauk Lighthouse Sprint record, at 1:00:11, which he set as a 21-year-old in 2001. It was his first triathletic win, one that he dedicated to his mother, who had in the year before received a liver transplant that was to add 18 years to her life.

When this writer noticed some blood on John Broich’s arm at the gathering in Rod’s Valley afterward, Broich, who was last year’s Old Montauk Athletic Club’s athlete of the year, said he’d only fallen once.

Ditto Dan Ingegno, a 74-year-old from Yaphank who has done the 15-year-old Serpent’s Back Duathlon “every year but one.”

Ingegno was the eldest of the some 36 intrepid competitors. Dylan Cashin, at 12, who formed a relay team with her mother, Caroline, was the youngest. But when Dylan arrived at the transition area following the first 2.3-mile run, her mother, who was to set forth on a mountain bike, was nowhere to be seen. 

She had been, as it turned out, chasing down the Cashins’ 5-year-old son, Connor, who, as participants were washing down bagels and bananas with beer afterward, claimed he’d been “hiking.” 

Dylan, a seventh grader who runs on Nick Finazzo’s East Hampton Middle School cross-country team, recently ran a 1.5-mile course in 10:25, which augurs well for Diane O’Donnell’s high school squad, which is being led this fall by two 10th graders, Ava Engstrom and Bella Tarbet.

The high school’s boys cross-country coach, Kevin Barry, was the first to register for the duathlon, in June, but a trip to a large regional high school cross-country race for boys and girls in Orlando, Fla., this past weekend, intervened.

The Old Montauk Athletic Club, which benefited from the duathlon, helped to underwrite the air travel and hotel costs for seven boys and seven girls as the result of its sponsorship — along with East Hampton’s Rotary Club — of the Montauk Mile this past summer.

“We had fun down there,” Barry said on the teams’ return. East Hampton’s boys, he said, led by Ryan Fowkes’s 16:53, a personal best, placed third among the 15 schools vying in a division comprising the meet’s second-smallest schools.

Fowkes had been fourth over all. The other Bonac boys to score, all of them registering personal bests, were Frank Bellucci, a junior, in 19:11, Manny Vilar, a sophomore, in 19:19, Joshua Vazquez, a freshman, in 19:22, and Aidan Kalman, also a freshman, in 19:37.

Barry has a dozen freshmen on his squad, including Evan Masi, usually the team’s number-two runner, who did not make the trip, and Luke Brunn and Hector Maldonado, who also did not go. Nor did Ethan McCormac, a senior, who was taking SAT tests.

He would enter all the freshmen, Barry said, in the freshman race at this weekend’s Manhattan College invitational at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, “the largest cross-country invitational in the country. There will be 8,000 runners there.”

“They’ve yet to lose,” he added. “They won the Peconic and Jim Smith invitationals. We’ll see how they do at Van Cortlandt.”

East Hampton’s girls had also fared well in Florida, said Barry. “Ava was third over all, in 20:13, a P.R., and Bella was 15th, in 21:34, which also was a P.R. The team finished eighth among 12 schools.” East Islip was the only other school from the Island there, he said, although the Pierson (Sag Harbor) girls team also made the trip. “Most of them were from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana. . . . It was a short trip — we left Thursday and were back here Saturday afternoon. There wasn’t any time for rides and things.”

The boys team as of Monday was 2-2 in league meets. The girls team was 1-3.

Mike Bahel headed into Rod’s Valley at Ed Ecker County Park in Montauk Sunday morning following the 12-plus-mile mountain-bike leg of the Serpent’s Back Duathlon that he puts on. Jack Graves