That's only the mountain. The competition has traditionally drawn one of the most elite crowds in American Mountain Running. Top finishers over the years have included world champions Jonathan Wyatt, Jay Johnson, Anna Pichrtova and other notables: Dave Dunham, Matt Carpenter, Daniel Kihara, Derek Froude... the list goes on. This year the list was no less notable: 2 time winner - Eric Blake, 3 time winner - Simon Gutierrez, Joe Gray (who beat me two weeks ago in the Teva Mtn. Games 10k), all-American and fellow Aspen native - Jon Severy, US Mtn. Running Team member - Matt Byrne... the list goes on.
The race started off per usual - with Simon well off in front. Severy tried to psyche out the field by cracking jokes and foaming at the pits. I took the lead from Gutierrez after the first mile and one mile past that, only Eric Blake and myself remained at the front. The two times that I've run this race before, I've watched Eric pull away from myself and the rest of the field around mile five. Listening to his breath, I knew that I would have to pull away from him early on. By the third mile I put a lead on Blake. The clouds provided an interesting element that I've not dealt with before in this race. You could not see much further than 100 feet ahead or behind, turning the race into more of mind game than I've ever had to deal with. I could never really be sure how far ahead of Blake I remained. The plus side of this coin was, of course, that Blake never really knew how far ahead I was.
I ran through the half way mark in 28:55 which put me on track for a sub-hour finish... just barely. My left Achilles started to flare up slightly which, though it never slowed me down, added immensely to the mental aspect of the race. I was constantly thinking that it might seize up completely and I'd have to deal with a poor finish, or worse - DNF. The problem remained at bay as I focused completely on holding my form.
By mile six the course finally made it's way above the blanket of clouds and I doubt there was anybody in the race in so much pain that they couldn't appreciate the view. You really did feel like you were in an airplane. With only a 1/2 mile to go, I knew that I had the race won. I eased up on my pace slightly, not thinking about the time. With 150 meters to go a friend from the side line yelled "20 seconds!!". I had forgotten about the 60 minute time bonus. Sprinting up the 22% final grade, I watched as the clock ticked 59:53 54 55 56. I crossed the finish line with two seconds to spare, to become the fifth man, second American to ever break the 60 minute barrier.
1 1/129 Rickey Gates 28 M Boulder CO 2 59:58 7:54
2 2/129 Eric Blake 30 M New Britain CT BAA 1 1:01:19 8:04
3 3/129 Joseph Gray 25 M Lakewood WA TEAM INO 3 1:02:35 8:15
4 4/129 Matthew Byrne 34 M Scranton PA 5 1:02:45 8:16
5 1/93 Simon Gutierrez 43 M Alamosa CO TEVA / S 4 1:04:16 8:28
6 5/129 Jonathan Severy 27 M Winooski VT NYAC 15 1:05:09 8:35
7 6/129 Tommy Manning 33 M Colorado Spring CO NMC 38 1:05:47 8:40
8 1/81 Jason Bryant 36 M Elkin NC LA SPORT 16 1:06:13 8:43
9 7/129 Matthew Russell 26 M Boulder CO CMS 25 1:06:19 8:44
10 2/93 Francis Burdett 44 M Worcester MA CMS 142 1:06:39 8:47
******* TOP 10 WOMEN OVERALL *******
Place Div Name Ag S City St Team Race# Time Pace
===== === ========================= == = =============== == ======== ===== ======= =====
1 1 Brandy Erholtz 31 F Bailey CO W1 1:10:53 9:20
2 1 Tara Cardi 40 F East Greenwich RI NARRA W8 1:19:52 10:31
3 2 Jennifer Campbell 26 F Newmarket NH CRC W72 1:20:58 10:40
4 3 Alison Bryant 30 F Elkin NC W2 1:22:08 10:49
5 2 Lisa Goldsmith 44 F Nederland CO LA SPORT W133 1:24:58 11:11
6 4 Abby Mahoney 31 F Holyoke MA CMS W29 1:25:05 11:12
7 1 Cathy Pearce 46 F Chelmsford MA WHIRL W5 1:26:29 11:23
8 1 Tara Breed 38 F Englewood CO W17 1:27:33 11:32
9 1 Donna Smyers 51 F Adamant VT CVR W27 1:28:01 11:35
10 2 Suzy West 46 F Putney VT CSU W14 1:28:34 11:40
video finish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWkqm-qLMP8
photos: (AP Photo/Gil Talbot), Dave Dunham
Coming up on Sunday I will be competing against much of the same field (and then some) at the Cranmore Hill Climb/USA & NACAC Mountain Running Championships in North Conway, NH. After that... EUROPE!!!