Friday, June 29, 2012

USA Mountain Running Championships / Mt. Washington Road Race

Wow, it's been almost 2 weeks but I'm finally getting to writing about my trip to the East Coast for the Mt. Washington Road Race.  I'd hoped to be racing but an injury from my previous race made sitting out the smart choice......and gave me the opportunity to cover Mt. Washington from the press van.  I'd done the same in 2001 when (again) an injury forced me to sit out the race.  Riding in the press van gave me a great opportunity to get tons of awesome shots as the race unfolded.  Here are some of my favorites from the 2001 Mt. Washington Road Race:

Race winner Daniel Kihara (Kenya) on his way to victory in 60:06

Dave Dunham (2nd place) looking back at Craig Fram (3rd place) 100m from the finish

Female winner Anna Prichrtova (Czech Republic) cresting the horizon onto the "flats" 

Dan Verrington (Bradford, MA) on the 22% grade 50m from the finish

Steve Peterson (Chelmsford, MA) shows his pain face 25m from the finish

Fergus Cullen (Laconia, NH) get's anaerobic on the rock-pile

10 years on many of the same runners face the mountain, the pain of running "the hill" hasn't changed but the competition certainly has gotten stiffer.  Of all the runners pictured above only Daniel and Anna didn't come back in 2012 - people love this race!

In 2004 Mt Washington became a USA Track & Field sanctioned national championship and a selection for the US Mountain Running Team.  This has continued to be the case in 2006, 2008, 2010 and again now in 2012 - these are all years that the World Mountain Running Championships are an up-hill only format.  To get an idea of how the Mt Washington profile compares to the World Championships check out these profiles from 2004 when the world champs was a bit short and the Vail Hill Climb was our other selection race:

To give an idea of what this national championship and selection race designation has done for the competition consider the following.  In 2001 only 5 runners finished in under 70 minutes.  At the world championships in 2001 our team didn't make the race due to air travel restrictions after the 9/11 attacks but in 2002 our men finished 14th place (32, 68, 74, 88, 91).  Yeah, that was me in 91st place.

Your's truly bringing up the rear in the 2002 World Champs in Innsbruck, Austria

Consider how far Mt. Washington and Team USA's performances have come in 10 years.  At this years national championship 32 runners finished under 70 minutes.  At the last uphill World Mountain Running Championships in Kamnick, Slovenia (2010) our men finished 2nd (10, 16, 18, 27, 52, 59).  Pretty impressive!

On to covering this year's Mt. Washington.  It was pretty clear the field was stacked and lots of guys were going to run under 70 minutes - the real question was who was going to be in the top 6 and make the 2012 US Mountain Running Team.  Here's the play by play with photos from press van #1:

Tim Chichester (#19) attacks the hill

Mile 1:
6:04 – Tim Chichester, Max King, Glen Randall – top 3.  The fastest first mile ever run!

Marco, Glenn, Simon and Max

Mile 2:
13:40 – Sage Canaday, Joe Gray, Eric Blake, Tommy Manning, Marco De Gasperi, Glenn Randall, Simon Gutierrez, Max King (2011 World Mountain Running Champion)

Tommy (#2) and Eric (#9)

Mile 2.5/3000’:
Sage Canaday, Joe Gray and Eric Blake are 1,2,3; Glen Randall and Eric Blake are together stride for stride back in 4th and 5th, Tommy Manning, Max King, Marco De Gasperi, Tim Chichester, Simon Gutierrez, Jeremy Freed follow strung out behind.

Former race winner Rickey Gates finished 14th

Mile 3:
Sage – 21:20, Gray – 21:40, Eric Blake in 3rd, Tommy Manning in 4th

Sage way out front and making it look easy

Mile 4+:
Sage Canaday opens a 40 second lead then Joe Gray.  Further behind are Eric/Tommy/Glen together

Painful? Yes, but at least the scenery is pretty good

Mile 5:
Just before mile 5 – Sage checks his watch, Press Liaison for the race John Stifler, “Looks on target for sub hour.”
Canaday – 37:08, Gray – 38:19, Blake – 38:52, Randall – 38:52, Manning – 39:01, Chichester – 39:16, De Gasperi – 39:21, Gutierrez – 39:24, King – 39:27, Alex Nichols – 39:42, Matt Byrne, Jason Delaney, Jeremy Freed, Rickey Gates – 40:24

Sage approaches the assembled media horde

Mile 6:Canaday – 45:11

Marco looks back at Tim Chichester

Hairpin between mile 6/7:
Canaday, Gray, Glen/Blake running stride for stride, Manning, De Gasperi, Chichester, King, Gutierrez

46 year old Simon Gutierrez was 9th overall and won the masters race

Mile 7:
Canaday way out front then Joe Gray in 55:06

Sage Canaday wins the 52nd Mt. Washington Road Race

1. Sage Canaday 26 Sheridan OR 58:27 - 7:42 pace
2. Joseph Gray 28 Newcastle WA 1:00:33 - 7:58 pace
3. Eric Blake 33 New Britain CT 1:00:54 - 8:01 pace
4. Glenn Randall 25 Mesa CO 1:00:58 - 8:02 pace
5. Marco De Gasperi 35 Bormio, Italy 1:01:38 - 8:07 pace
6. Tommy Manning 36 Colorado Spring CO 1:01:52 - 8:09 pace
7. Tim Chichester 23 Mount Morris NY 1:02:06 - 8:11 pace
8. Max King 32 Bend OR 1:02:21 - 8:13 pace
9. Simon Gutierrez 46 Colorado Spring CO 1:02:24 - 8:13 pace
10. Alex Nichols 27 Colorado Spring CO 1:02:41 - 8:15 pace
(Automatically selected to the 2012 US Mountain Running Team)

It was really amazing to watch the race unfold.  Sage was the big surprise - clearly a talented road and track athlete but with no experience at national class ascent races.  Mt. Washington has seen many talented flat road or track athletes go out hard and crash and burn.  Sage was clearly prepared and ran within his abilities despite going out fast and besting course record holder Jonathan Wyatt's time to mile one.  By the finish Sage was 1:50 behind Wyatt's 2004 record.  Still, pretty good - Jon has won 6 World Mountain Running Championship titles.  

The biggest disappointment was clearly that of 2011 World Champion Max King who was unable to finish among the top 6 Americans.  Unfortunately Max got sick the week before the race and was clearly not at his best.  He still put in a heroic effort and missed making the team by 15 seconds.  Max will be missed on this years team but he's to be commended for so many amazing results already in 2012.  Max finished 19th (2:14:36) at the US Olympic Marathon Trials in January.  3 weeks ago Max qualified for the US Olympic Steeplechase trials and went out the next day and won the USA 1/2 Marathon Trail Championships.  Finally, Max finished 6th (8:30) and set a PR in the steeplechase finals at the Track & Field Olympic Trials just 48 hours ago.  No doubt Max will return to the World Mountain Running Championships and be faster and stronger than ever. 

Complete results can be found here:

Story from Sports Illustrated: 

Story from Trail Runner Magazine:

Story from the Manchester Union-Leader:

Story from Nancy Hobbs - Executive Director of the American Trail Running Association:

Laura Haefeli and 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Kasie Enman (W3)

With the men's team now set attention turns to the women's team selection race at Loon Mountain on July 8.  The women's field is shaping up to also be the strongest ever assembled.  You can follow the race live @usmrt starting at 9:00 AM Eastern.  The top 4 women will be automatically selected to the team.  US Mountain Running Team staff member Paul Kirsch will be manning the tweet machine.