Sunday, February 12, 2012


2012 USA 100km Trail Championships
Bandera, TX
7 Jan 2012

The annual winter gathering of the trail running tribes continues to grow each year to all new attendance levels. With the 2012 USA 100km Trail Championships offering accolades and cash, and the Montrail Ultra Cup offering points and Western States entries, Bandera attracted a quality list of entrants and quite a few others as well. Three separate races for 100km, 50km, and 25km all on the same course totaled 754 starters.

The 100km is a twice repeated 50km loop over some of the most rugged terrain in this country. T'was a near perfect morning at 7:30am when 215 100km runners took to the trails and quickly broke into packs. The first loop was uneventful except for the overall speed. A pack of 10 completed the first 50km split faster than the winning 50km winner: all under 4:04. Timothy Olsen led the pack and never lost hold, staying constant, rolling in for a very respectable 8:28:40 to win the men's 2012 USA 100km Trail Champion. Dave Mackey, Joe Uhan, and Dylan Bowman battled throughout for the next 3 positions, changing places a few times, and finishing in that order. Dave Mackey 8:38:30, Joe Uhan 8:38:55, Dylan Bowman 8:40:07, and then Nick Clark 8:57:06 for 5th.

The Women's 100km had a stellar field of competitors as well, with the reigning champ, Liza Howard leading from the start. She was passed on the 2nd loop by Cassie Scallon, who held on to become women's 2012 USA 100km Trail Champion in 9:40:20. Liza Howard took 2nd in 9:56:30, with Pam Smith 3rd in 10:04:51. 154 of the 215 100km starters finished the 100km for a 72% finish rate.

The 50km started 214 with 204 finishing (95%), and then adding another 56 who DNFed from the 100km. David Brown 4:04:56 won the 50km men's title, with Jason Brooks 4:16:12 2nd, and Sean Meissner 3rd in 4:19:14. Melanie Fryar 4:24:47 reset the course record and won the women's 50km title, with a couple of Albuquerque ladies, Jean Herbert 5:00:20 and Molly Roberts 5:25:49 rounding out 2nd and 3rd.

The 25km sported the largest field with 325 starters and 317 finishers for a 98% finish rate. The city of Austin took the top 3 spots in both the men's and women's fields, with all three men under two hours: Erik Stanley 1:39:08, Jody Broccoli-Hickey 1:59:05, and Jamie Cleveland 1:59:24. The 25km course records have been hard to beat because this course has become increasingly more difficult each year. So it was a welcome surprise to see Sara Hickey 2:12:20 knock it down after it stood for 9 years. The next two women, Andrea Fisher 2:21:00 and Julie Cattell 2:29:53 also ran great times to finish 2nd and 3rd.

As the day ran down and the 25km runners went home, followed by the 50km runners soon after, we settled into a long night. The Comanche Moon delighted us with a lunar halo and brightened the trails for the runners who continued all night and into the morning. The course profile at Bandera might suggest something much easier, but it is known locally for its nasty ruggedness and fantastic panoramic views. The late night crowd celebrate sunset from the Sisters or Lucky Peak, and a rare few get to see a 2nd sunrise. While many of the elites have come and gone, Deborah Sexton, Jeffrey Linwood, and Shannon Mitchel battled each other for the illustrious DFL award, with Shannon taking the honor for her first 100km finish. We celebrated her finish about as much as we did the first finisher. It was all good.

Rocky Raccoon 100mi & 50mi

Huntsville, TX
4 Feb 2012

It was epic! Rumbling thunder boomers, lightning flashes in the clouds, rolling sheets of rain, and a thousand people gathered under the tall pines for the annual gathering of the trail running tribes for Rocky Raccoon. Race staff, park staff, volunteers, runners, crews, families, photographers, sponsors all made for a large collection of energy on the ground to match the energy in the sky.

For the first time in 15 years, the rain poured upon the runners of Rocky Raccoon. 376 century runners burst from under the tents where they had huddled to stay dry at exactly 6am. The lead pack included Ian Sharman, Hal Koerner, Karl Meltzer, and Oswaldo Lopez. Liza Howard was part of the group just back of them. An hour later we repeated the same start under the same conditions for the 50 mile race with 298 more runners. All told, we now had 674 runners on the course. The 100 course is five 20mi loops and the 50 mile course is three 16.7 mile loops. The two courses are the same for both groups except for a shortcut on the back side of the park.

Ian and Oswaldo finished the first 20mi loop side by side in 2:27, with Hal just 30 seconds back, and Karl another 30 seconds. Still pretty tight for 20 miles. Loop two had Ian and Hal cross the 40 mile point side by side with another 2:27 loop, with Karl just 95 seconds back, and Oswaldo 9 minutes behind Karl. Loop three saw Hal take the lead with a solid 2:37, with Karl holding steady just 10 minutes back, and Ian falling off pace and soon done for the day. Oswaldo lost 20 minutes, but was still running very well. With the course deteriorating into mud and bog from the mixture of heavy rain and 700 runners on a multi-loop course, it surprised me how well all these guys were doing. It was certainly taking its tole on the field with only 58% of the field finishing. Hal increased his lead on loop four with another solid 2:49, while the others slipped over the 3:00 mark. Understand that 3:00 is pretty quick for a 20 mile loop in these conditions, but Hal seemed to have it dialed in today. The final loop saw Hal's 1st 3:00 time, while Karl ran a 3:30, and Oswaldo still running well to close with a 3:10. And thats how it ended with Hal Koerner winning the 20th annual Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race on an epic day with a phenomenal 13:24:52 in the worst possible conditions. Karl ran a smart race as well for 2nd in 14:17:42. Both of them were faster than last year's near perfect conditions. Oswaldo was 3rd with a very solid 14:30:58.

Liza Howard ran just off the lead pack on the first loop with a very quick 2:35, with Sabrina Moran, Jill Perry, and Heather Mastrianni 15 minutes back in a pack. All the leading women backed off for the 2nd loop, with Liza and Heather both taking the best times with a 3:09. Liza led by 10 minutes over Sabrina and Heather, with Jill another 15 minutes back. Loop three saw everyone holding steady with each running a 3:30, but for Jill who withdrew. Everything flipped upside down on loop four with both Liza and Heather dropping from the race, leaving Sabrina up front with nobody close. Sabrina Moran closed out the race with a 17:06:10 to win the women's 100mi race, with Vikki Baylis (20:01:51) and Liza Canowitz (20:09:18) taking 2nd and 3rd.

219 runners finished the 100 miler for the worst ever finishing percentage in 20 years. The runners who took more time suffered the worst because of the wet conditions. The water and sand mixed to create a liquid sandpaper that slowly worked on the soft skin of everybody's soaking wet feet. More people dropped because of their blisters that mixed with more sand, mud, and water and the pain associated with sliding on the slippery mud. Those that persevered all night long and into the second day paid a heavy price, not to say that even the earlier runners didn't have the same issues... but for a much shorter period of time. It was about as emotional a finish as I have ever seen in 20 years... over and over again... all night long.

The 50 miler watched Gerardo Moreno lead from start to finish to win in 6:15:12, followed by David Brown in 6:31:51, and Olli Haavikko in 7:34:51. The women's 50 mile race was a bit more interesting. Amanda Ewing led from the start, taking loop one in 2:21, with Anabel Pearson at 2:23, and Lorena Devlyn at 2:25. But, Lorena Devlyn got some extra distance on loop two when she missed a turn and fell out of contention (it appeared) by losing 30 minutes. Amanda was still leading after loop two with a 3:00 split with Anabel closing within a minute, but Amanda did not finish the race. Anabel took the lead for the final loop, but this changed again quickly as the fading Anabel was passed by the hard charging Lorena and almost passed again by the even paced Rachael Blair. Rachel had simply run three solid and almost even splits of 2:53, 3:03, and 2:56 to take 3rd and within 30 yards of taking 2nd with the fastest closing split of 2:53. The best run of the day had to be Lorena's return to contention from her early mishap. From 30 minutes back, her anger pushed her through the field as she surged back and surprised everyone including herself with the win. And so it ended with Lorena Devlyn 1st in 8:41:38, Anabel Pearson 2nd in 8:53:38, and Rachael Blair 3rd in 8:53:43.

259 runners finished the 50 miler out of the 298 starters.

As difficult and awkward as this race was under these rough conditions, it was even worse for the volunteers. We had 150 people working aid stations, marking course, hauling supplies, working the radios, providing medical support, managing timing, packets, tents, and so on and so on. Some of the tent covers turned into swimming pools and we had to cut the tarps to release the water. Those hauling supplies dealt with muddy roads and poor visibility. Medical & radio people teamed up with a boat to ferry people and supplies across Raven Lake. But all the runners were tracked, the course was well marked, and the tear down was handled with care... til the ATV went through the back window on my truck. All in all, the volunteers rocked. They stayed and performed as well as did Hal & Karl.