September 22nd — Mount Bachelor, Oregon
When Runners arrived at the start of the USA 50km Trail Running Championships this Saturday they were not certain the race was a go. Smoke from the nearby Pole Creek wildfire had covered the area in the days leading up to the race, forcing the race director to make a literal last minute decision about the fate of the race. Fortunately, the winds were blowing north at sunrise, clearing out most of the smoke and the race went off. Unfortunately, the finish line had to be moved a mile away due to fire fighters using the parking lot as a helipad. This change bumped the course from thirty-one miles up to thirty-two.
Among the elite field was trail ace Tim Van Orden, 44, of Bennington, Vermont. Despite winning the 2011 USA Trail Running Championship Series, Van Orden was nervous about competing in his first ultra marathon (longer than 26.2 miles). “I’ve had some injuries and missed some training recently, so I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to finish a 50k, let alone do well. Especially considering that the course starts at over 6,200 feet above sea level and climbs an additional 4,000 feet.” said Van Orden. But his worries were for naught as he stormed to the finish line sixth overall and winning his ninth USA Masters Championship (40 and over) in 4:04:32.
Asked about the course, Van Orden said, “The start was problematic and beautiful at the same time. The trail was so dry that the racers in front of me were kicking up huge clouds of dust. The dust was catching the early morning light, creating this orange halo around the lead guys. It was surreal… but at the same time I was choking on the dust. That, combined with the altitude and the smoke made it really hard to breathe. I was gasping the whole race.”
Van Orden has now won USA Masters Trail titles at 10k, 15k, half marathon, marathon, and 50k. What’s next for VanOrden, “The USA Trail Marathon Champs of course.” Which will be heldon November 3rd in Moab, Utah.
2011 World Trail Running Champion Max King, 32, of Bend, Oregon, defended his 2011 50k title, crossing the line in 3:33:10, while Erica Larson, 41, of Los Alamos, New Mexico, won the women’s division with a time of 4:11:28.
Finishing in second place for the men was Mario Mendoza, 26, Bend, Oregon, posting a time of 3:44:14. Third was Ryan Bak, 30, also of Bend, in 3:44:58. King, Mendoza and Bak are training partners in Bend, which is considered by many to be the trail running capital of the United States.
Rounding out the women’s top three was Natalie Bak of Bend in second place in a time of 4:14:16. Third was Emily Kalenius, 32, Albany, Oregon, in 4:53:26.
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