The more things change, the more things stay the same? I covered last year’s race and in some ways the race probably could not have been more different. The 2016 USATF 100 Mile Trail Championships took place this past Saturday as part of the Rocky Raccoon 100 presented by Altra and organized by Tejas Trails.
No men went out at insane paces to leave spectators waiting, wondering when someone would blow up or fade. No dramatic shake ups in placing occurred in the final 20 mile loop. Paul Terranova took the championship lead right from the beginning of the first of 5 twenty mile loops. Ian Sharman was back racing again this year, but as a British citizen, he is not eligible for the USA National Champion title. From the beginning, Ian took command of the overall lead. Sabrina Little ran with Paul on the first loop to possess the early lead for the women. Nicole Kalogeropoulos, the defending champion from last year’s record performance, was only a few minutes back through 20 miles, but would drop during second loop. If you think this leaves one with nothing to watch, you are not a true fan of ultrarunning. The race was a pleasure to watch competitors show that truly, just like last year, ultra racing is really a race against oneself.
This front three of Ian, Paul, and Sabrina showed that a steady, constant pace gets the job done time after time. All three clicked off consistently strong lap times widening their lead for their respective races. This was really the same thing that Ian and Paul did last year as they moved through the field of guys who had set out at paces they would eventually be unable to maintain. Sabrina took over in Nicole’s role of steadily throwing down great lap times to become one of handful of women to ever go under 15 hours for 100 miles on trail. I found it rewarding to watch true competitors capable of getting great results from themselves regardless of how a race presents itself. Paul Terranova claimed his second US National Champion title in defending from last year in a time of 14:24:05. Paul was also the Masters champion. Sabrina Little won her second US National Champion title and first at 100 Mile Trail in a time of 14:55:50. Will Swenson put in a strong surge on the final loop to overtake Ryan Cooper for second in the Championship. They were close throughout and swapped positioning a couple of times during the day. Will’s second place time was 16:28:34, with Ryan 11 minutes back in 16:39:21. Olga Huber showed another excellent example of steady pacing as she moved up from 6th place early in the day to take second in 19:42:15, as well as being the female Masters champion. Julie Koepe had a similar day in going from 8th female through on loop 1 to take third at race end in 20:24:34.
A couple of notable age group performances came from the more senior end. Gene Dykes, at age 67, showed great resilience in breaking 24 hours with a finish time of 23:48:37. That time was a new age record for Rocky Raccoon 100 and beat out many younger runners. The new star of ultra running, Gunhild Swanson at 71 years old, showed once again why so many are attracted to her as much as any of the young speedsters in the sport. Adjectives that fit her best seem to be gracious, determined, kind, focused, humble, relentless, and kind. Oh, and she finished in 28:22:39. I found both Gene and Gunhild equally inspiring and full of life. I would say that I hope to be running as well as these two at their age. I’d prefer to be laughing, giving, and living as well as them. This USATF Championship was a great example of the range of wonderful people to learn from, whether running 14 hours or 29 hours.
A full list of upcoming USATF Championships can be found at: http://www.usatf.org/Events—Calendar/National-Championships.aspx?year=2016.