Competitors headed off the start trying to heat up the chill in Pritchett Canyon at the USA Trail Marathon Championships this past Saturday. The championships were held in conjunction with the Moab Trail Marathon. Trail runners traveled from all around the country to compete for National Champion titles in the Overall and 5 year Masters age categories. The course traverses several cool canyons, climbs jeep roads or rugged trails to plateaus, and then returns to canyon bottom again on technical trails. This trail marathon is not for the faint hearted, but a diehard trail enthusiast was in paradise complete with amazing expansive views of the cayonlands.
The racing did not disappoint either. Several guys provided the heat with a fast start. That settled down to a group of about 7 by the first aid station around 5.6 miles. By the out and back section in Hunter Canyon at 12 miles there was a group of three at the front consisting of Justin Ricks, Dakota Jones, and Mario Mendoza. A long string of guys were close behind, but things were beginning to break up at the front. Up the 1.5 mile Scorched Earth Wall climb, Travis Macy caught the group of three to challenge for a bit. Those front three would pull away over the last 10 miles as the course would now be more technical singletrack than jeep road. Dakota moved to the front to gain a small lead and once there resolved to not get complacent heading down the technical descent from mile 21-23. Dakota hoped to build a lead that the others would not be able to overcome in the final 3 miles. It proved be a winning strategy as Dakota claimed his first National Title in 3:03:09. Mario and Justin continued to battle and try to reel Dakota back in. They remained close throughout with Mario Mendoza taking 2nd in 3:06:46 and Justin Ricks taking 3rd in 3:07:30. All three were under the previous course record. The men’s master race was close as well with Jason Bryant overtaking Jon Brown ¾ of mile from the finish. Bryant finished in 3:24:12 claiming his 5th US Masters Mountain Ultra Trail title. Jon Brown followed closely in 3:26:01 and Chris Grauch the 3rd master in 3:27:05.
Several of the ladies were out quickly as well. Megan Kimmel took the reins at the front about 2 miles in as the first climb got underway. By Hunter Canyon at 12 miles, Megan had developed a small lead over Chris Lundy and Laura Tabor. That lead would grow up the Scorched Earth Wall climb and on the singletrack trails after. Behind her, Chris Lundy was building a small lead on Laura Tabor during this section. Megan would continue to gap the other ladies all the way to the finishing in 3:27:52, just 4 seconds of the course record to claim her 3rd National Title. Chris had built a 1 and ½ minute advantage going into the difficult final three miles with slickrock climbs and soft sand. But that would not be enough to hold off Laura Tabor as she moved up to take second in the end with a time of 3:52:35. Chris Lundy followed closely in 3:52:58 for third. Chris Lundy did take the Women’s Master title, her 1st US Masters title to go along with a USA 10km Trail overall title in 2007. Cate Fenster would come in just over 4 hours as the second female master at 4:00:23. Timeless Anita Ortiz was 3rd female master with her time of 4:03:41.
It was great day on spectacular and challenging trails, just what a Trail Championship should be. Race director, Danelle Ballengee knows how to lay out a true trail course that does not disappoint. The race becomes even more of event with excellent post-race atmosphere. USA trail running is a massively growing sport with more and more runners looking to the challenge and beauty found off road. It was a perfect choice as a qualifying event for the US Team for the 2015 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships at the Zermatt Marathon in Switzerland. For more information on USA Mountain Running, go to www.usmrt.com.
For complete results click here.