Tyler Sigl led from the start to win the USATF 50 Mile Trail Running Championships in Ithaca, New York, today – Saturday, June 4, setting a course record of 6:44:12 in the process.
Sigl pocketed $1500 for the victory, $500 in course incentives, and $1000 to support his travel to the IAU World Trail Running Championships as a member of Team USA. (The full team of five men and five women will be named by August 1).
The 30-year-old from Seymour, Wisconsin set a blistering pace early on, and by the halfway point, was 12 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor. He would go on to extend his lead to nearly 20 minutes by mile 38, a lead that would eventually be reduced to an eleven-minute advantage over second-place finisher Jared Burdick, 29, Fayetteville, New York who posted a time of 6:55:15.
Rounding out the top three was Matt Flaherty, 30, Bloomington, Indiana, who finished in 7:06:53. Top master was Ben Nephew, 40, Mansfield, Massachusetts, in sixth place with a time of 7:40:45.
“My goal was to make the World Team,” said Sigl. “It was go big or go home. I wanted to get into the red, white, and blue and represent our country.” Sigl earned a spot on the 2015 US 100km Team, but had to decline his spot due to the birth of his second daughter.
To get the spot on the US Ultra Trail Team, Sigl decided he’d go from the gun, “I knew the other guys were really strong on the climbs. I used the flats to my advantage and the cooler start, and I hung onto it,” said Sigl. “It was a little bit of Zach Miller racing (who is known to take a race out hard and accelerate throughout).”
Asked if there were tough spots, Sigl said, “I biffed it twice really bad. The first time near the Lakewood Split, the second time coming down Buttermilk Falls on the pavement. That one burned a little. I don’t feel horrible for a 50-mile race, but definitely feel a 50-mile race. It was a course record so I was getting after it, so it won’t feel great. Mentally it was a very strong race, a smart race.”
Looking forward to Geres, Portugal, site of the IAU World Trail Running Championships on October 29, Sigl said, “My first goal was to make the team, now I have to analyze the course (in Portugal), and plan.”
Burdick commented on Sigl’s race effort, “Tyler ran like crazy. I thought I ran the best that I could, but he was way out there. I was hoping he would come back. He ran a really great race.”
Burdick seesawed throughout the race with eventual fourth-place finisher Dylan Bowman, “Dylan was running a little better on the flats and downhills, and I was catching him on the uphills. I guess I’m more of a rolling hills kind of person. We don’t have a lot of long climbs (where I live). This was a pretty tough course with all the stairs too.
“I knew it was going to be a pretty competitive race. I just wanted to go a little conservative to the halfway point, but not too conservative…like 3:20. I went about 3:18 and I kind of wanted to cruise to Buttermilk and see where I was there. (My plan) was to pick it up, or stay where I was. My legs cramped a bit and may have held me back a little bit. I wanted to finish strong and improve on last year (he finished in seven hours). I felt 6:55 would be a good day. Mario won with that time last year and that’s what I was shooting for. But, Dylan just had a great day. He’s super talented. He’s capable of that (the time he ran) so he was on his game today,” said Burdick.
Asked if he would submit a resume for the final spot on the US Ultra Trail Team, Burdick said “I definitely want to compete for that spot. Any time you can represent the US, It’s a great honor.”
Burdick had high praise for the event, “It’s a great course and the crew was awesome. Ian (Golden) does a great job putting it on.”
For his second-pace finish, Burdick earned $1000 while third-place finisher Flaherty won $500.
Flaherty felt it wasn’t his best race, “I didn’t feel like I had a great day, but I ran well based on how I felt. I said I’d be happy with a podium spot. I was a bit slower than I wanted. You take what you’re given and you do the best you can with it. A podium finish is solid.
“Based on Sonoma, I didn’t have a lot of confidence,” Said Flaherty. “I didn’t have a really good training block. I was just kind of holding steady. But, it worked out all right.”
Flaherty was fourth at the halfway point, running 3:23 behind Sigl, Bowman, and Burdick. “I was probably feeling the roughest in the third quarter, then chasing Dylan down gave me some motivation. I would have liked to go under seven hours, but tough conditions. It was really hot.”
Bowman, who finished in 7:12:45, said of his effort, “Beggars can’t be choosers. I gave it my best shot today. It could’ve been better, it could’ve been worse. I gotta be happy with what I had…it was hard.”
On the women’s side, Corrine Malcolm, 26, Bellingham, Washington, in just her second race over 50 kilometers, had a simple goal – to smile more than anyone. “I think I did,” said Malcolm. “The boys running with me said, ‘Wow, you’re happier than anyone.’”
The former national team biathlete found herself in an unexpected position…in the lead at mile 19.
“I thought I could be top three. I did my first ever 100 mile training week two weeks ago and I definitely felt recovered from that. I had antsy legs last night trying to sleep,” said Malcolm, who for the past year and a half has been coached by David Roche. “I tried to go out conservatively. It’s trial and error with this distance. I had no intention to be in the lead. It was a race of attrition.”
Kelsey Allen led for much of the first loop, but had dropped to third by the halfway point and ended up finishing fifth among the women. Caitlin Smith, running in fifth at the halfway point, dropped out at about the 30-mile point.
“I definitely had some low spots,” said Malcolm. “But when I ran with Ben Nephew, that really helped. He just tucked in behind me and we chit chatted. In a lot of these races you end up running by yourself so it’s great to run with someone who is enthusiastic and wants to chat. Ben was amazing.”
Malcolm wasn’t confident of the win until she could see the finish line, about 800 meters out. “I run panicked,” she said. “I like being the chaser, not the chasee.”
Racing for a spot on Team USA was the reason Malcolm came to Cayuga, “It was 100% the reason I came to race here.
“The women on the team right now are really strong. I don’t have the leg speed of the others,” said Malcolm. “My strength is the harder the course, the rougher the course, the worse the weather…that’s where I excel. This course was really runnable. The RUT (a 50-kilometr race in Montana), is my spirit animal of races.”
Like the RUT, the 85-kilometer course in Portugal should play to Malcolm’s strengths. With 5000 meters of climbing, it’s sure to provide a challenging route.
Running to a second place finish with a time of 8:24:10, Sabrina Little, 29, Waco, Texas, had to shift gears from her road training to race on the trails. Little said, “I realized two miles in I was way over my head. I don’t have access to this type of trail. I do most of my running on the road. Every two weeks I get on the trails.
“It’s so beautiful out there, it’s hard to feel bad for yourself,” said Little. “I have a pretty good aerobic phase which helped, plus I’m a bit of a Kamikaze on the downhills. At about mile 43 I started running with Zach (Ornelas). He was having a bad patch. He only trains on roads. We were just consoling each other, but we were cruising right along and did some seven-minute miles. It’s just fun to have someone with you to talk to and run with. He’s pretty gregarious – a fun person to run with.”
Little’s goal was to race to a top-three finish. “I honestly did want to podium,” said Little. “But I knew it was going to be a tall order coming into it from my road training. I wasn’t thinking about time, I was trying to run within myself. I was going to push it in the second half.”
Little, who, represented Team USA at the World 24 Hour Championships in 2012 said she didn’t think she had a chance to make the trail team. But with one open spot, and perhaps additional openings should one of the four automatic selectees decline their spot, Little can submit her resume for consideration. “I’m always interested in getting on the teams. It is special to run for the United States.”
In third place was Laura Kline, 38, New Paltz, New York. “I ran way better than last year and that was my main goal,” said Kline who moved up a spot from 2015 and shaved 20 minutes off her time to finish in 8:28.
Her strategy was to take the first loop a little bit slower than in 2015. “I planned to run about 4:10 and I was about 3:52. I’d relax on the downhills, save it for the uphills and run hard on the flats. I felt super relaxed on the first loop. I knew that I was better prepared than last year.”
With runners jockeying for position, it was a challenge for Kline to keep on task. “It took a lot of will power, but I knew I had to race my own race.”
Her favorite parts of the course were easy to pinpoint. “Buttermilk Falls,” she said. “Even though there’s a lot of climbing, I always get recharged in that section. It’s a bit cooler, and there’s a bit of a breeze. I take it easy on the steps. Today, the water crossing was great. I definitely lingered more there.”
Kline is training for the World Duathlon Championships to be held in Switzerland this September, where she hopes to better her ninth-place finish from last year.
The top three women today earned prize money equal to that of the men. USATF awards were presented to the top ten men and women overall with age group awards in five-year increments presented to masters winners 40 and over.
Nephew, as the top master to finish, won the 40-44 age division. Other age group winners included Philip Vondra, 47, New Paltz, New York, timed in 8:47, Gene Dykes, 68, Bala Cynwd, Pennsylvania, with a time of 10:30, Todd Baum, 58, Fayetteville, New York, timed in 10:47, Charles Leonard, 60, Freeville, New York with a time of 12:21, and Eliot Lee, 54, Croton on Hudson, New York, timed in 14:24.
Olga Huber, 45, Macedon, New York, was first among the masters’ women posting a time of 10:31 finishing ninth among the women. Sarah Schlaack, 43, Hillsboro, NH, was timed in 13:13.
Winning the women’s open team competition was the Western Mass Distance Project comprised of Kehr Davis, Amy Rusiecki, and Kelsey Allen. There were no other teams competing.
Of the 320 registered runners, 264 checked in on race morning for the 6:00 a.m. start, 70 of whom were USATF members. The companion event, the inaugural Cayuga Trail Marathon, had 125 registered runners who started two hours later running the same loop as the 50 milers with an additional 1.2-mile section.
About the Cayuga Trails 50, race director Ian Golden said, “It’s scenic and a cool place. I try to bring in top tier athletes, offer good prize money and I wanted to host a race that reflected what a national championship should be.” In order to fund the prize purse Golden received a grant from the local tourism office.
This is the 3rd year the 50 Mile Championships has been hosted by the Cayuga Trails 50. The 2017 USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships will again be hosted by the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile. For complete results, visit: http://rednewtracing.com/CayugaTrails/Leaderboard
Written by Nancy Hobbs. Photos by Richard Bolt – USATF Championship Liaison, Cayuga Trails 50.