Story and photos by USATF Championship liaison Lin Gentling.
Max King and YiOu Wang Capture the 2017 50K USATF National Trail Championships at the Fourmidible 50K – 18 February 2017.
The day dawned as it had for the past few days…wet. With a gentle rain at the start and predictions of heavier rain throughout the day on an already fully saturated course, runners knew that they were in for a difficult day. This event has a total accumulative climbing of over 6000 feet in the 50K with less than one mile of road running. At 8:00 AM the USATF 50K Trail Championships were off on the trail system surrounding Auburn, CA in the American River Valley and surrounding environs. Many running were Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run veterans, as well as prior Formidible 50K runners.
The front runners were right where you expected them to be leading the pack of well over 200 behind them. Coming into the 5.4 mile aid station in order were Andy Wacker (Boulder, CO), Cole Watson (Ashland, OR), David Roche (Sunnyvale, CA), and Max King (Bend, OR). Watson, Roche, and King were tightly together while Wacker was 4 minutes leading the race. Unfortunately as Wacker came down the hill into the aid station he suffered a serious fall with a severe laceration to his leg. He stayed in the aid station while the three behind him passed through as he tried to clean up the cut and assess his immediate future. However the fall proved to be too much and he exited the course, but stayed on at the finish line to welcome in the lead runners.
Leading the women through 5.4 miles was Addie Bracy from Longmont CO followed closely by YiOu Wang of San Anselmo, CA. Several minutes behind the duo were masters runners Jennifer Pfeifer (El Dorado, CA) and Meghan Arbogast (Cool, CA).
The 5.4 mile aid station was a mere warm-up as the guts of the course was about to explode. With only three locations where spectators were permitted to view the runners, there was a lot of predicting and waiting for runners to pass through.
At No Hands aid station (9.6 miles), the top three men were still bunched together as were the top 2 women, except the positions had changed with Wang leading Bracy, but essentially they were on each other’s heels. However at this point it seemed like the front runners were defined, we just could not be sure who would take what position. With the variability of the trails, you just never know if runners will stay upright or succumb to the whims of the trail gods.
By the third spectator location at the Cool aid station (23.4 miles), Max King had taken a commanding lead. About 4 minutes behind him was Cole Watson. Both came through making the attempt to dance across the small stream, misjudged its depth, and face planted right into the water. Admittedly they looked much cleaner when emerging. Both were smiling and joked about their misstep, and quickly resumed their hunt. David Roche was much more calculated and received some help from the observers regarding the best crossing location. He managed to get through the stream with better results. Bearing any unforeseen circumstances, it appeared that the finishing order had been determined. The only question remaining was what would be the difference in time from one position to the next.
Back at the finish line, the crowds were increasing as the 35K racers and half marathoners were finishing and waiting around for the 50K winners. It didn’t seem long after passing the 23.4 mile aid station at Cool that Max King crested the final hill toward the finish line, breaking the tape in 3:32:37 besting the course record by 41 minutes. Behind him was Cole Watson in 3:39:51, followed by David Roche in 3:51.22. The top 6 men were ahead of the course record of 4:09:15, proving the high quality of the field.
On the women’s side, like the men, positions did not change from 9 miles on, only the interval between the top runners changed. YiOu Wang proved once again her trail expertise taking the women’s 50K trail championship in 4:18:09 shattering the prior women’s record of 4:55.34. Fourteen minutes later, Addie Bracy crossed the finish line totally exhausted. Third place and first women’s master to see the finish was Jen Pfeifer with a time of 5:13:01.
The weather never gave us what it threatened to do. Shortly after the race start, the rain stopped and was not to happen again that day. Maybe it is saving its thrust for the next couple days. We actually saw brief periods of sunshine. Runners loved the cooler weather absent of any glaring sun. Many commented on the difficulty of the course with several indicating this was the most difficult course they had run. Without exception, every runner crossing the finish line bought with them legs and backsides coated in the red mud of California. The course gave every runner the challenge that trail ultras are so known for. The weather and course conditions added to the fun. It was easily apparent that when each runner crossed the finish line after hours on the trail, they were different then they were when this race started earlier in the day, not only in appearance, but in accomplishment and pride.
A very special thanks and appreciation to Paulos Medina and his Single Track Running Company. He put on a quality race that challenged the runner and was very worthy of a trail national championship.
Results of the 50K Trail national Championship can be found at