It’s been six months since the last USA Track & Field Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) championship took place in Auburn, California at the Pioneer Spirit 50 Mile. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has lead to five 2020 championships and world championships team selection races being cancelled. As we enter the last quarter of the year there are still three remaining USATF MUT championships scheduled to be staged with safety modifications in place due to the ongoing pandemic.
First among them, the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships, will be held in Cable, Wisconsin, this Saturday, September 26, at the Birkie Trail Running Festival. The popular Birkie Trail Run also hosted this championships in 2017 and 2018, but on a different course in nearby Hayward.
This year’s course will start and finish at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead located on McNaught Road in Cable. The half marathon features 1473 feet in elevation gain and due to COVID-19 restrictions, the single track sections have been removed. The ski trail sections of the course range from 10 to 30 feet wide and are mostly grass covered. Some sections have a dirt “goat path” formed on them, some do not get much summer use and are grass-covered from edge to edge.
The trails are built in a region with glacial topography, littered with potholes and ridges. The ski trails were built to attack the terrain with the slopes going directly up the fall line. This creates a seemingly endless run of steep ups and downs. Most of the climbs are small at less than 50 feet, but are steep, with slopes between 10-20%. It is very different terrain from mountainous alpine regions outside the upper mid-west, but equally challenging with hundreds of small to medium climbs adding up to a large amount of total climb. The descents are equally steep and relentless.
Kristy Maki, event director American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, said, “We are very excited to be hosting an in-person event and have been working hard with local public health authorities to ensure we can do it safely during a pandemic. We have made a lot of modifications to our event to keep participants, volunteers, staff, and local communities safe. We are committed to providing motivation to keep people moving and healthy and are committed to hosting events in the safest manner possible.” The continually updated safety plans can be found on the Birkie Trail Running Festival website.
The field for the USA Track & Field championships includes 20 women and 36 men, with registration still open for late race registration through Friday, September 25, at 7PM CST.
Top contenders in the women’s field include out-of-staters Samantha Lewis, 26, Moscow, ID who finished second in 2018, Dani Moreno, 28, Santa Barbara, CA who was runner-up in 2017, 2017 champion Ashley Brasovan (pictured above with Dani Moreno), 29, Golden, CO, Penelope Freedman, 37, Steamboat Springs, CO, Kimber Mattox, 31, Bend, OR, Janelle Lincks, 26, Boulder, CO, and CeAnn Udovich, 21, Fort Collins, CO. This talented group of women will battle for the championships title with Wisconsin’s Emily Renner, 31, Madison, Margaret Ho, 31, La Crosse, Jackie Herring, 36, Cottage Grove, and Jonnah Perkins, 37, Blue Mounds. A pool of masters’ runners will also be in the mix with the likes of Jessica Hruska, 40, Dubuque, IA, an Minnesotans Lisa Hane, 46, St. Paul, and Jody Zeleznikar, 47, Esko.
On the men’s side, 2018 runner-up Andy Wacker, 32, Boulder, CO, will be looking for the win this year. He’ll be challenged by Kallin Khan, 23, Lisle, IL, Drew Mueller, 36, Moab, UT, Ben Lundell, 37, Dubuque, IA, and Wisconsin’s Patrick Brady, 34, Madison, and Adam Condit, 37, Eau Claire. In the masters’ hunt for bragging rights will be 28 athletes from age 40 to 72, with the 60-64 having the most entrants to date with six.
In addition to USATF Championship medals for the top ten men and women, masters’ medals will be presented to the top three men and women ages 40 and over in five-year increments. Prize money for the top three men and women will be $500 for first, $250 for second and $100 for third.