Conditions were cool with temperatures in the low 60s under overcast skies at the 7 AM start of the USATF 30km Trail Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Saturday, July 30. Hosted by Mad Moose Events as part of the Pikes Peak Ultra 30K, this was the first time a USATF trail championships had been staged at this distance.
The course began on single-track trails in Beer Creek Regional Park and continued onto the beautiful and scenic dirt roads and trails of Pikes Peak National Forest. The beauty of the area was a comment heard often by the nearly 250 race participants in the 30K and companion 50 miler. Another frequent comment was how smooth and runnable the trails were.
The competitors also liked opening up on the flat and rolling sections, and bombing the descents. Of course to fly down a mountain trail, ascents are also necessary and with 3500 feet of elevation gain from start to finish – with the lowest point in the course at 6,500 feet – the route had its share of climbing and altitude.
Things heated up quickly after the cool start, both with the temperature and the competition. Local resident 32-year-old Joe Gray set a quick early pace that challenged the competition to hang on. He began to pull away from the field on the first climb two miles into the race. That first climb up High Drive gained nearly 1200 feet over 2.5 miles. By the top of the climb, Gray had amassed a nearly two minute lead over his nearest competitor.
Gray never let his feet linger in the soft dirt as he would increase his advantage all the way to the finish, winning by nearly six minutes in a time of 1:47:35. Gray has now won eleven national titles over various distances and terrains. Matt Daniels, 28, of Boulder, CO said, “Anytime you’re racing Joe, you know you’re about to hurt.”
Daniels did a pretty good job of hurting, in spite of some stomach issues, as he would take second in 1:53:26. Both Gray and Daniels will be representing the USA at the World Mountain Running Championships this fall in Bulgaria.
Peter Maksimow, 37, Manitou Springs, CO, said his fitness has finally caught up to the growth of his beard. Maksimow would claim third in 1:57:45. “I ran the course in training before race day,” said Maksimow. “I figured the winning time would be around two hours so I was really happy to go under that mark.”
Darren Thomas and Scott Spillman came fourth and fifth respectively to round out the top five.
In the women’s race, Megan Roche, 26, Sunnyvale, CA, and Clare Gallagher, 24, Englewood, CO, were together early, rolling through the first aid station at two miles. Coming off the first climb Roche, who has been living and training in Boulder this summer, had a lead of about 30 seconds. She would remain out front to take the win in 2:17:55.
Roche is accumulating her own stack of national titles across the spectrum of mountain, ultra and trail running. “This is one of the best courses I’ve ever run. The new distance added a unique variety to the USATF Mountain Ultra Trail championship schedule,” said Roche.
Gallagher challenged all the way, reaching the finish line in second place with a time of 2:18:21. Gallagher runs with the Rocky Mountain Runners in Boulder. She commented on the connected and supportive nature of the trail community, not to mention the great group of women racers.
Amanda Basham, 26, Manitou Springs, CO, took a different route to her podium finish as she ran further back in about sixth place through the first climb. Basham commented, “Climbing is one of my strengths and I was able to pick girls off as the race went along.”
Her time was 2:21:56.
In fourth place, New Mexico’s Erica Baron at 44 years old, was the first master to the finish line timed in 2:23:54. Amanda Lee, 27, finished 17 seconds later to round out the top five on the women’s side.
Mad Moose Events rewarded the USATF competitors with cash prizes of $300 for first, $225 for second, $150 for third, $125 for fourth, and $100 for fifth in both the men’s and women’s races.
Additionally, a cash prize of $100 was award for the first master for men and women. Chris Grauch, 43, Boulder, CO won the cash with his seventh-place finish overall in a time of2:05:08, making this his fourth master title in the last two years. Baron won the $100 master prize as well as $125 for her fourth place finish overall.
There were 124 finishers in the race of which 42 were USATF members. Other national champions were Jeanne McCumin, 60, Colorado Springs, CO, Michele Genereux, 51, San Antonio, TX, Dan Vega, 48, Colorado Springs, CO, Scott Lebo, 50, Colorado Springs, CO, Mark Tatum, 56, Colorado Springs, CO, Dan Kuhlman, 62, Austin, TX, Joe Shirley, 68, Centennial, CO, and Ed Christy, 70, St. George, UT
Next up on the USATF Mountain Ultra Trail championships schedule, will be the USATF Trail 50km on August 27, in Sausalito, CA. Remaining championships in 2016 include the USATF 24 Hours on September 18-19, the Half Marathon Trail on October 15, the USATF 50Mile Road on October 30, and the USATF Marathon Trail on November 5.