White River Runs Wild
When we recently decided to cover the White River 50 we took a look at the entrants list and were really excited by what we saw: Krupicka, Wardian, Koerner, Jurek, Crowther, Morrison, Lint, Freeman, Kochik, Browning, and Semick. These guys (and gal) did not disappoint. At the end of the day, Kami Semick and Anton Krupicka left Crystal Mountain as the 2009 USATF trail 50 mile national champions. Not only did Tony walk away with a national championship, but the course record, as well.
The Men’s Race
The men went out fast and furious. We when first saw them at Camp Sheppard (3.9 miles) there were 8 guys in tight single file flying down the trail – returning USATF champion Michael Wardian and young stud Anton Krupicka were among them. None of them stopped for aid. A few notable folks, such as Scott Jurek and Hal Koerner were not with the lead pack for the moment. Time would tell if they were running smart or had fallen out of the hunt early.
The first large climb of the day strung out the field by Ranger Creek 2 (22.1 miles) where Krupicka was 45 second or so ahead of Wardian.
Tony increased his lead to 3:30 by the Buck Creek aid station (mile 27.2). Wardian, still in second, was four minutes ahead of Ian Fraser, who was making his 50 mile debut. Greg Crowther, Andrew Hemshaw, and Will Emerson came in around one another 11:30 behind Anton and about 4 minutes behind Ian. Scott Jurek went through another 90 seconds later. The men’s top 10 was rounded out by Joseph Grant, Jeff Browning, and Hal Koerner, but all were already at least 17 minutes behind Tony.
Krupicka blazed the trail from Buck Creek to Sun Top Mountain (37.0). In less than 1o miles, he put over 13 minutes on Wardian. While Mike has recently spent some time training on a treadmill set to a 10-15% grade, he was seriously impressed with Anton’s climbing ability during this second big climb of the day. It turns out that Tony wasn’t the only one at the front of the field who could out climb Wardian. Ian Fraser caught Mike on the long climb.
Word is that before the race Uli Steidl said something along the lines of his record being safe for another year, but by the final aid station, Skookum Flats, at mile 43.4 he couldn’t have been feeling so confident. Soon after Anton blew through the aid station, Uli told us that Tony was 3 or 4 minutes under course record pace. With an 18 minute lead on Wardian and just over 6 flat miles to run, the only thing Tony was racing to the finish was Uli’s ghost. Wardian was the second man into Skookum and he, too, had a nearly 18 minute lead over the next runner, in this case rookie, Ian Fraser. Given that Tony and Wardian looked like they had first and second wrapped up, the race to the finish appeared to be between Fraser and Greg Crowther who passed through only two minutes back.
The ultra aficionados at the finish eagerly waited for Krupicka to turn the final corner. They, including Uli Steidl, also kept an eye on the clock. Uli’s record, less five minutes, came and went without any sign of Tony. T-4 minutes. Not yet. T-3 minutes. Still no Tony – he’d lost time to Uli on the final section. T-90 seconds. The course record window was closing fast. T-75 seconds. We were becoming unsettled. Fortunately, Tony then sprung round the bend and crossed the line in 6:32:09, just 44 seconds under Uli’s old course record. What a run!
Wardian (6:51:50) cruised in 20 minutes behind Krupicka. Greg Crowther (7:02) beat his personal best on the course by two minutes on his way to third place. Scott Jurek ran a smart race to finish fourth in 7:13:09. Ian Fraser walked across the line in fifth after having severe calf and hamstring cramping over the final 6 miles. Still, fifth place at the USATF championships and a 7:17:30 at White River is a pretty solid debut 50.
[Trail Goat Note: Some folks may be interested to know who Ian Fraser is. Well, in the late 90's I was fortunate enough to call him a teammate at Haverford College, where Ian primarily raced cross country, 1,500-5,000m, and the 3,000m steeplechase. Post-collegiately, Ian raced the steeplechase before moving on to the marathon, a distance at which he's run 2:24. Fraser ran high mileage (120-30 miles/week) during his peak marathon training, but has been logging only half that of late due to his job on a research vessel. In fact, he decided to jump into his first ultra, the new Lost Lake 50k, because he "was out of shape and would be disappointed racing at other distances." Ian won Lost Lake... by over an hour. Five weeks later, he toed the line at White River and gave some of the best ultrarunners in the country a run for their money.]
The Women’s Race
We feel a bit guilty about not providing as much coverage of the women’s race, but there wasn’t much of a race on which to report. Kami Semick (7:57:35) was leading at 4 miles and held that lead all the way to a 22 minute win and a national championship. She made if look easy. As far as we know, Prudence L’Heureux (8:19:53) held her second place position from start to finish, too. Ellen Parker (8:48ish) ran in third from very early on until sometime after Buck Creek, when she and Shawna Wilskey traded places (8:33:40). Donna Askew took fifth in 8:53:50.
For more firsthand perspective on the race, we recommend you check Anton Krupicka and Greg Crowther’s White River race reports. We saw Glenn Tachiyama at the race and now we can see his sweet photos of the race.
So now that we’re done, what did you all think of the race? Anyone want to share their own experiences at White River – from this year or the past?