Last year, he and partner Hal Koerner took second place, losing to a pair of track stars he hadn’t heard of before the race. Robert Krar and Mike Smith showed up from Flagstaff, Arizona to run down Koerner and Martin.
Martin, age 35, wants first place this time around. He’s got the teammate to do it, having paired up with 30-year-old Oregon speedster Max King on Team Montrail/Hammer Nutrition. (Read iRF’s profile of Max King.) Martin’s biggest challenge, he believes, will be simply keeping up with King.
Martin and King, frequent training partners in Bend, planned to run together in the 2009 TransRockies. The idea was shelved once King realized his pregnant wife’s due date coincided with the race.
Intrigued by the idea of a stage race, Martin didn’t want to abandon the idea of going to Colorado. Instead, he linked up with Koerner on Team Nike/Rogue Valley Runners. The two hadn’t spent much time running together, but figured they’d give the event a whirl.
They immediately uncovered stark physical discrepancies. While Martin regularly trained at 6,000 feet around Bend, Ashland resident Koerner wasn’t used to altitude. The first few days, Koerner gasped for air on the Colorado climbs. Martin ended up beating his partner up every hill, and then the nimble Koerner would hurry to catch up on the technical descents.
“The funny thing about TransRockies is, it doesn’t matter how the stronger runner does,” Martin said. “It matters how the weaker one does.”
Koerner and Martin fell to second place on the first day and never could reclaim the lead, though they came close. They ran faster in the sixth day, but not fast enough.
“I wanted another chance at it,” Martin said.
Though Koerner and Martin didn’t capture the win, they came out of TransRockies with solid respect for each other. They barely knew each other before the race, and left Colorado as good friends.
“Hal and I saw other teams get torn apart on the trail because their personalities didn’t mesh,” Martin said. “We meshed.”
This time around, Martin expects to suffer in order to keep up with King. He believes King, a former track and cross country star, has better speed than most every ultra runner out there.
“I’m going to be working my tail off,” Martin said.
Heidi Dietrich is a journalist and runner living in Seattle. Her web site is www.heidiseattle.com.