2013 IAU World Trail Championship Preview

IAU logoOn July 6th, the US team of David Riddle, Justin Ricks, Brian Rusiecki, Dave James, Jason Bryant, Amy Rusiecki, Michele Yates, Tracy Hoeg, Stefanie Bernosky, and myself will be running the 4th IAU World Trail Championship in Wales. Both the women’s and men’s teams are aiming for podium team finishes, and the competition looks to be challenging. Due to some objections from breeding birds on the original race site of Anglesey, the race site was moved to the foothills of Snowden in North Wales. This has delayed communication about course details, but the most recent photos from the 5-loop, 15k course suggest that it should be a runnable course. The 45-mile race is advertised to include about 9,000 feet of climb, and although the grades seem moderate, that amount of climb will surely wear on the runners by the last two laps. The terrain is a mix of forest roads, non-technical single track, and moderately technical single track. Overall, the course suits the strengths of many on our team.

Course Update: After getting out on the course this morning, the general consensus of the team is that the course is fast, with the only technical sections being quite short and not all that challenging compared to the French Alps in Serre Chevalier for the IAU race in 2009, or the insanity of the 2011 race in Connemara. With the amount of fire road mileage and the multi-loop format, it feels similar to an IAU road championship. The park for the race site and the singletrack is very scenic with views of hidden lakes and rolling English countryside. Green everything, everywhere. Even on the short loop, the weather is variable, with large temperature swings in short periods of time, and who knows what the weather will be like on Saturday. One section of forest is so thick we might need a headlamp if it clouds over on race day! The final two miles of the loop are painfully fast, and could induce overly aggressive early paces and will surely stimulate some heated, possibly unwanted, battles for place on the last loop.

For the US men, David Riddle has both the speed and hill strength to excel, and has the potential to compete for an individual spot on the podium. David has had a great year so far, with wins ranging from a course record at the 8 Tuff Miles road race in St. John, US Virgin Islands to the third fastest time at his win at the Ice Age 50 Mile, with a time not far behind Andy Jones and Dan Held, both 6:33 100k runners. Brian Rusiecki is coming off wins at the Bull Run and Pineland Farms 50 Miles, a strong second at the Bear Mountain 50 Mile, and a solid fourth at the extremely competitive Cayuga Trail 50 Mile. I started my season with a longer FKT run of 80 miles on the North South Trail in Rhode Island in 12:13, and followed that with a win the Rock the Ridge 50m, a second at the Pineland 50k, and seventh at the Cayuga Trail 50 Mile. Dave James has been racing many of the challengers at races all over Europe all spring and is excited to contribute to the US effort. Jason Bryant has started his first year as a master’s runner with a win at the Uwharrie Mountain Run 40m, a fourth at the Red Hot 33k, and a third at the Nueces 50 Mile. Justin Ricks won the Red Hot 33k, was second at the Hell’s Hills 25k, third at the Jemez Mountain Half Marathon, and has been focusing on this race for several months. Myself, Dave James, and Jason are returning members from the 2011 US team in Connemara, where we placed sixth in the team race, not far behind Great Britain and Germany in fourth and fifth.

Amy Rusiecki won the 50k at Bear Mountain, and won the Mother’s Day 6hr race in Massachusetts outright! She followed that up with a second behind Aliza Lapierre at the Pineland Farm 50 Mile and a third at Cayuga, making it a lucrative weekend for the Rusiecki’s. Tracy Hoeg has had a busy spring with wins at the Hammer Trail 100, the Farum So 14k, and a second at the Svanninge Bakker Half Marathon. Her base building included six marathons while pregnant last year, and I’m sure the labor improved her pain threshold! She has been working on her speed recently, which should come in handy for this race. Stef Bernosky won the Rocky Raccoon 50k and was second at the Texas Endurance Run 50m in 2012, and ran a sub 24-Hour 100 at Rocky Raccoon this year. She followed up that debut 100 with a seventh at the Nueces 50 Mile a month later. Michele Suszek comes into the race with wins at the Bandera 100k, Nueces 50 Mile, and Indiana Trail 100, where she won the race outright. Her 6:53 at Nueces put her in fourth overall.

Both the men’s and women’s champions from 2011 (the event is run biannually), Erik Clavery and Maud Gobert of France, are back to defend their titles. The top teams in the men’s field look to once again be France and Italy, with many returning runners from their medal winning teams from the last championship in Connemara. Another strong team that will surely challenge for both individual and team medals in the home Great Britain team, who has a strong mix of road and trail experience in their lineup. Norway also looks to be a contender, and there are likely to be strong teams flying under the radar considering the range of athletes that could do well on the IAU course and the two-year gap between championships. A number of the teams have a mix of road and trail specialists, which should make the race interesting. Most of the men’s top ten is returning from Connemara, which is a testament to the growing popularity of the IAU events in addition to the list of 20 countries competing. The women’s teams from France and Italy look to be the ones to beat based on the Connemara race, but the less challenging aspects of the Wales course could suit other teams and make it difficult to predict the results in general.

Our teams are confident in our preparation and excited to put on our USA singlets and line up with some of best trail runners from 20 countries. Considering the financial, family, job, and running sacrifices necessary to attend and compete well at these races, a high level of commitment and motivation is a given, and no matter what the outcome, we are grateful for this unique opportunity to compete at this level. Race day updates should be available from the Welsh organizing committee and the IAU.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Will you be following along wit the IAU Championships this weekend?
  • Readers from outside the US, we’d love to hear who’s representing your country and how you think they could do this weekend.
Ben Nephew

is an 11 time winner and course record holder at the Escarpment Trail Race. He has PR's of 3:10 for 50k and 5:47 for 50 miles and holds the fastest known times for the Adirondack Great Range Traverse, the Devil's Path in the Catskills, and the Pemigewasset Loop in the White Mountains. He has been running in INOV-8's since 2004, and is also sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.