October 5, 2004
Nelson and Ricklefs Shine at USA 50 Mile Championship
State College, PA - On Saturday, October 2, a record turnout of runners took on 50 miles of fire roads and course records tumbled at the 2004 USA 50 Mile Road National Championships, held at the 5th annual Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Ultramarathon in Rothrock State Forest, near Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.
An early morning breeze eased temperatures down into the fifties as the race started at 7 a.m. Twenty-four men and nine women completed the course. Colorado's Chad Ricklefs powered through the scenic forest loop to victory in the men's open division of the National Championships in a blazing 5:53:37, calling the course "relentless."
"I thought it was a great course, very challenging, very indicative of what a national championship should be. The second half is tough. Starting at about mile 37 – 37 to 45 is about the toughest part of the course. When I went through the first 25 in 2:40, that's a 5:20 pace, I was like, wow, this could be a really, really good run, but as you see I slowed down the second half, and the course was a big part of that."
Ricklefs peeled an impressive 90 minutes from the previous course record set by Steve Thorne in 2002, which still stands as the fastest master's time.
"It's ideal for national championships," said Ricklefs. "World 100K championships in Japan next year are on very similar type conditions, very hilly. This is a good test. Comrades, in South Africa, is like this as well. Those are on my plate for next June, so this was a great test to see where I am."
In his first effort at the distance, Downingtown, PA's Andrew McDowell motored to second place in 6:43:06. In the master's division Lou D'Angelo of Allison Park, PA held off challenger Mike Price of Landisburg, PA for first place by just 45 seconds. Joe Novicky was the master's division National Champion.
The women's open race was a back-and-forth battle. Course record holder Morgan Windram, of nearby Boalsburg, took the early lead, with Ontario's Jenn Dick and New Jersey's Jody-Lynn Reicher in close pursuit. After the course took a steep uphill climb, Dick led the women's division with Windram on her heels. At about mile 8, Reicher took over with Windram behind her and Dick in third. By mile 12, Laura Nelson of Virginia had Reicher in her sights and put the pedal to the metal. Nelson passed Reicher at mile 13 and continued to pull away from the other front runners. The battle for 2nd and 3rd would continue to the 49th mile. Windram pursued then appeared to drop back by mile 22. Near mile 25, Windram had to call it a day, and Dick was now in 2nd with Laurel Valley of Maine in tow. By mile 26, Dick led Valley by 15 seconds with Reicher just 45 seconds back. By mile 32, 2nd and 3rd position changed again. Reicher caught up to Valley by mile 29 and then to Dick near mile 32. Nelson, at this point, was approximately 20 minutes ahead, and went on to win the women's open National Championship in a course record 7:06:20.
"This is a very, very hilly road course," said Nelson moments after finishing. "It's the hardest road course I've run for a championship so far. I enjoyed the hills in the beginning, but in the second half I got tired."
In the contest for second place, for the next 16 miles Dick pursued Reicher, finally edging her out for second. Reicher took the women's master's division National Championship title in 7:50:40. Also noteworthy among the master's women was Patricia Klaus, of Cincinnati, in her unparalleled fourth consecutive solo Mountainback.