Let’s have a look at the always subdued yet relevant USATF 50 Mile National Road Championship at the Tussey Mountainback in Pennsylvania.
This event is like many “big” US ultra events. There is extreme talent but depth is shallow as an Arizona puddle. Last year we saw Todd Braje and Devon Crosby Helms rocket through to course records in the mens and womens fields (5:43 for Todd and 6:28 for Devon). Aside from 24 hr specialist, Connie Gardner, no big names showed for the women. For the men, Braje was back to defend but this time he would have to contend with the speedy and resilient Michael Wardian. Braje had his hands full in the Rothrock State Forest in central PA. While managing a time that would normally win the Tussey race, Braje’s 5:50 fell short of not only his time from last year but also the eye-popping new course record of 5:33 set by Wardian.
The course is 74% dirt, so it’s interesting that they deem it the “road” championship. The undulating nature of the course compounded with the constant parade of the concurrently running relay race with vehicles included, makes Wardian’s time all the more impressive. His efforts today almost guarantee his USATF Ultra Runner of the Year for 2011. But wait a minute. The USATF UROY only concerns itself with performances from November 1, 2010 to October 1, 2011, so Wardian’s run today goes into the bucket for next year’s title picks; just pointing out another oddity with the USATF awards. Wardian will win the award and probably deserves it. The guy excels at many distances over many surfaces and terrain with a robust schedule.
For the women, Connie Gardner topped the field for the women’s title in 7:04, 36 minutes off the course record.