Sacramento Running News

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Jed Smith Finds a New Home

February 11, 2011 By: John Blue Category: Ultrarunning

50 km winner Chad Worthen accepts his winner's certificate from Co-Race Director John Blue

How fast can you run 30 km? How about 50 km? Fifty miles?

This past weekend, a small crowd of distance runners met up at the Watt Avenue access to the American River to explore that question.

The Jed Smith Ultra Classic is a 33-year-old, local tradition hosted by the Buffalo Chips Running Club.

Traditionally held at Gibson Ranch Park in Elverta, the race has been relocated along the American River due to cuts in the County’s park budget.

The race features 50-mile, 50-kilometer, and 30-kilometer races in a short, loop format. For the ultra runner, this is unusual in that it allows running “hands-free.”

At 7:30, after a short briefing, a small group of 50 mile runners was led out onto the course and away into the morning. Last year’s 50-mile winner, Michael Kanning (UC Santa Cruz), and last year’s 50 km winner, Ted Archer (Roseville), set out on a brisk pace through the short dog-leg (distance make-up loop) and then onto their 10 laps of the 4.88 mile course.

Kanning would, unfortunately, drop due to injury after four laps. As a result, Archer, though falling well off pace after the first half, ran uncontested for the win in 6:24:48. Shiran Kocharvi, travelling all the way from Princeton, New Jersey for the race, would take second in 6:47:38. Charley Jones would earn the third spot on the podium with an 8:23:04 finish.

This year’s Jed Smith had only two women finishers and the first in was June Gessner, of Eureka, in 9:05:43. Rachel Thaning, of Concord, finished second in 9:41:23. At the finish, Gessner told me that she’d been running scared during the final laps, worrying about the 5:00PM cut-off for starting the final lap. As it turned out, she had nothing to worry about!

Speedy women Jen Pfeifer and Jenny Hitchings

At Jed Smith, the marquee race is always the 50 km, as it is traditionally the first race in the Pacific Association USA Track and Field’s Ultra Grand Prix. This year was no exception and there were a few fast folks lining up for the start.

The 50 km started at 8:30 on the nose and a lead pack consisting of Chad Worthen, of Sacramento, Jean Pommier, of Cupertino, and Sean Lang, of Santa Cruz, took off, running somewhere in the neighborhood of 6:00 per mile. Pommier had finished a close second to Archer in last year’s 50 km and seemed to be targeting the win. What Pommier and Lang didn’t realize was that while this was Worthen’s first 50 km, he was a pretty fast marathoner using the race as an over-distance training run for next month’s Napa Marathon.

Ted Archer earns the win in the 50-mile race

After four laps, Worthen had a secure lead and eased off the throttle a tiny bit, finishing in a very respectable 3:18:11, which translates to a 6:23/mile pace. Pommier let Worthen and Lang go after the first few miles but kept up a steady, workman-like pace and claimed 2nd in 3:28:15. Michael Fink, of Lincoln, running a steady, mostly solo effort passed the flagging Lang in the last lap to take third in 3:31:59. Lang finished 4th in 3:38:09.

In the women’s race of the 50 km, it was a familiar face taking the lead from the wire. Jennifer Pfeifer, of El Dorado, who’d set a one-time course record at Gibson Ranch, has been mounting a come-back of sorts to the ultra racing scene.

Pfeifer had been focusing on road racing and has been absent from the longer distance races for the past year and a half. She ran like a Swiss clock after an easy first lap and handily won the race in 3:45:38, which was good enough for 5th overall. Lainie Callahan, of Fair Oaks, followed in second place with a 4:20:58, and Wendy Georges, of Berkeley, finished third in 4:37:33.

For the 30 km, once Rich Hanna pinned on a number, it was pretty much a race for 2nd. Hanna immediately pulled to the lead and stayed there. Hanna finished in 1:49:53, and the next runner was Steven Peppard, of Galt, in 2:04:46. Jenny Hitchings, of Sacramento, out-sprinted Mark Murray, of Davis, in the last mile to finish first woman and 3rd overall in 2:06:31. Murray finished in 2:06:32.

The 2nd and 3rd women in were Bridgette Holzapple, of Grass Valley, and Susan Frazier, of Placerville. They ran 2:27:53 and 2:36:52, respectively.

After the race, the runners enjoyed the nice weather.

At 16, Frazier was the youngest finisher, in any of the races. The oldest finisher, at 77, was Larry Lieb, of Carmichael, who ran the 50 km in 7:33:38.

While the weather for this year’s Jed Smith—sunny and low 70s—was perfect for the volunteers, it proved stressful for some of the 50 mile and 50 km runners. After months of training in the cold and gray, the moderate warmth was giving many runners upset stomachs.

Allin all, it would be hard to think of a better way to spend a Saturday!

On a personal note, Dennis Scott and I were the Race Directors for this year’s Jed Smith. I’d like to express my sincere appreciation for the dozens of people who gave up all or part of their Saturday to help put this on. I appreciate it and the runners certainly appreciate it!

Jose Rodarte ran the 30 km and then volunteered until dark.

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