Sacramento Running News

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American River 50: Fast and Dry

April 09, 2012 By: John Blue Category: General Running News, Trails, Ultrarunning

Ellie Greenwood is all smiles after 40 miles. (SRN photo)

This past Saturday, under ideal conditions, some of the best runners in the world gathered in Sacramento for one of North America’s largest ultras.

This was the first time in several years that the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run was not part of the Montrail Cup. As a result, the depth of talent at the front of the race was not quite as robust as we’ve come to expect and yet there were still some extraordinary times.

Although the race was won by New Zelander Vajin Armstrong in a respectable time of 5:53:32, the star of the show was the Scottish/Canadian Ellie Greenwood.

Greenwood ran a reasonably relaxed first section, arriving at Beals Point (26.5 miles) in 3:11, which put her in about 11th place. (She reportedly wandered off course for a bit, adding to her time in this section, but I’m not sure how much of effect that had.)

After leaving Beals Point, Greenwood poured it on–accelerating through the top men in the field. Her split from Rattlesnake (40.9) to the finish of 1:15 was only bettered by Armstrong, the overall winner.

Greenwood’s finishing time of 6:18:47 was good enough for 5th overall, and looks to be a new course record, bettering Ann Trason’s 6:23:21, which was set way back in 1987. and appears to be the fastest time ever run by a woman other than Ann Trason. (Note: It also appears the source I was relying on for the course record was a tad bit out of date!)

In the men’s race, Vajin Armstrong and Chris Lundstrom, of Minneapolis, set a fast pace early in the race and by Sunrise (14.4 miles) these two men

Armstrong (#9) and Taylor sharing the lead at Beals Point. (SRN photo)

had a five minute lead over the chase pack.

Then, by the time Armstrong and Lundstrom had reached Beals point, they had an eight minute gap on a large chase pack that included many top runners in the region.

The immediate chase pack included Chris Calzetta, Jacob RydmanRich Hanna, Rod Bien, Erik Skaden, and Lewis Taylor.

Rich Hanna, nervous after an unpleasant training run in the weeks leading up to the race, started conservatively, planning to run with the chase pack and then put the hammer down after Granite Bay. Unfortunately for him, the pack splintered after Beals Point and he found himself in no mans land soon after hitting the trail section.

By the time the lead runners reached Rattlesnake Bar (40.9 miles), the lead positions had been settled. Armstrong was first. Hanna was eight minutes back in 2nd, and Jacob Rydman was another two minutes back in 3rd.

Armstrong was first to the finish at the Overlook in 5:53:32. Hanna was 2nd in 6:05:50 and Rydman came in 3rd with 6:10:28. Lundstrom held on for 4th in 6:16:58.

Hitchings dashes into Beals Point (SRN photo)

In the women’s race, there was Greenwood racing the Legend of Ann Trason and then there was the race for 2nd.

Jenny Hitchings of Sacramento and Ashley Laird of Sonora, two 50-mile rookies, spent the day dueling it out for 2nd place.

At Beals Point, Hitchings was the second woman to arrive, 14-minutes behind Greenwood and 13-minutes in front of Laird.

By the time these women arrived at Rattlesnake Bar (40.9 miles), Laird had pared Hitchings’ lead down to only three minutes. From there to the finish, the women ran nearly identical times–Laird only shaving another nine seconds off in this section–so Hitchings got to keep the second place with a 7:21:42. Laird followed her in a few minutes later in 7:24:46.

The fourth place woman was Ana Guijarro, of Fontana, who ran 7:41:54.

Interestingly, the top masters runners in the race were Rich Hanna, 47, and Jenny Hitchings, 48.

It is also worth pointing out that while Rich Hanna’s time of 6:05:50 might seem fast, it was eclipsed by a younger Rich Hanna who ran 5:37:14 in this race back in 1995. Yikes!

Complete results are here.


Update: I’ve just posted a bunch of photos on the Sacramento Running News Facebook page.


4 Comments to “American River 50: Fast and Dry”

  1. Arnold Utterback says:

    Nice report on this year’s AR50. But I believe Ellie’s time of 6:18, although bettering Ann Trason’s 1987 time of 6:22 is short of Trason’s 1993 4th place finish in an amazing 6:09:08.

  2. John Blue

    Good catch, Arnold. I won’t reveal where I got that faulty intel.

  3. I believe Ann Trason also ran 6:11 in 1995, when she finished second overall (behind only Rich Hanna’s amazing 5:37).

  4. John Blue

    I couldn’t find the course records on the race website, but shows that Ann Trason ran 6:09:08 in 1993. I’ve updated the original story to reflect this.


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