|National championship events
have a way of playing out like this. Saturday morning at the
Huntington Reservoir, two elite ultramarathoners dueled it out for
over three hours, neither aware of the other's strategy or even
strengths. And when one of them, Charles Hubbard, pulled up at an
aid station three miles from the finish, symbolically waving a white
flag, no one was more suprised than Jim Garcia. |
Massachusetts, won The Huff 50K Trail Run on the Banks of the Wabash
after pulling away from Hubbard at the 29-mile mark of the 32.4-mile
race in northern Indiana. Garcia braved sub-zero wind-chills for
much of the race and finished in 3 hours, 39 minutes and 9 seconds,
a minute ahead of Hubbard, of Minnesota.
By winning the Huff 50K, Garcia adds
another accomplishment to a career of impressive victories. This
one, a national championship. The race was recognized as the 2001
USA National 50K Trail Championship by USA Track & Field.
"I'm pretty happy with how the race went today," Garcia said
shortly after finishing. "It was a tough race in rough conditions
and the competition was fierce."
Anne Riddle won the women's
race in 4:16 after overtaking Ann Heaslett at the beginning of the
third and final 10.8-mile loop. Heaslett finished in 4:21.
Riddle's victory provided the perfect ending to an
impressive 2001 racing season. The national 50K title bookends well
with her 100K title earned in Pittsburgh back in March.
Unlike the Riddle-Heaslett struggle, Garcia-Hubbard was an
exercise in covert operations. The runners had never faced off in
competition and didn't know each other. It made for some tense
moments early in the race as the two tried to discover each other's
strategy, strengths and current condition.
"We talked some;
mostly about our goals for the race and how we wanted to run it,"
Hubbard said of he and Garcia. "I knew something about him and he
knew about me. Actually, I don't know how much he really knew about
me. I know I've read a lot about Garcia over the years."
Garcia, a true veteran of the sport, had the situation
pegged pretty early.
"I could tell we were a lot alike,"
Garcia said. "We both wanted to run away and hide from the field. I
was hopping those other runners behind us would work to stay close
because I knew if they did, they would fade on the third lap."
What's known about Garcia is simple: he's been on the USA
National 100K team seven times and has been on two silver
medal-winning US teams at the World Championships. Hubbard, on the
other hand, is a 50K specialist. His streak of 17 straight victories
at this distance ended this fall in Texas at Sunmart. So as the
runners took turns at the lead, both were left wondering who would
||"I made a move on the second loop figuring I
could take control," Garcia recalled. "But it hurt me more
than I had thought it would. By the end of the second loop, I
had to stop and get some
Garcia said his 30-second
lead was a 30-second deficit by the time he left the start/finish
area for his third loop. Soon, he was behind by a minute. And, for a
brief time, in trouble.
"I just didn't know if I was going
to catch him," Garcia said. "But then I got within in 30 seconds and
even though I felt pretty badly, I was closing in. When I caught him
at the last aid stations (three miles from the finish) he just
stopped, looked at me, and said 'Go ahead, Garcia, get up there
where you belong.' He just let me go."
recall the exchange going like that, but it was a surrender
"I had to stop and get some drink," Hubbard
said. "You have to decide whether you want to take care of your body
or not take a break and try to push through. To tell the truth, I
was surprised that I was in the lead. I thought Jim was ahead of me
and when I turned and saw him come in to the aid station, I said,
'What the hell are you doing here?' After that, it was just a matter
of trying to hold on to second place."
Mark Godale, of Ohio, never challenged Garcia and Hubbard and didn't
come close to claiming a third straight Huff 50K title. In fact, he
ran much of the race in fourth and overtook Indiana's own Patrick
Puckett near the finish.
For Riddle and Heaslett, plenty more was known about the
other and it was more a test of surviving the elements and a hilly,
"We know each other pretty well," Riddle said.
"We went to France together this year for the (100K) World
Championships. I was on the team and she was an alternate."
Heaslett said the two, who took turns taking the lead over
the first two loops, talked only a little.
"We talked mostly
about how cold we were," Heaslett said while sipping on hot soup in
the finisher's tent.
Heaslett, from Madison, Wisconsin, said she never thought
about the weather being in her favor. Riddle is from Asheville,
North Carolina and said she hadn't run in temperatures before 40
degrees until coming up for the race.
"Ordinarily, I would
have had an advantage. But not this year," Heaslett said. "We
haven't had snow until about a week ago. It's been pretty warm."
From the start, Riddle's strategy was clear.
wanted to run three pretty even loops," Riddle said. "I like to get
out front and then just keep going. I'm not being critical of Anne,
but she tends to go out too fast. I was planning on making a move on
the third loop."
The race went according to Riddle's plan,
with one minor exception: defending champion Michelle Mitchell, of
Alaska, took an early lead. But within four miles, Riddle and
Heaslett were in control. Well, as much as they could be.
heard all the stories of last year," Riddle said of the 2000 Huff
50K, which was run in 18-inches of snow and single digit
temperatures. "So I was prepared (mentally) for a lot worse
conditions. It wasn't too bad except for the ice. You had to be
Text copyright 2001, Brett S.
Photographs copyright 2001, David