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Loon Mountain readies for U.S. Mountain Running Championships

View from the top of Upper Walking Boss
View from the top of Upper Walking Boss
Nancy Hobbs

On July 6, 2014, the nation’s top mountain runners – along with newcomers to the sport – will vie for coveted spots on the U.S. Mountain Running Team in Lincoln, New Hampshire as they run up the mountainous – and sometimes technical – terrain afforded by Loon Mountain.

Be a mountain goat at Loon
Chris Dunn and Paul Kirsch

In addition to the ten spots – four for women, six for men – the Loon Mountain Race will also serve as the U.S. Mountain Running Championships and the inaugural Collegiate Mountain Running Championships.

Like the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy this September 14, the men and women will run separate races with the women running approximately five miles and the men running seven miles.

Both courses at Loon feature climbing and descending with the men’s course gaining just over 3100 feet, the women’s slightly less. The maximum grade is a severe and lung-busting 46.2%. This portion dubbed Upper Walking Boss is certainly one of the toughest parts of the course and is much more grueling than the average overall ascent of 10-12%. The terrain includes grass, single track, wide pathways, and some rocky sections. There is a two-mile section at the start of the men’s race to reach the seven-mile distance.

“For the first time ever we're holding men's and women's selection races at Loon Mountain on courses customized to match the profile of the World Mountain Running Championships,” says U.S. Mountain Running Team Leader Richard Bolt. “I'm excited to see so many talented mountain runners attack this course - especially the famously steep Upper Walking Boss trail. Based on the quality of the elite field, we're sure to have an extremely talented team competing at the World Championships this coming September.”

That field includes a host of women with international mountain running experience. After giving birth to her second child last year, 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Kasie Enman will be on the start line in hopes of making her second mountain running team. Joining her will be Morgan Arritola, Stevie Kremer, and Brandy Erholtz, all members of the U.S. women’s gold-medal winning team from the 2012 World Championships. Magdalena Boulet, the top American woman at the 2013 World Championships will also vie for a spot on her second mountain team as will Maria Dalzot, a member of the silver-medal junior women’s team in 2007.

Those new to the mountain scene at Loon will include Shannon Payne who recently won the Black Canyon Ascent in Montrose, Colorado, racing a time of 45:24, just 20 seconds shy of the course record set by Kim Dobson lat year. The 6-mile course starts at an elevation of 6500' and climbs almost 2,000' to the rim of the Black Canyon National Park. Payne’s time was good enough for filth-place overall.

YiOu Wang, a 29-year-old from Mill Valley, California, has proven her ability to race well on the roads and on cross country courses. Wang will make her mountain racing debut at Loon as will Ladia Albertson-Junkans, Stillwater, Minnesota. Albertson-Junkans was a prep standout in cross country and track and was Minnesota State High School Cross Country champion as a sophomore. She was also a two-time cross country All-American at the University of Minnesota and helped lead the squad to its first Big Ten championship in 2007.

Nuta Olaru is also vying for a spot on the team. At 44, don’t count Olaru out of a spot. She has leg speed and tenacity from years of training and racing, first as a Romanian citizen and since 2011 representing USA. She won the masters division of the USA Cross Country Championships in February.

Juliane Masciana, although not a newcomer to mountain racing, is certainly one to watch. Masciana finished 7th at the 2013 US Mountain Running Champs and has career bests of 9:59 in the 3000 Steeple, 16:19 in the 5000, and 33:57 in the 10km.

When looking at the men’s field, Joseph Gray has to be the favorite for a spot on the team. If he makes the team at Loon, it will be his seventh tying with Simon Gutierrez who ran for Team USA at Worlds starting in 2002 and making his last team appearance in 2008. Gutierrez, who turned 48 in March, will also be in the mix at Loon along with former mountain team members Eric Blake, Tommy Manning, Kevin Tilton, Ryan Woods, Andrew Benford, Peter Maksimow, and Jordan Chavez.

Although never representing Team USA at Worlds, Patrick Smyth and Ryan Bak look to be contenders for a spot on this year’s team. Smyth won gold at the XTERRA World Half Marathon Championships in Hawaii this past December while Gray won silver. Bak has been racing well with back-to-back wins in April with the Horse’s Butte 10 Miler on April 6, and Peterson Ridge Rumble 20 Miler on April 13.

Whatever the results at Loon, the competition will be fierce. In the USATF-division, there will be awards for the top ten men and women overall as well as age-group awards starting at 40 years old in five year increments. Prize money will be awarded in both the USATF and Collegiate Championship divisions.

There will be awards for the open division provided by local artisans and the first 350 to register will receive a limited edition LMR stainless steel pint from Klean Kanteen. This year’s event sponsors include Northeast Delta Dental, Honest Tea, Salomon, Suunto, 603 Brewery, and Julbo.

Chris J. Dunn, owner and founder of acidotic RACING, LLC, is the event’s co-race director along with Paul Kirsch. Dunn’s enthusiasm and commitment to mountain running is evidenced when speaking with him about the sport and certainly about the Loon Mountain Race, “We are so incredibly excited about hosting the US and Collegiate Mountain Running Championships this summer!

"The field of elite runners that are assembling for this championship will make for some great racing. A World Champion, former US Mountain Team members, Olympians, and record holders from nearly every distance will be represented. And what better way to finish than on the infamous Upper Walking Boss?! We're ready and looking forward to seeing everyone in Lincoln, NH on July 6th!”

Be sure to follow Team USA and results of all USA Championships. To help the team defray its travel costs to Italy, consider a donation to the American Trail Running Association (ATRA), a 501 (c ) 3 not for profit corporation whose mission is to represent and promote trail and mountain running. Earmark your donation “USMRT.”

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