The Kodiak 100 Mile Ultramarathon celebrated the achievements of runners, volunteers, and spectators on September 20-22, 2013, in Big Bear Lake, CA. There were numerous “firsts” throughout the race weekend including the inaugural running of the 100-mile race and its partner 50 miler.
Some of those firsts included a seasoned mountain and trail runner winning the 100-mile race. Garry Harrington, 53, Swanzey, NH, bested a field of 67 runners to win his first 100 miler in five starts at the distance. Harrington was the only one of the 19 finishers to go under 24 hours in the event posting a time of 23:58:55, his first 100 mile finish under 24 hours.
Wendy Drake, had a first-time podium appearance when she finished as the third woman in the 50-mile race. Calling the climb out of Hades and Siberia Creek, “relentless,” The 45-year-old from Boulder, CO, had recently run her first 50 miler at the Silver Rush in Leadville, CO, in a time of 10:45. “I thought I’d do this in 10 (hours),” said Drake who finished in a time of 12:29:15, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I highly recommend the race. I would definitely put this on my list to come back – maybe for the hundred.
“The terrain was some of the most challenging I’ve ever been on. Having the full moon was incredible and that would make we want to come back and do the hundred since I didn’t get to experience the full moon while running this year since our race started at 6 a.m. The views were incredible. The volunteers were amazing. They would swarm me when I came into the aid station helping any way they could. For a first-year race, they (the organizers) definitely did a good job. We (speaking about her partner Jorge Rufat-Latre who finished the 100 miler in 35:12:17), do a log of first-time races because they’re always special,” said Drake.
Race director Paul Romero echoed Drake’s comments about the volunteers during the Sunday morning awards ceremony, “Some of our volunteers were complete rookies, but they were willing to give all they had for you guys.”
Romero went on to suggest that runners think about volunteering for events, “Give it back. Give to this sport to make it happen. Pick a race, call the director, volunteer and give back.”
Another first at the event came in the form of pacing for Corina Smith who joined Harrington for the final few miles of the race after he went through one of the final aid stations at mile 92.5 at Aspen Glen Picnic Area. It was the first time she’d ever met Harrington.
Smith, 47, a retired LAPD policewoman just recently started doing ultra-distance events said, “I could gauge really quickly that he (Harrington) wasn’t a talker, but we couldn’t run in silence either. I got (him) to talk just enough to keep him interested and not too much to piss him off. I was calling out the pace, calling out roots and rocks. During those last few miles, I kept saying to Garry, ‘we can do this,’ as I was doing calculations in my head to get him in under 24 hours.
“I knew, having been up to Big Bear a bunch, how far we had to go. We were bouncing from 7:50s to 8:05s (on my Garmin) in the last three miles to the finish. I said to Garry, ‘Whatever you do, don’t walk – you can slow down, but don’t walk.’”
Smith dropped back for the last few hundred yards as Harrington went on alone to the finish line to break his goal time of 24 hours. Of her experience Smith said, “It was amazing…an incredible experience. I mean it was…I’m getting emotional talking about it now.”
Smith’s emotions are typical at ultra-distance events. Not only are there long hours of racing and crewing through the night with little to no sleep, the courses, like the one at Kodiak, can be epic and challenge the heart and soul of any athlete.
The course at Kodiak included a mixture of single-track trail, jeep roads, steep and rocky climbs with a total elevation gain of 14,000-plus feet in the 100 miler. It also included a brand new section of trail which was opened to runners for the first time on race day. That section of trail in Siberia Creek was affectionately called Hades by Romero and his staff, many of whom had worked tirelessly to cut new sections of trail (with the permission of the U.S. Forest Service who were a great partnering agency for the event), and cut back brush and overgrowth. With a descent after mile 77 down a canyon and then back up some 3000 feet, this section of trail was one of the most challenging sections of the race route.
One of the race staff members, Matt Smith, had walked, run, or ridden all 100 miles of the race course several times before race day although no one had run the course from start to finish until race day in a timed situation. Initial thoughts were that the top finishers would complete the course in under 19 hours. “A bit of our estimations were off,” said Romero following the race, “Maybe a lot.”
For a first year race, Romero and his staff delivered a quality event and provided a memorable experience for everyone who participated whether a runner, volunteer, spectator, or follower from afar on social media via Twitter, Facebook, or mobile app.
Romero, a high-energy personality who is dedicated to a lifetime of sport as both a competitor and administrator, is thinking ahead to next year’s race which is sure to deliver more special and lasting memories…and probably a few more firsts.
To follow race developments and to review results and photos from this year’s race, visit this link.