Regional Races Feature Fast Fields

Roes, Kimball victorious at Bear Mountain 50 Miler; Rusiecki, Lane add to their ultrarunning resumes.

Written by: Bryon Powell

Left to right: Geoff Roes, Brian Rusiecki and Leigh Schmitt share the podium with Dean Karnazes.

The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco has grown to be one of the most competitive ultramarathons in the country. It’s no surprise, then, that over the past few years the North Face Endurance Challenge regional races have become nearly as competitive.

Most recently, at The Bear Mountain Endurance Challenge in Bear Mountain, New York on May 8th, there were nine men on the starting line who possessed the tools to win a competitive 50 mile race. The women’s field, while not as deep, was not lacking in talent, either. In the end, however, it was no shock that Geoff Roes and Nikki Kimball won their respective races on the rocky course. Roes crossed the finish line in 7:06:04, while Kimball broke the tape in 9:26:56.

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Leigh Schmitt, who has dominated East Coast 50 mile races for many years, ran placed second to Roes in the men’s race, running 7:22:29. Behind Roes and Schmitt, however, was a name that might not be so familiar to trail racing fans — Brian Rusiecki. Rusiecki, who crossed the finish line in 7:35:00, and his girlfriend, Amy Lane — who ran 10:28:36 to place second behind Kimball in the women’s race — live together in Westfield, Massachusetts, and met through the small, but talented, trail running community in the western part of the state. They started dating after their respective wins at the extremely rugged Seven Sisters Trail Race in May of 2009.  One year later, they’re making waves around New England — and beyond.

Lane, 30, has been running since before middle school. While attending Clarkson University, she competed on both the cross country running and skiing teams. After college, she spent a few years focusing on road marathons, but it wasn’t until 2007 that she started experimenting with trail ultramarathons. Lane had what she considers to be her breakout year in ultramarathoning last year. It would be hard to argue with that given she won and set course records at the Pineland Farms 50 mile (7:24:42), the Pisgah Mountain 50k (4:47:54), and the Bimbler’s Bluff 50k (5:15:24). After a great year off-roading, Lane started running for Team Inov-8. Her winning ways have continued into 2010.

Karnazes, far right, congratulates Amy Lane, left, and winner, Nikki Kimball, center.

So far this year, she’s won the Bel Monte 50k (5:20:08), the Pittsfield Snowshoe Marathon (5:18:42), and the Lake Waramaug 50k (4:15:33). Even though she finished an hour behind Kimball at Bear Mountain, female trail runners across the country should keep their eyes open for Lane’s name on the entry lists. Lane kept Kimball in sight for the first few miles before easing back into her own race. She hit some rough spells late in the race, but catching a glance of the third place finisher, Amy Nalven, was all the motivation she needed to hold onto the runner-up spot.

“I know that the course defeated me that day,” Lane said. “But I was fortunate to still hold on to a podium spot after all was said and done.”

Unlike his girlfriend, Rusiecki, 31, is a relative newcomer to serious running. A long time cyclist, he would sometimes mix running into hikes, but he wasn’t bit by the running bug until four years ago. Once he began running ultramarathons, his years of endurance base helped him to immediately start placing high in the standings. Rusiecki, who runs for Vasque, also had a breakout year in 2009, a year in which he raced relentlessly. Rusiecki won six of the ten ultras he finished last year, and it’s worth nothing that he had only run five ultramarathons prior to 2009. He also set four course records last year, including the Pinelands Farms 50 mile (6:02:54), Bimbler’s Bluff 50k (4:31:02), Pittsfields Peaks 50 mile (8:51:10), and Stone Cat 50 mile (6:27:55).

When Rusiecki takes his spot on the starting line, his competitors can count on a fast time being run that day. And given that he and Lane have highly synchronized race schedules, his presence likely means a fast time in the women’s race, as well. The couple is currently focusing on the Vermont 100, a race neither Rusiecki not Lane feels they ran to their potential last year. Be on the lookout for these two determined runners at the front of their respective fields in July, and beyond.

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Bryon Powell is a competitive trail runner, coach and editor of iRunFar.com

The men’s field had a favorite, Roes, but no clear leader in the early running. Mile 15 saw more than half a dozen competitors together with four still sticking together at mile 20. Soon thereafter, Roes and Schmitt distanced themselves from the field while Rusiecki settled into third. Once Roes pulled away from Schmitt, the finishing order was set. Roes won in 7:06:01, Schmitt ran 7:22:25 for second, and Rusiecki claimed third with a time of 7:34:56. Rusiecki “was happy with the result, as it was 30 minutes faster than last year and [he] was excited to still get third with the depth of the field.”

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