Some big names came out for the third-annual event.
Even a former world record holder didn’t have a race day game plan.
“I’ve haven’t competed in anything since 1996. I just want to get to the top,” said former middle distance world-record Mary (Decker) Slaney, as she eyeballed the grueling uphill course at Palomar Mountain in northern San Diego country. The sun barely cracked over the hills, as 50+ athletes toed their cages, checked their pulses, and breathed deep relaxation as they prepared for the 11.69-mile curvy climb to the peak for the Third Annual ElliptiGO World Championships.
Spirits were high and expectations simple, as riders, GO staff, interviewers, and family members intermingled with the likes of Adam Goucher, Kara Goucher (who did not compete, but she brought baby Colt out to support dad), defending ‘GO’ champion Paul Thomas (who took second this year), and the ecstatic creators of this innovative contraption as well.
“The competition and level of excitement stepped up from last year, but we still have so many unknowns out here. You never know what to expect,” explained Bryce Whiting, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at ElliptiGO. “Both Decker and Goucher have never done this before, so this is anyone’s race.”
Four heats broke up the competitors, the bulk of the pack – including elite women – starting in the second heat. By 7:30 AM, GOs cluttered the mountain, inviting support from passer bys in cars, on motorcycles, and on bikes. The race closes no roads, and there are only two water stops – or rather, two truck beds with water – along the course.
First-timer and one time elite runner Rusty Snow of Santa Barbara rode away with a first place win, beating last year’s winning time and champion by over five minutes. He finished in 1:10.49, unofficially.
“It was a ton of fun,” said Snow, race director of the Santa Barbara International Marathon. “I think it’s awesome that ElliptiGO is turning more into a mainstream sport; eventually 100% of people will understand why this is a great thing – it is the closest to running that you can get.”
Riders barely broke for breaks and avoided bonks, suggesting that this cross-training tool does in fact have advantages over its sister sport of running. Robyn Benincasa, edging out Decker by ten minutes for the win, adamantly agreed.
“I had four hip replacements, so I can no longer run. The first time I stepped on the GO, I was giddy! There is almost nothing that gives you the same high; the ElliptiGO does just that, without the pounding.”
Benincasa competed for Project Athena, a nonprofit that encourages women who’ve encountered life-altering setbacks to unleash the ‘Adventurer’ within. “This was my adventure,” she smiled. Benincasa grooved across the finish line – or rather, a chalk line – in 1:41.01, unofficially.
Adam Goucher, a former Olympian who hasn’t run since having knee surgery last year, placed ninth. “I did think about stopping. It was brutal, but it was an adventure!” When asked if he would return in 2013, Goucher hesitated slyly. “I’d definitely have to train for it next year. I race on roads with up and downhills. I don’t go straight up. This is a serious event!”
Yes, even the greatest of runners have their mortal limits.
The ElliptiGO is an outdoor elliptical cycle, intended for a low-impact workout, as well as a cross-training tool for runners. Well-known runners such as Dean Karnazes, Lauren Fleshman, and Josh Cox have all trained on the ElliptiGO.