Thursday, September 18, 2008

Handicapping the Equinox

The local paper set out a long list of women's potential favorites today, describing how several of those who could make an impact can't run this year. Supposedly the record of 3:18 looks safe. Maybe, maybe not.

The race indeed looks wide open, but I'll bet that UAF Laura Brosius wins it easily and she certainly has the ability to post up an all time top 5 or 10 finish. Brosius ran the first relay leg last year in an impressive 58:59, which was the second fasted leg of the day (men included) and probably the fastest women's ever for the rolling 8.4 miles. She also won the Chena River Run with an 18:56. Heather Best has been running well, including an 18:26 at the 2.9 mile Golden Heart Trail Run. And veteran Equinox runner Kristen Bartecchi Rozell should challenge for the top 3.

So there's win place and show for the women's race:

Brosius - sub 3:24
Best - 3:28
Bartecchi Rozell - 3:30

A men's preview won't be published until Friday, so I get the jump on the paper. Did not recognize any of the big names from Anchorage or elsewhere, but there could be a ringer or two in the mix.

Three runners from Fairbanks Kevin Brinegar (5), Mike Kramer (4), and Matias Saari (1) have won 10 of the last 11 on this course. And all three will be running. Like last year it should come down to Saari and Harald Aas. Saari got his hard fought first win last year, pulling away over the final miles, and he has had another excellent year on the Alaska mountain running circuit. This time I'll give the nod to Aas, however. He's 10 years younger and nearly broke NCAA ski champ Marius Korthauher’s record at the Ester Dome Hill Climb two weeks ago.

The fight for third place may well be epic. Per usual in recent years, Brinegar has kept a low profile with only a few races. But when he does race, he's ready--demonstrated by a 2:42 at Boston and 1:15 for the Santa Claus 1/2 marathon last month. Kramer is the wild card. He won three Equinoxes in a row, including 2:47 and 2:51 in 2005 and 2006, and he could challenge for the win on Saturday, but Kramer, 40, has not been at the same level for the past year or so. Nevertheless, Frank Bozanich's venerable 40+ record of 2:58:01 (set in 1984) could be going down, which should be a huge carrot for Kramer. That brings us to Mark Lindberg, 45. Lindberg was a highly competitive high school runner decades ago, but trained sporadically when he was in college, graduate school, and developing his career. But after 25 years of that he'd had enough, so picked up his training, and posted an impressive 3:05 Equinox in 2007. He followed up with a 2:43 at Boston and just two months later a masters record of 2:41 at Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage.

Your sage’s picks:
Aas - 2:49
Saari - 2:50
Brinegar - 2:56 (Kramer and Lindberg should be right there and under 3:00).

Usually a 3:10-3:12 will net a top 5 finish at the Equinox. That probably won't happen this year, as the top 5 should be under 3:00 or low 3s. That is, unless one or more of the favorites has a bad day.

There should be a big gap between the leaders and second five, maybe 10 minutes or more. Evan Hone of Anchorage ran 2:52 at Mayors, and at 30 he has young legs that could help him break through and finish well under 3:10. Veteran Wayde Leder knows the course and has wicked downhill running technique; he will be in the hunt in the closing miles. Also watch for masters runners Kent Slaughter and Klaus Wuttig, who each posted some impressive races this summer, with Slaughter running in the top 10 at the Midnight Sun Run and Wuttig blasting a 1:19 at the Santa Claus half.

(hopefully, I'll be there somewhere in that second group).


Blogger evan said...

Hey just found this blog. Good strong race today. You looked smooth coming down the trail.

So much for my young legs. I guess a 100 miler in August and a 50k in early September was to much to handle because I was dead from the start. I was just trying the survive. Hopefully we will run into each other on the future. If you are ever down in Anchorage email me and we'll run up a mountain.

11:01 PM  

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