Roes, Lippmann win Crow Pass Crossing

CROW PASS CROSSING: Roes wins race on day where records kept falling.

July 23, 2011 

As Geoff Roes of Juneau took a drink of water shortly after winning his third straight Crow Pass Crossing, a woman paused to congratulate him before heading onto the trail with her dog.

"It takes me two days to do that," she told him.

A journey that is a two- or three-day camping trip for many is a morning's work for racers, who Saturday turned the 28th edition of the annual marathon-length wilderness run into one of the fastest in history.

Good weather and a good trail helped prompt the fastest woman's time since 1995, the fifth and sixth fastest men's times in history and four age-group records.

"Trail conditions were great," said Anchorage's Tom Bronga, one of two who beat the previous age-group record for men 50-59. "I'm just thrilled about today's race. It was a (personal record) by seven minutes over last year. I just turned 50 and I'm still PRing -- bring on the 'Rocky' theme; I haven't peaked yet."

On a mild day made for peak performances, race rookie Kiersten Lippmann of Anchorage ran the eighth fastest women's time in history, while Roes and Eric Strabel of Anchorage continued their mastery of the trail by finishing 1-2 for the third straight year with two of the fastest times on record.

Lippmann, a former cross-country skier and runner for UAA, finished the 24-mile race in 3:36:25, placing 13th overall in a field of 131 finishers. She joined Alaska sports legends Nancy Pease and Nina Kemppel as the only women to break the 3:40 mark.

"I felt good all the way," she said. "It was awesome."

Lippmann, 31, who finished more than 11 minutes ahead of women's runner-up Najeeby Quinn (3:47:29), said she had never done the entire trail -- which starts near Girdwood and ends at the Eagle River Nature Center -- before Saturday, but ran sections of it several times.

"I have two fast dogs who pace me," she said, parceling out credit to Tikko, a sled dog, and Tessa, a German shepherd. "I skijor with Tikko, and that's a big part of what (gets) me out here," she said.

Dogs aren't allowed in the Crow Pass Crossing, so Lippmann found some two-legged pacesetters -- she ran with some of the top men for much of the race before covering the final six miles by herself.

Lippmann said her goal was to finish in less than four hours, but she reevaluated that plan when she crossed frigid Eagle River midway through the race.

"I realized I was running a fast time at the river," she said. "I was at 1:45, 1:50, and I thought, 'I'm on track for a 3:30-something.'

"I just went for it."

Lippmann, who has never run a traditional marathon, was 10 minutes off Pease's revered record of 3:26:20, set in 1990. Pease, a nine-time winner, owns eight of the top 10 women's time, a list that now includes Lippmann in the No. 8 spot, three seconds ahead of Kemppel, who won the 1994 race in 3:36:28.

The Crow Pass Crossing is a classic Alaska backcountry race that begins with a 2,000-foot climb up Crow Pass. The descent puts runners on scree and sometimes snow -- there wasn't much Saturday, runners said -- and then they navigate rocks and roots until reaching glacier-fed Eagle River. After the river crossing comes 12 miles on a forested, twisting trail.

Nobody covers this trail better than Roes, who set the Crow Pass record last year in 2:54:44, and Strabel, who earlier this month won Mount Marathon. They own the seven fastest times in race history and are the only ones to finish in less than three hours.

Neither broke the three-hour mark this year, but Roes, 35, came close. He won in 3:00:28.2, with Strabel, 29, about two minutes behind in 3:02:14.

Third-place Matias Saari of Anchorage, 40, cracked the all-time top 10 by clocking 3:06:37, the ninth-fastest time in history. He earned a spot in the record book by taking six minutes off the previous record of 3:10:38, set in 2007 by Harlow Robinson.

Strabel won the race to the top of Crow Pass but Roes and Saari took control after that, reaching Eagle River -- where a $100 prize awaited the first runner -- together.

"Geoff and I ran together and I said, 'I'm not gonna sprint for a hundred dollars. Let's buy a keg with it and everyone can benefit,' '' Saari said.

For the top three men, it was a race made for conversation. Roes, Strable and Saari all said that none of them pushed the pace, leaving them free to do some talking.

"We were gabbing about the Whitehorse marathon," Saari said.

"There was a lot of chatting going on," Strabel said. "It was a lot of fun."

Saari's bid for victory was foiled by a tight hamstring that briefly slowed him to a walk with about six miles to go. Roes opened a gap on him and Strabel passed him.

But even when he moved into second place, Strabel knew victory was a stretch.

"My legs felt weak so I was stuck in second gear," he said. "On the bright side, I could probably go another 25 miles."

Strabel, a two-time winner who coaches nordic skiing at Alaska Pacific University, made Crow Pass the focus of his training in 2009 and 2010, and both years he finished in less than three hours. After last year's race, he said he planned to shift his focus to Mount Marathon, the Fourth of July mountain race in Seward that he won with a wickedly fast downhill. All of that made for a far less stressful Crow Pass this year.

"A lot less pressure," he said. "Especially after a very successful effort in Seward. It was almost like I had to reset myself to go again -- maybe my hunger for pain is satisfied."

Roes said he was happy Strabel didn't find a faster gear at the end of the race "because I couldn't go much faster." And while his fourth victory wasn't his fastest, it might have been his most pleasant.

"I didn't have any low points where I had to struggle through anything," he said. "I never had to focus on how I was feeling."

And that was gratifying for a man who two times has been named the nation's ultra-marathoner of the year but was coming off an uncharacteristically poor performance at the recent Western States 100. He's the record-holder in that race, but he said he never felt good this year and dropped out after about 55 miles.

"I was really trying to have a good solid run today to get my confidence back," Roes said. "By the river I was thinking, good -- I don't have to worry about another poor race.

"This gives me a lot of confidence, because I felt really solid. I feel like I could turn around and run back to Girdwood."

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.

Crow Pass Crossing

1) Geoff Roes 3:00:28; 2) Eric Strabel 3:02:14; 3) Matias Saari 3:06:37; 4) Patrick Johnson 3:15:24; 5) Gary Howell 3:17:05; 6) Scott Patterson 3:19:56; 7) A. Willie Stoll 3:29:09; 8) Tom Bronga 3:31:25; 9) John Weddleton 3:33:29; 10) Tony Slatonbarker 3:34:31; 11) Grant Stevenson 3:35:19; 12) Kiersten Lippmann 3:36:25; 13) Matthew Green 3:37:20; 14) Erin Phillips 3:37:36; 15) John Bursell 3:38:55; 16) Patrick Conway 3:40:06; 17) Dan Marshall 3:40:21; 18) Lance Kopsack 3:41:24; 19) Andrew Lee 3:44:15; 20) James Zwiefel 3:44:52; 21) Mark Brady 3:46:44; 22) Najeeby Quinn 3:47:29; 23) Jason Burkhead 3:47:56; 24) Abby Rideout 3:48:21; 25) Thomas Wells 3:49:51; 26) Laron Thomas 3:50:25; 27) Rachel Phelps 3:50:47; 28) Bryan Hitchcock 3:51:00; 29) Joe Magellan 3:51:19; 30) Ryan Heffernan 3:52:48; 31) Doug Ketterer 3:53:17; 32) Ben Spiess 3:53:50; 33) Ryan Kircher 3:53:53; 34) Danielle Dalton 3:55:50; 35) David Roosa 3:57:20; 36) Guy Thibodeau 3:59:25; 37) Ben Rolfs 3:59:33; 38) Mike Heatwolf 3:59:42; 39) Braun Kopsack 4:00:00; 40) Zach Keskinen 4:01:25; 41) Brian Stone 4:02:03; 42) Caitlin Patterson 4:02:10; 43) Danielle Pratt 4:05:43; 44) David Valdes 4:06:44; 45) Jamie Cawood 4:06:50; 46) Aubrey Smith 4:07:30; 47) Jim McDonough 4:07:51; 48) Greg Veltkamp 4:08:13; 49) Dan Lesh 4:09:11

50) Mike Brock 4:09:32; 51) Christie Haupert 4:10:33; 52) Melissa Lewis 4:10:48; 53) Brad Garland 4:13:28; 54) David Popiel 4:13:48; 55) Dare Hedum 4:15:58; 56) Marc Johnson 4:17:03; 57) Jennifer Donovan 4:17:56; 58) Paul Clark 4:18:14; 59) Jeff Jessen 4:18:37; 60) Kevin Taylor 4:19:34; 61) John Nagel 4:22:01; 62) Brian Pautzke 4:24:30; 63) Adam Cohen 4:26:53; 64) Bob Gerik 4:27:38; 65) Tony Arturo 4:28:17; 66) Laura McDonough 4:28:45; 67) James Kech 4:29:40; 68) Laura Fox 4:30:00; 69) Stephen Rideout 4:30:08; 70) Heather Gaines 4:30:11; 71) Michael Vander Lugt 4:30:53; 72) Philip Vander Lugt 4:30:53; 73) Glenn Frick 4:30:56; 74) Steve Young 4:31:30; 75) John Hellen 4:32:01; 76) Mike Edwards 4:32:41; 77) Amber M. McDonough 4:32:56; 78) Robert Loyd 4:34:53; 79) Mike DiFilippo 4:34:55; 80) Kyle Denise Colburn 4:36:23; 81) Keith MacPhail 4:37:25; 82) Tarek Wetzel 4:37:47; 83) Dorian Gross 4:40:37; 84) Ricky Pico 4:41:00; 85) Ryan Strong 4:43:59; 86) Peter Fuller 4:44:34; 87) Dan Polito 4:44:35; 88) Ryan McLaughlin 4:45:16; 89) Letta Stokes 4:46:16; 90) Susan Caseys 4:46:18; 91) Paul Gloe 4:47:34; 92) Edward Soto 4:48:19; 93) Harrison Alger 4:48:59; 94) Mark Hansen 4:50:25; 95) Mike Petersen 4:50:45; 96) Jessie Westin 4:51:43; 97) Lloyd P. Melone III 4:51:44; 98) Nelson Priddy 4:53:26; 99) Emily Slaughter 4:57:45;

100) Jeff Bool 4:58:17; 101) Dan Harrell 5:00:04; 102) Derek W. Nottingham 5:01:32; 103) Jared Friesen 5:04:07; 104) Kari Konrath-Bera 5:07:41; 105) Michael Stahl 5:10:32; 106) Mike Wahlig 5:11:10; 107) Benjamin Keller 5:11:19; 108) Danielle Firth 5:11:44; 109) Ken McInally 5:13:33; 110) Josh Meals 5:14:21; 111) Adam Baxter 5:14:23; 112) Doreen Rossberg 5:14:35; 113) Jose Gross 5:18:40; 114) Elizabeth Morgan 5:19:19; 115) Aaron Christie 5:20:22; 116) Yvonne Leutwyler 5:27:47; 117) Pam Todd 5:28:35; 118) Jeromy Scheel 5:29:38; 119) Brandon King 5:30:38; 120) Chris Kueseth 5:30:40; 121) Ron Larsen 5:32:10; 122) William McCormick 5:32:54; 123) Andrea Hambach 5:34:02; 124) David Johnston 5:34:03; 125) Jeff Mailloux 5:34:18; 126) Natasha Burroughs 5:42:46; 127) Annette Fortune 5:43:49; 128) Doyle Woody 5:45:09; 129) Evan Steinhauser 5:47:53; 130) Danelle VanHolstyn 5:49:06; 131) Christopher Redfox 5:50:37.

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