Strabel obliterates mark in Mat Peak Challenge

After taking fourth in Seward, runner wins Matanuska Challenge.

Anchorage Daily NewsAugust 4, 2012 

After finishing a disappointing eighth as defending champion on Mount Marathon a month ago, Eric Strabel said, "I pretty much concluded I was out of shape.''

So Stabel spent the last month solving that shortcoming, climbing 50,000 vertical feet in his training to restore his base of fitness.

Evidently, he is pretty much super-fit now, given his record-smashing performance Saturday in the punishing Matanuska Peak Challenge.

All that course does is drag athletes over about 14 miles and 9,100 feet of both elevation gain and loss on Lazy Mountain and Matanuska Peak near Palmer.

And all Strabel did in his Mat Peak Challenge debut was obliterate Matias Saari's 2010 race record on the way to victory.

Strabel, 30, became the first runner in the 24-year history of the race to break the three-hour barrier, clocking 2:55:43 to slash more than seven minutes off Saari's previous standard of 3:03:08.

Of course, prosperity came at a price.

"I'm a hurtin' unit right now,'' Strabel said by cell phone from the finish line.

Strabel wasn't alone in his assault on the race record. Runner-up Ben Marvin cracked three hours in 2:58:17 and along with third-place finisher Erick Romig (3:01:14) also bettered Saari's previous record.

Meanwhile, Christy Marvin, 31, seized the women's title in 3:44:52, which ranks as the third-fastest women's time in race history. She topped runner-up Suzann Drinen (4:09:29) and third-place finisher Kinsey Apperson (4:13:46).

Strabel said he and Ben Marvin traded the lead for the first hour before he gapped Marvin going up Matanuska Peak. He said Marvin caught him by the time they descended Mat Peak, but he was able to regain a gap climbing the backside of Lazy Mountain. Strabel said Marvin's presence pushed him to the record.

"If he wasn't there, I wouldn't have run nearly as fast,'' Strabel said.

Six-time race champion and former record-holder Harlow Robinson said Strabel's strong climbing and fast descents pegged him as a good bet to get the record in good conditions. And Saturday's conditions were generally good for the front-runners -- the weather was cool and fairly dry, and footing was stable. Mid-pack and back-of-the-pack runners were met with a greasier course and more difficult footing because of rain, mist and even snowfall on the top half of 6,119-foot Mat Peak.

"I knew that three-hour barrier was going to go,'' Robinson said. "You just needed a great field and ideal conditions. This race is right in Eric's wheelhouse.''

Robinson's fourth-place time of 3:04:45 ranks as the sixth-fastest in race history, 39 seconds behind his then- record, time of 3:04:06 in 2008.

"With a 3:04, I'd feel like I was fast, but it's hard to feel that way when someone's kicking your butt,'' Robinson said with a laugh.

Strabel's debut performance Saturday brought to mind his 2006 debut in the Crow Pass Crossing -- he won the backcountry marathon from near Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Center in a record 3:05:17.

"I guess I have beginner's luck,'' Strabel said.

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Matanuska Peak Challenge

Men's results -- 1) Eric Strabel 2:55:43 (record; previous record 3:03:08, Matias Saari, 2010); 2) Ben Marvin 2:58:17; 3) Erick Romig 3:01:14; 4) Harlow Robinson 3:04:45; 5) Barney Griffith 3:16:50; 6) Andrew Stavich 3:25:39; 7) Nick Treinser 3:30:22; 8) Cody Priest 3:31:46; 9) Erik Johnson 3:34:58; 10) Karl Romig 3:35:12; 11) Lance Kopsack 3:36:22; 12) Brian Harder 3:47:01; 13) Mark Brady 3:54:00; 14) Dane Ketner 3:54:13; 15) David Apperson 3:56:49; 16) Parker Quimby 3:57:01; 17) Michael Vanderlugt 3:59:30; 18) Todd Borke 4:06:57; 19) Dorian Gross 4:13:12; 20) Jim McDonough 4:18:19; 21) Michael Quimby 4:31:01; 22) Abraham Joseph Meyerhofer 4:32:28; 23) Michael Westbrook 4:33:16; 24) Dan Virgin 4:33:43; 25) Zach Seligman 4:36:58; 26) Andrew Resseguie 4:40:06; 27) Keith Coombs 4:48:50; 28) Allan Spangles 4:50:53; 29) Michael Stangel 4:56:12; 30) Peter Lamb 5:06:12; 31) Bill English 5:11:53; 32) Ashley Wise 5:23:41; 33) Joshuah Taylor 5:27:53; 34) Jose Gross 5:28:19; 35) Patrick George 5:29:07; 36) Jeff Dickson 5:30:46; 37) Tab Ballantine 5:30:49; 38) Mark Flanagan 5:35:44; 39) James Embree 5:38:59; 40) Ken McInally 5:44:12; 41) Andy Schaffer 5:49:53; 42) Erik Johnson 5:56:39; 43) Ed Bennett 6:05:01; 44) John Clark 6:05:09; 45) Ryan Mathias 6:08:54; 46) Marcus Quinn 6:37:19; 47) Evan R. Steinhauser 6:39:01; 48) Chase McCavit 6:47:10; 49) J.C. McCavit 6:55:01; 50) Sabo Demircan 7:19:16; 51) 3-way tie, Ron Nicholl, John Williams and Braun Kopsack (trail sweeper) 8:02:55.

Women's results -- 1) Christy Virgin 3:44:52; 2) Suzann Drinen 4:09:29; 3) Kinsey Apperson 4:13:46; 4) Gina Robinson 4:49:46; 5) Judi Kopsack 4:59:04; 6) Sarah Thomas 5:02:53; 7) Cheryl Ess 5:02:55; 8) Jessie Westin 5:09:49; 9) Vereva Gill 5:26:47; 10) Gail Taylor 5:27:56; 11) Elissa Gumeson 5:29:01; 12) Susan Casey 5:30:46; 13) Kyle Colburn 5:31:03; 14) Stacy Schaffer 5:49:53; 15) Angela Brown 5:50:05; 16) Christine Bennett 6:05:01; 17) Linda Rao 6:35:56; 18) Ambur Sander 6:53:30; 19) Kaile Ellson 6:54:22.

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