After his record-rocking race on Mount Marathon last week in Seward, men's champion Eric Strabel said he thought he negotiated the harrowing, steep downhill a little safer and slower than the previous year, when he covered the roughly 1.75 miles in an astonishing 10 minutes, 8 seconds.
Turns out his 2013 descent of the 3,022-foot mountain was even more blistering than the year before -- Strabel last Thursday rocketed the downhill in 10:00.
Mount Marathon organizers say a discrepancy in split times calculated for the uphill and downhill portions of the 86th running of the annual Fourth of July race caused splits to initially be reported incorrectly.
Finish times were reported accurately, which means Strabel's record of 42:55, which shattered Bill Spencer's long-standing previous standard of 43:21 in 1981, was never in doubt.
But race officials say a computer on the top of the mountain was improperly synched with the start time, which resulted in uphill and downhill times initially reported incorrectly.
Once a 36-second discrepancy was corrected, Strabel's correct uphill time was adjusted to 32:55 -- it was initially reported in results as 32:19 - and matched the time he said someone told him it took him to reach the peak.
Strabel's downhill time of 10:00 last week is believed to be the fastest a racer has ever descended -- on race day, his downhill was reported as 10:36, but the 36-second discrepancy lowered his correct descent to 10:00. Downhill splits have only been kept officially for the last decade of so, but that 10:00 surpasses even anecdotal accounts from previous years.
Plus, Strabel, 31, is acknowledged among elite Mount Marathon racers as arguably the fastest downhiller in race history, and the fastest of his generation.
Strabel was third to the top of the mountain, and passed runner-up Rickey Gates (43:04) and third-place finisher Wylie Mangelsdorf (44:09) while descending the upper half of the mountain.
Still, that 10:00 surprised him.
"Certainly, while we were coming down the gully -- the gut -- I was not maxed out,'' Strabel said. "I didn't want to make a mistake because I felt I could win the race.''
He said his 10:00 was probably a reflection of his increased speed on the roads that take racers to the finish line downtown, and of Gates' pursuit of him.
"I think it speaks to how hard Rickey was pushing,'' Strabel said. "I've never closed on the road that fast. He was coming like a freight train.''
Based on the adjusted times, Strabel, who has won Mount Marathon twice in the last three years, was one of three men to cover the descent in less than 11 minutes.
Gates, who led the field to the top of the mountain in 32:24, blistered the downhill in 10:40 on the way to his 43:04, which also bettered Spencer's previous record.
And fourth-place finisher Matias Saari, the 2009 champion who finished in a personal-record 44:53, blasted the downhill in 10:57.
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