Safety comes first for Brooks -- or does it?

Doyle Woody
MARC LESTER / ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS

In Holly Brooks' dream Mount Marathon race scenario, she would build such a commanding lead on Wednesday's ascent that she would not need to storm the downhill and risk injury.

That's because three-time race runner-up Brooks has two goals in the 85th running of the race on the 3,022-foot slab of pain in Seward: Notch her first women's victory and cross the finish line healthy.

The Olympic nordic skier and U.S. Ski Team member from Anchorage aims to qualify for the 2014 Olympics, and the schedule of her build-up to that goal doesn't have room for injury.

"I'm happy to put myself in a position where I don't have to compromise my safety,'' Brooks said. "As much as I love the Mount Marathon race, skiing is my priority right now.''

Even so, the prospect of winning Mount Marathon is an undeniably motivating.

"I've come in second enough times,'' Brooks said. "I'd really like to win this year. That's the goal.''

Brooks, 30, enters as the prohibitive favorite since her U.S., Olympic and Alaska Pacific University Nordic Training Center teammate Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, the three-time Olympian and defending Mount Marathon champion, recently said she'll skip Wednesday's race. Randall, the reigning World Cup sprint champion who is targeting the 2014 Olympics that includes her specialty, the freestyle sprint, does not want to take any risks.

Randall clocked 52 minutes, 3 seconds, to beat Brooks (52:22) by 19 seconds last year, when another woman did not finish for seven minutes, a relative eternity.

Based on past performance, a likely challenge to Brooks could come from Laura Brosius, 27, of Fairbanks.

Brosius has only raced Mount Marathon once, but delivered a stunning debut in 2010 with a fourth-place finish in 55:18 that ranks as the fastest women's debut in history. She is a three-time champion of the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks and has won the 24-mile Crow Pass Crossing, a backcountry marathon.

"If I've learned anything,'' Brooks said, "it's that you can't underestimate anyone.''

The field also includes the women who last year finished third (Kate Fitzgerald, 59:09), fourth (Leslie Varys, 59:34) and fifth (Lauren Fritz, 59:40). Fitzgerald and Fritz are APU teammates of Brooks.

Those three skiers will race Mount Marathon on tired legs. They've spent the last two weeks doing hard-core workouts in the North American Women's Training Alliance Camp, and spent last week logging big mileage skiing on Eagle Glacier.

"For me, in terms of (Mount Marathon), it's not necessarily ideal,'' Brooks said. "This two-week period is some of the hardest ski camps I've done. We're skiing up to five hours a day. I'm at the point where I'm pretty much training as hard as I can.''

To try to keep her mountain-running muscles alert, Brooks said, she's been walking up and down a pitch next to the housing facility on the glacier.

And in her dream scenario Wednesday, she won't have to go all full-tilt boogie coming down Mount Marathon.

Of course, that raises the obvious question: What if she finds herself in a downhill duel?

"Sometimes competitive instinct takes over,'' Brooks said, "so I don't know what I'll do.''

Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

Try to keep up TUESDAY: EIGHT-TIME TOUR OF ANCHORAGE CYCLING CHAMP SHERYL LOAN IS BRINGING HER MIGHT TO THE MOUNTAINS. WEDNESDAY: CHECK OUT THE TOP SIX CONTENDERS IN BOTH THE MEN'S AND WOMEN'S RACES, AND THE RETURNING JUNIOR CHAMPS. THURSDAY: COMPLETE COVERAGE OF ALASKA'S PREMIER MOUNTAIN RUN.


By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News