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Strabel breaks Mount Marathon record that stood 32 years

Doyle Woody
Karl Wing of Anchorage carefully makes his way down the scree in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Wendy Sailors climbs a muddy trail through the trees during the women's Mount Marathon race on Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Wylie Mangelsdorf of Palmer heads down hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Glen Anderson of Seward and Peter Adams of Anchorage descend in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Justine Pechuzal of Seward receives a hug after finishing the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Hannah Booher of Chugiak arrives at the bottom of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Lauren Fritz of Eagle River claims fourth place in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Judy Kanady, center, and other racer's in the women'sMount Marathon race climb through the trees on Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Benjamin Ward and A William Stoll head down hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Bennett Lee leads runners down a chute in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Liz Novakovich of Anchorage strides off the rocks at the base of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Shane Piscoya-Shellabarger of Anchorage flies over rocks at the base of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Racers make the climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News Fourth place finisher Lauren Fritz rests after finishing the Mount Marathon race on Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Rory Egelus of Palmer races down hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Andrew Lessig of Anchorage makes the descent in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Janet Ponder-Sutphin heads up hill in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Christopher Kingsland of Seward, left, and Brooke Estes of Moose Pass head for pavement and the finish line. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Racers slowly make the climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Gregory Lincoln of Bethel makes the descent in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Christy Marvin hugs her husband, Ben, after winning the women's Mount Marathon race on Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
A runner gets airborne heading down hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Vandaz Madison of Anchorage passes remnants of winter in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Runners recover after finishing the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Josh Novakovich, right, Kayla Rowe and Heidi Booher scramble across the last few rocks as they reach the base of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Matias Saari heads downhill to claim fourth place in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Tor Christopherson makes his way up the hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Ellyn Brown crosses the finish line in the women's Mount Marathon race on Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
A runner accelerates down the mountain in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Aubrey Smith of Seward gives up a place or two as she greets her hometown fans while finishing the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Heidi Booher of Chugiak near the bottom of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Ruby Lindquist of Moose Pass jumps off a rock at the base of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Karl Mechtenberg of Seward heads down the screein the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Barney Griffith of Anchorage makes the climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Christy Marvin of Palmer wins her debut Mount Marathon women's race in 53 minutes and 20 seconds Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
John Klein of Anchorage hits the scree in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Tara Swanson of Seward head up hill in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Runners recover after finishing the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Cheyenne Applegate of Anchorage nears the bottom of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Joshua Allely of Anchorage leads Josiah Martin of Kenai through some brush on the downhill stretch in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Miles Knotek of Moose Pass makes his way up hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Amber St. Amand, left, of Seward and Jasmine Hatton of Anchorage make their way up the course in style at the Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Peter McEnaney of Eagle River makes the descent in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Lauren Bassler of Anchorage begins her climb in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Justine Pechuzal of Seward receives a low high five after finishing the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Megan Pitzman of Homer heads for pavement after reaching the base of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Ian Autrey of Anchorage takes a road less traveled, framed by wildflowers as he cuts over to the far right from the path taken by most runners in the descent portion of the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
John Novak of Anchorage heads up hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Lance Kopsack of Palmer heads down hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Amy Hollon of Anchorage makes the climb in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Rebecca Mamrol of Anchorage begins the climb in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Hannah Seidl of Anchorage heads for the finish line after descending the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Jared Hawkins of Palmer heads for the finish. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Michael Squires of Anchorage leads Steven Isaacs of Anchorage, left, and other runners down a scree path towards the waterfall chute in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
William Ross of Anchorage climbs in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Thomas Coolidge, 62, of Anchorage sets an age-group record in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Racers make their way up the mountain in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Margaret Griffin of Soldotna begins the climb in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Ava Harren of Anchorage heads for the finish line after descending the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Connor Vincent of Phoenix, Az. watches his footing while descending the scree slope in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Harlow Robinson makes the climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
A runner blows past hikers while taking a less-traveled path down hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Greta Anderson of Anchorage finishes the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Christy Marvin of Palmer leads racers through the trees en route to winning the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Denali Foldager of Seward runs to ninth place in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Scott Babos of Anchorage keeps his balance on the descent in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Runners make their way up hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Alec Kay heads down hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Judy Kanady of Anchorage finishes the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Allison Barnwell of Seward heads up the mountain in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Runners get under way as they head through town and approach the climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Challenger Rickey Gates was first off the top of the mountain, but was overtaken by winner Eric Strabel and finished second in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Solomon D'Amico and Josh Thomas of Seward make the climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
John Browne of Palmer is pursued as he makes the descent in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Lauren Spinelli of Anchorage finishes the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Valerie Mays of Eagle River begins her climb in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Robert Forgit of Anchorage leads some runners down a scree chute in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Brent Knight reacts to cheers from friends as he makes the climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward. He went on the place fifth.
Erik Hill
John Klein leads David Apperson, who acknowledges friends, as they make the climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Edward Hartman of Seward descends a gully in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Arianne Massengale of Anchorage finishes the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Jacob Lestina of Eagle River seems pleased to be off the mountain and heading for pavement. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
A fan monitors the women descending the slopes in the Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Eric Strabel screams down the scree, clocking a downhill run of 10 minutes 36 seconds en route to setting a new race record of 42 minutes 55 seconds in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Karl Romig of Cooper Landing and Timothy Blake of Anchorage climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Turner Rodgers of Anchorage shares a smile on the descent in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Erin Hamilton of Anchorage leads Kate Backstrum of Anchorage to the finish in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Michelle Wilson of Anchorage makes the climb in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
A bear wishes runners good luck at the Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Eric Strabel, visiting challenger Rickey Gates and Wylie Mangelsdorf ascend the mountain in their eventual order of finish in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Andy Duenow of Anchorage make a colorful climb in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Jens Bombeck of Eagle River leads runners out of a gully in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Jennifer Uriarte of Seward leads several runners to the finish in the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Jocelyn Kopsack of Palmer slides over rocks at the bottom of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill
Defending champion Matt Novakovich of Anchorage cramped up and struggled to eleventh place in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Aubrey Smith, of Seward, climbs the muddy trail on the lower portion of Mount Marathon on Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward. 23
Erik Hill
Runners make their way up hill in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Russell Storjohann of Anthem, Az. makes the descent in the men's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Former Alaskan and 1992 Winter Olympian Sue Forbes of Kaunakakai, Hi. finishes the women's Mount Marathon race Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Seward.
Erik Hill
Juniors head for pavement after reaching the base of the mountain. Mount Marathon 2013 racing kicked off with the juniors race on Thursday morning, July 4, 2013, in Seward, Alaska. Racers aged 7-17 climb halfway up the mountain before returning to the finish line downtown.
Erik Hill

SEWARD -- Even as he sprinted to the finish line and spied the electronic clock overhead that reported he was shortly to shatter one of the most storied and oldest records in Alaska sports, Eric Strabel did not believe the digits.

He thought there must be some timing mistake.

There was not.

Strabel, 31, of Anchorage not only won the men's race at Mount Marathon for the second time in three years, but he wiped out the course record that had stood since 1981 and sometimes seemed nearly unbreakable.

Strabel made the 3.5-mile journey of pain up and down the steep, unforgiving 3,022-foot mountain and back into town in 42 minutes, 55 seconds to eclipse the long-standing record (43:21) of eight-time men's champion Bill Spencer.

For a few moments in the finish chute, Strabel was unaware the record was his. He assumed there was a timing error. He received an incorrect report of his time at the top of the mountain -- he was third to the peak, in 32:19, 36 seconds faster than someone told him -- and felt he was running slower downhill than his blistering descent in 10:08 a year ago. And he did not wear a watch when he raced.

When the news of his breakthrough was relayed to him, Strabel was incredulous.

"Oh, my God," he said. "Oh, my God. Oh, my God.''

There was a lot of that going around.

"Un-freaking-believable,'' said Ben Ward, the 14th-place finisher.

"Holy s---," quoth 2009 champion Matias Saari, who crossed in fourth place Thursday.

Fifth-place finisher Brent Knight did not even speak -- he simply mouthed, "Wow," his eyes wide, his jaw dropped.

And when Spencer, 57, came across the line more than 26 minutes after Strabel, he wrapped the new record-holder in his arms. From atop the mountain, Spencer had seen the police car that escorts the lead runner back into town, glanced at his watch and knew his record was history.

"Hey, great job, buddy," Spencer said.

"Thanks for raising the bar so high," Strabel responded.

Strabel led a flurry of four finishers who cracked the 45-minute barrier. In 85 editions of Mount Marathon before Thursday, only 15 times had the 45-minute mark been eclipsed, and only on two previous occasions (2012 and 2011) had as many as two runners gone under 45 minutes in the same race.

This was a day so fast among top finishers that race rookie Rickey Gates, 32, of San Francisco finished runner-up despite dislocating his left shoulder in a wicked fall at the base of the mountain and yet clocked 43:04, the second-fastest time in race history.

Race rookie Wylie Mangelsdorf, 21, of Palmer earned third place in 44:09, the seventh-fastest time in race history. Saari, 42, of Anchorage slashed 20 seconds from his personal best in the race to take fourth in 44:53. Brent Knight, 29, of Anchorage took fifth in 45:05, just seven seconds off his personal best.

And Thomas Coolidge, 62, of Anchorage finished in 59:14 to chop 52 seconds off his previous record (2011) in the 60-69 age group.

Barney Griffith, 55, of Anchorage matched his 10th-place finish of a year ago, and his 48:15 was just six seconds off the 50-59 age-group record he ran last year.

Defending champion Matt Novakovich, 39, of Anchorage cramped early in the race and finished 11th in 48:24. "No excuses," he said.

Gates, the former member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team who led the field to the peak in 31:48, was gaining on Strabel as they sprinted to the finish line on Fourth Avenue. With Strabel uncertain a record loomed before him, he said he was more concerned about what was going on behind him.

"When I saw the time" -- 42 minutes and change -- "I thought, 'The clock's not right,' " Strabel said. "To be honest, I was more concerned with Rickey catching me."

On an overcast day that began with light rain that greased the course for the junior race and women's race, both the wind and the traffic from the earlier races helped quicken the course for the men.

Nor did it hurt that the top men pushed one another to the limit. Novakovich set the early pace. Strabel took a turn in the lead. Gates next pushed to the front. Mangelsdorf took off in pursuit, pulling Strabel with him.

"You've got to do that to get the record," Mangelsdorf said. "You've got to work together."

Rounding the rock that marks the race's turnaround point, Gates led the charge in 31:48. Mangelsdorf followed nine seconds later and Strabel another 22 seconds after Mangelsdorf.

But Strabel is both experienced on Mount Marathon -- he first won the men's race in 2011 and won the junior race in 1999 -- and an exceptional and daring downhiller. He caught Gates about halfway down the mountain and never trailed again in whacking 45 seconds off his previous best time. Strabel's downhill time of 10:36 was the fastest in the field by 40 seconds, topping Gates' descent of 11:16.

Gates' wipeout at the base of the mountain, which left his left thigh scraped and bloody, was not the first time he has endured a dislocated shoulder.

"It is the first time I've had to pop my shoulder back in, on the run, in a race," he said.

Like Mangelsdorf, Gates applauded the racers who pushed one another to new standards.

"It happens when you have really good competition," Gates said. "You race to the level of your competition. I knew a win wasn't going to be handed to me -- there's such quality runners up here."

Gates' second-place finish matched that of his mother, Trish, in the 1969 Mount Marathon.

"I didn't want to break from family tradition," Gates joked. "I didn't want to humiliate her."

Strabel's ascension was no joke, and was years in the making. Veteran racer Harlow Robinson was mindful that Strabel shattered the race record last summer in the Matanuska Peak Challenge, a 14-miler that includes more than 9,000 feet of vertical gain and an equal amount of descent. And Strabel's victory at the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks last fall came courtesy of the fastest time in the race's past 26 years.

Having diligently logged workouts on an incline treadmill that can duplicate the pitch of Mount Marathon, the slope of which averages 38 degrees, Strabel was well trained. He also sought redemption for his eighth-place finish a year ago. And while he conceded a stab at the record had more than crossed his mind, recent rains had dimmed that notion.

"Weeks ago, I thought it was possible," Strabel said. "I kind of gave up on that two or three days ago. Then I heard the announcer before the race say it didn't look like a day for a record.

"I was like, 'Argh. I hope I can prove that wrong.' There are things you think about and dream about when you train, and that's one of them. You never know if it will happen. I never held my breath over it."

No one was more delighted about Strabel's record run than Spencer.

"I think it's awesome," said Spencer, who owned the record since 1974, having broken his own mark in 1981. "I have carried that thing a long time. If I had a nickel for every time a conversation got started because of that record, or a person recognized me because of it, or the doors it opened for me ...

"I hope Eric gets as much out of it as I did."

Long after Strabel finished, his brother Mark tracked him down in the finish area.

"How was it?" Mark asked.

"Crazy," Eric said. "It went by pretty quickly."

 

 

Men's Mount Marathon race results
Women's Mount Marathon race results
Junior Mount Marathon race results
By DOYLE WOODY
dwoody@adn.com