World-class athlete Scott Patterson of Anchorage is seldom prone to demonstrative reactions even when one is warranted, as was the case Saturday when he absolutely demolished the Crow Pass Crossing record.
So we’ll let others do some of the talking.
Patterson, 29, slashed more than four minutes from the 11-year-old record by running, climbing and power-hiking the 22-mile backcountry trail through Chugach State Park in a time of 2 hours, 50 minutes, 5 seconds. Racers climb a mountain pass, cross snowfields and boulder fields and wade across a waist-deep river during their journey.
It was Patterson’s seventh victory, but in six previous triumphs he always fell short of the 2010 record of 2:54:44 by Juneau’s Geoff Roes, and always by more than a minute.
Patterson looked untaxed and unscathed at the finish line, a little dirty but with no bumps, bruises or blood to speak of. He smiled and spoke about his record run through the wilderness without gasping for air.
“I’ve been chasing it for a long time. I didn’t really think it would happen today,” he said.
The gasping came later — much later — when other runners reached the finish line at the Eagle River Nature Center and heard Patterson’s time.
“Holy cow, man,” said second-place Ben Marvin, who was nearly 17 minutes behind in 3:06:50.
“Other-worldly,” said third-place Lyon Kopsack (3:11:18).
“Ridiculous,” said 13th-place Daniel Bausch (3:57:17).
At an informal awards ceremony, assistant race director and two-time winner Harlow Robinson recalled that when Roes broke the three-hour mark more than a decade ago, someone suggested the next barrier was 2:50.
“I didn’t know if that was humanly possible,” Robinson said.
That prompted women’s winner Christy Marvin, who won her sixth straight title, to chime in.
“Can I just say something?” she sad. “The trail has gotten harder, so that is very impressive.”
The wilderness race starts at the Crow Pass trailhead near Girdwood, where runners instantly get their hearts pumping by climbing 2,000 feet in the 3 miles that lead to the top of the 3,500-foot pass.
“I came through the pass pretty fast,” Patterson said, only to be edited by Robinson.
“Insanely fast,” Robinson said.
How fast? 28:42 for a race segment where 30 minutes is a coveted time.
Then there were the final 3 miles from Echo Bend to the finish line. Patterson ran the third-to-last mile, which includes a climb, in 6:28; he did the second-to-last mile in 5:51 and he did the all-uphill final mile in 6:15.
Patterson said if someone had asked him about desired split-times the day before the race, “I woulda been like, ‘7s would be nice.’ ”
“I hit the boardwalk about a mile out in (2 hours, 44 minutes), and it was, ‘OK, I can do this,’ ’' he said.
Robinson said Patterson finished looking like he had just done a training run, and in a way, this was a training run for Patterson. He is an Olympic cross-country skier who placed 10th in the arduous 50-kilometer classic at the World Championships earlier this year, and he’s spending this summer roller-skiing and hiking mountains in preparation for the ski season.
Trail improvements in recent years have added a little elevation and distance to the race, but Ben Marvin and Lyon Kopsack joined Patterson with personal-bests on what all three deemed a fast trail. Brush-clearing by race volunteers made a difference on a trail that is often overgrown, they said.
“Best I’ve ever seen it,” said Marvin, 40, a veteran runner whose 3:06:59 ranks as the 13th fastest in a race that dates back to 1984. “A couple of years ago I lost the trail coming down the pass. I looked for it for about two minutes and then I realized I was standing in the middle of it.”
Fourth place went to race rookie Zack Bursell of Juneau, who had never been to Girdwood or Eagle River until Saturday, when he ran from once place to the other in 3:22:12.
“There were so many moments when I was unsure of the trail,” he said. “There was a guy named Max (Donaldson), and I passed him three different times because I’d get lost.”
Bursell, 28, is a part of Juneau’s trail-running community, and even though he had never stepped on the Crow Pass trail before Saturday, he’s familiar with the race because one of the race’s greatest champions is his neighbor — Geoff Roes, a four-time winner who owns two of the fastest Crow Pass times in history (Patterson owns the other two).
Two men came close to age-group records — Marvin and Matias Saari, who is the co-race director with Robinson; each year one gets to race while the other mans the finish line, and the next year they trade places.
It’s Marvin’s first year in the 40-49 age group, and he missed Saari’s age-group record of 3:06:37 by 22 seconds.
It’s Saari’s first year in the 50-59 age group, and his 10th-place finish in 3:32:52 left him 87 seconds off Tom Bronga’s mark of 3:31:25, set in 2011.
“I missed by a minute but I’ve got nine more chances,” Saari said.
“No you don’t,” Robinson reminded him, “because next year I get to race.”
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