The David Sarmiento of Adams Inline-Luigino narrowly won Saturday's inaugural Hayward Inline Challenge. He finished the new, 39-mile ultra-marathon in 1:54:09, four seconds ahead of Bont's Mike Anderson.
"It was a really cool course," said a smiling Sarmiento, who moved to Minnesota from Colombia last year. "Hills, lakes, trees, everything you could find."
Sarmiento and Anderson broke away from the pack at about the 30-mile mark and traded pulls to the finish.
"Mike attacked me, then I attacked him," said Sarmiento. "I won."
A five-man chase pack finished more than two minutes later, with Bont's Randy Plett taking third, followed by Brent Bovitz (Flanders), Richie Amaya, Tom Peterson (both of Adams Inline-Luigino) and Matt Robinson of Madison.
Women's winner Kara Peterson hadn't specifically trained for the ultra-marathon. In fact, she'd signed up for the marathon. (The event included three races: the ultra-marathon, a full marathon and a half marathon.) But with coaxing from race co-director Dave Prois and the lure of the stunning ultra-marathon trophies, she switched races Friday night. She wasn't sorry.
Despite skating the last lap alone, Peterson finished in 2:03:26, a 19.1 mph pace that equaled the pace of the Full Marathon winner, Team Rainbo's Cale Carvell.
"This is the first time I've skated this long," said an effervescent Peterson after the race. "I feel good, but I'm glad to be done."
Rebecca George, who upset Peterson in last year's Hayward Marathon, was a distant second, finishing at 2:08:51. Cindy Walters was third.
Early morning thunderstorms cleared out minutes before the start of the race, leaving the air thick and the pavement slippery. Some elite skaters, like Team Rainbo's Greg Major, found the reduced traction particularly vexing.
"It was frustrating," said Major, who was dropped from the ultra-marathon lead pack on the course's biggest climb. "I felt great, but I just couldn't get any traction. I had on the same wheels as the winner, but I just didn't go anywhere."
The new Hill Prems helped motivate skaters on the big climb. Over 50 prizes, ranging from Hyper race wheels and frames to bike jerseys and gift certificates, were awarded to winners of all skill levels in the hill sprints.
"I think it was the only way we would have made it up that hill," said rookie half-marathon skater Suzanne Wilkes of Minneapolis, who won a Hayward Inline shirt and socks for her gutsy climb. "It was a lot of fun."
Challenge skater Ron Marks of St. Paul scored race frames for his successful sprint, although it came at a price.
"I was working so hard it felt like I was skating backwards," he said.
The early morning storms apparently scared off a number of the 249 who registered for the three events. On race morning, 108 skaters started the full marathon; 44, the half; and nearly 60, the 39-mile Challenge.
Family and friends joined the skaters after the race for a Famous Dave's picnic lunch, complete with two kegs of beer supplied by local micro-brewery, Old Hayward Brew Pub and Eatery. A free Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show capped the day's events.
Co-director Prois believes the longer length Challenge race will prove to be particularly appealing to the sport's growing number of strong athletes in their 40's, 50's and even 60's.
"As athletes age, they don't develop more speed, they develop endurance," said Prois, one of a number of inline skaters with bike racing backgrounds. "Why are inline races of 26.2 mile-lengths, an arbitrary distance used by runners? Other endurance sports, like bike racing or skiing, use longer distances to test the endurance limits of top performers. Two hours of top effort is a more typical test. That translates to more than 26 miles for inline skaters.
"That's the type of racer we're trying to attract," he said. "These races should be a challenge."
Copyright © 2007 by Robert Burnson