They came from the north

Alaskan Roes and Canadian Garneau outlast the rest, look forward to Western States
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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By Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor As the skies grew darker and the temperatures slowly dipped Saturday, Geoff Roes and Tracy Garneau felt more and more at home on the American River 50-mile Endurance Run course. Roes, who lives in Douglas, Alaska, found his groove when the trail got steep. The 33-year-old pulled away for a gratifying victory in 5 hours, 49 minutes. Ultrarunning Magazine’s 2009 Ultrarunner of the Year hadn’t won a race in California in five previous tries, including last month at the Way Too Cool 50k, when a wrong turn late in the race cost him first place. “I was feeling kind of jinxed in California races before this,” said Roes, who has never lost an ultramarathon outside of California. “It feels good to go into Western States with that monkey off my back.” Garneau was competing in the AR 50 for the first time. The 41-year-old physical therapist from Vernon, B.C. is used to training in sub-zero temperatures, so Saturday’s weather was ideal. Her only issue was the marathon-length stretch of the American River Parkway at the beginning of Saturday’s race. “I haven’t run on roads in about 20 years,” said Garneau, who purchased a pair of road shoes Friday night for Saturday’s race. “I’m a mountain runner, not a road runner. I don’t know how I pulled that off.” Garneau led the entire way, earning an automatic entry to Western States — which was her primary reason for racing Saturday. The Canadian welcomed the cool temperatures after the clouds rolled in early in the morning. Garneau said the temperature’s been below zero in her hometown in recent weeks. In the ice and snow, Garneau turns to snowshoeing and running with Kahtoolas, which are like tire chains for your running shoes. She said yoga has also helped her fitness. Garneau could be a real threat at Western States. Earlier this year she shattered the course record at the H.U.R.T. 100 in Hawaii by more than two hours. Roes had a couple of motivated runners pushing him throughout Saturday’s race. Andrew Henshaw led for a good portion of the course before Roes passed him up with about 17 miles left. The 24-year-old Henshaw overcame a tight hamstring over the final few miles to finish second and earn a ticket to Western States himself, though he wouldn’t commit to competing on Saturday. “I’m thinking about it,” said Henshaw, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo. and finished fourth at the Leadville Trail 100 last year. “I might give it a shot. I was supposed to pace somebody for Western States, but that’s an opportunity you don’t really like to pass up.” Henshaw’s gain was Max King’s loss. The 2009 AR 50 champion was in the top three all day Saturday, but could not keep up with Henshaw over the final 10 miles or so, and settled for third. King had been hoping to gain entry into Western States, but he’ll have to wait at least one more year. Roes firmly established himself as a major contender heading into June’s race, which is considered the most prestigious in ultrarunning. He’s anxious for the opportunity to take on the Sierra’s rugged terrain. “I would have felt a lot better today if there were more hills,” Roes said of the AR 50 course. “When there were ups and downs I was OK, but I was getting pretty sick of the flats.” Auburn’s Tim Twietmeyer was the top local finisher, placing 29th. The 25-time Western States finisher and five-time champion clocked in at 7:26. He was just ahead of Auburn’s Anne Hitchcock, who was the third female overall. The race saw 622 runners start and 582 finish. More than half of the field took more than 10 hours to finish.