Faas repeats at Fall Challenge
Hanna runner wins Sunday's half-marathon race
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 06:00 am
Last year’s half-marathon winners repeated as the fastest finishers at the 10th annual St. Albert Fall Challenge.
Mark Faas of Hanna defended his race title with a blistering time of one hour, 21 minutes and 57 seconds on the Red Willow trail system Sunday morning.
“It feels just as good as last year. This is awesome and last year was awesome too,” Faas said with a big smile at the finish line at Kingswood Park.
The top female for the third year in a row was Wietske Eikelenboom of St. Albert. She placed 11th overall out of 173 runners at 1:31:26.
“This definitely ranks up there for running,” said Eikelenboom, a decorated long-distance runner, triathlete and cross-country skier.
Overall there were 354 finishers in the 21.1-kilometre half-marathon run/walk (two laps on the trail), 10-km run/walk (one lap) and five-km run/walk.
“The course is absolutely gorgeous. You guys are so lucky to have this river valley here. Where I run we don’t have trees and hills,” Faas said. “The conditions were very similar to last year. This relatively cool morning seems to work out quite well for me.”
Twice as nice
The 24-year-old ATCO Power mechanical engineer surpassed last year’s time of 1:24:53 in his bid to repeat.
“This is the first time I’ve ever won a race twice in a row and it feels great,” Faas said. “I did more speed work leading up to the race. I was a bit better about my training. I did a tune-up race two weeks ago in Drumheller and I did reasonably well there so that helped.
“I’m going to have to try for under 1:20 next time.”
The University of Alberta graduate gradually pulled away from his nearest challengers halfway through the race.
“There was this group of four or five of us running together. That helped me push a little bit harder. It was a lot of fun,” said Faas, who started running cross-country in high school in Wainwright before branching out into different events.
The runner-up for the second straight year was Daniel Brewster of Edmonton. He trailed Faas by 30 seconds at 1:22:27 after finishing six seconds behind the Ironman Canada competitor last year.
“I kind of started at the back of the pack because there was a few of us chatting when the race started. I wasn’t really sure what the whole group in the front was doing so I just tried to run as hard as I could that was comfortable enough,” Brewster said. “It felt like I was behind so I just wanted to chase whoever was in front and kept pushing myself. You would pass some people but you don’t know if they’re on the trail running to run or what.”
Brewster, 26, was faster than last year’s showing of 1:24:59.
“The legs felt good today,” he said. “It was a good temperature. It was just a nice day for the run.”
Third time winner
Eikelenboom, 50, was only 10 seconds off from equaling last year’s time for seventh place overall out of 227 runners.
The second-fastest female was Gerianne Zabolotniuk of St. Albert at 1:33:28 for 15th place overall.
Eikelenboom was happy with her result.
“It’s great. Even at 50 you slow down a little bit, five seconds every year kind of thing, but I just try to keep going strong,” said the 2010 female winner at 1:31:12. “I knew the second half was going to be a little slower than the first half but that’s OK. To run for an hour and a half is hard but to do it in a race is even harder.”
Sunday’s half marathon was her fifth Fall Challenge race.
“Running helps me to enjoy a balanced lifestyle, which is good for both physical and mental health, she said. “It really does fit in very well in my yearly schedule of races in cross-country skiing in winter, triathlon in summer and running in spring and autumn.”
Eikelenboom is so familiar with the trails she can run them blindfolded.
“It’s awesome to run on the trails I know so well that I use in training all the time so I don’t need to guess where I need to go next. That’s kind of nice because when you’re running hard your brain just goes into running mode. You’re pushing hard and I’m not thinking of much else,” said the race director for the St. Albert Kids of Steel, U23 and junior elite triathlons.
Last week Eikelenboom backpacked for six days on the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming with her oldest daughter, Maija.
“It boosted my cardiovascular endurance for the half marathon today,” said Eikelenboom
Another high altitude jaunt, a three-week trek in Nepal, which included hiking over Thorong La Pass with her daughter Ariel, helped Eikelenboom get ready in only five weeks for the Canadian Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in July. She finished second in her 50 to 54 age group.
Other major accomplishments this season include three-peating as the top female in the 55 km (5.5 kilogram pack) cross-country ski race at the Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival near Edmonton, finishing second in her 50 to 54 age group at the Canadian masters in the 30 km classic cross-country skiing event, was the age group winner three times in the Alberta Cup cross-country ski series, was the top 50 to 59 division female at the 27th annual St. Albert 10-Mile Road Race and was the No. 1 female in the Alberta Challenge Triathlon.
“It’s good to stay fit and do a variety of things,” said the public health nurse at the St. Albert Health Centre. “The sense of accomplishment I experience from activities such as biking hard with the club at Cranky’s Bike Shop, cross-country skiing or running with friends and trekking with my daughters is not unlike competing. Winning in a race is a bonus.”
RACE RESULTS: More than 400 runners and walkers registered for the Fall Challenge, hosted by the Sturgeon Valley Athletic Club.
For the complete list of the overall finishers in the half marathon and the 10 and five km distances, visit www.resultscanada.com.