Defending marathon national champions Heather Irmiger and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski repeated their 2009 performance to capture a matching set of stars-nstripes jerseys on the Fourth of July. As with last year, the marathon national championships were held as part of the Firecracker50 race event in Breckenridge, Colorado. The course consisted of two 25-mile loops that climbed 5400 feet per lap to a breath-taking height of 11,400 before dropping racers back down into the town of Breckenridge at 9500 feet, so that the riders could repeat it all again. While both riders came into the race as favorites, JHK had to bounce back from a flat that dropped him to seventh place heading into the second lap, plus wrestle the race lead from teammate Sam Schultz, competing in his first marathon race, and another rider who was challenging both JHK and Sam on every climb.
JHK had these post-race remarks, “Defending my marathon title was one of my goals for the 2010 season. This year's race was more difficult than last year, with a stronger field of motivated athletes. The race started extremely hard, and we were racing at a full crosscountry race pace at the beginning of a four hour event. Despite riding a little out of my comfort zone I still managed to get a gap at the front, and was looking forward to settling into a comfortable hard pace when I slashed my rear tire on a particularly fast and rocky descent. I changed it reasonably quickly and rejoined the race almost 4 minutes down. I finally caught the front of the race mid-way through the 2nd lap and just threw everything I had left into the final miles of the race. Gratifyingly, I was able to take the victory again, and it is certainly made better by the manner in which it was achieved. I'm thrilled to take the National Championship for the second time, and I leave the race with a good boost in confidence heading into my high priority races of the summer.”
Heather had an easier time with her race, opening up a two minute gap on her nearest rival after the initial descent. She then focused on just reaching the finish without crashing for bonking from the heat and altitude. In the end, she had won by a comfortable margin, without much drama except for some minor leg cramps from pushing the pace to victory. Reflecting back on her day, she commented, “I decided to approach this year's race in the same manner as last year's: stay comfortable on the first climb up Boreas Pass and test the waters a bit when we arrived at the first single track. As we hit the first short steep pitch off Boreas I had a small gap and just settled into a solid race pace, remaining conservative on the decents in hopes of avoiding mechanicals. For the rest of the race I made small goals to tackle the long course and stuck with my usual technique of not looking back, to focus on the race ahead. I'm so happy to have won such a great event for the 2nd year in a row - the Firecracker 50 course is one of the most beautiful and challenging races out there.
Despite only capturing silver, Sam was excited to share in the glory of his teammates. “I am happy to have my first marathon distance race in the bag and how things went. It was pretty awesome going 1,2 with JHK and having Heather take the win in the women's race. It was a really cool event and it is always pretty unreal riding trails that reach up to 11,600 ft. Coming straight up to altitude and racing over 8,000 ft higher than my home turf was a bit of a shock and made me a little nervous going into the race. I'm looking forward to spending the next 2 weeks getting acclimated to the altitude and hopefully staying on track for the upcoming races. My first marathon experience was a good one, but I'm really excited to get back to the two hour cross-country racing format.”
Jeremy and Heather now turn the attention towards hopefully repeating as crosscountry champions in two weeks. First, they join the rest of the squad for the Pro XCT finals stage race in Colorado Springs this coming weekend. Stay tuned for more trailside news as the 2010 Subaru-Trek season unfolds across the globe.