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Erica Baron of New Mexico Wins USATF 50km Trail National Championship – Flagline 50k Race Report

Endurance Buzz: New Mexico trail runner, Erica Baron, is known to run some spicy efforts in the 50km and shorter distances. If she doesn’t win it, she will be in the hunt and often earning a top placing.

Erica made the journey out to the Flagline 50k in Bend, Oregon, to lace them up for the 2012 USATF 50km Trail National Championship held on September 22, 2012.

Erica ran a 4:11:28, earning the female championship win and finishing seventh overall! 

Enjoy as Erica shares her race report with us.

I decided to sign up for the Flagline 50k because of its designation as the USATF 50km trail national championships and because it looked like a spectacular course in a part of the country I have not seen much of. Dave Thomason’s Superfit Productions did an incredible job of organizing the race, especially in light of the Pole Creek Fire that was still actively burning in the area. The day before the race, none of us knew if the race was even going to occur. The air quality in the region was so unpredictable and dependent on the wind direction, and smoke began to make its way up to the higher elevations near the race course in the days leading up to the race. I was still contemplating whether to actually make the trek while waiting to board my plane. Luckily, we ended up with a beautiful day with no smoke issues whatsoever.

I arrived at the Portland airport midday Thursday, which gave me the opportunity to enjoy a three-hour late afternoon drive to Bend through some beautiful country in the vicinity of Mount Hood. As I approached the towns of Madras and Redmond, I could begin to see the tall column of smoke rising from the area southwest of the town of Sisters, and my anxiety about the air quality we might have during the race returned. Friday proved to be much better for both the Mount Bachelor area and the city of Bend. The morning of the race was perfect with clear skies and low 40s up in the high country.

Mount Bachelor as seen from near the start of the race. (Photo: courtesy of Erica Baron)

The race began at the Dutchman Sno-Park near the Mount Bachelor Ski Area on the Swampy-Dutchman trail. Because the course begins with about eight miles of mostly downhill, I thought that the start would be fast. I was looking forward to the climbing later on, because I didn’t think the downhill would play to my strengths after a spring and summer of training runs with a lot of steep, technical climbs. Natalie Bak, the women’s second place finisher, had recently won the Oregon Wine Country half-marathon in a speedy 1:19:23 and so I wasn’t surprised to see her ahead of me during those initial miles. Along the dusty journey to the first aid station, we transitioned from deep forest to a more open area near the Swampy Lakes Sno-Park trailhead.

The sun peeking through the trees on the trail near the start (Photo: Courtesy of Erica Baron)

Once the first ~1200’ climb up trail 52.1 and the Flagline trail began, I felt more in my element. I passed Natalie about a mile into the climb. I led the rest of the way, and actually didn’t realize what a close race it was until after I finished. At the top of the climb we were immediately treated to a couple miles of steep downhill to the second aid station. The middle of the race was composed of a 400’ climb around mile 15 and a final ~1000’ climb starting around mile 21 with downhill sections in between. There were no flat sections to speak of. I tended to pass other runners on the climbs and maintain my position on the downhills.

The last portion of the race was predominantly downhill with beautiful views of the surrounding peaks, and my legs were definitely starting to complain. However, I felt strong through the finish, and was extremely happy with my performance.

The course was supposedly a bit longer this year, due to the need to move the finish line. Both Natalie and I still posted times faster than those run in 2011. (The original finish was needed as a staging area for the helicopters in the firefighting effort.) Emily Kalenius rounded out the top three fresh off of a win at the McKenzie River Trail Run 50km. On the men’s side, trail-running legend Max King once again dominated the race with a 3:33:10 finish over fellow local runners Mario Mendoza and Ryan Bak. The following day, Max would defend his title at the XTERRA Trail Running National Championship in Utah. 2011 USATF Master and Trail Runner of the year Tim Van Orden captured the master’s title.

Swampy-Dutchman singletrack trail (Photo: Courtesy of Erica Baron)

The course was absolutely stunning and the weather was ideal. The trees in that part of the country made the New Mexico trees look like dwarfs. My favorite parts were in the stretches of the Flagline trail where the forest was so dense that it was quite dark despite the fact that it was a clear sunny day. There were also some beautiful spots with views of Broken Top, an impressive and interesting looking extinct volcano. For a majority of the course, the trail was very smooth with a lot of challenging turns and ups and downs. I can see why the mountain bikers and trail runners alike love the Bend, Oregon trail network so much. The course intersections were well-marked, and the aid stations volunteers were extremely efficient, friendly, and helpful. There were enough aid stations that I only carried a single water bottle. The race was well organized and the race director, Dave Thomason, deserves a lot of credit for keep everyone informed about the fire and smoke. I highly recommend this race or at least a long run in this beautiful area.

Men’s Top 10

  1. Max King (OR) – 3:33:10
  2. Mario Mendoza (OR) – 3:44:14
  3. Ryan Bak (OR) – 3:44:58
  4. Jacob Puzey (OR) – 3:58:58
  5. Matthias Messner (CA) – 4:03:57
  6. Tim Van Orden (VT) – 4:04:32
  7. Michael Lynes (WA) – 4:17:23
  8. Emil Newhouse (WA) – 4:25:05
  9. TJ Hooks (OR) – 4:28:51
  10. Jeremy Hurl (OR) – 4:29:36
Women’s Top 10
  1. Erica Baron (NM) – 4:11:28
  2. Natalie  Bak (OR) – 4:14:16
  3. Emily Kalenius (OR) – 4:53:26
  4. Jenny Hitchings (CA) – 4:58:50
  5. Amy Phillips (CA) – 5:06:06
  6. Kristen Riley (OR) – 5:12:20
  7. Audrey Gehlhausen (IN) – 5:19:33
  8. Rhiannon Wood (OR) – 5:22:07
  9. Kari Strang (OR) – 5:24:39
  10. Alinna Ghavami (OR) – 5:26:37

– Erica Larson Baron

Talk Flagline

  • Do you have a question for Erica on her adventure? If so, feel free to share in the comment link below.


About the author

Erica Baron Erica Baron is a New Mexico trail runner that will often be seen enjoying trail adventures up to the 50km distance.

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