Bell Rings up Another Win at XTERRA Thrill in the Hills
Desmet, Meyer, McKenzie also run to wins at XTERRA Georgia race
David Bell continued his annual tradition of racing to a first-place medal in the XTERRA Thrill in the Hills Trail Run last weekend.
Bell won the half-marathon (21 kilometers) division for the third consecutive year. The other overall winners were: Johan Desmet (men's 42K full marathon), Mandy Meyer (women's full marathon) and Michelle McKenzie (women's half-marathon).
A capacity field of 500 runners participated in the event, which was completed on February 25 at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Georgia.
Most of the runners opted for the half-marathon course, and Bell prevailed with a time of 1 hour, 22 minutes, 49 seconds. "I love this course and have come back three times now to race on it," said Bell, 28. "To me, it is the perfect combination of speed, distance and technical difficulty. It's so much fun each year to come here and fly through the downhills and enter into sections of very tight switchbacks mixed with all the choppy elevation dips and rises. It sometimes feels like downhill skiing."
(David Bell, pictured at right, courtesy www.featherbrush.com)
Bell's speed and experience proved to be too much for the others, as he took the lead in the first mile and never relented. "I found that I was on my own and from there, it became a time trial and tempo which I enjoyed for the remainder of the race," he said.
Matt Haley placed second in 1:23:45 - almost a minute behind Bell. Matthew Rivers was third in 1:24:41 - almost a minute behind Haley.
The women's race of the half-marathon course was much closer, with McKenzie crossing the finish line with a time of 1:38:40, and Tara Mooney four seconds behind.
The victory was unexpected for McKenzie, as it was her first time entering an XTERRA Trail Run. She said she had no idea what to expect from the course, and was also unsure about course etiquette - which may have cost her some time.
McKenzie said she twice got stuck behind a line of runners on the single track. The second time, with Mooney approaching from behind, McKenzie said she asked the runners in front if she could pass. "They said sure and were very nice," McKenzie said. "I guess that I should have spoken up sooner."
(Michelle McKenzie, pictured at left, courtesy www.featherbrush.com)
McKenzie's experience is in road racing, and she had won several previous races in the area. She said her first trail run victory "ranks as a great mental and physical accomplishment."
The full-marathon runners completed two loops of the challenging course at Fort Yargo State Park, and Desmet prevailed with a time of 3:21:25. "The course is not overly technical and in my opinion, it has just the right proportion of single track and hills to make a very enjoyable 'true trail run,' " he said.
Desmet took the lead in the seventh mile of the race and stayed in front the rest of the way. "I don't think I ever got more than three or four minutes ahead," he said. "Although I never had a visual of the guys chasing me, I could feel their breaths for the full 19 miles that I was running solo up front."
Aaron Leach was second in 3:23:04, and Carlos Resediz was third in 3:25:15.
Desmet placed sixth during last year's Thrill in the Hills full-marathon, and said the thrill of being in front helped push him to the win this year. "When you start to believe you have a shot at breaking the cord, you push it just a little more," he said.
(Johan Desmet, pictured at right, courtesy www.featerbrush.com)
Mandy Meyer was the first female in the full-marathon course, finishing with a time of 3:35:22. She dominated the women's field, as runner-up Kelli Silwinski came in second at 4:03:15.
For complete results, CLICK HERE.
To view more photos from the race, CLICK HERE.
The XTERRA Thrill in the Hills Trail Run was the fifth of six races in the 2011-12 XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series. The top runners in each age group received points toward the overall standings of the Georgia Series.
The final race in the series will be the XTERRA Deep South Trail Run at Dauset, Georgia, on June 2. The top runner in each respective age group at the conclusion of the series will earn a free invitation to represent Georgia at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in Utah in September.
Georgia is one of 11 regions that are hosting an XTERRA Trail Run Series during the 2011-12 season. The others are Alabama, Arizona, Southern California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Texas.
To enter a race in the XTERRA Georgia Series, or to learn more about it, please visit www.dirtyspokes.com.
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