On a cool, foggy morning in Calabasas, California, Elliot Bijlsma of El Segundo and Anne Martin of Malibu claimed the XTERRA Malibu Creek 22K titles. Bijlsma finished the tough course in 1:47:23 while Martin won in 1:56:40.
“I felt really solid for the first 10-ish miles,” said Bijlsma. “I tried to run the hill as conservatively as I could. I wanted to run it but run it slowly enough that I didn’t burn myself out. It got a bit technical at the top and kept the same philosophy on the hill. My race plan was to run down the downhill as fast as I could.”
Kyle Smith, who finished just behind Bijlsma in 1:47:31 caught up to the eventual winner at mile 12 and turned the last two miles of the brutal 22K into a footrace.
“I could see him coming up right behind me, so those last two miles were a run for my money and I was pushing really hard,” said Bijlsma, a high school senior and track standout at El Segundo High.
Marco Bertolotti was third in 1:53:16.
Anne Martin, on the other hand, ran the race alone and was virtually unchallenged (by humans, anyway).
“Oh man, I looked at the clock and it had been 55 minutes and we were still running straight uphill, and I was a little over it,” said Martin after the race with a laugh. “It was brutal, it really tests you. But that was fun.”
Martin’s strategy was to take off from the start, leaving the other women behind.
“I started out quick. There was a pack of guys in front of me and a couple of girls and we just made it a goal to start picking off the guys on the hill. I feel like my downhill isn’t my best so I just tried to fight up the hill.”
Martin isn’t training for anything specific but is helping a friend train and qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials. Together they run in the hills just east of LA. She credits the trails, lifting weights, and yoga with keeping her strong and fast.
“I just run for the love of it,” said Martin. “I love being in the mountains, I love being on the trails, I love being with the people.”
Anna Granlund from Koppang, Norway was second. The strong downhill runner can be found almost daily running in the mountains and fjords of Norway. She and her mom entered the race on a whim while they were visiting LA. Granlund finished in 2:05:52.
Pamela Hunt was third in 2:08:45.
The race began in Malibu Creek State Park along the “MASH” trail, where the TV show was filmed. Back then, the park belonged to Twentieth Century Fox. Medic trucks used in the show are still parked along the trail in the Korea-resembling section of the park.
But runners didn’t have long to enjoy the scenery. Soon after, another type of battle began. This one involved a 2667 foot climb to the top of Bulldog Peak. On a clear day, the summit offers incredible views of Malibu and the Pacific Ocean, but most were grateful to be running inside the cool grey of the clouds and fog. Rock walls and smooth gullies provided a sharp contrast to the scrubland of the park below, and athletes had to navigate a couple of rolling miles along the exposed rock spine of the mountain before enjoying and enduring the quad burner back down the mountain to the finish line. Once there, coffee, donuts, Kashi cereal, and a beer garden awaited empty bellies.
Bijlsma was spotted on the outside of the beer garden, being congratulated by those on the inside. The high school senior is going to be attending Cal State Fullerton this fall and will be studying music.
Noticeably absent from the starting line – but not the race – was Anthony Fagundes, who is out with a knee injury. Fagundes was at the race to cheer for both Elliott and Heidi Goedecke, who competed in the 2008 Olympic Trials in the javelin.
“I’m already signed up for the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship,” he said, “So I’ll be back by then for sure.”
XTERRA Malibu Creek also featured an 11K, which was new this year. Travis VanWinkle and Franky Ortega tied in 55:02, with the win going to VanWinkle. Austin Nealon was third in 56:11. For the women, Shannon Smith took the win in 59:41 with Lauren Hentschel coming in behind in 1:06:24. Melissa Kaspers was third in 1:06:35.
In the 6K, Natalie Gigg won the whole thing in 27:40. Johanna Johnson was second in 28:40 while Brittany Householder took third in 31:29. For the men, Warren Ciabattoni won in 28:16 while John Holcomb came in just behind in 28:50. Michael Landon was third in 29:36.
Photo courtesy of Scott Stolarz.