By Chuck Jackson
Northern Virginia Daily Sports Correspondent
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Serge Arbona hopes his wife Jeanne's upcoming ultra-marathon experience moves along at a quicker pace than the one he ran Saturday in the Old Dominion 100-Mile Memorial Run, in Shenandoah County.
Arbona, 37, of Baltimore, won the inaugural running of the OD's new all-road course, with a time of 16 hours, 23 minutes and thirty seconds. The Nice, France native also won last's year's Old Dominion 100-Mile One-Day Endurance Run, making him a repeat winner.
Jeanne, however, wasn't physically at the Ramada Inn when Arbona crossed the line. But she was there, via cell phone, as Arbona called her with the news. Mrs. Arbona was home resting - and waiting - for the arrival of the couples' first child, which is expected to arrive within the next several weeks.
"This is my last 100 of the year," Arbona said immediately after the race. "I've already run two this spring. I didn't think I would win it because I didn't have as much training under my belt as I did last year."
Fortunately, Arbona won't have to worry about his belt, with his new silver-plated buckle to attach to it.
Arbona led from the beginning, picking up speed as the 34 runners left the hotel and ran out to the Woodstock Armory and back before beginning the first of three treks over Powell's Mountain on Woodstock Tower Road. Once in Fort Valley, they first went north to Boyer's Road and then south to Mertz's Farm, before returning to town.
The course was the brainchild of race secretary Mike Robertson, a 51-year-old part-time Woodstock resident, and a hold-over from previous OD races.
Robertson's ears were surely burning while he ran the course enroute to his first finish in three years.
"Everybody I saw on the course cursed me," Robertson said at the hotel after beating the clock by nearly 25 minutes. "They said twice over the mountain was enough."
All Lisa Smith-Bachter, the women's 100 winner (20:34:34) wanted after crossing the line was a bed.
"That was a hard course," Smith-Bachter, 41, of Victor, Idaho, said. "It was one hell-of-a-course Mike made."
Smith-Bachter said she had wanted to run under 20 hours but knew soon after she climbed the hill leading to Woodstock Tower for the second time, the goal was unrealistic.
"I started climbing that hill and I began seeing stars," she said. "I'm not used to the heat yet. We had snow two days ago back home."
The weather did contribute to some of the runners performances. While the temperature was in the 80's on the Shenandoah Valley floor, it was 100 degrees at the medical command post set up atop the mountain at the Tower.
Smith-Bachter attributed the race she had just won was an excellent training run for the Badwater 135-Miler, she and second-place men's runner Darren Worts will tackle in July.
"That race is in Death Valley [Calif.] and you run from the lowest point to the top of Mt. Whitney," Smith-Bachter said. "The course we just finished is harder than that course and this course is 35 miles shorter."
Smith-Bachter added the Death Valley course is run in temperatures around 135 degrees.
Worts, 31, of Chatham, N.J., finished well behind Arbona with a time of 18:48:00.
"It was a good race," Worts said. "I enjoyed it. I ran here last year and I improved my time by 21 minutes."
Speaking of the overall winner, Worts said he was amazed with Arbona's speed.
"I was within three minutes of [Arbona] at the beginning of the second loop," Worts said. "We were both heading up to the Tower. He must have gotten over it and taken off. I couldn't keep up. The hills really work on your quads and knees."
The trio of Arbona, Worts and Smith-Bachter won the team championship as they were the only team to finish with at least three members, one being female. The other entered team - the Florida Ultra Group was disqualified when female runner Barbara Frye-Krier, 47, of Largo, Fla., gave up her pursuit of the 100-mile quest and settled for a 50-mile award, instead.
Barry Edge, 51, of Hanceville, Ala., won the inaugural 50-Mile Run with a time of 8:06:20. Edge was a step ahead of second-place men's finisher Brian Klippenstein, a 38-year-old Washington, D.C. resident.
The top women's 50-miler was Arlington's Melinda DeCorte, 28, who clocked 9:04:00, which made her fifth overall in the shorter race.
"The course was great for 50 miles but I wouldn't want to have done the 100," DeCorte said. "It's a great course for the 100 if you can motivate yourself to do three trips over the mountain after knowing how hard one is."
Of local interest, former Central High School track and cross-country runner Kavara Vaughn, 22, finally finished her first stab at a 100 when she ran a sub-28-hour performance, clocking 26:46:50. Vaughn, a pre-veterinarian major at West Virginia University, in Morgantown, started out too fast and was just several minutes behind Arbona 30 miles into the race. But she faded fast and was ready to give up before local ultra runner Kevin Black paced her on the third loop back to Mertz's Farm. From there, boyfriend Bradley Mongold, another former Central runner, took over and brought Vaughn back to the hotel.
"I didn't listen to [Black and Roy Marshall, another local ultra runner]," Vaughn said. "I went out too fast. During the last loop, I kept telling Kevin I wanted to stop and he told me to do whatever I had to do. That psychology kept me going."
Vaughn looked refreshed as she descended the mountain for the final time early Sunday morning.
"I feel good now," she said. "I'm ready to finish this thing."
She did, walking the rest of the way to the hotel.
Chuck Jackson is a free lance writer, living in Maurertown, Virginia. He coverage includes ultramarathons in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and wherever else someone is willing to pay him. He may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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