GENOA — John Fitzgerald was uncertain early Saturday morning how his attempt at the inaugural Genoa Peak Madathon was going to turn out.
The 26-year-old Carson City runner was able to call on some past experiences, however, and went on to win a “Completely Madathon” marathon race that featured approximately 5,000 feet of climbing to the top of Genoa Peak and back.
Fitzgerald completed the 26.2-mile route in a time of 4 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds — a pace of 9:45 per mile — and looked fresh enough after the finish at Genoa Park to go out and run another race. A little over six minutes later, he came back and offered a big high-five to the runner-up finisher, Paul Sweeney of Truckee.
“It went as well as I hoped,” said Sweeney, who finished in a time of 4:21:55. “I loved the course.”
Listening to Fitzgerald afterward, his race was far from easy. Then again, that is very understandable since he had run the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-mile trail race on July 20.
“It was kind of a rough race for me,” Fitzgerald said. “I had some stomach issues pretty early on and had to pull off the trail a couple of times. It was questionable … I knew I was going to finish, but I thought I might be walking in.”
That’s when lessons began to pay dividends from previous races. This year alone, Fitzgerald has run one 50-mile race, a 50K as well as two 100-milers.
“This season has been such a great learning experience, I learned so much how to deal with those low patches,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. Each race you need to learn a little bit more about nutrition or how to deal with a certain situation. Like today, I was having stomach issues and I’ve had a couple of races where I’ve had issues before. So today it was, ‘I can deal with this,’ and I was able to keep a positive mindset and keep going.”
Fitzgerald, Sweeney and 18-year-old Brandon Robbins led the field to the top of 9,150-foot Genoa Peak. Fitzgerald reached the summit in 2:22:59.
“I wanted to sit down up there and soak it in,” Fitzgerald said, referring to the view of Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley from the summit.
Sweeney flashed a smile as he added, “I didn’t even notice the view.” That says something coming from a veteran ultra distance runner.
Robbins of Sparks finished third in a time of 4:47:19. At this time last year, Robbins was training for his senior cross-country season at Reed High School in which he finished 22nd (17:23.2 for 5K) at the NIAA Division I state championships.
Fitzgerald, whose unofficial sponsor is Hammer Nutrition, benefited from some pre-race preparation as he found his second wind in the final five miles.
“I helped Kevin (Bigley, race director) get the course set up leading up to the race, so I was actually pretty familiar with that last section,” he said. “That’s when I started to feel better. I saw the trail and I knew it wasn’t too far away so I just kind of let it go ... leaned forward and just kept going.”
To add icing to the cake, Fitzgerald was the first person at the finish line to greet his girlfriend, Carson City’s Hannah Riedl, who emerged as the first woman and the seventh overall finisher in 5:07:02.
“I love it out here; the views are beautiful,” said Riedl, a recent graduate from the University of Montana (where she competed as a triathlete). “I’d been out here a couple of times before the race so I felt like I had the course pretty much down to a science.”
Betsy Nye of Truckee ran 5:48:49 to finish as the second woman. Gardnerville’s Norah Gastelum was the third woman to finish and 13th overall in a time of 6:11:30.
In all, 28 runners finished the marathon and 29 finished the half-marathon. Carson City’s Chris Kleintjes, 66, was the oldest runner to complete the marathon as he crossed the finish with George Ruiz in a time of 6:24:37.
Genoa’s Jason Tollmann, 43, won the half-marathon on his hometown trails in a time of 2:04:56 (9:32 pace). It represented a good comeback for Tollmann, who just three weeks ago finished the Tahoe Rim Trail 50K.
Tim Dry, 46, of Minden, was second in 2:10:15 in his first trail half-marathon. Dry was fastest to the top of the half-marathon in 1:01:13, nine seconds ahead of Tollmann.
Cynthia Aimlie of Reno was the first woman and third overall finisher with a time of 2:15:04.
Lillian Michel, 72, of Sparks was the oldest half-marathon finisher in 3:12:44, good for 18th overall, while Joshua Bardin, 64, of Incline Village finished 26th in 3:40:50.
Find complete results at http://www.ascentruns.com.