Some 100 runners are expected to take on the challenge on Saturday of the Genoa Peak Madathon trail marathon and half-marathon trail races.
For longtime Carson City resident George Ruiz, however, the 26.2-mile trek up and down Genoa Peak is merely going to be warmup.
“I’ve got the Cascade Crest 100-Mile (in Washington) coming up two weeks after Saturday so this is actually a training run for me,” Ruiz said, chuckling. “I mean, the very next morning I plan on doing an even more difficult 31 miles.”
Ruiz, 56, is an ultra distance enthusiast who is preparing for his 17th 100-mile race — he ran 30:21:59 at the Zion 100-Miler on April 19 — and also serves as race director for the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run 50-K, 50-mile and 100-mile races in July. He is also a seven-time finisher at the Tahoe Rim Trail event, finished the prestigious Western States 100 in a very respectable 28 hours, 40 minutes and 31 seconds in 2005 and is a two-time finisher at the Leadville 100 in Colorado.
Even though longer may be better, the Madathon still holds special significance, according to Ruiz.
“It’s funny, but it was probably a year ago when I saw Kevin on the trail,” Ruiz said, referring to Madathon Race Director Kevin Bigley. “I asked him what he was up to and he said he was mapping out a possible new marathon course. So, yeah, I’m glad to be doing the inaugural running of it.”
And, yes, the 5,000-foot climb from the start of the marathon at Mormon Station State Historic Park to the top of Genoa Peak is going to be quite a challenge. So will getting back down, Ruiz pointed out.
“This is going to be a good test,” he said. “So many road runners want to make the transition to trail running, you see that all the time in ultra distance running, people with very little trail running experience jump into these really difficult races and a lot of them are surprised at how difficult it really is.”
Scrambling through a field of rocks to the top of the jagged peak requires some care.
“You just gotta take it slow and make sure you don’t fall,” Ruiz said. “You have to be paying attention in any trail running.”
He believes the toughest section will come in the final five to six miles.
“Quite honestly, I think the hardest part for the majority of the people, including myself, is going to be after you head south to the Genoa Canyon Trail,” Ruiz said. “It’s not a big climb, probably less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain, but you’ll already have done a big climb and a big descent, your legs are already taxed, it’s later in the morning so it’s a little warmer, and you’re closer to the valley floor.”
The trail is in good shape, he added, enough so that the return trek down the mountains will be made easier for marathoners. Well, not exactly easy.
“The Carson Valley Trail Association did a really fabulous job building that trail,” Ruiz said. “There are a couple of little steep sections, but most of it is a pretty nice pitch. Coming down, I have to say it’s a really easy trail to run down. There are about three kind of steep sections that will pound your quads, but for the most part you don’t have to brake a lot, which is really what really hurts people.”
“That’s my perspective because I go out and do some pretty nasty trails, another runner’s perspective may think I’m completely mad,” he added, laughing. “I don’t want to make it sound complacent because it’s really going to be quite challenging for a lot of people.”
Some talented local athletes are entered who could be contenders to win the marathon, according to Ruiz. Among those is Carson City’s Hannah Riedl, a former Carson High cross country runner who competed for the University of Montana triathlon team this past spring and also the second woman to finish at the Mt. Spokane 50K in October 2012. Jim Nelson of Gardnerville is a two-time Tahoe Rim Trail 50K finisher and in 2004 placed second in the grueling Barkley Marathons 100-Miler in Tennessee. And Kevin Peterson of Reno, a Carson City dentist, finished 10th overall at the recent Tahoe Rim Trail 50K.
Ruiz has no aspirations of winning. His focus is on the 100-mile race in Washington later this month, so he won’t be pushing at 100 percent. Instead, Ruiz is running the Madathon for a good workout and because of his love of the mountains.
And what about that Sunday morning training run he has planned? Ruiz said he will embark on a logging trail from Foothill Road south of Genoa. The trail climbs about 3,500 feet to the Tahoe Rim Trail, then climbs to the top of Freel Peak and back down. The distance will be about 31 miles, Ruiz said.
Interestingly enough, Ruiz played some football and wrestled at his high school in Southern California. He did try one season of track as a middle distance runner, but never envisioned himself as a long distance runner until after high school in the mid-1970s.
“I think I was like 18 or 19, I got together with a friend of mine who was a cross country runner and we started training for the Los Angeles Marathon,” he said.”I forget the reason why, but he bailed out on me and I went ahead and ran it.”
Even after he moved to Northern Nevada in 1982, he still preferred motorcycles and dirt bike racing.
“That’s the reason I got back into running because I needed to be in better condition to ride at a top level for a longer period of time,” Ruiz said, adding with a laugh, “so I started running, just like everybody else at the time, except my 5K races turned into 10ks, half marathons turned into marathons then I began trying 50Ks and just never stopped until I hit 100 (miles).”