NorthShore Inline Marathon titles decided by less than a second (with video)Winning a third straight NorthShore Inline Marathon was a challenge for Briana Kramer on Saturday morning. It had been five months since her last race, since doctors found a spine fracture in her lower back.
Winning a third straight NorthShore Inline Marathon was a challenge for Briana Kramer on Saturday morning.
It had been five months since her last race, since doctors found a spine fracture in her lower back. The aspiring long-track speedskater from Salt Lake City, Utah, used physical therapy and bike riding to stay in shape.
Yet Kramer, 21, didn’t decide until last Tuesday to return for the 17th annual 26.2-mile race from Two Harbors to Duluth. She led the women’s elite field in her fastest victory in 1 hour, 13 minutes, 1.8 seconds, an advantage of less than a second over two-time former champion Julie Glass of Fountain Hills, Ariz., in 1:13:02.2.
Wesley Gandy of Richmond, Va., earned his first career marathon win by holding off 51-year-old Luis Mejia of Bogota Columbia by six-tenths of a second — 1:03:19.3 to 1:03:19.9 — in the elite men’s race. Winners earned $1,100 from a total purse of $11,200 in the marathon, designated as the 2012 U.S. Championships.
“I am so thankful to be here to compete,” said Kramer, who hopes to compete for the United States in speedskating at the Winter Olympics in 2014 or 2018. “My training was almost nonexistent until the last month. My fracture was congenital, or came through skating, but I’m told it won’t ever heal. I’ve had to strengthen my core muscles to help stabilize the spine.
“It doesn’t hurt when I’m speedskating (on ice) because you glide, but I can feel it on inline skates. The race (Saturday) was fantastic and I felt good, but I will need a massage.”
After not competing in an inline marathon for five years, since the 2007 NorthShore, Glass returned and made a push right to the end. A lead pack of six to eight women stuck together, and Kramer made a final surge around the back side of the DECC to gain a small edge on the last straightaway, on Harbor Drive.
For much of the past three years, Glass, 33, has devoted time to raising her twin daughters, age 5½, and becoming a star for the Oly Rollers in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, using the alias Atomatrix.
“Coming here, I didn’t know if I’d get dropped and fall behind or if I had a chance to win,” said Glass, who won the NorthShore women’s race in 1999 and 2003. “I figured if I would stay with the lead pack, I’d have a good finish.
“Every time there was a breakaway (by one of the leaders), I told myself that I had to go along and that I could handle the pace, and eventually they would slow back down. I would’ve been disappointed not to have finished with the lead pack.”
A few years ago, Glass said she would’ve been the one to make a deciding move at the end, but unsure of her fitness, she let Kramer go first. Kramer had talked with a friend, former NorthShore participant Brittany Bowe, last week about facing Glass, a 17-time World Champion, for the first time. Kramer was told not to let Glass be the one to sprint at the finish.
The top five women finished less than three seconds apart. High school sophomore Janelle Cole, 15, of Rockford, Mich., second last year, was third in 1:13:02.5, three-tenths of a second behind Glass.
The largest inline marathon in North America had 1,863 entrants, a drop from 2,031 a year ago and 2,640 in 2010. The weather was ideal on a sunny 50-degree day with a slight crosswind along the North Shore.
Gandy, 21, needed his own burst of speed to get free of a skater who is 30 years older. He did so on the final turn, by the Vista Fleet Excursions, on the way to the William A. Irvin ore boat.
“A lot of marathon guys don’t skate indoors (on tracks) and aren’t used to going around turns. I was counting on that corner to help me win,” said Gandy, a driver for Jimmy John’s Sandwiches, who trains in the gym and on the roads about four hours a day.
Mejia, in his ninth NorthShore race, finished sixth in 2009 in 59:36.6 and earned his best finish Saturday by not bowing to age. He led for about 80 percent of the race, although Gandy was within arm’s length for the final
The duo was then on its own and finished about a minute ahead of a pack of 14 skaters, who were four seconds apart, including 2009 champion Julian Rivera of Columbia, ninth in 1:04:24.7.
“I knew in the pro master division (50 and older) I could win easily, but I like racing against the (open division) skaters. I like adrenaline,” said Mejia, an inline coach, who arrived in Duluth last Wednesday after flights from Bogota, to Miami, to Minneapolis, before a drive to Duluth. “My legs were so tired when I got here, and I felt better every day since. I am a little surprised to finish so high, but I like to race.”
Top Minnesota finishers were Colombia native David Sarmiento, 30, of Sleepy Eye, 11th in 1:04:25.2; and Andy Kostka, 32, of Maple Grove, 16th in 1:04:25.8; and Kara Peterson, 43, of St. Paul, sixth among women in 1:13:14.6; and Sarah Oftedahl, 33, of St. Paul, 12th in 1:20:19.5.
The NorthShore race was likely missing some elite racers because the World Championships men’s and women’s marathons were held Saturday in San Benedetto Del Tronto, Italy.