By Alexis Escobar, Asst. RD
The 24th annual Bulldog 50K Ultra and RRCA State Championship 50K Ultra Race treated runners to the coolest race day weather in recent years but being the Bulldog in August, the coolest weather is still warm.
A bright moon and stars guided o-dark-early volunteers who directed cars and distributed race bibs under the dim glow of the gas-powered lanterns just a few hours after the Bulldog trail markers, led by 2014 Grand Slam of Ultra Running finisher Andy Kumeda, had returned. With more than 100 race day volunteers, the Bulldog has proven to be one of the best supported ultras in the L.A. area.
At 6:30 a.m., race director Nancy Shura-Dervin concluded her safety speech and unleashed a record number of 50K runners. Ricardo Ramirez (M/43), coming from his DNF at Angeles Crest 100, was comfortable setting the early pace knowing that just three short miles away, the sleeping Bulldog was waiting to attack.
As the runners approached the Bulldog, they heard her growl. Cold Gatorade at the 4-mile aid station was enough for some to stay in the battle. Runners in contention began leapfrogging each other to the top of the 3.7 mile, 1500’ climb. Bulldog newbie Adam Talan (M/23) tried to work with Jimmy Dean Freeman (M/38), but unhappy with Freeman’s hiking technique, set out to jog to the top. Freeman, who successfully completed the 2014 Grand Slam of Ultra Running, would eventually pass Talan.
The second aid station at mile 7.5, hosted by 805 Boot Camp, got the runners hydrated and on their way to a fast descent to the mile 13.1 aid station hosted by So Cal Coyote Running Club. The 15-mile station hosted by Fortius Coaching, would be a deciding point for runners who wanted to take advantage of the drop down to 25K option. 238 runners who didn’t take this option would face the fire-breathing Bulldog a second time.
The heat began to be a factor for the sold out 50K. The morning cloud layers had dissipated by the time Seamus Tomkins (M/34) neared the finish line. Tomkins was able to open an 8-minute lead and time of 3:52:39 was enough to win and earn him the coveted RRCA 50K Championship. Douglas Trujillo (M/34) was too far behind to plea his case for first place, but was in contention for second, under heavy pressure from Mario Martinez (M/40). Trujillo (4:01:51) won second place with Martinez (4:02:27) just a few strides behind.
Martinez’s third place finish would earn him his first RRCA Masters Award. John Loftus (M/57) running his first Bulldog 50K (4:26:57) earned the RRCA Grand Master Award with the RRCA Senior Grand Master Award going to former Bulldog 50K Race Champion Rob McNair (M/61 – 5:26:55).
The 50K race was not as tight for the females. As the time moved closer to 11:00am, the sun’s rays were fiercely beating down forcing the runners to adjust their pace to accommodate the heat. This caused wide gaps between the lead females. Stephanie Fronk (F/27) won the race by over 10-minutes with a 4:47:27 finish also taking the RRCA Open Division Award. Sabrina Higashi (F/41) clocked in just forty seconds under five hours to earn second place and the RRCA Masters award. Amelia Valinsky-Fillipow (F/46) clocked in at 5:05:24 for a third place finish. A very honorable mention goes to Lora Zagnoli (F/53) for completing her 12th Bulldog 50K and winning the RRCA Grand Master Award in 5:28:28. Another highly notable mention was presented to Willy Briujn (F/61) for winning the RRCA Senior Grand Master Award and setting a new course record for her age division on her first Bulldog 50K attempt.
The 2015 Bulldog 50K accommodated a sold out field. The 2016 event is predicted to sellout earlier and will include many high profile runners, as many former champions will return for the 25th anniversary championship. This will be an opportunity for rising ultra-runners to test their strength against some of the strongest trail runners in Southern California as they all hope to bring home the special edition Bulldog finisher award; but until then, the Bulldog sleeps!