Professors explore new frontier Alaskan ultramarathon


Sam Alspach and Sam Case, members of the Westminster Road Runners Club, are no strangers to distance running.

Alspach has done a half-dozen marathons, including a personal record of 3 hours, 30 minutes in the now-defunct Maryland Marathon.

Says Case: "We've both done the [JFK] 50-miler. I've done a number of marathons -- everywhere from the Marine Corps to the old Maryland Marathon to Pikes Peak."

But nothing they have done compares with what they will embark on Saturday in Alaska -- the IditaSport ultramarathon, run in conjunction with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

"I was on the research team for the Iditarod in about 1990," says Case, an exercise physiology professor at Western Maryland College. "We went up there and gathered some data on the mushers.

"We got involved in the Iditaski. It played off the Iditarod, which is a town the dog-sledders go through. Then they had another series of races called the Iditashoe. They all got merged into something called IditaSport."

IditaSport now comprises five divisions -- running, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, bicycling and triathlon. Alspach and Case will be participating in the running event.

"I look at the whole thing as a challenge," says Alspach, a biology professor at Western Maryland. "The reason I say that is I don't know what to expect from a weather point of view.

"We looked in the paper and saw temperatures in Anchorage were comparable to what we are having here. We haven't found it uncomfortable to run in those conditions. But the literature that they put out prepares us for 40 below. From my own perspective, if the temperatures hold as they have around here, I expect to finish in fine fashion."

L It is not the only uncertainty that the pair will encounter.

"All of the races begin at a location called Big Lake," says Case, 50. "It is at this point that the roads end. At this time of the year, the lake is actually used as a highway. But the distance is kind of indeterminate because you don't know where one trail begins and another ends.

"I've seen the race advertised as everywhere from 78 to 100 miles in length. In Alaska, they don't make a big deal about distances."

Says Alspach, 55: "What we're going to do is play an awful lot by ear, see how we feel, see what the temperature is like."

But one thing they will be is prepared.

"You have to carry certain equipment with you," says Case. "You've got to have a sleeping bag that will get you down to 20 below. You've got to have a one-day supply of food. You've got to have a headlamp. And you've got to have a stove to melt water."


Todd Henry of Baltimore finished the inaugural Antarctica Marathon in 3:51. . . . Area finishers in Sunday's Hampton Coliseum Half-Marathon in Hampton, Va.: Males -- 3. John Reich, 1:06:48; 4. Steve Kartalia, 1:06:51; 5. Gerry Clapper, 1:06:55; 6. Jim Hage, 1:08:17; 7. Dave Berardi, 1:08:25; 8. Chris Chattin, 1:09:32. Females -- 1. Bonnie Barnard-Lopez, 1:16:27; Masters: 1. Rose Malloy, 1:24:26. . . . Area finishers in the Las Vegas Marathon on Feb. 4: Mark Jones, 33, 2:33:35, 45th place; James Griffith, 34, 2:43:17, 84th place. . . . Sunday's top finishers:

RASAC Tuneup for Md.-DC Club Championship 15K At Aberdeen Males: 1. Nathan Boyer, 55:49; 2. John Myrka, 56:49; 3. Jim Otte, 4. Todd Rumbaugh, 61:58; 5. Michael Feinberg, 62:13; 6. Bernie Gemmill, 65:52; 7. Wilson Gorrell, 66:04; 8. Rob Bartholomew, 67:08; 9. Bruce Brooks, 67:25; 10. Mark Webber, 68:45.

Females: 1. Margaret Starnes, 63:46; 2. Cindy Carpenter, 70:43; 3. Kim Fleming, 73:30; 4. Cathy Bartholomew, 73:58; 5. Barb Stroud, 83:14; 6. Robin Edie, 83:53; 7. Kathy Thornton, 85:00.

BRRC Valentine's 8-Miler At Loch Raven Males: 1. Brad Uhlfelder, 44:43; 2. Bill Stahr, 48:37; 3. Kirk Warner, 49:05; 4. Jeff Sanborn, 49:19; 5. Chris Smith, 50:40; 6. Gordon Topper, 50:51; 7. Don Susick, 51:35; 8. Mark Rosasco, 51:36; 9. Mike Woodman, 52:09; 10. Paul Hannsen, 52:10. Masters: 1. Sanborn.

Females: 1. Stacey Nicholson, 52:07; 2. Kathy Lencio, 54:06; 3. Denise Knickman, 55:45; 4. Barb Willig,

59:01; 5. Christy St. Clair, 62:13; 6. Jackie Isola, 63:06; 7. Janice Chason, 63:11; 8. Edie Tress, 65:39; 9. Sandy Buck, 65:42; 10. Susan Woodward, 67:25. Masters: 1. St. Clair.

WRRC Treat Shop Eight-Mile Shuttle Relay At Westminster 1. Bob Reichard, Bob McCubbin, 57:20; 2. Pete Sciukas, Carolyn Stoll, 58:02; 3. Cristine Meadows, Dave Herlocker, 58:45; 4. Bethany Bellon, Megan Enders, Kevin Kavanagh, 59:13; 5. Jim ** Bullock, Liuda Galinaitis, Skip Fennell, 60:08.

Coming events

Saturday, Annapolis Striders' Washington's Birthday 5K, Arnold, 10 a.m., (410) 268-1165.

Saturday, Indian Rock 10K, Indian Rock, Pa., 10 a.m., (717) 755-6806.

Saturday, BRRC Indoor Track and Field Meet, Catonsville Community College, 6-9 p.m., (410) 789-7560.

Sunday, Washington's Birthday Marathon, Greenbelt, 10:30 a.m., (301) 248-5619.

Sunday, HCS Winter Series #7, Swansfield Elementary School, 2 p.m., (410) 964-1998.

Feb. 26, Md.-DC RRCA 10-Mile Championship, Howard CC, 8 a.m., (410) 964-1998.

Feb. 26, Marathon Sports Winter Series 5K, Wilmington, Del., 11 a.m., (302) 654-6400.

Feb. 26, Colonial Half-Marathon, Williamsburg, Va., 1 p.m., (804) 221-3362.

March 4, Last Train to Boston Marathon, Aberdeen Proving Ground, 11 a.m., (410) 638-1091.

March 5, B & A Trail Marathon, Severna Park High School, 7:30 a.m., (410) 268-1165.

March 5, Reston (Va.) 10M, 8 a.m., (703) 444-9215.

March 5, BRRC Layne Half-Marathon, Lake Montebello, 9 a.m., (410) 243-3153.

March 5, Bethesda Chase 20K, Bethesda, 10:15 a.m., (301) 217-3980.

March 5, Spring Thaw 5-Miler, New Castle, Del., 10:30 a.m., (302) 995-7628.

March 5, HCS Winter Series #8, Jeffers Hill Neighborhood Center, 2 p.m., (410) 964-1998.

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