Donovan wins Ponderosa Ridge run for third time
With rain pouring down Saturday morning at Lake Tahoe, J.P. Donovan came to a disappointing realization as he approached the finish line of the 41st annual Ponderosa Ridge Run.
Even though his primary goal had proven elusive, the Incline Village man still became the first runner to win the challenging Ridge Run three years in a row. Donovan ran 1 hour, 3 minutes, 20 seconds over the 9.5-mile route from Spooner Summit to Kingsbury, the fourth fastest ever in the race and just under two minutes off the course record.
Donovan, 28, honored as USA Triathlon Off-Road (amateur male) Athlete of the Year for 2014, was alone out front most of the way as he set out to challenge that course record of 1:01:23 set in 1986 by Rick Gentry.
“I was definitely shooting for it,” Donovan said. “I was looking at my watch over the top of the hill, and then coming here, as it got closer to one hour, I was kind of getting more frantic. I kept hoping the next turn was the turn to the finish line.”
Other highlights included Anna Mae Flynn, 28, of Incline Village, the second overall finisher and first woman. Her time of 1:18:13 was the second fastest by a woman in race history.
The Ridge Run also had its youngest and oldest finishers: Bryce Lehmann, 10, of Carson City; and Elmer Sanborn, 78, of South Lake Tahoe. Lehmann finished the run in 1:54:00 and Sanborn in 3:32:08.
And, for the first time in 41 years, rain fell on runners during the race. John Trent still managed to smile when he crossed the finish line and spoke to race director Austin Angell.
“You didn’t tell me you scheduled a triathlon today,” Trent said, laughing.
Trent, president of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run held just one week before, may not have had to swim on the course but noted that he saw heavy rain and some hail.
Fortunately for the 29 runners, there were no sightings of lightning. And the rain did bring cooler conditions on a course that starts at 7,300 feet and climbs nearly 2,000 feet in the first 4-1/2 miles to the top near Genoa Peak.
“I think the rain probably made it faster,” Donovan said. “The heat is a difficult obstacle.”
Flynn, who was alone most of the way in her first Ridge Run, discovered afterward that she was less than three minutes off the women’s course record set in 1982 by Carla Pittelkow.
“If I had known I was that close, I would have tried a little harder,” Flynn said, smiling. “Maybe I can come out next year and try to beat it.
“It’s good to know the course. This being my first time, I didn’t know how many uphills or how many downhills there were. It was fun, though.”
Brett Long of Carson City finished third in 1:19:13, Robin DeSota fourth in 1:33:21 (first masters runner) and Trent fifth in 1:36:42. Kari Long of Carson City finished as the second woman and eighth overall in 1:46:09.
Flynn, who formerly ran for Elon University, joined Salomon Running in January. Her next big race is a 50K vertical trail race on July 18 in Aspen, Colo.
This is going to be a busy month for Donovan, who is also preparing for another season as cross country coach at Incline High School. His sights are now focused on the XTERRA Mountain Championships on July 18 at Beaver Creek, Colo., and the U.S. Mountain Running Championships on July 25 in Bend, Ore.
“I’d really like to do well there,” Donovan said of the national championship race. “I don’t know how competitive I will be. Some real fast people are going to be there that I’ve never run against before.”
Looking even further ahead to next year, he added that there remains some unfinished business to take care of.
“I’d like to challenge for the record that guy ran a year before I was born,” Donovan said, adding with a laugh. “I’m going to come back and get it.”
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Strong wind has led to multiple power outages Tuesday morning and a pair of Lake Tahoe ski resorts will not open due to the strong gusts.