Brett Long had no grand aspirations when he stepped to the starting line to run the Carson Nugget Nevada Day Classic on Saturday morning. Up until the day before, the 27-year-old Carson City man wasn't even sure he was going to run the 8-kilometer road race.
"About three weeks ago I started feeling a little pain in my knee, so I decided I wasn't going to push it. Then this week, I felt good so I went down last night and signed up," he said.
Long, 27, certainly had no reservations once the gun went off. Starting in a steady drizzle, he surged to the front and never looked back en route to winning the 8K (4.95 miles) in a time of 27 minutes, 10 seconds on a cool and damp morning.
The time was off the course record 26:35 Long ran to win the event in 2002, but he was more than satisfied with the result.
"You can't ever expect to win a race just because you don't know who's going to be there," Long said. "So I felt pretty good everything considered. Given the amount of time I've put in, I couldn't have expected to run any faster."
Jeff Huxhold finished second overall in 28:17, followed by Michael Goralka. Agustin Arroy of Carson City finished third in 28:56, just ahead of Carson High cross country coach Dennis Brinson in 29:04. Susan Traynor was the first woman in 31:12.
Reno's Fred Zalokar, 45, the defending 8K champion, returned to run the 2-mile and emerged as the overall winner in a course record time of 10:57. Zalokar was one second faster than the previous record set by Jayson Sheetz in 1998.
Nick Schlager, a 13-year-old Carson Middle School eighth grader, finished second overall in 11:55 and Bill Devine was third in 11:59. Carson City's Patty Capistrant, 18, was the first woman and eighth overall finisher in 13:54. Carson City's Laura Sosa, 13, was second among the women in 14:13.
Long has been on something of a roll since late summer. He ran for a team that finished ninth overall at the Fred Meyer Hood to Coast Relay, a 198-mile race from Mt. Hood to Seaside, Ore., that attracted 1,063 teams on Aug. 26-27. He also won the Kirkwood 10K Trail Run on Sept. 3. Then he won the Kokanee 10K Trail Run on Oct. 2 in South Lake Tahoe - despite taking a wrong turn on the course.
Long is a familiar face in the Northern Nevada running community, having been a standout distance runner at Hug High School in Reno. During his senior cross country season at Hug in 1995, he placed second at both the Northern 4A zone (losing by four-tenths of a second in one of the closest finishes in meet history) and 4A state meets. Long ran four years at Oregon Tech, where he finished 25th at the NAIA cross country nationals and fourth in the steeplechase at the track and field nationals as a senior.
These days, Long likes to try for some diversity. His training regimen includes cycling and swimming to compete in multi-sport events. And with winter coming up, he plans to give running a rest and break out the skis.
It all provides for a good foundation for conditioning.
"I think it all helps your endurance," said Long, who works as a manufacturing engineer for Polyphaser Corporation in Minden. "This year, I started training for the Half-Ironman duathon in Sunriver (Oregon) in the spring and everything just sort of carried over. I like the multi-events. It's fun because you get diversity. It helps because if you rely on just running, you're going to pound yourself to death."
A total of 245 runners and walkers participated the Nevada Day Classic, which serves as a fund-raiser for Carson City Special Olympics.
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