How do you top a year of ultra running in Oregon that includes a win at Peterson Ridge, top 3 finishes in 5 races (6 if you counted Miwok 100), second overall in the Series, and a course record at PCT 50 Mile? How about lining up with one of the top runners in Oregon, on his best course, and hammering out a head to head dual for 31 miles, setting a new master's record and missing the overall course record by 11 seconds. That only describes a portion of John Ticer's amazing 2004 running season.
The McKenzie River 50 will always mark the pinnacle of the Oregon racing season. Perhaps it's because so many elite runners reside in Eugene and train year round on the most beautiful course in the U.S., hands down! If any trail can be consider "home turf" to these runners like Craig, Kelly, and John, the McKenzie Trail has to be their favorite.
This year's race was an amazing testament to the sport. The dual was in full display by the second pass at Carmen, with John and Craig Thornley locked in stride for stride. By Trail Bridge, John had pressed a 1:30 second lead over Craig. Knowing the sport and knowing Craig, John had to realize this meant no comfort zone, so he continued to press harder. At Deer Creek, he had stretched the lead to 5 minutes and it was becoming apparent that John was going to take the Master's record. A ten minute cushion had developed by Buck Bridge and John could focus on the trail ahead, instead of the pursuit from behind. A final quick check at Belknap and Paradise, and we finally realized it was in the bag. John finished the race with an amazing performance of 3:43.
There are so many more stories to tell of this 47 year old runner, some of which he would prefer to not divulge. Those runners who, as part of the incredible community of trail runners, have gotten to know John, will tell their own stories that range from his willingness to help out anyone who needs a crew, to being absolutely destroyed trying to stay up with him on a training run. This mixture of fierce competitiveness and open kindness is not the paradox that it appears to be. You see, John is part of a special community of professionals, who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect and serve a greater public need. He is a decorated firefighter/paramedic, who will probably never tell the stories of rescues that we have grown so used to admiring since 9/11. He is one of those who can tell you first hand what it's like to rush INTO a burning building.
What a fitting tribute for the First Responders on the 3rd Anniversary of 9/11, that one of their own would face a challenge, run a race that most people could not even imagine doing, and come out down the trail in record time. While we watched the admiring glances and congratulations at the finish, there were none prouder than his older brother Jim (retired and decorated police officer), his sister-in law, Claudia, his father Jim (retired Veterinarian/Professor), his beautiful wife Sara (record holder for PCT 50 K), and myself (John's baby brother).