Bell Wealth ManagementCEDAR PARK–When folks running the Rogue Distance Festival poked their heads outside early Sunday morning, they were shocked by the unexpected balmy 58 degrees and calm conditions. Cold front? What cold front? But, by the time, the 1100 runners reached the starting line in the Cedar Park HS parking lot, they knew all too well about the predicted cold front sweeping down from the north. Temperatures had plunged about 20 degrees in less than an hour and the howling north wind, forced the field to huddle up in a futile attempt to stay warm.

No chance of that happening as the field of the three races—a 10-K, half marathon and 30-K (18.6 miles)–headed out right into the teeth of a 25-30 mph wind along mostly flat suburban streets and neighborhoods through Cedar Park and Leander which provided little relief from the wind.

Assuming the lead right from the start was Erik Stanley who is well on his way to winning the 2013-14 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge. Stanley, the former UT All American, had already won IBM and Decker and was third at the Run for the Water 10-Miler to put him comfortably in front. Although Stanley was clearly the class of the 30-K, he was not a happy camper at the start.

“It was so cold and windy I just wanted to stay in bed,” said Stanley who voiced nearly the same thing before the start of the even chillier (but less windy) Decker Challenge a month ago. “I was so grumpy getting up this morning that I wasn’t sure I wanted to even run.”

He got over that quickly. Stanley bolted out to a quick lead with a succession of 5:30 miles with only Alex Moore, the former Aggie who lives in Leander, in tow. But, said Moore, “I couldn’t stay with Erik. He was always way out front by himself.” It took Stanley nearly six miles into the cold wind before he was able to warm up, maintaining the throttle between 5:30 and 5:40 per mile pace. Then, reaching a long gradual downhill, the tall Texan was able to open it up and cruised the next six miles between 5:10 and 5:15 miles.

Said Moore, “I would have loved to run with Erik, but I just couldn’t get up there even close to him.”

Nobody could, especially with such competitors as Alejandro Ruiz and David Fuentes (who was there) sitting this one out. “It would have been nice to have someone to run with to work together into the wind,” said Stanley. “It did get a little lonely out there which made it harder.”

The final couple of miles back to the finish at Cedar Park HS were especially difficult. Tired, depleted and running into the blustery wind was tough on everyone, including Stanley who slowed to a 5:30 final mile to win in 1:40:05 which was a little slower than he expected to run. Moore was second in 1:49:55 with Brian Wade third in 1:55:58.

First master of the morning was 50-year-old Jim Cleary, just back from a vacation to chilly Wisconsin, who finished seventh overall in 2:04:19.

Still, everyone was a shade slower than expected as both the half marathon and 30-K course were a bit long. Moore’s GPS had the 30-K course at 18.8 miles and others had the half at 13.5-13.6 miles. The 10-K course wasn’t long, but a volunteer didn’t show up at a key intersection and many of the faster runners ending up covering an extra half mile which caused some post-race grumbling.

There was even a bit of grumbling from Stefanie Slekis who won the women’s division of the 30-K. Slekis, the distance and cross-country coach at the University of North Texas in Denton, also expected to run faster than the 2:02:18 she recorded. “I was hoping for a faster time this morning,” said Slekis, a 25-year-old who was all Big East at Syracuse University. “The cold wind in the first six miles really took a lot out of me and it took me awhile to get going and settle into a 6:15 per mile rhythm.”

But that rhythm was too rich for Jennifer Harney, who has dominated the women’s division of the Distance Challenge. Harney was using the Rogue 30-K as a progressive training run and went out 30 seconds per mile slower than Slekis.

“I didn’t know who she was, but I could tell she was very strong. I couldn’t get close to her until the last couple of miles when I finally started to feel better. But once I did, it was too late to catch her,” said Harney who finished second in 2:02:39. Allison Macsas, who was leading a pace group (and not racing) was nevertheless third in 2:17:49.

The accompanying half marathon was won by Patrick Oelkers in 1:25:14 with Tony Kung second in 1:32:18 and Todd Ham third in 1:32:57. Patricia Russell easily took the women’s division in 1:26:45 (second overall) with Chelsea Hanson second in 1:39:49 and Michelle Ryan third in 1:46:57.

First masters woman was 51-year-old Anne Clemons who ran a spectacular 2:21:31.

The next race in the 2013-14 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge is the 3M Half Marathon in two weeks (January 19th), followed by the final race in the series–the Austin Marathon on February 16th.

Get full results of the morning here: