Heidi Reifenstein reaches Father Brown’s Cross to complete the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run on Saturday, setting a new women’s record for the 3½-mile race with a time of 37 minutes and 40 seconds. (Photo by Jeff Gnass)

Heidi Reifenstein reaches Father Brown’s Cross to complete the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run on Saturday, setting a new women’s record for the 3½-mile race with a time of 37 minutes and 40 seconds. (Photo by Jeff Gnass)

A mother of a mountain: Heidi Reifenstein sets new women’s record for Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run

Longtime Juneau resident returns to peak form after taking break from racing while raising kids.

Heidi Reifenstein says she ran races regularly when she was younger, gave it up when she had kids, then started running them again about a year and a half ago. On Saturday, she proved she’s in peak form by setting a new women’s record in this year’s Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run.

Reifenstein, competing in the 45-49 age division, finished fourth overall in the 3½-mile race with a time of 37 minutes and 40 seconds, topped only by three men in age categories a decade or two younger than her. She beat the previous record of 37:56 set in 2009 by Abby Lowell, and was more than 14 minutes faster than this year’s second-place women’s finisher, Bridget McTague, with a time of 51:58 in the 19-24 age division.

This was the first time Reifenstein participated in the race that starts at the tram’s base at sea level and ends at Father Brown’s Cross about 2,050 in elevation. But she said she’s familiar with the trail from hiking it and a month ago competed a seven-mile up-and-down race on Mt. Tam in California where the longtime Juneau resident now lives most of the year.

“So now that I’m starting to do races again when I come up here for the summer I was just looking for races,” she said Sunday.

A total of 43 runners, nearly all Juneau residents, started the tram run on Saturday, with 32 officially reaching the finish line at the cross, according to Linda Kruger, director of the race. Participants had to run more than a mile up steep streets and a dirt road to the trailhead, then climb a steep switchbacking trail with lots of large exposed tree roots and other hazards.

The hardest part of the race was “probably trying to stay strong towards the top of it as my muscles got tired,” Reifenstein, said. “You start out feeling good and then you’re running up the hills and, and hills are just tough. But I think a lot of it is probably mental.”

Reifenstein said the key for her to getting back into racing form was “to do it slowly and methodically, and allow your body to have time and be forgiving.” Also, it helped that she remained physically active while raising her children.

“Even with kids I had jogging strollers and I’ve run with them,” she said. “It wasn’t necessarily fast, but I think I’ve had that continuation of running throughout my life.”

The winner of the men’s division was Connor Arnell with a time of 34:28, finishing ahead of Sett Rutt at 36:47. Arnell, before the race, said he also was a first-time participant and part-time Juneau resident who said he signed up for the event when he saw it listed on the Juneau Trail and Road Runners’ Instagram page.

“I’ve not done an only-vertical race,” he said. “But I have ran track and cross-country, so I’ve done lots of races.”

The biggest challenge, Arnell said, was expected to be “pacing myself accurately, not going out too fast.”

Participants reaching the cross got a free tram ride down, if they chose to use it, plus a free round-trip ticket for future use. Among the finishers happy to take advantage of the reward was Chris Bydlon, who finished 13th overall with a time of 50:41 in his first tram run, who said he’s been “doing my best to sample some of the Juneau’s races as best as my work schedule allows” and “this is kind of a unique one.”

“I think the hardest part of it was when you got to the beginning of the trail itself at the trailhead, just because you were able to run up till that point — or at least I was,” he said. “At that point I tried to run the hill as best I could and realized pretty quickly I wasn’t going to be able to run the whole thing. So kind of at that point I did kind of a combination of running the parts that were either flat enough or I had the energy for, and then there were definitely some parts that I just realized were steep enough I was going to have to power walk.”

Bydlon said his advice to newcomers thinking about the race, now that he’s completed it, is “just remember it’s not that long of a race.”

“Depending on how quick you are usually it’s somewhere a little bit less or a little bit over an hour,” he said. “So it’s not quite the same endurance I’ve needed to use for some longer runs in the past, but it’s certainly a pretty intense hour or so going up there.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run top finishers (full results)

Men

1. Connor Arnell 34:28

2. Seth Rutt 36:47

3. Seth Nolen 36:55

Women

Heidi Reifenstein, 37:40

Bridget McTague, 51:58

Abigail Booton, 54:01

Linda Kruger, director of the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run, gives instructions to participants at the base of the tram just before the start of the race Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Linda Kruger, director of the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run, gives instructions to participants at the base of the tram just before the start of the race Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Runners start the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run in downtown Juneau on Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Runners start the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run in downtown Juneau on Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Connor Arnell reaches Father Brown’s Cross to win the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run with a time of 34 minutes and 28 seconds on Saturday. (Photo by Myron Davis)

Connor Arnell reaches Father Brown’s Cross to win the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run with a time of 34 minutes and 28 seconds on Saturday. (Photo by Myron Davis)

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