Competitive road racers tackle Lake Sonoma 50

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Runners from as near as Healdsburg and as far on the East Coast couldn’t help but marvel at the view along the Lake Sonoma 50 route Saturday.

Nineteen-year-old Ashley Erba, from Louisville, Colo., said she enjoyed the scenery but then returned her focus to surviving the ups and downs of the 50-mile ultra-trail that wound through the hills surrounding Lake Sonoma.

“I knew that there were a few big climbs so I was just trying to relax and enjoy the unknown,” she said.

Erba finished in third place among women with a time of 7 hours, 36 minutes, 34 seconds in a race that saw a 10,000-foot change in elevation going up and coming back down.

“I loved this and it was a good race for me,” she said. “With family in the area, I’ll definitely be coming back to Lake Sonoma.”

San Rafael native Alex Varner was the first runner to finish the race with a time of 6:09:39. Stephanie Howe of Bend, Ore. was the first woman to cross the finish line, at 7:08:23.

Meghan Arbogast was the seventh woman to finish the race with a time of 8:09:26 and said the out-and-back style of the route that winds around the Warm Springs arm of the lake offers a view that can’t be beat.

“It’s so beautiful out there,” said Arbogast, “but I was a little more prepared for those hills this time.”

Arbogast was the fifth woman to finish the 50-mile race in 2013 and improved upon her previous time of 8:15:58.

“The girls have just gotten a lot faster,” she said of improving her time despite finishing two spots lower.

The Lake Sonoma 50 has seen new course records set in all seven races over its eight-year history.

Race veteran Clare Abram finished around the 10-hour mark to the support of locals and other seasoned Lake Sonoma 50 participants.

She won the inaugural race in 2008 and said the atmosphere is very supportive and with everyone so encouraging along the route, it’s different than other competitive road races.

Abram is a member of the self-titled “Streakers” — the group of seven runners who have participated in all of the Lake Sonoma 50 races.

“It was really perfect and the first part in the morning was just gorgeous,” she said after the race. “I’ve got my friends here and it’s very old school.”

The “Streakers” are at the core of the family and tradition surrounding the Lake Sonoma 50. The group camps out before the race every year and is looking forward to getting 10-year anniversary jackets.

“I don’t even know if there are any,” said Abram, “but we can hope.”

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