Friday, December 31, 2010

Tech Professor Runs Toward First-Place Finish

By Dave Wheelock
For the Mountain Mail

Aster nears the summit of Pike's Peak last August. Photo courtesy of Jan Aster.
Rick Aster of Socorro placed first in his age division and seventh overall of 57 finishers in the 50-kilometer Rodeo Beach Trail Ultramarathon in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area near San Francisco on Dec. 18.
The 51-year-old professor of geophysics at New Mexico Tech covered 31 miles of trail near the Golden Gate Bridge with a time of 4:56.21, beating the next fastest finisher by more than 30 minutes. A winning time of 3:56:27 was run by 34-year-old Pieter Vermeesch of London.
The race took place in rainy and misty conditions that Aster reported as perfect for running a long race, with only one section of bad mud. The run had a vertical elevation gain and loss of approximately 6,000 feet.
Aster, who is chair of Tech’s Earth and Environmental Science Department, was in San Francisco for the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union.
Aster said he “really felt the difference in elevation running near sea level after training in Socorro and the Magdalena Mountains.” The elevation of Socorro is approximately 4,600 feet, and local runners can train at elevations of up to 10,700 feet on South Baldy.
Aster and his wife, Jan Tarr, are avid runners of trails and road races around New Mexico and beyond, and Tarr recently organized a community 5-kilometer running series in Socorro.
The couple competed in the Boston Marathon in April and has been running races together for the past five years. They have also competed in marathons and ultramarathons in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon.
Aster noted that Socorro, with its highly varied elevations, trails, and terrain and great weather, is “perfect for trail running and training.” Tarr and Aster typically run 40 to 50 miles per week when training for races.
For the past several years, Aster, who is also president of the Seismological Society of America, has made close to a dozen field trips to Antarctica to conduct research of that continent’s geology, glaciology, and volcanology. These visits can extend for several weeks.
How does Aster manage to keep up his fitness?
“I run on the 10,000 foot runway,” he said.

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