A lesser man would have fallen to pieces. A year ago August, Central Point doctor Neil Olsen was leading a 62-mile ultramarathon called "Where's Waldo" when he came to a trail junction. He was 24 miles into the race in the Cascade Mountains east of Eugene when he took what he thought was the correct route.

A lesser man would have fallen to pieces. A year ago August, Central Point doctor Neil Olsen was leading a 62-mile ultramarathon called "Where's Waldo" when he came to a trail junction. He was 24 miles into the race in the Cascade Mountains east of Eugene when he took what he thought was the correct route.

Olsen didn't know then that a vandal had switched the trail signs. Before he realized the problem, he had run four miles off course.

"What finally got me to turn around was that the sun was in the wrong place," Olsen says, in his thoughtful, measured way of speaking. "I use this with the youth at church: when you get off course, there are some things you just can't rationalize away, like the position of the sun."

Olsen kept going and finished, even after running eight extra miles.

The USA Track & Field Association chose the Aug. 16 Where's Waldo race as the 100-kilometer national championship, and this time Olsen was ready.

The 41-year-old family practice doctor and father of five not only won the race, his time of 10 hours and 6 seconds is a new course record.

"It was exciting to see him so determined this year," says race director Craig Thornley, who calls the race the most difficult of its distance in the country.

This year the stakes were higher.

When several other runners went out fast at the dark, 5 a.m. start, Olsen followed the strategy from Aesop's fable, "The Hare and the Tortoise."

"If you start to hurt early, you're going to hurt for a long time in this kind of a race," says Olsen.

This year, the tortoise won.

Olsen learned he was 10 minutes behind leader Nate McDowell, of New Mexico, when he arrived at an aid station with 10 miles to go. He also learned the leader looked tired.

A mere four miles later, Olsen had reeled McDowell in and he never relinquished the lead.

"I got to the final straightaway, and I could see the finish line. I had a wave of emotion come over me — something that doesn't usually happen in a race. I was just about in tears, with a big smile on my face."

"A well-deserved tactical display of guts," says Ashland runner Ian Torrence of Olsen's victory on this rugged, remote course. Torrence placed eighth at Where's Waldo.

Olsen is no stranger to ultramarathons. He won the Hagg Lake 50-kilometer race in course-record time earlier this year, and has twice won the Siskiyou Out Back 50-kilometer race at Mount Ashland.

Olsen began training for ultramarathons while serving as an Air Force doctor. His training now includes weekly long runs that every third week can exceed 40 miles. He rests every other day to let his body recover.

One of the biggest barriers Olsen broke had nothing to do with his record time.

In a 62-mile race, says Olsen, "You can reset your standard of what you know is humanly possible. So many of us barely scratch the surface."

Daniel Newberry is a runner and a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at dnewberry@jeffnet.org