Friday, November 14, 2008

Lithia Loop Trail Marathon

Last weekend, Sascha, Gina, and I headed down to Ashland for a little Lithia Loop Trail Marathon fun. Well, I had the marathon fun, while Gina and Sascha had fun getting the 3rd degree from a cop because Sascha was on the grass in a city park. I guess liberal Ashland isn't so liberal when it comes to dogs.

Reading the race info, looking at the course profile, and getting the details from Erik at packet pick-up, I knew it was going to be a fun, tough, and sometimes even fast, course. It was mostly nice forest service dirt roads with about 4 miles of singletrack thrown in for fun. And the best part...it started with a 7 mile, 3,000' climb! It sounded like the perfect Sean-course. (Refueling at Windburn and sporting my stylish Sisters Poker Run sleeves!)

Although I was really using Lithia as a good trainer for CIM next month, I still wanted to go hard. However, to make sure I didn't fully race, I went into the race on tired legs with a 100 mile week.

I did a nice 3 mile warm-up to make sure I was ready to start climbing immediately. When Hal said "go", I found myself running amongst some fast folks - Josh, Jeff, JC, Susannah, and a few others. I lagged behind a bit for the first couple miles to get fully warmed up, then I got into my climbing gear and enjoyed the uphill. I briefly chatted with everyone when I went by and then only Jeff was ahead of me (Jeff was also using Lithia as a CIM trainer). He wasn't really going that much faster than the rest of us, but he was just slowly pulling away.

Shortly after passing Josh, he caught back up to me and we pretty much ran together for the next 5-6 miles. I like Josh and it was great to catch-up with running and other life things with him. Along with Susannah, Josh was using Lithia a tune-up for The North Face 50 mile Championship in the Headlands next month. $10,000 is on the line for the top boy and girl. Josh and Susannah are both definitely putting themselves in a good position to compete for some cash.

(Close to the finish sporting a little grimace and my stylish new Sisters Outlaws XC Singlet)

At mile 7, the top of the big climb, were Erik and Kyle waiting to fill my bottle, give me a Gu, and send me off with an attaboy. It was cool seeing the two young studs out helping (they had run a slightly shorter version of the course a week earlier in 2:40!) The next 13 miles were on top of a ridge where I was able to just get in a groove and cruise. After a couple slight uphill miles, the next 11 were slight downhill and I was easily hitting 6:00-6:15 for all of those splits (there may have even been a couple sub-6s). It was fun to be running comfortably hard so that I wasn't killing myself. Other aid station volunteers I remember seeing on this stretch were Eric, Chris, Ian, Tim, John, and Rob...thank you to all of you and all of the volunteers for helping and cheering. I really appreciate it!

Around 1/2 way, I asked Eric at the West Fork A.S. how far up Jeff was. About 2 1/2 minutes. That grew bit, then shrunk back to 2 1/2 by mile 20. I thought I might have a shot, especially with my 5:20 - 21st mile. Shortly after, the nice bomber dirt road downhill turned into a trail that went up for a little bit. I remember Erik had told me the night before that it was only bad for a few minutes. Although it seemed like a long time, he was probably right and soon I was going down again. But we stayed on singletrack that was getting pretty windy, and I sure was getting tired now. Dang, I knew I was not only losing time to Jeff, but that uber-downhiller Josh was gaining on me. I tried to just lean forward and let gravity take me down.

Eventually I recognized the reservoir where we started and I knew there was only about 1 1/2 miles of nice paved downhill to the finish. So I pushed a bit harder and soon saw Gina cheering and taking pictures. Another slight bend in the road and there was the finish line. 2:53:09, 2nd place. I was pretty darn happy with my performance. Jeff ended up whooping me by 5 1/2 minutes, flying into the finish in 2:47:31. A little over a minute after me, Josh finished in 3rd place, 2:54:33. Susannah had the best finish I saw, running hard across the line in 3:00:29, 1st girl and 4th overall.

If you're looking for an excuse to road trip to Ashland next November, I highly recommend using the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon as that excuse. You'll come home with sore quads, a great t-shirt, great memories of a great event, and a full belly from an excellent post-race spread. Thanks Rogue Valley Runners!

Full results here.

RVR report here.

*Breaking news: RVR bid to make the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon the USATF Trail Marathon National Championship for next year. Sweet!

8 comments:

swolfe said...

love the singlet. well done, sean.

Elizabeth said...

OMG - Incredible! I would be ecstatic to run 1 mile at 5 1/2 minutes! Sheesh! Well done!

William Swint said...

Great race! you're a machine.

Makita said...

Sweet race! Congratulations on a solid race and strong finish! 5 1/2 min mile is crazy fast at any point within the race - particularly towards the end!

Do ya'll have sleeves at the store?

Jamie Donaldson said...

You are smokin fast Sean! Congrats on a fabulous race!

ledemure said...

Love reading about your runs....truly inspirational. I know it sounds cheesy, but I am serious. If you can write about 50 miles, I can get my butt in gear and kick off 5 miles. I might just have to stop in to see you sometime. Bend is not only great for running but great for the indoor pet wash :) Wash and Dry....otherwise it could takes days for the beasts to get fully dry.

Good Luck!!!

James Varner and Alison Hanks said...

Nice job, Sean! I was sorry we couldn't come down for it. Next year...Good luck at CIM.

Alison said...

Great job, Sean! sorry we couldn't come down for the race. I used to live in un dogfriendly Ashland and that is a great loop. Good luck at CIM!