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!)
(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!