Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Rattler Trail Half Marathon Report

well... i felt like if i could run the way i knew i could i might win the first race in the MVSTA's trail series in winthrop, wa on the eastern edge of the north cascades. it's not a big race, 55 starters this year, and rumor had it the runner who had the two fastest times in the past 3 years wasn't going to be there. but last year's winner in 1:34 was there and so was a guy who got 4th in 1:40 and you never know who might appear from nowhere and steal the race. but i hoped i would be that person.

the nite before the race it was windy, cold and snowy. we awoke to a warmer than expected 29 degrees and a dusting of fresh snow on the higher hills. we drove over to the start and mingled with locals and friends from the other side of the mountains. the race director yelled go and me and one other fellow led the group up the hill to the trail. after a quarter mile as i hit the trail the other guy already had more than a few steps on me but i didn't worry-- it was way too early to start racing. besides from my reconnessaince the day before i knew how tough this first 4 mile loop was and was content to use the intial miles as a "warm up". i never looked back but i seemed to have just as much of a lead over the rest of the pack as the leader had on me so i tried to keep him in sight but settled on "my" pace and just ran.

at the end of the loop i droped my hat and longsleeve shirt and grabed my water ultimate directions bottle with two gels tucked in the handy pocket with barely a pause. i estimated i was 20 seconds back after running 28:40 for the first 4 miles that included the only substanial snow on the course. in my opinion the next section of the course is the best, the route makes it way up to the canyon ridge only to drop down into a valley before regaining the ridgline for the rest of the way to the bottom of the canyon at mile 9. after climbing back up to the rigde for the 2nd time i had caught up the leader who i later found out was last year's winner and local author erik brooks. we ran together, with him a few feet-yards ahead, on the rolling ridgline with views of the big snowy peaks of the nearby north casacades and okanagon mountains, he offered to let me pass but i was content to catch my breath and wait until a little later to make my move. as we approached the end of the ridge the trail plunges down to the mile 9 aid staion on valley floor. here erik stepped aside to let me go by, i guess he too had noticed i was taking the downhills a bit faster than he. i joyously ran, jumped, slid and hurdled my way down the steep, rocky and narrow path. just before the aid station the trail levels somewhat, here i pushed the pace intent on holding on the slight lead i now had. i ran thru the aid station giving thanks and not taking anything.

after the aid station the course makes it way back up the canyon on an abandoned road far below the ridge we had just traversed. it's a gradual but steady climb with long straight stretches so i knew erik would often have me in his sights so i implored myself to run as fast as i could. maybe 20 seconds after passing the aid station i heard them cheer so i knew erik was close enough that if he just ran 5 seconds per mile faster than me for the final 4 miles he'd catch me. afraid to look back i just put my head down and motored on. two more times i'd pass specators on my way to the finsih and neither time did i hear them cheer after i had gone by but i didn't let my guard down and ran harder and harder as i approached the finish line.

i crossed the line in 1:34:43 just 13 one hundredths of a second faster than erik had last year. i expected him any second but instead he finished 3 minutes later. i had felt great and focused the whole race and the weather which had been predicted to be horrible actually turned out great with blue skies mixed with clouds and temps in the low 40's.

alison finished 11th overall, 2nd female and first in her age group. the lead woman ran away with the race which left alison in a 4 way back and forth battle for 2nd which she also took control of on the last descent with her superior downhill ability!

chris took 3rd in her age divison, bettered her time from last year and felt like she could've gone faster!

we hung out at the finshlline until nearly everyone was finished and then headed into town to claim our winner's loot, alison and i got a sweet handmade mugs for winning our age groups and i got a matching plate for 1st overall made by a local potter.

after that we went across the street to the lost river winery for a wine tasting where chris graciously bought alison and i a bottle of their finest for our accomplishments!!!


SherpaHerb said...

Great report! sounds like you're on tract for a successfull race season this year.

Billy said...

Great job James and Allison. Sounds like things are going well for you. Take care of yourself and hope to see you soon.


Steve S said...

Most excellent James and Allison. Competition and fear are great motivators to bring out ones best (great training helps with the rest). You ran your race and pace and it paid off nicely. It was fun reading to feel your joy at the scenery and flying down the hills. Hope to see you both at Cap Peak this weekend.

Cheers for the wine.