Sophie (my four-year-old) and I flew up to meet my Dad and step-Mom, and we were happy to hear that Dad brought his Inov-8 X-Talons, unable to resist the calling of a 13.99 mile romp through the woods. Sophie had her sights set on the kids obstacle course, as well as the Bend Fall Festival going on downtown that promised pony rides and face painting. Sophie is all about XTerra, having started a collection of kids medals and memories to last a lifetime.
(Dad and me at the start)
(Hanging with Lars)
The weather on race morning was just right - cool, cloudy, and a hint of rain to keep the dust levels low. We gathered at the start with Washington trail runner Lars Larson, local fast guy Sean Meissner, ultra world champ Kami Semick, XTerra star Derek Schultz, and Fujio Miyachi from Japan, and commented on how the number of gazelles warming up in the parking lot suggested a fast race this year. Two-time defending champ Max King was back, as was defending Women's champion (and 2010 5k national champion) Lauren Fleshman. They both had plenty of competition, known and unknown, and were here to take this seriously.
(Defending champion Lauren Fleshman)
I was feeling pretty good during the warm up, although a bit tired from the two-a-day Ironman training that has become the staple for the October 9th showdown in Hawaii. How do these Ironmen do it?!? In the last month, I've fallen asleep at a stoplight, woken from a swimming dream to freestyle stroke right off onto the floor, and gone up one jacket size from lats that look like I'm smuggling a manta ray. Guess it's time to see if all this cross-training helps the trail running! My Dad, Larry Dunlap, was fresh off a foot injury, but had a good base of fitness from running, hiking, and cycling through the summer like only a retired guy can do. We gave each other a good luck hug and readied for the start.
(Leaving Old Mill and heading down the river)
When the cannon went OFF, we instinctively got the hell out of there and tore through the Old Mill District to the first section of bike path. I cruised along with Sean Meissner, Fujio Miyachi, and Mike Olsen and settled into a 6 min/mile rhythm. Up ahead, there were already two packs of runners, with Max King running 5th or so in the first pack, and Lauren Fleshman tucked behind Michele Suszek like a track-trained hunter in the second pack. We crossed the bridge and hit the first section of dirt, and everyone spread out before the single track.
I remembered from last year not to get too crazy until I hit Haul Road (mile 3), so I bid adieu to Sean and the gang as they tore it up and over the roller coaster hills along the river. About a dozen more passed me in this section, but I was able to turn it up once we got to the flat section of Haul Road and pull them back in. I pulled up behind Fujio and Dylan Johnson, a wicked-fast 16-year old up from Dripping Spring, TX. They kept the pace fast - right about 5:50 min/miles - but the front packs were still putting time into us at a crazy rate.
(Indya Bull, hitting the single track)
(Enjoying the switchbacks!)
(Fujio and Dylan pace up the fire roads...)
(...then hit the single track)
Mary Colburn from Culver City, CA, joined our little pack as we peeled off the dirt roads and into some more technical single track (mile 5). Fujio and Dylan were amazing, never losing time, and the rest of us just tried to keep up as they hopped through the brush and lava rocks. Once there was a longer section, Mike Olsen, Mary, and I would let our strides open up and reel them in. The sportsmanship was top notch, and everyone was happy to trade off to keep the pace high.
(Mary Colburn leads Mike Olsen up the lava road)
(nature at it's best)
(Sean Dunlap sets the pace up front...go Team Dunlap!)We cruised along the top of a rocky ridge (a new section from last year) before diving down a chute and heading back along the river (mile 7). Mike Olsen found a whole new gear and I swore I heard the Roadrunner "meep! meep!" as he left us in a dust cloud. Dylan and I paired up to try and keep him in sight, trading off the lead over the last climb into the lava fields. Before long, we were back on Haul Road (mile 10), covering the first 10 miles in 62 minutes. Wow! This course is seriously fast.
(Dylan races down the single track)
(The very lively aid station volunteers)A sprinkle of rain kept us cool, as costumed volunteers handed us one last gulp of fuel to push through this fast section. I got excited about using these long straightaways to bank some time and maybe, just maybe, average a 6 min/mile pace for the whole race. I did my best to work my arms as much as I could - those manta ray lats must be good for something! I pushed it up to 5:40 min/miles to bank some time for the upcoming switchbacks, and found myself alone as I trucked down to the river.
(Rachel Edelson heads down the river)
(Max King hits the turbocharger)
(Arnauld Decarsin, in from France, cruises along the river)
(Victory #2 for Lauren Fleshman)
(Sean shows off his souvenir)
(Don Hildebrand repeats his win in the 75+ age group)
(Zoe Allen, -year-old rock star!)
(Dad tops the podium!)
(Fujio and Max pose with a friend)
(Sophie the silver kitty)
(XTerra is easily the most kid friendly race around)