Monday, September 20, 2010

Fast Fun at the 2010 XTerra Trail Run National Championships

Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining 650 trail running fanatics for the party known as the 2010 XTerra Trail Running National Championships in Bend, OR. This was the third running of the event, and was the biggest XTerra championship to date, with runners from over 30 states coming to check out the fast and furious trails up and down the Deschutes River. Bend, OR, played the perfect host, dishing out great running weather, a variety of post-race activities, and enough fast runners to keep things lively in every age group from 7 to 75+. What a fantastic time!

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.

(I catch up with Sean at the start as Lauren gets her race face on)

(Max King is ready to roll!)

(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)

I pulled in one more runner along the last, fairly flat section, and charged the last mile in 5:30. It sure felt good to go fast! I crossed the finish in 1:28:14 for 23rd, considerably faster than last year, but not nearly fast enough to get a spot on the podium. Alas! I guess XTerra is officially a place for the Fast People. No worries though - it was so much fun!

(Victory #2 for Lauren Fleshman)

I did a cool down run with Mary (who got 3rd woman overall) and Sean Meissner (18th, and easily the best trail/road rash of the day), as we contemplated the incredibly fast times of Max King (1st again in 1:15:57) and Lauren Fleshman (1st woman, 10th overall, 1:24:24) and a field that required a sub-6 minute mile pace just to crack the Top 20. If anyone thought XTerra was a secret before, it ain't a secret no more!

(Sean shows off his souvenir)

(Don Hildebrand repeats his win in the 75+ age group)

I returned to the finish to try and catch a photo of my Dad, but he was already done! His 1:52:44 was good enough to win his age group and keep up the Dunlap name (Sean Dunlap from North Carolina also had an impressive 1:33:00). As I closed in to get a photo of him on the podium, some super-master runners next to me just shook their heads, saying how the next guy was over 20 minutes back. It was so cool to say, "yep...that's my Dad!". I couldn't have been more proud, and immediately filled his heads with thoughts of the XTerra World Championship in Hawaii in December. The awards ceremony was great fun, particularly when 7-year-old Zoe Allen got up to receive a special award for finishing the whole 13.99 mile race in 3:03, exclaiming "it's so much fun!". We will certainly be seeing her on the trails again!

(Zoe Allen, -year-old rock star!)

(Dad tops the podium!)

(Fujio and Max pose with a friend)

We spent the afternoon smiling our way through the Bend Fall Festival, giving Sophie her fair share of face painting, pony rides, and petting zoos. This is such a great summer town! I headed out the next morning for a casual long run, and soon found another race in progress, the Bigfoot 10k, with many of the same faces from the day before (and Max King winning, natch). They live the good life up here, that's for sure.

(Sophie the silver kitty)

(XTerra is easily the most kid friendly race around)

A big THANKS to the XTerra family for another top notch race (you can see more photos, including many I stole for the above, here). Nobody puts on a show quite like these guys, and if you haven't tried it, I highly suggest going big and sticking Nationals or Worlds on your calendar before they become qualifier-only events. I know I will be back for sure.

- SD


  1. All - please excuse the formatting issues above. Blogger has some serious bugs these days and likes to un-center things at random. I guess I'm getting every penny's worth. ;-)

  2. Scott! Great to meet you before the race on Saturday. What were you doing out there? Did you have the CAMERA with you while you were running the 1:28? Some good pics, my friend.

    Being described as an "ultrarunner" was as yet undeserved, but now I am obligated to make an honest man out of you. Your blog has been no small inspiration toward that goal.

    Good luck in Kona! And if you ever find a reason to come up to Seattle, make sure to come run with Mill Creek Running if you have the time.

  3. Great report and photos Scott. The speeds that all of you are running at is incredible. Good luck with the Ironman!

  4. It was nice to meet you, Scott. You had a very strong finish out there as you went along taking quality pics to share. Impressive! Hope to see you out on the trails soon! Congrats on a great run.

  5. Scott - It was good to meet you briefly just before and after the race. You represented our age group well!

    Great race recap as always. It's incredible to me that you can take all of those pictures while motoring at a 6:00 min/mi clip.

    -Dan Luscher, San Francisco

  6. A family affair and I just became a huge fan of your dad, when is "paparunstrails.blogspot" coming? Nice work Scott and thanks for letting us in on a great day.

  7. Dude, that Dylan smoked me at the Xterra race in Austin; he seemed like a cool kid, too!

    Great report and great times.

  8. All -

    Just added the highlight video at the end of the story. does a great job with these - be sure to check it out! It has one of the best snot-rockets on video out there.

    Larry Dunlap crushes the finish around 4:58!


  9. Great stuff, Scott! I'm looking forward to your Ironman photos, especially on the swim!!!

  10. Cupertino Running Again9/23/2010 12:48:00 AM

    Well done race and report! Your blog remains fresh, exciting, and inspirational as always. I SO want to get out and do a trail race now.


  11. Here's another article, this one about Masters winner Tim Van Orden:

  12. Awesome recap!! The course looks spectacular - I was hoping to make it out there this year, but turns out it will have to be next year!


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