Monday, June 13, 2011

Trailblazin' at the 2011 Dirty Half USATF Trail 1/2 Marathon Championships

Last Sunday, I joined 800+ trail runners for the 10th annual Dirty Half in Bend, OR, which was also the USATF Trail Half Marathon Championships for the second year in a row. It was a great opportunity to race against some fast people, try out a new course, catch up with friends, and make a few new ones as well. It's hard to go wrong with summer trail running in Bend, OR!

My good friend Lisa Clark was my crew and chauffeur, and made sure we had a chance to check out some of the new breweries and restaurants over the weekend. Bend, OR, is awesome in that you can slow down to a very relaxed speed at any time, then join in on the latest outdoor adventure and get your adrenaline up within the hour. I wasn't sure if some yummy IPA and pizza from 10 Barrel Brewing was the best pre-race meal, but my fears subsided when I found raw-food-powered super master Tim Van Orden, USATF star Richard Bolt, and mountain running goddess Megan Lund-Lizotte doing the same. Perhaps I have found their secret! Well, all but Tim that is - he stuck to the lettuce.

(Megan Lund-Lizotte is dazzled as Max King shows off his levitation skills, while Richard Bolt says howdy)
Race morning found an ideal summer day with clear skies and 45 degree weather than would quickly warm with the sun. Nearly 800 runners would embrace the day, with half of them tackling their first half marathon, and 40 others being the fastest trail runners in the sport ready to kick down for $2,500 in prize money. Max King was here to defend his title, despite the fact he ran a 31-minute 10k AND a 13:56 5k the day before at the Portland Track Festival. That meant Mario Mendoza (5th here last year), Team Inov-8's Sam Robinson (back after injury), and 1:08 half marathoner Kris Houghton would be looking for any sign of fatigue to be ready to pounce. Max could also get some competition from the Masters field, which included the wicked fast Tim Van Orden (aka, TiVO), locals Jeff Caba and Kevin Hutchins, and a speedy Richard Bolt miraculously back in full form after a brush with Lyme Disease. Ian Sharman would usually be in the mix, but he was heat training today for The Big Dance, wearing just about everything The North Face makes.

(David Engstrom, TiVO, Megan Lund-Lizotte, Jeff Browning smiling at the start)

(Sam Robinson back in action, with Caitlin Smith right behind him - how symbolic!)
The Women's field was downright insane, with Olympic cross country skier Morgan Arritola looking to improve on her second place finish last year, mountain running star Megan Lund-Lizotte, ultra phenom Caitlin Smith freshly recovered from her 2:40 at Boston, and local stars Katie Caba and Marci Klimek both in peak shape and ready to exploit their home field advantage. As RD Super Dave got us lined up at the start, they were all eying each other like a high noon gunfight. Ready....DRAW!

The new course gave us a half mile of pavement to sort out the rough order, before tearing down a fire road towards the hills. I almost took out Caitlin (sorry!) as I dodged around some 60-year-old who lined up at the front, and found myself in the usual spot - just ahead of the lead women, and watching the front pack of the men disappear into the distance. ;-) Max and Mario were leading side-by-side, picking up the pace to 5:00 min/mile as soon as their shoes found dirt. Kyle, TiVO, Sam Robinson, Jeff Caba, and Cory Jenkins stuck right with them.

(Mario Mendoza, Sam Robinson, TiVO, and Max King take it out fast, photo courtesy of Andy Tullis at The Bend Bulletin)

(Marci Klimek, Caitlin Smith, and Megan Lund-Lizotte set a fast pace out of the gate)

(Hello dirt, goodbye lead men!)
The miles were clicking by quickly (about 6:10 min/mile pace for me), and once we hit the single track the lead women starting jockeying for position. Morgan, Megan, and Marci pushed each other hard, with Katie and Caitlin holding back for the second half about 30 seconds behind. Megan in particular was hitting the switchbacks with a mountain runner ferocity, forcing a very fast pace. It was going to be a brutal fight!

(Yummy single track)
 Around Mile 4, I saw Richard Bolt walking and feared for the worst, until I realized he was fixing some markings on the course! He soon took off again, climbing quickly up some steep hills (new for this course) and dropping me like a sack of stones. Wow, only that guy could stay in the Top 10 while setting ribbons.

(Climbing the high desert ridge)
The new course was definitely harder, with steeper climbs and more of the endless mountain bike trails that snake through the trees with delicious banked corners. It was great! I was still feeling Alcatraz in my lats a bit, but in general was feeling good. Bend's Jon Fitch let me sneak by him around mile 5 after pulling us through the tough climbs, and I ran the next couple of miles solo, enjoying the high desert expanse. I could see Megan Lund-Lizotte about a minute ahead, still eying the two front women about a minute ahead of her, but her downhill speed was too fast for me to catch up.

(Jon Fitch gives a thumbs up as we enjoy the single track)
The aid stations were awesome, and I gulped as much water as I could to ease the desert-air parching of my throat. Kind of weird that the dry air was my limiting factor, but so be it! I slowed enough that a group of three - Katie Caba, Caitlin Smith, and Bend's Andy Young - caught me on a climb. Katie threw me a fist bump and she cruised by, and I did my best to get on Caitlin's tail and hang on. Funny thing about running behind Caitlin - her steps don't throw off any dirt/dust at all! She's like a ninja, using gravity and momentum perfectly to propel herself forward. It was a pleasure running behind her, although my sloppy style put me in charge of the smoke screen.

(Katie Caba gives a fist bump - go Team Inov-8! - as she flies by)

(I promised Katie I wouldn't Photoshop some super deltoids on her..but she already has them!)
(Caitlin the Ninja sneaks by)
Mile 10 came in about 1:05, and I was surprised it was that slow. I thought I was hauling ass! This course is definitely harder. A few long straight-aways showed me that Caitlin was 45 seconds up, and a few guys were right on my tail including...wait, is that Jeff Browning?!? How in the world is a 100-mile guy running so fast with a 3-week old baby at home? I better pick it up, or I won't win the New Dad division! Pretty awesome to see Jeff tearing it up when he probably didn't even sleep last night. Then again, he loves to run on no sleep!

(We are colorful ants in the land of pine giants)
(Caitlin the Ninja still out of reach)
We found our way to the road again (mile 12), and I charged to pick up a few seconds on Caitlin before coming in at 1:27:03 for 19th place. It turned out to be enough for 9th in the USATF rankings, with Jeff Browning picking up 10th. That means hardware! New dads are stoked to get anything. ;-)

(Phew! Made it!)
(Max King brings it home)

(Mario Mendoza takes 2nd)
Max King did manage to defend his title (1:14:44), just 17 seconds ahead of Mario Mendoza (1:15:01), and Kris Houghton (1:17:34), Cory Jenkins (1:18:01), and TiVO (1:18:45, 1st Master) finishing out the Top 5. Daniel Greer from Boulder also crushed it with a 1:28:24 for an impressive win in the M50-54 category. Morgan Arritola won the Women's division, with Marci Klimek (1:25:16), Megan Lund-Lizotte (1:25:51), Katie Caba (1:26:07, 1st Master), and Caitlin Smith (1:26:40) rounding out the Top 5. Also very cool was to see the mother-daughter team of Jennifer and Hannah Munyan pick up 6th and 7th! How cool is that? (all results)
(Max's recovery secret - doughnuts! Mmmm, doughnuts...)
(Ryan Ness, Jeff Browning, RD Super Dave, and Justin Grady enjoy a beer, photo courtesy of Justin Grady)
Brewmaster Jacob Harper from the Deschutes Brewery had a special Dirty Half IPA for us again, and I was thrilled to join him as the first two runners in the beer tent to tap the tap (Jacob was on crutches last year...this year, 1:38:13!). It is 9:30am after all! Burritos, Jamba Juice, pizza, veggies and more made sure everyone made up any calories left on the course. It was great to meet all the local runners, and find out how Super Dave, Max King, and other volunteers had enough running groups to get hundreds of people to the starting line. This really is an amazing community!

(RD Super Dave hands out the Payola)

(Richard Bolt, who can coordinate, mark a trail, and still get 10th overall/3rd Master)

(Men's Top USATF finishers - M50-54 winner Daniel Greer, TiVO (4th), Jeff Caba (5th), Sam Robinson (6th), Kyle Houghton (3rd), Mario Mendoza (2nd), Max King (1st), Jeff Browning (10th), Richard Bolt (7th))

(Mother-daughter team of Hannah and Jennifer Munyan are 7th and 6th)

(Women's top USATF finishers)

(Go Team Inov-8!)

(Veronica Russell gets the warrior award for her full-body trail rash, while still finishing under 3 hours)
My thanks to Super Dave, Richard Bolt, David Thomason and the gang at Footzone Bend, and the many volunteers for putting on a great race. All of the proceeds went to the Deschutes Land Trust who help maintain these amazing trails, so I'm sure the 10th annual is clearly just the beginning. Truly a gold standard, championship race!

- SD


  1. Congrats on the medal! I just did my first trail half-marathon yesterday, and I have to say... I liked it much better than I thought I would!

  2. FWIW, Morgan Arritola is a XC skier, not a biathlete

  3. ZG - duly noted! Thanks for the correction.

    Julie - congrats on the half marathon! Of all the distances I have run, I think the jump from 10k to the Half Marathon was the toughest. I'm glad you liked it on the trails!

  4. Great write-up and photos! Nice to see you again in Bend. Too bad there is no 10 Barrel Brewing Company in the Bay Area. :-(

  5. Nice job on the blogs!! Thanks for the "Warrior" award..seeing I wasn't going to come in anywhere close to the front of the pack, I had to get some credit somehow:) I really thought we had covered all of those darned hills when I decided to step it up a notch just before the end of mile 12. Guess my brain didn't connect with my feet coming down that hill. Recovering nicely. What memories. Thanks for being there to capture!

  6. Veronica! Thanks for stopping by. Wear those trail rashes with pride!

    Some other blog write-ups coming in:

    Caitlin Smith puts it in perspective by hustling home from her 5th place to bring a baby into this world.

    Ian Sharman gives details on his heat training.

    Go check 'em out, and leave some comments!


  7. Hey Scott! I was honored to be your chauffeur and guide...I'm assuming you didn't fall asleep in the airport and miss your plane this time! And just in case you were wondering - You left your Dirty Half Finisher Beer Mug! I'm holding it hostage until the next visit! Grins!

  8. I have read a few good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much effort you put to create such a fantastic informative site.

  9. Scott, great photos and writing. Made me feel like going out for a run up the hill behind our house. Great blog by the way.

  10. Ha! Just saw this. Thanks Scott Dunlap. Hannah & I thoroughly enjoyed Bend's dirty half. She's finishing up her last year of collegiate running and forward to the Navy/ optometry school. Time flies!


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