Lithia Loop Trail Marathon…This is what it’s all about.

Lithia Loop USATF Trail Marathon Championship was this past weekend and guess what…it didn’t rain! You did it Hal, Congrats on a race in the sun!

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Lithia loop snuck up on me just a little over a month past the Pine to Palm 100 mile footrace. I recovered well and have been really enjoying running with no goals in mind. Sometimes its nice to forget that I race and get back to my roots of just being out in nature, listening and connecting to the sounds and the silence which is a gift I can go and open pretty much any time I want.

Having the race a mile from our home, it became a nice roost for a few friends from the Portland area. My wife and I hosted Yassine Diboun and William Emerson, which was a pleasure to get to know them and hear tales of the trails from their running adventures. After a light dinner and a little geeking out on shoes we eventually hit the sack and rested our bodies for the morning loop around Ashland.

It was a perfect, crisp morning for the town of Ashland to host a nice jaunt around Lithia Loop.  I woke up feeling really excited to run that morning.  My legs were a little tired from no taper and 115 miles including the race for the week, but ready to work on a little speed turnover for the day.  I ran from our house to the start (for a mile warm up) and arrived just a few minutes before the start. I was able to say “hi” to a few friends and away we went. Within a few seconds Max King already had a nice cushy lead and the race for 2nd was on.  The first 8-10 miles is up hill and then the rest of the marathon is a nice gentle down grade before the last 6 miles of screaming downhill.  Running up is my favorite, so I had a really relaxing jaunt up to the horn gap aid station. Tim Van Orden and I spent most of this time together playing leap frog as we tore up this section in about 8th and 9th respectively.  I saw a lot of friends at the aid stations along the way and had a fun time saying hi to them while trying to keep a decent pace.  Getting to four corners (mile 20ish) I caught a few people and had a guy from behind catch up to me.  We went flying down the gravel road at about 5:30 pace, which was fun to see that I could run that fast and it didn’t rough me up too much.  I tried to drop my place to 6th, but got schooled at the end to end up in 7th place with a time of 2:55 and a PR of 11 minutes from last years effort. Overall I felt really good about the day and happy to not have too much pain from the jarring downhill. It was an excellent race put on by Rouge Valley Runners’ and it’s always a pleasure to be a part of such a good time in my own back yard. Thank you to all the volunteers that put on such a splendid event.

Running around, Picture by Andy Atkinson

I had a blast running, but the really fun part was getting to hang out with all the happy runners afterwards and getting to see all there smiling faces. Like last year, I like to run this event and then donate massage afterwards to help out my fellow Lithia Loopers. So after a little cool down and some H2O I was ready to start helping out the tired legs and backs.

My purpose for this blog and my running is to inspire people to get out side and inJoy this beautiful earth and all that it has to offer. For me, nothing compares to spending a day out in the woods, breathing in the healing source of oxygen and feeling the primal freedom of nothing more then to just explore.  When I see people enjoy this freedom as much as I do I automatically connect with them and feel their delight as they smile from ear to ear. This year at Lithia Loop, the day was much more than a race. I was there with my running family, running, eating, drinking and being merry. I wanted to go for a good run and what better way to do it then have a whole group of us spring out of the gate on this beautiful Autumn morning.

Timothy, Yassin Diboun, Neil Olsen and Dave Dunham at the finish. photo: Richard Bolt

The real fun was after the race as I set up to massage all the wounded solders that stumbled, creaked and crawled to my massage table to see if I could squeeze out a little stiffness.  Even if they’re a little out of it from a good run, I enjoy the connection I make with my fellow humans as I listen to them, hear how their races went and experience the ups and downs it brings through their stories. I am able to see their joy from a great accomplishment they have worked so hard to accomplish.

Shara Vaile, Bradley Whelden and Joseph Vaile Celebrating…

One particular runner made my day and what I saw in him was what to me running trails is all about. Bradley is a good friend who has been getting into running this past year and punctuated his hard work with a race that left him on cloud nine.  He could not have been happier sharing and listening to how the day unfolded for everyone out there. To me Bradley is what the joy of running is all about.  I want to always enjoy my time spent out in the woods. Sometimes you don’t PR or you strain your ankle or you cant cross the finish line, but it’s not about medals, money and fame. It’s about being.  It’s being content with nothing more than a nice trail, maybe some shoes and hopefully a pair of shorts (for other people’s sake) and taking off into the unknown.

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