Driving in from eastern Oregon, the horizon gave nothing away. It was going to be cold and wet. And it was.
Rain on the verge of snow at the finish line.
However, the drizzle and 40 degree temperatures could do nothing to cool the hot competition lined up for this year's Northwest Mountain Running Championships. The line-up would prove to be one of the best in the region this year. With $6,000 (supplied by END) in prize money (open, master's, team) runners with mountain running talent were bound to head for Mt. Hood. The headline duel was between Joe Gray, fresh off his stellar performance at the World Mountain Running Championships in Switzerland, and Olympic Trials Steeplechase Qualifier/TransRockies co-winner, Max King. However, if they were to falter, a strong secondary group of runners would be there to scoop them up. In that group were Erik Skaggs (co-team member of King's at this year's TransRockies and 2008 Mt. Ashland Hill Climb winner), Erik's brother, Kyle Skaggs(winner of the 2008 Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run), Richard Bolt(Team Leader for the Teva US Mountain Running Team and fierce mountain running competitor), John Howell (2:29 finish at the 2006 Austin Marathon), and Anthony Rinck (2:35 finish at the 2007 Portland Marathon). To add even more dimension to the race, Portland's Team Red Lizard Running Club and southern Oregon's Team Rogue Valley Runners would bring to the table two tough teams that would compete for the Men's Team Title.
The sign says it all.
The course, now wet, started at Mt. Hood's Timberline Lodge at 6,000'. Runners ran six miles across, up and down ski runs, the Pacific Crest Trail, dirt access roads and technical single track to determine who the best mountain runners were. Runners ran to over 7000' and above tree line, across snow fields, climbed 2000', all while buffeted by a few 30 mph wind gusts.
Joe Gray leads Max King and Erik Skaggs early in the race.
Max King burns the downhill.
Erik Skaggs in pursuit.
Kyle Skaggs digs in.
Ian Torrence leads a chase pack up the slopes of Mt. Hood.
At the finish line, Max King would start his final sprint too late. Joe Gray (Team Rogue Valley Runners) would win the NW Mountain Running Championships in 39:23 (taking home $1,150 for his first place, top of the mountain course premium and team wins). Max (Team RVR) would follow two seconds later. Erik Skaggs (Team RVR) would finish third in 41:35. Richard Bolt would finish first for Team Red Lizards in 42:58, fourth overall. Kyle Skaggs and Ian Torrence came across the finish in 7th and 8th places respectively to round out a winning Team Rogue Valley Runners.
Lisa Nye, of Bend, Oregon would win the women's title in 50:45, less than a minute ahead of fellow Bend runner Katie Caba.
Team Rogue Valley Runners (left to right; Erik Skaggs, Max King, Ian Torrence, Kyle Skaggs, Joe Gray not pictured)
***More awesome photos, top ten men's and women's results and another write-up can be found on Richard Bolt's Oregon Mountain, Ultra & Trail Running web site.