Putting The Art of Racing in the Rain into practice wouldn’t have been necessary during this year’s Dallas Kloke Mt Erie Road and Trail Run. Meteorologists forecasted cloudy skies with no chance of precipitation. Had I known my new nemesis, younger and smaller than I, would embarrass me so much, I may have decided to just stay home. On Saturday, I slept in. I had no intention of summiting Mt Erie when I went to bed Friday night. In early fall, I’d run to the highest point on Fidalgo Island about ten times total, by road and by trail, hill repeats to prepare for the Oregon Coast 30K. The final time I decided that I didn’t want to see the course again while moving any faster than required to complete a leisurely hike…at least for the rest of year.
Fun Facts: In the 41 years of the road run’s existence 1,238+ runners have completed the 3.5 mi course. In the 21 years of the trail run’s existence, 669 runners have completed the 2.5 mi (actual 1.75 mi) course. “In 2010 the Mt Erie Road and Trail Run was renamed in honor of our friend and coach Dallas Kloke.” Participation in the race has declined over time, especially in the past ten years, with a high of 62 in 1996 and a low of 10 in 2014. In 2016, 6 summited Mt Erie by road, 12 by trail.
I stopped by Mt Erie Elementary just after 9:00 am to take a few photos for a story, but when I learned that “only about five” people had signed up for the trail run, I thought, why not? I had the cash for the entry fee, so I registered and returned home. Ten minutes later, I was ready. I parked at Heart Lake and jogged to the start, arriving at 9:45 am, about 15 minutes early. I was the only one waiting at the base of Trail 21. The smooth surface of Heart Lake gleamed in the distance. A solitary Great blue heron fished along the near shore.
Just before 10:00 am, participants began to arrive. And that is when I first encountered Lucy. The petite youngster eyed me suspiciously. I knew we weren’t in the same age group, but there was something about the way she looked at me. I decided to do my best to beat her and wipe that gaze from her face. AHS Cross Country Coach Chris Crane explained the staggered start, lined up the first few runners and sent them off up the trail. Three young, fit-looking guys in fluorescent tees, blue, pink, green, made up the second group. The third wave followed a minute later. Finally, it was time for Nancy and me in wave four. She’d run the race many times in the past, so she knew what she was getting into, “See you at the finish,” she said. And we were off. I didn’t see Lucy line up with her peeps in the fifth and final wave but I knew she was back there. I hoped not to see her again until the finish line.
I faux-ran (looks like running, but at a super slow speed) the steep section at the start of Trail 21, passing a couple of older-than-I guys from an earlier wave. Teenagers in twos and threes staffed the turning points which were marked with flour arrows and orange surveyors tape. Minutes later, I’d reached the first mini-summit and entered the best part, the rolling hills along Trails 226 and 230. Near the end of it, I heard the trio from the fifth wave, including Lucy, hounding me. When we reached Trail 207, I knew I was about to be beat. Lucy and crew scampered by, passing me without a glance, traversing the roots and rocks as nimble as a mountain goat. Grr! The three were ahead of me. I knew I’d never catch them.
The final fourth of the course is the toughest. The trail gets more technical and the slope steeper. With less than a quarter mile to go, I passed a pair of girls from the cross country team where Trail 216 nears the road. They clapped and cheered, “You’re almost there.” When the Summit signed appeared, I knew I had only to make it up to and across a boulder to the finish, and did. Less than half an hour after the start, I crossed between two orange cones marking the finish and stepped onto Mt Erie Road.
As I approached the water cooler, Lucy’s companion, smiled and handed me water in a dixie cup. My adversary didn’t even look up, instead, hopped off the truck bed’s flipped-down back gate, and joined her posse. I took the high road, acting friendly towards the three who’d just beat me and offering to take a photo, which they accepted. In it, you can see that Lucy isn’t interested in me. She’s looking off into the distance. I’ll bet she’d have rather raced the remaining road runners than pause for a photo. I bummed a ride from the summit to the school with a guy named Mike and his wife. On the way, we picked up another runner, Catherine. She told me she treasured the trophy she’d won years before during the first year she participated in the race.
Back at the gym, we waited for everyone to arrive. I high-fived Ian Sloan after finding out that he’d beat his two wave-mates to become the overall trail winner, edging out second place finisher Joe Jankelson by two seconds. Ania VanEgdom was the first woman trail run finisher. In the road race, Patricia Blakeway was the overall winner and Chuck Davis the first male finisher. We gave the AHS Cross Country team member volunteers a round of applause. Raffle winners chose prizes-leftovers from past years. Age group and overall winners accepted awards. As for Lucy. She never showed. During the awards ceremony, she waited in the car. I was disappointed to miss the chance to get one last look at her. I wondered about next year, do I let sleeping dogs lie, or prepare for retribution. I think my motto will be: BEAT LUCY.
Note: Lucy was not harmed in the making of this post (except maybe her feelings). Her person (pictured here at left), Lindsey, was one of the nicest racers of all.