The Pusich brothers made short work of Juneau's longest relay.
Two Is Enough, comprised of standout siblings Paul and Dave Pusich, clocked a time of 2 hours, 5 minutes and 29 seconds on Saturday to win the 10th annual SeaCoast Relay in a brilliant, sun-baked event held on the shores of the Lynn Canal.
``I had a good run,'' said Paul Pusich, 36, who ran the first two legs in the five-stage race. ``Not bad for an old guy.''
Pusich is fooling no one. Over the past couple of years he has established himself as one of the Northwest's premier trail runners. Earlier this spring in California, he finished fifth in a 50-kilometer run and 12th in the prestigious American River 50-Miler.
Two Is Enough finished 5 minutes and 15 seconds off the record pace of 1:59:46 set the by the Smokin' 'Ol Geezers six years ago. But record times on this course are difficult to chart. The layout changes a little bit every year, it seems. This year, it totaled 22.01 miles where last year's race distance was 21.59 and the 1998 event was 21.6. Also, this year's race, comprised of 26 teams, was run in reverse, from Eagle Beach Recreation Area - the normal finish line - back toward town. This would have made little difference, except that the field was forced to run into a constant headwind for most of the race.
But on this day anything approaching a record time was not necessary. Two Is Enough finished well ahead of The 5 Gs A Guy, A Gal, and Three Grumpy Geezers - who posted a second-place time of 2:17:12.
``We've kind of given up on the idea of beating them,'' said 5 Gs anchor leg, Andy Grossman, 50, referring to the Pusichs. ``Especially in this race. You change teams a lot and just have fun.''
Paul Pusich ran the first two legs of the race, a 5.5-mile stretch from Eagle Beach to the Shrine of St. Therese, and a 5.8-mile layout from the Shrine to Lena Point.
It takes only two: Dave Pusich runs near the finish line.
MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE
About halfway through the first leg, he had opened up a 150-yard lead over second-place Layne Brant of ToeJam.com.
``I'm just boosting his confidence,'' Brant, 30, jested as he passed a bystander.
Brant's ToeJam.com team also turned in a fine day, posting a 2:29:54, good for fifth place. The Forest Gimps, a masters team, clocked a strong 2:20:42 to take third place; Two CEU took fourth in 2:21:34.
Despite averaging 5-minute, 43-second miles over the first two legs, Paul Pusich was unimpressed with his performance.
``I wasn't concentrating,'' he said. ``Mentally, you have to stay focused or you get into an easy rhythm.''
Losing one's focus was easy on this day, where breathtaking views of Southeast Alaska beckoned at every crest and turn.
A steep incline to start the second leg didn't phase Pusich, who's used to such terrain as a seasoned trail runner. By the time he handed off to brother Dave at the Lena Point checkpoint, the Pusichs already owned an approximate seven-minute lead.
Dave Pusich, 34, increased that margin to about 10 minutes after leg three, a 3.6-mile stretch from Lena Point to Auke Bay Recreation Area. He posted a sizzling 5:05 average pace on leg three, a 6:14 on the 3.7-mile Auke Rec to University of Alaska Southeast campus in leg four, and a 5:45 on the final leg, a 3.41-mile trek from UAS to Skaters Cabin at the Mendenhall Lake Campground.
By the time the racers left Auke Rec and the protective shade of the tall pines, a hot sun began taking its toll on the field. Especially on the steep inclines.
``I hitchhiked up one hill,'' cracked Dirk Miller, 39, who ran for the ninth-place Morning Stars.
``Near the end it was getting pretty toasty,'' Dave Pusich agreed.
But that didn't stop the Woodland Runners' Hiram Henry from donning a Hare Krishna-esque robe as he bolted from the final checkpoint.
``It seemed appropriate,'' Henry said as walked near the finish in his lime-green full-length get-up. ``You just have to make sure people don't take this too seriously. That's the cool part of running in Juneau; you have really good runners, but they're laid back, they still like to have fun.''
Even in the full-length dress, which he said he nearly tripped on a couple of times, he set a 5:48 pace on the final leg, second only to Pusich.
The fourth-place Two CEU duo of Brian Goettler and Dave Savatgy also surprised the field, running second and third much of the race before giving way a bit to take fourth place.
Employed by the Coast Guard, Goettler and Savatgy said they surprised themselves a bit, too.
``I got caught a little bit unprepared,'' said Goettler, 40, who enjoyed a cool breeze off the Mendenhall Glacier during the post-race picnic after running the final three legs of the race. ``I got to Lena (the third leg checkpoint) and was just kind of taking it easy when all of a sudden I saw him (Savatgy) coming through the chute. I threw my keys to his wife and had to get going.''
Agreed the 31-year-old Savatgy, ``I felt bad about that, I caught 'em by surprise. I thought I'd run 7:30 miles - it turned out to be about 6:30. I was running a lot quicker than I thought I would.''
Whereas the Pusichs finished just as fast as everyone expected. Once again, there was little in the way of suspense at the finish line. Though Brant did his best to feign that scenario.
About a half hour after most of the runners had finished, Brant mingled about the picnic area and wondered aloud, ``Did anyone notice if the Pusichs made it in?''