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Sticks and stones didn't break any bones, but they did provide challenges for the 40 runners who competed in the Treadwell Ditch Trail Run on Saturday.
"The challenging part is just finding a good footing ... and maintaining good speed on the rough spots on the trail," said John Bursell, who trod well along the Treadwell Ditch to repeat as winner with a time of 39 minutes, 47 seconds -- just three seconds ahead of second-place finisher Dave Pusich.
"Dave and I went back and forth," Bursell said. "The lead changed at least three times."
The race started at Sandy Beach in Douglas and climbed the Mount Jumbo Trail to the Treadwell Ditch Trail. The course then followed the narrow, brushy ditch trail across Lawson Creek to the vicinity of Blueberry Hill subdivision.
Bursell said he and Pusich traded the lead when each got sidetracked at different points along the trail; Bursell regained the lead for good with just 500 yards to go, at the top of the Blueberry Hill snowmobile access trail that led racers downhill to the finish at the top of Jackson Road.
"It was a sprint to the finish," he said.
Don Eagle finished a close third in 40:03, followed by Mike Crotteau (42:31), Gabe Hayden (42:51) and Bryce Iverson (43:04). Lachelle Crotteau was the top women's finisher, and 12th overall, completing the course in 50:53. Dawn Walsh was the second-place women's finisher in 55:07.
"It was challenging, very challenging," said Walsh, who was participating in the event for the first time. "The first part was really tough, going up Mount Jumbo (Trail)."
Walsh said she learned a few lessons to take along for her next trail race -- like taping your shoelaces in your shoes so they don't catch on sticks and underbrush along the narrow trail.
Aside from the challenging terrain and navigation that comes with any trail race, competitors said the trail conditions on Saturday were excellent -- well-marked, not too muddy and only knee-high water at the Lawson Creek crossing.
Weather conditions were also excellent for the race -- mild temperatures and patches of sun breaking through the early morning cloud cover, with views of downtown Juneau across Gastineau Channel. The sounds of Saturday morning's Celebration 2002 parade carried across the channel and could be heard along the heights of the Treadwell Ditch Trail.
However, racers like Brian Goettler, who finished eighth in 43:59, had to keep their minds on placing their next step on the uneven terrain.
"You don't get to enjoy the view too much because you have to watch where you put your feet," Goettler said.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.