After winning Saturday's Treadwell Ditch Trail Run, John Bursell said running off the beaten path requires a smarter runner than those who race on the pavement. Or at least a runner who can pay attention to what's going on.
"You have to think the whole way," said Bursell, who covered the approximately 5 1/2 mile run from Sandy Beach to the snowmachine trail parking lot at the top of Blueberry Hill in 41 minutes, 41 seconds. "You have to plan where you put your feet. The trails are easier on you, as long as you don't lose track of what you're doing. I twisted my ankle when I wasn't paying attention, and all you can do is try to run it out."
Saturday's run kicked off a new trail running series sponsored by the Southeast Road Runners Club. The series includes popular Juneau races like the Mount Roberts Tram Run, the Windfall Lake Trail Challenge Run, the Ben Blackgoat Memorial Perseverance Trail Run, among others.
"I think it's a great idea," said women's winner Lisa Kirsch, who posted a time of 51:06 that was good for fifth place overall. "Running on the trails is kinder and gentler on your body than running on the roads, unless you fall on the rocks."
"The trails won't beat you up," said Glenn Frick, 62, who took second place overall in 44:39. "This will be a good series to run these trails."
The Treadwell Ditch Trail is typical of many courses the club will use in the series. Runners had to climb hills, cross Lawson Creek, and make a bunch of crossings side to side down the Treadwell Ditch as they looked for sure footing amongst the rocks. Later in the year the skunk cabbage and devil's club encroaches into the trail, with the first plant attracting bears and the second plant scratching the bare legs of the runners.
Still, most of the runners in Saturday's race seemed to enjoy the challenge, even though a couple finished with bloody knees or scratched legs from tumbles on the trail. It helped that Friday's sun gave the mud a chance to dry out, but sun can also cause the creek to rise.
"That's the best shape that trail's ever been in," Frick said.
"It was real nice," Kirsch said. "The water wasn't bad this year, even though I fell in the creek. Some years it's pretty high. There was a lot of bear scat out there, but I think we scared them away."
Sally McLaughlin said she stopped counting the piles of bear scat when she reached 10, but none of the runners reported seeing any bears.
"It's a great fun run," McLaughlin said. "I just like to run on trails rather than pavement. My goal is to do a new trail every year, and this is one way I do it. They're not as damaging to train on than the roads. And I like the change of scenery."
Third-place finisher Tom Casey, who just returned to Juneau after working on a Ph.D. in political science at Yale, said trail running uses a few different muscles than the typical road race.
"I don't have my Juneau legs yet," said Casey, whose time was 49:34. "New Haven (Conn.) doesn't have anything like this."
Bursell, Casey and Frick quickly broke to the lead at the first hill on the course, with Bursell leading Casey and Frick. As Bursell pulled away, Casey decided to slow and wait for Frick to catch up so they could run together. But Frick snuck by and Casey didn't realize he was behind until he hit the one checkpoint midway along the trail.
"I went a little off the beaten path," said Frick, who cut through some brush to the right of Casey. "He never saw me go by him in the muskeg there."
"When I lost him on an uphill, I knew something was up because Glenn's so strong on the uphills," Casey said of Frick, who sometimes is called 'Grampa Goat' by the other runners.
While most of Saturday's racers were experienced trail runners, Tim Banaszak chose this as his first race. He joked it might also be his last race, before saying he'd love to do another one.
Charles Bingham can be reached in firstname.lastname@example.org.
TREADWELL DITCH TRAIL RUN
Results from the Southeast Road Runners Club's Treadwell Ditch Trail Run, held Saturday morning over a 5 1/2-mile course from Sandy Beach in Douglas to the snowmachine trail parking lot at the top of Blueberry Hill.
Age 20-29 -- 1. Megan Thomas, 1 hour, 2 minutes, 19 seconds; 2. Ingrid Stevens, 1:06:37; 3. Sahra Ely, 1:16:13.
Age 30-39 -- 1. Mary Ann Gosling, 55:51; 2. Karen Nanseth, 1:02:19; 3. Jamie Bursell, 1:04:50; 4. Cameron Young, 1:10:15.
Age 40-49 -- 1. Lisa Kirsch, 51:06 (first overall female); 2. Janean Twelker, 57:48; 3. Ann Rosen, 1:02:32; 4. Sally McLaughlin, 1:10:28.
Age 30-39 -- 1. John Bursell, 41:41 (first overall); 2. Thomas Casey, 49:34; 3. Jim Ustasiewski, 51:20; 4. Matt Jones, 56:36; 5. Scott Marnon, 1:05:38; 6. Tim Banaszak, 1:10:38.
Age 40-49 -- 1. Craig Farrington, 51:28; 2. Neil Slotnick, 52:06; 3. William Olmstead, 53:03; 4. Clayton Hawkes, 57:14; 5. Timothy Hahnlen, 1:01:18; 6. John Kern, 1:02:58.
Age 50-59 -- 1. Tom McLaughlin, 49:44; 2. Chas Dense, 51:25; 3. Patrick Gullefsen, 53:47; 4. Don Beard, 56:51; 5. Doug Weaver, 56:52; 6. T.J. Slagle, 1:03:39; 7. Steve White, 1:04:50; 8. Steve Porter, 1:06:21.
Age 60-69 -- 1. Glenn Frick, 44:39; 2. John Allison, 1:09:51.
Age 70-older -- 1. Wes Coyner, 1:10:37.