The banter started even before the lead runners crossed the finish line of the Mount Juneau Ridge Run, and it didn't let up as the top finishers piled into a pickup truck to head off for Sunday brunch.
``That's Grampa the Goat,'' said Paul Pusich, referring to 61-year-old Glenn Frick who was the first to arrive at the start-finish line in the Perseverance Trail parking lot.
``After the way you ran, that should read City Slicker,'' Frick said, pointing to the license plate (MTRUNR) on Pusich's truck.
Frick and Pusich were just two of the 14 runners to complete the Mount Juneau Ridge Run, which covered about 13-15 miles (depending on if you got lost or not) with a total elevation gain of roughly 4,000 feet. The course went from the Perseverance Trailhead parking lot up the trail to the top of Mount Juneau, then followed the ridgeline toward the base of Olds Mountain before the runners followed Granite Creek Trail back to the Perseverance Trailhead parking lot.
Even though the runners say the 2-year-old event isn't a race, Frick shaved more than 45 minutes off the winning time from last year's inaugural run. Frick finished the run in 2 hours, 29 minutes, with Paul Pusich arriving in 2:31 and his younger brother Dave Pusich finishing in 2:40. Last year Dave Pusich, Bob Marshall and John Bursell were the top finishers with times of about 3:15 (an official watch wasn't kept).
``It's an adventure run,'' said Frick, who was quick to point out that the Pusich brothers both added a detour to the top of Olds Mountain so they could stash some food for a planned eight-peak trek today with Bursell. The Pusich brothers and Bursell plan to climb to the tops of Cairn Peak, Vesper Peak, Observation Peak, Olds Mountain, Clark Peak, Sheep Mountain, Roberts Peak and Gastineau Peak, a trip Paul Pusich said should take about 10 hours. Dave Pusich said the three eight-peak runners felt they could carry enough food for about seven hours of hard running, and Olds Mountain was about the halfway point of their planned trek and a good place to stash some extra supplies.
For those three -- Bursell ran as a course sweep with his wife, Jamie, and both finished in 4:34 in a tie for 13th place -- Sunday's trek up Mount Juneau was just an appetizer.
``This was kind of a fun run,'' Paul Pusich said. ``We had a pretty good turnout. We were chasing goats off in the distance, we saw a nanny and her kids.''
The run started at 7:30 a.m., and the lead runners took about 40 minutes to get to the top of Mount Juneau, a climb of 3,600 feet. Just as they were starting to follow along the ridgeline to the base of Olds Mountain, the clouds dropped down shrouding the course in fog. If the clouds had dropped an hour earlier it would have been enough for organizer Paul Pusich to call off the run, because he worried runners might become disoriented if visibility was low.
Wesley Brooks, a senior-to-be at Juneau-Douglas High School, and recent JDHS graduate Bjorn Dihle said they did have problems with the fog, but that was part of the appeal of the race. Brooks took fourth place in 3:02, with Dihle in fifth place in 3:05.
``Up on the ridge, all you could see was about 20 to 50 feet,'' Brooks said. ``But that's about normal. It was a nice run. I enjoy that sort of an adventure.''
``I climb a lot of mountains, so the hiking part was up my alley even if the running wasn't,'' Dihle said. ``I saw a lot of marmots and ptarmigan. On the snow coming down (Granite Creek Basin) I was doing a lot of sliding, on my feet and my butt.''
Frick said the sliding, properly called glissading, is one of the appeals to the race. He even pulled a recent newspaper article on glissading out of his truck that described the controlled slides by mountaineers, who typically use ice axes for brakes. Old-time miners used to sit on the blades of coal shovels and slide down mountains, gripping the handle to steer and using their feet as brakes. The runners Sunday used their feet and hands for brakes.
``Here's why you go on a run like this, for the glissading,'' Frick said as he dug behind his truck seat for the newspaper article. ``I was up there a week ago and a lot of the snow has gone. We slid a lot, but it's getting late in the summer and we won't be able to slide much longer.''
When the clouds moved in, a group of runners in the middle of the pack joined together to help each other find the trail. Tom Casey, Bob Marshall, Ben Muse and Bob Deal finished in 3:35 for a sixth-place tie, with Robert Bunton and Dave Den Hartog, a tourist from Independence, Iowa, both arriving in 3:36 for a 10thplace tie.
``We couldn't see, only like 100 feet,'' Deal said.
``It was hard finding the trail, but every now and then the clouds would lift and the view was breathtaking,'' Bunton said.
On hearing that Frick was the first runner to finish, Casey said Frick really might have some mountain goat in him. Casey has done some training runs with Frick and the Pusich brothers this summer.
``With Glenn, it doesn't even look like his feet touch the rocks sometimes,'' Casey said.
Den Hartog is a social studies teacher who brought six of his high school students to Alaska to hike the Chilkoot Trail near Skagway. Sunday's run was his first exposure to mountain running.
``This was my introduction, and I wish some of my running partners back home could have done this,'' Den Hartog said. ``I'm sure I was slower than some of these guys.''
Ed Shanley, another recent JDHS graduate, finished 12th in 4:10, followed by the Bursells in 4:34. Those three ran together along the ridgeline before Shanley pulled away near the finish, when John Bursell took a sidetrip to Olds Mountain to stash his food for today's eight-peak challenge.
``There were a couple of times I got lost,'' Shanley said. ``I came down too early (trying to reach the Granite Creek Trail) a couple of times, then had to go back up. It was very scenic.''
``We did get lost, we got turned around,'' John Bursell said.
Jamie Bursell was the only woman to complete the course. She said she didn't really enjoy the climb, but once on top of Mount Juneau the run was fine.
``That was rough,'' she said. ``Any part that went down was OK.''
MOUNT JUNEAU RIDGE RUN
Results from Sunday's Mount Juneau Ridge Run, a 13- to 15-mile trek with an elevation gain of 4,000 feet.
Finishers - 1. Glenn Frick, 2 hours, 29 minutes; 2. Paul Pusich, 2:31; 3. Dave Pusich, 2:40: 4. Wesley Brooks, 3:02; 5. Bjorn Dihle, 3:05; 6. tie, Tom Casey, 3:35; 6. tie, Bob Marshall, 3:35; 6. tie, Ben Muse, 3:35; 6. tie, Bob Deal, 3:35; 10. tie, Robert Bunton, 3:36; 10. tie, Dave Den Hartog, 3:36; 12. Ed Shanley, 4:10; 13. tie, John Bursell, 4:34; 13. tie, Jamie Bursell, 4:34.