Pounding rain fell all week leading up to the 44th annual Ilsanjo Classic races. And rain continued to fall Sunday morning. Not only was this good news for our local reservoirs but it was good news for trail runners who appreciate an old fashioned trail racing mud-fest.
The Ilsanjo Classic has always been positioned smack in the middle of the rainy season—and we were due for something other than the near concrete trail conditions that have persisted through the recent drought. Runners in all three races were immediately soaked, with a strategically placed, though entirely natural, mud bog spanning much of the starting area at Howarth Park. Concerns about the race ranged from flooding at Spring Lake, to a significant downed tree on Spring Creek trail, to fast moving water at the Lake Ilsanjo spillway, to mass attrition due to the rain pouring down in the early hours Sunday. Turns out none of that mattered as the flooding receded, the tree was almost magically cleared by the Sonoma County Trails Council and more than 200 runners and volunteers showed up to take on the trails.
Having previewed the courses on Saturday, the race director crew expected slow times in the sloppy conditions. Turns out, we were very wrong! 45-year old John Litzenberg lit up the trails, breaking one hour by eight seconds (59:52) and defending his 10 mile win from 2015. He was quite literally chased over the final miles by 42-year old Todd Rose, who finished one second behind John in 59:53. In all, 15 men broke 1 hour 10 minutes—four more than last year in much better conditions. Eight of the 15 were 26 years old or younger, which bodes well for local trail running’s future. Todd Bertolone ran a noteworthy race, running1:07:04, a sub-7 minute mile pace, in the slop at 53 years old. In the women’s race, Andrea Guzman (1:17:52) outlasted Erin Kaspar (1:18:37) for her first win at The Classic. Kerry Hanlon was first master’s woman, and third woman overall, crossing the line in an impressive 1:20:03. No one tell Kerry that mud is supposed to be a slower running surface, as she ran the exact same time in 2015 on much firmer trails!
In the Ilsanjo Neo-Classic 4 Miler, Brandon Day held off Mike Wortman 23:17 to 23:33 for the win. Both were comfortably below 6-minute mile pace, which is no small achievement in those conditions. 55-year old Andy Howard hammered out 6:41 miles for a 26:45 for the master’s win. In the women’s race, Kate Papadopoulos broke 28-minutes (27:51) for a comfortable 91 second win over Celeste Berg (29:22). Kate won the 10 miler in 2015, a race in which Celeste Berg was also second. 11-year old Sarah Skandera placed third in a very impressive 30:43, 48 seconds in front of her 10-year old sister Rebekah. The Skandera’s are a formidable group of young runners and will bear watching for years to come. The unstoppable Tori Meredith ran a quick 32:16 to take the women’s master’s title.
The race director team would like to sincerely thank all the runners who braved the conditions, as well as the volunteers who came out to work with us in cold, wet conditions. Standing or sitting for hours in those conditions can be utterly miserable. Without all the support at registration, the finish line, food tables and out on the course, this race could not happen.
We’ll see you back at the Ilsanjo Classic next year!