Rainier to Ruston Relay splits off half marathon

craig.hill@thenewstribune.comMay 26, 2013 

Answers to important questions nobody has asked me yet:

What is the hardest way to legally get my hands on a gold railroad spike?

If you can run from Mount Rainier to Ruston faster than anybody else Saturday, you will win a gold-painted railroad spike.

The 11th Rainier to Ruston Relay is changing its format this year, but continuing its unique tradition of awarding gold, silver and bronze railroad spikes as prizes. More than 1,000 people are expected to participate in the 51-mile race and most will be part of relay teams.

Anybody who finishes the ultramarathon on their own gets a black powder-coated railroad spike to go along with their finisher medals.

The relay is quickly carving out a reputation as one of the South Sound’s must-do running events.

“It has a beautiful route,” said new race director Richard Pasquier. “And it is a really fun day.”

The race is held each year on National Trails Day to raise funds for the Foothills Trail Coalition. Race participants run the Foothills Trail’s current and future routes on surfaces ranging from trail, road, paved trail, sidewalks and sand.

The event used to have a corresponding half marathon starting in Buckley.

“But (marshalling two courses) made everybody a little crazy,” Pasquier said. So, this year, the Foothills B&O Half Marathon will be run separately on July 27.

“Now people can participate in both,” said Pasquier, who is hoping for 500 half marathoners.

A new prize has been added for Saturday’s relay. The Mayors’ Cup goes to the mayor of any city along the route who has the relay team with the fastest time.

The trophy was crafted at the Museum of Glass this month.

“It’s really beautiful and will be a fun addition to the relay,” Pasquier said.

The relay starts at 7 a.m. near the Carbon River entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. Last year, the final relay team finished at 9:48 p.m. Pasquier says the winners will finish about 1:30 p.m.

For more information on the Rainier to Ruston Relay or the Foothills B&O Half Marathon. visit rainiertoruston.com

What in the world is a Gran Fondo and is there really one coming to the South Sound?

Gran Fondo is Italian for “big ride” and the popularity of these cycling events is burgeoning in North America.

A Gran Fondo is a cross between a relaxed century ride and a race. The rides are timed and have a mass start, but they aren’t technically a race. The courses are sometimes open to vehicle traffic, meaning riders must obey the rules of the road and stop for lights.

Gran Fondos are more expensive than standard organized rides. According to Bicycling magazine, the average price of a century ride is $44 while a Gran Fondo is $101. However, big time Fondos typically come with a commemorative jersey, a finisher memento (usually a medal), a tasty post-ride meal and bragging rights if you post a better time than your buddies.

Currently, the biggest of the Northwest events is Gran Fondo Whistler ($250 CAD, 76 miles, Sept. 7). The Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic added chip timing for one-day riders last year, but doesn’t promote this as a Fondo.

The South Sound gets its first Gran Fondo on June 2 thanks to the Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club. The Fondo is an option for participants in the 30th annual Peninsula Metric Century.

The Peninsula ride drew more than 500 riders last year, and the club decided the course’s challenging 100-mile route (there are also 31-, 43- and 62-mile routes) is ideal for a Gran Fondo.

The Fondo won’t have all the accoutrements of a major event, but there will be chip timing, said club special events director Daniel Jones. Entry in the Fondo is $40 and participants will have nine hours to complete the 100 miles.

If the turnout is good, Jones says finishers will receive a commemorative award.

However, the turnout currently is not good. As of last weekend, only one rider had registered for the Fondo while 149 had registered for the traditional rides. Jones wants the Fondo number to jump to 50 or more.

While Fondos are more likely to attract racers than casual riders, Jones figures registration has taken a hit because the ride conflicts with the June 1-2 Capital Stage Race in Olympia.

He is launching a last-ditch call for riders via Western Washington bike clubs.

Food for the standard ride and the Fondo includes soft pretzels and beans and rice on the course and strawberry shortcake at the finish line. The standard ride entry fee is $30 ($25 for TWBC members) until 9 p.m. Tuesday. Prices increase by $5 for day-of-ride registration.

For more information, visit twbc.org.

What’s the best way to set a 5K personal record?

Well, you could train really hard, or you could enter the Independence Day 5K.

I talked to six-time Tacoma City Marathon winner Michael Lynes about the race minutes after he received his second-place plaque at this year’s marathon and he was excited to talk about the new 5K.

“It is going to be screaming fast,” Lynes said.

How fast is screaming fast? The winner could finish in less than 15 minutes, Lynes said.

The new race is designed to be one of the fastest in the Northwest. It will start at 8 a.m., July 4, at Tacoma’s Vassault Park and finish at Point Ruston’s Grand Plaza. Almost every stride will be downhill or flat.

The race is a production of the 2-year-old Tacoma City Running Club. The club says its goal is to “promote a healthy lifestyle, support the running community by organizing, volunteering, and participating in running related and social events in the South Puget Sound area.”

The club also has an elite training program that includes accomplished local runners such as Lynes.

For more information on the club and the Independence Day 5K, visit tacomacityrunningclub.com.

What is Nia and how can I try it?

Nia is combining of martial arts (like tai chi and tae kwon do), various dance styles and healing arts (such as yoga) into a low-impact activity. Julia Annis, an Olympia instructor with 18 years of experience, once described it to me as a great way to build strength, increase flexibility and get a cardio workout without pounding your joints.

Waves Studio, 232 Division St. NW, Olympia, is hosting a June 8 Nia class and “playshop” for beginners and veterans. The class is at 10 a.m. and the “playshop is 11:15 a.m.-1 p.m. and will explore the nine forms of movement used in Nia. Both programs will be led by Nia black belt Jill Pango, founder of Seattle’s Center for Movement and Healing.

The cost is $16 for the class or $35 for both events. For more information, visit centermoveheal.com.

Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via craig.hill@thenewstribune.com and twitter.com/AdventureGuys. Get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure, thenewstribune.com/fitness and theolympian.com/getfit.

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