Saturday, May 14, 2011

Yakima River Canyon Marathon

2011 Race Report by Bob Dolphin
April 2, 2011

When I awoke just before 4:00 a.m. on race day, April 2, 2011, I was excited as I anticipated walking the Yakima River Canyon Marathon (YRCM) as an early starter for the first time. For our marathon early starts are reserved for those runners and walkers who do not anticipate finishing the course in seven hours from the regular 8:00 a.m. start.

Lenore and I left at 4:45 a.m. and were accompanied by Gilbert Barrera of San Antonio, Texas. He was staying next door with his daughter Rosie Rifa and had planned to be a volunteer at Aid Station #11 manned by the Rifa family. Instead, he changed his plans and chose to compete in his second YRCM as a walker.

We arrived at the Selah Civic Center before 5:00 a.m. to meet with other early starters for our drive to Ellensburg. Joining Gilbert and me in our Subaru Outback (purchased from our sponsor, Stewart Subaru of Yakima!) were Eugene DeFronzo of Chesire, Connectictut, Elaine Koga-Kennelly and her husband Paul Kennelly from Newman Lake (near Spokane) and Frank Bartocci of Rochester, Minnesota.

When I saw Frank at the First Light Marathon in Mobile, Alabama, on January 9, 2011, he told me of his plan to run his 400th marathon at our April 2nd YRCM. BUT, he needed to finish 14 more marathons to make it happen. I told him that he could do it…..and he did! What an accomplishment!! That’s 14 marathons run in 12 weeks including two doubles on two of those weekends plus a lot of air travel and hotel nights away from home.

It was still dark when 25 early starters gathered at the starting line on two-lane Canyon Road in Ellensburg. When someone said that it was 6:00 a.m., I said, “GO!” and we began our run or walk. In the first mile as it got light, Jerry Buchmann of Ephrata and I walked together and visited. Then he ran on ahead to catch up to his wife Karin.

At the start, the temperature was 45 degrees with calm and overcast skies. Later the temperature rose to 55 degrees. It became sunny, and there were headwinds, crosswinds and tailwinds along the way……with a 20-30 mph headwind in the last miles.

In the early miles before I entered the Canyon, I caught up with and talked to Jose Nebrida, Steve Love and JR Phillips who have completed all 11 of our marathons. I met Sean Sexton and his father Patrick Sexton at that time, too.

Aid station #2 in the Canyon is manned by the Cascadian Hiking Club, so I had a chance to see fellow club members Dan Baris, Mary Sublett and her husband John before I walked on. Within a mile there were no early starters in sight, and I walked alone as I enjoyed the views of mountains, hills, ridges, cliffs and the Yakima River.

For the first time there were no fishermen on the river. Recent rains, snow, thaws and mud flows in the Cascade Mountains made the usually clear water very muddy as it flowed downstream. Not good for fishing! Nearby there were Canada Geese, Bald Eagles, Tree Swallows and Violet-Green Swallows.

Within a short time Marathon Maniac (MM) Chuck Engle, 40, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, followed a city of Yakima motorcycle policeman as he passed me. We greeted each other, and I wished him well. He finished unchallenged with a time of 2:41:22 to become the winner of the 11th annual YRCM. In second place with a 2:44:17 was Brian Sebastian, 25, of Klamath Falls, Oregon. Kevin Blount, 25 of Ellensburg ran a 2:46:37 for third place.

Rhea George, 27, of Seattle was the first woman to pass me. She was running alone and became the women’s winner with a 3:08:52 finish. MM Mary Hanna, 49, of Maple Valley and I greeted each other as she and Camille Moseley, 26, of Cheney caught up with me. Camille finished in second place with a 3:14:06. Mary is a four-time women’s winner and record holder of the Yakima River Canyon Marathon. This day she finished in third place with a time of 3:13:38.

There were strong headwinds from the mile-long “Dam Hill” (named for nearby Rosa Dam) to the finish that became a big challenge. From the base of the hill to the finish line I had a laborious walk, but I finally made it! In the last miles I appreciated the company of Dana Mosell who was completing Marathon #200 and his daughter Jasmine Flores who was doing Marathon #25.

After being on the course for eight hours, thirty-eight minutes and 56 seconds, the chair provided for me by Lenore at the finish line was a most welcome sight. I was runner #482 of 488 runners, walkers and wheelchair participants to finish the marathon, second behind Keith Wood, 82, in the 80-84M Division and one of 24 who have completed ALL of the Yakima River Canyon Marathons.

MM Rich Menzell, 68, of Everett had finished with a 5:03:01. As he does every year, he returned to accompany me for the last mile of the race. Ninety year old Frank Dane was a volunteer at the finish line while his wife Julsimo Frankenberger and their friend Zdenek Chmel from the Czech Republic ran the marathon. All of them were there to greet me as I finished.

Also, there with congratulations were our dentist, Ironman Dr. Mitch Hungate, his wife Marilyn and their friend Randy Mason. Mitch has run the 26.2 mile distance many times before in triathlon participation, but this year’s YRCM was his first “official” marathon. He completed it in 3:36:23, a Boston Qualifier and good enough for second place in the 55-59M Division. Randy ran his first marathon that day in 3:37:14.

Lenore and I had been busy preparing for the marathon for months, but the official start for us began on the Wednesday before the Saturday race. We went to the Yakima Airport to welcome Dr. Ashis Roy, a retired cardiologist and famous marathon runner from New Delhi, India, our first participant from that country. It was a pleasure to meet him personally and get acquainted with him on the way to his hotel and at other times. Because I had read and enjoyed his book, “Joy of Running,” I felt like I already knew him. This book is about his running career and exercise physiology. At age 78 this fellow Marathon Maniac has run 108 marathons, including ours, since he retired from the Indian Air Force at the age of 52. After he ran his 100th marathon in Mumbai, he joined the 100 Marathon Club North America that Lenore and I direct.

The day before the marathon is always exciting as we visit with old friends and make new acquaintances at packet pickup and the evening pasta meal. At the afternoon Leukemia  Lymphoma Team in Training Reunion meeting Lenore gave 2011 YRCM mugs to the coordinators, coaches and 15 runners who raised funds for cancer research. Our guest speaker Dick Beardsley and I each said a few words of welcome and answered some questions.

Later at the pasta feed Hard Core Runners Club president Gregg Broyles presented awards and certificates to Patti Krebsbach and Melinda Scharf, two of this year’s six winners of the Team Dolphin Boston Marathon Award. Lenore made many “Nuts to You” awards and then Jose Nebrida introduced Dick Beardsley who showed a film of his “Duel in the Sun” race with Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon. His presentation centered on his experiences in his road racing days in that time period. It was his 3rd visit to Yakima and all 325 people present enjoyed his electrifying presentation.

Congratulations to the record number of “first timers” who chose our race as their first marathon and to the following for reaching a special goal on April 2nd:
Michael Fleming, Omaha, Nebraska – his 100th marathon. Welcome to the 100 Marathon Club North America.
Dana Mosell, Walnut, California, who asked for bib #200 over a year ago and was joined by his daughter for his special event.
Tony Phillippi, Tacoma – race director of the Tacoma City Marathon and one of the MM founders who ran his 200th marathon. In memory of MM #70 Jack Swanson, he wore bib #70!
Mel Preedy, Ravensdale - wore bib #77 (his age) on the front and had a YRCM #400 to wear on his back for his 400th marathon.
Frank Bartocci, Rochester, Minnesota – wore bib #400 for marathon #400!
Lyle Keillor came all the way from Calgary, Alberta, CANADA, to wear bib #60 on his 60th birthday, April 2, 2011.
Not to be outdone, Steve Boone came from Humble, Texas, to wear bib #62 on his 62nd birthday the same day.
Alex Rekow, 17, who completed his first marathon as his “senior project!”
Rod Gullberg from Snohomish who ran half of the 2010 YRCM in memory of his son who had died on Mt. Hood a few months before. That race was to have been his son’s first marathon. This year at age 64 he ran his own first marathon in a time of 5:27:24!
David Jones, Seattle – who ran marathon #200 at the 10th YRCM on March 27, 2010. He faced major health problems that included open-heart surgery last December, but was able to keep his “YRCM string” going by completing marathon #201 this year.
Course Record Breakers:
………Tim Clark, Puyallup, wheelchair participant, broke Jerry Martin’s record with a 1:44:13.
………Winner Chuck Engel, Walnut, CA, broke Cliff Richards’ 40-44M record, 2:41:22.
……….Larry Carroll, Spokane, 71, broke his own 70-74M record, 3:44:42.
……….Regina Joyce, Lynnwood, broke Barb Blumenthal’s 50-54W record, 3:21:13.

During the awards ceremony/meal ace runner MM Gunhild Swanson circulated sheets of paper for those who had run the marathon to sign and to list the total number of marathons they’d run. Later she tallied and then announced the amazing results. There were 27 who had completed their first marathon; 86 in the 2-99 group; 20 with 100-199; 9 with 200-299; 3 with 300-399; and 4 with 400 or more. The grand total for the 149 runner/walkers present was 9,999 marathons!!! That’s an average of 67.1 per person.
Bob & Lenore
the Dolphin Marathon Team!

What a great idea Gunhild had!! We appreciate her efforts to get these statistics for us, and we’re looking forward to March 31, 2012, for her to do this again for the 12th annual Yakima River Canyon Marathon. As a 100 Marathon Club North America reunion race, the total is sure to be mind-boggling!!

Thanks to the “best committee in the world,” the many great volunteers and the sponsors and contributors, YRCM #11 was another very successful weekend of events.

Written by Bob Dolphin

Edited, Typed and Distributed by Lenore Dolphin

 Web Site:Yakima River Canyon Marathon



  1. You are a true inspiration Bob....

  2. Bob and Lenore,

    I enjoyed talking to you Lenore, when I called about my dad Jim Tatham. Had to check out your run web site. Truly an inspiration. Wish we could have been there. We did the Birch Bay run today. Maybe Yakima next year!

    Mike and Barb Tatham