The history of the Crow Pass Crossing is filled with tales of wildlife encounters -- from moose and bears that impede runners' progress to swarms of wasps that leave them covered with stings.
Christy Marvin's victory Saturday adds a chapter to race lore -- one that could be told in verse. Something like this:
Twas the night before Crow Pass and all through the tent
Not a creature was stirring except a rodent
Yep, Marvin's race was almost undone by a mouse. Or maybe a vole.
Marvin, one of Alaska's best mountain runners, spent Friday night in a tent near the Crow Pass trail head in Girdwood so she wouldn't have to drive from Palmer early Saturday morning for the 7 a.m. race start.
As Marvin nestled, all snug in her sleeping bag, her hope for a long summer's nap was undone by a tiny critter with visions of peanut butter dancing in its head.
"I had a mouse trying to break into my tent," she said. "It kept me awake the whole night, trying to chew a hole through the tent. I had a bagel with peanut butter and honey and I think it could smell it.
"I could see its shadow on the roof of the tent. It went on for hours."
Come race time, Marvin said goodbye to the mouse and hello to Holly Brooks.
Marvin, the defending champion, spent the race contending with a challenge from Brooks, a two-time Olympic skier who was as persistent as that hungry mouse.
Marvin won the marathon-length wilderness run through the Chugach Mountains by 27 seconds. Both she and Brooks posted times that rank among the top 10 women's performances in the history of the 32-year-old race.
Marvin triumphed in 3 hours, 31 minutes, 27 seconds, the sixth fastest time by a woman. Brooks was close behind in 3:32:04, the eighth best time. They placed 14th and 15th overall in a field of 141 finishers Saturday.
Marvin, 34, finished with a grimace. Brooks, 33, finished with a smile. It was a complete reversal from the pair's duel at last year's Mount Marathon in Seward, where Brooks was on the verge of collapse when she edged a comparatively fresh-looking Marvin by less than three seconds.
"I didn't know where Holly was," Marvin said. "I took a wrong turn before the river and when I got to the river … I heard 'Go Holly!' and I thought, 'Oh man, the race is on.' ''
A year ago when Marvin finished 24 seconds shy of Nancy Pease's 1990 record of 3:26:20, she didn't see another woman nearly the entire race, which covers more than 20 rugged miles from the Crow Pass trail head to the finish line at the Eagle River Nature Center.
This year, once she waded through icy Eagle River at the race's midpoint, she saw enough of Brooks to be worried.
"I caught her at the river," Brooks said. "I reached the river at 1:50 and when I saw her I was shocked, because I knew she was trying to get to the river by 1:44. So I knew she was having a bad day.
"The trail split and I went one way and she went the other and I came out ahead. Then the trail split again and she came out in front."
Kiersten Lippmann, who won three straight Crow Pass titles in 2011-13, placed third in 3:50:50, and Greer Gehler was fourth in 3:58:51. They were the only other women to finish in less than four hours.
Breaking the five-hour barrier was 62-year Ellyn Brown, whose 4:57:29 established a new age-group record for the women's 60-69 division. Brown took down her previous record of 5:01:34, set last year.
It's been a superb summer for Brown, who three weeks ago shaved 46 seconds off her 60-69 age-group record at Mount Marathon.
Brooks, a two-time Mount Marathon champion, skipped the Fourth of July race in Seward this year in order to extend her recovery time from a grueling season of racing ski marathons in Europe -- she didn't return to Anchorage until late April.
Crow Pass came three weeks after Mount Marathon, so Brooks decided to give the race a try.
As it turned out, Marvin was glad she did.
After coming so close to Pease's record last year, Marvin hoped to make another run at the record. She said she knew by the time she completed the 2,100-foot ascent of Crow Pass early in the race that it wasn't her day for a record run.
But the battle with Brooks helped Marvin push through a less-than-ideal day.
"She helped me salvage something," Marvin said.
Brooks was thrilled with her debut, which she said was fueled by glazed doughnut holes.
"Some people have epic gut issues in this race, but my secret food is doughnut holes," she said. "I was eating them the whole time, and last night too."
Crow Passing Crossing
1) Christy Marvin 3:31:37.8; 2) Holly Brooks 3:32:04.7; 3) Kiersten Lippmann 3:50:50.4; 4) Greer Gehler 3:58:51.0; 5) Lia Siemons 4:00:49.6; 6) Shawn McTaggart 4:05:33.0; 7) Jess Walsh 4:18:50.0; 8) Molly Tarby 4:19:45.4; 9) Annie Connelly 4:20:19.6; 10) Jane Boer 4:26:06.3; 11) Amber Walker 4:26:32.5; 12) Clare Cook 4:30:16.7; 13) Emily Evans 4:35:12.2; 14) Hannah Brown 4:35:19.0; 15) Reidun Todd 4:35:31.6; 16) Andrea Ostrovsky 4:35:58.9; 17) Laura McDonough 4:38:32.7; 18) Amber McDonough 4:39:46.5; 19) Rebecca Patterson 4:40:25.1; 20) Tammy Weaver 4:45:30.9; 21) Rachael Posey 4:49:51.5; 22) Jean Miller 4:50:04.7; 23) Ashley Van Hemert 4:54:21.8; 24) Caroline VanHemert 4:54:23.5; 25) Sarah Edwards 4:54:57.4; 26) Beth Paynter 4:55:11.0; 27) Shannon Casey 4:56:22.7; 28) Susan Casey 4:56:56.6; 29) Mariah Graham 4:57:12.0; 30) Ellyn Brown 4:57:29.3; 31) Rebecca Windt Pearson 5:02:02.3; 32) Kristina Storlie 5:02:11.3; 33) Nina Schwinghammer 5:08:43.9; 34) Kristen Hansen 5:09:11.2; 35) Elizaveta Ershova 5:11:51.6; 36) Kimberly Hone 5:12:20.3; 37) Andalyn Pace 5:30:29.0; 38) Heidi Martinson 5:33:08.5; 39) Sarah Duffy 5:47:03.3.
Top 10 all-time women's times
1. Nancy Pease 3:26:20 1990
2. Christy Marvin 3:26:44 2014
3. Nancy Pease 3:28:58 1989
4. Nancy Pease 3:29:29 1992
5. Nancy Pease 3:31:07 1995
6. Christy Marvin 3:31:37 2015
7. Nancy Pease 3:31:50 1993
8. Holly Brooks 3:32:04 2015
9. Nancy Pease 3:32:21 1988
10. Nancy Pease 3:34:40 1986
Alaska Dispatch Publishing