For ultramarathoner Charlie Trayer, yesterday's 25th annual Washington's Birthday 26.2-mile event, through the rolling hills and chilly winds in Greenbelt, was a good test to see if he was ready for this year's Boston Marathon.
Trayer, who finished 42nd last year in Boston, got a confidence-booster yesterday, winning the race easily. He finished in 2:30:51.5, well ahead of Arlington's John McGrail, who came in second at 2:33.34. Margaret Horioka, of Williamsport, Md., was the top woman finisher for the second consecutive year, in 3:14:12.
"I wanted to see if I'm in shape for Boston," said Trayer, who usually runs 30- to 100-mile races. "It was good, because it made me work. I wanted it more as preparation for Boston on April 21.
"I find it takes more concentration in the marathon. In the ultramarathon, you can enjoy yourself."
After 14 miles, Pablo Gomez of Washington was step for step with Trayer. But, by the 15th mile, Trayer opened a 30-second lead and was four minutes ahead at the 20-mile mark.
Trayer broke away from the pack as the race began at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Recreation Center, holding a comfortable lead while turning onto Soil Conservation Road. After two miles, however, Bill Bull of Berwick, Pa., narrowed Trayer's lead on icy Beaver Dam Road and Gomez also started to make a move.
"I thought (Bull) would be running with me pretty much," said Trayer. "I just wanted to see if anyone would challenge me. It helps to keep the pace. When there is someone at your shoulder, mentally you push it."
Bull caught Trayer at the three-mile mark and, after five miles, Gomez ran alongside the two runners in 27:15. Then Gomez momentarily pulled ahead of Trayer, and Bull began to fall off considerably. At the ninth mile, Trayer and Gomez led with a time of 49:51.
But, during the next five miles, Trayer pulled ahead of Gomez. Trayer said he picked up the pace, and Gomez also slowed down. "I was good through the halfway point," said Trayer. "He was pushing the pace good, but then he dropped back."
McGrail, who was all-America at the University of Massachusetts and has qualified for the Boston Marathon, wasn't in sight of the pack after 10 miles. He had run a 10-kilometer race the previous day and planned to use yesterday's event for training. But after 17 miles, "somebody said I was third, so I said: 'What the heck?'
"Something clicked," McGrail said. "I just went out very relaxed. I was thinking of running six-minute miles and calling it quits after 20 miles. I think I learned a lot today. Before, I went out too hot."
Still, McGrail didn't challenge Trayer. "I never caught sight of him," said McGrail.
Horioka, who usually competes in 10K races, won again despite falling almost seven minutes off last year's time. After 10 miles, in 1:11, she had a minute lead over Carol Graybeal of Bloomsburg, Pa., and three minutes over Lorraine Gersitz of New Brunswick, N.J. At the 15-mile mark, Horioka's time was 1:47, two minutes ahead of both runners.
"It was a little windy and I wasn't in good shape," said Horioka. "I slowed up quite a bit."