Mike Wolfe hasn't seen the sun much lately back home in Helena, Mont. So as he ran in the warmth of sunshine Saturday near Cool, he felt inspired.
"It kind of lifted my spirits," said Wolfe, who pulled away from Arcata's Todd Braje in the middle of the Way Too Cool 50k to win the men's race in 3 hours, 28 minutes, 2 seconds.
"It's a great course, a perfect day."
Joelle Vaught of Boise, Idaho, claimed her second consective women's title, surging past 2009 Cool champion Caitlin Smith of Berkeley in the final mile to win in 4:02:29.
"I didn't think I'd win at all," Vaught said. "I'm super excited."
Wolfe and Vaught prevailed on a pleasant but muddy day that featured 586 starters in the annual 31-mile trail run. The course was altered this year to avoid two-way traffic on the trail.
For Wolfe, the mud might have been a blessing. The 33-year-old attorney has been training in snow, so he didn't mind the muck.
"Running in the snow on trails certainly makes you strong," he said while nursing a bloody right thumb. "I guess I had that going for me."
Wolfe and Braje shared the lead until around Mile 15, when Wolfe dropped his challenger.
"I just felt great with the pace I was going," he said. "I wasn't trying to run a certain pace or even pay attention to what I was running. I just ran on feel."
Braje, 34, pursued hard until the end, finishing in 3:33:58. Gary Gellin of Menlo Park placd third in 3:35:51, with Timothy Olson of Ashland, Ore. fourth in 3:36:37.
"Late in the race, around Mile 21 or so, I was running some really quick miles, and I thought I might see him (Wolfe)," said Braje, who teaches archeology at Humboldt State in Arcata.
"He just kept opening the gap. But I never gave up."
Rocklin's Jacob Rydman, 26, was the top local finisher, placing eighth in 3:48:13. Auburn's Christian Finkbeiner, 17, finished 10th in 3:51:51.
Vaught and Smith ran together in the early miles before Smith surged ahead on a downhill stretch and took control until the final mile.
"I didn't think I would see her again," said Vaught, a 36-year-old neurodiagnostic technician.
"I don't do speed work. I don't have a sprint. I was like, 'I don't want to end this way, losing in a sprint.' "
Vaught didn't have to worry, finishing 1:31 ahead of Smith, who crossed the line in 4:04:00.
"In the end, Joelle ran a good race," said Smith, 30, a doula and yoga instructor who is trying to come back from a hip stress fracture. "There was nothing I could do."
Meghan Arbogast of Corvallis, Ore., was third in 4:11:03 and Caren Spore of Davis fourth in 4:11:15.