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  • 27 Nov 2014

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Dundee hills and vineyards kind to Neilson

Portlander leads nearly wire to wire to win fifth annual Fueled by Fine Wine half marathon


Putting some recent injuries and a two-year winless drought behind him, Portland resident Chris Neilson came down the homestretch all alone to win the Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon Sunday morning in 1:27:13. by: SETH GORDON - Chris Neilson, 37, of Portland (top) crosses the finish line in 1:27:13 to win the 2014 Fueled By Fine Wine Marathon after leading pretty much the entire race. Neilson finished ninth in both 2012 and 2013.

“It’s validating that the training I’m putting in is paying off,” Neilson said. “It’s a great event. It’s my third time coming. I come because it’s well done and it’s a great course in a nice, beautiful area. It’s a tough course, so to win it is certainly very rewarding.”

Neilson, who finished ninth in the race the past two years, dropped five minutes from his 2013 time to beat McMinnville’s Brian Bernier by 15 seconds. Bernier finished runner-up last year to Chris Platano, who did not race this year due to an injury.

“I’d say this is probably the best and most rewarding just because of the injuries I’ve been fighting,” Neilson said. “I’m 37, so I feel like I’m still hanging on. I went out this year to try and push it as far and hard as I could and see what happens. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to win.”

Rounding out the top five were David Faught, who crossed in 1:30:58 to take third, Holly Saulie-Rohman, of Portland, who was fourth overall and first among the women in 1:31:58, and Tualatin’s David Mitchell, who was fifth in 1:32.19.by: SETH GORDON - Contestants in the Fueled By Fine Wine Half Marathon (above) turn the corner at Crumbled Rock Vineyard early on in the race Sunday morning. 1,163 runners finished the 13.1-mile race, which began and ended in Dundee-Billick Park.

Saulie-Rohman, 31, who was fourth a year ago (1:33.31) finished well ahead of female runner up Alyssa Tower of Vancouver, Wash., who crossed in 1:41.58 and was also first in the master’s division at age 51.

Dawn Smith of Newberg took third in the women’s division in 1:42.21, followed by Vancouver’s Sarah Robison-Mathes in fourth (1:48.25) and Portland’s Adrienne Fischl in fifth (1:50.03).

This year’s course began and ended in Dundee Billick Park, with a climb up Worden Hill Road, including turnouts down into both Crumbled Rock and Winderlea’s vineyards, to begin the race. After winding back for a loop into the Dundee Hills and swinging northeast to the Four Graces, the layout finished with another climb over the final half mile before the final few hundred yards turned back downhill to the park.

“To me, this year was harder,” Neilson said. “It seemed like the big hills were earlier and kind of gassed you, but that finish was a tough finish. Big sections of it were kind of reversed from last year. We had a good downhill section to get a little recovery, but with those big hills at the beginning, I thought it was harder than last year.”

To celebrate the event’s fifth year, the 63 racers who entered all five events were given race bib numbers 2 through 64, which included Dundee Mayor Ted Crawford (30th overall and ninth in master’s in 1:46.00) and Dundee City Council president Doug Pugsley (93rd overall in 1:58.23).

“Not all of those 63 were local, either; there were runners from as far away as Alaska and Florida,” event organizer Chris Nagy said. “They literally make their summer vacation around it. That’s dedication.”

In all, 1,163 runners finished the event, which began with clear weather and cool temperatures, but finished with light rain and scattered lightning.

“They were happy to see the rain,” Nagy said. “Obviously, we don’t want thunder and lightning with people outside like that, but most of them said it was a trip watching the thunder and lightning while running through the vineyard. They said it was a really cool experience.”