Marci Klimek was determined to defend her Pear Blossom Run women's title, but she overlooked one crucial detail.
She forgot to sign up.
RECAP: Former Phoenix runner Marci Klimek gets into the race at the eleventh hour and successfully defends her title. Klimek has run the 10-mile event twice and won both, this time in 59 minutes, 23 seconds.
"I went to check my confirmation last night," said the former Phoenix High runner, "and I'm like, I'm not here. I totally spaced actually registering. Luckily, my dad ran down and they let me in at the last minute."
Klimek, who lives in Bend, didn't arrive here until late Friday evening.
"I was in shock and really scared," she said, "so I'm really thankful for them being so flexible on that. They saved my butt."
And enabled another repeat champion in the 36th-annual 10-mile run.
Klimek fought off a challenge from former University of Oregon runner Bria Wetsch to triumph in 59 minutes, 23 seconds, more than a minute faster than her mark last year of 1:00.36.
Similarly, in the men's division, Max King defended his title.
Wetsch, who lives in Portland, came in at 59:49 in the field of 791 female participants.
Maggie Donovan of Medford was third in 1:03.51, Stephanie Snyder of Salem was fourth in 1:05.29 and Mariko Yokote of Portland was fifth in 1:06.20.
Klimek is only the third woman to capture back-to-back titles, joining Deanna Schiedler-O'Neil, who won six straight from 1991-96, and Sopagna Eap, who triumphed in 2005 and '06.
In addition to discovering her faux pas when she surveyed confirmations on the event website, Klimek took note of Wetsch's presence.
The two had gone head-to-head in the Eugene half-marathon last spring, and Wetsch — a former five-time high school track and cross country state champion in Minnesota — prevailed with a strong finish.
"I saw Bria was in it," said Klimek, who also starred at Linfield College in McMinnville. "She's a stud runner, so I knew I was definitely going to have to work for it."
Klimek opened with a fast pace and led for the first seven miles.
"I know I'm a grinder," said Klimek, 24. "I don't have a lot of speed, so I went out as hard as I could."
After Wetsch caught her, the two ran together for a mile or so before Klimek, having gathered herself from the early pace, came up with another surge, and Wetsch was unable to hang with her.
"I put another push in early," said Klimek, "because if it came down to a kick, I was going to get smashed."
In the Eugene half-marathon, Wetsch finished nearly two minutes ahead of the third-place Klimek.
Both will be in this year's event in two weeks.
"I won it so I have to go back and try to defend my title," smiled Wetsch, "and win another year's supply of pancakes. I just wanted to get a good, hard effort in before that."
She last attempted a half-marathon in October and didn't finish.
Wetsch ran with friend Matt Thomas of Ashland, who would finish 12th in the men's division.
"I ran with him for the first five miles or so, then he dropped me," she said. "I tried to go with him."
Like most everyone else, Wetsch didn't realize Klimek would be in the race.
But the former quickly realized it when the defending champ took it out early.
"I went out a little conservatively and thought maybe I could catch up to her," said Wetsch. "I actually did, then she pulled away with about two miles to go and I couldn't respond."
Klimek ran some track in the spring and, after the Eugene race later this month, will return to the Rogue Valley for the Siskiyou Out Back 50K in July.
"It'll be my first ultra marathon, so I'll give it a try," she said. "I'm psyched for it."
In a year, Klimek plans to be back here, going for crown No. 3.
"And I'll remember to register beforehand," she laughed.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org