After sitting around at the start line for a little less than an hour, 5AM finally struck, and the race was underway. I immediately settled in with the lead pack from the beginning, taking advantage of Jeff’s super-bright headlamp since mine had effectively died immediately at the starting line(and Jordan was pretty confident that the lamp would be superfluous anyway). The lead group of roughly 10 men ran surprisingly comfortable through the first aid station, and didn’t actually seem to start pushing the pace until the first road section, wherein things got decidedly quick in a hurry. I managed to stay with the leading men through the second aid station, and perhaps a bit afterwards before I decided that it would be best to stay within myself for the majority of the day, and at this point, continuing to run with the leaders would surely result in a pretty hard blowup.
|Jordan McDougal, Jeff Gosselin and Myself in the early morning|
After watching the lead pack slowly gain some distance on me, I began to really find my stride, and much more fully-embrace my tendency to power-hike steep inclines, and make up the difference on the downhill. The course had deviated some from the previous years, trading some technical single track and steep inclines for rocky double track, but the primary difference was the water. Having gotten ~1.5 inches of rain in the days prior to the race, there was practically no section of trail on the course where you could expect even a modicum of dryness. For the next 10 or so miles, I found myself completely contained within my own head, never really running with anyone, and working my hardest to maintain a consistent effort, never letting myself get too excited, or too low. Most frustratingly however, coming into aid station 6 I was expecting to see my drop bag, which contained little more than a stick of body-glide, which I felt desperately in need of, but it wasn’t there yet, forcing me to ditch my singlet and grind on for another 7 miles hoping it would be there for my second pass. During those miles a never-ending side stitch began to develop, which I initially thought was salt-related, but upon further thought I’ve realized is a result of fatigue related to cross-training oversights (note: do more core work), but things rarely got bad enough to create the true sort of desperation I usually experience in the middle miles of a long race.
|.25 Miles into the course…|
The second pass through the aid station provided my much needed opportunity to re-lube my thighs, fill up my bottle, grab a couple of gels and head back into the woods, wherein a decidedly bad report by one of the volunteers informed me that I was the “30something runner” through this point (I think he had been counting people starting the loop, not finishing the loop).
For the next several miles of meandering single and double track, I found my energies waning, and my side-stitch only seeming to get worse, taking a lot of pop out of my stride, especially since excluding last years TNFEC race I’ve not experienced this sort of discomfort.
Around Mile 34 things took a turn decidedly for the better when I was caught up to by the women’s leader Rory Bosio. After rather creepily announcing “I know you!” followed by an apology for being creepy, which included several backpedaling sentences about how I’m not actually that creepy, but you know, she’s kind of well known in circles of people who follow ultrarunning etc etc etc, we latched into the same pace, and began grinding our way back to Anthony Wayne. Rory’s presence was truly a game-changer, especially after having spent the majority of the day alone, and knowing that there was at least another 10K until I could pick up Jayson, having her as an indefatigable chatterbox was a breath of fresh air, as well as a brilliant opportunity to learn from one of the great ultrarunners.
Running into Anthony Wayne, and seeing both Jayson and Alli waiting for me was and incredible pick-me-up, especially since Jayson arriving as a pacer was a very much last minute addition to my race plans. What I didn’t anticipate at all was the intimacy with which Jayson knows the last 10 miles of the course, seemingly every 100 feet he had an observation, and directions as to what would be coming up next, as well as our best plan of action for attacking different sections of trail, and especially how to attack the intimidating Timp Pass. From the moment I picked up Jayson I was relieved of all decision making processes, directed when to drink, eat, run, hike, breathe, and heckle Rory as we continued to yo-yo eachother for the last ten miles of the course. When we finally came upon Timp Pass, Jayson’s planning started to become obvious, we had closed the gap on a few more runners, and found ourselves grinding up the hill, only to barrel down the super-steep technical backside, effectively putting the screws to the couple of runners we had passed on the ascent. We then blew right through the final aid station, knowing it was less than 5K to the finish, and that things had been going well enough that I could relatively comfortably run those last few miles without any additional fluid or calories. 8h20m from the start of the race I crossed the finish line with Jayson, and Rory a mere 16 seconds behind, landing me in 14th place overall, with a 43m35s PR on course.
|Jayson, Rory and Myself at the finish|