(Copied from previous post): I crashed early, as a few nights with ‘lesser-than-normal-amounts-of-sleep’ had caught up with me, and I woke up on Sunday (race day) fresh and ready to go. The forecast was calling for highs in the low 60′s and mostly cloudy skies… both of these predictions had me super excited! The race started at 7:00am with what felt like a very fast pace….
(New): The fast pace had me slightly nervous as we rolled along in a rather large group. The start of this race included very gradual terrain, and when coupled with the low altitude, the pace was fast. My legs felt slightly clunky but I knew if I could just keep with the front group for an hour or two then I may be able to hold my own as the race went into its later stages. Despite my legs feeling slow, my energy levels were very high and my GI tract felt perfect. These good signs boosted my spirits as 1-hour clicked over to 2-hours and the pace ramped up again. I found myself running with Nick Triolo from Portland, OR and we opened up what seemed like a gap on everyone else. We ran strong as we moved from dirt road onto a jeep road/single track section and I was astonished to see my watch read 2:23 (or so) at mile 22. (Or so the sign said). The signs seemed so exact that I did not question any of the distances. I was fired up that I was running so fast. We started what I knew to be a long gradual uphill section which took us to the high point of the course. I felt super strong here and decided to open up my stride a little and see what I had in the tank. Within a mile I had opened up a gap on Nick and I was feeling stronger than I had so far throughout the race. These long gradual ‘diesel-engine’ climbs are my ‘bread-and-butter’ and I was happy to have one at this point in the race.
I continued on for another 4 to 5 miles of climbing feeling stronger and stronger. The cool temperatures and overcast day helped me tremendously as I ran past the 50km mark and into a long gradual downhill section. I could not make myself tired through here and I soon found myself on the steep and slightly warm climb back up to Sun Mountain Lodge at approximately mile 35 of the race. I kept on plugging past the lodge, back down onto the gradual terrain again and onward to the final aid station which I was surprised was taking so long to get to. I ran out of liquid and any food about 35-minutes prior to this last aid station at mile 44, but just as I was starting to fatigue slightly and weaken I came to the paved section that took us to this aid station and beyond. After re-fueling on the run, within 5 minutes I felt invincible again as I grunted up the last solid climb on course. At another gate (there were maybe a dozen on course) I noticed there were no more course markings. Zero. Nothing. Crazy! Perplexed, I headed left through another gate and onto what I thought was the correct loop. I was feeling so strong, which made it extremely frustrating to be feeling that good and questioning every step. After leaving the previous aid station, there was a clearly marked turn to the left that took us off the road and onto the final miles of the course. After that marker, there was nothing, but I continued to run blind ‘none-the-less’ knowing that there were no other trails out on this section.
As I looped around the mountain and back toward the gates I had gone through several miles prior, I stopped to ask several hikers if they knew where I was. Most of the hikers were helpful, but did not have any answers. Just then I ran into Nick Triolo and David Papineau, 2nd and 3rd place in the race who had taken the opposite direction (opposite from the direction I went) around this loop. Confusion indeed, but we came to the conclusion that they would run basically what I had run (only in the opposite direction) and we would call it ‘fair-and-square’. At this point, with no course markings and no real idea how to get back to the finish line, this was the idea we came up with and it seemed perfectly reasonable to all of us. I flew back down to the unmarked gates, back down to the road and back to the mile 44 aid station. Once there, many of the aid-station workers did not know where the course went but they did know that the start/finish area was just a mile up the road. I headed that way only to find a course-marshall who told me that indeed I was on course. He pointed me onto a trail which lead to the final mile back to the finish line. I crossed the line in 6:16 and told the race director about the lack of course markings and confusion. To his credit, James went straight out to that part of the course, marked it and came back to sort out the results. David Papineau finished in 2nd place with a time of 6:43 and Nick Triolo was a solid 3rd place in 6:48. Nice work guys.
This turned out to be a great day as I truly have not felt that strong in a running race in two years and that leaves me with an abundance of confidence as I move into more training and the ‘gear-up’ phase prior to the Hardrock 100 in July and the Leadville 100 in August. Here’s to a great summer everyone. Thanks for reading. Live well. Train well. DC.