|Jackie and I: night before race (left), after race (right)|
After three or four miles, I decided I felt good and would pick up my pace a little. So I started picking people off. I'd run faster until I caught up with someone, stick with them for a minute to see if they wanted to chat or whatever, then move up to the next person along the trail. This went on for about an hour. About 55 minutes into the race, I caught up with a group of 4 or 5 who seemed to be moving along at a decent pace. Then I took a 2-minute pit stop in a porta-pot. The course is two 25-kilometer loops, and the second half of the loop has a stretch of a few miles on a paved path through the park. When I came out of my pit stop, I sped along this path until I caught back up with that same group. It contained a woman running the 50K, one or two men running the 50K, and one or two men running the 25K. They were pretty talkative, and moving at a good pace, so I decided to latch on with them.
One of the 50K-ers in the group was named Scott, who is training for a 100 miler. He and I got to talking, and there seemed to be an unspoken agreement at some point that we both wanted to ditch this group. So we sped up a bit and continued talking; the course had turned back to mostly single track trail by this point. Scott was more a veteran of the mountains, me being more experienced on roads. This course was mostly flat, with only a little bit of up and down in the first few and last few miles of the loop. Everything was runnable; all hills were short, and only a couple were steep. I could still tell, though, that Scott was stronger on the ascents than I, and I seemed to be a little stronger on the flats. We both seemed to handle the descents well. We talked about this, and decided to work together for the remainder of the race. We had no idea what place we were in at this point, but figured we could continue to move up.
|Scott and I working together, coming through half way|
I had been maintaining about a 20 second distance behind Scott. At an aid station with 4 miles to go, I stopped and took my time to rehydrate and re-energize. But as I put a piece of potato into my mouth, that same guy came around the corner approaching the aid station, and I immediately took off again mid-chew. About a mile later, I came into a short clearing and saw a runner 50 or 60 meters ahead of me looking over his shoulder. Something told me he was a tired 50K runner. I quickly caught him, confirmed that he was in the 50K, and encouraged him on. Now I was in 5th place. I was having a blast. I felt fantastic. It was the final few miles of the race and I was continuing to speed up. It was fun seeing how many people I could catch. After going through some very windy single track, the trail straightened out a bit and I could see I was still about 20 seconds behind Scott. With maybe 2 miles to go, I decided to shoot the gap. I caught up with him and we ran together through some of the small rolling hills, but I could tell he was tired. I was hoping the two of us would run together to the very end and have a gentleman's race to the finish, but I ended up putting a little distance on him. I seriously felt awesome, and I kept speeding up all the way to the finish. My time ended up being 4:07, so I ran a negative split by a couple of minutes.