If my Achilles does well I will be happy with any finish time. A PR is always nice. I figure if I do each loop in 1hr 41 minutes that will give me thirty minutes to "run" the last 2.2 miles and get that personal best time. But seriously, just to be out there doing this is great. This is not a peak race. Its actually training for future marathons. I think a couple of 50Ks will make 26.2 seem more manageable. Contrary to the weather report it is drizzling and fairly wet. At the last moment I decide to wear my heavier rain jacket and hat. Van Pigtails Phan gives the shortest pre race announcements ever and we are off.
Loop 1 - 1:37:06
My loop times will be different than the officially reported times as I will reset my watch upon leaving the check in area each time. There is only one aid station and I will try to not linger there, but I will need to refill my fluid bottle and grab a few munchies. As we start I know that there will be a steep downhill right away on a somewhat narrow trail. We were given detailed instructions via email and the race web site. It is still somewhat dark at 7:30 so we pick our way down the hill carefully. There is a surprisingly large crowd with some runners only doing one or two loops. Lots of people that I do not know, but many friends to make this an enjoyable day. At the half mile mark my pace is about 12/mile which will not do at all. But soon the trail gets wider and I can pass a few people and find my stride. Soon I develop a plan for this course with its rolling hills. I will run the flat parts nice and easy, use gravity to speed up on the downhills and then walk up any steep uphills. Walk breaks are in the plan from the start. The major uphills are spaced about 2 miles apart and after a few miles of settling in and not feeling all that great, I start to feel very comfortable. Its still raining lightly though and I'll keep my jacket on for the next loop.
Loop 2 - 1:36:20
Still raining. Trail is a little muddier the second time around. Some leapfrogging with Ken Briggs. Then we run together for quite a while. Not talking, but it is nice to have him with me. I know that his finish times are about the same as mine (he is 15 years older than me) so it makes sense to be near him. We have the same strategy of running and then walking up each hill, so we
talk about that a bit. I know that I was ahead of pace after the first loop, but the second time around seems easier and I just do not feel like going that slow. I am sure it will hit me on the third time around. Rain might have stopped for a bit, but it is on again.
Loop 3 - 1:39:10
Start off strong and gradually pass a pack of guys. Then I am all alone. Not going as fast this loop but on the downhills I am able to hammer the overall pace down some. Finally at mile 24.5 my legs start to feel tired and I slow some. So happy that I made it this far without fatigue or pain. At mile 26 (I have my hat and hood on) I am at a narrow part of the trail and completely daydreaming/zoning out, and some runner politely says "on your left" so he can pass me. I was so startled I practically jumped off the trail. Back to reality and slogging out the miles. A couple of people have passed me and I have marveled at how muddy the backs of their legs are. It is still raining and the trail is getting muddier, but how did these people get mud all the way up their legs? Matt Hagen catches up to me and the last two miles of this loop go quickly with him.
2.2 mile out and back - 24:27
I arrive at the finish area to check in and see that the clock reads 4:52 I am ten minutes ahead of schedule and can run the last part in forty minutes and still PR. Matt and I make a quick turnaround and head out. At this moment I feel my left Achilles for the first time. Its a minor soreness and I will walk it in if it gets worse. Matt has tons of energy left and leaves me in the dust (mud actually). The downhill is so steep I can feel it now in my quads and my energy level is low. I had been able to eat and digest well today and I think that helped a lot. I am at mile 29, of course I am low on energy. The turnaround takes forever to arrive, but eventually the flour mark on the trail is seen and now I am going to the finish line. With one minor issue. In another eight tenths of a mile I will have to go up that steep hill that I had been going down at the start of each loop. What a difficult way to end a race. I can see the hill in the distance and it takes some time including short walk breaks to get there. Finally I am climbing up. It is steep but short. I am walking and at one point I think about stopping to rest a bit, as if I were out for a hike, but I keep moving and then cover the last bit of mud to the finish.
After finishing I go to the car to dry off and change my clothes. It is there that I notice the backs of my legs are caked with mud and I laugh. Later my Achilles is a little sore but not as bad as it had been. I get my camera and snap a couple of pictures near the finish, including that last hill. Not sure if I will race before 2/14, but today was a good effort and gets me that needed long run prior to that race.
5:17:03 PR by 16 minutes
3rd 50K, 42nd marathon or ultra