Loop 1 - Last year I ran the first loop in 1:37:06, timing myself as I left the one and only aid station. Its 9.8 miles around the lake, so I have my fuel belt with 20oz of Gatorade to get me through. I remember the steep downhill that hits us just after the start and I am determined to carefully negotiate my way down. Starting farther back than usual and not trying to pass anyone, the hill is not a problem. Two guys do go blazing past me near the bottom, but I give them plenty of room. The trail widens some and gets more sure of foot. Runners get all sorted out, I find my pal the Rogue Wave and we find our comfortable pace. The strategy of walking up at least some of the rolling hills worked well for me last year and we do that again, but I am going faster than last year and way faster than PR pace. It is interesting to revisit a place that I was at only once before and that was a year ago. Around every turn I suddenly remember the scenery and have some expectation of what is to come. Knowing a course should give me some advantage. It would be interesting to compare my times for all of my races in which I have done the course twice and see if I have improved most times. We enjoy the easy pace. The mud is there, but never so bad. I probably should be going slower as I head out for lap 2 at 1:32:11, five minutes faster than last year.
Loop 2 - Race Director Pigtails had said that if we wanted to and were not in the position of maybe winning the race, we could run the second lap in the reverse direction. I remembered that Robert Lopez did that last year and it was fun to see him as we went past in opposite directions. Otherwise, although there are over a hundred runners here, you don't get to see anyone because there are no out and backs and we are all spread out after a couple of miles. Most of my friends think that I am a little crazy to run so many marathons and ultras. They may be right, but there are other crazies out there and I get to see them and feel at home with them on race day. Even if I do not know them well, there is a certain bond when I see the same face at race after race. So the Rogue Wave and I do this loop in reverse and I enjoy seeing my friends. A couple of hand slaps, Betsy tells me that I am disqualified from winning (ha ha) and lots of "good jobs". With more distractions, the time goes by quickly. At mile 3 there is a Terry Sentinella sighting. At mile 4 a deer jumps out of the woods and startles us. At mile 6.5 there is another Terry Sentinella sighting!! He is flying around the lake. Now on his third loop, its is my first time actually seeing him running, he is always so fast. I am doing well at my own pace. The Fig Newtons that I carry are digesting well. I try a gel and get a little upset stomach right away. I'll stick with the Newtons for the rest of the race. I finish the loop in 1:34:12, two minutes faster than last year.
Loop 3 - The Rogue Wave has mentioned trying to run all of the uphills for the third loop. Getting that PR is more important to me than trying to stay with or beat her today, so I am happy to let her go on a little faster. If I can just keep going like I have been, if my energy reserves can hold out, I could have a really good day of running. Soon I catch up to Maniac Guy Yogi. He is always 10 to 15 minutes faster than me in marathons and we run a lot of the same races. He is moving along alright and I think that it would be nice to just run with him and talk for a while. We run together for about a mile but I feel like I could be going just a little faster so I pull on ahead. At mile 26 I start to tire. My pace slows some and I start doing the math in my head. The GPS is off some with distance and I just can not quite figure out how fast I need to keep moving. Mile 27 - Left hamstring cramps up and then releases. I am used to slowly building discomfort at various body parts, but these sudden cramps or pains do not happen very often to me, it is always a surprise. It released immediately, but will reoccur every half mile or so. Not real painful, but disconcerting nonetheless. Still struggling with the math as I near the last mile of the loop. I know that the final out and back section is 2.2 miles, so if I can start that leg with 25 minutes to spare it should be doable. If I have less than 20 minutes I will never make it and I'll just relax and ease on in at whatever time. I make a plan for a quick turn around at the aid station. I will ditch my jacket and throw off this fuel belt that bothers me after so many hours. I have a half bottle of Gatorade that I can carry in my hand. I'm sure I could go without the fluid but I am thirsty and know that I could use the drink even in the last half hour. I pull into the aid station with 28 minutes till my PR time is up. I can run 13 minute miles for the last bit and get that PR. I am optimistic and happy!! Loop 3 complete in 1:37:45 compared to 1:39:10 last year.
2.2 mile out and back - Oh crap, somehow I managed to drink from the bottle, toss it on the ground, and leave my fuel belt on with practically no fluids. O well, its just two miles, I'll manage. Last year I did this bit in 24:27. This year I can do it in 28 something and not only beat last year's time but also my best ever time of 5:14 from the Mt. Si 50K. Now comes a dilemma. This will be my fastest 50K yet and who knows about the future? Maybe this will be my last PR at this distance. I should go as fast as possible and get that final finish time as low as I can because I may have to live with it forever. However I find myself thinking about my sponsorship from Brooks Running. I get to participate in an annual race series with all of the other Brooks athletes. Points are awarded for fast times based on an "age graded V-dot system" but also for races entered and for PRs. I'll get one point for racing today and another point for my PR. Last year I was the regional winner for the "most races entered" category and won a nice gear bag. My speed is not very competitive but because I race a lot, I was 52nd of 1,018 athletes in the 2010 race series. I am registered for Mt. Si again this April and I could perhaps get another PR there. That would be easier if I do not smash my PR today and make it so much lower. This is what I am thinking about as I finally get to that turn around. In the end it is my left hamstring that makes the descision for me. The cramping is becoming more frequent. Still not really painful, but I would never try to run fast or work it hard with the condition it is in right now. I split the difference between doing my absolute best and preserving my body to run again soon. Have to walk up that steep hill but when I see that I am at 5:08 at the top and near the end I am thrilled. Super fun to run in to the finish and enjoy the accomplishment.
28th place of 84