|Nice looking elevation profile! Not much flat running here...|
Leading up to race day I started to have pretty severe tightness and discomfort in my right calf. My calves have been tight and sore before, but this was getting to the point of making me limp while running. I started to get pretty nervous that my chances of a good performance were slipping away. The last two weeks I was stretching like crazy, rolling my calf and massaging daily. I was able to loosen it up, but the pain was still there. My last couple taper runs were almost painful. As a last ditch effort for anything that might help I ordered a pair of CEP calf compression sleeves to wear.
|Ready to go cheer on Dad! The back of his shirt says "Try & keep up!" :)|
Race day morning was hectic as normal, trying to get out the door bright and early with our 3 month old son added to the preparation. Arriving at the start area, I decided the 35 deg weather was warm enough to ditch the long sleeve T-shirt and change to short sleeve. I had my wife switch my bib over to a different shirt, after getting our son all bundled up to watch his dad race for the first time. I headed out for a quick jog around the picnic area to warm up my calf, so I could stretch it out good before the start. To my surprise my calf was feeling better than it had all week!
We headed to the start line minutes before the start. Nobody seemed to want to get right up to the starting line, so I jumped right up there. At the start I lead the pack down the chute and onto the trail. I was surprised at how relaxed the pace seemed to be, with nobody jumping out in front of me. I tried to keep the effort easy, but glancing at my watch showed we were running a bit faster than I maybe should have been at the start of a 45k. I decided to roll with it since I felt great and it seemed like some others behind me were maybe breathing quite a bit harder than me. There were probably about 4-6 people in the lead pack, but not really sure since I didn’t take my eyes off the rocky trail long enough the get a good count. We covered the first 4 miles at around an 8:00 min/mile pace and I was feeling great!
|Just after the start, heading for the trails!|
At the first aid station about 5 miles in, the group behind me stopped while I kept rolling. Five miles into the race I was running alone in the lead. I had never been in this position before and wasn’t quite sure how I should handle the situation. Do I slow up and wait for the pack, keep up my own pace, maybe try to kick it down and drop them? I really had no idea what to do. I decided that I was feeling good so I would just continue to run my own pace and see what happens. I was having a blast tearing up the super rocky descents! In training I typically take it a bit easier through these sections, so it was awesome to just let it rip! Flying up and over big rocks, off drop offs and swinging around tight corners. This is what trail running is all about! If the beer glass we received as swag that says “I Love Rocks” wasn’t clear enough. By now it should have been clear, this course is rocky!
|Just after 1st aid station|
|Good thing I love rocks!|
|More loose rock!|
After about 10 miles of mostly downhill running, the course started its climb towards the second aid station and ultimately the top of Cedro Peak. I was excited to get to the second aid station since I would get to see my wife and son. I wasn’t sure how they were doing beings it was a pretty chilly morning and the first time taking our son out in the cold for an extended period of time.
|Fun to fly down, slow to crawl up|
|Nice stretch of "trail"|
I ran all alone until around the 11 mile mark where I started to pass a few of the folks who were running the 45 mile distance of the race. They started an hour before the 45k runners, which helped ease congestion on the narrow single track. This was a mental boost to start seeing and passing some people, and I knew I was getting close to the second aid station.
|Coming into the second aid station, mile 12|
I hit the descent to the turn around pretty hard, as I was excited to turn around and start heading back to the finish. My watch was right about 2 hrs when I hit the turn around. I made mental note because I knew I would soon find out how much of a lead I had. After only a minute I passed the second place runner, this meant I only had about a 2 minute lead. And there were 4-5 other runners within about 5 minutes of me at the turn around. This was not as much of a lead as I was hoping for and was the first of many mental blows I would experience on my journey to the finish 14 miles away.
The climb back up the peak went pretty smoothly and the descent back to the aid station just flew by. I was probably running the downhills much harder than I should have been, and my legs were starting to feel the beating they were getting. I ran into the aid station, got my water bottle topped off and diluted my bottle of EFS liquid shot as it was starting to taste a bit too sweet at this point. The adrenaline rush of the aid station and seeing my crew once again pushed me to a pace that induced hyperventilation as I headed down the trail.
|Leaving Cedro Peak aid station, mile 16|
Shortly after leaving the aid station, the number of runners coming the other way was dwindling. The fatigue in my legs and the feeling of running alone was once again starting to wear on me. I was finding it hard to keep my effort up and was starting to worry about the other runners that were chasing me not too far behind. I was starting to realize that running alone in the lead is stressful with a constant feeling of being hunted down!
A few miles of downhill after the aid station lead to the start of the last 10 miles of the race, which were mostly uphill. A steep climb around the 21 mile mark was followed by a bit more gentle rolling climb to the finish. I figured if I could get the top of the big climb with nobody catching me, I would have a good chance of holding on to my lead. I could tell my pace was slowing as I approached the climb and decided to hike most of the climb, even though I had previously run most of it in my training runs. Around ¾ of the way up the climb I noticed the second place runner was only a few switchbacks behind and catching up fast. I tried to up the effort, but my legs were feeling pretty beat down after hammering all the downhills. Hitting the top of the climb I was still in the lead and hoped I could hold it. I knew I would need to stop at the last aid station for some water and hopefully a glass of coke for a final boost, as I had taken in very few calories since leaving the last aid station due to an uneasy stomach.
|Not a welcome site at mile 21(from training run)|
With 5 miles to go I figured I could hang on for the ride. I had him in sight for maybe a mile before losing him. I was doing some serious negotiations in my head trying to get my legs to push through the pain and not let him get away. Nothing seemed to work… “a free pair of shoes for the winner!”, “gotta win this one for my son!”, “only a 5k left, crank it out!”, “this is what all the training is for!” and I’m sure many others. Didn’t matter, my legs were toast and had nothing left to give over the last few miles of climbing. To top it off the last mile or so of the course was rerouted through some brutal rocky, short steep pitches. I was beat down and just hoping I wouldn’t get passed again.
I crossed the finish in 4:00:36 after 28 miles of rough rocky single track with 4100ft of elevation gain and descent. About 3 minutes behind the winner and good enough for second place overall. I’m sure there are some things I could have done differently, but overall I am happy with the result and ended up doing better than expected. It was a great race and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging ultra. Thank you to the race director and all the volunteers who made this such a great event. Also, all the other runners were super friendly and the endless encouragement along the trail is a boost that can not be gotten from energy gels or sports drinks! Maybe I’ll be back next year to try again…
|Sweet beer glass, perfect with a Happy Camper IPA for recovery|