This paragraph is a "post race edit". I ran this race with shingles. The back pain I mention in the report below was diagnosed as shingles the next day at a walk-in clinic. So, I'm more proud of that effort, because I really didn't feel like running at all, and gave what I think is a very good effort. I missed most of the next week at work and was down for about 3 weeks after.
Sorry, no pics. Again, I did this race alone.
This is a GREAT RACE! The distance is not overwhelming. The course is difficult (actually that's an understatement... the course is brutal), but just about perfect. Kudos to Blake Thompson for putting on such an excellent event. Thanks to all who volunteered today. Great job!
For those who don't want to read the recap, here are the numbers. 2:18:19 finish time. 19th overall of 144 runners and 3rd in my age group. The winner was David Riddle in an insane and what I thought was impossible 1:40. Second place goes to my friend Eric Charette who finished in an AMAZING 1:51. The first place female was Jessica Southers in an impressive 2:13. Full results are at the HTC Website. Overall and Age Groups.
The forecast for today was absolutely NASTY. The weather wasn't as bad as the forecast, but it was yucky. It rained half of the night and rained until just about start time. The course was an absolute mess. Mud, wind, and rain. All the better! That is the essence of trail running. Run the course as it is.
All week I knew that today would not be a great day for me. So, I was disappointed before I started. I have been battling back pain, congestion, and fatigue. (Wow, I sound like an old man.) I can't really describe what's wrong, but I just don't feel good and I haven't for a couple of weeks. I'm not sleeping well at all. I actually slept well last night; I just didn't sleep long enough. But the alarm went off and I threw on my race clothes and grabbed my pre-packed race-day bag and hit the road. The thought of skipping the race did cross my mind. Yeah, I felt that bad.
The day just didn't start well. I stopped at the Starbucks in Athens, and they would not acknowledge me in the drive-thru. I thought they opened at 5:30, and it was 5:40-ish. So I left and the Starbucks in Madison was the same?!? No coffee? Tragic. It wasn't going to be a good day. Luckily, Rocket Rush was open. I'll probably start giving them my business anyway. Then, as I pulled out of the Rocket Rush, I realized that I did not have my watch. WHAT?!?!?! No Garmin? How could I run this race with no clue about my HR, my pace, my distance or my time? UGH! I knew the course well enough that even a stopwatch would have been ok. But I was stuck running this race blind. I ran strictly by feel today. BTW, I learned that that's not a terrible way to run.
This was a true shotgun start! I think that was kinda cool. At the start, there is about a mile or so of road before we hit the trail. That's good because it allows the packs to form. I just tried to stay at the back of the front pack, and I did. There was nobody in my sight behind me when I hit the trail, but I could still see the leaders. The entry to the trail begins with a tough descent down Sinks Trail that was both muddy and rocky. I passed one person here (don't know who) and the leaders were pulling away from me (as I expected).
And that's how most of the race went. I was alone, well behind the leaders and the next couple of packs, but nobody was pushing me from behind. I just ran my own race from here on. I power walked up Panther Knob, and the next pack was out of sight. The descent from Panther Knob went fairly quickly, and I could get a glimpse of the next pack going up the hill to 3 benches. I paused for a quick bottle top off and pressed on up Sinks to Mountain Mist.
I really should have run harder on Mountain Mist trail. I got passed by one guy here (don't know who) and I shouldn't have let that happen. But I kept him in sight and within passing distance. The next pack was out of sight, so I only had this guy to pull me along. I closed the gap on the descent on Goat Trail, and was only a few feet behind him coming up Warpath Ridge and passed him when he stoppedat the aid station at O'Shaughnessy Point. Again, nobody was in sight ahead and I left the only other runner near me at the aid station.
Then begins the tricky descent into McKay Hollow. I had practiced this and was ready to let it fly! But... You knew there would be a "but". But the last time down this trail, I turned my ankle pretty bad, and I was tentative. The trail was nasty and wet and slippery. I wasted too much time and energy on this trail. I should have let it fly and taken the risk, but I wimped out. I was hoping to have someone to hold off or someone to catch on this trail, but I didn't.
At the bottom, it was NASTY! The creeks were high, and it was sloppy and muddy. It was like the trail was a creek!
Now, the tough part of this race begins. Not that the first part is easy, but from here to the end is brutal. It starts with reasonably runnable section of Arrowhead Trail, then it turns up Natural Well trail. The climb on Natural Well is very technical, almost frustrating. This climb took its toll on me, admittedly. I was starting to tire. I hate Natural Well trial! I need to practice this portion for next year. At the top, the climb had taken too much out of me to do anything on the runnable section just before the turn to descend on Arrowhead Trail.
This section of the race, the descent on Arrowhead Trail, is perhaps the funnest stretch of trail running ever! It is FAST. You can let it fly!!! After the descent, the course goes back up Big Cat Hill. :) I was a little winded from the fast descent and took this slower than I should have. Once on the flat section again, I caught and passed a runner (again, I don't know who).
After passing the last aid station, I noticed someone gaining on me. It was Matt Whitworth. He steadily gained on me until the bottom of the death trail section of McKay Hollow Trail. Also, along this stretch, a young guy flew past both of us. I think it may have been Alan Teed.
At the bottom of death trail, I stopped and let Matt pass because my legs were cramping. There was no sense in me staying in front and slowing him down. UGH!! I was so frustrated. This has NEVER happened to me before in a race! Why this race? Why now? Did I not hydrate well enough? Was it the week's fatigue catching me? What was it??? I was grunting and yelling in frustration. Near the bottom, I saw David Riddle, the overall winner (he was on his way down to ice his legs in the creek), and asked him for the time. 2:07. That was the first indication of time that I had throughout the race! I decided to just grunt it out. Cramps or whatever. My calves continued to cramp up the hill. Matt looked down and encouraged me some. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate it!
I came to the top and saw the clock and just did what I could to get there. Eric Charette was there to congratulate me and give a high five for finishing! I was just glad to see someone I knew! Thanks, Eric. Then, after the race I had a good time hanging out with friends and meeting people.
What a great race! Today's 2:18:19 is not the best I can do on that course, but it WAS the best I could do today. Sure, there were areas where I could have done better, but I honestly believe I gave it all I had today. I just don't think today was my best day. Maybe this is just my competitive side, but I will do better next year. But today was still a very good day.