Thanks to Blake, the volunteers, and the sponsors today. This is a first class event.
You know the drill. Check the HTC Website for the official results. David O'Keefe was the overall winner in 1:55:50. The masters winner was David Purinton, 2nd overall in 2:02:15. I think Katie Maehlman was the female winner in 2:36:27. I didn't catch the female masters winner. I had to leave quickly today due to other commitments.
I ran a 2:17:50 which was good enough for 12th overall. I took 30 seconds off of last year's time and the course is a mile longer. I guess that's progress.
But I want to show you something.
Two folks who don't usually finish ahead of me gave me a dose of humility today. Brett Wilks came in 7th, just behind speedster Shane O'Neill (though Shane is new to trails and definitely waited until late to kick it in today) and ahead of running legend Dink Taylor. And in 9th place, with a very impressive top 10 finish at McKay Hollow Madness is my perennial training partner Matthew Davis.
I'm more proud of Matt's effort today than I ever have been of any of my own. I knew he had this race circled on his calendar, and he had a good day. Look out. This guy is for real and will get faster. I knew he had it in him to leave me behind, and I'm really glad he did that today. We're going to make each other faster.
I'm really glad to see Brett's and Matt's hard work pay off.
The First Third
After a 2 mile warm up with Shane and Matt, it was time to go. I was surprised by the lack of a crowd at the starting line at 6:58! Eventually folks showed up and after a few announcements, GO!
I ran most of the road at about a 6:40 pace, with Matt up ahead of me. I probably should have stayed closer. Late on the road section, Glen Dodd passed me and I shouldn't have let that happen. I had to slow up on the descent on Sinks behind him, but eventually passed and hit the pace I wanted for the rest of the descent.
I kept that steady effort to the Panther Knob climb. I probably worked too hard on the climb, and took the very technical super cuts to recover. The course was marked really well here and that's good because the trail is confusing. I know it well, but I can see how others would get lost here.
I was following closely behind someone who I've seen before, but I don't know here. On the descent on Stone Cuts Trail, I passed by him quickly. After passing Stone Cuts, I saw Matt again for the first time on the Sinks climb to Mountain Mist. He was a good 45 seconds ahead of me. I was just going to keep him in sight for now. The run on Mountain Mist was uneventful.
I made up some ground on Matt on the descent on Goat, and Glenn Dodd had caught back up to me and passed at the bottom. On the Warpath Ridge climb, I wanted to keep Matt close. We're about even on ups. I passed by Glenn on this climb. We both were walking. Glenn told me here that he was running blind, so I gave him some course pointers. I'm too nice. I stopped for water, but Matt did not and Glenn was faster than me to leave.
I didn't know my exact placement, but I was guessing about 7th or 8th.
The Middle Third
After the aid station comes rest shelter. This is a nasty descent that I have practiced over and over until I can run it fast. I knew I would gain ground on Matt here, but I was worried that being behind Glenn would cost me. Also, someone was breathing down my neck here. I didn't turn to see who it was, but I later learned that it was Brett Wilks.
I really ran the Rest Shelter descent well. Glenn did too, thankfully. I put quite a bit of distance between Brett and me here. At the bottom, just before slush mile, Matt was only 3-5 seconds ahead of me and Glenn had passed, I think. Matt did exceptionally well on slush mile, and put more distance between us. I caught Glenn and we chatted it up until the Natural Well climb where I passed him and put some distance between us.
Brett caught me after the well and passed while running out to the 2nd Aid Station. Man, he was strong today. Next, Dink passed me here. Again, I wasn't sure exactly, but I thought I was still top 10. Dink gave me some encouragement, and I tried to keep him in sight for as long as possible.
The Final Third
After the aid station comes one of my favorite parts of trail running anywhere, the Arrowhead descent!
The problem was that I didn't feel so good. My stomach was just not right. You'd think that by now I'd have this fueling and hydration figured out, but I don't. I knew that I needed something to have energy for the finish. However, the thought of ingesting anything was repulsive. Yuck. What do I do? I slammed down about 3/4 of a Gu that I had, knowing that I needed it. I don't know if it was the right thing to do or not.
I didn't catch anyone on this descent. I kept them close, and the gap between Glenn and me was getting larger. At the turn around, I saw Shane O'Neill not more than a minute behind me, so I expected him to come from behind at any time.
During the descent and the climb up Big Cat Hill and the sloppy mud that follows, it was Brett setting the pace, Dink behind him, Matt, then me. And I was fading. We were plodding along through the mud (This was the muddiest section of the course, much worse than "slush mile".) when Shane passed by. "How long?" he said. "About 1.5 or 1.6 miles," I said. I was really surprised that it took him that long to catch me, but I also knew that I had NO chance to stay with him.
It's beginning to fall apart for me now. I'm nauseous. Bad. My calves are screaming, but I can ignore that. It's the nausea. How am I going to reel those guys in without puking? Um, I'm not. Even if I do lose my breakfast, I probably won't catch them. I don't see Brett anymore. I see Dink. I see Matt.
Let's start Death Trail. I'm in 10th place. Matt is fading, too. We've climbed this hill together many times in the past. Who's going to push and who's going to pull today? Early in the climb, I pass him. He stays close. He says, "There are people coming. Go." I can't go. I'm really about to lose the contents of my stomach. I stumbled, and that almost did me in. During this time, I saw Eric Charette coming back down the hill. He gave me a hard time for walking and offered some encouragement.
Matt passed me back. He was bound and determined to be top 10. I wanted to stay with him, but I was done. I was really done. Just behind him is Glenn Dodd again. He caught me back! Then, another young guy, 14 year old Cody Moore, passed by me. If there had been anyone else within 25 seconds of them, that person would have passed me too. I really was done.
I've never tanked that badly that near the finish, unless it was last year at this race. So, in less than a half mile, I went from 9th to 12th. Just like that! That was a pitiful come-apart. Having said that, I'm proud of my effort. I've been sick all day since that race. I ran myself sick. So, I didn't have anything else to give today. What else can I expect? This course has my number.
I am extremely happy for Matt. I was very proud to see him gut it out and grab that top 10. I would have liked for us to have been 9 and 10, but I just couldn't hang with him today. I was glad to see him find another gear when someone pushed him. I'm happier for him than I would be for my own top 10. AWESOME job, man. THAT's why we hit the pavement at 5:00 AM to do 15 miles before 7:00 AM.