At 3:45 alarms sounded throughout the tent, I came to quickly, crawled over Matt and Kendrick and went through my pre-race routine in the moist morning air. At about 4:40 we arrived at the Grand Mesa Lodge, which served as the start/finish line. A couple of minutes after 5:00 AM, the race director asked non-chalantly, "Who wants to count us off?" And after a "3-2-1" we were off into the darkness, headlamps bobbing up the hill like buoy's on a rough sea.
The race started with an 11-mile loop from the lodge, which featured a couple of significant climbs. The objective I had laid out for myself prior to the race was that I would run easy-easy-easy for the first 35 miles and finish very strong- the only stipulation was that I would not let myself dip below 5th place. I settled behind Troy, a great guy and great runner, figuring he was probably taking it easier in the early goings. We worked hard early, enjoying the beautiful trail that bobbed and weaved past a dozen or so lakes. As the sun started to creep onto the mesa we were on top of the crest of the crag, which was a stretch of trail about 4-5 feet wide and with a drop of about 300 feet on either side. It was super technical and just rolled up and down. After running up the hill in a pack with Troy, and four others I decided to find my happy pace and attempt to get back to my original gameplan. Once you dismount the cragcrest, you begin a descent down what is practically a carpeted sidewalk and, hey, how could you resist the urge to fly down it? As the loop came to an end I was back within 50 feet of Troy and a couple of others.
|On the Crag Crest trail|
At the first aid station (mile 11, 1:46), I spent no more than 3 second, literally. I tossed the head lamp to Kendrick and the water bottles to Matt, and he tossed a full one back to me and I was off. I ran with Troy for another mile or so, and then it came to my attention that the only people in front of us were not our competitors, but the leaders of the 60k race that started at the same time. Doh!
At about mile 15, I began to notice some serious fatigue welling in my legs, and knew that I really had to lay off the pace and respect the course that lay ahead. Once mile 18 rolled around I began a battle that would rage the rest of the day against cramps around my groin and in my quads.
I was really kicking myself for starting out so fast, for deliberately disobeying my designed plan for the race.
Anywho, I met up with Matt and Kendrick at the mile 23 aid station, for another quick exchange of bottles and Kendrick tagged along for the beautiful 16-mile loop on top of the mesa. I reached the halfway point of the race in under 4 hours. Not too bright.
The crappy cramps ebbed and flowed for the remainder of the day, seriously inhibiting my ability to run more than 10 minutes at a time during the 16 mile mesatop loop.
By the end of the loop, which took way longer than I'd hoped, I was at mile 39 and had been moving for 6 hours and 40 minutes. This meant that I had a generous 2 hours and 20 minutes to cover the final 11 miles and still finish under 9 hours, easy right? Wrong.
Over the course of the day, most notably my foolhardy full-speed-ahead start, I had manage to completely trash my quads beyond recognition and beyond ability to run. I truly felt as if, when running downhill, they would just give out and be unable to hold me up. Matt joined me for the last 11, and urged me to run when possible and was delightfully patient when I refused (we ran about 2 of the last 11 miles). I became quite apathetic during this stretch, as my original plan had involved saving a huge push an covering this stretch in about 1:50 I was naturally quite disappointed that my experience was truly the antithesis to my desire.
As an exclamation point on my woes late in the race, I was passed by 4 runners in the last 5 miles. My goal time for finishing the race was 9:24, and I finished 3 minutes behind that in 9:27.
It was a learning experience, as always. If that 9 mile deathmarch doesn't teach me to pace myself better early on, I don't know what will. I also need to work on hydrating a little bit, which could help me avoid cramps- I peed for the first time about 2 hours and 30 minutes into the race and the second time was about 8 hours and 30 minutes into the race, not a good sign... There is always lots to learn, and I've chosen not to beat myself up over foolish mistakes and just keep my chin up and take away what I can concerning racing and fueling strategy and apply them all to my graduate work: the Run Rabbit Run 100 in September.
Most sincere apologies that there aren't more pictures to show. I can't reccomend strongly enough a trip to this incredibly unique place- I don't know that pictures would do justice to the distinct landscape of lush greens and vast forests that rise thousands of feet above the desolate desert that surrounds it. If I pay another visit there, I'll be sure to snap some pictures and put them up here.