After a quick runners meeting at 6:45 to hear about the course, aid stations and snake sightings, we all shuffled our way to the starting matt just in enough time to get started at 7:00. I looked around for familiar faces, but being that this was only my 2nd trail race, I only knew my 2 buddies from Midland and Derek, the guy that beat me out for 4th in the first 60K. Soon we were off and running. My main concern and focus for this race was pacing and I had told myself for 3 weeks that a slow start would be the key. I wanted to hit the the first lap at or just below 3 hrs. In effort to do so, I let a group go off without me and tried not to worry about where I was. Just run my race, just run my race. I said it more than once to myself.
Less than a couple of miles into the race we hit a very technical section of the course along the river that included several branches, drop offs in the rocks and gaps in the rocks. I immediately thought this would prove challenging the next time around in the dark.
Before long, we were off of the river and running along a fenceline. The fenceline was straight and appeared to go forever. I could see several runners ahead of me and some of them were way ahead of me. That stressed me and it was a mistake to even look at them. Over the course of the next 4 miles I caught and passed all but 6 runners, three of them 30Ker's. That was not part of the gameplan and I think it cost me eventually. Before long I caught up with the 6th runner, Scott and he was running the 60K. After introducing ourselves, chatting for a while, and running a couple of miles together, I decided to move on since I was feeling pretty good. I think that was somewhere around mile 9.
One decision I had made that I was glad I had was to carry two Nathan Quickdraw handhelds, 22ozs each. They both had HEED in them to start. By doing this, I was able to skip the first aid station (the Fence) at mile 5 and the 2nd (the Pipe)at mile 8.5. A four mile loop would bring me back to the 2nd aid station at mile 12.72. When I finally got there I was on empty and had to fill both bottles with ice and HEED. Getting my own drink was no problem, but the guy manning the station wouldn't let you get your own ice. He had to pour it from a pitcher. I had no problem with that, but I think someone failed to mention to him that it was a race as he took his sweet time. I later discussed this with one of my buddies, Joe, and we got a kick out of it. When Joe came in to the station at mile 8.5 he picked up the bottle of Coke and started to pour himself some, but the same volunteer held out his cup to the runner and asked Joe if HE would pour him some Coke. WTH? He was a bit surprised, but did and moved on.
Back to the race. After filling up, I headed out of the Pipe aid station to finish the first loop, about 6 more miles. It was dark at this point and I had actually turned on the headlamp just before entering the Pipe aid station. A couple miles later I would find myself rolling along the trail. Not really sure what happened other than just a loss of focus and without warning I went down. Fortunately, it was just dirt and loose rocks resulting in a layer of dirt all over my shoulder and back and a few small scrapes. Nothing serious. But it was just after getting back to my feet that I noticed a headlamp on not far behind me. It was Scott, I think, and he seemed to be making ground on me. In this section of the course there were several switchbacks and so when I changed directions I could somewhat look back in attempt to gauge where the runner was. It wasn't always possible due to the trees and brush, but I could see the light every once in a while. Just keep moving was my thought, just keep moving.
Before long I could see the lights from the finish/start area and the feeling of being halfway done was nice. I completed the first loop in 2:42:12, about 18 minutes faster than what I wanted. Not good. I got my bottles filled, one ice water and one HEED, grabbed my iPod and headed out of the station, time for loop 2 feeling pretty decent still.
This was the first time I had ever ran a race with music, but decided to experiment after reading reports of some other ultra runners. Right off the bat I thought it was a good decision. It was a mixed bag of upbeat music that I won't reveal. The river section came up pretty quickly and that was tough. A lot of power walking there due to the difficulty of the rocks, branches and darkness. Before long it was the fenceline again and that seemed to go forever and ever and ever. I was pretty hot and had consumed one bottle of HEED while pretty much draining the second bottle on my head and back along the way in effort to keep cool. For that reason, I had to stop at the Fence aid station and refill. That also took forever because I couldn't get my lids unscrewed and then I had trouble loading the ice. I think I was just plain worn out at that point.
On my way out of the station, I passed the 4th place runner coming towards me (this was a short out-and-back) and estimated that he was about .15 miles back. Oh no, get moving. Over the course of the next few miles all sorts of thoughts went through my head including "4th ain't so bad, not even 5th". I was hurting and the pace of the first loop was catching up with me. I was continuing to pour water on my head to revive myself and the Heed was also going down very quickly. In addition, I had made the switch from Carboom watermelon gels to Cliff Bar chocolate brownie flavored energy bars for the 2nd loop. I still can't decide if that's a good choice or not. I had 3 bars on me when I started the 2nd loop. One in each handheld and one in a spi-belt. I had pre-cut and wrapped them into 1/3's for ease of eating on the run. I'm not sure that helped much either because unwrapping the cellophane was a PITA!
Over the course of the next few miles I pretty much consumed all my HEED and drained my water on my head. The Pipe aid station would be a nice sight, or at least I thought. There it was at the top of a hill and I couldn't have been more relieved. As I pulled in I heard the words "I don't have any liquids for you". What? No water, no ice, no Coke??? It wasn't a cruel joke, it was reality. I guess due to the heat runners had taken in more than expected and all they could do there was wait for more to be trucked in. In the meantime, I needed to get moving and deal with it. I had about a swig or two in each bottle so now my thoughts switched to conserving it for when I most needed it. The 4 mile loop wouldn't be easy with hydration, it was going to be a challenge without. I estimate that I made it about 2 more miles before I felt like I was ready to just quit. I was somewhere around mile 29 when walk/runwalk/run was the name of the game. anything uphill was definitely walked and it could also be walked if flat or downhill. It was all at my mind's discretion.
I tried to consume more of my Cliff bars and washed them down with what liquid I had left. In my head all I could think was that they had surely re-stocked the aid station while running the loop. In the midst of my walk I found myself looking back quite often for a headlight, but to my surprise hadn't seen one. I tried convincing myself that those behind me were surely encountering the same misery as I was. They better be any way. We all paid the same price for admission to this thing and we'd better get the same experience.
Coming into the Pipe station was a climb up a pretty decent hill. I got to within about 40 feet and just came to a complete stop, a wobble, a few steps back and forth and then managed to proceed in. Yes!!! They had water, ice and some HammerEndurolytes. While some really helpful young guy filled up my waterbottles I struggle to open a packet of Endurolytes. I eventually got it opened, downed a couple, grabbed my bottles and walked off. I asked the same elderly man that had been there earlier if I had 6 miles to go. I was pretty sure, but in my altered state of mine, I think I wanted some assurance. All I got back was "Huh"? Never mind.
Off I went and feeling pretty confident that I could finish even if that meant walking the rest of the way in, but that wasn't the plan. I pretty much ran everything that wasn't uphill or a steep downhill. Getting some fluids back into the system put some life back in me.
As I wound my way through the final 6 miles I came across about 8-9 30K'ers still on the course. I offered words of support as I passed by and they all seemed about as enthusiastic at that point as I was. Eventually I could see the lights of the finish area off in the distance and I made my way in for an uneventful 3rd place finish at 6:13:xx. After downing a couple of chocolate Muscle Milk drinks and a Gatorade, I celebrated with some of other 30K and 60K runners with a couple of cold beers. The 4th (Derek) and 5th (Scott) place 60K guys finished just behind me by a few minutes so I had the opportunity to visit with them for a while. Really nice guys as are pretty much everyone I've met at these races so far.
Wow, what an experience that was. While I felt like I ran the first loop pretty solid, I still went out too fast and it showed in my 2nd loop split, 3:30:59, a whopping 48:59 slower than the first loop. Not the results I was looking for entering this race. While I think my hydration issue on the Pipe loop created some of my problem, it was mainly due to poor pacing again. Someday I'm going to figure it out. In the meantime I was very satisfied to avoid the DNF and the 3rd place finish. Three weeks (actually two now) until the final race in the series. I think I'll focus on getting in some quality runs versus overall mileage. And again, I just can't wait to get back out there.
Thanks for stopping in and your support. Take care!