My plan going into the race was to run 6:50ish or slightly below for the first 20 miles, potentially backing off a tad for the last 11 miles. The race itself is a double out-and-back on a wide bridal trail, mostly consisting of packed dirt. Just past mile 6 of each out section is a paved greenway that goes to the turnaround point. The trail goes around Salem Lake and is almost entirely minus besides two short hills. The race consists of a 50K, 25K, and 50K relay.
I was well rested going into the race and it was around 30 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny at the start. I thought the weather was perfect and I was comfortable the entire time.
|Ready to roll|
At 8 A.M. we were off and I stayed up towards the front just behind some of the faster relay runners. I was running 6:45’s from the start and quickly hooked up with a guy from Charlotte that was running the same pace. We nestled behind a couple for the first 5 miles and then moved on by before the sixth mile. The pace felt comfortable and we enjoyed chatting as the miles slid by. At this point, we we’re around 3rd and 4th I believe. I came into the turnaround point at 51:48. The leader, who went on to set a new course record, was too far ahead to even worry about. He broke his own course record and looked very strong all day. I’m pretty sure there was a guy nestled in right behind him, but he might have dropped or been in the 25K.
I continued to run alongside my friend from Charlotte up until around the 12th mile, before moving ahead a bit. I came into the halfway point in second place at 1:44:54, still feeling good. The only issue I had during the first half was a mild stomach cramp, but that seemed to go away after letting my stomach clear for about 10 minutes. I kept the pace under the 7:00 until the 17th mile. Then, up until mile 24 the paces stayed between 7:00 and 7:10. I was starting to really feel the fatigue around mile 23, but kept telling myself to stay present and keep working hard. At the final turnaround (2:39:11), I was able to see how far ahead I was and how everyone else was looking. I’m guessing I was maybe 3 minutes ahead of third place at the final turnaround. I knew that it was time to really focus, distance myself from the pain in my legs, and take it home strong.
Mile 25 was my second slowest of the day (7:35), but helped me hunker down and push a little harder. I clicked off the next mile in 7:20, continuing to really work for it. I took down two cups of Gatorade at the final aid station, with around 3 miles left to go.
I was able to look across the water during large turns in the trail and see that I was still alone in second. I kept with the pace, not wanting to fall off despite how uncomfortable it was. I took my final gel a mile later, coming into the final loop before the straight away to the finish. I took one final look across the water and could see that I was still alone in second. I could start to see my father holding up a neon yellow sign just before the finish. I dug in for the final stretch, marking my best race to date with a finishing time of 3:35:48 for Second Place. 6:58/mile average. Hats off to first place with a shattering 3:00:11 result!
|Coming in to the finish|
|My wonderful girlfriend|
This race was extremely satisfying on many levels. I felt that I really dialed in my nutrition, after having some stomach issues in other races this year. Mixing in some Gatorade every now and then seemed to really help keep my stomach happy. I took a gel every half hour for the race and that seemed to work great. I surpassed my initial goal of a 3:45 and really found a deep strength those last 5 miles, keeping me on target to my goal. I never really had any big lows during the race and was able to manage any discomfort along the way. This has me really excited for another year of racing. I’m planning on taking around a week off before starting another training cycle for Leatherwood Mountain 50 mile in April. I may or may not do another race between now and then.