Toeing the line, standing there as the race director counts the clock down, tick, tock. Just like in previous races I have to remind myself not to launch, after all this is an ultra trail race, not a 10k or half marathon. So when he yelled go I went off nice and casually with everybody else, this lasted less than a mile as I watched first place bound off down the trail and since I felt really good I slowly moved my pace up to around a 8 minute mile. Within a mile and a half I had gone clear of all the other runners save for that guy in first place who will continue to distance himself from the rest of the runners and myself. Man I felt good, I even knew I was running to fast but getting my body to calm down was as much a challenge for me as catching that guy who has moved out of sight.
This race was ran on a looped course with the course being 6 miles in distance. We would run laps on this loop for the next six hours, if there wasn’t enough time to complete a final loop in the time restriction we could run laps on a half mile course to add in more miles. This made for simplicity with regards to the aid station, my drop bag and supplies were at a single point and I could build my nutrition and recovery strategy around this. Every lap I would swap out a bottle in my handheld regardless if I hadn’t drank all the nutrition supplements inside. The first two laps were Nascar style, get in drop a bottle grab a fresh bottle and go, every other hour I’d pop a salt tab while running. At the end of the third lap I stopped to get a PayDay candy bar from my supplies and took off to eat while I ran, when I started to leave the aid station I caught my first glimpse of third place who has steadily closed the gap.
After about 14 miles I finally got my body settled down and was running a smarter race with a pace hovering between 9 and 10 minutes a mile but as I left the aide station watching him enter it I got scared, I wasn’t ready for the threat of possibly losing second place, but I had to keep a steady pace if I wanted to finish this race. Running through the forest on this beautiful trail I could almost forget I was in the middle of a race, the energy was spectacular. Around 20 miles into the race I hit the “wall” and it felt like my body was done but after a couple of miles I came out of it and physically felt better, my knees on the other hand felt like crap and were steadily deteriorating. Hitting the aid station I was a little slower and I did some speed hiking up the hill before coming into the aid station, I grabbed some watermelon and watched third place approach this time I was sure he will catch me, I haven’t got much left in the tank so I ran.
The fourth lap was the turning point for me mileage wise, I was walking more of the up hills and my right hamstring would occasionally spasm on me causing me to walk a few steps until it worked itself out. By the time I got to the final mile long climb of the loop just before the aid station I was caught, nothing I could do about it so we ran into the aid station together. Now that I was caught I relaxed a bit at the aid station, ate more watermelon and drank some de-fizzed Coke. We were both hurting so I took off for my final loop hoping he would take his time and give me a bit of a gap and for a about 5 minutes that happened, I was back in second place and then it happened, he passed me and that was that.
Third place didn’t feel to good to me at the moment but there was nothing that I could do about it, my knees were shot and my hamstring was cramping up every mile or so. But I ran and I finally felt really good about my place in my first ultra, and protecting third place now became a priority. I finished the fifth lap with about 16 minutes left so I hit the half mile loop to add on a mile or so just like everybody else including first place, second place and fourth place in the overall. I ran the 50k in 5:47:58, and finished the race in 32 miles with 20 seconds remaining. I secured a place on the podium with the fourth place runner trailing me by a mere half mile, yea third place for my first ultra feels pretty good.
Reflecting on the success and incredible experience of my first ultra I stare at my computer screen searching for races hopefully in the desert somewhere in a couple months, we’ll see!