Monday, June 8, 2009
We drove late Wednesday night into Utah with the car timer reading 8 hour and 6 minutes as we pulled into the in-laws. Humph. Sounds like a good goal time for the race. I'm usually pretty realistic as to what I can and cannot do and since only 3 people (Karl Meltzer (4), Chad Ricklefs, and Kevin Schilling) in the 13 year history of the race have ever been under 8 hours I knew that might be a little out of reach.... but not too far.
Course conditions were prime for a fast time with little snow on the course and temps hovering in the mid to upper 60s all day. And for those who know me, know that chasing my younger ghost and achieving my time goal is more important than anything else. Well... that somehow changed today as I was running at or near the front all day. As Kevin Schilling closed to within 250 meters with 3.5 myles to go I got a sudden boost of confidence and said "not today!" After all, it is a "race" to see who can get to the finish first, right? Here's how it played out:
Start - A.S. 2 (mile 5.5 +1550 ft)
As the race started I went off the line at a pace I thought others would follow but not so. I kept looking around for someone to run with and finally Christian Johnson came up and we started to chat. It's about 2 myles on a paved bike path down hill so it's pretty fast and my legs were feeling fast. I hit the Bonneville Shoreline trail in front and my legs still wanted to go uphill so I decided to run as much of the 1500+ ft climb as possible. I reached the second aid with one runner in tow. Turns out that runner was David Holt from St. George. I had heard reports that he was a 2.25 marathoner and did 50 mile training runs but this was his first attempt at 50 myles on the trail. No question his leg speed was quicker than mine as we flatter road and dirt road sections. I could only hope he would burn that speed up a bit.
A.S. 2 - A.S. 4 (mile 14.6 +480 ft)
As we hit the road leading to Kolob basin overlook David was now stalking me and finally passed me. Little by little as we took the road up to A.S. 4 he was slowly pulling away but I noticed when we hit a trail section I would get right on his heels. I now knew that the second half of the race would favor me, I just had to keep him in my sights. We reached the overlook together and I as I reached down for my drop bag, David was gone.
A.S. 4 - A.S. 6 (mile 26.5 -3120 ft)
Now I was chasing but not really chasing. David was motoring down the road and occasionally looking back so I knew he was pushing to get distance. This section with all the roads was his only chance to stay out front and he knew it. As I headed down I started feeling sloshy and sure enough a pit stop to follow - a very sudden pit stop. I was glad to get that over with but it happened again a few minutes later. I lost a few minutes but now was feeling much better so up Hobble Creek road I went, only to be down to David by 5 minutes at the aid station.
A.S. 6 - A.S. 8 (mile 33.5 +1680 ft)
Leaving the aid station I started feeling a little pep in my step. I noticed a set a foot prints in the sand that appeared to be close together (i.e. a walking runner). I got up the road where Karl told me that David was only 4 minutes up and running scared. Good because now the trail starts to go up. Made it up to A.S. 8 where they informed me David had just left so now in my mind the race had just begun.
A.S. 8 - A.S. 9 (mile 41.4 +2610 ft)
Within a mile of the aid station I had caught David but only because he took a wrong turn up a wash out section. I happily let him get back in front of me where he proceeded to hammer every uphill. I walked the steeper sections because I knew better. As we crested the 1100+ft climb I was on his heels as he was stepping over logs very stiff legged. I knew he was hurting and as I passed he said "man I was hoping to hold you off a little longer". I ran around to the "grunt" climb with a sense of purpose and renewed energy. To my surprise I didn't do very well getting up the grunt. This grunt is 1500+ ft in about a mile. It took me longer than expected to recover so I decided not to push until Windy Pass.
A.S. 9 - Finish (mile 50 -3736 ft)
Leaving Windy Pass is a 6 mile, 3500 ft drop. I have always done poorly on this section because I had always been bonking. Today however I had some energy so I went as best as I could just letting gravity take me down. The trail itself was in bad shape; lots of loose rocks and tons of ruts. I gracefully tiptoed down the trail and happy to say I didn't take any diggers. At the bottom of the descent is a wide open grass field that stretches for a good 1/4 mile, I knew better to turn around to see if anyone was close.... A girl with a camera standing in the middle of the field did that for me saying that someone was hot on my heels. Her exact words "Oh my! I guess you realize there is someone running you down, right?" Actually I didn't but my crew was at the aid station and let me know just as well. I was now running as hard as I ever have all day for the last 3.5 mile road section - oh man it hurt! I thought it was David who had shown better leg speed early on so my only hope was that those hills took the quickness away. My father in law drove down the road a mile at a time, measured the time gap between me and the runner behind. First 2:20 up, next 2:28, then 2:30 - I was seemingly pulling away ever so slightly. That made me wanna go faster! I turned the corner to see my family and friends cheering - what an AMAZING sight and feeling! I was overcome with emotion! A couple minutes later, to my surprise, Kevin Schilling came across the line in second place. Kevin is the one that was stalking me! I should have known! Kevin is an amazing speed demon downhill and he had closed a 15 minute gap within 6 myles. Amazing run Kevin! Also congrats to David Holt who took third overall in his first 50 mile race ever!
I want to thank my family and friends for all their support, especially my wife! Winning with all of them present made it that much more special! I also want to thank Paul DeWitt for helping me get me to this level. He has tapped the level of performance that I have always known I was capable of but just couldn't get there for one reason or another on my own. Winning is nice but I know it's not always possible. I still believe I'm never the most talented runner on the start line but the difference now is that I have the confidence to know I can compete with them. Thanks for reading.
Here are my splits:
AS 2 - 50:36
AS 3 - 1.40:56
AS 4 - 2.18:37
AS 5 - 3.06:39
AS 6 - 3.43:31
AS 7 - 4.20:37
AS 8 - 5.00:12
AS 9 - 6.49:46
AS 10 - 7.40:56 (24:37 road split - avg. 7:02)
Finish - 8.05:34