The course chewed me up and spit me out ten hours and thirty minutes after I started. 13th place. I was in the front pack, tucked safely behind Nick Clark who would go on to crush the course and run the second fastest time ever (within ear shot of Kyle Skagg's course record maybe?), for the first 7-8 miles feeling joggingly. The pace felt super relaxed and I felt strong on the little climbs we were hitting, I even gapped the group briefly. At mile ~8 there was a descent and I let Ryan Burch (last year's winner) go by... and I realized at that point that my descending is about two leagues behind these guys. Literally every step I would take they were taking three, I was blown away by Nick and Ryan's descending. Within seconds of Ryan passing he was out of sight and he took Nick with him! This is mile 8 of a 50 mile run with 12,000 feet of descending... things didn't look good. On the first big climb up Caballo, Dakota Jones and I brought Ryan back a little bit and Nick was just ahead of him. The climb hit 1700+ feet in 2 miles and tops out at 10,500 ft altitude. We walked about 80% of the climb which made my back ache and shot twinges down my hamstrings. This honestly made Green Mountain in Boulder (anything in Boulder really) look quite weak in comparison. No nice groomed steps, well traveled firm footing or side to side stepping... this was loose scree/ dirt that took a b-line up. Dakota and I topped out together and he immediately disappeared on the descent leaving me to cautiously descend. And this time Ryan and Nick had 2 miles of truly solid descent to work with... by mile 17 they had maybe ~15:00 on me. Mile 17 was also my first introduction in to the type of "racing" that I came to realize I hate. Coming from a 100% road background and still not running trails that much AND running the trails in Boulder which are soft and cuddly and (I realized yesterday) anything but hardcore... the next 2 hours were miserable at best. I stepped off the face of a ~70% grade slope on to loose dirt and scree and slid down on my ass. Stopping at the bottom to empty my shoes (and shorts) which had filled with dirt. Later I found out that Nick Lewis (second at Leadville last year) dropped from the race at this point and Dakota Jones (last years second place at Jemez) dropped soon after. We followed a road for a mile or two before turning up on to a grass plain (no trail) that was awful. Clumps of grass the size of a softball every few inches made it so you were more ambling than running and I rolled my ankles more times than I can count. We then turned straight up a mountain slope (still no trail to speak of) and went up the mountain gaining 1500ft in less than 2 miles. This was a miserable hike over fallen trees. Straight up... no turns. At this point my back and hamstrings started to cramp full on from all the hiking, which I never do. Why the hell would I? I foolishly thought that trail running meant running on a trail. At this point I was cussing out loud and pissed off, vowing to quit at the next aid station. Note: I was training for the Chicago marathon just 8 months ago. I got to the next aid station and asked if there was a way to drop out and they said yes... I sat in a chair and ate a handful of gummi worms and laughed and joked with the aid station volunteers (who were awesome!) and reluctantly turned down the ride back in to town. If I had known what was next I would have taken that ride though. Pajarito Mountain... which Fast Ed (Scott Jaime) had warned me about just a couple days earlier soon broke me over it's knee. A ridiculous climb up a ski slope crisscrossing over a double black diamond slope, often times just climbing straight up. This is roughly a 7 mile climb from 7,700ft to 10,500ft altitude starting at mile ~29. But this was STILL not the hardest part in my opinion... at mile 34 came the descent which finished me off (almost). We went straight down the ski slope, maybe 45% grade with no trail. It took me forever to get down this section! Maybe 15:00 to get down a 1/2 mile slope? I tried to side step but my ankles were wrecked from the grass clumps and I couldn't bend them side to side so I kept my feet pointed straight down. My lower back and hamstrings were tight and sore from hiking and I would fall on my butt every few steps which torqued my back. It was also 80 degrees and I was pissed off and defeated. The last ~10 miles descended through desert and old burned forest and this is where Karl Meltzer caught me. He was out for an easy workout and finished in ~10:00. He put 30:00 on me in the last 10 miles. Ugh.
A couple of things that become clear to me after this... I am not a good trail racer and guys like Nick and Ryan are in a completely different league! Wow. Seeing Ryan descend (although it was just a brief glimpse) amazed me. I am still shaking my head at him and Nick's run and maybe in a few days I can pick my jaw (and dignity) back up. I am still not sure how I didn't quit, the thought was never far from my mind. My training is good but when I toe the line I fall apart and I'm tired of being a head case psycho with something that is supposed to be fun. 24 hours later I am picking myself up a little more, but something needs to change in my head in order for me move forward with any focus.
After the race Nick and I drove ~six hours home and I walked in the door at 3:30am. We were up at 3:00am for the 5:00am race start... so a 24.5 hour day. Ugh.
And if you want to read a race report with a good attitude then go to race winner Nick's blog and read his race report. Funny how I write about the horrid and cruel sections and Nick writes about the challenging and epic running... there's something to that. Attitude is everything.