At mile 17, I hopped over a dead mouse laying on the trail. My mind quickly shifted from a feeling of sympathy for the bluish-grey rodent to wondering whether it was an omen. If it was an omen of some sort, how should I take it? Will Tyler Sigl, who was up 10 minutes on me become the dead mouse on the trail? Or will I be the one left with rigor mortis alone on the dusty dirt path? It’ll be Tyler I assured myself; and just as quickly as the mouse came and went, my thoughts turned to the waist deep creek crossing coming up to cool down my legs.
I woke up 2 minutes before the alarm at 4:15am. I had gotten a decent nights rest and felt ready for the day ahead of me. I ate a Clif bar, had a cup of green tea and grabbed some ice to put in the cooler that Lauren would use to crew with. I cut the sleeves off my Altra T-shirt because the weather prediction was for a hot and humid day. We drove over to the start, I picked up my number and the race goodies, went to the bathroom twice, jumped up and down a few times and then lined up for the start.
The race director, Ian Golden, blew the horn and we all ran across a field for a quarter mile before we started any climbing. My plan was to go out conservative-ishly in around 3:20 for the half, but also not to look at my watch and go by feel. I tucked in behind Ben Nephew for a couple miles, Tyler was already way out in front, and after a couple creek crossing and a few climbs, I found myself running in a good rhythm with Dylan Bowman. Both of us were running our own separate races (he was going a little faster on the downs and flats, and I was gaining some on the rollers), but it just happened that we were going the same pace.
After the climb up the stairs at Buttermilk Falls, I started to think about how do I beat a guy like Dylan? I heard he was a really good closer, a good climber, and at that point he was putting distance on me on the downhills as well…and the final section of the race is downhill! Just as I started thinking of a plan, I tripped on a root and my body went crashing to the ground. Dylan looked back and asked if I was ok, I told him “Yea go ahead”. As I got up, my knees really hurt. I started hobbling and trying not to panic, “just keep moving and see where you’re at in a little bit” I told myself. My stride smoothed out after a mile and I was about a minute behind Dylan. I took my fall as a lesson to just worry about what I’m doing currently and not to think about what’s going to happen up ahead. Just run and stay within myself.
I started pulling away from Dylan after the halfway mark and for the second half I found myself alone and really trying to control the mild cramping in my legs. I didn’t want it to get worse, so I ran in a medium/lowish gear on the downhills and flats and took endurolytes. I felt pretty decent on the climbs so those gave me a little break from the cramping feeling. I really don’t know the cause for the cramping in my legs... my effort level felt comfortable, my calories was pretty much on, but maybe a little low, my electrolytes may be a little low from the humidity and the rising temperatures, but I don't think it was anything too bad. I’m not really sure.
Anyway, in addition to the cramping, I continued to get updates on how far Tyler was ahead and while his lead wasn’t growing I wasn’t cutting any of it down…although my crew and some friends kept trying to trick me. The aid station banter on my second loop was something like this:
Underpass AS (Out):
Lauren: Tyler’s 17 minutes up on you, but he looks tired and he’s slowing down
Me: 17, ah dang
Joe: Tyler’s 16 minutes ahead
Joe: Yea, 16-17
Lauren: He’s slowing down and he fell, you can catch him
Me: 16, ah dang
Underpass AS (Back):
Lauren: Tyler’s 16minutes ahead, but he started walking and looks tired, you can still catch him
Me: 16, ah dang
Old Mill AS:
Lauren: Tyler’s 12minutes ahead, you can’t catch him
Me: How far is 3rd place?
Tyler ran a great race and finished with an amazing performance with a course record of 6:43. I don’t think there was any strategy that I could have had that would have beaten him on this day. He ran from wire to wire in a really inspirational performance.
I ran as best as I could on the day in hot and humid conditions and came in second in 6:55, 5minutes better than last year!
Matt Flaherty ran a strong second half and came in third in 7:06.
This was my second time running this race and I can’t praise it enough. The race director Ian Golden, the course, the volunteers, the runners, all provide an awesome amount of energy throughout the entire day; and more than anything this is just a great way to have fun running for a long time.
To Lauren for crewing like a maniac all day and supporting me on a daily basis. I could not have done this without you.
To my family for their constant love and for supporting my crazy running endeavors.
To my coach, Juli Benson, for giving me confidence in my training, providing me with valued advice, and really listening and working with me to help me achieve my goals and dreams. Since I started working with her in 2016, I’ve come in 1st and 2nd at US National Championship events, but more importantly I have been enjoying running and training more than ever.
To Altra Running for providing me with great shoes that drained well at all the creek crossing, and gave my feet the space to breath and be comfortable all day
And last but not least, thank you to Hammer Nutrition for providing me with the nutrition (Hammer Gels and Endurolytes) I needed on race day and in daily training to help me recover well
Despite 50miles of trails, stairs, and 4 creek crossings, Altras (Superiors) kept my feet happy all day. PC: Richard Bolt, Nancy Hobbs