Tuesday, July 28, 2015
as i write this on tuesday, delayed onset muscle soreness has arrived in a big way - and my aching quads are making me relive all the downhills at escarpment - probably a direct consequence of going in undertrained. while i got thru the race just fine, the low mileage base caught up with me post-race, in the much tougher than normal recovery. but if walking down the stairs like a ninety year old is the price, i'm happy to pay it :D
this year, in stark contrast to the 2014 edition, when it rained all morning long, this year was dry. that's not say there wasn't a little rain on the drive up, but compared to standing in the pouring rain waiting for the wave to start, this was a sunny affair! i was in the very last wave (18) set for a 10:25 start. that was actually a wave later than 2014 (17)! however, like last year, mainly because of no-shows we essentially went off 3 waves sooner at 10:10 (instead of 10:25).
as for the race itself, after my pre-race jitters dissipated (within the first 15 minutes or so), i had a blast out there! once we set off on the ascent to windham peak (roughly 1700+ feet in 3.5 miles) i pretty much focused on the trail to the exclusion of everything else. i reached windham in 57 minutes - same as last year's split. but last year, because of all the pre-race rain, it was a real slog up the water-logged trail. given the dry conditions, matching last year's split wasn't that meaningful.
likewise, the descent off of windham peak last year was pretty rough. by the time i got to the base of blackhead last year (2:23) i was pretty muddied and somewhat battered! this year the descent wasn't bad - because the trail was dry! - and i reached the base of blackhead in 2:19 (4 minutes ahead of 2014). but again, given the very different trail conditions, that 4 minutes edge was more a reflection of my conservatism on the trail, than any serious effort to push the pace.
my climb up to blackhead mirrored 2014, and took the same 30 minutes. the big difference, however, was it was the first time i ever encountered an aid station that had run out of water - any fluids, in fact, except a thermos of coffee! that really shook me up because i had a small amount of heed-like replacement drink in my water bottle! this was a by-product of starting in the last wave - aid stations running out of stuff! luckily, i was able to get more water at dutcher's notch.
but then, we still had to get to dutcher's notch first! this downhill stretch trail is my least favorite part of the course - basically a rockly1500 feet descent in 2 miles! it's tricky because there are some gnarly descents right up front - then things level off for a nice stretch (letting you forget there is still more descent to come) - and even more gnarly descent at the tail end! i lost two minutes getting down off blackhead (49 versus 47) this time around.
at this point, facing the climb up to stoppel point, i still felt pretty good (although i was starting to feel the effects of dehydration). i had kept pace with last year. it took 48 minutes to reach stopple point (47 in 2014). but here is where i started to lose focus. with only one more aid station, at north point, before the finish - the next 4.4 miles turned into a mixed bag. i lost a full 5 minutes getting to north point (30 versus 25 minutes). a lot of that time was spent walking a stretch of the rocky trail. my form had given out and found myself repeatedly tripped up because i couldn't lift my legs fast enough to avoid the rocks - argh!
then again, there is nothing like the threat of an approaching thunderstorm to suddenly reenergize seemingly dead legs! on the rock ledge that is the north point aid station, the sky got dark and the wind picked up (with a nice backdrop of the occasional thunderclap). the last leg - to the finish at the lake - is a lot of boulder hopping. it's a tough 1.7 miles to finish with. somehow i managed to pick up 4 minutes (47 versus 51) and finished just as the heavens opened up!
even more remarkable, with less than half a mile to go, i missed a turn and found myself on a huge boulder - not where is was supposed to be. i retraced my footsteps and found the trail leading around the boulder, and continued on my way! so, instead of equaling or bettering last year's time, i was a minute off (5:46:58) last year's result!
still i was all good! and it was good enough to requalify for the 2016 edition!!
here are my race photos and link to the official results.