At 31.8 miles it's the longest race I've run, and the second longest distance I've run after the Grand Canyon R2R2R. There is quite a bit of climbing in the race, about 7200 feet. For a comparison, the Mount Whitney trail from Whitney Portal to the summit of Mount Whitney has about 6100 ft of elevation gain.
Before I started I told myself I hoped I could break 7 hours, but that it would probably take me about 7:30 to finish. I wrote the 7:30 split times for all of the aid stations in my phone so I would know if I was on track.
The race started off cold. The starting temperature was probably around 20F, and the starting line was shrouded in a dense, freezing fog. As such, the runners and race director stayed in the heated tent until just before the race start. When we finally got to the start the race director gave about a 30 second speech and then quickly said, "54321 . . . GO!"
|Stoked for the race to start, but not necessarily|
stoked to leave the heated race tent!
|Frozen Fog a short while after the start|
I intentionally started near the back, and forced myself to go slower than I wanted to for the relatively flat first 2.5 miles. Af first my toes were numb and I was glad to be wearing my fleece and beanie, but by the first aid station (mile 2.5) I was ready to shed a layer. I stopped to stash my fleece and headlamp, eat a couple bites, and pee. More people passed me at this point.
Right after the aid station you start to climb . . . and climb, and climb. Over the next 6 miles you gain about 2900 feet all the way up to the summit of Wilson Peak. Just about everyone hikes the steep uphill portions in this stretch. I tried to set a steady pace and not overdo it. I passed a few people on the way up, but not that many, and I kept trying to slow myself down when I found myself hiking too fast. I wanted to have plenty of leg strength to let me run fast on the way down.
It didn't take much climbing to get us out of the low fog just in time to catch an awesome sunrise!
|It didn't seem to matter that this was a race, everyone stopped for a moment to get a picture of this sunrise.|
|Me, on the climb to Wilson Peak Summit|
The last 3/4 mile or so to the summit is an out and back. When I got to this portion I could already see some people returning from the top at breakneck speeds down the rocky fireroad. I got a bit excited and started running the final uphill push to the top. When I got there I grabbed a "token" from the goody bag to prove I did the out and back (mine was a plastic snake). Then I turned around and let'er rip!
I tried to blast back down the fire road and let gravity take me as fast my legs could turn, while at the same time trying not to trip or roll and ankle on the rocky fire road. At this point I began to pass a lot of people who were taking it easy on the way down. I think running downhill fast is almost as much fun as riding downhill on a mountain bike. It did occur to me that my legs might punish me later for the pounding I was giving them.
The downhill ended at the mile 13 aid station. I got there at about 2:22, well ahead of the 3:07 split I would need for a 7:30 finish. There I stopped again to pee and eat. I had a slice of bacon (I can't help it, I am physically incapable of resisting bacon!), a gu, and some soup broth while a friendly volunteer refilled my water bottle. I couldn't believe I was already at the last aid station on the 20 mile loop! Just 7 more miles to the big aid station at the start/finish area where my beautiful wife was waiting with all sorts of yummy stuff!
The next two miles were uphill, gaining perhaps 700 feet. After that it was mostly downhill all the way to the mile 20 aid station. During this time I continued my strategy of walking the ups, jogging the flats, and running hard on the downs. Eventually the downhills started to wear a bit on my legs, and I began to look forward to the ups so that I could walk and rest for a bit.
I passed a few more people just before getting to the 20 mile aid station, but they re-passed me when they blew through the station, taking a quick drink and then departing. Screw that! When I came in to the station I was stoked to see Thy there, smiling and waving, and I was hungry and tired. I plopped down on a rock and started scarfing food. I had half a Nutella and banana burrito, several cups of soup, a banana, an orange, and probably some more. It had been so sunny on the 20 mile loop that I had been planning on ditching the jacket and changing in to shorts for the final 10 miles, but now that I had plunged back into the frozen fog I decided to keep all my layers, with the exception of my fleece, which I hadn't work since mile 2.5.
|Coming into the Paradis Aid station, mile 20|
I was quickly passed by a guy and a gal running together. They asked if I was OK. Not a good sign.
I kept up with my run/walk. At least the trail was gorgeous. While the 20 mile loop had gotten us high enough to be out of the fog and enjoy blue skies, sunshine, and incredible views, it was mostly fire road and double trek. In contrast, the 10 mile loop was mostly beautiful single track that wove through Reynold's Creek Canyon. Above the trail, steep high cliffs rose several hundred feet on either side. Below the trail was a steep drop down to the rushing Reynold's Creek. It actually reminded me a bit of the stretch of trail between Phantom Ranch and the Pump house on the R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon.
Eventually the canyon ended and the trail started to steeply climb. A photographer waited a short way up the climb, and made a joke about getting some leg exercise. I did my best to run a few steps uphill for a photo, but only manage 3 or 4 steps before I was forced to resume hiking. This climb seemed to last forever, and I was going pretty slow. I kept waiting for the mob of people that I was sure would pass me, but they never came.
Finally I got to the 25.3 mile aid station, and took a nice break to eat, drink, talk with the friendly volunteers, and get laid! That's right, this was the Mardi Gras station, so they draped some beads over my head. Never been laid in a race before . . .
As I took my break, another runner came stumbling into the aid station. I recognized him as the guy who had played the national anthem on the trombone before the race. The volunteers tried to give him food and water, but he just mumbled something about getting to the finish and blasted right through, clearly smelling the finish line that was still 6.5 miles away.
When I left the station I felt a renewed energy and briefly tried to keep up with the runner who had passed me while I was resting. He was a man on a mission though, and I quickly let him go and settled into a slightly better pace than before over the still-climbing trail.
Two miles later, just as I was starting to loose the boost I got from the last aid station, I started hearing cheering, and realized I was at the 27.3 mile aid station. Once again I stopped to eat, drink, and BS with the volunteers. Once again, as I was resting, a runner came blasting through without stopping, and passed me.
"Don't worry about him," one of the volunteers told me with a grin, "This food will give you a boost, and you'll pass him within the next mile. Plus, it's only 4 and a half more miles downhill to the finish!"
I thanked them for the encouragement, and took off with renewed vigor. If I could really push, this would be over in no time! Once again, I was running downhill as fast as possible. As promised, I passed the guy who had skipped the aid in no time. We exchanged some encouraging words and then I continued running downhill on fun, technical single track at a speed that my feet could barely keep up with. I followed the single track as it curved left, then right, then dropped steeply into a drainage and swooped right back up out of it, all the while just barely avoiding tripping on the narrow rocky trail. I was having so much fun that I completely forgot about how bad my legs hurt!
Then, before I knew it, I was coming through the finish line!
|Rounding the corner a few yards from the finish|
|The website for the race had said that you would "leave with a finisher's prize worth of Owyhee County." Boy were they right! Here I am showing off my shotgun shell finisher's prize :)|
Final stats are 31.8 miles, 7100 ft of elevation gain, run in 6:05.
After limping home and showering, Thy and I went out for pizza and beer. Then I passed out and slept like a corpse for 10 hours.
Sunday morning Thy cooked up and an awesome breakfast! The smell of it cooking was enough to convince me to ignore my sore muscles and drag myself out of bed.
-Scrambled eggs with uncured bacon, tomatoes, and bell peppers. The trick here is to cook the bacon first to coat the pan with grease. You can then use this grease to cook the eggs without any sticking. Yum!
-Paleo banana pancakes. Mash bananas and eggs together at a ratio of 1 banana to 1 egg. Add some walnuts and small dashes of vanilla and cinnamon (optional). Stir it all to together and then cook just like a normal pancake. No wheat necessary! The banana makes it sweet enough that you don't need syrup. I add butter to mine, which I suppose makes them not-Paleo, but you could skip that if you are so inclined.