Training went awesome for a couple weeks after the race down in the Applegate. Just a nice block of pushing things hard. The speed workouts were fast and the strength stuff was steep and hard. The long runs were just right.
Then, a couple weeks ago I just got tired and skipped a 30 mile run and opted for 10 ez. I blazed through a couple more weekday workouts feeling good. Work got really busy and physically demanding as I placed and planted a 25 acre hazelnut orchard with a small crew. It was miles of walking and I figure we each planted ~600 trees. Needless to say I was too beat to run after the day's work so I missed a couple workouts. Then I skipped a 15-8 mile run and opted for 7 ez on that weekend. I didn't know what to make of my schedule other than it seemed to be setting up like a mutated form of taper just in time for the marathon I was going to run as a training effort. A couple days before the event I recognized this and changed to a "race" mindset. I decided I was going to push to stay towards the front and see where that took me.
Kattie, who was running this time (in the half), and I carpooled with Justin, Amy and Becca. We got there plenty early and I mosied about and said hi to some folks.
Start time came and I got a spot towards the front. We set off on a good clip and held onto it while the course allowed us to. Soon, one dude broke away and created a bit of a lead for himself while Don G., the eventual winner (Mike?), Jeff Browning and myself worked hard but held back. Mike eventually left us and Don and I seemed to be losing Jeff. The light sprinkling rain developed into something more substantial.
Around mile 9 or so Don suggested I lead for awhile and I did so thinking I'd pace things for awhile as we seemed to both be running well that morning. We talked about our pace briefly and he seemed to think we were making good time. To be honest, I was more concerned about where the 2 guys in front of us were than the pace. For this event, I was using what my friend Nick and I had talked about as a "racing" strategy (vs. a "pacing" strategy) so long as things felt "generally within my limits or somewhat sustainable." The course tilted upwards a mile or so later and Don was out of my site not too much later. He's a much better pacer than I am but he had a firmer time goal in mind. I had a feeling I'd being seeing him again.
I caught a glimpse of the guy that was in the lead (now in 2nd) at the 14 mile AS. He took off when he saw me. I got a refill of my waterbottle from Jeremy H who was awesome as an Aid Station worker. He was by far the most helpful person I encountered all day.
Now I was chasing someone which was motivating except it was short-lived. Not much more than a mile up the line the trail got steepish and all the sudden I found myself jogging past my objective saying niceties while he muttered something about "sticking to the roads". He seemed really beat and like he wanted out of there. I wanted to tell him he could turn left at the next intersection and be back at the start area/car much quicker than following the course but decided that might be insulting/offensive so I just wished him well and carried on.
I spent the next hour or so running completely alone. The leader was somewhere out there (though no one at the aid stations ever confirmed this which made me wonder at one point if he'd dropped or gotten lost) and there were some really strong guys on my tracks but I just moved along as if I was on some training run in the woods. I slipped and fell quite hard on my side once but the burst of adrenaline and explitives sort of revived me and rattled me out of the trance I was in.
The canyon must have been 10 degrees warmer than the hilly Perimeter Trail. Feeling was coming back in my hands which was nice because I actually worried about how cold and useless they felt. I pushed best I could but without a competitor in front or behind I sort of felt like I was incapable of going faster though surely I could have. I even walked up a few steeper sections near the last couple falls convincing myself it was faster than running.
I did finally see Don G. in the rear view as I looked down from near the top of the South Falls. This inspired me a bit but I also felt like I had a pretty secure lead given the space and the climb between us. I picked up the pace a bit and committed to jogging up the last little hill. I was comfortable and cruising down the hill, trying to respectfully navigate a big crowd of cautious half-marathoners when--within a quarter mile or so of the finish--whoosh! Somebody goes skiing down the mud right by me! Jeff Browning is an animal, make no mistake about it. I have no idea where he came from but that was it--within earshot of the finish I traded the silver for the bronze. I pushed a bit to catch up but such an abrupt reminder that this was a race was more than I could handle at that point in the game.
I crossed the finish in 3:21, five minutes after the new course record was set by the winner.
It was a fun race and I had a blast navigating the nice parts as well as the parts with 6" of mud and running water.
Kattie beat her 27 yr old self by almost 10 minutes and was feeling much better afterwards than she did that year. She's definitely more fit and that makes the whole ordeal much more enjoyable. We've been binge eating since the race ended which is the best part of both of us doing a race on the same day.
Justin, Amy and Becca also had fine performances. Training pal Dan M. took his age division and the one below his by storm in his training effort for an upcoming road marathon.