I came into the race with little expectation other than to give a solid effort and to have fun. Yes, in the back of my mind I was hoping to win, but you just never know. I never worry about going for the win because I feel that much of the overall result is out of my control. All that I can control is how I run the race.
The race started with about 1.5 miles of road before hitting the single track. I decided to run at the top end of "comfortable" for this section to see how the field would respond. I had a decent gap, but the speedsters behind me quickly reeled me in a few miles in. One thing I've learned in the past few years of racing ultras is that the rule of "don't try to bank miles" is actually false. When you're racing, it is actually ok to race. I've started running the easy stuff as hard as I comfortably can instead of keeping an even slog throughout; a plan that most ultrarunners subscribe to. Early on in a race when the miles are coming easy, I like to take more advantage of the freshness and "make hay while the sun is shining."
The Start (all photos taken by Dan Todd)
Over the first 10+ miles, there was a decent pack of about five or six guys. We went through mile-10 around 1:20 I believe -- a pretty stout pace considering the terrain and humidity. I was hoping that it would hurt them more than it would me over the second half.
Goofing around in the tunnel
By the half-way mark, I had earned a small gap from the pack. The trail snakes around a deeply banked creek bed with several ladders over barbed-wire fences. I tried to push this section to take away the "sighted-chase" from my competitors.
All alone in the lead now, my focus was on staying on course and not losing track of the white ribbons and flags in the ground. Fortunately, the course was very well marked and I only lost track for about one five minute spell. Just like all trail running, following the course is part of the fun.
I didn't look back until about mile 28 where I could see down the hill across a couple of switchbacks. I was happy to see no one trailing closely. The heat and the humidity were starting to wear on me, but I ultimately powered through in a time of 4:43 -- good enough to be the first finisher.
The idyllic finish beside the lake
Full results can be found HERE.
Kanawha Trace is a tremendous race. Very interesting point-to-point course, great venue, economical price, and very nice finishers' awards. RD Cory Richardson and his posse of volunteers have crafted a great event. I expect this to be another sell-out race once the word gets out.