The race started as benignly as possible from the new starting location, Wildwood Campground (which I believe to be an improvement). The pace was pretty hot up front in the pre-dawn hour. I was not buying in. I knew I was in "decent" shape, but I planned to run the first half as conservatively as possible while keeping contact with my goal placing – top ten, but also the goal of sub-7:30. I knew by perusing the pre-race list of runners that it would take a very big effort to crack the top ten.
The Start: photo- Stewart Caldwell
I ran most of the first half in to Long Mountain with my friend Clay Warner. We ran hard, but controlled. I came through mile 26.5 in 3:42 – right on my goal. I knew that I needed to up my effort from this point and I quickly moved up from 10th to 7th by the time I reached the top of Buck Mtn. Entering the Loop (mile 33), I was optimistic of moving up even further. I was moving fast and feeling great. The goal of sub 7:30 still appeared feasible.
The Loop proved to be my undoing. The predicted snow was there; as reported. I quickly started losing ground to other runners. The snow was so deep that I could do no more than walk most of the 5.5-miles which make up the infamous loop. It is very frustrating to be around runners who are handling the adversity of the snow better than you are. I wanted to get out of the loop fast, but I felt like I was trapped in the Twilight Zone. Finally, I heard the cheers of the folks from the aid-station and knew that my suffering was coming to an end – only 12 miles to go, but I was way off my goal time at this point and barely sitting in 8th place with a slew of runners breathing down my neck. I was going to have to put in some serious effort to stay in the top-10 over the final miles.
|Courtesy of Steve Hinzman|