Short version: I finished in 5:58:02. No problems. Fun experience. 2 loops 16.67 miles each.
My friend and running partner Kristal and I talked about this race when I was undecided about my training and racing priorities for 2011. Her interest is what got me to recognize that I wanted to do the race again even if it compromised some other priority. I decided I wanted to do this one for fun more than focusing only on hard training for a spring marathon. Running should be mostly fun shouldn't it?
So we got signed up and then another of our running friends Brenda signed up too. Brenda and I had run HL together last year, just beating the cutoff by 7 minutes. We also would be meeting Rebecca, who Brenda had roomed with a year ago.
I had some nervousness about the race due to IT band issues I developed in this race last year and again during the JFK last November. Just a week before this year's race my IT band tightened up and I had some painful inflamation in my hip. Physical therapy relieved the symptoms, but who could know if they would return. However, I was feeling good and strong for race day.
My race plan was to run what felt like my normal long run easy pace on all the flats and downhills and to hike the uphills. I expected this would mean running alone mostly and resigned myself to that. I also had a bit of worry that I would have some physical breakdown and would be wishing for Brenda and Kristal to drag me in.
The race starts on the road with about a half mile moderate effort uphill section, then into the woods. There was a backup of runners here and it was slow going on the mostly single track trail with so many runners being careful in the dark. This continued as it became daylight until around the first aid station (AS). (there was an AS about every 4.25 to 4.5 miles). I reached this one in 46 minutes and was happy with that. I figured if I was not much more that 45 minutes between AS that would be a good finish time. I wanted to finish under 7 hours and thought 6 and half was possible.
There was more room by now, running on logging type roads and I was able to run at my intended effort and that meant passing people. I would talk a bit with some runners as I came alongside and then continue passing in a minute or two. The stream crossing was not bad as the water was low in the riffles, not quite shoe top depth. A lady crossed ahead of me using the trash bag waders approach.
At each AS I picked a few cookies, some chips or pretzels, banana sections, PBJ, whatever it seemed would taste good and be ok for fuels and salt. I carried a sandwich bag so I could load up and eat on the run or walk out of the AS. And I refilled my bottle with their GU sport drink. Sometimes I drank water there.
After the third aid station I started wondering when I would see the leaders since the second loop was run in the opposite direction. I checked my watch and immediately stumbled, almost falling. (It might have hurt less to fall than catch myself. I did this trick again a while later) The leader came by at 2:09 when I was probably between mile 13 and 14 and he was at least 5 miles ahead of me. The second guy came by 2 minutes later, then more and more runners. I was coming down a steep section when I saw another friend Rick on the way up. I continued on with the same approach as planned and wondered sometimes if my running pace was too fast and I'd pay for it later. I did notice tightness in my left thigh and hip flexor and glute area. That made me wonder too. Passing oncoming runners near the lake was kind of tricky since the trail was narrow and on a hillside. But it was much better than last year with crusted snow on both sides of the trail. I saw Rebecca about a mile into her second loop with that much to go on my first one.
I got to the halfway AS around 2:52, refilled, found my dropbag and changed shirts and hats. I left that AS at 2:56. Then I remembered the salt pills Kristal had shared so I took a couple of those. And thinking about my tightening leg, I took a couple of tylenol tablets a little later. I had decided to try to run where the trail sloped down to the right as much as possible to allow my left foot to roll in more and take a little strain off that IT band. So that gave my something to think about. Early in my second loop I passed Kristal and Brenda and that brightened me up. We exchanged brief greetings and status info and continued on. After that I reflected on how nice it was to see my running pals and wished I had asked for a hug.
There was soon the dam to re-cross and a big wooden stairway to climb and some nice views. I noticed the day was beautiful and cheerful. It seems to me there is more or tougher climbing in the first half of the second loop and I made sure to walk those parts. My concern about overdoing it on the first loop had me being cautious by now. And my feet were sore on the bottom, especially the heels. The frozen ground was lumpy in spots and I think that's why my feet hurt. I rubbed some topical pain reliever on my IT band trouble spots as a preventative measure. I was still able to run mostly as planned and each AS seemed to come sooner than expected. At one of them a lady said "welcome back" and that seemed nice - as if they were there waiting for me. Going to the middle AS this time there was a long hill to climb on a forest road. It must have taken at least 10 minutes to walk that one. I tried keeping the pace brisk and when things leveled out I was happy to have walked that one even though it seemed to take too long to get up the hill. I took 2 more salt tabs and 2 more tylenol. My quads were sore, but everything was still working.
Then the course was mostly runnable (by my measure) for longer sections and I was able to make good time. I was surprised that I had energy for running still. This section was really tiring and discouraging a year ago. I didn't pass people as often, but still was catching up to some. Just before the last AS I recognized Rebecca ahead of me and realized she must have had some problems for me to have caught up to her. She had her own IT band issues slowing her down. We were in and out of that AS about the same time and I was able to keep running. It seemed possible to finish under 6 hours and I now wanted to do that. I knew we eventually would go down to the lake before climbing back up to the paved road that was downhill to the finish. So the plan to run everything except uphills continued.
There was at least one more climb in this section than I remembered. Of course there was nothing to do but continue and there wasn't anyone to whine to. Eventually I caught up to a 3 runners and followed them up what turned out to be the last climb from the lake. I chatted a bit with the lady just ahead of me and then at the 1 mile to go mark where the trail leveled out I had a little more in the tank and pulled ahead. Soon I could see the paved road. But I had forgotten that the trail parallels the road for a while, so more running to do. Along here I turned my ankle for the only time in the race and it really hurt at first. It made me pray "please just get me to the finish". Soon out onto the road and downhill to finish. I had decided I would not chase anyone down but settle for keeping my same effort. I think 2 younger guys passed me on the road and I passed one runner.
On through the finish line, shook hands with the race director and waited for Rebecca who finished a couple minutes later.
I was happy to be done and pleased with my finish time.
Everything about the race was done well. Congrats to Dr Horton, staff, volunteers, runners.