At this year's race, I was hoping to break the 4 hour barrier. I'm in much better shape then last year and with only one hiccup in my training, I figured it would be possible to get under 4 hours. The weather was perfect, however, having run the trail a few times over the past couple of months, it would still be muddy.
Before the race I chatted with Sean Meissner (a Montrail sponsored athlete). He and I were wearing the same prototype shoes from Montrail. It was pretty cool to be wearing some shoe that only a few pairs existed and providing valueable input in the development of them. Nelson and I also chatted - catching up on life.
The race started promptly at 8am with the short out-and-back section. Within 400 meters, it was readily apparent the men from the boys - Max King, Andy Martin, Ruben Galbraith and Andrew Schupp - were out front and never to be seen again. Hats-off to the 4 of them for ripping-up the course!! This out and back section, although short, has always been tough for me. The return to the lake is a screaming downhill that just kills my quads (I've never been a good downhill runner).
The first loop around the lake was uneventful. If I recall correctly, I came into Sain Creek Aid Station (start/finish line) at 2hrs 8min. I was sitting in 5th place overall and was eating/drinking well. I also took in a few S-caps. The aid stations were well supported and stocked -- the volunteers were great!
It was probably less than a mile after passing the Sain Creek Aid Station, my muscles in the groin area (of all places!!) started cramping. I took 2 S-caps, hoping that would help and increased my fluid intake as well (I had Nuun). The words of encouragement from Yassine helped as I struggled to get up and out of the most technical part of the course that he was directing runners through.
The miles rolled by and the cramping didn't improve. Running across the dam was painful (have I said I hate running on asphalt!!). I left the aid station on the north side of the dam in agony and could see the next runner who was about 2 minutes back (at the time I couldn't recognize the runner but it turned out to be Will Swint). If there is any runner out there that maintains a steady - and fast pace - it is Will. Will caught up to me a few miles later. We ran together just briefly. A few words of encouragement were exchanged and then he was gone.
About 2 miles out from the last aid station, runners comes across a "series" of mud holes that one can go directly through....or around. I ran through the mud holes on the first lap without incident so I thought I would do the same. Well, not so. At the first mud hole I took one long stride and before I knew it, I was down on all fours covered in mud. I yelled a few words that will not be written....then I started laughing. I then got up and starting. After the little spill, my cramping subsided and was actually able to run some of the uphills.
I rolled into the last aid station....again, great volunteers!! They cleaned my mud-incased handheld water bottle with some baby wipes so that I didn't have to drink Nuun and mud.
The last miles to the finish were unremarkable. I didn't have any idea where the next runner behind was. Will was having a good day and I wasn't going to be catching him. I rolled into the finish in 4hrs 8mins - good enough for 6th place. Will was 4 minutes faster and in 5th.
A new PR by 15minutes - one has to be pleased. Next year I'll try and run that sub-4hr. At the finish I spoke with Max - who had won the race in just under 3hrs 27min!! - Will and many others. Craig, from Columbia, was also there.
Christy and the kids ate lunch while I got cleaned up. Mason loved throwing rocks and sticks in the creek. Another great day on the trails here in the Northwest!