I'll do my absolute best to keep this to a readable length here...
I was shooting for a sub 7hr run time which would have been a near 23 minute improvement over my 08 run time. The 08 race was my first ever fifty miler as I'd only started to fully concentrate on running, verses multi-sport, four months prior. The 09 version ended up being my second ever 50 miler and a much better race for me.
I obviously had to go out harder off the start verses last year but I was definitely surprised to find myself alternating the lead with Montrail U.S. runner Geoff 'The Alaskan Assassin' Roes (if no one else has referred to him by this name yet then I get to claim it when it sticks!) through the first 20 miles of the race. Lon Freeman was never more than a few steps behind and Valmir Nunes was always visible when we hit an exposed switchback area.
(Goeff Roes leading, me in second, RD Clark Zealand poaching the course!)
At the half way point of the race I was nine minutes ahead of my 08 pace and right on target for a sub 7hr effort. Geoff had managed to distance himself from me over the previous climb and he hit the mid-way aid just three minutes up. As I departed I could see Lon coming in just a minute back.
After departed the mid-way aid you venture into the longest climb of the fifty miles. In 08 I had to walk most of the climbs, this year I'd trained myself to be better on the climbs and faster on the runnable terrain. The course is 90% fire roads so I actually did some road mileage and my first road race in over 5yrs while preparing for the course. Although I did manage to run the entire course, save one section of about 200 meters, both Geoff and Lon had proved to be better up-hill runners than myself. Knowing this I had prepared for Lon to catch and pass me, which he did within about ten minutes. He managed a larger gap than I anticipated though and eventually he gained five full minutes on me. Little did we then know, Geoff was on a constant acceleration and while the rest of us just struggled to hang on Geoff simply ran the second half of the course faster than anyone had ever dreamed was even possible.
At about the 33m mark (55km) you hit the first real singletrack terrain of the course. Last year I nearly died through here, so this year I made sure to have something left in the tank for it. Once you complete this 5m/8k loop the course is predominately downhill to the finish line...which has always been my strength. I wasn't even two miles into the loop when I heard a runner from behind. Valmir was still lingering and with foot speed the likes of which I will simply never possess, he scared me enough to push my through the undulations of this loop. Thankfully and surprisingly I would not see him again until he crossed the finish line.
I exited the loop and was told Lon was four minutes up on me. I was feeling way stronger than I thought I would this late in the race and I vocalized that I thought I might still be able to close that gap over the final 10m/16k of the race. The next few aid stations told a different story though as the splits coming my way were growing, not shrinking.
As I hit the final aid station of the day, and with but 3.5 miles to go to the finish line, I was given one more split,
"Lon left here...exactly...two minutes ago."
I chugged a cup of fluid and rocketed outta there. It was almost all down till the final 1m section of road to the line. In the end this information was not accurate, as Lon had a closer to 4min lead at that point, but it was the perfect fuel to allow me to go with an all or nothing approach to end the race. Whether I cramped up and had to walk didn't matter at that point, only top two went straight into Western States and that was my primary goal at the starting line. My final km split times, gravity assisted of course but none the less my legs still had to turn over and absorb the punishment, were:
-2m44s (700m of flat road to the line) (3m48s pace /6.07m)
I crossed the line in 7h00m28s...missed out on a sub seven by under thirty seconds and an auto WS entry by two minutes...both tough pills to swallow, but by far and away this was my best performance south of the border, and my first major race that I'm truly happy with the time I laid down. Clark Zealand, David Horton, and the hundreds of others who make this race possible and can somehow convert a 50m fire road run into an incredible trail racing experience, THANK YOU SO MUCH yet again!! I might just have to return again next year and claim those missing 29 seconds.
In the women's race, the girl I've been flattered to call my girlfriend, Tamsin Anstey, in her first EVER 50 miler and just third attempt at running an ultra, laid down the 5th fastest woman's time in the 27 year history of the event!! She has promised me that she'll do a race report that I'll proudly post on here for her...till we get her up and going on her own blog in the near future.
-Special thanks to my amazing friend Hays Poole who drove 2.5hr from Raleigh, North Carolina to help support me during the race. He was a ROCK STAR who I can't thank enough!!
Full results here, oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, Geoff 'The Alaskan Assassin' Roes...well he kinda destroyed the course like no one thought possible and ended up with a new course record of 6h27m!!! That's over 21min faster than the legendary Dave Mackay's run time, and in my humble opinion, solidifies Geoff as the outright U.S. Ultra Runner Of The Year for 2009...congrats Geoff, it was a pleasure and an honor to meet you this weekend!