I lined up at the start with Ashley Nordell and Darla Askew, and was thrilled to be with these two lovely and talented ladies from Sisters. But I was only able to hang with them for about ten yards after the race started. And even though I have come to grips with my strong race mentality, as they took off, I actually felt relieved. I was thinking,"Good. They can race each other and I can just do my own thing."
After the first aid station, we crisscrossed through marginal trails over rough terrain in the section known as "The Maze." When we popped back onto the road at mile 10.6 RD Scott was there at the intersection and he asks,"Do you want to know about the girls ahead of you?" How could I say no??
"Ashley's about three minutes ahead and Darla is about a minute ahead of her." The info certainly wasn't lighting any fires in me.
The highest point on the course was at mile 18.3 at Dimple Hill. Then there was a long downhill. At Capitol Peak, my mind and my legs were telling me to "Go For It" when I hit the downhill, but today everything seemed to be begging "Just Recover" on the downhill section. Nothing was wrong, I was moving fine, but I just didn't feel like I had that extra gear today. But my biggest strength seems to be keeping a consistent pace and I was doing just that.
I ran most of the way up Horse Trail, a section I walked a ton of last year. I knew my time was going to be a lot better that last year's and I was content to just race the clock today, even thinking 5 hours MIGHT be doable. But then right at the last switch back I saw Darla just ahead.
If consistency is my strength, downhill running is my weakness. I played leap-frog with three or four guys through out the day: I would jump past them on the uphill only to have them blow by on the downhill. It was no different with Darla. I obviously gained on her on the up, but she preserved the lead when we turned down. But after the last aid station there is three miles of runnable uphill (though it doesn't feel so runnable after 27 miles!). I still wasn't feeling any "killer instincts" - Darla is so nice it would be hard to feel any killer instincts toward her even if I did have it in me! - but my natural pace propelled me to the lead.
I finished in 4:54, a minute a half behind Ashley and about the same ahead of Darla. I made up time on Ashley, but I am sure Darla was closing the gap fast on the last 1.25 miles of downhill. All three of us were under Darla's winning time from last year. Everybody just keeps getting faster!
I was really happy with my efforts today. I don't feel like I had the same edge I had at Capitol Peak, and I know that is some fatigue making itself known. American River, Capitol Peak and Mac Forest are 131 miles of racing in five weekends and it is taking its toll! But I am still psyched to go sub-5 hours on a course with 6700' climb (and equal descent). That's 25 minutes faster than last year's time! Good to know the hard work is paying off!
Though taxing, I think the racing has been good, both for some intense training and because I think the last two weeks have helped me figure out how I want to "attack" Western States. And they have certainly been good for my confidence in my fitness and training.
For my reward, this week I get to rest (well, recover, anyway). After that there is only six weeks till Western States!!