Any time the pre-race dinner is preceded by a Greek dance performance illuminated by stars and candlelight, you can bet you're not at your average trail race.
After a trip on Saturday from our stop-over in Santa Fe, which included a visit to urgent care to attend to poor Alistair’s fingers that had been pinched in the car door (nothing too serious, but some major pain for the wee nipper), we were more than ready to decompress once finally at our destination.
Showing off his war wounds
So after the dancing and the feast - lashings of pasta from Susan and her band of tireless volunteers, plus an assortment of pot-luck contributions (a real family affair) - we were treated to three or four minutes of ancient Greek verse (recited from memory) by Susan’s husband Tom. As I said, an event in and of itself with a run thrown in for a little extra fun.
The race is essentially an off-road marathon sandwiched between two road 10ks - one uphill the other down. Race morning came bright and early, with approximately 100 runners assembled in the brisk 6:00 am air.
Not really in the mood at 5:30 in the morning
Paul Grimm sporting a pink Snuggie
Lighting was required for the first six miles up the hill to the dirt-road turn-off, and Andy Jones-Wilkins, myself, Pete Stevenson (a fellow Fort Collins’ite) and Rochelle Wirth settled into an easy pace through the opening few miles, getting up the six-mile climb in the social manner typical of ultra races. Andy and I opened a bit of a gap on the other two through the last couple of road miles and then once on the dirt Andy dropped back a bit, and I was left to run alone, which is essentially where I remained for the rest of the race.I hadn’t run a step since Bandera, eight days prior, with the exception of a two-mile shakeout run the night before, so I wasn't sure how to approach the run from a racing standpoint. The no-run thing was partly crazy schedule, which included a jammed three-day work trip to New York mid week, and partly a sore overextended knee that was slow to heal.
Eight miles into the race and my legs were already feeling the way they had after the first 50k at Bandera, so I knew the run was going to be a slog, but I welcomed it as useful mental training. Being out in the lead so early, I didn’t really know if I wanted to try and push for as fast a time as possible or just do enough for the win. I ended up straddling the two options, pushing at times and taking it easy at others.
Coming into the Vista aid station (I think), a couple miles from the turn
On the way back from the turnaround, both Andy and Pete were a lot closer than I thought they would be - six to seven minutes - so I was forced to up the tempo as I knew they would be pushing each other hard. Pete was no more than 20 seconds behind Andy and he looked hungry (in a predator-type way) and I was sure that he would be coming home in front of Andy. The fourth-place runner - Rochelle Wirth - was also looking very strong, and while Jamie Donaldson was evidently running Ghost Town as a training run, it would have taken quite a run to beat Rochelle who ended up destroying the previous course record.
Going into the race, I had been thinking that a five-hour run would be a good goal, and after a bit of mental calculation from the turn, I figured that if I could get to the road and the last six miles in 4:20, I would give it a shot. I got to the road in 4:23 and was actually pretty thankful to be taking it easy through the last six miles, which I ran in 46 minutes for a 5:09 finish and a new course record.
Heading out on the last six
Alistair and Dana were waiting at the finish and I got to cross the line with Alistair in tow, which is always special.
For winning the race, I got a beautiful turquoise and coral necklace (huge chunk of turquoise), a $50 Fleet Feet voucher and a big thing of local Hatch Chiles - love it!
Andy ended up fending off Pete with a 41 minute last six miles providing - as he put it - the crusty cheese filling in a Fort Collins sandwich. Pete continues to get stronger each year he runs this thing and looks to be in great early season shape as he prepares for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning this summer. He and I will be sharing more than a few miles on the trail this winter/spring as we build up to an exciting 2010 of racing.
The weekend was rounded off with as much fantastic homemade food as one could get down - enchiladas, corn bread, soups, cookies and on and on and on - good conversation and a few (too many) brews from home.
Tireless race director, Susan Reynolds, and I at the post-race dinner
The Ghost Town weekend is a cult classic that has to be experienced to be believed. Sign up early if you want to run in 2011; this year sold out in a day - maybe two.
On a side note, a few minutes after we got back from the 11-hour haul home, we welcomed our newly adopted Rhodesian Ridgeback mix to the fold. More on Teio in a later post.