What a difference a year makes. Of course there was a strong wind - we were after all in Wyoming - but the sun was out, the leaves were golden and it was just a perfect fall morning for a run.
With the help of probably 20 runners from Fort Collins, the race was near its 150-runner cap, and, as with all events organized by the High Plains Harriers, there was a good energy about the event. After a short warm up with Pete, I made the call to go shorts, T-shirt and arm panties, on what was easily the coldest morning of the year since spring.
Just part of the FoCo trail running contingent on hand in WY this morning.
From the off, I took up the lead with one other guy and then darted ahead a quarter mile in as we made the turn onto singletrack. After losing a few hundred feet quickly, the course settled into a gradual downhill, and within a mile I had gapped the rest of the field by 10 or 20 meters. Despite some lingering fatigue from who knows what, I felt like I was running a reasonably strong pace. After about 20 minutes it looked like I would be running in the lead from pillar to post so I settled into a rhythm that I thought would be good enough for the win.
About four miles into the race, the course takes you up perhaps the best-named hill in the history of trail racing. Starting at 8,300' and topping out at just under 9,000' over the course of a mile, 'Death Crotch' is quite the workout if run hard.
Thinking I had the race under control, and feeling the altitude, I decided to go easy on the Crotch of Death, only to have Michael Huntington come into view half way up the switchbacks. This forced me to reluctantly look for another gear. Failing to find the gear I was looking for I was forced to grind out the rest of the hill. By the top, Michael was pretty close.
Having raced Michael a couple of times on up-and-down hill races, I knew the remaining downhill would play to my advantage, so I was able to let it fly for the remainder to hold on comfortably for the win.
As always, the post-race was fun and a good opportunity to catch up with runners from the region. At the awards, Perry the RD eloquently reminded us of why we were out running on this beautiful fall morning, and to be thankful for our good fortune as runners to be out enjoying these wonderful trails. Nine years ago this month, eight members of the University of Wyoming cross country team had their lives and love for running ended abruptly at the hands of a drunk driver on Highway 287. Their memory lives on, in part, through this race.
JZ and Mary finish strong. Mary picks up the win in the 50-99 (!) age group.
Giving Kyle the run down post-race.