The goals going in were to register a third win and hopefully run a little faster than 2010, with an emphasis on running the descent at all-out looney pace.
A small crowd was on hand at the start, but with Horsecow Lonac (a mid-15 5k'er when fit) lining up and a few other fit looking dudes milling around, it looked like there would be some guys to help keep the effort solid. From the gun, training partner and perennial first mile over-achiever, Mike Hinterberg, took a flier as we made our way through the opening stretches of rolling sand flats that make up the first few miles of this variably terrained race.
Having forgotten my watch and subsequently borrowed a friend's GPS device, I was to be beeped at every mile for the duration. Annoying, but somewhat unique to have splits along the way. With Mike still ten meters ahead and a young college-age lad (Scott Foley) on my shoulder, the first mile beeped at 5:55. Given the less-than-stellar sandy conditions underfoot and rolling nature of the route thus far, I figured I was probably a touch hot through the first mile.
|Scott and me early|
|Pics: High Plains Harriers|
Scott had torched the ascent in a very impressive 57:51, but now the advantage, I believed, turned in my favor. Two+ minutes is a ton of time to make up over seven miles, but I'd come here for the downhill, meaning the rabbit out front was much appreciated. I immediately set to work, running the first flatter mile of the descent into what always seems to be a stiff return headwind, at a much elevated heart rate. I decided to continue pushing the envelope over the more technical rocky terrain in the mid section with hopes that I'd be able to gain some kind of visual on Scott before I blew a gasket. About three miles in (5:56, 44, 47), I got my sighting and it looked like I might have chopped a minute off the lead already.
The effort had caused a good amount of fatigue by the time we were down to the rolling sections around the sand flats, but I figured I had a shot, so I kept pushing. With a couple of miles to go, it was evident that Scott was hurting and I began to feel confident that I would be reeling him in, which I did with a mile left (6:00, 6:01, 6:04, 6:41).
I ended up running a net PR on the course (1:42:24 vs 1:43:45) with a descent almost two minutes faster than last time. Both those facts helped erase some - not all - of the post-Zegama doubts that have been sitting uncomfortably with me for the last few weeks. Yes, this is a small race, but it really wasn't about winning, losing or drawing, it was about gauging fitness. My takeaway is that I'm in at least as good a shape as I was in 2010 (over this course) when I ran my first Western States (4th, 16:04). An additional nugget and confidence booster is that it turns out that Scott has just graduated from Boise State, running a track 10k of 29:52 at the Mt SAC Relays in April and a 68 minute half marathon somewhere else not so long ago.
You take what you can in the mental game before a big race.
I was going to run Storm Mountain up and down the next day as a final effort before Western States, but as it turned out we ended up being evacuated from our home with all hell breaking loose west of Fort Collins in some of my favorite acreage in the whole world. My heart is pretty heavy right now for those who have lost homes and also for the beautiful forestland that is currently burning up, but I'll use that as fuel when things start hurting next weekend. I'm doing this one for The Fort.