Milling around at the start, chatting with familiar faces, I was feeling comfortable in shorts, a T and arm panties, despite a weather forecast predicting the Snowpocalypse: run hard, crank the internal furnace, get up, get down and be done. As it turned out, we'd get an inch, maybe two, of snow above 8,000 feet in what turned out to be pretty good conditions.
The two-mile warm up lap seemed a little more reasonable than last year, probably due to the now staggered marathon, half marathon starts. This allowed for a chance to shoot the breeze a bit before we would start climbing. Entering the singletrack, two miles in, nobody seemed to want to take the initiative, and we had a big group. I'm not sure he wanted it, but Travis Macy was handed the honors of leading the train up the opening set of switchbacks. But before we found the hill, I found a rock and went flying, relegating myself from the passenger seat to somewhere near the back of our 10-man lead pack.
|Behind Jonathan Garcia, three of four miles in.|
The pace heading up the hill was again quite comfortable, which was perfectly fine by me. Feeling comfortable in the lead pack is a good place to be. Nobody seemed in the least bit concerned with upping the tempo when wider sections of trail allowed for passing or indeed when Travis verbally offered up the lead. I figured things would open up once we hit the Ute Trail (railroad grade dirt road) at mile eight, so settled in and enjoyed the nice cruise in and out of drainages on the contour we were following.
I might have gotten a little carried away once we hit the road, as almost immediately I decided that I needed to be the one to turn things up a notch, of course overshooting the mark and pushing too hard and then having to watch as Josh Arthur and Timmy Parr cruised on by as I reined in the effort to something a little more appropriate for the distance and my fitness. One other guy - Jason Donald - came with me and so began the long slow climb up to 9,000 feet. Timmy and Josh built a 20 meter lead, as the snow started coming down, then seemed to settle into a similar pace to mine and Jason's. Tim would ultimately come back to us on this climb and then the three of us would work together, now through about an inch of fresh powder, to reel in Josh by the 12.5-mile turn. Things were setting up nicely for a fun back half of the race.
This, of course, is where you start second guessing yourself. Convinced that the others look as fresh as daisies, I kept trying to find excuses to take my foot off the gas so that I wouldn't have to suffer too bad by racing hard for the 90 minutes that remained. But I kept finding myself holding on, and then holding on comfortably, and before I knew it we were beginning the big technical jeep track descent. Almost immediately, we dropped Jason and it was down to a three-man race.
On the rocky jeep track, I watched from 10 meters back as Timmy and Josh traded off the lead. They looked to be killing it, while I was feeling a little clumsy, but somehow the gap didn't grow. That seemed to be the story all morning: me marveling at how comfortable everyone else was looking while feeling like I should be dropping off the back but holding my own anyway.
At mile 20, I hit the penultimate aid station 10 seconds back on Tim and Josh. They stopped for water/gels, but I was good to go, essentially putting myself right back in the mix. Josh got out first, followed by Timmy, and almost immediately Josh rebuilt a lead. I could sense that Tim was tying up, so I took an opportunity a half mile into the tight, technical singltrack to pass, by which time Josh had built a gap of about a minute. I gave up a bit more on the last slog of a climb, and then pretty much held my own through the last three miles to the finish, leaving time for one last spectacular digger.
|Timmy Parr, winner Josh Arthur and myself.|