Woke up feeling good and ready to run. I dressed for the expected weather but brought extra clothes for a last minute wardrobe change if needed. We stayed at our friend Peggy’s father’s house which was literally at the base of the mountain. Peggy, John and I piled into the car and drove to the race. Found good parking and picked up our chips. The rest of the group - Kim, Tripp, Terrie and Maria were settled in the main room in a group of chairs and we chatted and waited for the start of the race.
We lined up and it was go time. I started my garmin and took off. In the first 10 minutes I felt a weird intermittent ache in my lower hamstring right above my knee. First thought was hmm, this is going to suck in a few hours but for now I am ignoring it. John was out of sight in 5 minutes and once we got on the trails I could no longer see Tripp either. Peggy, Kim, Maria, Terrie and I were together on the trails for a little while but soon Peggy pulled away and Kim followed. I kept at my comfortable but quick pace knowing that chasing Peggy was not a smart plan. I pushed my speed but made sure it was not too much. I walked quickly up all the inclines and continued pushing the pace anytime the trails allowed.
After the first aid station I kicked up the pace on the flat open trails knowing I had to gain as much time as I could. This was the mantra all day. Almost a panicky feeling in fact but I knew this was going to be close and there was no room for error. Soon the trails got tricky again. Out to the power lines where the mud literally formed a snowshoe on the bottom of your foot . For about 15 seconds I tried to dislodge some of it on a rock and then said screw it and keep moving. Back into the woods.
We climb a hill at the 18 mile aid station, shortly after a very quick bathroom break (3 mins tops) and I am told I just made the cutoff. I was in shock? Seeing as I was concerned with the 25 mile/6.5 hour mark I was not clear on the earlier cutoffs. I asked how far until the next cutoff and what time was that one. They could not tell me. At this time Maria shows up and they are discussing how we won't make the next one but I shoo Maria across the street and we continue on, albeit slower than before because I am now a bit resigned this is not happening and I am pissed. We pick it back up after a little cursing still not knowing how fast or how far we have until the next cutoff. I pull ahead and see a guy shuffling in the distance. I can't imagine this guy is in the race judging on what he is wearing - a red hoodie pulled up on his head, blue sweatpants and what look like hiking shoes. I get closer and he starts asking me how far we have come and I read him my Garmin. He speeds up and starts running very, very close to me. He does tell me the milage of the next station and cutoff. I look at my watch and know I am most likely sunk. I pick it up a bit more but the trail starts to get muddier and rockier. Maria picks it up too when she sees creepy guy running so close to me and we soon pull away together. I push as much as I possibly can but miss the cutoff by about 10 minutes.
I felt OK post race since I felt I gave it all I had. There was no good excuse as to why I got pulled. I felt good. That nagging leg pain in the beginning disappeared after 10 miles. It also never hindered me and was more of a mental stress. I did feel panicked most of the race but can’t say that slowed me down. I think Sweetwater and Pine Mtn were great training for this race. I know I did not do every workout prescribed but I know that would have not translated into a significant faster pace. I know I have been getting faster this winter just not fast enough. I did not stop at any aid stations with the exception of the second to last one where there was a brief discussion of cut off times. I felt concerned about the race because I knew it would be tough but I was not pessimistic about it - case in point I sat in wet clothes until John finished because I did not put a key in my pack because I knew he would finish before me. I don't think I could have done any more. Initially this made me fine with things but later I thought this just means I truly suck. I tried my absolute best and still couldn't do it. Mentally I was prepared, endurance wise I still had 10 miles left in me. I just couldn't do it fast enough. The only other thing I could have done was to have been more aware of the exact cutoffs and mileages but figured the last one was the only real concern.
How do I feel now, 3 days later? Still a bit upset. I have Red Top this weekend and I am going to push for a PR since I only ran 21 miles last weekend. If that does not happen I feel like it will be really hard to get out of the mental funk.