I was hoping to finish the race and be happy with "how I ran" - not caring "how I placed". Instead - I was asking "what if?"
What if the temparature didn't really get so hot? In the 100% exposed to the sun trails with only a very slight breeze - temps were pushing 70 by the time the race was over.
What if I had got more water at the 1 and only aid station? Barely 1/2 a cup there was clearly not enough. If I had carried even a small water bottle that would have helped me out. Instead I have never ran so dehydrated in my life. Knowing what fluids I drank after the race, along with food (I forced myself to eat and drink a lot to try recover) - when I got home I was still 4 pounds lighter than I was before the start.
What if I didn't start off so fast? I have no business running sub 7 miles, especially on rolling terrain, that I have no hope of maintaining. Yet about 1/3rd of a mile in I look and see my avg pace is 6:42? I almost yelled out loud to myself how much of an idiot I was.
I did back off the pace, but still not enough - instead jumping in behind 3 others, I convinced myself that I was drafting and it would save some energy. It may or may not have helped some. At 2.75 miles in, at the top of the first noticeable climb I moved passed them all so I could try to stick with a goal pace (was wanting 7:40) there.
At Kipps Loop, 3 1/3 miles in, the only water station I had got the time avg down to 7:35. Entering the water station I asked for 2 cups. The wonderful volunteers obviously misheard my New Zealand accent, combined with heat suffering, slurred speach - and they heard something like "put 2 cups in 1 hand, then tip out half of one and all of the other". It didn't play out like that, I just didn't slow down enough to grab enough water, was all my fault - the volunteers at this and most races are fantastic to give freely of their own time and I truly do thank them.
In any case - I got 1/2 a cup, probably 2 or 3 ounces of water. My fault for not slowing down, not carrying any water w/ me. I cooked myself.
So, a recap so far - too hot, too fast, too dehydrated. Too bad I then had to go up the saddle. I was down. A 1/4 mile into the climb I knew I was cooked, both figuratively and literally. I was in survival mode. Surprisingly no-one passed me until just before the top of the saddle. Was 1 of the 3 guys that I had tucked in behind just after the hot start.
By the time I crested the high point, w/ 3 miles to go, several thoughts had been baking in my head. 1) - try to stay with that guy ahead. 2) - if I lie down and die, it will be okay.
I pressed on - but I was hurting, incredibly thirsty, struggling to breathe and even see clearly due to my overheated self. I had been looking over my shoulder on the climb. My son was behind me the whole way, gaining on me as the climbing continued. I don't think he was ever more than a minute behind throughout the whole race - but he was pushing me forward. I'm not ready for him to beat me yet, it's coming - but it wasn't happening on this day. At the start we lined up together and I told him what I usually always do "don't race me, race your own race".
As I managed to gain some steam on the next downhill stretch - catching up to and tucking in behind the guy who had passed me on the final stretch of climb - I had 2 new goals, try to beat my son, try to beat the guy I was just behind. I didn't know if I could do either.
I'm not going to search much for photos taken during the last 3 miles of the race - I was a mess. I could feel the white, salty, crust completely encasing my lips. Felt awful and no doubt looked ridiculous, probably looked like a circus clown. Needless to say - I was parched.
For the next 2 miles where there was a few rollers, the guy I was with pulled away on the climbs, I closed the gap on the downhills. Finally on the last downhill section I caught back up, we joined on the track where the 50K and 25k runners were going back out. .9 miles to go and it felt like my eyes were doing some sort of reverse cross-eyed thing. I glanced behind me and knew if maintained my pace I could hold off my son.
3/4 mile to go and I decided if I didn't stop running soon I would self combust - so instead of slowing down, I decided to try and get it over with. So, I found another gear, a faster one. Going past the guy he said "well played" - I guess it seemed like I had raced him well - saving a good kick to the end. I mumbled: "famks, juss tryna fish" - translation for those unable to interpret "
I pushed on, full survival mode, suffering and finally crossed the line. Chip time was 1:02:23. 12 second PR. 16th place overall (377 finishers). My son came in 29 seconds later for 19th overall. That kid is awesome - He took just over a minute off his best time, won his age group and then later that afternoon played a soccer game. Am I bragging about him? You better believe it. Next year will be an upset if I beat him.
There were some "what if's?" - I know I coulda, woulda, shoulda done better. But what if my son didn't stay so close behind me? In reality he pushed me to finish.
Then what if the winner of the race, Andy Ames, didn't win but came in 2nd or later? But he did win, he is in my age group, so by him winning that allowed me to win the 3rd place prize for my age group. A bonus for sure - really helped ease my baked mind and body.
Post race - sat down for about 5 minutes trying to get rehydrated and trying to see straight. Finally got some sea legs under me and started back up the trail to wait for my wife to finish. Didn't have to wait too long, she also PR'd, so a good day for the Knuckledragging clan.
While waiting I recognized Kathleen of the Happy Trails Crew and introduced myself. Steve came in just over 2 hours for a new PR (on the 25K) course. Very exciting for him. Got to spend a few minutes chatting with them, reliving the race and planning on some future trail runs - was great to finally meet them.
And now it is Monday - I wake up and it is snowing at my house. What if we had that weather on race day?