Gary graciously agreed to let me post his account on this blog as a guest. Thanks!-- I'm a much slower over-40 runner who never saw any of the leaders after the starting buzzer went off. (And much of my own pending report focuses on the pre and post-race stuff, so here's some action-packed trail narrative.)
After four months of double the training volume I'd ever done in the past, I achieved my first goal of the year - 1st Master and 4th Overall at the Way Too Cool 50k. WTC has a reputation for attracting the most competitive field for a 50k trail race on the national calendar and is part of the Ultra Grand Prix for the local region of USA Track and Field. I joined the Quicksilver Running Club for this and other ultramarathon events for 2010, while continuing to run for the Asics Aggie team for cross-country and road events.
With only one 50k under my belt (Skyline to the Sea in 2008), I thought I'd race it like a 35k effort and then fight the closing miles. It worked out, but I'm still not sure that was the right thing to do. It was an incredible test of perseverence. Leor Pantilat, Geoff Roes, and Max King were out of sight by mile 3. Leor had the incredible guts to take off right from the gun, Max King be damned! (Max King, of course, is a world-class runner for road and cross-country, former Olympian, and hands-down favorite for just about any trail race he shows up at.)
Gary (right) with Max King (left) after the race, photo by Jean Pommier
I ran in the second group with the Anderson brothers (Andy from Truckee and John from Boulder) until I attacked the rough descent to Hwy 49 at mile 6.5 and ran solo from there. I hammered out the net downhill, initial 10 miles in 63 minutes and then settled in to a hard tempo as best I could.
After mile 21.7, there is a 5 mile, two-way traffic section on single track - and of course, the faster you run, the more traffic there is on the way back. Most of the mid-pack runners are extremely gracious and step off the trail-- except for one headphone-wearing woman hiding in the back of a train of six runners. After a scream and a mild body slam into the air, we were both quickly on our respective paths.
Crossing the waist deep, ice cold creek at mile 20 made my calves pretty twitchy for the rest of the race and fatigue set in big time with 5 miles to go. Miraculously, no one caught me. In fact, "I'm going to get caught" was my mantra for the last hour. The last 4.5 miles are terrible - 1000 feet or more of climbing with slick, muddy, rough trails for most of it. I found out later that my gap to Leor the last 9 miles only grew by 2 minutes, rather than the standard 30+ seconds per mile, so I felt good about that. The course was pretty slow this year due to it having had rained for 12 hours straight the day before, and Leor attests that it sapped him of more energy this year as compared to last.
I have new respect for that distance, and I think that Max King might also. Max blew sky high with 5 miles to go. After having caught Leor at mile 15, Max only had a one minute lead on Leor 2-1/2 hours in to the race, cracked on the climb to Goat Hill at mile 26, and was caught and dropped by Leor. The 2009 Ultrarunner of the Year, Alaskan Geoff Roes had been 3 minutes behind Leor at the mile 21.7 aid station, and then breezed in to the lead position with less than 4 miles to go - only to make a wrong turn and lose roughly 10 minutes! So Leor was crowned the repeat champion and was not far off his own course record despite the tough conditions.