I kicked off the long weekend (for me) with an easy and wet 8m run with Kevin Tilton. It was rainy but not too bad and I found it funny how lousy I felt on even the smallest of hills. I guess it was nerves. That afternoon I hit the trails behind Atitash for a final run before the big race. The rain continued and I still felt less than great. I sold a couple of copies of my book at the Friday night talk and we had a nice dinner at the spaghetti shed. I had ½ of a lemon pie for desert while watching the sox game and called it a night by 10 PM.
Race day dawned a bit too sunny for my liking. It really looked to be another warm/humid race. Francis Burdett drove the Atitash group (plus Petey) and we were at the start before 9 AM. A big group of us (CMS and a few others including the Bryant’s and Bob Hodge) headed out on the gently rolling trails at the base of the mountain. I got in just under 24 minutes of running then changed into racing flats. My heel, which I’d blistered badly at Northfield, was very sore but I took Francis’s advice and just lubed it up like crazy. I did another mile of running including some strides and headed towards the line.
The final five minutes were nerve wracking; I just wanted to get going. I was all the way over on the right and there was a problem with a speaker that was potentially in the way. The cannon fired and it caught a few people, including Rickey Gates, off guard. He didn’t go by me for the first 30 seconds of the race. I went out reasonably hard and was surprised to see Brandy Erholtz a couple of steps up on me.
I tried to settle in and find a rhythm. It looked like I was in around 25th place as the real climb started. Eric Morse went by at about ¾ of a mile; I was hoping not many more would pass. Francis had been on my shoulder from the start and he made a move near the mile. I was surprised but figured he must have felt good. I didn’t want any masters going by but there wasn’t much I could do.
Right around that time I pulled away from Glen Guillemette and was also passed by Sean Livingston. Wow, that was early for Sean who always goes out conservatively and has very fast second halves. The mile split was 6:55 which was 1 second slower than last year, I had hoped to run faster this year but knew better than to panic this early. I focused on Sean and tried to use him to pull me along.
I split mile two in 8:44 which was 6 seconds slower than last year. It was humid but not particularly hot so I just wasn’t feeling great. I continued to trail Sean as we both caught Jim Johnson after 3 miles (9:05). Jim had been looking back quite a bit and gave Sean some words of encouragement as he passed. He told me he felt good at the pace he was running. I thought he stayed with me for a while but it turned out to be Brendan Callahan who I caught at 4m (9:09 split).
The half split was 32:59, which was promising. A sub-1:10 was still possible. Callahan would be the last person I would pass and soon after we hit dense fog. I could barely see Sean 10-15 seconds up, but tried to look where he went to run the tangents.
The fifth mile was totally socked in and my 9:55 was the slowest split of the day (that is typically the slowest mile). I kept doing the math and knew sub-1:10 was going to be close. At 6 miles 9:41 split) I could still see Sean and sometimes I could see Eric Morse not far ahead of him.
We all came out in a different world at 7 miles when we emerged into bright sunlight. I was surprised o see a line of guys in front of me, well it was the first time you could see ahead and I could see the 10 guys spread out then a dense wall of fog. I hit 7 with a 9:34 split and an overall time of 63:03 and knew that barring a complete disaster sub 1:10 was possible. I kept pushing, and as we got out of the fog could see the summit building. I took a final look at my watch at the base of the wall 9knowing it would take under a minute) to reassure myself I had a shot.
I hit the line in 1:09:22 and almost bowled over Kevin T as I weaved to the summit. Jason Bryant joined me and we met up with Francis on the very top to enjoy a moment (albeit a wobbly one for me) at the summit post. The undercast made for a unique view that we enjoyed for a bit.
I shot a quick video (sorry Kevin, I was a bit flip) and then George Z, Woody, Eric, DQ and I headed out for a warm-down. It really was down as we ran back down the course (in 66:03).
I’ll post some Mt W “numbers behind the results” over the next couple of days.
Pic: Francis patiently waits stragglers (me and Jason B)