I guess I could have been less prepared for a marathon, heck I was less prepared 3 weeks ago when I ran 2:59 at Baystate. At least for this race I'd done a 26 mile run :-) Based on prior results from the race, I'd hoped for a 3:00 despite the fact the course had 4,700 feet of climb and descent. I had to assume that it was short, not unusual for a trail course. It is notoriously difficult to accurately measure a trail course, if you want an accurate course run a certified road race!
Race day looked nice with temps in the 40's and fog/drizzle on the higher slopes of the mountain. The hardest part of waiting for the start was trying to figure out what to wear. It was going to be a long morning of running and we (CMS) had a shot at a National title. I tried to handicap the field (very hard to do) and figured JJ would be in the top 5 if he ran smart. Dan was a shoe-in for the top ten and possibly the man to beat in the 40+. I hoped, that based on past nationals, with a 3:00 run I'd finish between 10th and 15th. With the three of us in the top 15 we'd probably take the team title. We also had Judge Jones in case someone had a DNF and he'd also fill out the 40+ team (three runners score).
Here is my account of the race with just some notes from mile to mile. All altitudes and feet climbed/descended are estimates based on the course profile. Your mileage may vary.
8am start line - JJ and I hit the line last as we sprinted back to get me a dry pair of gloves after I got mine soaked in the sink. We didn't need to rush, there were about 5 minutes of talk before the actual start. Funny line by the RD about going off into the bushes to "take care of business", a warning that if the sweeper gets by you you'd be in big trouble (the sweeper would be taking down course markings and closing up aid stations), you do not want to end up behind the sweeper in this vast wilderness.
1m - Climb 400' on paved road. Man, I hope that all the climb is this easy and all the miles this short. I'm in 10th place and feeling excellent. I can see Aaron Saft out in front, JJ in the lead pack, and Dan is just a little ahead of me (he goes out very slowly). 6:57
2m - Climb 500' on dirt road. Wow this feels easy. A couple of guys pull ahead, too early to try to cover any moves. My hands are warm so I toss off the gloves. 7:21 (I cannot run a 7:21 mile with 500' of climb, I only hope they don't make up all of the distance at the end)
4m - 200' of climb. Seems harder than it should be, keep reminding myself to not push. There is a long way to go. 8:11
5m - 350' of climb, some flat where the three I'd been running with move ahead. I take my time at the water stop (I'm the only one not carrying my own water). 7:40 (well at least it seems the miles are pretty consistently short.
6m - 350' of climb, with some downhills as well. The lead women is now out of sight, the two guys are pulling away. Seems way too early to worry. Some stupid song is stuck in my head and I only know one line. 8:03
7m - 200' of climb. I get caught by a guy who says "I think we are at the top". I think we have a couple of miles to the top but keep my mouth shut. I'm saving all my energy for the race, no idle chatter. 8:03
8m - 200' of climb. I'm starting to look forward to the downhill. This mile had some singletrack up/down, it was one of the nicest sections of the race but I want to start the descent. Two guys are behind me (about 30 seconds back) I see them on a switchback. Still way too early to worry about racing. Slowest mile of the race 8:59
9m - Hardly any climb or drop. The two guys come flying by and mention something about "trying to stay warm". My hands are freezing, I should have kept the gloves. 7:03
10m - Again hardly any climb or drop. Great running surface on dirt roads. 7:03
11m - Flat (???) again, but definitely some little drops. I keep telling myself to relax at least until 1/2 way. I had a bad patch at 8 and I'm having another now. I've already eaten 2 Gu's and started in on my "sports beans". 6:37
12m - 200' of drop. Feels good running smooth stretches of downhill. I can see three guys ahead of me, but it is way too early to worry about them. 7:00
13m - flat????. That can't be right, we are dropping a lot. Amazing how you can go from feeling great to feeling lousy in as little as 100m. I'm starting to do the math (1:38 at the half) and figure if I can run "6:30's" I'll be right around my goal of 3 flat. 6:42 for this mile.
14m - 200' of drop. The mile markers seem to be coming up a lot faster. 6:36
15m - 100' of drop. I don't think I'm running very fast but the split is 6:32
16m - no drop??? There had to be drop! I ran a 6:25 and get passed. (Sharman who ended up running 3:00:36 - he ran about 1 minute a mile faster than me for the final 10. Yikes!) I'm starting to think about going after the guys in front of me, then decide that 10 miles to go is a bit early to pick it up.
17m - 100' of drop. The two guys in front are in sight on long straights. I'm guessing I have less than an hour to go. May be time to get rolling. 6:37
18m - no drop??? One of the guys is dropping back. I catch him and he asks if I'm a master. I say "yup" and he groans and points to the other guy "so is he". 6:33
19m - 200' of drop. I'm closing on the other guy. I want to go by him aggressively. 6:30
20m - 700' of drop (it felt like it). I catch CJ Callans at a water stop and blow through trying to make a big move. He flies by me on a really steep section. 6:29
21m - 200' of drop. I start to push it, figure I've only got 30+ minutes to go. Catch up to Callans again but can't get around him. 6:22
22m - 600' of drop. Fastest "mile" of the race 5:47. I want to get ahead, but I'm also thinking "get to the road section and hammer".
23m - 200' of drop. 7:32. Well that can't I be right. Dropping and slowing? I'm hoping that all the final miles aren't long (I talk to Callans after and he notes that this is his home course and that he figured it was "over 4 miles from 23 to the finish"). Right after 23 we see the women's leader climbing UP the road. Somehow she missed the trail and ran down the road then had to climb back up. She lost about 10 minutes!
No mile marks after 23 (at least none that I saw and I was looking). I ran the singletrack parts well and was right on Callans to the 1.5 miles of road. We hit the road as the women's leader went by. Right about that time I ran out of gas. I started looking back and checking my watch. Nothing was feeling all that bad and I wasn't in a sugar-low, just my body decided that no more running would be done.
Last "3.2 miles" = 25:26
All in all it went pretty well. I ended up 15th bit missed out on the $$$$, Callans was third in the 40+ to pick up $100. JJ hit 5th (which matched my prediction) and Dan took 10th. Judge Jones was 39th thus giving us the gold medal in both the Open and Masters team divisions.
I didn't quite hit my goal of 3:00 but the course was longer than last year. My result - 3:09:39.
The course and organization were great. I hope some of the CMS gang will come back out next year and defend the title.