A couple of years ago I went to the Ghost train trail and ran part of it with Ultra-runner Mike Wade (GCS). I love rail trails and this one is a beauty. The race seemed to be well organized, the road crossings were manned, and the few turns on the course were carefully marked. I noted all of that and filed it under “maybe someday”. I was looking for a Sunday race since I’d be travelling back from the Grand Canyon and not be back until Saturday night. I came upon the Ghost Train website and hadn’t previously noted that they had a 15 mile version. This would be my final long run before the Manchester Marathon, so it was GAME ON. Since I’d only done 7 runs all year over 10 miles I really needed some time on my feet. If nothing else it’d be good prep for the marathon.
I only got a few hours sleep leading up to the race as I got in after 10pm to Manchester airport. I felt pretty lousy walking over to pick up my number and even felt a little dizzy and nauseous when I was doing an easy 1 mile warm-up. I bumped into a few people I knew (including the aforementioned Mike Wade who was pacing someone, and the always cheerful Richie Blake) and it seemed like a great day to be racing in the woods. The temperature was 45 degrees and it was sunny but there was a strong wind blowing (15-30mph) but luckily we would be on a rail trail that was mostly protected.
|moments before the start with Richie Blake|
At 8am we were off. I went into the lead right away and tried to feel as comfortable as possible. I’d hit my shuffle on from the first step and was just looking to relax and get as many miles as I could around 7:00 pace. Two guys settled in behind me and we hit the mile in 6:57 (after rolling through the tunnel under 101 and all of us giving a loud shout). A little after the mile we hit the only hill on the course a 100’ of climb in about 1/3 of a mile. I relaxed and didn’t push the uphill (or the downhill). The second mile was 7:40 but I was not concerned as we had a LONG way to go. A 6:50 third mile brought us to the aid station in 21:27 and I came to a quick stop to grab a drink. Grigory Kolesov took over the lead as he was carrying a bottle and did not slow for the aid station. Kurt Berna had fallen a little behind by that point so I went after the leader. It felt a little fast to me and that was confirmed as we ran a 6:36 mile. I actually maintained that pace with a fifth and sixth mile of 6:35 and 6:37 and was now trailing by 10+ seconds. No panic, I had the race broken down into bite sized portions (or fun sized like Halloween candy). In my mind I was doing a 3 mile run to the aid station then a 4.5 mile run to the next station, and then reversing. A seventh mile of 6:41 and we were on the camp road nearing the turn. I was at most 15-20 seconds back and feeling pretty good. We passed the aid stations to get to the turn and I was surprised by a few people cheering for me by name! I hit the turn in 50:04 and now every step was getting me back to the finish line.
I lost a little time as I struggled to get my long-sleeve shirt off (I had it on under my CMS t-shirt). It was warm enough that I didn’t need it and wanted to dump it at the aid station. I dropped my shirt and grabbed another drink to wash down a gel. Even though the aid station slowed me a little (6:46) I made up the gap to the leader and right at the 8 mile beep on my watch I went into the lead. I figured I’d hold steady to 10 miles then try to make a move. My next mile was 6:39 and I passed Mike Wade and BJ Bottomley (both pacing a 100 mile guy) and they told me I had at least a 10 second lead. I did not look back and focused on getting to the aid station at 12 miles. A 6:42 mile got me to 10 in 1:08:03 (33:25 for the 2nd 5 miles) and I was feeling very good.
The wind was mostly a cross-wind but maybe it was also a bit more of a tailwind now that we were heading north? Miles of 6:39 & 6:35 got me to the aid station where I got a quick swig of water and hightailed it out of there. I was pretty sure with less than three to go that I was not going to blow-up and second place would have to really move to get by me. I focused on keeping the pace steady and broke down the last 3 miles into three parts. Get to the hill. Get up and down the hill. Last mile! A 6:35 and 6:34 (my fastest 2 miles of the race) got me to the base of the hill. Then it was safely up/down the hill and kick for home. I looked at my watch with less than a quarter to go and realized I’d likely break 1:40 and kicked it in with the Clash playing “Atom Tan” on my shuffle. I smiled right through the line in 1:39:01.
I went out for another mile warm-down and cheered on the guys coming in. I grabbed a couple of snacks and thanked the volunteers (they did a great job over a LONG day) and was out of there.