|Grant and I seconds off the line|
Our strategy was to only refill water at CPs and not stop and we stuck to it - catching one of the 32 milers still ahead of us shortly after leaving the CP. Brian and JP had taken a bathroom break but quickly caught up as well and we ran as five until the 32 miler (a 10 time IronMan finisher) couldn't take the pace. Through these first 10 or so miles we ran everything except a few hills that proved so steep that running conferred no speed advantage. But the conditions of running through 3-8 inches of snow - which by now had been trodden by only one set of feet before ours - coupled with the tremendously hilly course and the fact that we knew we had a LONG way to go, had our average pace at around an 11 minute mile.
Despite this seemingly leisurely pace, i felt the first twinges of cramping shortly after the first CP and Grant and I decided to return to our original game plan (which we'd predictably abandoned in the excitement of being at the front of the race) of walking any hills over a slight grade and only running the flats and downs. This let JP and Brian pull away a little bit and they passed us heading back along the course about 5 minutes before we hit the first turnaround at 16 miles. It also allowed one other pair of runners to catch and pass us minutes before reaching the 16 mile CP.
|Nearing CP 2 at mile 16.|
We left the CP at the same time as this other pair and proceeded to swap places several times as we headed back to the 32 mile half-way mark where the morning had begun. By now the definition of 'slight grade' had changed so that we were essentially walking anything that gained more than about a foot in a hundred. we were starting to feel the fatigue.
Our hope had been to make 32 miles in 8 hours. We made it in about 8 hours and 50 minutes. Brian and JP had come in nearly 40 minutes earlier. But we'd managed to pull out a bit of a lead over the other pair and they were just coming into the CP as we headed out for the second half of the race, which would take place completely in a soft white bubble of headlamp light.
From here, we walked. I like to think that we 'power walked', but not sure our speed allows us to make this claim. The trekking poles had been out since just before mile 16 and would remain out the rest of the race. By this point, we were definitely experiencing time dilation - the mile markers which made brief appearances in our light bubble like clockwork every 20 minutes seemed to appear one right after the other. Unfortunately for us though, CP 5 proved to be some sort of 'time dilation nexus' and as we passed through and headed towards CP 6 (the final turnaround point), time stretched instead of contracted and i hit my low point of the race. It took just shy of 3 hours to walk from CP 5 to 6 and the trail which had been pretty packed down to CP 5 deteriorated badly. We became convinced we'd be caught by the pair chasing us.
|filling water at a CP in the middle of the night|
Much to our surprise we passed the trailing racers after only 10 minutes. They must have been moving fast to be so close behind despite our 15 minute or more headstart out of CP 4 and their wrong turn. Damn. I was determined not to get caught and told Grant the goal was to 'negative split' both the section to back to CP 7 (same as CP 5) and then to the finish (same as CP 4). He thought this was a good idea until I actually picked up the pace. We'd now been on our feet (never sat down once!) for over 14 hours and had exceeded Grant's longest ever effort at mile 32. I knew he was hurting (although he wouldn't come right out and say it so directly) and wanted to slow down - but i didn't let him.
We trudged on until we started to notice the shadows of the sleep monsters becoming more frequent as we cast our lights along the trail - time for the secret weapon. We split a tube of Power to Go Energy mix and kept at it - relentless forward progress. The mix did the job - at least initially - and Grant's mood improved. We managed the negative split to CP 7 by four minutes and the end was starting to actually seem near. Nevertheless - i was still constantly looking over my shoulder - absolutely convinced that we'd see a pair of headlamps suddenly crest the hill behind us and herald the arrival of our chasers.
|Talking with Brian and JP, the race winners, moments after Grant and I's third place finish.|
Below are a few highlights/thanks that i want to offer - random thoughts that didn't make the race report but that bear recording....
- We had a great trip overall - awesome company on the way out and back in Bonnie and Mike. These two only made it 32 miles, but considering how Mike was feeling at mile 12, not to mention that their packs and boots weighed at least twice ours, this is incredible! Way to go guys...
- Sausages at CP 16 were fabulous! So were the cinnamon candies I brought - particularly during the last half of the race.
- Feeding Grant - Grant, was using borrowed trekking poles with rather slim 'leashes'. As a result he had a hard time getting his hands in and out of them. To make matters worse, he wore fleece mittens which provided little dexterity. As a result, every time we stopped to eat, i'd end up feeding him - he couldn't open the ziplocs of chips, the FRS chews, etc. It provided some comic humor for us deep in the night.
- Brian and JP - the guys who ended up winning - were super cool to run with, at least as long as we could keep up with them. Awesome job.
- Gear - we took some calculated risks when it came to gear and opted to run the race in a style not used by anyone else. there's a lot of good stuff to report on here that others might find useful, so i'll put it in a follow up post in the next couple days.