I kinda mentioned this in my pre-race thoughts, but the week after Cascade I ran six miles, the next week 35, then 45, a couple of weeks at around 50-55, and then just 20 this week. I didn't feel ready. This is super low mileage. Would my summer fitness hold me over, or was it fading, leaving me with a long tough day in the hot mountains of the North Shore? Would the IT band flare up and leave me limping back down the hill? 62 miles and 17,500' of climbing should answer the questions!
Of course, I went into this thing with a very minor head cold, and few expectations. I knew the course record was 13h09m, which speaks to a very tough trail. I knew Tracy Garneau was coming, and she is a world class elite from Canada. I figured I'd just run and see how things played out. My excitement to really throw down had been lacking since Cascade Crest. The day prior my wife asked me if I was even excited to do this race. My answer was... uhhh, I guess yes?
An easy drive to the North Shore for the 6am start, and before I blinked I was cruising up the first big climb. The course roughly goes like this: A very big climb, right turn onto a counterclockwise loop that brings you back to near the top of the first climb, then a jeep trail (Crossover Road) that leads to a paved road off the mountain all the way back to sea level (Long Road). Back up Long Road, back over Crossover, and back down the first climb. That's 30 miles. Repeat for the 100k (with a small and very tough twist known as Are's loop to make the mileage right). Anyway, I quickly found myself in the lead of the 100k, and right behind two guys running the 50k. I knew there were a bunch of 100k'ers breathing down my neck, but I kept a nice steady pace and enjoyed the run all the way around to the bottom of Long Road (19 miles). I made sure to smile a lot! Temps were reasonable due to showers moving through, and even though that made the jeep roads really slick, I was thankful for the lack of serious heat.
The return trip up Long Road was the first opportunity to see the competition, as they were coming down. Local fast guy Alex was about .5 miles behind me, and Tracy was about a mile back. Close! I powered up Long Road, but near the top I started to become light headed and dizzy. My mental power drained away, and I cursed the slippery Crossover road. I started thinking that just one loop was smart. My IT band was bothering me, and why push it? By this time I was leading everyone including all runners in the 'short' 50k race. This mental funk was ridiculous! Could you imagine dropping out from the lead with a healthy body? The pressure of running off the front was hurting my head. I started to question if I even had the strong mind required to be competitive at this sort of thing! This is called a 'low spot', and it happens a lot in really long races. Easy to see that sitting here, but when I'm out there experiencing the thing it feels different. Nevertheless, I finished the loop, and started the second, knowing that hanging around the start/finish/midpoint aid station could spell disaster. My competition was coming down, and the gap seemed about the same. The climb was awful, but my mental power started to come back. I hit Are's loop and started to think about racing. A little to early for that, but I came up with a mantra: DON'T LET THEM HAVE THIS SECTION OF TRAIL! I'd look at the climb ahead, and determine to cover it as fast as I could (with respect to distance remaining). Anyone behind me was going to have to take this lead from me. I must have repeated some variation of that mantra about 1000 times... I wasn't going to surrender! At the bottom of Long Road again (51 miles in), I felt comfortable... for about a second. It was then that I realized that Alex was less than a quarter mile away. Three minutes behind including his stop to refill the bottles. I just knew he was going to pass me, but I regrouped and determined to give him a fight, and hauled back up Long. I had become emotionally invested in winning this thing, and couldn't bear to lose it in the last hour or so. I hiked the steep stuff faster than I've ever hiked before (let's just say hiking isn't my specialty). No kidding, I blasted Highway To Hell on my iPod. Every tedious steep climb on Crossover I repeated my mantra, running faster splits than I had 40 miles before. I hit the last aid and left in a big hurry. I sacrificed my legs on the brutal descent back off the mountain. As much as it would have depressed me to lose the lead at the bottom of Long at 51 miles, I sure couldn't lose it with three to go! I hammered the switchbacks, tried my best to float over the rocks, and finally flew through the finish in 11:35. Good for the win, and a Course Record of 1h35m. Alex had faded some, but finished in a very solid 12:10, also below the old CR. I wouldn't have run nearly as fast without him! At the finish aid station I overheard him asking about vegan food. Sure enough, another vegan runner. This day we went 1-2!
I'm very proud of this performance. Sure, different competition could have beaten me, or the same competition with different training, but I'm proud that I found the mental power to come back from a big rut and run hard when my physical power was diminishing. It was a special feeling. I learned a few things. Take care of the body and it will bounce back from a low. Mental power is worth more than physical power (sometimes). And don't underestimate how much time you can make up (or lose) in the last few miles. I put three minutes per mile on Alex from the bottom of Long to the finish (11 miles). My high point coincided with his low, and that just goes to show you that it isn't over until it's over! Now for another break, and then begins HURT 100 training!
Peacock is an outstanding event. It's an 'old school' ultra. Hard nosed, but with super friendly staff and volunteers. Incredible views of awesome terrain, the pacific ocean, and beaches cap this thing off. To all the mainlanders: It's worth the trip out to HI to run this one!
Thanks to everyone involved in this event, and huge thanks to my wife for carrying the family while I took off and ran for the day!