|Katya & me pre-race|
|Another shot of Katya pre-race|
Finally, they did show up and let us in, but due to the delay the race that was set to start at 8 am did not start until 8:50 am. I have to give a big tip-of-the-hat to Ben and all of his volunteers for getting things set up so quickly and get the race started in less than an hour after the gates were opened. We finally got going and Katya & I settled in behind my friend Eric. He is a pretty fast runner, so I thought if we could keep up with him we'd be well ahead of our 2 hour goal. We kept up with him mostly easily through the WyCo Triangle section of the trail (almost 3 miles in). That section has a lot of quick, short hills and turns. The trail through this section was very slick and it took a lot of work to keep Katya from pulling me down. She doesn't understand that 2 legs don't stop or turn as easily as 4! I fell probably a tenth of a mile or so behind Eric through that section. We were both still doing very well, though, so I gave her a quick snack and some water and we kept moving.
We caught up a little closer to Eric again as we got closer and closer to Fall Down Hill. As long as he was in sight, I knew we were doing pretty well on our time. As we reached the top of Fall Down Hill, I knew this could get interesting with all the ice on the trail. Fall Down Hill is very steep with lots of quick switchbacks. Katya & I both LOVE to run this section as fast as we can, but these conditions were not the time for that. She wanted to sprint, so I was doing my best to keep her slowed down. A little out ahead of me, I heard Eric's voice, "Careful! This turn is VERY slick!" Then I saw the guy in front of me basically skate around it. I slowed as best as I could, but Katya took the turn easily and as I carefully navigated my way around, Katya yanked on her leash. Down I went! Not a bad fall by any means. In fact, without the hard, frozen ground I probably would have barely felt it. I landed on my knee and the frozen ground made that quite painful. No big deal, but it hurt at the time. We made it the rest of the way down Fall Down Hill without incident and we started on our way across & up the dam. Surprisingly, Eric was still not too far out ahead of me, so I took the opportunity of fall, unfrozen ground on the dam to glance at my Garmin. I don't remember the exact time at the moment, but I remember being surprised to see how far ahead of 2 hour pace we were. Things were going very well, especially considering the conditions.
As went crossed the dam I was getting closer and closer to Eric, Once we got to the top of the dam, there is about a half mile section of hilly road that you run to get back to the next trail entrance. During that half mile, I got steadily closer to catching Eric. By the time he entered the trail I was within probably 20 feet of him. I wasn't trying to race Eric by any means, but shooting for sub-2 made him a nice person to judge how well I was doing by. There was an aid station at the trail entrance and they had a bowl of water for dogs, so Katya and I stopped for a moment to let her get a good drink and a quick snack, then we entered the trail for the Fester's Wander section. Normally, this is one of my favorite sections and a place I make up a lot of time. It has lots of quick but runnable uphills, fast downhills and fun switchbacks. But with all the ice on the trail, I knew this section would be slick. I hoped I wouldn't lose too much time in this section where I have come to normally gain so much time. I quickly saw that I would lose lots of time. It was probably the slickest section of the entire course, so we walked much of it just to keep from falling. I gave up on the idea of sub-2 hour. It wasn't worth trying to keep pace through this very slick section.
I ended up more or less solo through this section. Eric & the rest of those ahead of me ended up WELL ahead of me and those behind me were far enough behind that they they were out of sight and hearing. No worries, just me & my Husky! We continued on and I ignored my watch completely. I ran as fast as I could when the trail wasn't too slick and walked when the footing was too questionable. Katya was beginning to get a little tired, but she was troupering on. She'd never run this so fast, so she was tired, but she certainly wasn't giving up. Finally we got to the Three Bitches. This is within the last mile - mile and a quarter of the course. It starts with Bertha, a long, VERY steep uphill that is more or less not runnable at all. Katya was so tired that she lagged behind me a bit, but did her best to keep up. This hill is a beast because not only is it super-steep, it is also unending. You get to what looks like the top about 3 times before reaching the actual top.
My friend Kim and another guy had caught up to me and would pass me on each uphill, then Id run past them on the downhills. Not unusual. I struggle with those big uphills and love the downhills and Kim is the opposite. Then you get to the second of the Three Bitches. It's barely a tough hill, but coming on the heals of Bertha, it;s not that easy. Normally I'd run up this one, but it was slick and Katya was too tired to run it, so we hiked it. Again, on the downhill/flat side, I passed Kim and the other guy again. We got to the third of the big hills and yet again, Katya slowed, I slowed, we got passed. We got to the top and off we went. Only a very short distance to the finish from there, so I knew we were still going to be able to finish sub-2, so Katya & I started trying to go as fast as we could. Finally, we crossed the finish in 1:56:17!! (Click the link on my time to see my Garmin data) Katya & I got our medals. I gave her a bowl of water and some food, then I got some chili and one of Ben's home brewed beers. Not a bad way to finish a race!!
I'm quite proud of setting a new fastest time on this route in conditions such as they were, and I'm proud that Katya could as well. It's really a tough trail, so getting to the point that we can run it so successfully shows how hard I've been working. Between the time I ran the Pilgrim Pacer Half Marathon to start my 50k training (11/9) and the Alternate Chili Run (12/14), I had lost 10.2# and gotten much faster. I'm well on my way. My goal was to be 165# (started training at 191.6#) by the Toto 50k and to set a new 50k PR at the race. My current 50k PR is 7:00:29 (Blue Springs 50k on 10/30/11). I have 8 more weeks after the Alt. Chili run to make it happen. I feel good about this race and I feel good about how I'm doing. I am confident that with 8 more weeks I will be more than ready to meet my goals. This was definitely a confidence builder for me.