national championship

Mad City 100k National Championship Race Report

A week before Mad City, chasing gazelles up and down mountains.

With LA marathon only three weeks ago, one might think that I would be back to regular running by now, feeling recovered after taking a few weeks easy. Ha, have you met me? Instead of having time to bask in the awesome feeling of success brought on by reaching my goal and qualifying for the Olympic Trials, I was trying to power recover/taper and also acclimatize to sleeping at altitude in our new Hypoxico altitude tent. I immediately started sleeping at altitude after LA and it took me until the middle of last week to finally wake up and feel like I had actually slept. If I was just in recovery, this wouldn't really matter but such was not the case as this past weekend I lined up to race the Mad City 100k USATF 100k National Championships to attempt to requalify for the 100k national team. This was an insane idea, I know, but I one of my main goals for the year was to race in the Netherlands as part of Team USA in the 100k. I thought I was already qualified with my Tussey 50 mile time, but found out a few weeks before LA that I was not. My coach advised me strongly to run Mad City to secure my spot, even though we both knew it would not be ideal since I haven't run over 26.2 miles since November and haven't run more than 50k since Tussey last year. In other words, I would be doing no training for Mad City. LA marathon was my most important goal, so I did not let Mad City enter my mind until after I crossed the finish line there.

Apparently, 2000 foot rocky ascents in less than 2 miles are excellent for taper

After LA, I was feeling pretty good. My legs and body recovered pretty well considering how hard I ran. The Thursday after LA, I was even back running with the ninjas feeling pretty spry and powering up the big long climbs. With less than three weeks between LA and Mad City, I really only had time to cobble together a few runs, throw in a few strides and focus on getting as rested and recovered as possible. At least in theory. The reality is that I ran hard and fast with a great group on Mt. Tam 6 days post- LA for a friend's birthday (think 8 minute pace up railroad grade) and ran nearly 60 miles that week. Then followed that with an 80 mile week that included a nearly 40 mile weekend with huge climbs and descents with a seriously fast crew of displaced Lake Sonoma 50 mile runners (who's race was cancelled due to flooding). It was one of the most fun weekends of running I've ever experienced but things like a 2,000 foot rocky ascent are not exactly the type of activities one should do 1 week out from running a road 100k and just 2 weeks after a marathon. With the lack of sleep, I started my final taper week not sure of what to expect from Mad City. I don't think I expected much. I hadn't had time to think about the race, let alone get jazzed for it. I think I had mentally exhausted myself through highly motivating myself for Houston/LA races. Mad City all I could do was get to the start line and hope I made it through the day. I packed my bags and flew off to Madison on Thursday and got ready to get loopy on Saturday.

Early on, still in my long sleeve (source)

Race

Before the race, I focused on the details of things I could control and spent very little time actually thinking through the race. I got my fuel plan together, made a pace chart for time, checked the weather over and over and over (since it kept changing-threatening high temps and thunderstorms) and got my crew bag together for Beth (the baker's sister) and Mike, who drove up from Illinois with the best cheerleader ever (Ellie, their 1 year old). I worried over my shoe selection and finally decided to wear my KSwiss Kwicky Blade Lights even though I had not run more than 8 miles at a time in them. I was considering wearing the same shoes I wore for Tussey but the reality was, they were a tab smaller (which means less room for swelling feet) and I hadn't really been wearing them either. I made up a drop bag for the start with the alternate pair, just in case. The night before the race, I met up with Beth and Mike at their hotel, made myself an awesome dinner of herb roasted potatoes and onions, skirt steak and salad and hit the hay early. As I lay there, I didn't have any of that "I am racing tomorrow" feeling. When I forced myself to think about it, all I could think was "I have no idea how I am going to mentally wrap my mind around running for 8+ hours". I woke up at 4:45am, had my gluten free oats with peanut butter, coffee and soon Todd Braje and I were off to the start together (we stayed at the same amazing host house- Thanks Suzie!!). 

Webcast: Participant Image
Pre-race mug shot.

The race is pretty low key. 10- 10k loops around the Arb and Lake Wingra. There were 30 participants in the 100k race which has served as the 100k road national championship for the past few years (including 2007 when I ran it the first time). However, most of those 30 participants were gunning for a fast or faster time including lots of hopefuls for this years 100k national team. The men's field was stacked would certainly go out fast. I didn't know much about the women's field except that Pam Smith was coming to try and qualify for the team. I was happy there was at least one other woman in the field going for a qualifier since it meant I had hope for having someone to run with. Actually, I thought she would smoke me since I was feeling not recovered/tapered at all.

We arrived at the start parked in the nearly empty parking lot and got our bottles and drop bags arranged at the start/finish area. Todd did some warming up and I sat in the car and watched the clock inch towards the 6:30 am start time. I figured I would warm up in the first few laps. The last thing I wanted to do was get hyped before such a long race. My biggest fear going into the race was that my target pace would feel too easy and I would run to fast at the start and burn out in the later laps. I had written my 10k lap splits on my hand and the word "patience" to remind me that I should not run any faster than the splits. My goal time was about 8:10 which Howard, my coach, thought would be sufficient enough to secure my spot on the team. I had 8 hour pace on my hand because it was just less math. I knew that the course record was 8 hours run the year before by my friend and teammate Meghan Arbogast. My 100k PR is 7:59 so I figured there was no way I would PR but the spilts were suppose to stop me from overreaching. 

With a few minutes to go, I stepped out into the cool morning air, did a few hip swings and walked over to the start. There was no time for me to think or get nervous, we were off with a ready, set, go. My strategy with loop courses is always to break it down mentally into digestible chunks. I tell myself just make it to 50k, then coast into 80k and then my favorite part is the hammer drop of the last two laps. I like to close a race hard, so the last 20k I look forward to. As I predicted the men's field went out strong and I settled into pace with a few runners with Pam just a bit ahead of me. 

Pam and I running together. photo: James Mills, Madison Examiner

She and I would be soon running together and spent the majority of the first 6 loops in relatively close contact together. We chatted a bunch and focused on just being steady and running together. In all of my world championship experiences, I have run at least the first 50k with the company of a teammate and I find it is the best way to pass the time. I was really glad to have the company and felt Pam and I worked well together. Occasionally, she would lose me as I stopped pretty much every other lap for a bathroom break, but I would accelerate a bit to catch her because it was more fun to run next to someone than 150 meters behind them. 

Making an awesome face while getting the handoff from Beth

Each lap, I would come around and Beth would be waiting for me with a waterbottle swap and a Gu and  Vespa. I carried a small 8 ounce water bottle and finished it easily every loop. It wasn't too warm so it was the perfect amount for me. I focused on my plan: GU every 45 minutes, Saltstick every 1 hour, Vespa JR every 1.5 hours. The first few laps were faster than my 8 hour splits, each lap was 47 or under including a 45:56 on lap 4. I felt good, my legs were not feeling pounded at all, my energy was good. I will say, I think that the lack of recovery served me well because the 7:30 pace felt just right instead of incredibly slow. I think my absent recovery kept me physically reined in which was nice so I didn't have to mentally do it. 


Round and round we went. I passed the 50k mark in 3:53 which was 7 minutes ahead of CR record pace. I kept telling myself to focus on my time and chill the heck out. I didn't feel like I was pressing though and I didn't feel tired, so I just kept running. In a loop course, I just start mentally pulling myself along from one landmark to the next to break up the loop. I could feel myself mentally fatiguing though my physical energy was fine. By the 50k mark, I was full out funky. I was having a "crisis of motivation". I just suddenly could not for the life of me figure out why I was running this race. I decided that my coach had pressured me into it and I didn't really want to be there. I was feeling like a petulant child and complained to Pam that I wasn't sure I was self-motivated to be there at around the 55k marker. She responded, "well, if you didn't want to be here at least a little bit, you wouldn't be here" and ran off as I eased my pace back a bit hoping that maybe an easier pace would make me more into it. By the time I came into the start/finish area at 60k, I said to Beth and Sam (Chad Rickleff's wife- another 100k teammate) "I need some motivation!!!! I am not into this!". Sam told me just to chill out and focus on my time. I took my sweet time going through the start/finish area and was 30 seconds back from Pam. I started my 7th loop, took an FRS chew from my pocket and hoped that a dose of caffeine might change my mind. I could feel my mind start to lift, I realized that I would soon be on my favorite laps and was less than a marathon from the finish. I knew that I just had to get enough momentum to get out of the 7th loop and I would find my killer instinct. Thanks to the FRS, I found it about 65k and I swallowed up the distance between Pam and I pulling along side her on the small climb up to the mile 4.2 aid station. I told her I appreciated her comment because she was right: if I didn't want to be there, I wouldn't have been there. I did want to be there and I definitely wanted to qualify for the team. She said she was feeling a bit tired and I tried to encourage her along. I was speeding up though and left her behind shortly after the aid station.

I came into the start/finish line and said, "I've stopped being a punk! I was just being a punk!". I knew I was about to turn into a machine. Even though, when I stopped to think about it, I had 18 miles remaining, I felt like I was launching my kick. I was easily maintaining my pace and had to start holding myself back in my 8th and 9th loops so I didn't get to crazy. I was still way ahead of my spilts on my hand and I started to actually consider that I might not only make the team, but win the national championship and set the course record.

I was shocked how good my legs felt. I just kept cranking, smoothly and comfortably. I zoomed around and finally made it to 90k. I wasn't sure how far up I was on Pam but I knew I couldn't take any chances. I went through the start/finish in 7:01 and got ready to hammer it home. I could hear the announcer when Pam came into the start/finish, I was 3 minutes up and knew that was not enough to rest on my laurels. I took an extra caffeine gel at the start of the loop to not take any chances bonking. I passed once more by each significant marker that had pulled me through each loop, thanking the volunteers and the spectators including one awesome lady who stood at the top of a one of the longer hills and cheered us up for the entirety of the second half of the race. It was awesome. I got to the 5k marker and saw I was on pace for my fastest lap and I felt myself growing stronger and stronger. I was excited and I was happy. I was present and enjoying the moment. It is a cool feeling to go far beyond what you thought you could. I grabbed a sip of coke at the final aid station and zoomed down the small hill on the other side. The "Arb" was my favorite part, I had about 2.2 miles to go. "Less than 18 minutes until I am done, less then 15 minutes until I am done, less than 10 minutes until I am done". I could see the start/finish through the trees, even though it is 5 minutes away. I pushed, I cranked, I extended myself. My body, surprisingly, let me.


I hit the finishing stretch and gave it a nice kick up. I could see the finishline, I checked over my shoulder a couple of times before allowing myself a smile, a huge goofy grin as I barreled into the finish line in 7:46:33. National Champion in the 100k, a new huge PR in the 100k (and in the 50 mile with a 6:17 split) and an automatic qualifier for the 100k Team USA! (Also turns out it was the 11th fastest time for an American women in the 100k-cool!)




They immediately presented me with medals, a giant crystal trophy, gift certificate and winnings. I walked around a bit with Beth and Ellie to make sure I didn't cramp up. It felt so great to be done. I almost couldn't believe what I had just done. I just ran 13 minutes faster than my 100k PR and I felt great! How is that possible! I changed my clothes and talked to the men's winner Andy Henshaw. He had run a blazing 6:47, won and qualified for the team! He came over to (re-) introduce himself after I finished because he had been the guy that I death marched out of the Canyons with at WS before be both dropped. He had hurt himself and my kidneys were shutting down, it was so nice to meet again on such a better day for both of us. And seriously, he averaged a minute per mile faster than me for the entire distance. He is a beast!!!

I hung out at the finish for a while, cheered in Pam who came in well under the old course record as well in 7:53 and enjoyed the sunshine which was (thankfully) just poking out. Beth, Mike and I headed over to the Old Fashioned for a late celebratory lunch and it really made my day to be able to spend some good time with them.


Split Calculations
CheckpointMileageTimePace  DistanceTimePace 
1st Loop - 10 Km 6.214 47:04.5  7:34.5 
2nd Loop - 20 Km 12.427 1:34:15.5  7:35.1  6.21 47:11.0  7:35.7 
3rd Loop - 30 Km 18.641 2:20:49.9  7:33.3  6.21 46:34.4  7:29.7 
4th Loop - 40 Km 24.855 3:06:46.3  7:30.9  6.21 45:56.4  7:23.6 
5th Loop - 50 Km 31.069 3:53:12.5  7:30.4  6.21 46:26.2  7:28.4 
6th Loop - 60 Km 37.282 4:40:48.7  7:31.9  6.21 47:36.2  7:39.7 
7th Loop - 70 Km 43.496 5:26:51.3  7:30.9  6.21 46:02.7  7:24.6 
8th Loop - 80 Km 49.710 6:14:16.6  7:31.8  6.21 47:25.3  7:37.9 
9th Loop - 90 Km 55.923 7:01:25.9  7:32.2  6.21 47:09.3  7:35.4 
10th Loop - 100 Km 62.137 7:46:33.4  7:30.5  6.21 45:07.5  7:15.7 


It was a whirlwind weekend. I flew back to San Francisco crazy early Sunday morning. Before I could even think about it, the amazing experience, the sheer gravity was slipping through my fingers. In some ways as I write this blog post, it feels like it is something that I experienced in a dream. I am so excited to once again be a part of Team USA and represent at the 100k Worlds in the Netherlands in September. I am curious to see what I can do. In the end, I am glad I took a chance to run this race, it was an insane idea but it worked out. I would like to say that I am kicking me feet up and enjoying some well-deserved recovery time, but the reality of the situation is, I am on to the next adventure in just another week! And I couldn't be more excited. Thank goodness I don't seem to be that sore!

2010 50 mile road USATF National Championship-Tussey Mountainback 50 mile race report

A very special thank you to Hydrapak for getting me out to the race. And to all of my sponsors: your support makes this possible.

Photo courtesy of USATF


Don't call it a comeback....


After JFK last November, I often wondered if I would ever again have an experience in a race like I did that day. That feeling of pure joy, ease and speed without pain, effort or faltering from wire to wire. That feeling, the inexplainable thing when everything comes together just as it should. That feeling of your entire mind, body and spirit working together for a common purpose. I wondered if I would ever again have such a day.

This year, for the most part, I have had good races but not like JFK. Lake Sonoma I won/set a CR, Miwok I ran a strong second against a deep field while staying in a controlled "eyes on the ultimate prize (WS)" mode. Both races I had highs and lows, but overall pretty satisfying days. WS was much of a polar opposite and didn't turn out well despite my best efforts. So I wondered if I would ever again have another day like JFK. I know I had set a high bar for myself on that day and I know that more often than not races will not go flawlessly. I didn't worry about it; that kind of day where everything falls perfectly into place doesn't happen every day. But when it does, it is beautiful.

This weekend, I had one of those days.

I was slated to run Tussey Mountainback 50 miler last year but contracted H1N1 while staying in NYC after racing Vermont 50 a week before. I was really keen this year, after spending the first half of the year focusing on 100 mile trail racing, to get road fast again and go after the 50 mile road national championship at Tussey. I thought it would be a great transition race from 100 mile trail races back to the marathon and an attempt at an OT qualifier (January in Houston).

After opting out of CC100 in August, I utilized my taper for that race instead as a nice extended mid-season break and added a week to it for good measure and extra rest. It felt like a true off season though it was short. I came back to training feeling ready to do the work to get faster and stronger. I don't think my training for Tussey could have been better. I was dedicated on the track and pushed myself in tempo workouts and long runs. I did numerous doubles, did strength and flexibility work with my trainer Josh and on my own. I ran my second most mileage month all year in September. And I felt great doing so. Each 100+ mile week that passed, I felt better and better and even capped off my training with a final long run of 25 miles in 3 hours flat. But without a successful race since Miwok, I was only feeling cautiously optimistic for the race.

Prerace

I was very lucky for this race. I flew into Akron where Kristin (Nathan's sister, as well as his parents) lives and she was to be my crew, long haul driver, cheer squad and great company. Kristin is an extremely dedicated and gifted crew person. I cannot thank her enough. Akron is a 4 hour drive from State College, PA so it was perfect.

Prerace was pretty typical. Eat, relax, check stuff, try to sleep and fail. The drive out from Akron was beautiful (fall colors!) and easy (easy for me to say). We arrived at our host family's house, Dan and Kelly Wright. Dan and Kelly were running the relay at Tussey and were very gracious hosts. I cooked everyone dinner, my typical pre-race fare-white rice with butter, salad with sweet potato and goat cheese and a nice juicy steak. Unlike before my other races this year, I wasn't feeling any nervous energy or anxiety about the race. Kristin and I went over my fueling plan, checked all my supplies and I headed to bed about 10pm. Naturally I couldn't sleep and just as I was about to fall asleep around 12:30 my phone rang (had it on to act as my alarm). I didn't answer it, but when I listened to the message post race it was a friend asking for a gluten free cookie recipe: might I suggest consulting my recipe page?

Even though I wasn't nervous or even thinking about the race, I just didn't sleep great. I don't usually when I am not in my own bed.

Kristin and I before the race. Brrr. Mittens were necessary.

Race

5am alarm. I was all business. Not nervous energy or anything. Coffee on, typical pb&j on Udi's gluten free bread and a banana. Still no nerves. I recognized the feeling from before JFK. Calm. Deadly calm. Even with the local paper hyping me and my potential for breaking the CR, my goal truly was just to run happy and enjoy a race in a way I haven't in a long while. I felt no pressure to run to prove myself to anyone or run a great "comeback" run. Comeback from what? WS. Nah, I don't see it that way. All I needed was to comeback to the way I run and experience running.

We loaded up the car and headed to the race start, a quick 15 minute drive. The race is interesting because it is an ultra and relay with the relay starting in waves beginning an hour after the ultra starts. What makes this interesting is the fact that the race and all the support vehicles share the same gravel road. Thus vehicles all have to be carefully staged and early in the race we all spent a good amount of time slinking along the shoulder of the road. It also meant Kristin didn't get to see the start of the race because they sent the vehicles off before the runners. Smart but it also meant I had to relinquish my jacket and (her) mittens and stand shivering at the start for a few minutes in the pre-dawn low 40s temps. Todd Braje (defending 50 mile champ, my 100k teammate and friend) and I huddled together for warmth and joked that between the two of us we might have enough body fat to keep one person warm. Soon Howard was leading us in the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and Olympic Marathoner Brian Sell said go.

Just for the hill of it is right; there was only up & down on this course.

I went out with a comfortable stride. Other than being quite cold, my legs felt really good. All the aches, pains and weirdnesses acquired in taper were all gone. I had a mild concern for my lack of ability to um, clear the pipes, pre-race but I figured I wouldn't worry about it and cross that bridge if I came to it. I warmed up a bit as we climbed up the first leg, a 3.2 miles steady climb. Things were clicking along. I carried one small gel-bot and felt like my Salomon Exo 3/4 length tights, technical shirt and sleeves were a spot on selection for the race. I fell into a comfortable pace and watched a decently deep field of men's leaders, plus a few fool hardy and overexcited runners, dash away from me.

I felt fantastic on the climb which quickly became switchbacks. I keep thinking- look at how easy this is; running up these hills. Let's be real, "just for the hill of it" (the race motto) is spot on. Tussey may only have just over 5,000 feet of climbing but this course is all hill. Even the "flats" are at a slight grade.

I rounded one switchback and glanced to see how the field behind me was shaping up. I knew my main competition was Connie Gardner (who is also a friend, mentor and amazingly talented runner). She just won the 24 hour national championship and a week later ran Akron Marathon. I saw Connie but no other woman, so I settled in to run my race.

Kristin and I decided that she shouldn't go to TR1 (transition 1 aka aid station 1) because I wouldn't need anything and it would be much easier. I had given her a range of times which were the earliest she should expect me at the aid stations. They were pretty ambitious times with nothing but good training to indicated that kind of fitness. But they sounded good, so I said why not. I knew Anne Lundblad's CR was very stout at 6:36 and also knew that Tussey and all its hills was likely a slower course than JFK. But I still gave Kristin times for a 7:30-7:45 min/mile range for pace (that is a 6:18-6:28 finishing time).


I came into TR1 about 25 minutes and then got to enjoy stretching my legs out for 4 miles of downhill. My stomach was a little gurgly and I needed to pee but there were many many cars on the road heading from TR1 to TR2 and I had to hold it until the aid station.

I arrived to a cheering and prepared Kristin in 1:23 which was right smack int he middle of my expected range. I took my salt cap and dixie cup of gatorade and switched bottles with her. But not before I hit the porta potty and made everything right in the world (well in my digestion). I have to say everytime I had to pee during this race I thought "yeah my kidneys still work!". I headed out of the aid station feeling great. Another 3.8 mile downhill section passed without incident. I was starting to enjoy fewer and fewer cars as the field spread out.

And so it went. I just comfortably cranked out the miles. I looked forward to seeing Kristin every few miles, taking a new bottle every other station, a Vespa every 1.5 hours. The scenery was beautiful, a perfect fall day among the vibrant fall foliage.


I passed through 20 miles feeling like I hadn't even been running at all. Mentally, I felt a mixture of "f-yeah" and curiosity of just how long I would feel so good, solid, speedy and downright giddy.

Although the mile markers were way off, I crossed the halfway point under 3:15 and was very pleased. Kristin had acquired a new passenger, Jason Bryant, who won StumpJump a few weeks ago and is Nathan's La Sportiva teammate. He was having back problems and was forced to drop. I was bummed for him but it multiplied my cheer squad which I didn't mind. I was so damn happy & feeling good that I couldn't stop grinning and being excited every time I saw them.

My fueling plan was working perfectly. I had a plan of taking 2 gels per 70-80 minutes plus water and 1 Saltstick tablet every other time I saw Kristin. It worked perfectly with the Vespas every 1.5 hours. I never felt an energy lull. I didn't lose the bounce in my legs. I didn't feel mentally or physically fatigued despite getting no sleep the two days prior to the race. I hit the 50k mark in 3:56 and started to realize, or more accept, what I had been hoping for: this was my day. This was the day when nothing would go wrong, it would all click. I stayed comfortable and didn't press as I was already ahead of CR pace.

Getting ready for the lift and spin. Mile 37 is a great place to do ballet moves with strangers.

We tackled each section with surgical precision. Kristin fueling me up and telling me exactly what the next section contained, me running my little heart out. I pushed on the downhills, banking speed for the bigger climbs that I knew were waiting at the end. I came into TR 9, did a spin around the course monitor and prepared myself for a grueling 5.8 mile uphill which I knew would only deliver me to TR10 and the hardest climb of the day.

This was the only exposed section and I was warmed by the bright sun in a nearly cloudless sky. I had relinquished my sleeves at TR9 and settled in to do work uphill. It was crazy how good I still felt. My pace was slightly slower with the grade but I was on. I took a Roctane gel, the first caffeine of the race for me, to add a little pep to my step on the hills. I passed another runner and moved up in the field. I knew I was top 10 overall at that point but wasn't sure where exactly. I was running along when I heard a man from one of the houses along the road (there were very few- I saw more hunters than I saw houses!) say, "getting tired yet?" I looked over to see a lone old man, sitting on his porch, watching the runners come slowly past. "Nope!" I replied. "I feel great!"

I hit TR10 and Jason told me to expect a .8 mile steep uphill then a .8 mile steep downhill then a flat section to the turn around and then back .8 mile up and .8 mile down back TR 10/11. I had seen Dave James leaving the out and back and I knew I would get a chance to see how some of the race was shaping up. The only runner in front of me I didn't see was Todd, who had taken over the lead. I saw Howard powering up the final climb and he gave me an "atta girl!" and I felt equally as pleased for him to be racing so well. It was a comeback run for him after recovering from an injury. Howard told me later I'm the first woman to ever be on the out and back with the top me. I climbed the hill and chuckled at the fact that the hardest hills by far were between miles 41.8 and 45.8. And even they did not dampen my spirit or make me feel more tired. All I could think about was how excited I was to reach the top of the return because that meant it was all downhill to the finish and I was ready to blaze it.


I hit the top and started cranking. I came back into the aid station and declined my new bottle from Kristin telling her I wanted to go light and fast. They relay was finally catching up and the aid station was full of relayers and their teams cheering.

I picked it up. Here I was at mile 46 and felt amazing. My legs were nibble and fresh. I joked to myself that I should do the final 4 miles as a tempo run so I could finish tired. I laughed, naaaaahhhh. Why would I? I was far ahead the women's field (having not seen the 2nd woman, Connie, on the out and back) nor were there any men close enough to chase and none were chasing me. I had 4 miles and 45 minutes to break the CR and didn't need to crack myself. I still sped up though. It was sweet downhill and I just had to open it up a bit. I felt like a machine. At mile 48 I got really choked up, finally realizing the magnitude of the run I was having. Holy s**t was it my day. I kept myself together though. When I saw the mile 48 marker, I calculated that even running 7:30 miles, I would arrive at 6:24 and some change.



I was in fact running faster than 7:30 and hit the mile 49 marker and pushed a bit more. I kept rounding corners expecting to see the finish line but it didn't come and didn't come. I glanced at my watch: 6:25, my mileage at over 50.5 miles. Finally, I broke out of the trees and saw the finish line. "Kick! Kick!" Howard yelled. I picked it up and crossed the finish line in 6:28. A new CR by 8 minutes and a PR by a minute on a harder course! National Champion and a perfect race. I embraced Kristin and then Howard (who finished 3rd and first Masters!!!). We walked a bit as not to cramp up and I couldn't stop smiling. Kristin exclaimed (having crewed for only 100 milers before) "man I love 50 milers so much more than 100s!". I couldn't agree more. I changed, cleaned up and chatted with winner Todd Braje who had broken the men's course record by 5 minutes, as well as 2nd place Dave James, Howard and Mark Godale (5th). I was 6th. Turns out that everyone's watches measured the course as nearly 51 miles (50.7+) meaning I averaged a rocking 7:39 min/mile.



Wow, what a day. I didn't go into this race feeling I had something to prove. I went into this race prepared and ready and just desiring to be consumed with joy, floating in the present and enjoying the the ability to run. This was my day.

We gathered up our stuff about an hour after the race and drove back to Ohio. It felt like such a dream that when I woke up in the morning, my legs barely sore, it took me a moment to realize that it was, in fact, not a dream at all. How cool is that.


Don't call it a comeback...