Below is a recap of my experience!
Quick Facts (Unofficial)
Race Start to Aid Station (~4.5 Miles)
For the first time, I intentionally started the race fast. We had about a mile of running on the road before hitting the single track, and I didn't want to get behind too many people. I had run the course before in training, and I knew it was a pretty narrow trail -- I thought trying to pass too many people would require too much energy, and could risk injury.
So, when the RD said, "go", we took off, and gradually the pack thinned until it was about four of us hitting the single track up front. The first place guy (who would go on to win), took off from there, and 2nd-4th stayed together. It was a pretty quick pace, but I was ok with my perceived effort. The course doesn't have a lot of big climbs, so I knew I could push it more at the beginning. The other runners in the pack seemed very focused, but as I like to do, I eventually broke the ice and we had a fun conversation about...you guessed it...running! Always cool to learn about other races.
|Cruising through the parking lot - first mile was sub-7|
Mile 4.5 - Start of the Loop (~9 Miles)
Our pack split up after the aid station when one skipped it, and I only stopped for about 30 seconds to fill my bottle with water. After that, I began a long period of running solo for the rest of the race. It was actually pretty hard trying to figure out where I should be. On the one hand, I wanted to hold on to third, but on the other, I didn't want to blow up too early. So, I pushed it, but reined it in when I felt like my effort was too hard for that early in the race.
At the end of the first loop, there was another aid station with our drop bags. An awesome volunteer grabbed mine for me quickly, and I promptly filled my bottle with tailwind, and then hit the trail. I couldn't see 4th place in sight, but I didn't want to lose time, so I kept going.
Along the way, several volunteers and bikers kept telling me, "you are in third place - the other guys are about a minute ahead"! It was really motivating.
The Second Loop
The goal for the second loop was to keep up a solid pace, but also save some in the tank for the third lap. For the most part, I was able to do that. I had some GI issues, I think, because I actually took in took much liquid and calories at one point. Eventually that passed, but when I got to the aid station, I needed a quick burst of sugar to get some more energy in my legs, so I grabbed coke and gummy bears, chatted for a bit, and then hit the trail.
At the second aid station, I made the decision to ditch my handheld so I could focus on really pushing the last loop. I grabbed more coke, some water, thanked the volunteers (they were AWESOME), and then moved out of there.
The Third Loop
With no bottle and a handful of gummy bears, I got back on the trail and began to push it. There were more runners I had to pass, but they were so enthusiastic about me being in third, it was just awesome. Shortly after the aid station, I saw my fiance and friend, which was also around the time my stomach got a little angry. I said hi to them, let the gummy bears go down, and then I kicked it into gear.
|Saying hi, and taking a breather|
After the mid-loop aid station, I was feeling pretty good, but definitely had the typical late race pain. That said, I was able to deal with the pain because I knew the finish was close. At this point, I had run the loop about 5 times (training and race), so I had some good milestones in my head to reach (e.g., "just make it to the bridge"). This helped the time go as I was still running solo.
I did eventually see the same biker from earlier, but this time he said, "you are in third...the other two are way ahead". I laughed and said, "that's ok, I'm not worried about them!" I just kept doing my thing.
When I got closer to the road (and the final stretch), I spotted the second place runner. I didn't know if he saw me, so I held back and hiked the last two hills so I could save some gas in the tank for the road section. As we hit the road, he looked back, and knew I was on his tail. However, he was a good quarter of a mile ahead, and had some good speed. There was simply no way I was going to catch him, and I was OK with that! It wasn't a matter of me not trying my hardest...I was...he was just too far ahead, and much faster than me!
After about a mile on the road, I crossed the finish line excited for a third place finish!
Once I finished, I thanked the RDs, took in some recovery fluid, grabbed a snack, and then headed back to DC. I was hoping to hang out at the finish longer, but we needed to get moving.
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