Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Potomac Heritage 50k: Fast Course on Local Trails

This is a local race put on by the local trail running club (Virginia Happy Trails Running Club -- VHTRC) with (relatively) few runners on a (relatively) fast course.  This race wasn't one I had planned to run well in advance but I figured I would since I was well-trained and the start/finish area is a house located just a few miles from where I live.  Couldn't be more convenient.  

The results from this race aren't formal in any way so if you are keen on beefing up your UltraSignup results, don't bother.  But if you are looking for something casual, somewhat silly, and the chance to run alongside some of the best ultrarunners in DC/MD/VA, then give this race a go.  The highlights of this race are the hand-written race number on your hand, the "bonus points" you can earn at aid stations (I ate spicy tofu at the first aid station and jumped rope at the second aid station), the freedom to run as far (or not) as you like, and the friendly atmosphere & good food at the end.  I felt pretty good for most of the race and although my GPS reported less than 50k at the end (30.16 miles), I ran it in 6h:8m.  

Fun race.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

MCM Race Report: Crowded, but with Impressive Crowd Support

The Marine Corps Marathon has a lottery and when I (and Lisa) registered for the lottery several months ago we weren't sure how difficult it would be to get into the race so we registered without considering what other races, if any, might conflict with race weekend.  (Apparently it isn't *too* difficult because everyone we knew who registered for the lottery got into the race.)  Lisa didn't have any conflicts but the MCM marathon, held on Sunday, October 25, was held five weeks after the Run Rabbit Run 100 so I wasn't sure how I would feel but I figured I would feel good enough to give it a go.  

Even though the race started at 7:55am the race instructions recommended getting to the runners village (race corral) TWO hours in advance -- we thought that was a bit excessive since it was forecast to rain in the morning -- so we arrived at the nearest metro station about 7am with, we thought, plenty of time to get through security and walk over to the start line.  Turns out we were terribly mistaken.  By the time we made it through security -- not much of a security protocol but enough to cause a bottleneck and slow the progress of thousands of runners -- the race had already started so we headed straight to the starting area and set off as soon as we crossed the starting mat (~20 minutes after the official start). 

There were 30,000+ runners in this race so running elbow-to-elbow while trying to pass but not cut-off other runners was a real challenge for the first 10 miles.  If we had shown up at the start area the recommended two hours before the start time we could have positioned ourselves in the appropriate corral and run with others at about the same pace as us but since we were late and the start had become a free-for-all, the range of paces varied dramatically.  Flagship marathons in large cities like DC are bound to be crowded but MCM is unreal, although with a large field of runners comes an atmosphere that a smaller marathon just cannot match.  

Since Lisa and I live and train in DC there wasn't much of the course that we weren't familiar with although running on the road, versus the sidewalk, was a novelty.  The blue mile -- a mile featuring the faces of fallen soldiers -- was a somber reminder of the very real costs of war.  Running this stretch definitely put what I was doing in that moment -- running a marathon?!? -- into perspective.  Aside from that (appropriately) quiet stretch of the course, the crowd support and enthusiasm were unlike anything I've experienced in a race.  It was impressive, inspiring, and distracting (in a good way).  

I crossed the finish line in 4h:17m:15s with Lisa one second behind -- I was hoping we would finish closer to four hours -- but we both felt relatively decent for much of the race and Lisa ran a marathon PR so I can't complain.  We were both happy we ran this race and would recommend it to anyone who hasn't run it before but I doubt we would do it again:  there are just too many marathons in great cities to justify running MCM again.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Run Rabbit Run 100++ Mile Race Report: Pickles, Whiskey, and a Moose

Lisa and I pre-race
This is a fun race.  Granted, running/hiking/walking 100 miles non-stop may not be "fun" per se, but the mountain town, course scenery, and festive atmosphere of this race all converge into something that is challenging (but not insurmountable), well-organized, spectator-friendly, and, above all, rewarding.

The race began on Friday, September 18th in Steamboat Springs, Colorado so Lisa and I flew into Denver on Tuesday, stayed with some friends that night then drove up to Steamboat on Wednesday afternoon.  The race briefing was on Thursday afternoon so Lisa and I mostly hung out with our friends, Lisa's dad & his girlfriend, and just laid low.  The race briefing featured all the usual warnings and disclaimers:  the race is difficult so be prepared, it gets cold at night so dress warmly, beware wildlife so don't do anything stupid in the presence of a bear or moose, and treat our volunteers and course with respect otherwise you'll never be invited back.  When the briefing finally ended (it ran a bit late) we retreated to a local restaurant in the local Holiday Inn (where the race director was also dining!) for pizza and *a* beer.  After returning to the condo I made a few last minute preparations, showered, then went to bed on the early side so I could bank some sleep since I wouldn't be getting any on Friday night.  

Looking back down into Steamboat Springs
The race start was a reasonable 8am but racers were expected at the race staging area at least 30 minutes prior for check-in.  I made one final bathroom stop, took a few photos, then wandered out to the start line to overcast skies and light drizzle.  The weather forecast called for light rain through the morning but the afternoon and all of Saturday were shaping up to be clear and beautiful (yippee!).  Like most of my races, I was a bit nervous at the start but after months of preparation, committed and careful training, and the consistent support of Lisa, I just wanted to set off.  

The first ~5 miles of the course feature approximately 3,500' of climbing with the first two miles straight up a black-diamond ski hill.  It was steep, slow, occasionally muddy, and a great way to warm up.  The spectators, however, could take the gondola to the top of the ski run so when I crested the top Lisa and the rest of my group were waiting and encouraging me with "Two miles down!  Only...oh, never mind, keep going!". The next few miles were on dirt service road where it was relatively easy to fall into a comfortable pace and allow the gravity of the task ahead to settle in, but not overwhelm.  One-hundred miles is a long way (regardless of what Karl Meltzer says) and keeping things in perspective, calming my nerves, and settling into a groove were top priorities for me at this point.     

Approaching the top of the ski run
There were fifteen aid stations although some of the stations we hit more than once and not all the aid stations provided full aid.  When I arrived at Olympian Hall (mile 20.9) just over five hours had elapsed and I felt pretty good.  Aside from an almost-fall nearly resulting in a hyper-extension of my right knee I was moving well and my hips, knees, and feet were holding up well.  When I saw Lisa I wrapped my VooDoo Band around each thigh, did a few squats, stretched a bit, ate a bunch of fruit & some dill pickles, then set out for Cow Creek.  I wasn't sure if the aid stations would have dill pickles on offer so Lisa had a jar on hand but much to my good fortune, almost every aid station had pickles available.  I was introduced to the wonders of pickle juice at the Beaverhead Endurance Run 100k in July and although I only drank straight pickle juice at one point during Run Rabbit Run, I ate some dill pickles at nearly every aid station.  Needless to say, I think I consumed more than enough sodium (and then some) to replace the salt I was losing.
Ridge-running between Olympian Hall and Cow Creek
The loop to Cow Creek then back to Olympian Hall featured some of the most beautiful and runnable single track on the course.  The sky was epic blue, it was warm but not stifling so, and there were great views to be had.  When I finally returned to Olympian Hall I again used the VooDoo Band to compress my quads to alleviate some of the soreness and fatigue settling in, chatted with Lisa and the rest of my crew, grabbed some food that was more on the substantial side (egg sandwich) then set off on the long climb back to Long Lake.  
Selfie at dusk

The race directors emphasized how cold it can get at night -- this is apparently the #1 reason for DNF'ing -- so I was a bit concerned about, first, dressing warmly enough and, two, the problems and challenges that crop up with running at night.  Somewhat to my surprise, though, I was moving well and I was in a good place mentally.  When I arrived at Long Lake around 10pm it looked and sounded like an outdoor club.  There was a fire roaring, the aid station volunteers were serving up soup and they had a few liquors on hand to really liven up the mood.  One of the aid station volunteers (Jenn Shelton?!?) offered me some Mezcal -- I declined -- but when I saw the High West Rendezvous Rye I couldn't resist.  Nothing warms the body quite like a spicy whiskey!

The next several hours were a foggy blur but I kept on.  On the return climb from Spring Creek Ponds back to Dry Lake I started to feel really tired, had trouble focusing on the terrain in front of me, and even thought I saw one of my cats lingering in the bushes as I passed by. Needless to say, I was happy to return to Dry Lake where Lisa was waiting and she would join me for the rest of the race.  

After resting for a few minutes, refueling, and steeling myself for the next 30+ miles Lisa and I set off in the pre-dawn darkness.  The next 16sh miles are a gentle and undulating uphill and although the terrain is runnable I wasn't, unfortunately, doing much running at this point.  Covering 70+ miles had taken its toll.  
Feeling a bit more energetic with the sunrise
A couple of miles from Long Lake (mile 87?) Lisa and I were trudging along some wooded double track and Lisa suddenly stopped -- she was leading -- and pointed up ahead toward a moose that seemed too large, and close, to be real.  But he was.  And he was crazy close to us.  I handed Lisa my phone -- I was too tired to bother fiddling with the camera -- and she immediately snapped a photo.  Unsure what to do (aside from not doing something stupid), we stepped off the trail to our left, the moose stepped to his left (our right), and we each went on our merry way.  It was surreal.  
Moose have a reputation for being ornery but this guy seemed like he was in a good mood
When we arrived at Long Lake (mile ~90) it was ~11:30am and the long climb was behind us.  The next aid station (Mount Werner) was ~7 miles away over rolling terrain.  While I waited for Lisa to change out of her cold-weather clothing I snacked on some fruit and took the aid station volunteer up on his offer to make me a spicy Bloody Mary with vodka (why not?).  Although I was quite pleased with how well my body had been holding up it was starting to (painfully) object.  My knees were getting creaky and I was experiencing a new pain in my left foot.  I had taken several Ibuprofen in the last 27 hours and it was unlikely more would help so I just soldiered on.  

The Mount Werner aid station featured minimal aid -- I quickly downed some Coke -- because it is the last aid station and the final ~6 miles to the finish are all downhill.  I mistakenly thought I would be able to run this stretch but the best I could muster was a clumsy shuffle.  It was a long 6.5 miles but after 1 hour and 45 minutes the finish line came into view and I ran it in with Lisa alongside.  I crossed the finish line at 3:36pm on Saturday, September 19th:  31h:36m:37s after I began, covering 102.9 (official) miles with 20,191' of ascent and 20,191' of descent.  (I wasn't wearing a GPS but one runner I chatted with told me his GPS from the previous year put the course mileage at somewhere between 107-108 miles and this year's winner also claimed his GPS pegged the distance at around 107 miles.)  Among the tortoises,of which I was one, I was 49th among 108 finishers with 178 runners starting the race.   
Run 100+ miles for a belt buckle and beer stein?  Giddyup!
Run Rabbit Run is a great race.  Organizing this race must be a mammoth undertaking and the race directors did an impressive job.  The aid station volunteers were always helpful, cheerful, and ready with tasty ultra grub (who would have thought mashed potatoes mixed with broth would taste so good?!?).  And to those who doubled as bartenders, special thanks for keeping this a sport inhabited by lunatics. 

One-hundred miles is a shit ton of miles and going the distance would have been even more difficult without the support -- both during and the months leading up to the race -- of my crew-extraordinaire and wife, Lisa.  You're the best.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Beaverhead Endurance Run 100k: Idaho on the Left, Montana on the Right!

Idaho on the left, Montana on the right!
This race was probably one of the most remote I have run and, for a few miles at least, one that felt both exhilarating and reckless.  

The day before the race Lisa and I took advantage of the (tame) two-hour float trip down the Salmon River organized by the race directors since the area has a reputation for world-class rafting.  For obvious reasons, the float trip didn't feature any rapids of consequence but it was, as advertised, scenic and relaxing.  The race briefing and pre-race meal followed.  Supper consisted of green salad, pasta salad, and a brownie for dessert since the main was chicken.  I was a little concerned I wasn't eating enough but I think the modest, simple food the night before greatly benefited me (and my bowels) the next day.  I also had a beer when we returned to the hotel room but we didn't stay up late:  the race began at 5am and the start line was over an hour away.  I set my alarm for 2:30am and we left the hotel about an hour later.  

The race directors mentioned at the pre-race briefing the ridge was much cooler than down in the valley but I was surprised by how cold it actually was.  I generally start a race with the least amount of clothing possible but this race I put on my Salomon windbreaker and zipped up to stay warm.  After the singing of the National Anthem and a few quick pictures with Lisa, the 54 of us registered for the 100k set off.  

I settled into a comfortable pace behind a male-female pair and although I had my hand-held flashlight I didn't need it since the fellow in front of me had a blazing headlamp.  

When I arrived at the first aid station (six miles) I stopped to refill my pack and snagged a few pieces of fruit since I was concerned about the altitude, dry heat, and the risk of dehydration --- I didn't want to derail my race by not drinking enough!  We were running on the Continental Divide Trail but were not yet straddling the ridge so the views were mostly looking down into Salmon.  
Salmon, ID way off in the distance
At some point I caught up to a female runner named Fran and when we rolled into an aid station at about mile 15 or 20 the volunteers announced that Fran was first woman.  I was surprised because the male-female pair I began the race with took off after the first aid station and I thought they were much further ahead of me.  Fran's reaction to the news was unexpected:  "Well, that's pathetic."  Her and I ran together for several miles but my right knee was starting to tighten up so I slowed down a bit.  Fran arrived into the mile 27 aid station --- the only aid station accessible to crew --- a minute ahead of me and she didn't waste too much time topping off her liquids, greeting her crew, then setting off again.  Lisa was waiting for me and, as usual, had the items I needed:  the TigerTail, a Starbucks Frappucino, and some Perpeteum.  I massaged my legs for a few minutes then set off for the mostly four miles of uphill to the next aid station.  

About a mile away from the next aid station it started to rain then lightly hail.  I wasn't too alarmed since we had been warned about the possibility of precipitation but when I rolled into the aid station the sky opened up, I forced a smile, threw up my hands, and decided to hang out under the aid station tent until it let up.  Another runner from Montana, Hayden Janssen, was already sitting at the aid station shivering under an aid station volunteer's coat so we commiserated for a while until he fashioned a rain coat from a garbage bag then set off on the rain-drenched trail.  I hung out for a bit longer but after a gaggle of four or so runners showed up and it appeared the rain was slowing some I took off with the gaggle behind me.  

Somewhat to my surprise -- and in spite of the rain and muddy trail -- I was moving quite well on the gentle uphill with a runner from Boulder, CO (Brad Olwin) settling in behind me.  On a steeper incline he pulled away from me and eventually out of sight.  I kept on and eventually caught up to Hayden who was moving about the same speed I was so we settled in together.  

When we finally rolled into Goldstone Aid Station (mile ~46.5) we were well-ahead of the cut-off but close enough for me to notice, and remark to the aid station volunteers, that covering the first 46.5 miles of the course in 13 hours isn't trivial, given the terrain and altitude.  They agreed and reminded us this is a difficult race.  After sitting for a few minutes, eating some potato chips, and bumming a couple of Ibuprofen off an aid station volunteer, Hayden and I set off again.  At this point the gray skies and precipitation had long since departed and we were running under beautiful blue skies.  

Hayden and I chatted easily about running, our backgrounds, and politics until the next aid station.  I arrived at Janke Lake a couple of minutes ahead of Hayden and I'm not sure if it was the Ibuprofen but I was feeling strong.  Hayden noticed the remnants of dill pickles on the aid station table and asked if they had anymore dill pickle juice left.  They did and offered some to both Hayden and me.  I had never eaten a dill pickle during a race, much less drank the juice, but the saltiness sounded appetizing so I took a swig.  It tasted good and my body didn't immediately object.  After taking a few pictures of Janke Lake down on the Montana side, Hayden and I left then began the slog to the scree field.   

Janke Lake on the Montana side of the CDT
The highest point on the course is along the scree field -- an exposed expanse of shoe-sized to couch-sized loose rocks -- so it was cold and windy.  The race directors went to great lengths to prepare the runners for the scree field -- they even posted videos to the race website of the terrain -- but not even that can prepare you for the unstable rock you are traversing with a vertical drop into Montana immediately to your right.  If you stayed as far right as possible the trail was, at times, runnable but if you are at all skiddish about heights and being exposed (like I am) you hug the left.  This made for some slow sections jumping from rock to rock.  This section also featured several false summits so there were a few times where I was *certain* I was approaching the end of the scree field only to look up and see another climb.  It was slow-going and, at times, frustrating.  There were moments of exhilaration and awe followed by a few curse words mumbled under my breath about the recklessness and craziness of what I was doing.  

When I finally reached the end of the screen field and began the descent down to the last aid station -- Bohannon Creek -- I caught back up to Fran and Brad.  Both were quite surprised to see me, especially since I last saw Fran >25 miles ago and Brad 15 or so miles back.  I fell in behind Brad and we began the steep and technical descent into Bohannon.  We passed a few 50k back-of-the-packers, chatted amiably, and marveled at the technicality as well as the scenery that abounded from the Continental Divide Trail and scree field.  

We only spent a few minutes in the Bohannon Creek aid station (mile 56) -- long enough for me to splash some water on my eye since my contact was pretty dry and my vision was blurry out of my right eye -- then Brad and I took off for the last six miles of the course.  I was feeling even better at this point and I remember thinking to myself, "OK, wheels up, let's get this done."  Most of the descent was on a jeep road and included two creek crossings and when I approached the creek both times I plowed through -- no hesitation -- and just kept on.  It seemed as if the faster I ran the better I felt.  The last mile or so wound through pasture and it was unclear how far the finish line was but when it finally came into view I sped up and crossed the finish line in 15h:45m:44s.  Among 41 finishers, I was 20th and just 15 minutes behind the first woman (Fran was 2nd woman).  I was quite pleased with my race:  my feet held up well, I didn't have any problems taking in and retaining food and drink, and the scenery, course, and aid station volunteers were spectacular (many thanks to the volunteer at Goldstone who gave me some Ibuprofen!).  I had my iPod with me since I was anticipating running quite a few miles solo but I never removed it from my pocket...I chatted away quite a few miles with Fran, Brad, and Hayden (good company indeed!).  

This is a great race that combines difficulty (12,700' of ascent, 15,100' of descent) with uniqueness (running on the CDT!) and one I hope remains on the ultra circuit.  I certainly hope to return again some day!    
Lisa (crew-extraordinaire!) and me at the finish area

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cayuga Trails 50m: Unexpectedly Long Slog

I struggled in this race.  I wasn't really expecting to have much problem with this race but when the muscles in my upper, inner thigh tightened up less than 15 miles in -- it was almost inevitable the proverbial wheels were going to come off -- I knew it was shaping up to be a long day.  
Pre-race photo.  Looking pretty chipper here!
The Cayuga Trails 50 was held on Sunday, May 31st in Ithaca, New York so Lisa and I drove up on Saturday, arrived in the late afternoon, met her father and his girlfriend for dinner, then I settled in for a leisurely evening while preparing my gear for the morning.  Race start was at 6am but we were less than 15 minutes drive from the start so I didn't have to get up too early.  (Side note:  Among all the ultras I've run, this one was by far the most accessible to crew and spectators.  The aid stations were relatively close together so hopping between stations was quite doable.)  After checking in and surveying the scene, it was obvious many of the runners were here to compete.  This race, in fact, was the USATF 2015 50 Mile Trail Championship so quite a few of the runners were wearing bibs with "Open" written on them which, insofar as I could tell, meant they were USATF members and were competing for the championship title. 

According to the course specs on the race website, there is approximately 10,000 feet of elevation gain/loss over 47 miles of single track and three miles of road.  There are several sections of stairs and quite a few gorgeous gorge views ("Ithaca is gorges!").  There were also three stream crossings that runners crossed twice so had it been hot they would have been quite the relief (the weather on race day was overcast with bouts of rain and temperatures in the 50s-60s).  In some sections of the course it feels surprisingly remote even though we were never *that* far from civilization.  

When I set out the plan was to see Lisa, her father, and his girlfriend at the mile 12 aid station but when I arrived about 2h:15m after the start -- a little ahead of schedule -- they weren't there so I continued on, especially since I felt good and was moving well.  According to my watch, I was averaging an 11:35 per mile pace but my stomach was a little off so I was keen on finding a restroom.  I finally did at around mile 14 and even though I stepped off course for about five minutes several runners overtook me during that time.  Losing time and distance shouldn't have felt like a setback -- this was a 50 mile race after all! -- but it was and that marked the beginning of a long mental decline that wouldn't bottom out until somewhere between miles 25 and 30.  The muscles in my upper inner thigh were also tightening up -- I've had this problem before -- so I had to occasionally stop and stretch but knowing my muscles would only continue to tighten only contributed to my mounting frustration.  It was going to be a long day!

When I finally returned to the start/finish area as well as the mile 25 aid station -- the course is a circuitous out-and-back with a loop at the end -- I sat and stretched for a while and tried to steel myself for another 25 miles.  I reached the half-way point in 5h:07m so it was almost impossible I would run sub-10 hours but 11 hours was within reach, if not a best-case scenario, so I readjusted my goal and settled on sub-12 hours.  The race has a 15-hour time limit -- I knew I would finish -- but as I slowed and the number of runners overtook me it became obvious I would finish well outside the top-third of runners.  

At one of the aid stations where Lisa met me, she walked with me for a bit and I told her I was feeling somewhat ambivalent about being a more experienced ultra marathoner.  On the plus side, more experience means more knowledge about how to prepare, knowing how your body will cope with the distance and strain, and what to do when things go awry.  On the flip side, though, more experience means more, and higher, expectations.  In my earliest races, I wanted to finish strong but, ultimately, I just wanted to finish.  For better or worse, the sense of accomplishment from just finishing is no longer as satisfying.  I need to work on reclaiming that joy and satisfaction because not every race is going to come together.  Some races are tough, unexpectedly so, and this was one of them so enjoying the experience for what it is sometimes ought to trump finishing fast, or strong, or whatever.   

When I arrived at the mile 47 aid station Lisa greeted me, told me the time (11 hours and 5 minutes had elapsed since the start) and took my iPod, visor, and long-since expired watch off my hands.  I had a little less than an hour to cover three miles so I gulped a couple of cups of Coke and set off for the finish.  I was overtaken by a few runners in the last few miles and as I emerged from the forest onto the service road and the final stretch of grass another runner came out behind me and I could tell he was speeding up.  I didn't want to be overtaken in the last stretch so I picked up the pace -- reaching a near sprint at the finish -- while surreptitiously checking to see how far back he was.  He never overtook me and I crossed the finish line in 11h:45m (seconds aren't reported in the race results).  Among 169 finishers, I was 109th and among the males, I was 88th out of 132 men.  I ran the second half of the race in 6h:38m -- one hour and 31 minutes slower than the first half.  

This was a tough race for me -- mentally and physically.  Ultras, by their very nature, are long slogs but this one was unexpectedly long.  That being said, though, I was pleased with the race organization, the aid stations were well-stocked, the volunteers were helpful and had a sense of humor, and the course was crew- and spectator-friendly.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Promise Land 50k: Race PR

The last time I ran David Horton's Promise Land 50k in Bedford, VA was in 2008.  I remember enjoying that race and figured I would run it again since this summer -- like the summer of 2008 -- will feature a slow ramp-up to a 100 mile race.  What I didn't remember, at least not in detail, was that the advertised distance -- 50k (31.1 miles) -- is about three miles shorter than the actual distance (~34.35 miles).  Dr. Horton -- a professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA -- is an ambassador for ultra running but also, I suspect, a person who enjoys dishing out his unique version of sadism.   

The race this year was held on Saturday, April 25th.  Lisa and I drove down to Bedford on Friday afternoon and didn't arrive to the hotel until after 9pm.  I didn't have to prep much for this race so I was in bed by 10pm or so -- good thing since the race started at 5:30am and I had to pick up my race number about an hour before and I needed ~45 minutes to eat, drink coffee, and use the restroom...3:30am arrives pretty early!  

The temperature was brisk at the start line so I considered wearing a long-sleeve tech tee over my short sleeve but I changed my mind at the last minute since I would rather begin a bit chilled and warm up rather than begin comfortable then have to shed, and carry, layers later.  As soon as we set off we were climbing -- some of it runnable, most of it not so much -- but I felt good.  I thought I would be dealing with some low-level hamstring tightness but whatever issue I was having the days prior no longer existed.  

I wasn't too anxious about this race although I wanted to beat my previous time (7:00:42) so I set out at what I considered a respectable pace and hoped for the best.  About half-way into the race I started a conversation with a guy who looked like Mike Wardian and when I told him as much, he replied with, "If I am then I'm having a terrible day" to which I responded, "Or I'm having the best running day of my life."  We chatted for a while and it turns out the Mike Wardian doppelganger is a helluva runner:  he'd run a 50 mile race the weekend before and had a pretty aggressive summer on tap (Leadville for one).  He had also run UTMB last summer and did so after fracturing one of his ribs less than half-way into the race.  He managed to finish the race with less than one hour before the cutoff.  An amazing feat of mental and physical determination.  At any rate, he asked me how fast I hoped to finish Promise Land and I told him sub-7 hour was the goal.  He was running for mid-6 hours (alright!) so I figured all I had to do was, more or less, keep him in my sights.  I felt good about my progress and my prospect of finishing sub-7.  

The Mike Wardian doppelganger eventually pulled away from me and for a short time I was worried I wouldn't break 7 hours but as I approached the last climb featuring several stairs amid a scenic creek I was pretty confident I'd beat my previous time, although still pushing it just in case.  When I rolled into the last aid station -- Lisa was waiting for me -- I remember asking how many miles to the finish ("5sh" was the answer from the AS volunteer but I had to clarify, actual miles or Horton miles?!?), downed some Coke, kissed Lisa, and took off.  The last five miles of Promise Land are mostly downhill with three-ish of those miles on the same fire road we set out on at the beginning of the race.  I wanted to finish aggressively so I hauled ass -- by my standards -- and pummeled the descent.  I finished in 6:45:16, averaging 11:55 per minute, 102nd among 311 finishers. 

I was quite pleased with my run.  I beat my previous time by 15(!) minutes and my body held up well during the race.  I didn't experience any nausea (maybe it was the unseasonable chilliness?) and my hips didn't seize up.  My quads, the left one in particular, were pretty sore for a few days afterward but I think that was just from running the descents (especially the last one) so aggressively.  Nothing more downhill training won't remedy.  

All in all, a great race and one I'll most certainly run again.