|Washing off the mud. Jeremy in yellow. Photo by Michael Kirby|
Ten minutes before the race starts, I load the four external pockets of my shorts with 8 Hammer gels. As I run off towards the start line, I take four strides and my shorts have slipped down to my thighs. Weighed down by the gels, I look to cinch the draw string and secure the shorts to my waist, only to discover that no draw string exists. I don’t want to race 31 miles holding up my shorts, so 5 minutes before the start, I’m back in the car putting on a different pair of shorts and trying to stuff as many gels as I can into the lone rear pocket. The rest of the gels are tucked between my skin and elastic ban of the shorts. Lesson 1 – Don’t wear gear for a race that you’ve never run in before. Yep, I knew that one already and blatantly ignored it.
As I’m sprinting the quarter mile to the start line, someone along the way tells me “one minute till the gun”. I fly around the crowd of runners and make it to the front row with 20 seconds to spare. Gun goes off and so do I, sufficiently warmed up. The first mile is on flat paved road, and I settle in around 6th place. I was a little surprised when my watch reads 5:33 at mile marker one, that felt easy. The pace slows slightly as the course turns into beautiful red dirt trail, weaving through rolling green hills, and over creek crossings. I settle in with a group of 3 guys and we chat a bit. I tell the guys I’m from Missoula and haven’t run on dirt for over a month. Rod Bien, a Patagonia Athlete, asks if I know Justin Angle, and I share a few tales about Justin and I’s backcountry skiing trips to Marshall Mountain this winter.The three of us comfortably stay together through the eight mile loop that takes us back through the starting area. We collectively come through in 52 minutes, 6:30 pace, and in positions 3,4,5 with two Nike runners a minute and a half ahead. We stay together for the next mile until the only big decent on the course. As we start the 1000 ft decent to the American River, I instantly put a gap on the other two and never hear them the rest of the way down. At 11 miles, I hit the American River and aid station. I put down a hammer gel, which I did approximately every 40 minutes of the race. The aid station workers told me I was 3 minutes off the lead.
|Off to a fast start. 5:33 first mile. Photo by Michael Kirby|
|Feeling good cruising along the American River. Photo by Eric Schranz|
At mile 17, the 1000 ft climb to the top of the canyon begins. I didn’t push too hard up this climb, but maintained a comfortable running pace the entire way. I even enjoyed a thigh deep creek crossing along the way, refreshing! However, after reaching the top of the climb, things started to turn in an entirely different direction.
|The American River.|
With about five miles to go, I was expecting that at any time some of those footsteps I heard approaching me from behind would belong to a Hoka teammate. Sure enough, a bright yellow Hoka One One shirt goes blowing by me. Magdalena Boulet, would be the top runner on the team today. Despite all the pain, pride swallowing, and adversity, I hobbled on.
With a mile to go, the legs started to loosen slightly, so I was able to move in a fashion that resembled running. After being passed by 14 people in the last 10 miles, I crossed the finish in 17th place in 3 hrs and 59 minutes. The high fives I had envisioned not long ago, were replaced by an awkward on-camera interview around the subject of how this race went from being a podium contender to now a snow bound Montanan’s early season training run.
|Finish Line Mud.|
So in a nut shell, Way Too Cool 50k went from way good too way bad in an instant. It was a physical collapse that I’ve never experienced before in a race of any length. So now I’m left to answer the question “why?”. Lack of early season running specific training, went out too fast, bombing down the 1000 ft decent, hydration, maybe the answer is “yes” to all. Chalk this one up as a tough training run and remember that there’s always another race. I’ve got Lake Sanoma 50 mile in 5 weeks, it’s time to hit the trails.
Nutrition - 6 Hammer Gels and 3 Perpetuem Solids. Energy levels felt great all day.