It was a cold, wet morning - 40 degrees and heavy rain. I wanted to get a good warm up in so I headed out on some of the trails bundled up with some good rain gear. The single track was pretty sloppy and the dirt/gravel roads were the same, but there seemed to be a path to pick that wasn't too bad. I think I started liking this warm up run a little too much because after about 25 minutes I realised I was lost! I looked down at my watch and saw it was 17 minutes to race start so I immediately turned around and started retracing my steps and luckily found a short cut back. 40 minutes and about 500' of vert later I was at my car shedding my jacket and gloves. Made it to the start with a minute to spare. This was perfect because I was nice and warm and ready to go.
The course was great as it went in and out of single track and dirt/gravel roads the whole time and harder that I thought it was going to be with about 900' of up/down. The roads were mostly gentle grades keeping the pace quick while the single track allowed runners to display their strength - a perfect mix for a race. I think it was a good 2 miles into the race where people were finally settled in and not a whole lot of shuffling around was going on. There was alot of downhill in the first 2 miles and very little up, so once the climbing started people seperated into where they truly belonged. Here I was running alone with a group about 20-30 seconds ahead of me and 1-2 people about 10 seconds behind me. Then we took a sharp turn onto some steep single track and I was immediately onto the group ahead of me, but unable to pass. No sooner were we back out onto a flat road where I couldn't match the pace, was able to just hang onto the back of the pack. Then as we turned the corner the road went up at a nice 5%-6% grade (see above photo) and without a change in effort I started swallowing up the group. After passing the first person I decided to up the effort and see if I could get all of them on this climb - I got 3 out of the 4 and never was able to catch the 4th - I would stare at the back of this guy for the rest of the race. The next couple of miles went about the same as the previous few. I eventually caught another group of 4-5 guys and would be able to pass them on the uphills. Some of the single track was getting pretty steep and I would see some people up ahead walking so I'd step on the gas a little and be sure to get by them before the end of the climb. But there was still that one guy that I just could not catch no matter what. I swear he had eyes in the back of his head and would never let me get any closer. On the next downhill he really stepped on it and turned his 10 second lead into 20 very quickly. I knew there couldn't be much more than a 1/4 mile left when I looked at my altimeter and noticed that we had run about 200' more descent than ascent and then took another sharp turn onto the final stretch that was about a 15% climb. I went as hard as I could on this climb and was reeling this guy in very quickly. Then BOOM! I ran out of trail, he hit the finish 7 seconds ahead of me. This race went exactly how I wanted it to go - I ran hard and continued to get stronger as the race went on. With the cold, the rain and the 900' of vert I'm very happy with my time. Most importantly it was the climbs where I felt the best. I finished 53:38, 17th over-all and 2nd in the 40-44 group. Interestingly though, of the 16 people ahead of me, 8 were older than me! Turns out the guy I could never catch is 49. Results.