All things considered, I am very happy with the effort I put forth on Saturday in Buena Vista. Ryan Burch was absolutely on fire and I was lucky to stick with him as long as I did. I was even luckier to hang onto second place as I endured a very difficult second lap highlighted by a 12-15 minute detour at about mile 30. Getting off course is becoming a very unfortunate habit of mine that I really need to address. More on that later.
The race started comfortable and conversational as Ryan, Duncan, and I ran within a few steps of each other on the road section leading to the trail. When we hit the dirt, Ryan and I broke away from the rest of the 50 milers and started making up time on the few 25 milers that remained ahead of us. We began yo-yoing here and exchanged the lead several times over the first 18 miles. Ryan would dust me on the downs and I would make up time on the ups or flats. Pretty typical for me really.
I felt pretty good and it was nice to run with Ryan for a while. The aid station at mile 18 was when Ryan finally shook me. He got out quickly and hit the ensuing long screamer downhill with a vengeance as I fumbled with my bottle. Before I knew it, he had opened up a 60 second gap. The lead grew to 90 seconds at the turnaround and I could really feel Ryan pulling away. I still felt decent and was confident that I could maybe make up time on the long climb to the aid station at mile 32.
This is where things went all wrong for me. I had my head down trying maintain a good pace on the dirt road section knowing that flats are my strength. All of the sudden I realized that I hadn’t seen anybody going in the opposite direction for several minutes and I started getting that sick feeling that I was off course. I continued on for a couple minutes until I saw a mountain biker who confirmed what I had been dreading. Of course, I turned into a huge head case and immediately entered panic mode. Very poor way to react to such a situation.
When I made it back to the turn I missed I was furious with my mistake. It was literally the best marked turn on the entire course. So embarrassing. I was running way too fast on the climb and had abandoned efforts to drink or eat anything. Quite simply, I totally lost focus. I asked a runner heading the opposite direction how many people were now ahead of me and I was surprised to learn that I was still in second place. I was heartened by the news and stole a quick glance over my shoulder. Duncan was like 30 seconds back and looking very strong. Again I chose to panic and run way too hard.
When I reached the 32 mile aid station I was in a bad place mentally and physically. It was hot and I was sure that Duncan and Corey would pass me at any second. On the ensuing downhill I began to really entertain the thought of dropping. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I am a total mental cupcake sometimes. After all, I was still in second place and on pace to run a pretty stout time. I reached the aid station at the bottom of the hill and was glad I didn’t see my old man (who had been there on the first lap) because I probably would have caught a ride back to town.
Thankfully I began to regain my composure and nutritional discipline. The rest of the race was a grind but I am very happy I got it done. The last five miles were probably my best of the entire race and I crossed the finish feeling strong just under 6:58. I was so pumped to hear how well Ryan’s race went and I can’t wait to see what he puts together at States. He’ll be a serious sleeper there. Corey Hanson rounded out the podium while Duncan endured a pukey episode to finish fourth – his third strong 50 miler in like 9 weeks. Total freak.
As for my habitual navigational errors, I suppose I just need to concentrate more. When I do get off course, I really need to focus on staying positive and not losing my marbles like I did for 10+ miles on Saturday. I am very encouraged that I still managed to run a very respectable time under the circumstances of the day though. I really did have a great time and enjoyed the course and the whole race experience thoroughly. Plus I got another great tan.
This was my first trip to Buena Vista which is a fantastic little town. The race is a Colorado classic and I can certainly understand why. Very well organized with a low key feel which is exactly what I like. I’m very excited to put together a better race here in the future. It was great meeting many new running friends and hanging out for a few hours after the race. I’m so happy I have fallen into such a great community of athletes/human beings. It almost makes the race experience itself seem secondary.
I wore my trusty La Sportiva Fireblades again and crushed about 18 ounces of EFS during the race. I can’t overstate how much I love these performance products. I’m truly fortunate to have the support of such quality companies.
Next up is the San Diego 100 on June 11th! Hugely stoked about this race. Fire it up.