Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013 McKay Hollow Madness 25km

Last year after McKay Hollow, I put together a list of the 25 best races I have ever run, having put forth a hard effort in pretty good conditions, and managing to hold onto 2nd place overall in 2:06:08.  That was the last time I felt like everything came together for me at a race, where I was healthy, uninjured, properly trained and focused on a goal race.  I ranked that performance as #8 all time for me.

Going into this year I felt like things were slowly coming together where I could put myself into a position to have a good race.  My training had been pretty specific for this race, having focused on hill workouts, technical footing, trail tempo running and adding in just a few road races as tune up.  McKay Hollow is the perfect course for me; plenty of climbing, not too short, not too long and conditions that typically favor my running ability.  Change any of those conditions and there are plenty of guys who have my number.  So when I saw the weather on race morning of rain and cold temperatures, I wasn't sure how that would impact everything, but I hadn't trained this hard to mail it in, no matter who was running.

My warmup consisted of some high knees and butt kicks for about 30 seconds.  It was right from there to running 6:30 pace out on the road section with Brandon Mader.  He had been recently injured, but after a very fast half marathon last weekend and national class trail running talent, I am no where near his class.  Together we pulled ahead slightly, and after dropping off the mountain, he pulled ahead by a few seconds as we rounded Logan Point.  The pace on the trail portion was in the low 7's, but slowed once we started to climb into Super Cuts.  We again ran together, meaning hand climbed through the rocks and then down along Stone Cuts Bypass.  I lengthened out my stride coming off of the ridge and confidently ran down the rocky downhill toward 3 Benches.  Mader had  pulled away to where I couldn't see him anymore, but likewise, I did not see anyone behind me as I made the turn onto Mountain Mist.

I remember looking back at my pace from last year heading out on Mountain Mist and thinking that it was way too fast, trying to keep up with George Heeschen and Brad Schroeder.  But chasing Mader and staying right at 7:30 pace to the point felt very comfortable this year.  I didn't climb up War Path Ridge very well, but I kept a running motion while trying to preserve enough energy to be able to get right back to it when I reached the aid station.

Conditions were really this bad.

I thought maybe I was loosing it when I reached O'Shaugnessy Point and saw Mader talking with Brandon York.  I shook my head trying to clear the sleep out of my eyes and just ran past.  By the time I reached Rest Shelter, he had caught up and told me that the race was just an experiment to see if post injury he was ready to run trails again.  We pushed the pace pretty hard down Rest Shelter, probably harder than I would have alone, knowing that that he was behind me and it seemed like he wanted to go faster.  Our 6th mile split was 7:17.  Just about the time we reached Kathy's bench, he said that he wasn't feeling it and wished me luck.  I said thanks and rolled on down to Slush Mile.

Ok, time for a reality check.  Now I was running in the lead with plenty of better trail runners behind me.  Normally I would have let my head get to me; buckled under the pressure; wondering how long it would be until they caught me and I faded late.  Not today.  Not that I didn't have a little bit of self doubt, but I quickly squashed it and dropped the hammer.  I wasn't about to let up and in fact I actually found another gear as I continued to drop into the Hollow.  I had no idea where anyone else was and with the fog, they probably had no idea where I was.  I made up my mind that I was just gong to push as hard as I could.

I approached the climb of Natural Well thinking that after the short 1/3 mile to the well, and 1/2 mile to the summit, that I would have nearly six miles of fast running before the final climb.  I did have to walk just a few steps on the ascent, but they were on the technical wet rocks as we crossed the stream.  Otherwise I felt better than I did on my tempo run of this section just 5 days prior.  In fact, it was that tempo run that gave me the confidence I needed to stay strong.  I was taking Powerbar Gel Blasts (just one at a time) about every 20 minutes, which seemed to be perfect to keep my energy stores topped off.  I had choked one down just before the climb and I think the small amount of caffeine was just what I needed for a pick me up.

At the large climbing rock on the plateau, I was able to recovery quickly and surprised myself at how I was able to get right back down to pace.  This is where I believe that the race was won; coming across the top of the mountain, I was able to hold 7:30 pace and then on the very rocky Arrowhead extension trail out to the parking lot at Trough Springs.  I came across friend John Nevels who was checking the course and he wished me well.  From there I picked it up and ran a 7:23 split back down to Son-of-a-bitch Ditch.

Even the minor ascent back up to the top of Arrowhead, I was able to run with even effort, occasionally looking at my watch and seeing the instant pace still in the 7's.  By the time I started to drop down toward the cistern, it was again the memory of my tempo run a few days ago that gave me the confidence to scream down this hill.  I clocked a 7:15, followed by a 7:34, which included the drop down and back up Big Cat Hill.  I had just under 3.5 miles to go.

I ran pretty hard across the new Slush Mile, which is the section after Big Cat and before the 4-way intersection.  I nearly lost my shoe twice and the amount of effort to hold 8 minute pace was intense.  Plus my stomach was starting to act up, really making me think that I might have to go to the bathroom.  I talked myself out of it and just pushed on.  It was a nice uplift at the intersection to see some friends climbing up Natural Well, as I was about to start the most difficult part of the course.

When my legs get tired, I don't lift my feet very well and the last drop down to the creek nearly gets me every time.  But today I ran with confidence and never slipped once, thanks to the extra grip on my inov-8 x-talon 212's (which were the perfect shoe choice for this course on this day).  I came out of the hollow and started up Cry Baby Hill, wanted to cry, slightly.  I had to back off a little and walk a few steps as my breathing was slightly labored.  I still had no idea where any one was, nor did I care.  It wouldn't have changed anything, as I was running as hard as I could.

Now the final climb; where the race has been won and lost, where people have fallen and broken bones, where I first saw George last year and had to bust my tail to stay ahead to the finish.  I am not going to say that I shattered any of my personal records, nor that I ran every step, but I pushed hard.  When I felt myself slowing down, I dug deeper and pushed harder.  After coming through the plateau rock and begin half way up, I knew that it was not much further.

I ran the final switch back section before the waterfall, and for the first time all day I smiled and it started to sink in.  In a race where I had finished 5th, 4th, 2nd (to David Riddle), 3rd, and 2nd (to Brandon Mader), I was about to win.  I was rising out of the fog on the waterfall, out of the mud, up from the depth of the hollow and running toward the finish, in first.

I can't describe how blessed I feel to have had such a good race.  I fought through the self doubt, I fought off the demons, the stomach issues and the desire to walk that normally get me during races. I held on strong and with a little Divine help, emerged on top.

Pretty exhausted at the finish.

At the finish.

My time was 2:03:52, which was over two minutes faster than last year, when I thought that I had a good race, and the conditions were much more favorable.  I am not going to say these were the worst conditions ever, as I remember some muddy years in the hollow, but it ranks up there with them for sure.  Since the race was extended to 25km in 2011 (course change and also cancelled by weather), I have run the second two fastest times, behind Brandon Mader's killer 1:57:05 last year.  If he was healthy this year, he probably would have run away with the win again.

I am not going to lie; this was my spring goal race.  It meant a lot to me, and I took it very seriously.  I am fortunate that things worked out so well and hope that in the process I have been able to place the Glory with Him, where it belongs.  I don't know where this race ranks on my best performances all time; I think I need a few days for it to sink in.

Thanks to Blake Thompson for organizing a great event and to the other runners who braved the conditions, broke bones and gave it their best effort in the Madness.

Now time to rest up these legs.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mount Cheaha 50km by the numbers

The Numbers

Here is my on going analysis of the fastest times posted at Mount Cheaha 50km. This year there were 2 more finishers under the 5-hour mark, making it a total of 47 in the 13-year history of this race.  William Ansick's 4:48:20 was the 4th slowest winning time in race history, but the 7:34:15 was also the slowest average of all time.

Fastest Course Times (5 hours and under)
Overall winners for that year highlighted in bold.

01 - 4:00:25 Dane Mitchell, 2010
02 - 4:05:08 Darren Thomas, 2017
03 - 4:18:39 Darren Thomas, 2016
04 - 4:19:39 Darren Thomas, 2015
05 - 4:20:10 Rudy Rutemiller, 2014
06 - 4:22:25 Johnny Clemons, 2012
07 - 4:32:23 Jamie Dial, 2008
08 - 4:32:39 Leif Van Acker, 2017
09 - 4:32:40 Darren Thomas, 2014
10 - 4:35:09 Owen Bradley, 2011
11 - 4:36:00 DeWayne Satterfield, 2010
12 - 4:37:41 Caleb Denton, 2017
13 - 4:39:22 Alex Darth, 2010
14 - 4:40:17 Brandon Sullivan, 2015
15 - 4:40:31 Tim Vinson, 2010
16 - 4:41:42 Brandon Sullivan, 2017
17 - 4:42:48 Jason Hanlin, 2011
18 - 4:42:52 DeWayne Satterfield, 2008
19 - 4:43:04 Henry Wakley, 2012
20 - 4:44:24 Eric Gilbertson, 2010
21 - 4:44:45 Dink Taylor, 2013
22 - 4:46:14 William Ansick, 2015
23 - 4:48:20 William Ansick, 2018
24 - 4:48:49 Clay Hickman, 2013
25 - 4:50:24 William Ansick, 2014
26 - 4:50:25 Robert Pritchett, 2006
27 - 4:51:17 Dink Taylor, 2007
28 - 4:53:10 Mike Consentino, 2007
29 - 4:54:07 Eric Charette, 2010
30 - 4:54:14 John Lampley, 2016
31 - 4:54:45 DeWayne Satterfield, 2011
32 - 4:55:12 Vince Molosky, 2012
33 - 4:55:17 Robert Youngren, 2007
34 - 4:55:27 Ron Brooks, 2018
35 - 4:55:55 Dink Taylor, 2008
36 - 4:55:57 Vince Molosky, 2014
37 - 4:56:29 Thomas Boyd, 2008
38 - 4:56:53 Tim Pitt, 2016
39 - 4:57:17 Vince Molosky, 2013
40 - 4:57:47 Matt Sims, 2008
41 - 4:58:18 Dink Taylor, 2009
42 - 4:58:45 William Ansick, 2012
43 - 4:58:46 David Howe, 2010
44 - 4:58:47 Dink Taylor, 2006
45 - 4:59:29 Vince Molosky, 2015
46 - 4:59:47 Jason Hanlin, 2014
47 - 4:59:51 Marcus Farris, 2011

2 finishers under 5 hours
69 total finishers
7:05:27 average time

3 finishers under 5 hours
106 total finishers

5 finishers under 5 hours
113 total finishers
6:49:53 average time

2 finishers under 5 hours
124 total finishers
7:03:11 average time

7 finishers under 5 hours
149 total finishers
7:01:08 average time

4 finishers under 5 hours
182 total finishers
7:09:01 average time

4 finishers under 5 hours
179 total finishers
7:05:03 average time

3 finishers under 5 hours
197 total finishers
7:11:40 average time

5 finishers under 5 hours
228 total finishers
7:24:10 average time

4 finishers under 5 hours
213 total finishers
7:23:07 average time

3 finishers under 5 hours
151 total finishers
7:20:07 average time

4 finishers under 5 hours
230 total finishers
7:16:36 average time

2 finishers under 5 hours
178 total finishers
7:34:15 average time

Totals for all 13 Years
47 finishers under 5 hours (2.22%)
7:11:12 average finish time
2119 total finishers