The day started off by loading myself into the van of runner friend Harry Harcrow. He and his wife were kind enough to let me tag along on this adventure, and I was more than happy to ride with someone who'd been to the course before. On the way I got a detailed course description and some wonderful views of the Collegiate peaks.
Once we arrived, I rushed to slip on my trusty Mizuno Wave Ronins and make my way to sign up for the race. I was still unsure at this point whether or not I would be able to sign up still, since it was 8:40 already and I'd heard there were limited spots left. But, the day before I'd told myself I'd just run the course anyway and treat it as a training run. As I made my way over to the Race Day Registration booth, I saw a few other people lined up and knew that I'd made it.
Harry and I jogged our way over to the starting line, where we ran into a few other CRUD members. We all exchanged "hello's" and toed the line for the start. I glanced over to my right and saw everybody I'd mentioned in my last posting huddled into one group.
As we began the race, Tim Parr immediately shot out into the lead, and from that point it was a race for second place. Don't get me wrong, I made an attempt to keep up, but gave up the fight about 5 miles into the 8 mile uphill. Doing so sent me into a pretty deep oxygen debt and forced me to even walk up some of the steeper parts to catch my breath. I also decided to drop my handheld bottle at the 3 mile aid station, which happened to have all but one of my gels stored in it. BAD MOVE.
With about a mile to go before the top Nick Clark and Dan Vega caught up, and on the next big hill passed me without effort. At that point, I didn't really care about the rest of the race, I just wanted the hill to be over, and I wanted something to eat! After the 8 miles of uphill, we then reached the cusp and began a very arduous descent to the turn around. I was struggling to keep up with Nick and Dan but found it impossible to sustain my knee drive with so much mud sticking to the bottom of my shoes. I eventually found that running in their footsteps made it a lot easier. I still didn't gain any ground though, these are two guys that do very well on downhills. Anyway, as we neared the turn around point I saw Tim coming back the opposite way without so much as a bead of sweat on his forehead. This actually made me laugh out loud as I thought about my own internal struggle just to keep one foot in front of the other. I just hoped that the other two guys in front of me didn't look the same way.
At the turn around point I figured I was about 200 meters away from Nick and Dan. This lead increased as I gulped down 3 glasses of gatorade/water and ate a gel. But, for the amount of time I wasted, I gained back plenty of energy and decided to see if I could catch the pack. I probably gained about 100 meters back but slowed down as the climbs became steeper toward the top, and their lead grew as they crested the hill and began to bomb down the other side. Once again, I found that running in their footsteps was the easiest route, and actually gained a bit of ground on them on the less steep downhill grade back down to the turn-off point. But, having no gels or water bottle, I had to stop and quickly gulp down some gels and water before making my way up the snow-covered jeep trail.
After about 2-3 miles of attempting to gain ground on Nick and Dan, I'd made my way back to within 100 meters. At this point I decided to make a surge on the uphills and just let my legs coast on the downs. This worked really well and I eventually regained my position with the pack. Shortly after, I cut my way between Nick and Dan, and a few minutes after that began to hear Dan's breath behind me get fainter and fainter.
Nick was still powering up the hills and cruising down. It was really a struggle to keep up with him, but I felt that I needed to at least give it a try for 2nd place. I would try to surge up a hill, and he would immediately cover it on the downhill. I would then try to surge on a downhill and he would surge to avoid me passing him.... a VERY strong competitor. Talking with Nick afterward, it appears we both had the same thought during this exchange, which was "when is this dude gonna break!"
This continued until the steep and technical downhills where he maintained the lead the whole time. I was really impressed with how agile he was after the 20+ miles of mud and posthole snow we'd run through. It was at this point where I had already begun to think of ways to describe how I'd lost to Nick in my blog :) But, just as we were nearing the final stages of the technical downhill, I looked back and saw Ryan Burch about 300 meters behind. This sent me into a wave of panic and I began to high-tail it all the way back up to Nick. I said, "Burch is 300 meters behind us". I think he heard something like "Burch is 3rd blah blah". Regardless, we both began a mile plus sprint downhill before the road section. This is where I made a final surge and somehow got away from Nick. I must have looked back about 20 times in the half mile to the finish because I was so spent. I don't think I could've covered one more move on his part.
So, as I crossed the finish line the RD called out 3:18:15. I was a little bit disappointed with my choices at the beginning of the race, but eventually found out that Tim Parr was only 5 minutes ahead (he was most definitely taking it easy). Overall, I think this was a really good chance to see what kind of guts I had to fight for a position. Also it was well worth it to get some downhill speed and a chance to compete against some superb athletes.
This is probably going to be an early season race I attend for years to come.