Ed. Note: The full (and correct) results are finally posted here, please note that I completely missed Byron Lane as the US Champ in this original post. I apologize for the mistake...he must have slipped by me in the night!
Just back from Texas, and I wanted to clue everyone in on what happened over the weekend. I'll check back in with a full report once I catch up on some sleep.
I usually try to to be as positive as possible when talking about all aspects of ultras (because this truly is a wonderful sport), and making excuses for my lack of success is not something I believe in, but there was a tremendous injustice done to every one of us running at the Ultra Centric events this weekend.
With the race moving to a new location this year, the official website described the course as having "a slight uphill on the west side, and a slight down hill on the east side, for a net change of nine and one half feet."
Nine and one half feet.
That's about as flat as flat gets. I trained for this...we all trained for this. When given an exact figure like 9.5 feet, one can safely assume this was measured by an altimeter or similar GPS device.
What was the actual elevation gain for each lap, you ask? Try 150 feet. This course was on such a hill that you couldn't see the top half from the bottom. There was a series of three hills we all had to climb (each one steeper/longer than the last) on EVERY lap. For those of us trying to run over 100 laps, that meant climbing 15,000ft...when you compare that to the 950 feet which we should have had to climb if the website was true, you notice a little discrepancy.
Two seconds after we arrived at the course, I realized my 800+ miles of training loops around super flat Hains point over the past 2 months were now completely useless.
After getting over the shock of seeing this monster of a loop, I decided that I would still try to stick to my time goals to reach 135 miles. Sure, it would require much more effort, but this was my only chance to make the National Team, so I went for it.
Even on the much more difficult course, I was able to break my 50 mile PR and my 100 mile PR. I crossed 100 miles at 16:51, having run every step of the way (also a first for me). At that point it was just before 2 a.m., and it was getting brutally cold out. The overnight temps hit 29 degrees on the "high" end of the course, and any of us who ran through the night (and there weren't many who did!) will agree that the "low" end of the course was easily 5 degrees colder. All in all, a painfuly cold experience was about to visit my tired legs.
After treating myself to a half-mile walk once I crossed the 100 mile mark, my quads immediately froze up. They had been taking a beating on the steep downhill section of the course over the first 17 hours of running, and any attempts to start running, or even shuffling, were futile. I tried at least 50 times over the next 7 hours to start running again, but my frozen and trashed quads wouldn't have any of it. Toward the end, I fell 2 or 3 times when trying to get things moving faster than a walk, so I knew I'd have to suffer the indignity of not being able to hold off the challengers coming from behind.
Eventually and inevitably ultra legend (and all-around great guy) John Geesler overtook me for the National Championship with 50 minutes left in the race. It was inevitable as he was moving much faster than my painful and sad walk over the last 3 hours or so. It was tough to realize I couldn't at least put up a fight, but if you're going to lose to someone, losing to a guy like John definitely makes it easier to swallow.
In the end, I covered 120+ miles (I think John covered 124)...not close to my goal of 135, but I'm 100% confident I would have met that mark (and then some) if the course was as flat as advertised. I gave this run literally EVERYTHING that I had in terms of effort. It was extremely painful to have to walk the last 7 hours in sub-freezing temps, but I never gave up. Sure, I'm hugely disappointed to have fallen short of my goal, but knowing I was able to meet all my time goals up to 100 miles on this much more difficult terrain at least gives me some comfort that I did everything right in preparing to make the National Team...
As for what's next? I don't really have a plan. I'm obviously disappointed in how all of this turned out, so it could be quite a while before I lace up my running shoes again. To be so close to such a big goal, and then have it all taken away by something completely out of your control like this is beyond disheartening.
I'll post the full race report in a few days when I get a chance to digest everything. For all the rough parts, there were twice as many positives. My crew was nothing short of AMAZING the entire time (yes that includes overnight too - how they didn't freeze to death, I'll never know). I'll give more details in the report. ..and, of course, there were some amazing and inspirational runners out there who all worked with each other to make the best of a nasty situation. Even in the worst of race circumstances, ultra runners are always there to support each other - Reflecting on that fact alone is enough to help me start forgetting my personal disappointments from the weekend and start thinking positively again.