What a great day for a race! Sure, I'll admit after 4 months of no races I would have been just as happy with a rainy 40-degree day, but the gods of ultra running gave all 350 of us running the Bull Run 50 a spectacular day for running in Northern Virginia today. Yes, it got a little toasty out there as the temps rose to about 80 (made worse by the fact that very few of us have had the chance to heat-train yet this spring with cool temps most days), but that just made the numerous head-dunks in the rivers feel that much better!
The race went tremendously well for me (aka, "Tom Griffin"). I ran an incredibly steady pace the whole way, and most importantly for me, I came out of it injury free! It feels so great to be back!!! Knowing my limited training meant I needed to keep things in check, I let the rabbits fly out ahead of me at the start and burn off some of their adrenaline. I was running in about 40th place after 3 or 4 miles, but once we hit the hills, I started picking people off since I was running the same pace no matter the terrain (my extra time in the gym over the past couple months really paid off all day long). By the Mile 11 Aid Station I was in 12th place, and for the next 10 miles or so, I ran completely alone. This was actually a tremendous help in terms of letting me run my pace and not get caught up with other people's races. By mile 23 or so I caught up to Keith Knipling (such a great guy) and another runner. As it turned out, I would play leap-frog with Keith for the rest of the race.
As the day warmed up, I knew I needed to hit the S-Caps and water pretty hard to stay ahead of any crashes (especially since I'm not in any real shape right now). I was caked in salt most of the day as a result (another reason those river dunks felt so good!), and I'm pretty sure my shirt could be worn as a bullet-proof vest right now - it's that stiff. ...but it was all in the name of proper electrolyte balance!
To fast forward to the end (I'm really looking forward to a nap right now, so I'll wrap it up!), I caught up to Keith on the last hill before the finish line, and even though he pulled away toward the top, I knew I had my miler's kick (funny how that never leaves you) to close the gap at the end. With about 100 yards to go I flipped the switch and caught up to him in a snap. We joined hands and crossed the line together in a tie for 10th place with a time of 7:39. I've always wanted to finish like that, and to be able to do it with a great guy like Keith was truly an honor. After both of us worked so hard in the heat during the second half of the race, it was really the perfect way to finish.
I'm not sure of all the results, but I do know that Leigh Schmitt continues to be flat-out insane. When I saw him at mile 30 or so on an out-and-back stretch (he was waaay ahead of me), he already had a huge lead and was actually running up a steep hill without using his arms. Seriously, his hands were on his hips as if to say "I'm not getting enough of a workout here, so I need to make it harder". Oh, and I should point out he was running 7-flats while doing this. Like I said: INSANE. I don't know his finishing time, but he did win, and probably by 20 minutes. Amy Sproston ran away with the women's title, crossing the line a couple minutes ahead of us in 9th overall. She's such a great runner - Her time of 7:34 was the second fastest ever on the course for a female. Congrats to both winners and all the finishers today!!
Personally, it was just a great race for me. I knew my limitations heading into the race, and pushed myself just enough to get the most out of the run without crashing (or hurting myself). Of course, the day wouldn't have been nearly as successful without my crew (parents and Elizabeth) and the insanely awesome volunteers - Holy Cow were they great! I never spent more than 30 seconds at an aid station (ok, maybe the last one was a minute, but I was definitely dragging from the heat so I was in no rush) - they were like NASCAR pit-crew members out there. Tammy's ice at the Marina aid station (about 45 miles into the race when it was HOT) was like a gift from heaven...thank you, Tammy!!
As for gear, my compression socks were awesome, my Drymax Maximum Protection socks kept the blisters away, and my Vasque Aether Tech SS shoes held up pretty well too...the only problem was, with all the roots and rocks on this course, I stubbed my toes about 3 dozen times while flying down the hills and set an all-time record (not a good thing) in terms of number of toenails lost - FOUR! Looks like my cover shoot for Flip-Flop Monthly will have to be re-scheduled for 2010.
Before getting to the photos, I definitely need to mention that Race Director Anstr Davidson and all the VHTRC folks really make this race something special. Everything is taken care of in such a top-notch manner. I can't say enough about how amazingly well this race is run.
Ok, my bed is really calling my name right now...It's wrap-up time. Elizabeth took a bunch of photos, so I'll do the rest of the recap the lazy way and just caption a few of them here.
Here's me just before the start...clearly showing the effects of the 4:30am wake-up call. That Nathan HPL hyrdation pack was awesome all day, by the way. I'm pretty sure I won't be going back to my old two-bottle belt any time soon.
Poor Elizabeth had to get up at that ungodly hour too in order to drive to the course with me, but she made the best of the situation. Pulling a page from the Dan Rose Handbook, she made a reservation in the X-Terra Suite and got a little sleep while I was out on the first loop of the course!
I know you can't feel the heat in this picture, but trust me, since I have zero heat-training right now, it felt crazy hot...and the fact that none of the trees have leaves yet, the 100% sunshine of the day made it feel even hotter.
This is my mom and Elizabeth, awaiting my return from the "infamous" Do-Loop. Having run it for the first time today, I can now appreciate why everyone calls it "infamous". About half-way through the nasty 3 mile section, I took a quick look around to make sure I wasn't being filmed for an episode of Punk'd or something. I figured it had to be a joke.
This is the view I had all afternoon as I tried to catch up to Keith. Probably the only reason I was able to keep pace was the fact that my hydration pack allowed me to skip every other Aid Station. Keith would run every section a few minutes faster than me, but I'd leap-frog him at the Aid Stations I didn' t need to stop at. I prefer to run with extra water like this for that very reason (Plus I like to keep my rhythm out there without having to stop all the time for fuel).
Here I am coming into the Marina Aid Station at mile 45 or so...sure, there are nicely built stairs to use, but after 45 miles of climbing hills, apparently I felt more comfortable off to the side.
Finally the end!! You can see the two of us crossing together right behind the lady in blue.
The happy finshers. Ready to drink everything in and around that cooler behind us.
In addition to my smashed-up toes, I also got this special take-home souvenier of the course, compliments of a nasty fall while going way too fast down a particularly nasty hill. I was impressed that my instict was to go into a baseball slide to lessen the impact. My compression socks get an extra thumbs-up for keeping my shin from looking even worse.
Here the happy crew, smiling after a job well done!
...and here's "Tom Griffin" with his wife, who happens to be 152 years younger than him.
That's all for now...it's nap time! ...also, I have to say it feels GREAT to be back racing again!!!!