Just got home and realized none of my audio posts made it to the site...must have been the bad cell coverage up there in the mountains...
Anyway, the quick and dirty is this: I had a real rough patch between mile 25 and 35 where I couldn't keep anything down (it was hot and I ran out of water, which I'm sure didn't help). I was pretty dizzy, and once I made it up the epic Waterfall climb to get to the mile 35 aid station, I was 100% sure I needed to drop. I was only 10 minutes or so behind the two leaders, but I knew I was done. I sat down in the shade and did my best to try and drink some ice water, etc. I even changed into clean clothes and put on a long-sleeve shirt because I was getting the chills pretty bad. I sat there recovering for 40+ minutes while 6 or 7 guys came through the aid station and continued on.
Then, for no real reason other than not wanting to give up, I stood up, put my running clothes back on, and told everyone I was going to continue. It was only 6 miles to the next aid station, and I figured if I could keep taking in some fluids and get my stomach under control, maybe I had a chance to keep going.
Those 6 miles went pretty well. I was no longer dizzy, and I drank a ton while getting in some S Caps for electrolytes too. The notorious Short Mountain was next, and I felt good enough to carry a bunch of food out onto that 8 mile section to see if I couldn't stoke the fire w/ some calories. That section of trail always sucks, but by time I got to Edinburg Gap Aid Station (mile 49 or so), I was feeling pretty good. The calories were doing the trick and I was ready to try and run. The climb up Edinburg went pretty well as I felt stronger and stronger the further up I went....and when I crested the ridge, I put the hammer down to see how my legs would respond. As it turned out, I absolutely flew over this 8.2 miles section clocking the fastest split of the race. Over these miles I had re-passed everyone who leap-frogged me at mile 35 and was now back in 3rd place (I was running crazy fast!)
I kept the ball rolling while blowing quickly through the Woodstock Tower Aid at mile 57 or so. I stupidly took a wrong turn that resulted in me running about 2 extra miles (down and back up a steep side trail), but I had run the past 10 miles so fast that no one caught back up to me during my detour. I was so angry at myself for being so stupid that I think I broke a couple land-speed records climbing back up to the ridge after realizing my mistake.
By time I made the final climb up Signal Knob and then down the 5 miles of hell (the Signal Knob trail is brutal) back to the finish line, I learned that I was only about 25 minutes behind the winning times (Massanutten studs Sean Andrish and Keith Knipling shared the win). I made up an hour (maybe more) on them over the final 21 miles or so, which made me feel pretty good...and I definitely ran a negative split for the race as well. I think my finishing time was 18:35 or so. All in all, just a fantastic return from the dead, and one of my all-time personal favorite race experiences. I'll write a nice report after I go pass out and get some sleep!