Although I had been warned not to run this race in wet conditions (risk of injury HIGH), as usual I ignored the recommendation and did the race anyways (in wet conditions). Plenty of rain fell the night before and probably the morning of the race but by race time the rains had subsided, leaving only nice wet rocks and muddy trails.
No warm up required for this one. Unfortunately no course review or checkout either. The trail starts right on RT116 and then heads immediately up a very steep hill, climbing something like 500+ feet in about 1/4 mile or so. No need to verify, I can visualize that one in my head. Too bad the RD didn't have a course map with elevation profile posted: that would be really handy, or at least it would be a topic of discussion. In the grand scheme of things, probably doesn't change much but I like information and I had no idea what this course was like. Zero, zip, zilch, nada.
The start was kind of like speed hiking with 200 of your closest friends...on a single track...with rocks...up a steep slope....in wet conditions....all trying to be the first one to the top. It took quite a while to thin out the crowd (hard to do when it's a single track). On the way out it never really thinned, and I always had runners in front and behind me along the trail. I just followed the guy/girl in front of me. This race is either climbing or descending, and most of the time doing both steeply. When we did come to a 'flat' section, it was quite a relief and felt nice to actually run. Most of the climbing required walking or fast hiking. A good portion just wasn't runnable...by anybody. The descents were another story. I am a lousy downhill runner on good conditions, with these conditions I am even worse. I generally 'ran' very conservative on the downhills. I have a number of races coming up and didn't want to risk injury. I was amazed how fast some runners actually run down these hills. I have no idea how they do it.
As mentioned to some friends earlier, I think basalt rock is geologist-speak for 'sharp pointy rocks'. If the trail didn't have rocks everywhere, it had slippery mud or both. Mental concentration was in full operation on this one, at least on the way out. There was a bit of a break around the 4 mile mark when we ran up the stairs,around the wrap-around porch of the Summit House and back down the stairs on the other side, heading back out onto the trail.
The turn around point was after a toe-jamming descent that I read was about 850ft in about 1 1/2 miles. It was kind of non-eventful, come racing down the hill and see a table of Gatorade along with some volunteers and a tent. At first I thought it was an aid station but then someone said 'you're all set', race slang for 'we got your number now turn around and head back'. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade, topped off my water bottle and headed back up the trail. I hit the turn at about 1:14 and was happy with my time so far. Up until this point I hadn't eaten a single thing on the trail. Heck, I barely had time to drink since you're always so focused on where to put your next foot. On the way back up to the Summit House I grabbed a Powerbar from my carrier and managed to have about 1-2 bites. It was just too hard to eat (hard and cold). I probably should have packed a couple of Gu's looking back now. The lack of fuel really hurt on the return trip. I was definitely slowing down and losing energy. Some guy was following me closely for the last 2-3 miles and actually kept me going. I HATE being passed so I kept pushing the pace just to stay in front. He did eventually pass and then mistakenly kept saying 'this is the last hill'...about 3-4 times in a row. I finally gave up listening to him. Heck, by that time I could hear the traffic on Rt116 so I knew I was close. Now I was trying to fend off someone gaining behind me. I picked up the pace as best as I could on the final downhill to the finish. He was gaining but I managed to hold him off and finished strong (easy to do on a downhill finish!).
Official Results: 2 hrs 38 min 52 sec, 71st overall out of 241.
I felt awful though. Actually, I was nauseous. I had a cup of orange juice and a cookie but that was about it. I just wanted to lie down. I walked around for a while to make sure nothing was going to cramp up and then I got in my car for the nearly 2 1/2hr drive home.
I'm glad I did this one, although it was a brutally tough race. I'd prefer a race that I could actually run more though but who knows, I might do this one again.