Diphyllobothrium "Dan-O" latum
I slept well enough and woke to a promising day of clear skies and mild temperatures. Holding the course record of 3:58, naturally I wanted to run at least that fast, but I didn't particularly rest up for a fast day, as I had a marathon coming up in 3 weeks that was a priority. However, I didn't want Craig to reach his goal - which was to beat me. He didn't feel as if he was in sub-4:00 shape, so it could turn out to be a good race.
The start was moved this year, and an extra distance in the out and back section to make up for some course obstacles. After a good warm up we were lined up and set off on our merry way. The new start gave ample time to spread out before reaching the single track. Craig and I fell into a good pace together, and he fell in behind when we hit the trail. I was feeling pretty good and felt Craig slowly losing ground. By the time we reached Clear Lake I was fairly isolated. I could hear voices behind me and see no one ahead. I continued trying to put distance between me and the voices. Reaching the out and back section of the trail, I began seeing the early starters, and it was fun exchanging encouragements. At aid station one, I handed Tommy and gel and asked him to open it for me for when I came back through. I ran on into the extended out and back section which included a significant climb, finally seeing the lead men, including Dan-O the man, not the worm.
Reaching the turn around I gratefully turned to barrel back down the hill. I soon saw Craig leading a train of runners up. He playfully bowed as did the rest of the gang, giving me a sense of "oh brother". I encountered a few women, including Denise Bourosa, and Linda Samet, all looking strong. Back at the aid station, Tommy was ready with my gel. I choked it down on my way across the bridge, encountering a great deal of runners on their way out. The next section of trail was quite sweet going in the slightly downhill direction, and I focused on a good cruising pace. After getting to the end of the out and back, I was no longer greeted by runners, and there were no footsteps from behind. I kept checking my pace on the Garmin, disappointed, as usual, at the pace it was recording. I knew the trees and turns in the trail made for poor reception and I should just forget about it.
Through the cabins at Clear Lake and all the way to the west end of the lake, I ran alone, passing some cheerful early starters. Winding my way to the highway, I caught a glimpse of Win Goodbody's blue jersey, and focused on keeping ahead. I crossed the highway again, and made my way to the next aid station. The volunteers were awesome, helpful, and even opened my gel for me, as even if I am not in a frenzy I find them difficult to get into. And while I know they are so great at keeping energy levels up, I never feel like I won a prize by finally getting the contents in my mouth.
I crossed the river, and hit the next technical section, feeling decent, and alone again. With the aid station locations changed a bit, as well as the start and finish, I didn't really know how close I was to a sub-4:00 hour pace. The average on the Garmin was indicating that I was far enough off even with it's stingy nature, I was pretty sure it wouldn't happen today. The race was feeling a little uneventful, until I finally reached the Trail Bridge aid station, just as William Swint was catching me. I was surprised to see April and Phil - I was pretty sure they had started the race - helping at the aid station. They both had suffered some injury early on, and turned their race into a volunteer opportunity. This was fortunate for me, as I found out later. I left the aid station with William right behind me, and found out later that Craig was less than a minute back. April told him I had been there 15 minutes ago to see if she could deflate him a bit. Not that he believed her, but it was fun, none-the-less.
Mikio soon caught up to William and I, panting and exclaiming how hard he had to work to catch us. I offered the lead to William, but he declined, saying he just want to hang on as long as possible. I found myself running hard again, perhaps because I had someone pushing me, or maybe I was just having a good surge. At the next aid station, I fueled up and ran out, yelling to William and Mikio to hurry, but they did not respond. Alone again, I was getting anxious to get this over with. I was unsure but thought I had about 8 miles left. Finally at the last aid station, I caught one of the lead men, putting on a good death march. As soon as he saw me, he fell in behind. I asked him if he wanted to lead, and again, no, he just wanted to see if he could hang on. About that time, Mikio caught back up. I tried to run them both ragged, and we finally got to the last turn onto the gravel road close to the finish. I could see a climb ahead, and was pretty sure I could get out kicked by most male runners, so I knew I had to push as hard as I could from this point on. Mikio fell off pace, but my other companion answered by gradually pulling away ahead of me. Still wanting to keep ahead of Mikio, I did not let up. Cresting the small hill, I could see the finish and let my legs go as hard as they would. I crossed in 4:10 - not bad, not what I wanted time wise, but my times rarely are. It's one thing I enjoy in racing - setting the bar high. It is so rare to hit my target time, that it is super sweet when I do!
And, yes, I beat Craig - let's see what was his time? 4:19? And barely escaped being double chicked!