The trip started out fairly typical expect for the fact that I traveled to this one on my own. The drive up to Wyoming on Saturday afternoon was shorter than I remember, I think it took me about two and a half hours and that was with all the holiday traffic and speed traps on I-25. I drove right to where the race would start the next morning which happened to be the rest stop at the highest point on I-80 (close to 8,700 ft.). There I realized that the course was on dirt roads rather than trails so I drove the first part of the course to see what it was like. I made it to about mile 7 when I came across I-80 again so I called that good and headed back to the start to get a gentle jog in to loosen my legs from the drive and see what the starting/finishing hill felt like. It was fairly steep for a road, but not too bad. I then proceeded to look for a place to camp. There was a Forest Service campground about a mile or so up the road the other way from the start so I tried that, but since it was a holiday weekend the place was packed. There was supposed to be another one further down, but I figured it would be packed as well so I headed up to Laramie where I knew there was a KOA. Kasey and I stayed there last year for the Pilot Hill race. Plenty of tent sites there. Now I needed dinner. We ate at a place called the library before Pilot Hill and I ended up with an upset stomach, not to mention the place was dead, so I didn't want to go back there. There were a couple of sit-down chain restaurants on the other side of town, but I was looking for something fairly quick and easy. I ended up at the Wendy's in the truck stop right next to the KOA. I had already loaded up on pasta so I just needed something to top me off. A burger and some chilli did the trick.
Race morning I was up at 4am for a 6am start. Tore down camp and put away a bag of PowerBites for breakfast. Got to the start plenty early and stayed warm in the building for the rest area. I put on plenty of sun screen since I got burned on a hike last weekend, but it turned out that we wouldn't be seeing any bit of sun that day. When the gun went off a few half-marathoners were off like a flash and I settled in to a pace with Tania Pacev. She beat me at CPTR because I had gone out too fast and died and I wasn't going to let that happen again. The first 5 miles were pretty much all downhill and she kept saying that we were going too fast. We also had Christian Hendrickson with us, whom I didn't recognize at first, but soon realized that he was the last person to pass me at CPTR and was also the person to knock me out of 3rd place for our age-group in that race. Christian and I pulled away from Tania somewhere near the bottom or maybe it was as we started the first climb. At the half marathon turn around we were still together watching those guys coming back, but neither of us had counted how many were ahead of us and how many had turned around so we didn't know what place we were, but we were both saying that we didn't care. Once we hit the frontage road for I-80 we could see that there was only one guy about 2 minutes ahead of us. I would later find out that this was Dave medicus. After awhile of running on the pavement my stomach kicked in like usual and although there was no real cover I eventually had to pull over and do my thing. Christian told me that he would be stopping shortly as well. When I got back on the road nobody had passed me and Christian was in my sights, it was at this point that my competitive nature took over any reason that I might have had going into the race. I picked up the pace to try and regain contact. Christian found a port-a-potty about 1/2 a mile up and pulled off there. I had already almost caught him and although I was enjoying his pace and his company I decided to move my sights to that elusive lead runner that we had seen. At the last turn I had clocked him at just over 2 minutes ahead, but going into the next section I quickly lost him. They were some long miles waiting for our turn around where I knew I would see him again. Finally I got there and he was on his way back already. We waved to each other as we passed and I made a note of the place and time then looked for the turn around. Of course it was at the top of a hill. I made it back to our passing point after exactly 2 minutes. Still not gaining on him, but I knew where he was. Getting closer to the frontage road again I saw him and estimated the gap to be about 1 minute, then about 30 seconds at the change to pavement. Then he stopped to re-fuel from his crew which seemed to be taking forever. I approached and saw him looking at me. I expected him to take off if not before me at least with me, but he didn't go. I tried to get a good look at him to size up his state and it didn't look good, but I wasn't going to lose my slow down to get a better look. I almost thought he was going to drop out there, but once on the frontage road again I peeked back and saw that he was still there. This was probably about mile 17 so there was still plenty of time for me to run out of gas. I now had time to think about the miles ahead. I was in the lead and wasn't sure what to do with it. I thought that I saw a tornado ahead of me, but then realized the dark line I saw didn't stop at the skyline, but was a continuous black strip down the center of my vision. I backed off just a bit and started taking in more calories and fluids. I knew that the final 5 miles up hill were going to be difficult and I was wondering if I had gone too hard too early. Was Tania right, had we gone too fast on the downhill? All I could do was keep moving and keep tabs on my body. Constantly checking my form and asking myself if I needed calories or fluids. Once off the frontage road I never saw anybody behind again, but the roads were far too curvy to know what that really meant for my lead so I just kept plugging along. When I finally got to the point where I had warmed-up to the day before I knew I was close enough to call the race mine. I pulled out my phone and tried to call my wife, Kasey. Even if we were seperated physically I wanted her to be with me in some way when I crossed the finish line. Unfortunately she didn't have a signal at that time so I left a very huffy puffy and nearly sobbing message that she had no hope of understanding. As soon as the finish line was in sight my legs started cramping. Boy was I glad this waited until I saw the line. After crossing the line I waited for Dave who came in about 2:30 behind me and Christian about 3:45 behind me. I then went to get some warm clothes on because I just realized how cold and windy it was up there. Tania was the next one across the line and I saw her on her way back to her car.
This is race has a motto: "Where the race director promises you nothing, and he delivers." That meant no awards ceremony since there were no awards. Very little food at the finish as well so I was glad to have brough some stuff myself. Once my legs had calmed down enough to sit in the car I headed out and was all the way back home by 1pm. Very little fanfare, but still well worth it for me.