Since this was a longer trip and I expected to leave it all on the course I called on the assistance of my friend and surrogate wife Holly to accompany me on the trip and help with the driving. I started the weekend by foolishly joining the Rocky Mountain Road Runners at their monthly Trophy Series (no relation to the Trail Runner series) race. It was only 2.4 miles so I figured as long as I took it a little easy it wouldn't kill me for the marathon on Sunday. It was cold and wet, but I kept warm for the most part. I did run a little faster than I had planned, but it felt good. After the race I headed over to pick up Holly and we got on the road in the longest period of rain fall that I have ever seen in Denver. It usually only rains for an hour or two tops, but it had been raining all night and was still coming down at least until we hit Wyoming. It was a 6 hour drive, but the time seemed to fly by. Checked into the KOA, put our tent up, and headed out to look for a good dinner. Unfortunately the only business in Deadwood is Casinos. It was difficult to tell which ones might have a real restaurant as opposed to a bar or buffet which we weren't keen on. As we were wondering the street we ran across Scott Dunlap and his wife Kristy. They had been in town for a few days and pointed us to their favorite place. We checked it out, but they had an hour wait and pointed us to a Chinese place down the street. Not my favorite before a race, but I figured the rice would be good enough for carbo loading. Back at camp I finished my race prep, filled bottles, arranged clothes, etc. and then we settled down for a good nights sleep. I didn't sleep very well for some reason, but woke up feeling pretty good. Holly took me down to the start rather than taking the bus with everybody else. The first thing I noticed when I got there was the huge line for the port-a-potties. We drove down the road about half a mile and found a place for me to run into the woods. At the start I ran into a few Denver runners that I knew, Dave and Gary Black and Jim Chow. That kept the pre-race jitters to a minimum.
The race started out with 1 mile of downhill on a paved road so it was fast and I clocked a 6:30, a little fast, but I didn't struggle to do it so I felt fine with it. At the mile mark we made a hard right, crossed a bridge and were on the trail that we'd be on for the next 24 or so miles. The rest of the first half was a steady climb of about 1,000 feet, while the second half was almost all downhill dropping about 1,500 feet. I made sure to start a little easy and felt good clicking off miles around 7:20 pace. Ran with the lead woman for awhile until we hit a road crossing where a crowd had gathered. I used the crowds energy to surge ahead and started trying to catch the few people I could see ahead of me, including my old friend Scott Dunlap. I picked off a couple, but Scott didn't seem to be getting any closer. Then around mile 11 I started to get a side stitch. I did my best to run through it, but it slowed me down to about 8 minute miles. I never really got scared that everything was over with and I was right, just before the top at the half way mark it went away and although I felt pretty tired from the long climb I was off again. I passed the half in 1:37:30. My goal was to hit it in 1:35 so I wasn't far off. On the way down I didn't feel real fast, but when mile 14 was a 6:44 I knew things were looking up. Then the next two miles were around 6:30. Finally we got to mile 19 where I knew there was going to be a slight climb. I was surprised at how much of a toll that took on me. I think that those 6:30s had taken something out of my legs and they weren't ready for the climb. Then after that torture we headed back down to a short section that seemed to leave the trail for a short bit as it dropped rather steeply. My legs didn't like that at all. I'm usually fine on downhills, even steep one, but my legs were on their last legs (Does that make sense?). After that the my race was all downhill. The course was all downhill from here too, but that's not what I'm talking about. My body, primarily my legs, but also my body as a whole began to shut down. I tried to take in some more fluids and fuel, but then the side stitches came back and much worse this time. That was probably the last I had to drink or eat on the course. Things got a little fuzzy here, but I just remember plodding out the miles hoping to hold on to a decent time and hold off anybody that might be in my age group. We were already passing half marathoners which made the journey much less lonesome. Finally we got to a road crossing where the volunteers told us there was only half a mile to go. I looked back and saw a guy that I remembered from the start. He looked like he could have been sponsored, but maybe it was just a bike jersey. Anyways, for some reason I thought that he might have been in my age group and I wasn't going to get passed this late in the race if I could help it so I picked it up. He was still able to catch up to me, but kept him behind me. When we hit the street I thought that I had dropped him, but then on the last straight away to the finish he came from nowhere and pulled ahead of me. I turned to him and apologized then turned on the after burners and blazed into the finish and nearly collapsed. I still have no idea where anything in the last half mile came from, I think that I had just mentally given up before that and seeing him gave me a short term goal to shoot for. I finished in 3:15 and felt disappointed in not breaking 3:10, but I was pretty sure that I had given it all that I had. After a few minutes of trying to re-hydrate while getting nauseous I went to check the times being posted. I scrolled down the list looking at the ages and there was nobody in their 20's so my face lit up as I gave Holly the signal that I had won my age group.
The trip back seemed to take a whole lot longer and of course hurt a little more, but I don't seem to have any major injuries so I'm looking forward to letting the body take a break before building up for future races and a long successful season.