Well for this past month or so every run has been gearing up for Holiday Lake 50k. Three training runs on the course itself and one of which we ran that entire race distance. The long runs on Wednesday nights up and down Candlers mountain had boiled down to this day, February 9th. I had my goal time of 5 hours 30 minutes. Two times I had tried to get under this time and come oh so close, 5:34:48 in 2011 and 5:34:32 in 2012.
The alarm clock sounds at 4:30 and I get up and eat a bit of a different breakfast than usual. Instead of cereal I eat some bread items to hopefully avoid the usual sloshing of my stomach for the first 8 miles or so it feels like. We arrive to the start at 6:00, I check-in and I find my friends and we have a little chat and wish others there good luck. Then off for a last minute pit stop before going to the starting line. I find some of my friends as we huddle in the pre-sunrise cold and the we're off.
For the first opening few miles I fell in behind Chelsie Viar going around the lake. One of the uphills I passed her for the moment. Around mile 3 the guy behind me had a watch alarm go off and I jokingly asked him if that meant it was time to go. I had gotten hot in the opening miles and the long sleeve shirt that was over my short sleeve one had gotten very hot. I pulled it off on the uphill getting near aid station 1. I tossed it towards Kristen as I came through the aid station.
I knew going into the day that these next 8 miles needed to be pretty good ones as the trail is nice and the legs are fresh. I went at a nice and reasonable pace I thought. I ran with a rather large group at that point it seemed as we clicked off the next miles beside the road. Shortly after the turn as we headed down to the first creek crossing Chelsie comes scorching past me. I wondered if I had a parachute on my back she went past so fast. I didn't think my pace had changed that much so I kept going at my speed. Going through the second creek was a nice wake up call and the water was nice and chilly. As I neared aid station 2 Horton was driving back towards us cheering us on. I stuck to my plan at the aid station of getting water only. I had eaten my first GU on the way up to the aid station. My plan was to eat the chomp blocks between each aid station and a GU as well. I was able to eat on the nice long downhill after the aid station and entered the shot section through the woods. I always like that little section from the road until we cross the asphalt road to the power line. It has a nice secluded look to it. I made it onto what I like to call the backstretch of the course. It is nice and blinding as you are running perfectly into the sun. Around mile 9 or 10 I finally gave into my stomach and found a friendly pine tree to use. After last year I figured it was better to bite the bullet earlier this year. I felt a lot better and got back to it.
As I neared aid station 3 on the downhill I heard a familiar voice coming up from behind. I turn to see Grattan Garbee and we chat as he pulls ahead on the downhill. I see Kristen and grab some GU and chomp blocks while my water bottle gets filled. I grab it and go and I catch back up to Grattan as we enter single track again. I pull ahead as we go on and I break out a GU on the way up the hill and walk for a bit. As I near the lake I always like seeing the leaders and how far the front runner is out in front by. This year he wasn't as far along as the past year, but still a nice lead. It wasn't long until I saw Frank Gonzalez and Sam Dangc in a nice train of about 5 runners. I started counting the females as I wanted to have an idea of where Alexis Thomas was at. Seeing the other runners and my friends is always a big energy boost. I knew eating going around the lake wouldn't likely happen, but the energy from seeing and cheering them on makes up for it. It wasn't too long before I saw Todd in a nice group. He was a decent distance from the dam crossing and I thought to myself he had a scorcher of a first lap. I was trying to count females, but lost count a little before crossing the dam. Right after I crossed I finally saw Alexis. I cheered for her, but at the same time I wanted to kick her in the rear to go run down Todd and those other females. I knew she was flirting with a top 10 at the moment. I then saw Chelsie a bit closer to the turn and thought there was still hope at maybe catching her. I came into the aid station for halfway and looked at the clock 2:35 and change. My heart skipped a few beats at the sight. I have never seen a number that fast on any lap I've run around this course. I seen Kristen as she is cheering for me and grabbed some more GU and chomp blocks while my water bottle gets filled and I grabbed two hunks of potatoes and dunked them in salt and and a hunk of orange for the road. I saw Jennifer Captain who was cheering me on too as I went back out for lap 2.
It was long in the second lap I come upon Kevin who was walking and looking a bit hurt/sore. I encouraged him to keep on going as I went by. I saw Mike at the dam crossing and cheered for him and then some more friends a bit further around the lake. At this point I was behind 2 older runners and while there pace at times was good, in some of the more technical parts I felt faster, but couldn't easily get around them. I was starting to get hungry and knew that waiting for steep hill near the end of lake would be the best spot to eat. Our group hit the hill and started to climb up it while I started eating my chomp blocks. I hadn't even finished before I was at the top and ate the last few on the run. I at a GU after the little hairpin on the way down the hill. I come into aid station 3 and again pickup some GU and more blocks from Kristen. I got the water topped off and an orange slice for the road again. I started walking up the hill and at some more chomp blocks because I knew this was a good opportunity since I was walking although I hadn't been that long since I ate. As that hill levels off a bit it is still a bit of a climb, but I saw a girl up ahead and she started running it and I thought if she can run it, so can I. I passed the guys that she was going past that were walking. I think I passed about 5 people through there. Shortly after I crossed the road to the backstretch again (power line section) I see Andrew Charron walking. As I caught him and asked how he was doing and he said he was really hurting. I said to keep at it and my legs didn't like me much at the moment. He told me to keep on pushing and I did just that. I found another person up ahead of me that was running and I was slowly reeling in. My legs were getting pretty sore by this point. I thought about turning on my music, but just didn't. By the time we crossed the road to my little fun secluded section of trail I had nearly caught the person I was chasing. At this point I kept on trying to see people up ahead and slowly catch them. At the start of the uphill back to aid station 2, now 6. I ate some more chomp blocks and walked while eating them. After I finished them off I ran the rest of the way to the aid station. I got the water topped off and grabbed a few hunks of orange again then I was off.
This section was another part I knew I needed to hold a solid pace as it was an easier section given it was a bit downhill for a bit. I ate a GU as they were giving me the energy where the blocks were more for my hunger pains my stomach would send out. I was heading down the hill and the closer I got to the creek crossing the worse the mud got. I was going from edge to edge of the road trying to find the best spot that had the least amount of mud. I could feel it weighing down my shoes. I even slid down the road in a few spots it was so thick. Again, I saw a familiar face come from behind on the downhill, Grattan and caught me again. I even turned and said to him "You again." It was getting funny at this point that we kept on ending up together. When I got to the creek I knew that plowing right through the middle was going to numb my feet a little and clean off all that mud. I did just that. Afterwards I walked a little bit of the hills, but tried to run more than walk. My legs were really starting to sting. I passed Grattan on the uphills as I had a feeling it wouldn't be long before he would find me yet again. After the 2nd creek crossing I powered up the hill as best as I could and ate pack of chomp blocks before hitting the section that feels like it takes forever beside the road. I make the turn that starts it and at the first road crossing I see Kristen and Debbie there cheering me on as I said to have some GU and blocks ready for the last aid station. Soon after crossing the road it was Grattan coming by me yet again. He pulled away for a bit and then I started to pull him in just a bit. My legs were killing me now. My calves and hamstrings were just dying. Having Grattan ahead helped though as it took my mind off the pain a bit and away from this long forever feeling section of trail. I just kept trying to catch him little by little. We finally crossed the road, which meant aid station 1, now 7 wasn't too far ahead. I was almost beside Grattan as we came into the aid station. He totally blew threw it and kept on running. I did the norm and got GU and blocks from Kristen as the crew at the aid station topped off the water for the last time today. I grabbed an orange hunk and pulled off my mp3 player in half confused state I tried to communicate to Kristen to take it.
I looked down at my watch 4:43 and change. I told the aid station worker I was going to have to push to make a sub 5:30 I thought. I left the aid station and ate the orange fast. My brain set to work on trying to figure out the figure out what times I needed to average to get that sub 5:30 goal. This usually wouldn't be too hard of a task, but the pain was taking over and my brain was trying to shut down a bit in order to block it out some. I figured around an 11:00 minute mile would do the trick. This thought horrified me because the twisting trail combined with 2 steep uphills and my legs great desire to not function meant this was not going to be a walk in the park. Through out the day I had been praying for for my friends race and praying they would do well. At this point my thoughts shifted a bit as I started praying and more begging sound to God to let me finish in a sub 5:30. All the training that been done to come so close. I flew down the hill as fast I thought I could. I saw Chelsie's dad, Craig, and he said Grattan was about 30 seconds ahead of me and Chelsie was about 1min 30seconds ahead of me. I appreciated the updated, but at that point I didn't care about a position, I had a time goal. I made my mind up that it was sub 5:30 or bust. I hit the bottom of the downhill and pushed till the uphill. I did walk on this steep one and used the time to eat a GU as I knew I would need it these last 3 miles. I caught Grattan again around 3 miles to go. I said I was running for all I was worth for my time goal. He assured me we had it in the bag. I said at the 1 mile to go I'll cue the fat lady, but not until. He said he was just going to take a reasonable pace from there so I went around and said maybe I might even catch Chelsie in the process. I ran up the hills that I have walked in past years. I was pushing for all I was worth. I got to the beach and looked down at my watch as I passed someone. I saw that the goal was looking more likely, but again I wasn't backing down yet. I ran hard and passed another person as we went back to single track. I finally got to the steep hill and powered up it as best as I could. As soon as it leveled out I started running again. It was really fast, but kept pushing until one of the people I passed caught me at the 1 mile to go mark. I let out a cheer of happiness. I looked down at my watch and I saw 5:14. I knew at this point that I could likely walk it in and get my goal. The short single track seemed to take forever as my aching legs were dying to stop. I had one other guy pass me through here as I wished him well on his finish. I dumped out to the road finally. I looked as far ahead as I could and for the first time since the turnaround I saw a quick glimpse of Chelsie up ahead on the road. She had a fairly decent gap and even if I ran my guts out I didn't think I could close the gap. The two guys that had passed me in the last mile were going hard and weren't gain that much ground on her. I had a good pace going, but wasn't a dead sprint by far. I then neared the bend in the road and looked behind me for the last time and not a soul in sight. I knew I had no one that could catch me from behind and no one to really try to catch ahead so I kept a fairly fast, but somewhat comfortable pace. At about .40 to I looked at my watch to see 5:19 something. I just started to take it all in and knowing that I was going to finish in under 5:30. I got tear or two in my eye even. I so wish I could bottle that feeling up. I just started grinning ear to ear and giving praise to God thanking him for that race. I knew I had laid out all I had on that course and pushed my body hard. I could hear the cheers at the finish line and Kristen's voice along with my friends. Todd was a little in front of the finishing line saying Chelsie had just beat me. I said I had sub 5:30 in the bag and just didn't care and she had run better that day. I crossed the line in 5 hours 22 minutes and 14 seconds. I was soooo happy! To come so close before and to finally get my goal time very convincingly was great. I got my long awaited handshake from Dr. Horton and then gave Kristen a big hung followed by a kiss. Mom and dad were right behind her as well congratulating me.
My legs were shot and my calves and hamstrings were screaming and my quads weren't much better as I got my finisher's shirt and slowly made my was over to see Todd, Alexis and Chelsie. They congratulated me and I in-turn asked them how it went for each of them and heard they both had a sub 5:00 finishing time with Alexis getting 9th female. I told Chelsie she ran a heck of a race. Grattan was true to his word of a sub 5:30 and came across at 5:27 and change. I then got to cheer in my other friends as they finished. I love the time after the race is over in a way more than the race. That is partly because all the hard part is done. It is always great to hear the conversations of each others race and trails we each had and overcame throughout the day. The race was a great result for many of my friends and we all enjoyed it.
The race went about as best as I could have asked. My plan of my pre-race food went well along with my fueling plan during the race. I stayed a minimum amount of time at the aid stations and the training that went into the race paid off. Thanks to all the running friends and all those group runs. Along with Kristen for crewing and cheering me on. The aid station workers who help us along the way. Lastly to thank God for the great weather for the race and the ability that he has given me to run when it doesn't seem that long ago that I couldn't even run a mile.