I think my blog has been on the fritz.  Or maybe I'm just making a really lame excuse for not blogging.  I don't know -- seems like I've had things to say but haven't made the time to say them.  


Anyway, I did this race last year and it really tested me far beyond anything else I've ever done.  It's the closest I've come to walking off the course and when it was finally over, I had mixed emotions about the whole thing.  When the dust ultimately settled, I had this new found attraction to something that nearly killed me.  Ok, maybe I'm being overly dramatic but I can't emphasize enough the amount of hard events I've done and yet this moved right to the top of the list of days where my ass got kicked.  Hard.

So why not sign up again, I thought.  :\  Fortunately, after not getting into Western States, I tossed my name into the hat for TRT and I got in.

Since last year, I've been over analyzing this race and I wondered was it just poor execution or had I stepped up to mountain hundreds too soon.  With some other mountain hundreds on my radar, I really wanted to answer that question which is why I was eager to do this race again.  I also wanted to do it without crew and without a pacer.  I had no time goals in mind, I just wanted to get to the end while keeping the race under control.  If I could do that, I'd consider this blemish removed and I'd feel confident moving on to other races.

In my lead in, I'd trained on the course several times and it was everything I remembered.  Hard, hard to breathe, hilly and a whole lot of breathtaking views.

Training for hundreds never seems to go exactly as planned but I felt trained enough to set out to do what I wanted to do.

I have to be honest, I was scared and I think that's why I started off the day as slow as I did.  In my planning, I broke it into two 50 mile segments.  In the first 50, I just wanted to cruise at an easy pace and get through the first loop.  I knew I could run in the back 50 and I felt like I could pull back some time on the first half but I didn't want to get into a situation like last year where I tried to put the genie back into the bottle.  

When the gun went off, I let everyone go in front of me.  This forced me to go slow because there were too many people in front of me on a narrow single track trail and there was no way around them.  It opens up here and there but you're essentially stuck walking for miles.  I was cool with that.  I figured I'd lose 10-20 minutes but in the grand scheme of things, it would force me to dial it down on a section that could totally wreck my race.

When I finally got to open trail, I settled into an easy running pace, went through the aid stations, and chatted with random strangers.  The sting of last year still present in my mind, I just humbly clocked miles.  When I hit Diamond Peak, the real attention getting climb 30 miles into the race, I chugged along slowly but I recognized that it wasn't nearly as hard as it felt last year.  I had a small celebration but I made no changes to what I was doing.  Just get to 50 miles, I thought.

From the top of Diamond Peak back to Tunnel Creek, Tunnel Creek back to the top of Snow Valley Peak and from there, a run down to Spooner Lake to complete the first 50 miles.  There are aid stations in between what I just described but nothing really noteworthy and that's just how I saw it.

When I hit 50 miles, I felt good and I was charged by the idea that I wasn't a total mess like the previous year.  Alright!  Let's get this party started.  I got what I needed and headed out for the second loop.

A hundred miles is a long day and there are numerous ups and downs.  Some bigger than others but if something isn't right, wait and things will change.  Heading up that initial climb once again, I lacked any sort of spunk but I kept moving forward and once I got up on top, I was right as rain.  Then, like a bolt of lightening, I was recharged and ready to go.  I was moving along pretty well and when I hit the Red House loop on my second go, I ripped down, around and most of the uphill section.  I'd been moving up the field consistently throughout the day but in this seven mile section, I moved up about 35 places.

I felt amazing.  And then I didn't again.  But as I said, it comes and goes and it was never off the rails, it was just the typical ups and downs.  From Red House, the next real marker in my head was Diamond Peak at mile 80.  When I arrived at Diamond Peak, still feeling in control, I got what I needed, took a brief pause to collect myself and I got back at it.

Unlike last year, Diamond Peak the second time around was completely lit up due to an almost full moon.  Last year, you couldn't see anything at night so it was literally putting one foot in front of the other until the top finally arrived.  But you had no idea when it was going to arrive which was kind of helpful.  With the moon lighting everything, you could see it.  Still easier at night with cooler temps but still taunting you all the way to the top.

From the top, they way I saw it, I had one more hard push to the top of Snow Valley Peak and then it's home free.  By now, I'm pretty amped because I'm in great shape and I know I can tear down that last section once I hit the high point of the course.  

Arriving back at Tunnel Creek, I grab what I need to finish this race and I get out.  

Garmin #1 had already died and Garmin #2 threatened death.  And then it died sometime around sunrise.  Honestly, I cared a little but not really.  I knew I'd seen sunrise earlier last year so I was ahead, I didn't know by how much but I didn't care.  

When I got to the top of Snow Valley Peak, I told myself that I'd run down with purpose but I wouldn't scream down to the finish which would essentially guarantee Hulk Smash on my quads.  And that lasted for all of two seconds until I started closing in on people and then it was game on.  And if you think about it, we have less than 10 miles to go to the finish so these people are in my kind of shape.  We're essentially equals of sorts.  So I'd run up on them, all of the sudden they'd perk up and I'd have to really lay it down to get out of site.  I think I moved up another ten positions in the final miles so figure I was punching it about every mile if you want to average it.  

In the last three-ish miles, I paced four people and I really didn't want them sneaking up on me.  I had to keep my foot on the gas pedal all the way to the finish.  Those last three miles seem awfully long too.  I kept thinking -- I'm ready for you to be over now.  Mostly because I was running too hard and after running for 26 hours, running hard is overrated.  :)

You can see the finish off in the distance and it appears closer than reality.  You actually run away from it for a bit, cross a bridge and then you (finally!) run toward it.  Left, right, over the bridge, right and I finished.  Official time:  26:19:44, over an hour PR from last year but most importantly, it was in control and all of my doubt has been washed away.  

Given that I can only do some many hundreds, I'm fairly confident when I say I won't be going back (at least for some time), in the back of my mind, I know I can go faster.  There are lots of places I could have saved time and with a crew and a pacer, no doubt I could get close to the sub24 mark.  But I'm cool for now.  Knowing that I screwed up the execution and I righted that wrong is enough.  Too many other cools races to do and this one is close enough that I can play on the course anytime I want.

Next stop -- Pine to Palm 100.