The evening before Holiday Lake this year, I hoped with people that my race strategy was going to be a 1:50 first lap followed by a 3 hour second lap. My real goal (decided on Saturday morning) was to keep the chase pack in sight as long as possible. Well after a 7:57 first mile they were already 20 seconds up and never to be seen again except for on their way back on their second loop.
From here I settled into a comfortably uncomfortable pace with Kristeb Chang and Kaylyn Peck, who were hovering near each other in 2nd female position. After several miles we all began to wonder why everyone was young so fast. From the first aid station, I was consistently picking up my pace mile by mile while still getting passed. Kristen was curious about the pace so I checked my was (that I had programmed a 50k time estimator onto). 4:12 pace. Shit. The absurdity made me chuckle, in the days before the race while I dealt with a cold, little sleep, little appetite, and a nagging left achilles/calf strain, I figured I should aim to break 4:30. We were running along in close to 30th place at 4:12 pace. I shrugged it off since I wasn't breathing too laboriously and kept trucking along. When fellow VT ultrarunner Wyatt L. caught up to me toward the end of the flat/fast 10 miles leading into the single track on the backside of the lake I did my best to keep with him, he's much better at turning over on the smooth terrain than me. I love LOVE single track, the more technical the better, so when we left the mile 12ish aid station, I starting to push the effort a little. This next 1/3rd of the course (4 miles in and 4 miles out of the turnaround) is mostly winding singletrack and I really enjoyed it. I was able to shorten my stride a little bit, closer to the much more comfortable "ultrarunner trot" which help mixed things up, and every downhill was a nice reprieve for my hamstrings. Somewhere in here I caught up to local speedster Jordan Whitlock, someone I didn't think I had any business being near in a race, and half-jokingly asked why everyone was running so fast. The pace still didn't feel right for an ultra.
I came into the turnaround and fumbled for a minute trying to get gels into my shorts pocket. I hadn't had any dexterity in my hands since I took off my l/s shirt at AS1, so after a frustrating minute or so, I just got Rudy to do it for me--great crew! I glanced at my watch to see my split--2:09:51--and it was the fasted I had EVER run 16 miles before. OK. On the next several miles of singletrack I made my first surge. Wyatt had gotten into the turnaround about 30 seconds after me, and I knew he would catch me on the flat stretch if I didn't gap him here. I ignored my breathing for the next 4ish miles into the next aid station and hammered all the way except for one climb where I had to hike in order to force down a gel. Some brief conversation with Holly Bugin who went onto a new female course record and I started to focus on keeping my stride long. By mile 20, my hamstrings started to scream. Another gel and I was able to grind to the mile 24ish aid station--15th place, much higher than I thought I was. I guess that surge on the singletrack worked. Leading up to this aid station, I saw 3 people ahead of me fairly spread out so I figured I'd try to catch them. It gave me motivation, and I sorely needed that. I hit the marathon at 3:32, a 20 minute PR on the distance (though I've only done one very STUPID marathon), and kept trucking along. I came into 11th place just before the final aid station, dumbfounded to be in that position. It was the highest position I had ever been in at a Horton race, and Holiday Lake doesn't play to my strengths. From a glance at my watch, I hoped to force a sub 4:20 finish.From that aid station, I was very excited to get to the final hills and finally use some different muscles.
After the final "climb" I "sprinted" (as much as an ultrarunner can sprint) the last mile, windmilling my arms on the downhill road, to finish in 4:19:22, a 20-second negligible negative split, and after handshake from Dr. Horton and his remarks on my big PR (which are very meaningful coming from him!) I collapsed on the ground and stuck my feet up in a chair, laying there for about 10 minutes with a big, exhausted grin on my face.
Beast race #1 is done. Next up is the back-to-back insanity of the Georgia Death Race 60-mile and Terrapin Mountain 50k, so back into the mountains I go.
<5 Huckleberry Hammer Gels (I didn't actually finish a couple of them)
2 cups mountain dew
Basically, very little calories. With my regular nutrition pretty dialed, I don't think I crave carb as much during my runs, but part of this was that the fast pace being new and uncomfortable to eat through.
Shoes: Nike Streak LTs--5.3oz road flat. GREAT shoe, who know Nike could do it? Never had any issue during the race, and my feet weren't sore at all the next day. A lot of underfoot protection for the weight.
This was also the first team race for our newly formed VT Ultrarunning Club, and I'm really happy for how well everyone did. We had several first 50ks and first ultras. Everyone did very well, and more important, I think almost everyone finished with a smile. I'm really happy we've developed this community to help each other push our limits.