Last night was the second race in the dark side series - the Timber Knoll 60k. And as a bonus I actually remembered my headlamp this time!!!
I got to the the park and wandered around visiting with friends. Now many ultra runners can be a little "eccentric", but I had yet to meet a really crazy one...until last night. Some guy latched onto me and claimed to know me from somewhere. He started coming out with the craziest stuff, most of which centered around what a world class runner he was and how many women were chasing him. He asked me if I was fast, and when I said "no" he informed me that I probably wouldn't be seeing him for the rest of the night - fine with me. Thankfully some friends rescued me from his clutches.
The race consisted of a 3 mile out and back, followed by four 8.5 mile loops, adding up to 37 miles. We lined up at the start, Brad set us off and I headed out with the lead group of Ryan, Larry, Naresh and Derek. I wondered where the crazy guy was, and it soon became apparent he wasn't as fast as he had claimed.
I accelerated to the front for a few seconds, just to say I'd actually led a race, before settling back into my usual niche behind the front runners. I was feeling a little pain from my achilles, so I played it conservatively and eased into a much more relaxed pace.
The first loop was hot - around 102F at the start. I fell in with Deanna, a really nice lady from College Station, and we ran and chatted together for a time. It helped take my mind off the heat and my achilles and settle into the race. It was getting dark by the end of the loop and I had to turn my headlamp on for the last few miles.
I started adding walk breaks into loop 2. It seems that I don't have my ultra long distance running legs on yet, but that's ok - looking back at last year, I was at about the same place. I think it's a good thing to ease off for a few months before peaking for a goal race, which in my case is Cactus Rose.
Halfway through the second loop I caught up with Naresh who was suffering severe leg cramps. The poor guy had been sick all week with fever, but he's kind of like an Indian terminator - he just keeps going!!! I walked with him to the mid-loop aid station and then took off. Typical Naresh, he chased me down again and we ran together for a while, but the leg cramps were hindering him and he told me to go on. Mad props to him - he gutted it out and finished despite cramping for the rest of the race.
The sky had been amazingly clear all night - an incredible mosaic of stars - and on the third loop a beautiful orange moon rose. I turned off my light for a few minutes and enjoyed the quiet beauty of the night.
Somewhere on this loop I got talking to another runner who I kept flip-flopping with. His name was RT, and this was his first ultra. He was obviously a good runner, and probably had the legs on me, but my aid station strategy (quickly in and quickly out) kept me pretty level with him for most of the race.
The third loop also contained a lot more walking, as did the first half of the fourth loop and nothing in particular stands out. But that changed as I approached the mid-loop aid station on that final loop.
As I got close, I heard voices.
"Please God, don't let that be the crazy guy" I whispered to myself.
But it was. He was sitting in a chair babbling away to RT, and when he saw me coming he greeted me with a "hey, do you have any weed?"
I wasn't in much of a mood to humor him, so I just replied that I didn't do weed and tried to ignore him while I filled my bottles with iced water. He was on loop 3 and told me that since he ran ultras every week, he was going to stop at 3 loops and claim a 50k finish.
I debated whether or not I should goad him. My bad angel won, and I pointed out that he'd have to add on an extra 2 miles if he wanted to DNF at 50k. He told me that it "didn't work like that", and that he'd calculated it out and he took off.
This was the motivation I'd been waiting for - I sure as hell didn't want to have to listen to him for the last 4 miles, so I fired up the afterburners I'd kept in reserve and took off. Amazing what a bit of motivation will do - here were the gears that had been missing all night. I sped past him and heard him call out "hey, how do you do that". I yelled back "with practice" and his reply was lost in the night because I was gone.
I saw RT ahead plodding up a particularly nasty hill, and I accelerated and powered up it. As I passed him, I nodded back behind me and said "he's crazy, let's put some distance on him". RT agreed and broke into a run, but I was in the groove, and damn it felt good. Soon his headlamp too faded into the distance behind me.
I wondered how long my newfound speed would last - turns out it lasted right to the finish line, which I crossed in 8 hours and 26 minutes, good for 7th place overall.
After the race, I sat around with a bunch of fellow runners and had a great time laughing and joking. I met a lot of new people, made a lot of new friends and was able to watch a lot of old friends finish. I swapped emails with RT with the view to doing some runs together in Austin, and sampled some of Brad's genius post-race food - cake. Boy, was it good!!!
I really enjoyed myself, and hated to cut it short, but I had to go into work. So I said my farewells and headed off back to Austin.
I got back home to discover Nancy had had adventures of her own - the car had died at a gas station the other side of Austin the night before. It was 102F, she had the two kids with her, was unable to even close the windows, and I had the cell phone. Being the resourceful person she is, she managed to get everyone home (even the car).
Before I left I'd taken Gavin aside and told him I expected him to look after his mum and brother, and he really came through for me. He's such a sensitive and kind boy that when he saw she was upset, he went right over to her, put his arms around her and cried with her. He soothed her, told her everything was going to be fine and made her feel like a million dollars.
Yeah, he's a great kid and I'm so proud of him.
46 minutes ago