Familiar faces galore at registration, and after getting my bib number, I headed out to run the course with Justin and Jeff. The warm up revealed the following: the wind was very strong and going to be a big factor, the course was different - only one lap on the bike loop, and my body didn't feel that great running. We were running slowly (8 minute pace) and it still felt terrible. I wasn't sure what I could expect when it was time to race.
I lined up front next to perennial winner Will Sanders and some of my teammates. I heard a guy in a Whirlaway singlet saying he was planning to run low 17's. I decided to keep my eye on him. Soon we were off. Will went flying off the line and I settled into 2nd place initially, before the Whirlaway guy inched ahead of me. I stayed with him for the first half mile, before making a move before a corner that he didn't match. I could hear his loud breathing behind me for awhile. I felt surprisingly good. I didn't dare look at my watch, afraid I would see a way too ambitious pace that I couldn't keep up. My watch beeped at 1 mile, but I still hadn't passed the course marker. I still didn't look. Eventually I passed the marked 1 mile and I heard the woman say either 5:15 or 5:50 - big range! I assumed it was the lower number, considering I was in 2nd place, and ahead of Justin. I really thought I might have gone out too fast, and was going to burn out. Right before the turn back into Ninigret Park, I heard footsteps and quiet breathing. Soon enough, Justin caught up to me. I latched onto his shoulder briefly, but felt like I was working too hard, so I let him go. He steadily increased his lead to a few seconds by the 2nd mile marker. We then entered the bike loop and some of the strongest headwinds. Justin was still pulling away and I looked back to see Jeff closing in. I felt like I was giving it my all, and thought that it just wasn't my day. I still tried to keep it up, and fight the winds. Nearing the end of the loop, the wind was at its strongest. I seemed to be closing Justin's gap a bit, and Jeff was still about the same distance behind me. I looked at my watch and it was in the 16:20's with not much left to go. Could I really break 17 today? I began sprinting. I passed the 3 mile mark. Justin was getting closer and I sprinted as fast as I could through the shoot. Official time: 17:21. A big PR for sure, and a surprise time on a windy day. Justin finished in 17:12. Jeff was 4th in 17:38, followed by Jay S (18:05), and the Whirlaway guy in 18:17. Mike B and Rhody Seth hustled in with PR's next. Official Results here.
Finishing up. Photo courtesy of Jeff Walker.
I joined the group of WTAC'ers headed out on a cool down. It was nice to finally meet Mike C in person and chat about his trail 50K last week. We headed up to the trails and ran out to Grassy Point and back. Then it was awards time (cash prize!), before it was finally time to go.
I finally got around to uploading my GPS data. Here were my splits (more consistent than I thought): 5:33/5:42/5:39 and final .1 in 27 seconds!