Pre race instructions. Wild Endurance up front. Photo by Fred Ross
The race began and Greg and I took off out in front. My main plan was to run with him or even ahead of him if I was feeling good. What happened is what I should have anticipated: he took the race out hard, at least too hard for me. This is how he trail races: run away and hide. It doesn't matter if I'm his big brother. I appreciate his ruthlessness.
The start. Photo by Fred Ross
The first two miles are basically uphill on dirt roads to reach Pisgah State Park. I feel like climbing is an advantage for me, but I found myself trailing Greg, and not feeling good at all. No one was yet nipping at my toes, and I had the thought that my race was already over. Worse was the thought of suffering for the next hour and a half by myself. I was totally lacking any killer instinct. I ran on and had a moment of positivity when I was actually catching up to my brother on the screaming descent in the park. Maybe I would catch him on the next long hill climb? No dice. He disappeared for good. I felt crappy climbing again.
The last couple of years I have been pushed by guys on my tail. This can be crucial to make sure you are running your fastest during a trail race. After I summited the long climb, I talked myself into working hard for the duration. Even as my attitude improved, I was not getting the help I needed from behind. I would glance back at spots with long looks and just not see anyone. I knew that once I climbed the very long and challenging Pisgah Ridge and I still didn't see anybody, I was not going to be passed. The ridge climb went okay - no hiking - didn't feel terrible. Nobody in sight behind me. My place was settled and I just needed to keep trying to reach my time goal.
Somewhere around mile 8. Photo by Fred Ross.
The last five miles went well. I felt stronger on the Davis Hill/Hubbard Hill than ever before. Usually the roots in the deep woods feel terrible on tired sore feet, but not today. According to a photographer I was a minute and a half back on Greg, and then a short time later I saw my sister-in-law Jen, who told me I was only a minute back. Positivity flowed back through me. Maybe he is tiring? I just controlled what I could control which was my effort.
Finally the end was near as I exited the park and made my way on the final mile plus road section (unpaved then paved). As I made the crazy fast descent I got a glimpse of Greg. Things could get interesting! I didn't have much more to give since I was going all out, so I just had to keep at it. There's a decent hill climb and knew that would be the deciding factor. I reached the top and Greg wasn't that much closer. I spent the last half mile chasing him, but the race finished and I was 28 seconds too slow.
As I crossed the line I finally looked at my watch. I had figured that I would have at least gotten the sub 1:40 I was looking for, especially since I was so close to Greg. He told me before the race he was in 1:39 shape, but I figured he was really in 1:36 shape. I was happy to check my time. But what I saw was not what I was expecting. 1:42:17. 1:40 slower than last year. Huh? Hard to figure. The weather was gorgeous and the woods were dry. I'm chalking it up to three things: not pumped up beforehand, going out too fast the first 3 miles, and then not getting pushed from behind during the middle miles. It does make a difference.
Afterwards, I felt fine about the race. This was definitely my chance to beat Greg in a race and I blew it. Oh well. It was fun and I'm always glad to hang out in Chesterfield.