I ran faster, but everyone else seemed to run MUCH faster. 5th place, 47:27, and 44 seconds better than my PR for the course (set last year).
Here's that profile pic of the course I posted before, so your children can follow along at home:
My race plan was to run the first three miles conservatively, hopefully around 5:45-5:50 pace, then to turn it on and race the rest of the course hard. I've noticed through tracking my old splits that I tended to go out fast, then run the last half of the race at the same pace every year as I stomped along on legs worn out from the early hills. By keeping something in reserve, I felt I could make up some good time on the last three rolling miles.
The reserves just weren't there. A 5:28 and 5:32 for the first two miles found me in 4th place, with second and third dangling 50 and 20 meters ahead. These first miles I tried to just fall down the steep hills, turning over the legs quickly with shorter strides, which seemed to take less of a toll (and less time) than braking and holding myself back. Mile three found everyone slowing during the first uphill half, and when I came through in 5:47 I was a little concerned because I found the effort fairly taxing.
The huge hill I was saving up for loomed, and at 3.5 miles I started scrambling up it. My mental scenario of starting to pull runners back here started to evaporate as I found myself at the limit while they seemed to be gaining ground. So much for considering myself a hill warrrior and banking on all the inclines I'd covered in training. Mile 4 passed in 6:09, but from here it just keeps going up for another full mile. This was a hard portion to run alone, and looking beyond me to see second place well gone and third slowly getting further away dampened my spirits as I tried to find a way to breathe through my ears to get more air. The watch read 6:47 when the mile finally ended, which wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared here.
Finally the road started to tilt downward, but the fast feet I was wearing and turning over easily early in the race were now starting to stick to the road. I did my best to lean the whole body a little bit forward, but I was just too far gone to make the most of the downhills. A 5:51 for mile 6 shows this, and 6 flat for mile 7 actually had me thinking that things might really end badly. I usually don't go so far into the negative during shorter races, but footsteps behind dampened my already dull spirits.
As I tried in vain to separate myself from the runner coming up, I saw a tall shadow and heard the familiar late-race wheezing of my pal Lucas. Once I knew it was him I actually cheered up a bit, as we work well together. As we started up the hill though, a familiar voice shouted "Lucas, I'm coming to get you!". Then a funny thing happened: Lucas swore. It was so out of character that I was actually smiling, even as our friend Scott came up on us. He clearly had a bit more in the tank than either Lucas or myself, and after running even and exchanging a few words he put the screws to us as both of us faltered. Before the race Scott asked me to store a few things in my bag by the finish line, and as he showed us his heels I had just enough energy to say "I'm throwing your keys in the desert". Lucas and i finally made the last turn, with me taking 5th and him taking 6th.
I know all the guys who beat me fairly well, and I'm honestly very happy for their successes. Still, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'm a bit distressed at what seemed to be a changing of the guard. Quite frankly, I had it handed to me today by places 2 and 3, and I can't help but feel I should have been able to run with them. These thoughts are unfortunately crowding out the fact that I ran a personal best for the course, but the camaraderie of summiting the last hill with two good friends (even while suffering badly) is a bright memory that will endure.
Results are posted.
It was great seeing and chatting with Phil, who made it down from Phoenix to run this race for the first time. Stop by his blog and read his excellent race report. As always, he has some nice photos to go with it.
Race: 8 miles, 47:27, 5th place, 12 miles total