Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Eastern Divide 50K: A Weekend Full of Classicly Awesome Decision Making

It's been a fun filled summer so far. June began with a cross country road trip to crew/pace my friend Jordan at the San Diego 100. Jordan CRUSHED the race finishing an impressive 11th overall.

It was a great trip. I was able to visit friends all across the country, hang out with my cool cousins in San Diego, do some exploring in Zion National Park, and get some running done in my favorite place (other than Blacksburg) in Leadville. I spent 3 days running in Pbville and was very happy to see some real progress in terms of my ability to run the Pb100 course. Check out this view from the top Hope Pass.

Getting to the top of Hope feeling good was a real confidence builder, and I'm hopeful that I'll have better luck getting a lottery spot in the race next summer. After two weeks on the road, I was ready to be home. I was missing Ginger, YD, Seamus, and Mookie. It was good to get home.

Last weekend was one of my favorite weekends we've had since Ginger and I moved to BBurg. If you've seen the movie Highlander, you know about The Quickening. That's what this weekend was like: Some of my favorite people assembling in one place to epic things. Jim (Turbo) rolled into town on Thursday, Chris, Josh, and Jill arrived on Friday night. Having a houseful of good friends is one of my favorite things in the world. Brett and Michele officially moved back to town this week, and then a whole host of awesome BBurg folks (Looking at you Royce and Linda) joined us for the Eastern Divide 50. We got an added bonus as Nelson and Robin showed up at the start line.

After a packet pickup Friday night, we had good dinner at our house and then got some sleep to prepare for Eastern Divide 50K Saturday morning. We all slept as well as you can sleep the night before the race, and then arrived at the start line pumped for a big day.

As the gun went off, Josh, Royce, Brett, Chris, and I began the first climb of the day at a reasonable pace.

Ginger, Turbo, Linda, and Nelson began the climb at smart, measured paces, which enabled all to have great races.

Eastern Divide is one of my favorite races. Kirby (the RD) does an amazing job and the course is great mix of hard climbing and very runnable sections. I had a really rough day last year there, but I knew I was trained and ready to have a good race this year.

I had a good strategy and a solid goal. My goal was to get finished in under 5:30. A reasonable goal given the changes in diet and training since last year. My strategy was to hopefully stay with Josh, Royce, and Brett without going too hard in the first 9 miles. After that, I'd begin to open it up and see what would happen. At mile 6, Brett, Royce, and Chris began to pull away. Josh and I stayed with the plan of a conservative start, so we just watched them head up the trail feeling confident in our plan. The aid station at mile 9 is where the course turns to a very runnable, mostly downhill section until the climb that begins around mile 16. I was feeling great and began to open it up. I was able to pull Brett back (his life has been crazy lately so he was basically running from the couch). During the mile 16-18 climb I was able to start reeling in people and gain some time. The climb felt easy, so I keep pushing. I was careful to be quick through the aid stations. In fact, when I got to the aid station at mile 24ish that Jordan and Kristen were running, I was so focused that I forgot to partake in the awesome freezy pops they were handing out. Jordan looked surprised when I showed up before the usual suspects, and he encouraged me to keep pushing. So I did. After Jordan dumped water on me to cool me off, I took off chasing the three people I could see cresting the hill at the end of the open field past the aid station. I was able to catch and pass this first two people and create some space. The third runner proved more difficult. I was able to pass him, but I couldn't shake him.

In the end, he was able to catch me back up and pass me again. No matter, I was having a great day, and  a lot of fun. The sub 5:30 goal was pretty much in the bag at that point. I kept pushing though. I was thinking that going sub 5:20 would be cool. In the end, I settled for 5:23 and a 14th overall finish.   (Almost 2 hours faster than last year)

Michelle and Jill were a little surprised to see me at the finish. They weren't expecting me yet. Chris had come in at 5:11, which is AMAZING considering it was his first ultra. He is a talented runner, and I was so happy to see him do so well.

After resting and stretching for a few minutes, the buddies started rolling in. Ginger came in at a very strong 6:23 looking fresh and very happy to have beaten her goal by more than 30 minutes. She is awesome, btw.

Linda, Nelson Josh, Brett, and Turbo also had successful days. It was Linda's first ultra, and she turned in an incredible time beating her goal by half an hour.  She is a strong runner, and I was very proud to see her knocking this distance out for the first time. Nelson, always an inspiration, came cruising in with his classic smile. Josh, had some knee trouble (a nagging injury), but he still took 20 minutes or so off of his time from last year. Brett pushed through all that got thrown his way from a tough spring of moving back to town and finished like a beast. Turbo wins the guts and courage award hands down. Being from Dallas, TX means that hill training is not very possible for him. He fought through cramps and big climbs to crush his goal of finishing in under 7 hours. It was such a fun day of watching my friends explore the edge of what's possible.

We all relaxed, recovered, and headed back to the house to get showers and clean up before the SECOND RACE OF THE DAY.

That's right: the 2nd race of the day was the Downtown Sundown 5K. We took Jordan's "More Miles More Fun" mantra to heart. Well, it wasn't really a race for us. It was really a way to just have more fun. Chris ran an impressive time while the rest of us cruised it together enjoying our silly outfits, glowing gear, and embracing the foolishness of doing a 5K after a 50K. We all decided to wear the Eastern Divide race shirt (great job on the shirts this year, Kirby) in the "Wear Your Concert T-Shirt to the Concert" goofy mindset.

All in all, it was a great weekend. It was great to see so many friends and have such a great sense of community around the house. Blacksburg is truly a special place, and Eastern Divide is a great race. Check it out next year. Here's a link to my Strava data from the race if you want to check out the course: