From Butler Lake the course follows the IAT for about a mile and a half before crossing Hwy F, and then it continues for what is the world's longest "3/4 of a mile" -- that's what RD Robert said the distance was.
The good point about this part of the course, though, is that you can see the other runners coming back. I was just past Hwy when the leader passed me going the other way. He was power hiking a hill but was really far in front and had to be close to course record pace. About a minute later, a train of 4 runners came through, all looking good. I noted the 4th in line, Rasmus, looked especially good. He would go on to win in 3:56. Then, about 30 seconds in front of me, where he was for the first 25 miles of the race, was Scot. Scot is fast (defending IAT 50k champ) and I didn't want or really expect to be that close to him.
Finally, I reached the turnaround. I was about 15 minutes behind the leader and 10 behind the group of 4. I hit the half way in 2:01.
Right then, my thought process changed. I was no longer worrying or aiming for a finish position. If I could run 2:08 on the way back, I'd have a new Glacial Trail PR!
Back to Butler was a good segment. I saw a lot of runners coming towards me and was able to exchange "looking good!" 's with them. Back at Butler, I started to calculate what I needed to be under 4:09 for the day. I grabbed another bottle of CarboPro, nuun, and water from my dad (about 300 calories) and took off. Get back to Hwy 67 in 50 minutes, and that would leave me an hour to get to the finish for a PR!
One other thing that I did at Butler: I turned on some music. Wow, what a difference. I've never run with music on before, but I probably will from now on in races, especially the second half. I was flying!
I actually ran this section, between Butler Lake and Hwy 67 (which includes the big climb in Parnell) faster on the return than I did on the outward bound trip, 50:09 vs 50:25. It was a huge boost, also, to come along two of the four runners who were all together. They were slowing but still running, but over time, just south of the beginning of the Parnell climb, I moved past each of them, and was now in 4th, and right on the heels of Scot. Still, I didn't "make a move" or speed up at all regarding Scot. I just kept in my head what I wanted to run--a course PR--and stayed steady.
Coming in to Hwy 67 was great. Music was still blaring, and I saw Marty from the LPTR's--a great guy--and he told me I was about 4 minutes down to the leaders. That surprised me! I asked him for clarification if they were all together (and because I was wearing headphones, I probably yelled it!), and he said they were all "pretty close" together.
I filled up my bottle with just water and took off. Sure enough, not 1/2 mile out of the aid station, I passed the original race leader, who was trashed, and walking downhill. I felt bad, and tried to encourage him--"it'll turn around...just keep moving"--and was now in 4th.
I had to finish in about an hour to PR. I've never felt this fresh at this point in the race. Outside of a pretty steep little hill just south of Greenbush, I ran everything. I took some mile splits and found that I was going about 9 minutes a mile. A PR was going to be close, I thought.
(Turns out those mile markers aren't that accurate...)
I crossed Hwy A, and at that point I knew I had 1 mile before I'm on the connector trail. I ran a lot of miles this summer, just working on what I called "Grinder Gear"--the gear that just gets the job done when you feel like crap. I'd run these miles in training in the hottest part of the day, or with a full stomach, or early in the morning, and when I'd want to hike a hill, I'd run it. Yes, it feels miserable. Just keep plugging. Keep working. Yes, it hurts. That's kinda the idea, no?
As I approached the connector trail, I looked up to find 3rd place turning on to it in front of me. He saw me too. I told myself that I'm in 4th, and I'm on PR pace. Don't worry about 3rd. But cmon...who am I kidding?
The last 2 miles are pretty flat, first through some praries, and then on the roads of Greenbush. I knew 3rd place has a 2:54 marathon time--faster than me by about 10 minutes--so I wanted to get past him before we got to the flat stuff. I was able to accomplish that, and as I ran down the final hill and in to the praries, I was just flying (at least it felt like it) and it hurt. But I wasn't looking back, and I wasn't giving up this 3rd spot.
Funny how quickly things can change. I had obviously blown myself up a bit too soon, because once I was on the road, with about 3/4 mile left, my brain was actually trying to convince my body to just walk a bit and let him pass you back. There's nothing wrong with 4th. Just...walk....it's okay.
I didn't though. I didn't let me "central governor" win, and actually ran at 6:07 pace down the last 1/4 mile and in to the finishing chute. Yes! 3rd in 4:06!
RD Robert actually said to me, "Wow, Nic, you must've been flying in that second half! Way to go!"
It was probably the most fulfilling run I've had yet.
On to next year...
|Finishing Sprint. Pain.|