The race was a 9ish mile out and back followed by a 7ish mile out and back, and the first part of the race involved climbing up a bridge and going across... it was definitely different than the other races I've done, and for the first mile, I led the pack. I talked to a couple of the guys behind me and learned that two of them had marathon times of 2:44 and 2:54, which meant that they were definitely good road runners (faster than my own 2:56), and figuring out who I was up against, I decided that the best thing that I could do was to race my race. I dropped back and went down to 4th place, where I begin the real warm up of the race, and then as time went on, little by little, I started to pick up the pace. Between mile 3 and 4, I passed the person who was in 3rd, and little by little gained on the 1st and 2nd place runners. At a little past 4 miles, there was a part of the race where you have to go over a fence, and that's where I caught the two runners and paused because we weren't sure what we were suppose to do. By the time the runner I passed came, I stood on the fence and figured out that that was the direction we were suppose to go, and leading the pack, I went to the water station, dropped off my water bottle, and decided that I would start taking the race from then on, as seriously as I could.
On the return trip, I had previously heard the top runners talk about how they had wasted 30 seconds figuring out what the course was, I figured that I would need to beat them by a minute to make the victory feel real. I had one runner running right behind me at that point, and I had the "Happy" song going in my head keeping the beat (must have been on the radio) and little by little, I pulled away, and as I passed my teammates, they all cheered me on, which encouraged me to continue the effort. With switchbacks and rolling hills, the pace was never constant, but with the experience from Haw Ridge and all the other trail races I've done, it wasn't really a set back. Whenever I could pick it up with the same effort, I would pick it up, and whenever I needed to slow down... I would slow down. Every so often, I would pretend that there was someone coming up behind me, so that would jolt me forward with renewed energy, but other than that, it was a nice run all the way back to the start.
After climbing back over the bridge and getting to the starting area, I stopped to drink a little water and dump the rest on my head. Talked to Tony for a little bit, and off I went. For a little bit, it was roads and though I was faster, changing from trails to roads really was something different, and I felt it in my legs. As I met up with the 8 mile finishers, we cheered each other on, but as I got faster and faster, the words of encouragement changed from a sentence to a phrase, but I was finishing the course as fast as I possibly could, and I knew I'd have to push the end if I wanted to make it under 2 hours. After going through the trails to the aid station which was less than half way (because on the way back, we would add a few longer loops in the mix), I drank a little bit and dumped the rest on my head and said goodbye and thanks to the workers and started my return.
I wasn't sure how much I was ahead of the group behind me, but I wanted to make sure that it would be as large of a gap as I could possibly make it, and after a minute or so, I met up with the 2nd place runner, Bob Adams, who was headed towards the aid station. As he is a very fast runner, I knew that a few minutes was something that he could definitely get back, and so that made me want to go even faster... which I did. I passed by the other guys and then my teammates, as I zipped through the course, and being glad that I had the energy to run fast (since it was only 16 miles) I knew that the only thing that'll stop me is if I ran too fast and tired out my muscles... but the clip I was going at was decent and my cadence was strong, and I knew that as I got closer to the beginning, that I had a real decent chance at getting under 2 hours. I was a little worried when I had about 10 minutes left and I wasn't sure exactly how far I was from the start, so I did pick it up even more, but as soon as I hit the road, I knew that I would be able to finish strong and achieve my goal of running under 2 hours. In fact, as I finished, I saw that I had 3 minutes to spare! Being a trail course and not having done any research on it, I was happy with my 1st place finish with a time of 1:56:53.
Top 3 Overall
Sho Gray 1:56:53
Bob Adams 2:00:54
Jesse Fine 2:04:44
Male and Female 1st place Finishers!!
Overall, it was a very fun race, well organized, and enjoyed the people that ran in it. I'm looking forward to next year and see if I can lower the course record~ Definitely pumping me up for the 24 hour race coming up in July!! (and happy that now I can just run slowly and not work on my speed~ haha)
You put in hard work and persevere, the results will follow.