It has been three weeks since my last race—Hellgate 100k on December 10. I ran well at Hellgate this year, and since we were going to be in Virginia over New Year’s weekend, I decided to turn out for the Red Eye. I had no plan other than to get out and run 2-3 loops and enjoy the day running with my kids, Nathan and Amy, along with all of the other VHTRC runners. We hitched a ride with David Snipes from Ashland. The temperature at the start was slightly below freezing, but knowing that it was going to warm up, I decided to start with shorts and a few shirts and a hat to stay warm during the first loop.
Gary Knipling was at the top of his game during the pre-race instructions. He also announced that the Blue Train will be going to Pinhoti this year as its destination race. Wow, the blue train is coming to Alabama in November! I will not likely run the Pinhoti 100 miler in November due to its close proximity to Hellgate, but I will try to go down and pace someone.
Mile 11.5 2:11:14 (avg./mile) Picnic Area – Loop 1
This race is nice and relaxed with the majority of the runners planning on just out for a loop or two. We complete the obligatory 1.5 mile mini-loop and then proceed with the main loop that we will do three times for those of us doing the full distance. I was about 30 minutes into this first loop when the trail dumps us out onto a gravel road. As I was wondering where Nathan and Amy are, Nathan pops up beside me. He then tells me that Amy is close behind, and then there she is right behind us. We are together for just a little while, before Amy drops back. I keep Nathan in sight for a mile or so, and then let him go on ahead. At the time I was thinking I will catch back up to him soon enough. During this first loop, I am nice and relaxed and not pushing it very hard. When I finish the first loop, Nathan is about five minutes ahead of me. Amy is about 15 minutes behind me, and she will be content with just 11 miles today.
Mile 21.5 1:55:54 (avg./mile) Picnic Area – Loop 2
Starting the second loop, I decide I will pick things up a little to see if I can catch Nathan in the first hour of this second loop. I catch a handful of people, but Nathan is nowhere to be seen. The thought that he could finish the second loop ahead of me starts to make me wonder how hard I am going to have to push on the third loop to ensure he doesn’t beat me on this first head-to-head race between us in an ultra. However, finally after 1.5 hours into the second loop, I catch up to Nathan. I run behind him for a few minutes, and he says he started the second loop deciding to push the pace to see what he could do. Now, he says his legs are tiring and starting to cramp a little. I then push on ahead of him, and end up finishing the second loop four minutes ahead of Nathan. I quickly grab some food and drink and head out for my third loop before Nathan gets into the aid station.
Mile 31.5 1:56:41 (avg./mile) Picnic Area – Finish
Now on the third loop having assured myself that neither of my kids will beat me, I can relax a little. But, since I have ramped up my effort and speed on the second loop, I feel like continuing to push the pace. I am tiring a little, but Daniel Lawver and I play cat and mouse most of this last loop. I roll my chronic right ankle once about halfway through, but that pain deadens out quickly and isn’t a problem for the rest of the way. The weather today warmed up nicely to almost 50 degrees, and David Snipes, Nathan, and Amy do not complain about having to wait for me on my third loop. David ended up doing the first loop and then a little bit more. Nathan and David enjoy hanging out at the start/finish chatting with other people hanging around (including Gary Knipling). The funniest part is the dog jerky that someone donated to the aid station. Apparently both Nathan and Keith Knipling didn’t realize it was dog jerky as opposed to human jerky until they had already eaten it.
Official Finishing Time 6:03:00
7th out of 34 finishers (120 starters)
This was a great day! I got to run with my kids and some old friends. The weather was near perfect, and I had a very good run. I couldn’t have asked for a better recovery run the Hellgate three weeks ago. Now, I have four weeks until Mountain Mist in Huntsville on the 28th of January. Until then …
Never stop running,Darin
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