This is the third year in a row that I have run this race, but is the first year that the weather has been perfect. The first year, there was a cold rain throughout the race. Last year was better than the first year, but clouds and a little drizzle kept things from being ideal. This race is a point-to-point race so the race management transports the runners from the finish to start in vans. The temperature this morning is around 60 degrees, so I am wearing shorts and a light, short-sleeve t-shirt.
Mile 7 1:39:57 Lick Creek Mountain
I start conservatively to ensure I don’t get sucked out too fast by other runners. For the first 20 minutes or so, there are two other guys following me as it is still relatively dark, and they haven’t run this race before. However, after it is fully light, they pass me, and I wish them well. I don’t see anyone else until I get to the aid station. The guy checking off runners remembers my name (with the help of a short runner list) from last year. I grab two PB&J sandwich quarters and start the loop.
Mile 10 42:48 Lick Creek Mountain
This split time is faster than my split on this section in either of the previous years. It isn’t that much faster, but I don’t think I pushed it any harder this year. Rather, I think my speed work this summer has paid off some. I only saw a couple of runners on the lollipop portion of the loop. Back at the aid station, I grab some potato chips and a small brownie. Ordinarily I wouldn’t eat a brownie at this point in the race, but one of the race directors made them, and so I need to try them so I can tell her later how they tasted.
Mile 13 43:27 Norma Road
Leaving the last aid station, there is a runner close behind me. We make our way down the hill, and then I let him pass me as he seems to want to run faster than I do. This split is a minute and a half faster than I have done it before. I am definitely moving efficiently. At the aid station, one of the workers is playing cheerleader. She screams, jumps up and down—the whole nine yards. I grab a few PB&J sandwich quarters, fill up the Camelbak, and start up the next climb.
Mile 18 1:33:08 Lower Elk Field
The climb goes fairly well, and I make excellent time. I stayed disciplined and hiked the Upper Elk Field. Last year, I twisted my ankle on this field in one of the many ruts. Coming down the hill to the aid station, I got off track slightly, but was able to recover and get back on course. The very nice couple working this aid station is enjoying the beautiful weather this year. I eat a couple more PB&J sandwich quarters along with some potato chips. This is another personal best split at this race—two minutes faster than last year and five minutes faster than two years ago!
Mile 24.5 1:48:39 Carroll Road
This section is the toughest section, I think. It goes up and down for several miles before the final climb up Cross Mountain. Susan Donnelly passes me about half way through this section, and I hang with her for about 10 minutes before she pulls away. This will be the second and last time that I run with anyone today. All but 30 minutes today I am totally by myself. It is a beautiful day, and I am enjoying it to the fullest. Before I get to the aid station, my Camelbak runs dry, but it is only another 20 minutes before I get to the aid station. I refill my Camelbak, eat a couple of PB&J sandwich quarters, and drink a little Coke.
Mile 31.5 1:53:24 FINISH – Cove Lake
I make it up and over the remaining climb on Cross Mountain. The downhill is steady and consistent. My right ankle is holding up well, and I have my legs. The only problem is that I have to stop and remove a painful little rock from my shoe. I see no one on this section, and I finish comfortably.
Official Finishing Time 8:21:21
14th out of 27 entrants (Second M40-49)
This finish time is 20 minutes faster than my previous best at this race. And, I felt like I was not pushing it too hard most of the race while racking up excellent split times. This effort gives me tons of confidence for the rest of my races this fall. I plan to run the Paris Mountain 50k in Greenville on October 21, and of course, I will return to Hellgate in December. Until next time…
Never stop running,Darin
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