|An easy walk the day before|
As I made my way down the Duncan Ridge trail, I focused on running fast on the downhills, and staying efficient on the climbs, whether this be running or hiking. I moved well for the first 20 miles of the race and soon turned down the short out and back section to Skeenah Gap. The trail descended around 800 feet in 1.25 miles which went by fast on the descent but was a little slower coming back up. I started passing runners on the way back up and figured that Caleb Denton was about 6 minutes back and Michael Owen and Brian Rusiecki were about 11 minutes back. This was a pretty solid lead at that point, but I focused on running the climb well and trying to put on a little more time before I reached Point Bravo at mile 28. Ultimately, I race to see how well I can do, but I'm a competitive guy so I knew that I needed to build a lead on the Duncan Ridge if I wanted to win the race.
I went through the Point Bravo aid station pretty fast with the help of my stellar crew and soon was alone again on the trails. Only a minute after I left Point Bravo I thought I heard cheering. Coming into Point Bravo was one of two small mental lows, so in the back of my mind I think I was worried about losing time to the field. Anyhow, this gave me a good boost and I ended up climbing strong over Tooni Mountain and descended quickly down to the Swinging Bridge.
At this point, I was pretty sure that whatever cheering I heard wasn't for another runner. Still, I focused on climbing strong over the next few miles, knowing the more runnable sections of gravel road later on would be tough to maintain a lead on. The next 4 or 5 miles of trail climbed up along a ridge, occasionally rolling down the backside of a knob before continuing the ascent.
I rolled into the next aid station feeling much stronger than at Point Bravo and tried to make my stay as short as possible. To this point I'd been drinking exclusively water, but I ended up filling up with Gatorade at the aid station. This ended up being a good move as I drank perhaps 5-6 bottles of gatorade the rest of the day.
The next section of trail was largely rolling so I knew I needed so stay focused and run strong. This section went fairly well as I moved along at a good pace and managed to sort out my electrolytes. I got behind a little early on, which is why the gatorade tasted so good, so I really focused on taking care on myself during this section. The section rolled along and soon I reached the big meadow where we turned off on the Benton Mackaye Trail and headed onto gravel roads. There was short steeper descent down from the meadow for a half mile, so I pushed hard on this section know there would be many places for me to pick up time for a while.
I rolled into the next aid station filled up with some gatorade and took off onto 5 miles or gravel road. The road rolled along winding across the hillside and I made fairly good time. I was happy how well I was running, knowing this would be one of my weakest sections. I also focused on getting my electrolytes dialed in as I still could feel I didn't have the right balance. I figured I was low on electrolytes, but I didn't want to make the mistake of getting too much. To make sure I actually need salt, I bit and S-cap in half and sucked on in with some water. It was salty, but the salt tasted good so I soon washed it down with some gatorade. I kept rolling along and made sure that I ate one more gel before the aid station. A couple times earlier, I felt a little low on energy, but eating a gel soon helped so I knew I need to keep eating and have a steady supply of energy. Soon I rolled into Winding Stair Gap, met my crew, and headed out.
I wasn't feeling great at this point, but I tried to run hard down the initial road descent to give me some confidence. This section went well for little while, but soon the road began to level off and we turned onto some rolling trail. This was the second section of the race that I had a mental low, but managed to keep pushing down to the Jake Bull aid station. I moved through Jake Bull fairly quickly and soon was on the last 18 mile stretch to the finish.
|Starting down the East Ridge Trail|
|Starting the last climb|
|Climbing up the stairs along Amicalola Falls|
|A mile from the finish|
|No need for a bridge|
|Soaking it all, beneath a beautiful sunset|
|The men's podium|
|The recovery begins!|