Today was the race I had been looking forward to for a long time. Bill Cobler was nice enough to let me crash at his place last night. Woke up and did 2 easy miles with him, then drove to Park City.
The 16 mile race runs from the PC resort base to the top of Jupiter Peak, 3000' climb, and then back down. It is mostly on singletrack with some on dirt service roads. Nothing is flat. I was hoping for a top 3 or top 5 finish, though that was in doubt at the start when I saw that the race was on the La Sportiva race series so a group of national class trail runners was there, led by the trail god Bernie Boettcher (http://www.mountainrunning.com/bios/spotlight/bboettcher.html). He's a 2:33 marathoner who is proportionatly far-better on trails.
Race started out somewhat easy for me- I ran most of the way up between 5th to 10th place, just trying to save energy. The last half mile climb is unrunnable and almost unwalkable- I figure it is about 30% grade for the last .25-.3 mile. Ouch. I probably could have pushed the pace a bit more on the runnable uphills, but didn't mind. Hit the top in 1:12 at 7th place with 3 guys ~30 seconds ahead of me, 1 guy right behind me. 300 foot descent, then up another steep mountain that is just a few feet shorter than Jupiter, peaked at 1:21. Ouch again. Then at long last we hit the downhill. I picked off the 3 guys in front of me within a mile or two. Then we hit an aid station and all made a wrong turn- slowed me down about 30 seconds by the time I got back to the turn, though the other guys were real cool and waited so we got back in the same order. From that point on one of the guys stayed within 5-15 seconds behind me, but I didn't see anyone else. Pretty good singletrack the whole way down, running fast. For some reason my chest tightened up around 1:40 and I had trouble breathing. I slowed down for a few minutes and eventually got my breath back. Ran down the rest of the singletrack, with a very painful last mile that had a number of momentum-sapping uphills. Finished 4th place- Bernie won, then another La Sportiva guy, then one local guy 2 minutes ahead of me. Top 3 places won shoes, then 4th and 5th won a fastpacking backpack.
My time was 2:08:00, 8:00 pace exactly. They changed the course this year, with the locals agreeing it was about 4 minutes slower than previously. Accounting for that, my time this year would have won the race in 2006 and finished 2nd in 2005 and 2007 (only 30 seconds behind the winner). Not too shabby. I love trail races. I was so pumped I rocked out to loud punk rock the whole drive home in my non-air conditioned car...
I'm pretty happy with the race. Top 3 would have been nice, but getting beat by 2 national-class ringers isn't bad. Plus I beat 4 or 5 other La Sportiva guys. Only a few blisters. Met some great guys, including one who had run the Striders WRC with us (Craig DeVries). I figure this race indicates I am on pace for my attempt at winning the Mid Mountain Marathon in PC in a month, especially considering this week is my highest mileage in a year and no taper for this race. Yeehaw.
As a side note, I received some nice compliments at different times after the race from the guys just behind me. One of them told me that he had never seen anyone take off down the mountain and pull away as fast I did- he didn't believe it was possible. Two other guys said similar things, both of them calling me a mountain goat. Nice compliments.
I have a goal to run this race next year and get some of you other FRB road-slaves to join me for a FRB sweep. Trails are so much better than roads!
Ascend- 352, 768- 132