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Miwok100k_2013

Course change sign weighted down by Beer.

Miwok 60k

At 4:30 AM on Saturday, Ron Little, Mike Weston, Janeth, and myself lumbered into the Stinson Beach Community Center, harboring buzzed confusion, centered around a stark white poster board with handwritten well parsed paragraphs of red writing; Stan Jenson stood alongside heralding a change.

To even the most alert morning birds of the sport, it took 2-3 recitals of Stan’s speech to reach comprehension, “Due to fire dangers, today’s race has been changed.  The distance is now 60km and will start at 8:00AM.”

Hoards of runners stood pondering the implications of change.  Months of planning now had to be realigned at 4:30AM in the morning – How does that change my drop bags?  What’s my crew supposed to do? What do I tell my pacer?  What about my pace charts?  Once the early morning cobwebs of restless sleep unfurled, runners converged on alternate plans.  To name a singular ultrarunner characteristic would be to declare flexibility in the throes of adversity.  From the top (Tia the Race Director) down to the athletes, we’re a crafty bunch with a drive to move nowhere but forward.

Forward we drove, the change was accepted and we continued in celebration of the miles we could run and not remorseful of the ones we couldn’t.  For that extra 3 hours we were gifted, some chose to nap others chose to log some pre-race miles.  Ron, Mike, and I along with 20-30 other runners dynamically mapped a route ascending to Pan Toll for a glimpse of morning dawn.  As a whole, we ran in scattered groups, but Ron and I’s route was a wonderful 7.25 loop climbing the Matt Davis trail and descending on the Dipsea trail.  Mike chose the more challenging Dipsea trail hill repeats!  You may ask why we all ran pre-race.  The consensus was that Miwok was training for something bigger – like Western States.

During the sunrise miles I did say to Ron, “Let’s run some pre-race miles and treat this like a fun training run.”  At the time I was 100% okay with that.  Then we lined up 5 minutes before the race.  I saw the top guys and girls.  I saw 378 people that would funnel into a single track in 1/4 mile.  I couldn’t get stuck in that so I pressed forward (not Lake Sonoma forward).  I set the goal of this run being: run it at my 100k goal pace of 10:00 min/mile.  That seemed reasonable.

Up the Dipsea stairs we climbed holding a quick pace.  We sped into the Cardiac AS and I was the only one to stop at the water and sponges to start the cool down (it was already getting hot).  I synced up with Jeremy, a Quicksilver runner that I recognized from Montara.  He and I were talking away to almost Muir Beach cruising at 6-7 min/mile.

During the climb from Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley my right calf started hurting.  In past weeks I’ve had tenderness there but today it was a building sharp pain.  My #1 thought, what’s the main goal here?  Western States, right?  I considered dropping at the CRC aid station to minimize the injury.  The visual played through my head as I talked it over with my CRC aid station teammates and pacer; I always concluded I couldn’t stop.

My pacer was a freshmen member of the Half Moon Bay High School track and cross-country team, Khalil.  I know his parents through my wife, I organized a Run for Boston at his school, and I take an Empowered Fitness boot camp class with his Dad on Thursdays.   Starting at Miwok 2010 there has always been a draw to run with one of the HS students as a pacer.  This year, we made that happen.  Yet, if I came into the CRC AS and dropped this opportunity at creating a “moment” in life wouldn’t happen.

I toiled with this a bit, slowed down, cataloged my injury as best I could, then decided I’m not running for me – I’m running to construct a frame work for Khalil’s experience.  My calf pain faded away.

With the CRC motivational signs beaconing, I stormed down the hill into Bridge View saying hello to everyone, many of whom I haven’t seen for months.  A big hello went out to Mor and Eric at the street crossing.  My wife, Jenna, Mandy, and Denise got big hellos and hugs.  I saw Omar and Khalil helping out and Gary who was sitting out the race due to injury.  The ultrarunning staple of good luck was Hallelujah Goat keeping a stark eye out for the runner’s safety from the canopy rafters!  I told Khalil, “Are you ready?” To which he nodded with a quiet smile.  “I’ll see you at Tennessee Valley!”

CRC_Miwok2013

The Lovely Pirate Ladies of the CRC

I was repeatedly dismissed from the AS by my wonderful wife Jen who’d rather see me talk after I’ve finished.  Rushing downhill I saw Loren who recently “50 miled” at AR50 and the amazing Margaret!  Across the street and onto the long climb back to TV to catch a pacer!  This portion of the run was challenging in distance, pace, and heat.  It’s a long climb back to the ridgeline to join the Miwok trail back down to Tennessee Valley.  My stomach faltered here mainly due to the foaminess of the GU Brew sports drink – it halted my digestion and hydration.

Arriving at TV I saw Khalil all suited up and ready to run; both him and his father, Omar, had a grin of excitement.  I rummaged through my drop bag to refill on GU packs and we were off with no runners in sight to chase, until we arrived at the 450ft climb on the Coastal trail. In the distance I saw a runner.

“Hey Khalil, you see that guy up there?  He’s from Minnesota.”

“Cool.  Let’s get him.”

I groaned inside a little because my stomach was still recovering, but we ran up the long hill then paused on a steep section.  Immediately we heard footsteps behind us, turning to see the first place female Darcy Africa right on our tail.  She passed with ease and we wished her a great race.  I could tell Khalil wasn’t having it!  We pushed and finally caught Minnesota proclaiming, “I was wondering when you guys would catch me!”  At the crest of the hill we passed him and another runner.

Emerging from Pirate's Cove with Pacer Khalil.  Photo Glen Tachiyama

Emerging from Pirate’s Cove with Pacer Khalil. Photo Glen Tachiyama

During the downhill to Pirate’s Cove, it was on.  I warned Khalil about the downhill being technical and to watch his step, especially at the stairs.  I love downhill and I knew I had company in that when I heard hooting and hollering from behind as we blasted down towards the ocean.  Wrapping around the cove we caught another runner as we climbed towards Muir Beach.

Muir Beach brought some large stomach issues.  I tried pulling myself together in a 1-2 minute timeframe but it was hard.  Minnesota, Darcy, and Yellow Shirt passed us.  I walked out of the aid station calmly telling Khalil, “Just give me a minute, I don’t want to puke on you.”  I let him know I was ready to run and he set the pace, a great pace.  After 15-20 minutes of silence I reassured him that me being quiet means I’m working hard.  “You’re doing great. Keep me working.”  Sure enough we spotted Minnesota in the trail ahead giving us the look-back.  That seemed to really fuel Khalil to push faster.  At the uphill transition we caught him but were forced to walk as my stomach churned from the push.  Yellow shirt and Sonoma caught and passed us – I raced Sonoma a few weeks ago in Lake Sonoma the last 9 miles and beat him by 2 spots.

Khalil wasn’t too keen on these guys motoring up the hill ahead of us.  “Let’s get them!”  I told him I can’t right now but if we can hang with them I can pass them on the downhill to the finish.  I promise you that!  For 3.5 miles and 1,300 ft of climbing we fought hard to stick with them.  Eventually Yellow Shirt pulled away.  My legs started cramping, my right calf injury was screaming.  Within ¼ mile from the top we caught Sonoma – “Hey I remember you from Sonoma.  You beat me.”  I said yup and ran past him in some of the worst calf pain I’ve ever felt.  I whispered to Khalil, “I’m in so much pain, but I can’t stop running or he’ll catch us.”

As we crested the hill into Cardiac AS we saw Darcy on the opposing ridge.  I point her out and Khalil says, “Let’s get her!”  As we left the AS Sonoma motored in.  It’s a complete crazy downhill race at this point – everyone is ready to empty out the tanks!  We bolted and in ¼ mile found Yellow Shirt puking on the trail.  Asking if he’s okay he said, “Yes, but I’m done!”  Khalil was right, we did get him.  Now we were on the hunt for Darcy and her pacer, a beacon in a bright orange shirt.  I was ready to unload on this downhill.  Again I warned Khalil, “This is some crazy downhill coming up.  Be careful.  Watch your step, especially on the stairs.”  We hit downhill mode completely hunting Darcy.  Yet, there was a threshold I crossed that my calves did not like – too fast and I would cramp BAD.  They hinted then roared as I pushed too hard.  I told Khalil I can’t go any faster right now… but we were slowly catching up to her with 2 miles to go.  I learned I could go a little faster if I transitioned to heel striking and pointed my toes up to keep my calves elongated while running – neither recommended nor comfortable.

I was now in a state where any deviation from my footstrike would trigger calve cramping or a full lockup.  Great, we still hadn’t passed her and now we’re on the Dipsea stairs.  Both runners and pacers rip down the stairs – easily counting over one hundred.  Darcy’s pacer moved aside but she didn’t.  I heard Khalil say, “Take it!” behind me yet I didn’t have that burst without cramping.  A cramp at this point would have seized my leg leaving me tumbling down a rocky forest staircase.  Just before we bottomed out, we passed hitting a quick uphill and catching another runner.  He hopped aside saying I’m cramping all over.  I hear ya!  That uphill stopped me so quick!  I could NOT run.  The calf pain was searing over the adrenaline.  With an attempted power hike we got to the top then gunned it for some runnable downhill.  In the distance I saw a Green Shirt walking.  He was going down.  We caught him but started pulling him with us.  I heard footstrikes superimposed on Khalil’s; glancing back I see green.  Oh great!

My calves were so done.  I had no clue how I was moving.  I was running scared with Green Shirt behind us and I KNEW Darcy was tough.  I just gave it everything and tried to gap them as best I could.  More stairs and ½ mile down the trail there was a road crossing.  We hustled across but when I reached the other side…

WHAM.  I went from 7 min/miles to a COMPLETE screaming stop.  I YELLED, “AHHHHHHHH, MY LEG!”  My right calf had completely seized up.  I grabbed it and vaguely heard Khalil say, “What do I do?” I shot my gaze over to the other side of the street and to my amazement didn’t see Green Shirt or Darcy.  I still have this I thought.  I need to get moving!  I propped my leg against the asphalt, stretching my calf back into running position, and it released a little.  I told Khalil I have to try to run.  We ran, slower but we ran through the final trail section with 0.1 mile to go we hit highway 1.  Double checking, I glanced back and saw a Red Shirt blazing after us in a full sprint. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!  I rolled my eyes and prayed for my calf not to seize as I sped up.

Somehow, I don’t know how, we crossed without being passed.

Khalil walked up and said, “Where’d Red Shirt come from?”  I said, “I don’t know but THAT was awesome!  Thank you!  That right there was all you Khalil.”

After cooling down a little I invited Khalil to come inside the community center.  I went to the shirt swag table and asked Khalil, “What size shirt do you wear?”  The volunteer gave me a small and I handed it directly to him.  “You were awesome!  Thank you, you earned this.”

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Miwok is such a superb race and I’m so fortunate to be healed sufficiently and have the ability to participate in such a wonderful event.  Saturday’s weather was perfect with temperatures in the 70s, whisps of fog and patchy cloud cover.  The volunteers were wonderful, attentive, and I was so appreciative of them offering there time and energy to us.  I’m biased, but, the Bolinas Ridge aid station was the BEST oasis of enthusiastic energy.  In the middle of the woods, that aid station really steps up to assist weary runners — it’s especially important as it falls during the make-or-break return distance of 41.1 miles.  Thanks CRC for pulling us through!  And a super special thanks goes out to my wife Jen, Denise, and Jenna for orchestrating the love!

As I’ve mentioned in the past Miwok has lined up to be a keystone indicator for my Grand Slam to be.  Fortunately, it was a great success.  My goal of 13 hours rang true as I finished very strong in 13:12.  My stress fracture and tendonitis performed wonderfully, tested by long pounding downhills (even paved at times) and steep climbs.  I felt soreness during the first 10 miles then again during the Bolinas Ridge to Pantoll return due to the outsloped trail.  I almost called it quits at the Pantoll return because the trail caused a rapid increase of soreness in my left posterior tibialis.  Fortunately it receded and I continued strong.

The run wasn’t without its challenges.  For one, I am not trained for this distance.  Secondly a hydration/electrolyte issue came to a head in miles 30 to 41.  This slowed me tremendously, but did allow for a troubleshooting opportunity.  The short of comes down to I may be taking in too much salt.  I’m still sorting through the information, reading, and emailing with nutritionist Sunny Blende so when I know more I’ll post it.  I’m REALLY excited in that it’s the EXACT situation I experienced during Western States 2010.  Not only did I get in a great training run at Miwok but also collected critical information to making my Western States 2011 a better one.

I don’t think a 24 hour WS100 2011 finish is out of the question.  But, it does hinge on me decoding this riddle.

Next up a solo 50km in the Butano SP woods this weekend.  Long and slow.  In less than 2 weeks its off to the Ohlone 50km for another long and slow training run.

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So, Miwok 2010 didn’t go down as expected, but morphed into a comedic chain of events that left me in utter disbelief and often thinking, “Really? Did it just get worse?” I entered into a war. One beyond what anyone could look at me during the race and see. It was absurd, really. Here’s a snapshot of my day:

Mile 18: I began falling off pace dramatically.
Mile 20: Puked.
Mile 22: My legs were completely spent.
Mile 23: While crossing a creek, slipped, fell in the creek hitting my head on a boulder.
Mile 23.001: Hikers helped me out of the creek and inspected my new head lump.
Mile 23.001 – 28.4: Headache and Heavy Legs, Disbelief and Frustration.
Mile 28.4: Bolinas Ridge Aid Station was wonderful.
Mile 40: I can’t run more than 15 feet without stopping. Legs are beyond shot.
Mile 41: Made the decision to drop.
Mile 42.8: Came into Bolinas Ridge AS and didn’t pull the trigger to drop. Onward I went.
Mile 44: HEAVILY contemplated turning back and dropping.
Mile 45: Ran mostly alone. Lowered my sunglasses and cried in frustration.
Mile 49.5: Picked up some momentum coming into Pantoll AS. 12 miles to go. Still hurting.
Mile 52: Tripped on a rock. Fell face first and ripped my right hand open.
Mile 52.001: Helped up by another runner’s pacer while 3 day hiking moms chattered about me.
Mile 52.1: Hand bleeding quiet a bit – wiped blood on my shirt “for the pictures”. Contemplated giving myself facial war paint.
Mile 57: Couldn’t run downhill to save me life.
Mile 60: Adrenaline masked some of the pain. I plowed up the Wolfe trail and towards the finish.
Mile 61: System was running well off adrenaline and I pressed for a WS qualifying time (sub 14).
Mile 62.4: DONE! I was in good spirits with so many people relieved to have me in. A HUGE hug from Jen and my CRC friends. Life was perfect at that moment.

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My second running of the Miwok 100km course is here and I’m really excited:  The weather is forecast to be perfect (low 70s), it’s a beautiful course, and the field this year is stacked with super-star ultra talent.  Not that I’m going to be mixed in with that bunch but it builds the race’s excitement all around.

The CRC running club is sponsoring the Bolinas Ridge aid station — Jen is an aid station co-captain! And ultra-legend Scott Jurek will be in the area. According to his twitter, look for him @ the start finish volunteering.

My goal is to continue from my Leona Divide race and run to my abilities.  Not an out-right all-out race, but press my capabilities to learn more about my body.  Aggressively I’ll target 11 hours.  The wildcard in this is the underlying effects of getting a serious flu last week which caused me to drop 5 lbs.  I’ve since gained back about 3 lbs. but still don’t feel right. There’s a saying that if you take your Miwok time and double it, you’ll get your Western States time. It might not be true a lot of the time, but I’ll be damned if that’s not swirling through my head during Miwok tomorrow!

Tracking the Race Live:
Live Race Feed

Pre-Race Blogs:
Gary Robbins Blog
Montrail Ultra Cup

Miwok Website:
Miwok 100k

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Quick Race Stats for Miwok 100k 2009:

  • Distance: 100km, 62.4 Miles
  • Time: 12:01:34
  • Average Pace: 11:34 min/mile
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: ~ 10,000 / 10,000 ft
  • Average Heart Rate: ~145 bmp

Quick Race Links:

I spent most of the week before Miwok huddled over the weather reports, initially thinking we’d be hit with another unusual heat wave. That wasn’t the case as race day drew near. In fact, rain was forecast amongst unsettled weather that cumulatively no single weatherman nor weather website could decide what was going to happen – that resulted in a bunch of runner’s that didn’t know what to expect either.

As for me, I was stressed and more nervous that before any other race (with the exception of my pre-teen track days). I was obsessive over what to do, overplanning everything; even emailing 2 good ultra running friends asking, “How do I run 11-13 hours in the rain?” I eventually settled down after finalizing my race plan and packing. For pacing/splits I pulled information from run100s.com’s splits for 3 finish times: 11, 12, and 13 hour finishes (i.e. best, good, and acceptable scenarios).

Race morning was an intertwined weave of plans that eventually lead to myself and Mike Weston at the starting line with plenty of time to spare and my wife and sister at the Bolinas Ridge aid station volunteering for the day along with the Coastside Running Club. The day was overcast but oddly warm (say mid 50’s) with no wind – believe me this is strange weather for a Marin beach at 5:00AM in the morning!

So there I was amongst 322 other runners in my brand new Brooks GTSs (yup, I freaked out and bought brand new trail shoes 2 days before the race), my goofy widebrimmed hat, and a red windbreaker. With a “line” drawn in the sand by the waving of Tia’s (the Race Directors) flashlight we lined up in the beach sand and were off on the word “Go”!

After passing the infamous bottleneck we all got moving and the jackets, gloves, hats, etc. quickly came off.  It was warm, very warm.  My pace was generally on target – I kept my heart rate under 160 as a hard barrier to NOT go out too fast allowing me to run / walk the hills.  My calorie intake was out of control.  I had calculated that 2 tubes of Cliff Bloks and 6 servings of GU would be more than sufficient to Pantoll.  This time a had a ravenous hunger and ate all my Cliff Bloks and at least 1/2 my GU by the Muir Beach aid station (5.7 mile to go before Pantoll).  Yup, I gave into the hunger grabbed GU from the aid station and was off – while overhearing the leaders had just reached Pantoll.

About 1/2 way to Pantoll the weather picked up.  It was slight at first then the wind began gusting and the rain kicked it up a few notches.  As I passed another runner I remember commenting, “It’s getting a bit cold” as I put my windbreaker back on.

I reached Pantoll uneventfully and scurried to my dropbag guided by a wonderful volunteer escort.  I swapped out my handheld for my Nathan pack that was pre-loaded with food and water then grabbed an extra tube of Clif Bloks.  The rain persisted and the trails ahead were to be the worst yet: exposed to the ocean, no tree cover, narrow, and lots of mud.  My energy here felt great with an additional drive to reach the Coastside Running Club sponsored Bolinas Ridge aid station.  I knew most everyone there and was teary-eyed at the thought of running in and saying “HI!”.  My wife Jen was there, my sister, my great friend Nathan… and other friends George Miller, Denise Vaughan, and Ron Little.

The Bolinas Ridge Kiss

The Bolinas Ridge Kiss

Running into the aid station were some wonderfully motivating signs pulled together by Eric Vaughan, another spectacular and accomplished runner that was also running today.  Finally I pulled in and the aid station was quite chaotic.  I was expecting to recognize people right away, yet it was a sea of  striking unfamiliar faces.  I pressed through the crowds a bit, saw Michelle from CRC, then my sister Sona, and finally my wife Jen!  She asked if I needed anything – then gave me a BIG kiss and hug and pushed my ass right out of there – literally.

I chugged along, hitting a spell of low energy.  The Cliff Bloks were no longer appetizing and it really started to RAIN.  Then there was the fog that you could see just pouring over the trail.  The fire road ahead had, not puddles, but PONDs.  Wet feet were unavoidable; just give it up!  I thought of George Miller and just ran through the middle of most of them – fun!  I started to see the front runners which bumped up the adrenaline levels.  But oddly I passed some familiar, normally front runner faces.  Laid before me were the first signs of the 62 dropouts that would ensue – most due to hypothermia.

I hit the Randall turnaround seeking out protein, which was satisfied with 1/2 PB&J sandwich and a chunk of Payday.  I chewed on them as I hit the biggest climb of the day.  Slowly my energy built back over the course of 1/2 hour.  Arriving at Bolinas Ridge I said hello to all, mentioned, “it’s cold out there” while eating more PB&J and sipping Mountain Dew.  Jen was elated to see me, soothing her worries.  At this point about 40 people had dropped as the weather continued to deteriorate.

To my huge surprise I saw Eric there.  Wow, I had caught up to one of my club mentors whom I hold in the highest regards.  I’ve been in 3 prior races with him; all of which I was no where close to him.  It seemed dreamlike.  We both left the aid station within 1 minute of each other off into the WORST part of the trail – fully exposed to everything Mother Nature was throwing at us that day.  We talked a little then broke the sheltering forest canopy to endure the elements.  Eric paused on the trail reaching for some electrolytes and offered me the lead.  I pressed forward, seemingly in slow motion.  This wasn’t just passing another runner – this was passing someone I held in the highest regard in all aspects of ultrarunning – mentally tough, physically strong, kind, and a fierce competitor when the clock is rolling.  Passing Eric was akin to coming of age in the ultra tribe.  It was HUGE.

The weather hit hard on the return from Bolinas Ridge to Pantoll.  The wind blew with bursts that diverted your steps to the grassy side brush lining the mud trough of a trail, the rain pelted you horizontally, and the fog obscured sight beyond 10 yards.  My mantra was a line from the Faith No More song Evidence, “Just put your head down and go!”  And go! I went, running up-and-down trails turned streams in-and-out of dense fog while thinking:  “so, this is what’s it’s like on Everest!”

I eventually made it to the 2nd or 3rd large tree alcove along the trail when my eye caught a florescent yellow jacket.  Immediately I could tell things weren’t right.  The runner dressed in yellow was standing on the trail, not moving, with head down… just shivering.  I ran up and touched his shoulder, “are you okay?”  Lifting and shaking his head he replied, “no”.  “Does someone know you’re here?”  He replied, “yes”.  Knowing he was becoming hypothermic I told him, “You’ve got to move around, you can’t stand still.”  To that he pointed to his right quad and muttered it was hurt.  I could tell what I was saying wasn’t registering, like when attempting a conversation with someone who’s talking in their sleep; it just doesn’t flow like it should.  With that I told him I’d make sure help is on the way and tore off with his mileage location, name, and number locked in my head.

Fortunately 0.5 miles ahead I crossed the “rescue” runner coming to help.  I briefed him on the runner’s condition and locations and was back on my way.  To number 353, I hope you’re okay.

Fueling at Mile 49

Fueling at Mile 49

At Pantoll (mile 49.5) I was greeted by Jen who was now crewing for me.  She was elated to see that the hypothermic runner that the aid station was rescuing was neither me nor Eric.  I had some Ensure and reloaded on supplies then was off.  Between the excitement of the weather and ailing runners I completely forgot to track my pace against my expectations.  If I had, at this point I would have seen I was 5 minutes ahead of an 11:47 finishing time.

On I ran through the Highway One aid station and then, again, to Tennesse Valley.  I saw Jen again and it was great.  Running in I was low on energy and struggling some.  I stayed at the aid station a little longer than most but it was well worth the energy infused into my system via a wonderful cup of warm soup.  This hit the spot so well it was amazing!  As I left Jen gave me a wonderful message from Eli, “Daddy don’t worry I’m taking care of everyone – just run.”  With that cuteness swirling through my mind I walked from the aid station towards the finish suddenly jolted by Jen yelling, “Hey this is a race, get moving!”  I jokingly yelled back, “Alright smart-ass”.  And I began to run.

At the crest of the climb I caught Jean Pommier.  He too was looking rather grim but pressing forward with amazing mental perseverance.  I asked if he was okay and he responded “No”.  But continued with “Go, go get 12 hours” in a thick French accent.  Something buzzed in me after that.  I looked forward on the trail ahead and spotted 2 runners, marked them and pressed forward with a fury; I had exactly 30 minutes before 12 hours tolled.  The first I caught at the cut-off onto the Wolf trail.  We reached the abruptly steep cliff-like climb together.  I just looked ahead and yelled, “Woooohhhoooooo” and charged the ascent.  Soon I passed another runner on the climb.  Then just before the transition from trail to paved footpath I passed another.  With about a mile to go I had 6-7 minutes left – almost impossible.

Post Race Talks with Eric

Post Race Talks with Eric

You could hear the finish line at this point, although obsured by the fog – cheers were projecting out of a misty cloud below.  I sprinted down the rock stairs almost sliding on my ass as I bear hugged the metal hand rail.  Again, more road but I could now see the finish… and, it was surprisingly far away.  I broke through a right hand trail turn and the finish line errupted in “Go, Runner”.  Then I could hear Jen yelling “Go, Go, Go”.  With a strong finish I crossed in 12:01:34 – an amazing race far exceeding my abilities of past.  I was estatic and didn’t feel like I had just run 62.4 miles.  Purely wonderful!  And as Eric so perfectly put it, “the race of my lifetime”.

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