2011 finishing place: 3rd Airplane boarding zone: 3
Hotel room number: 333 Assigned bib number: 3
Notice a trend?
While I hoped to break the trend of “3”, the race obviously played out differently. The pace seemed quick from the gun, with Ryan Smith of Boulder and local Liberty University alum Jordan Whitlock leading the way and a healthy chase group near behind. Good chance for me to catch up with last year’s winner and the 2011 runner-up Brian Rusiecki. Brian and his wife Amy came down to Texas earlier this year for the Nueces 50 miler and we got to spend time with them heading back and forth from Austin to Camp Eagle in Rocksprings. Brian and I were careful to pay attention to the white ribbons marking the course, as the lead guys keep veering off course at inopportune times, once heading up a creek in ankle-deep water before circling back to the main trail! The mountains of Virginia treated us to a GORGEOUS morning and a classic mid-Atlantic fall day. Such a gift to be running, and only had to wear gloves for the first 15 minutes. On to the task at hand…
By the time we reached Robinson Gap aid station (mile 17), Ryan had about a 2 minute lead on Brian, Jordan, 2011 champion Eric Grossman, me, and a couple others. We were rolling pretty well through the Irish Creek (mile 20) and Reservoir (mile 22) aid stations before the big climb of the day up to Long Mountain. Brian opened up a gap on me on the steeper sections of the climb, he was definitely feeling good!!! Once it flattened out a bit coming into the mile 27 aid station I had just about bridged back up to him. I hit my drop bag as fast as I could, reloaded bottles, and started the last half of the climb. By this point, Brian had at least a 3 minute gap on me that extended to 5 minutes by the time we entered the Loop at mile 33. I knew Grossman was close behind from the cheers at the aid station so there was no time to dally.
Had a decent time in the 5.5 mile Loop, except for a WICKED fall where I caught a toe on a leave-hidden rock and hit the deck hard on both knees and elbows, ouch that hurt! Just kept moving and making forward progress, as Grossman was still in hot pursuit and there may have been a chance to catch one of the 2 leaders at this point. But the gaps at the aid stations stayed in the mid-single digits and I was not able to put any good time into either Brian, who had assumed the lead at this point, or Ryan who stayed solid all day.
Coming into the last aid station at mile 47, I had not caught a glimpse of Grossman for quite some time yet still pressed the last couple miles of downhill to the finish. MUCH to my surprise, Eric comes BLASTING downhill with about 2 or 3 miles to go!! I quickly turned around to say, “holy sh!t”, and tucked right in behind him. He was moving FAST, and knows this course as well as anyone. Sipped on my calories and water while “enjoying” the kamikaze draft, I did not want to lose 3rd place at this point. Exiting the rougher jeep road section and hitting the smoother steeper jeep road, my memory of the run-in to the finish came back to me. I GUNNED it and took the longest strides my quads could take, thankful for the smooth ride of the Bondi-Bs. Before long, the “1 mile” chalk mark appeared and although I opened up a small gap, Eric was by no means done, he kept pushing hard himself, probably hoping that by the time we hit the pavement for the last flat ½ mile I would be toast. Passing a mountain biking David Horton I yelled, “Grossman’s hot on my heels!” and kept at it until the finish line, only 14 seconds separating 3rd and 4th. Wow, that was exciting and a great way to NEVER GIVE UP. Full results here: http://www.eco-xsports.com/apps/livestats.php?race=2&year=2013
I’m amazingly thankful for the running and triathlon “gift” that God has allowed me to explore. Huge thanks to my new Sponsor Hoka One One, who I look forward to representing, as well as: Rogue Running, Jack & Adam’s Bicycles and High Five Events, Pure Austin Gym, DryMax Socks, Bonk Breaker Energy Bars, Soleus Watches, Advanced Rehab, thinksport, RunSmart, and Eating & Living Healthy for enabling me to train and race at my potential.
Thanks for reading y’all!