If you can find a tougher, gnarlier, nastier 10k out there, I'll give you a dollar. I doubt you'll find one that's more fun either.
First of all, many thanks to Jeff for putting on one HELL of a race. He did a great job organizing it, and coming up with the timing system. It's a reverse pursuit race. Jeff puts his PhD to good use and determines projected finish times for each runner. The slower your projected time, the earlier you start. The hope is that the faster runners catch the less fast runners, and everyone finishes around the same time. And, amazingly enough, it ended up pretty close to that.
My start time was pretty close to the middle of the pack of 35 or so runners. I was pretty comfortable with this, but I was less comfortable with my starting companions—Ian and Chuck. Nothing personal, but I know they are both much faster than I am...especially over the type of terrain Blackstrap Hell throws at you. At the "gun," Chuck took off fast, and Ian was hot on his heels. I wanted to run my own race, but I also knew it would be good to try to stay with these guys as long as possible. Within the first 1/4 mile I almost fell twice since I was paying more attention to them than my own race. I consciously backed off to really run my own race, and I actually stayed moderately close to them until I saw them turn off the powerline trail. That was the end of them. And, they indeed both run great races and crushed me.
I passed Ryan, Lily and another runner shortly after I made the turn onto the singletrack that follows the powerlines, and I finally started to feel good. I didn't feel great for the first mile or so, which I attribute to lack of warm up. But once I felt good, I felt like I was rolling. You can never really open it up on this course because you're either climbing a nasty hill, climbing a slippery muddy hill, tip-toeing over leave-covered trails that hide ankle breaking roots and rocks, splashing through calf deep puddles, trying to stay on the trail...well, you get the idea...it's nasty. But, when I could run "normally" I felt good and really pushed it. It was clear, though, that I've been running road 5ks and nothing really hard, but I wasn't surprised by that.
Last year, I fell three times during the race, so I knew I would go down at some point. Today, I only fell once, but I did manage to pop right back up. At the bottom of the hill following the turn off the gas line, it was really squishy, and I went down on my right side. I whacked my hip and outside of my calf pretty good, but I was glad to get the fall out of the way.
Eventually, I reached the never ending hill that leads back to the powerlines. It takes about a month to run this hill, but I finally had people to chase. I'd been running for a long time alone, but the eventual fastest male, Peter, passed me just at the bottom. I could only stay with him for about a half a step as he is one fast dude. He was closely followed another fast dude, Floyd, and I dug down and stayed with him as long as I could—maybe 3 steps. OK, it was better than that, and I appreciated getting pulled up the hill.
Once the month I was over, I reached the powerlines and really tried to open it up. I knew that I had somewhere in the neighborhood of a mile to go, so it was time to finish it up. I had motivation as I spotted someone in front of me and quickly realized it was Jamie. My first thought was "I hope he's OK." He had started before me, and I never expected to catch him. But, I now had my motivation and went for it. I was closing on him until the new section of singletrack that made up the final portion of the course. I'm pretty certain that the trail designers were hammered when they put this piece together. It was amazingly twisty and turny. It was fun to run, but it wasn't necessarily fun to try to run it fast after running the rest of the Hell course. Around one of the corners, I ran into a tree and scratched my left arm pretty good. So, only one fall, but I did get bloodied. At one of the many hairpins, Jamie and I exchanged pleasantries, and I knew then that I probably wasn't going to catch him. The element of surprise was gone, and I figured he would do everything in his power to stay ahead of me—I was right. I'm not sure how close I got to him, but he ended up putting about 30 seconds on me by the end. In other words, I died and he smoked me. I did actually die on one particular uphill in the singletrack section, and I was just hoping to get to the finish. Just before the finish the trail opened up, and you could actually run. It was nice to feel like I was running fast at the end.
I finished 14th overall with the 9th fastest time: 1:00:05. (Results) That's a long 10k, and, in reality, the course is somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.5, even though it feels much longer than that. And, overall, I'm pleased with my race. I certainly haven't been training for anything like this, and it's also the longest distance I've run in weeks. Best of all, I won the "guess your time" prize. My guess for my time was 59:59, so I only missed by 6 seconds. The prize? Beer.
All in all, it was a great day. In addition, D hung out with the Little Lady the whole time, and she even was good during the post-race pizza and beer. (If you're wondering, she's been an absolute terror since we got home.) A great day in the mud with friends!