Alternate title for this post: Bradbury White Out Time Trial Report. The alternate title may be more appropriate as I ran all but the first 1/4 mile of the race alone, but I'll get to that part of the story in a bit.
I arrived at Bradbury Mountain State Park at about 7:45am, with 3 hours and 15 minutes to go until the start of the race. Yup, another double duty day: racing and race directing. After things came together fairly well for the Bradbury Squall, I felt like we had it all under control for this race. Now, that doesn't mean that I slept well, but things were feeling fairly automatic. Once again, Ian was a tremendous help, and after moving most of the items to the picnic shelter for registration and post-race activities, we headed out to finalize the course markings. We'd put all the flags in place on Saturday, so all that was left to do on race day was the arrows. Ian and I split the duties, and we were back in plenty of time for registration. Once again, I had a killer crew of volunteers, and at one point Ian and I looked at each other and joked, "Guess we just hang out until race time." There are always plenty of last minute details and questions, but things went very smoothly. Thanks again to my crack volunteer staff: Mindy, Valerie, Rick, Linda and Jamie.
I was pretty worried about my left calf, since it was pretty tight during and after my course marking excursion on Saturday. I stretched, heated and rolled it on Saturday night and hoped for the best. It felt OK, but still tight, when I was out placing the course markings, and I wasn't thrilled about the time between what would be my warm up and the race start: more than 2 hours.
I tried to keep my mind off of it by using that time alone to actually think about my race strategy. I hadn't given it a lot of thought until then, even though the first thing Ian said to me when we arrived at the park was, "Are you going to go out crazy fast again?" The more I thought about it, I decided that I was indeed going to go out crazy fast. Well, moderately fast anyway. Roughly, the course was all uphill in the first mile, followed by a long downhill for 2 miles (aside from the uphill parts), then another long climb to 3.5 miles at the top of the Boundary Trail. The remainder of the course was a crazy fast downhill for about .5 mile with about .1 uphill to the finish. My plan was to run it like a 3.5 mile race with the top of that hill being the finish line. I knew that I could go out hard in the first mile and recover on the downhill section. This would give me a chance to sneak away, I hoped. And, I figured that if I could get to 3.5 miles at the top of the hill in a good position, someone would have to go all out crazy to catch me in the last half mile, since I'm a decent descender. Plus, I should be able to at least hang on. Seemed like a sound plan.
As the race started, it was time to put that plan in place, and at the end of the field I was just behind acidotic RACING's Judson Cake, fellow Trail Monster Blaine Moore and unidentified fast looking dude. (I would later learn that the unknown dude was Nick Wheeler, owner of a 1:09 half marathon.) So, yup, going out hard again. Plus, conditions were firm and fast, so we were moving. On the first hill on the Northern Loop Trail, about 1/4 mile in, I moved past Blaine, and into third place. I watched Nick and Judson turn up the Terrace Trail, and I could still hear Blaine's footfalls behind me. I put my head down and hammered up the Terrace Trail, and it got quieter and quieter. I turned onto the Bluff Trail at the top and was able to catch a glimpse of a train coming up the Terrace Trail still: Blaine, followed by unknown guy, followed by Peter Keeney of Crow Athletics (and smoking me at Sidehiller fame). This was the last time in the race, I had any human contact.
My neck should be sore from all the times I looked back over the next three miles. I kept thinking I was hearing footfalls, but it was really my own neurosis. I stuck with my plan, though, and when I started climbing on the Boundary Trail, I wanted to bury it. There are a couple steep pitches that dare you to walk, but I never did. I hit the turn onto the South Ridge Trail, I was still alone and breathed a sigh of relief. I tried not to relax too much, but my focus went from pushing to staying upright. The course included a small loop out to the South Ridge Cliff that afforded the perfect opportunity to see exactly who was behind you. I timed the loop as I ran it: 40 seconds, and I didn't see anyone behind me. With the descent before me, I knew I had third place wrapped up as long as I stayed on my feet. Despite the sheer insanity that is trying to run down the South Ridge Trail, I did stay upright. Of course, there was still the small matter of the remaining cruel uphill to the finish. I hadn't dared look behind me since I timed that loop, but I wasn't about to let anyone catch me in this last section. I put my head down up the hill and through the line to finish in 33:52 in a very distant third place. Nick and Judson ran 29:48 and 30:36, respectively, so I was on the podium, but no where near the top.
Coming into the finish. Courtesy Maine Running Photos.
Overall, I'm happy with my race, but I know I could have run faster. No excuses, but running alone made it far too easy to relax. Although the look on my face on the above photo may tell a different story, I know there was a bit more in the tank. It was basically the opposite of my race at Sidehiller, when I always had someone just ahead and just behind. Very different race experience, and it really did feel like a time trial. That being said, it was a good race, and I was thrilled to get on the podium with the field that raced. I'm already looking forward to the last race in the series, the Bradbury Blizzard.