The second 50K in a week was predictably sucktastic. After a couple of successful short runs earlier in the week confirmed that my legs still worked post-Hell's Hills, I commited to slogging through Hog's Hunt. This decision was based almost wholly on the need to beat the legs up real good before Miwok. Lo and behold, I got exactly what I came for. As "race" day approached, it was clear that the weather would be challenging. Pulling into the park at about 6:00 a.m., my car thermometer registered a balmy 75 degrees. And this wasn't a dry 75. Parked near the aid station and walked the half mile or so to the start, chatted with some folks for a few minutes, and then we were off. Exactly the same set up as the previous week: Pure Grits and DryMax on the feet, 20oz handheld and a small Nathan waist pack for fluid/electrolytes/calories.
The first loop was not especially memorable. There was a small pack for the first mile or so, but once we crossed the road at the Nature Center, things had spread out nicely (which would be the case for the rest of the day). RD Paul Stone emphasized hydration in his pre-race spiel, and he talked the talk, with water available at roughly the 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 13, and 15.5 marks of each loop. This obviously allowed lots of idiots to run while carrying little or no water. The aid stations themselves were lean with respect to food items (no pb&J), but most had Coke, and often there was ice (which was lovely on the second loop). By the time I left the second aid station at mile 8 and hit the dreaded 2-mile portion of the Chinquapin Trail (aka Trail From Hell), I was running alone. I mean ALONE, as I saw NO ONE for over a mile and half. I was still feeling fine, so this really wasn't all that unpleasant. Soon enough, I hit the TREX aid station and was heading for the last couple miles of the loop, which was completed in a hair under 3 hours.
A quick turnaround (so as not to seriously contemplate dropping at this point), and loop 2 was underway. It wasn't long before the heat and humidity worked me over and continuous running became difficult. By the time I hit the first aid station (manned by Joe P & crew), I was pretty run down. The 2-mile stretch of fire road back to a lovely mile-long stretch of singletrack was, as always, mentally taxing. But I was content to take things as they came. I saw that Stefanie B and Tim L were a few minutes behind me and my goal was to slow enough that they might catch me by the Trail From Hell, as I did not look forward to negotiating it alone in my present state. Unfortunately, I found myself pretty much alone once again, with only an ocassional biker or hiker to break up the godawful monotony of the heat-induced near death march. After what seemed like an eternity, I staggered into the TREX aid station with less than 3 miles to go. I lingered for a bit, enjoying a cold Coke and some ice, and then headed back up the trail. As I was heading up, Stefanie was heading down to the aid station, and I was content to walk for a bit and let her catch me, as some chit chat and mutual suffering would make the last half hour pass more quickly.
At least that's what I was thinking initially. Once the Coke settled and I was feeling a bit refreshed, I decided not to wait. And I began to run. Certainly not fast, but I was running more than walking, spurred on by the drive to just get the damn thing done. Among the mind games I started to play was "finish before Stef." Why? It wasn't a competitive thing, really. Getting chicked doesn't bother me in the least. It was just about motivation to get the legs moving. As I started to near the last mile along the Park Road, I realized there was an outside chance of coming in under 6:30, but for some reason that didn't really stoke the fires and while I managed to run (painfully) on the downhills, the ups and flats were little more than typical death march pace. Then, maybe a quarter mile from the finish, who should run up on me but friggin' Stefanie. You have got to be kidding. She told me to "come on" and I did, assuming we'd shuffle in together, but as we hit the final straight-away down the utility cut, she picked up the pace. My response: "you have to be fucking kidding me." But she wasn't. And it was on. 10 min/mile pace quickly became something much faster. As the finish line approached, I felt that I probably had a little more pure speed (very much a relative term) than she did and I pushed ahead at the very last second to "win" by . . . well, a second. In reality, a fun way to finish a not so fun run. 6:29:39. Post-run was spent at the TREX aid station with a cold beer, happy to not be one of the very back-of-the-packers still making their way to the finish on a tough day.