Yes, I was running a good minute per kilometre faster then I intended. But, I had a couple of other problems as well.
The first is I was feeling good. Yes, I can now look back and realize it was just an adrenaline rush, but in the moment I felt great. You know the kind of great where you think maybe you had it dialed in. Like maybe I had somehow become a superman in the last week of tapering * sigh * how wrong I was.
So, besides congratulating (and fooling) myself, the other issue was the race had just transitioned to single track. For those familiar, true single track is narrow. Narrow enough that passing has to be planned. And since I had just passed a bunch of people, if I slowed now I would be not only slowing myself but half the field.
Add this all up and I ended up running the first 5km section must faster then I wanted. Which was definitely going to come back to haunt me.
The first 5km is a short loop that circles out before coming back through the start/finish area. Then the course sends us out on a much larger loop in the other direction.
The nice thing about this type of course is it allowed me to drop gear easily. And boy did I need it. The morning chill had quickly evaporated with my eager optimistic pace.
The only thing that did surprise me is that Owen had not passed me yet. However, I was sure it wouldn’t be long before he did. The course was about to go up.
Even though I have worked on my uphills a lot lately, and made some moderate gains, I know I am still not the climber Owen is. In fact, if I have any strengths as a runner it is on the downhills. I was just hoping that I could hang long enough on the uphills that I could rally on the down slope.
The first climb of the day was about 1.5km and 170 meters of up. Not the longest, but when you are in the middle of a race pack it is long enough to put a bit of stress on you.
At this point, I was already questioning how fast I had started the race. I was pretty sure that I was going to be feeling it in an hour. So, I decided to be a bit smarter and power hike this first hill. Which seemed to the same pace everyone was comfortable with.
Somehow I was able to keep up with the group in front of me. In fact, I am pretty sure I was not passed on this hill. Which is a big accomplishment for me. Although I can say there were a couple of people right behind me that I had convinced myself were much faster. For some reason though, whenever I asked if they wanted to pass there were no takers.
I kept expecting Owen to be passing me. In fact, I became overtly paranoid about it, I found myself pushing harder and harder. Telling myself if I can just make the next crest before he passed I would be in a good spot. There was no doubt in my mind that he would be passing though. You see, we had done this race together last year and it was on this very hill where he passed my a year ago.
But, something weird happened. As the final crest came into view there was still no Owen. In fact, there was no sign of him at all. Which is weird. I knew he was easily one of the stronger climbers in this group. Could he be having issues?
With a final surge we crested this hill and now into my territory. Down. I have always been a strong downhiller. I am not sure why, it is not something I train for. In fact, most times I don’t run the downhills hard. I instead use them as an opportunity to regroup. But, not anymore. From now on I am planning on running these fast and banking some time for the ups.
Nobody passed me going down, in fact I managed to knock 2-3 runners off myself. Which on a technical downhill is nothing to turn your nose up at.
Last year, this course was a weird distance. Despite them saying it was a half marathon, it actually measured up at somewhere between 20-21 km. So, to ensure that we got our full distance this year the organizers added a 250m out and back. Up and down a hill of course.
Gritting my teeth I ran the entire up, knowing that I could catch my breath on the down. Since this was such a short hill, not too many positions changed place. And I had still not been passed by Owen. Where the heck was he?
And then, just as I was finishing the out and back he was there. Just heading up. We high-fived and gave some words of encouragement to each other.
Damn, he was looking strong! And to make matter worse. My legs were beginning to complain about that first 5km. The next hour was going to be interesting.