1st overall in 1:15:29. Marc Jeuland (2008 Olympic Trials marathoner with a 1:05:50 half time) raced amazingly for second, and did the lion's share of the work. It was one of those cat-and-mouse races with tactics, nerves, non-consensual makeout-sessions with dirt, surprised Bambi, and non-consensual makeout sessions with surprised Bambi. Come to think of it, that last one could have been a hallucination. It's law school finals period, and I really, really [Ed. note: REALLY] miss studying the environment.
Law school finals! We had two 8-hour exams (on which OUR FUTURES DEPEND) this week, so the training has been scattershot. With my running caught in the crossfire of the fully medicated Dick Cheney that is Contracts, I decided to enter a competitive trail half-marathon the day after the test. There is no better taper than sitting at a desk all day! Loneliness just makes you want it more! Crying is an outstanding ab workout!
The tests were awesome, which is good because it almost makes up for apparently looking forlorn enough, alone in the shadow of a hot dog stand, to be asked by a Ferris Wheel operator if I needed someone to talk to. Fortunately, no talk was necessary. The spooning, however, was a godsend.
After a night with amazing people eating sushi and ice cream, I woke up with an extra pep in my step (for those counting, that makes it 3 peps). In honor of the incredible Lucho, it wouldn't be a race report if I didn't disclose that the aforementioned sushi made my bowels operate with the whooshing efficiency of a fully greased slip-and-slide. In this analogy, I guess the slip-and-sliders are business students.
Drove to Greensboro, both Tooting It and Booting It at volume 24 in the car, and arrived 30 minutes before the elite wave went off. Jogging to the line, I saw wonderful human being/photographer Shannon, and asked her if there was anyone to worry about. She pointed out Marc, who I knew from stalking. Let me clarify...internet stalking. I mean, the binoculars are far too fuzzy to tell me anything about his PR's.
Strip to the underwear, explain that I am working my way through college, and that Cinnamon is a family name, gun sounds, AND THEY'RE OFF!
|In fairness to my flabbier physique, I did have both a pack of Gushers and a Capri Sun during yesterday's test.|
The race began with a half-mile on roads before plunging onto the rooty forest single-track trail. Immediately, Marc and I were side-by-side, beginning our running tango that would last nearly all the race. As we hit the trails, the forbidden dance progressed as I took up the rear and just tried to keep my hips moving forward. Wait..........ummm.........let's just move on.
Passing the mile in 5:08, it became clear that Marc actually was the real deal, and I proceeded to hold on for dear life. Relaxing up the hills and bounding on the descents, we continued yoyoing on a 10-yard string. By mile 4, I had decided not to look at the watch, and just attempt to make it a race. I felt good, but I knew breaking away was a pipe dream--he was too strong to allow me to escape unless I went with a balls-to-the-wall move. Worried about maintaining sphericality, and wanting the wall's misery to last for as short a time as possible, I decided to wait until the last 800 meters. In retrospect, it may have been cowardly, but it was solely due to how much I respected Marc's ability.
|Shame dog understands why I raced that way.|
Six miles in, the true climbs began. He effortlessly bounded while I effortmorely scurried, until we came to mile 8. Complacency is never more visceral than when the taste of dirt scrapes across your lips. Marc began to slow after my reckless root-jump, and I screamed for him to go. I didn't want charity, but now I had to catch. Skirting the lake, his shadow bounced ahead up the trail as the coursing caffeine of the fall flowed through my veins. By 9 I caught just as we surprised a deer, and we passed 10 in 56:39. The trail leveled slightly, and I had time to catch my breath. I think Marc relaxed a bit too, and chills of excitement began radiating from my spine to my toes. To give you a glance into the race-day mind, at mile 11 I smelled rotten eggs. Now, the obvious explanation is anaerobic bacteria releasing methane, but I chose to think that Marc farted. While obviously a substantial initial boost from the afterburner effect, this provided a glimmer of hope--he didn't feel good. He was weakening.
So we hit 12, and I felt invincible. Cowardice has its rewards, and I wanted to make the final move completely decisive, using every bit of reserved energy. 1:11, 1:12, the minutes passed with inexorable lethargy while the my legs pushed like a colt against the starting gate. Slight descent into the final climb....wait.....wait.......NOW.
I sprinted. I sprinted with the effort of an all-out 400. My arms burned and my legs went numb past mile 13. I let myself glance back. Marc was out of sight, behind a switchback I had just passed. Stumbling towards the line, I crossed in 1:15:29, with Marc 20 seconds back (both well under the course record set by Aaron Saft, who went on to win the Trail Marathon National Championships that year). It was great, but I don't think getting to the finish line first is all that important. No, I really think it's the experience of being out there that matters. Whether it's a test, a race, a sunset, or just a breath of fresh air, the simple euphoria of being is...well, for lack of a better word, it is awesome.
Thanks so much to Shannon, Anthony, Marc, Shuwen, and Dave for being great. And thanks to you, for reading. You guys are amazing :)