Sometimes you just want a good long run.
This was, for the most part, my motivation for entering this race. Given my recent training, or, more accurately, lack thereof, I had no business entering an ultra; on the other hand, given my natural proclivity toward such silliness as "long" running, ill advised or otherwise, I had no business not entering an ultra. That being the case, when my alarm went off at 3:45 Saturday morning, at which point I knew I had to make a go/no go decision, my vocal choice was, "ah, what the heck..."
(I hope I didn't wake anyone upstairs...)
The two hour drive to Nashville went by rather pleasantly, and as I registered I went through the standard mental hoops of convincing myself that "it's not really thaaaaaat far..." (Truth be told, it isn't; I ran the 50-miler here last year and pansied out this year, opting to drop to the 50k distance...).
With between 5 and 10 minutes to the start, I stripped off my thermal layers, hoping that the 37 degree morning would warm up significantly, lest my shorts and t-shirt apparel prove unwise. Soon enough, though, the race director yelled "Go!" and off we went.
Within a few minutes, the pack had broken up, and I struck up a conversation with a couple of guys toward the front. Johannes and Arras (not sure of the names... I'll have to double-check when they post up results on the race website...) were from out of town, and Arras was competing in his first ultra. They were both in the 50-mile division, but we were flying through the first 10 or 12 miles, which was most likely fine by them; they both appeared to be pretty highly trained runners and mentioned that they had trained rather extensively for this race. I opted not to tell them that I was out there on a whim. As much as I enjoyed running with them, at around the 12 or 13 mile mark, a combination of their extensive training and my almost complete omission of such trivial issues as training convinced me that if I wanted the second half of this run to be anything more than a death march, I probably ought to slow down, so I eased off the throttle and watched them bound off into the distance to get the top two 50 mile spots.
The second half of the run was mostly just slogging through to finish. At one point, the course deviated from what it was last year; I thought this would be a nice portion of the run since it took us onto some trails, but given my current lack of trail-fitness, all the off-road accomplished was breaking up any rhythm I had, and try as I might, I never got it back.
Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed the rest of the run, but I never got the speed back, so I just kind of jogged it out. Coming into the finish, I remembered my signature finish from last year, and entertained the finish line crew with a nice jump and heel-click to cross the finish line. The winner, who had shown up at the starting line bare-chested (in 37 degrees...) and had put a mile on Johannes, Arras, and me by the halfway mark, blew away the old course record, nailing a 3:3x, which is a solid 50k time. I spoke with him briefly afterward, and he informed me that he's looking to have a good showing at the JFK 50-miler in a few weeks. I would wager that, barring anything unforeseen, he should do well.
I hung around the finish area, chatting with other finishers as they arrived, before finally convincing myself to hop back in the truck for the 2 hour drive back. All in all, twas a good day. I got what I wanted out of the race - a nice long run and some time to just be "out there."
all for now... back to the real world... i guess...