Conditions were good enough this year for the Blizzard to be held on the mountain side of Bradbury. At least a foot of soft, ‘cushy’ snow blanketed the entire hill and thanks to Ian and Ryan’s efforts the day before there was a well packed trail. I had a bad feeling about today’s race with my lack of hill runs this year due to training specifically for speed on relatively flat roads for the upcoming Boston Marathon. I thought the core workouts I’d been doing for the last month or so might compensate a bit for this which kept my positivity high but my expectations low. A minor chest cold had me feeling a bit fatigued, but I think at least half the field had some sort of something going on that evened the playing field. Whether it be high, rugged mileage, a cold, family issues, lack of sleep, whatever, it’s March in Maine and that’s the way it goes at the end of winter.
I started out fast hoping to get in good position and avoid too much passing or being passed. Immediately on the first gradual incline I realized just how fatigued I felt and how challenging the slight incline seemed. In second, already way behind Jim Johnson I settled in to a groove and tried to relax. At one point going up the first real hill I saw Jim look back, which surprised me and gave a bit of a mental boost that he might be feeling something, and possibly worried about the pack. Boy was I wrong.
Around the Boundary Trail and up the baby hills on the back side I succumbed to the exhaustion and hiked everything steep. I heard a small group of people behind me and knew I was there’s for the taking. It was time to hold on as long as I could. Down the super-fun South Ridge Trail and Jim was there again snapping pictures. I thought I was going to slide right in to him and worked to keep my composure, but I think that’s where I took a digger.
On up the Switchback Trail and that was it. Scott and Ian were right on my tail and cruised by me like I was sittin’ on a log crawdad fishin’. I was super impressed, but not surprised by Ian with the amount of hard mileage he’s been putting in in prep for his next 100 mile venture and the time-on-snowshoes and hills, he’s killing it. Scott is just a bad ass as well and they both definitely made it look effortless. As I crawled my way to the top I forced myself to stay positive and keep my composure. At this point I was so happy that these two looked so strong and in a sort of uncomfortable bliss whilst sucking wind and taking in the smells and feelings of being outdoors at the Brad. It’s such a fun place to be knowing you’re giving it everything you have and nothing else really matters. It’s when you’ve given up on that uphill climb and you get passed that you feel bad, because you’ll never know what might’ve been, or what you might have been able to do. I think I had a momentary zen-of-reflection at the top of the Brad enjoying the view and taking it all in. Then back to business…
Tote Road and maybe a hundred yards behind Scott and I pushed with intention. At one point when deciding whether to pass him or not I was grunting, snorting and coughing so much Scott later said he wondered just how many people were behind him. Then the trail turned, damn. I always forget that we have to go back up the mountain before heading down again. Huff, puff, snort, wheeze, burn, and there’s Scott coming on strong behind me, the silent-deadly avenger. I pictured his face during his latest indoor rowing competition and it gave me a shudder. I really wanted to walk but he definitely kept me slogging one foot in front of the other (thanks for the push Scott). If I was able to hold on until the top and keep him behind me I might make it. If he catches me, I’m done.
Just barely, another ten feet and he would have easily passed me, thankfully we didn’t go all the way to the summit. Down Terrace now and I searched for Ian, for the next carrot, but he was long gone. Putting it all out there meant draining the tank but the long straight away was a welcome sign and a happy cruise on home to the finish done, and done, whew!
Very happy to see all the TM’s and others out there today. Val and Mindy did another incredible job timing and recording. It was great to finally see Ryan back on his feet and Chris killing it and winning his age group. A big shout out to all the runners in the really tough conditions, slogging it through to the end, and to the supporters, sponsors and Jim for taking great pictures.
Lessons learned – Don’t ever sacrifice a few hill workouts in the season to become too specific for a race, especially a road race. I’m looking forward to getting back on the mountains and training for another hundred. I was impressed to see Ian and Scott fly up the hills, and surprised at just how little I had on the inclines. Jim Johnson, it turns out had issues of his own but managed to put almost six minutes between himself and second place Ian. Impressive.