Make friends with pain and you will never be alone. So a sign read along the Surf the Murph course on Saturday.
It's especially important to make friends with pain if you want to run down the competition. It's never an easy task to be chasing the leaders during a race: there is constantly a sense of urgency that can result in a faster pace in the middle of the race and subsequently a DNF; the miles seem longer as you turn each corner with the hopes of spotting your prey; it's very easy to fold mentally, to give up hope, to accept defeat.
I had a breakthrough today: I finally learned how to hunt down prey. I ran the first lap (16.96 miles) with Eric (second place finisher last year) and Jason (TNF-Madison fourth place finisher previously). Since I hadn't a crew to assist me, I had to drop by my car after lap one and, due to frozen fingers and some other confusion, I was about three minutes behind, in third place, as I started the second of three loops. Relax, I told myself, they will come back to you. I've been in this situation before: they've rarely (if ever) come back to me. But I was pacing well, and fueling well, and my heart rate was low, and my legs felt good, and I kept tearing down the descents and churning out the ascents, and floating through the flats.
And then it happened: they came back to me. First, at mile 23, I turned a corner and there he was: Eric, clad in blue, waning. I closed the 50 yard gap and, after a brief chat, moved easily into second. Patience, I told myself, you still have half of the race left. And then it happened again: at mile 28, I turned a corner and there was Jason, wearing all black, roughly a quarter of a mile ahead. I relaxed. I knew I was exactly were I wanted to be. I took my time: I closed slowly, I watched his every step, I felt him tiring, I gained strength. After a brief chat with him, I moved into first, where I remained for the last twenty miles, all by myself.
It's a tough lesson to learn but one that must be learned: how to be the predator instead of the prey. Today was a tough lesson learned.
Result: 1st place, 6:55:43, course record.
*50 mile (50.8 miles), 50km (33.9 miles), and 25km (16.96 miles) results can be found here.