As I settled in behind Ben in the rolling trails of Evan’s canyon a thought popped into my head and without hesitation I blurted out, overconfidently, “Loser buys donuts for the rest of the month.” With a laugh Ben lit off up the trail, and I resolved to not give chase. “I’ll catch up to him in a bit,” I thought, and settled into my own pace.
By the time the lead “group” made it to Peavine Rd, Ben was well out of the sights of Jeff and I who were working together on the gradual grind up the service road. Jeff inquired to whom the guy in first was, to which I replied, “Oh, thats Ben. He’s pretty speedy.” “Hmm, well lets hope he blows up then.”
Jeff and I ran together from there though most of the new “Jimmy’s Loop” section. As we neared the top of the loop Jeff began to pull away on the uphill double track, and much like I had done with Ben earlier, I didn’t stress too much about Jeff trotting off either. It was still too early for me to think about racing. From the Peavine aid station, the second time, we cruised the long gradual downhill into Long Valley. Fittingly, as this takes the race into the geographical low point, this was where I met my own physical low point. For the majority of this loop, I felt like my legs were barely moving and my focus faded. I just gumby-ed along the cool tree lined fired roads, “joking” with the people working the aid stations about needing a beer. I wasn’t joking. Nonetheless, I shuffled along, trying not to give up too much tim, yet getting passed by Chris in the process.
On the final climb out of Dog Valley I caught sight of Jeff at the top of the rocky hill. With something to finally draw my focus, I worked on moving efficiently to try to chase him down. This began what is usually my favorite part of ultra racing: The Grind. I ground my way up that climb, stumbled down the following single track. Then over to Sand Hill, all the while snagging glimpses of Jeff just up ahead. I put my head down and ground my way back up the long hill till reaching the Peavine Aid for the third and final time. Still on the hunt, I took off down the side road, knowing that it was a net downhill from here to the finish. It was time to really push it. In hindsight this push would be too little too late in the race, but this was all I had left. After miles and miles of chasing Jeff, I turned onto the Mahogany Forest trail and caught sight of him not more than ten seconds ahead. In that same moment, Jeff turned and saw me and as he did, I flashed him a peace sign which did not elicit the response I’d had hoped for. He turned back around and switched into another gear. By the next time I saw him, he had already put 30 more seconds on me. He was flying! I tried to respond, but either my mind or my legs wouldn’t match what he had. I watched him run off taking full strides down the rolling trail, and I, dejected, settled into what felt like a slow slow pace. After working so hard to catch Jeff for the previous ten miles, this just left me mentally shot. My legs began to ache, and I cursed the winding trail that stood in between me and the finish. Little did I know, Ben was just five minutes ahead of me in an equal state of “late in the race” shuffle. Had I known a month’s worth of donuts were within reach, maybe I would have been able to pick it up a bit. Instead I scooted, head down, working just to finish the race out.
In those final miles, as the day began to heat up, I thought about my weaknesses for the day. My slow movement on the flatter sections, the extra gear that Jeff had and I didn’t at the end. This is the silver lining about the first race of the year: it always shows the holes in your training, and what things to work out before the next race.
Finally, I trotted across the finish line welcomed by Jess and Pete. Not far off I caught sight of a few familiar faces. Ben and Rick lounged by a box of donuts. In classic Reno Mountain Runners style, Kyle had made sure we didn’t end a quality run on Peavine without the requisite fried dough.