Awesome running conditions. Pic pilfered from J. MockI'm usually pretty lucky when it comes to the weather and racing; however, I've had a dry ... er, wet ... spell of fortune the last three outings.
It rained chiens et chats for the first three hours at UTMB in August; while at Steamboat in September it poured, blew and generally sucked for the last three hours; and then this weekend at the Silent Trails 10 miler we were treated to a driving snow storm that began a convenient half hour before the race. But one would expect no less from a race taking place in and around Laramie, Wyoming.
I had few, if any expectations going into this one. I won it last year in blustery, cold conditions, but mainly due to a lack of competition rather than anything outstanding on my part. For this year's rendition, I knew that there was very little chance that I would defend my title, as Wyoming alum and recent 2:20 marathoner Jason Delaney was slated to be there, while an in-form and fit Justin Mock had been planning on it for months. Coming off a long summer season and weeks with little to no training, I was just hoping for a read on my (un) fitness.
By the time we were sent off into the abyss, the snow was coming down pretty hard and there was already a half inch of slick accumulation on the ground. I hung with Justin and Jason for, oh, a quarter mile and then on the slippery first descent decided that I needed to just get through this one, so settled into what felt like a comfortably hard effort.
Three miles into the race, I got my last look at the lead two and was impressed to see Justin hanging with Jason as they crossed the creek before the slow climb up to the big 'Death Crotch Hill' grunt. Me, I was laboring and feeling like I was working entirely too hard for the pitiful output I was producing. A quick look back and I could see the UW cross country shirt of Ragan Driver - a fixture at the Laramie trail events. The fact that I could see Ragan meant that he was definitely close as visibility through the snow was becoming really poor.
Going up Death Crotch, I was hopeless, and Ragan closed to within a switchback. However, I was able to hold onto the lead as we found the top of the climb and began the plunge into the exposed expanses of the course's 9,000+' high meadows. The fine, icy snow was driving straight into our eyes up here and I could barely see through my stinging tears. I dropped my shades to protect my eyes, and even though I could only just see through the icy crust on the lenses, it was better than the stinging eyeball lashing that was the alternative. It was now as much as I could do to make out my next footfalls, many of which went down in blind hope. I caught a ton of rocks and roots and was slipping and tripping all over the place, but miraculously managed to stay on my feet the whole run.
This continued until we were finally back in the trees and enjoying some protection from the elements. Somehow, I had managed to put some time on Ragan up high, and so I was able to cruise it into the finish for third place and a disappointing 1:16, a full five minutes behind my unfit self from last year over the 10.5 mile course. Tough to say if the conditions were worth five minutes, but quite possibly.
Nonetheless, another fun morning up in Laramie catching up with the southern Wyoming running crowd and other good friends. While they never make it easy in Wyoming, I wouldn't have it any other way, which is why I'll be back up there in February for the infamous and sadistic Twin Mountain Trudge.