...shouted another runner as I climbed from Two Harbors heading back towards Avalon. At 10am the race had already been going for 5 hours and I was moving up the field. In 5am darkness I had gone out conservatively through drizzling rain, up the winding fire road to the ridge, picking off runners steadily as the sun came up and we made our way along the island. Nearing Two Harbors some of the folks who had begun the route earlier than the official race start began giving passing updates on my progress. Caught sixth heading towards the turn-around stopping every couple hundred yards to bend over and stretch his calves. The pain of starting out too fast was beginning to show. By the time I found myself in 4th I was surprised to be doing that well and thought it was going to be a struggle to stay in the top 5, hoping desperately that I hadn't made the same mistake and wasted my energy in the first half of the race.
KEEP PICKING THEM UP AND PUTTING THEM DOWN said Hal an 85 year old man doing the race for his 25th time. Winding back across the Island towards the start trying not to look back but occasionally tempted to peer across the winding fire roads and spot any chasers, we overlapped the 50k course where runners were strung out consistently along the path. As the course climbed slowly back towards the ridge and a final 10k descent into Avalon I sunk into my breath and tried to relax my legs between strides, running every step of the uphills. Calves ached, hamstrings cramped. It was mentally encouraging to always have someone on the horizon to chase even though they weren't my competition. A buffalo grazed in the phosphorescent green grass by the trail but there was no time to take a photo. Too much to focus on as I caught up to a guy who began running along and asking questions about the day. Said his legs were shot and he wasn't going to PR. 'Just one of those days' he said. 'Word is the runner in first place looks great but 2nd place is fading and might not finish. Maybe you can catch him.' Grateful for the company but realizing he was the 3rd place runner I moved on.
THAT'S WHAT WE LIKE TO SEE said runners from the 50k who were walking as I jogged past. One girl told me there was another 50 miler just ahead and he was walking. I felt a surge of nervous energy. Around a bend in the road spotted him at an aid station tent. A quick refill of my water flask sent us both up the last climb to the ridge - matching stride for stride. I asked him how he was doing and he grunted something indistinguishable. Either he was hurting so bad he couldn't answer or he was chalk full of grit and wasn't going to let me pass him. Clearly despite his condition he had wheels and would be able to keep up once we got to the last descent. Just before gaining the ridge he slowed to a walk and faded back leaving the door open to put some distance on him. The last time I peered back before the drop to Avalon I saw him rounding a corner not 200 meters behind. I raced the cars that tried to pass me on the tight corners winding down the hillside. I disregarded my aching legs and pounded the downhill pavement. I asked a spectator if he saw anyone in a yellow shirt behind me. At the final straight away I spun round one last time to be sure he wasn't on my heels and then enjoyed a 2nd place finish by the beach.
Avalon Benefit 50 mile (7:25) +8000'
12 dried figs, 1c tailwind
Strava GPS data