Pisgah Mountain Trail 23K - 1:36:06 (6:45) 1st place.
I went into this year's Pisgah race a little upset with myself that I didn't do the mileage and the long runs and get myself in shape for the 50K. I kind of told myself after 2012, when I ran the course record on the short course (1:28:55), that I would do the 50K every year after that. I just didn't feel like suffering through a 50K with not enough miles on the old legs this year. So, I took the easy way out and did the 23K. The 23K is a fantastic course and is right in my wheel house. It's almost too bad that there is a 50K going on because it ends up spreading out the talent, when I'd really like to give every trail runner in New England a personal 23K tour of Pisgah State Park. This year, I was going for my 5th win at the 23K. I was pretty sure my biggest competition was racing Andy McCarron on this day. He beat me at the 4 on the 4th in July and we're always pretty close to one another in races. I had no idea how fit Andy was, but I know he's tough and I had to take him seriously. I was also a little worried that I might blow up, and get beaten by my older brother, Jonny.
At the start I took it out fairly fast with Andy sitting right beside me. I got the feeling that this was going to be an epic battle, where we'd run side-by-side all race. I decided that the idea of that was too scary to face, so I picked up the pace to the uncomfortable zone on the dirt road steep hill before entering the park. The kids on my XC team call it "Killer Hill". I got a little separation from Andy. My plan became to get a little gap on him and hammer the first part of the trails and get out of sight. My strategy worked. I started to increase my gap on the climb up the Reservoir Trail. When we hit the tough little switch back climb near North Ponds Trail, I glanced back and I couldn't see Andy anymore. I couldn't relax because I knew Andy could come back on me.
I ran the ridge section pretty well and hit the top in 50:11. I hit this spot in 47:11 back in 2012. I was already 3min off the pace. I figured I could probably run about a 1:35, so this seemed about right. I pushed on down the descents and towards the Kilburn aid station.
I hit Kilburn aid and grabbed a drink. I hustled up the hill on the dirt road and my legs were feeling a bit sluggish. This was not a great sign, but I seemed to still have a comfortable lead. I figured if I could just survive Davis Hill I'd be ok.
I hit Davis and I immediately felt a bit tired. Clearly, my early pace was too fast considering my less than stellar fitness. I started looking back as I slowly made my way up the trail. No Andy in sight. Keep pushing.
Hubbard was much of the same, but the climb is pretty short really. The downhills felt good, and I could still run fast on the descent.
Exiting the park onto my road, I was officially tired and ready to be done. The downhill was fine but a little painful. I was starting to feel hot and thirsty. I hit the road uphill and I started getting blurry vision and felt like I slowed down a ton. I looked back a hundred times. I rolled into the finish line moving not super fast, but satisfied to break the tape for my 5th win. The time was ok. I can live with it. It was my second slowest winning time here. Andy came in 4min later with Jonny right on his heels. It's now no longer a question of "if" but "when" will Jonny beat me in a race. It's inevitable. I doubt it'll be a short race, but he's definitely got a shot of taking me down in a longer race. If I don't do my homework and train hard, he'll beat me. I'm happy for him, but it is motivation to train a bit!
Post race we hung out eating chili and watching the 50Kers finish. Great day! Thanks to Chris and Gary Montgomery for their 13 awesome years of race directing!