I'd run this race before, in 2003, but it was a completely different experience this time. The drive down hasn't changed, though. I will always see the sign that reads "Hobgoblin Stoney End," be tempted to see what it is and choose not to, for what could possibly match my imagination of what it is?
It's a small race when, not only does the race director say hi to you by name, but so does his wife and daughter. If you want to make Larry's grandson happy, give him watermelon; I saw him eat four pieces bigger than his head. I got to meet a lot of family that day, Phil Smith bringing all of his except the daughter in law school (what are her priorities?!) Lynn Saari made it a point to let me know she brought two other nurses with her, just in case I hurt myself yet again.
I raced the first 4-5 miles, but my heart wasn't in it and my left hip (the one I dislocated at Afton in July) acted up. Jeff Allen, my main competitor, once he passed me, had the MNTRS 40-49 age class sown up, as Chris Taylor didn't show [I have a secret plan - I may still win!] With three miles to go, I could see him ahead of me and I measured the gap between us. If I sped up, I could catch him. A few faster strides uphill and I abandoned that thought.
I took my shirt off at the first aid station, as it was soaked with sweat. Later, I had gooseflesh and my skin was red, cold and clammy. After the race, it was warm and sunny. If only the race had started an hour later!
I ran part of the race with Dan Kasper, who broke 24 hours at the Lean Horse 100 Mile in August. Before the race, I gave him my recollection of the course: rolling with at least one memorable hill. He caught me on that hill and said, "You're right. It's memorable!" I told him there was another one close to the end, but not nearly as bad. Two miles from the end, I saw him stop at the top of a hill, turn around and look at me, as if to ask, "Is this it?" I wasn't sure, but it turned out it was.
There's some rooty single-track at the end, along the cliff edge where the natural stone arch bridge is (In Yan Teopa means Rock With Opening). I saw it this year. It's easy to see the signs pointing the way, but if you actually look for it, you will fall over a root. That's what happened to me in 2003. If you fall there, there's a chance of falling a very long way, so no one else saw it.
I heard this odd noise. It was familiar, but I couldn't place it at first. It was the sound of my triceps slapping against my lats. It's the sound of failure. When I hear it, my form (such as it is) is gone and I'm dead on my feet.
After the race, there were some great stories. Larry Pederson, Bruce Smith and I convened the semi-annual meeting of the Greybeard Society. Karen was in great spirits, especially considering the terrible week she had and Kel was laughing so hard her cheeks hurt. One poor guy got lost coming to the race from Minneapolis and was shocked to hear highway 61 goes straight from the race to St. Paul (he managed to visit Wisconsin his way). Highway 61 goes all the way from the Mississippi delta to the Canadian border. It was a favored route of runaway slaves. Bob Dylan devoted an album to it. I drive on it every single day (I live half a mile from it). Minnesotans should know this road.
For those interested in the front runners, Wynn Davis was first, followed by John Storkamp. They were far ahead of all other runners, despite a 5 minute detour (the course was actually well-marked). Connie Sjoquist beat all the women by a minute per mile; she ran the whole way ahead of me and I had a pretty fast start.
Songs stuck in my head while racing:
"I am running through the meadow and the sun is shining on me... I don't want to get with your program." - Weezer, "Dreamin"
"And my fingers they are blisters. And my eyes, they are bullet holes. My heart is still beating. Guess I'm pretty lucky." - Cloud Cult, "Journey of the Featherless"