|Top 4 runners at Wade Mountain Trail Marathon.|
The inaugural Wade Mountain Trail Marathon was a success for me. It was meant as my final long run before starting my Pinhoti taper. I knew I wanted to run a relaxed pace, but I also knew that I was willing and able to push towards the end, if there was any change of doing well, since I was headed into my taper, so no reason to take it easy.
The course was a big unknown for me. This was a first year event and I had been only n about two miles of this course more than 5 years ago. I did remember that it was quite technical and a quick look at a map online revealed that this course would also serve up quite a bit of climbing. In fact, when it was all said and done, we climbed more than 3000ft, equal to local lore of legend, the Mountain Mist 50K. In other words, this course was no slouch. Runners would essentially run a large loop twice with a few deviations on each loop. At their core, each loop required runners to climb Wade mountain twice, once from each side. Time could be made up on a fairly flat inner loop that had to be run a total of three times (twice on loop one), but other than that the course was challenging as it took runners along technical terrain up and over more than just a couple of hills. Bust most importantly, it was extremely beautiful.
This is definitely a trail system that has been largely overlooked by me and my fellow local trail runners as I overheard many of them after the race referring to how much they underestimated this course. There were many “I didn’t think there were going to be this many climbs” and “I had no idea this was even here” and finally “Wow, this is way more technical than I would have expected”. Now if you are a trail runner, then you know that these are some of the highest compliments a participant can give a race director and his/her crew and rightfully so.
The race started with myself and a couple of my teammates, Craig Smith and Greg Reynolds, line up in the front row. The race started on a road section, but we would quickly enter single track trail and I wanted to be able to run my pace, even if the goal was to stay conservative, so I tried to get ahead right away. There were a couple of half marathoners that shot ahead right away, but that did not affect my plans at all and I was able to do just as I had planned. Greg ran ahead followed by myself and Craig.
This would pretty much be the order for the entire first loop with little changes here and there. What’s more, I never saw another runner near us, which allowed us to settle down and run what I considered a relaxed but steady pace. We kept each other honest. I ran every hill and while my heart rate would climb along with the gain in elevation, I also fairly quickly recovered when the terrain leveled out or declined. We rolled into the “halfway point” at the finish line mat still together, refueled quickly and went back out. Craig stuck around for a minute, but caught up with us again a mile or two later.
We continued to run together just like we had the entire first loop, but this time Greg put down the hammer when we arrived at the flatish inner loop. He quickly went out of our line of sight and I had no plans to chase him down. That would have required me to actually push and it was way too early for that for me. If Greg was going to sustain that pace, he deserved the win and I for one would not challenge him today. I continued my pace and I started to lose sight of Craig behind me. I knew he was there, but he seemed to stay just out of sight. As I reached the end of the flat section and started this particular climb for the third time today I saw many familiar faces and that always gives me a boost. It made this climb way more bearable. As I got closer to the top, someone mentioned that Greg was only a quarter mile ahead. A quarter mile? He might as well be 10 miles ahead, I wasn’t going to be able to make up a quarter mile, no way.
As I reached the top of Wade mountain, I caught a glimpse of a red shirt. Could that be Greg descending the mountain 100 yards ahead of me? I started to pick up my pace as I descended the mountain, a little bit quicker with each step. Before I knew it, I was right behind Greg and before I even asked, he had stepped aside to let me pass. I knew it was now or never. Greg preferred to slow down a bit on the technical descends before picking it up on the more runnable sections. There wasn’t a lot of descending left before the course leveled out again, so I had to make a big push right now. I continued to pick up the pace as my heart rate continued to climb even on the descend. After 10 minutes, I peeked over my shoulder to see if he was still there. I had lost sight of him, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t there. In fact, I knew both him and Craig were in close pursuit, so I needed to keep pushing. I had no plans to give up my lead again on this final 10k. I kept running and peeking over my shoulder one too many times, almost busting my @$$ in the process. Alright, I said, eyes ahead and keep on pushing. With the Devil’s Racetrack done and the final 1.5 mile stretch ahead, I felt good. No red shirts on my heels, maybe I could relax? No, better not to tempt it, keep pushing.
I knew the finish line was just head and as the trees parted just ahead of the finish line, I heard a tap tap behind me. Huh? A quick look revealed a young runner just behind me, neither Greg nor Craig. What’s this? I wondered, he must be in the half marathon racing me for the finish line, I thought. Hah, I don’t think so. I know you’re in the half, but I’m not having you pass me before the timing mat, even if we’re not in the same race. I picked up my pace and we both sprinted across the mat, me just ahead of him. When I glanced down at his bib, I realized very quickly that this guy was actually running the marathon as well. He had only been 20 seconds behind us at the halfway point. He continued to close the gap over the course of the second lap until passing both Greg and Craig and almost passing me just before the timing mat. It just goes to show, never let up, especially not on the final sprint across the mat.
I crossed the finish line in 4 hours 16 minutes and 2 seconds, winning my first marathon distance event of the year, just when I needed a little boost of confidence ahead of my final challenge of the year, the Pinhoti 100. Thank you Running Lane, Brandon, Justyna, Will and team for putting on an awesome inaugural event. The course was marked extremely well, the aid station and especially the finish line extremely well stocked and the burgers and hotdogs were fantastic. Keep up the great work, I will be back next year.