Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sweet Defeat

Some thoughts about yesterday's race:

I finished 2nd in a time of 6:40:53, about 8 minutes faster than the previous course record. Uli Steidl won the race in a time of 6:33 and change!

Uli ran away with the race coming out of the aid station at mile 39. To that point he and I had run within a few hundred feet of each other the entire way. From about mile 14 on we were separated from the rest of the field. In that 25 mile span from mile 14 to mile 39 we were never more than 10 feet apart. We took turns in the lead and most of the time I felt like we were connected such that we couldn't separate if we wanted to. It felt like we were literally dragging each other down the trail with a 5 foot rope holding us together. We both took the same amount of time at aid stations and we both seemed to be running with the same strengths, that is to say fast on the uphills, fast on the flats, and fast on the downhills. I had assumed that Uli was not that fast on more technical trail, being that most of his racing in the past few years has been on roads. That was definitely the wrong assumption. We ran the technical downhill after PanToll (mile 30) about as fast as one could possible imagine and I couldn't even hear him behind me. He just seemed to hover along a few inches off the ground. For most of the run we hardly talked at all but I felt like we were communicating so much just from sharing the same experience so closely. I felt so focused on moving forward in conjunction with Uli that there almost seemed to be no space in my mind for words. Because of this the times we did speak seemed really significant and almost shocking at times. Simple one sentence statements seemed like profound thesis at the time, because they tended to speak also of the previous 30 minutes of silence. Each word seemed to convey a thousand thoughts. I don't think I have ever felt as tuned in to another runner during a race.

Eventually my body broke down. I made up my mind at around mile 20 that I was going to stay with Uli as long as I could. I wasn't going to fade back slowly to improve my chances of staying strong and thus remain more likely to maintain 2nd place. I was running to win and the only way I was going to be able to do that was staying right there with him. I was not going to let him out of my sight unless I had no physical ability left to keep him there. For several miles (around mile 28-35) I even felt a confidence that I might be able to be the one to pull away from him on one of the difficult climbs in the last 10 miles of the race.

It wasn't meant to be for me though. When my strength began to waver on the climb up out of Muir Beach (mile 39) he was gone out of sight almost immediately. It felt weird to be right there with him for so long and then suddenly he was long gone. I kind of liked the quickness of it all though. I was able to just let him go in my mind and begin to instantly focus on getting my situation corrected. My legs were cramping and I was short on calories. I walked uphill and rubbed my cramping quads, drank lots of fluid, and ate as many calories as I could stomach. Gradually life came back to my physical body and I was able to finish strong.

It would have been nice to win, but it was an absolute honor to share that experience with Uli and I am completely humbled by the race he ran. For 39 miles I was able to push my body to a limit just slightly below collapse. Uli was able to convince his body to stay at that limit for the full 50 miles. I know that my name has been thrown around by some people for Ultrarunning performance of the year (either for HURT, Wasatch, or Mountain Masochist), but Uli's run yesterday was without question a more impressive performance than what I did in any of these races. It was the most impressive running performance I have ever seen in person, replacing what Dave Mackey did at Miwok '08.

It might sound strange but this may have been my most satisfying race of '09. My body failed me before the finish, but my mind dealt with this failure in such a healthy and satisfying way. I had a deeply satisfying and connected experience running with Uli all day. And probably most satisfying of all was that I got to share this race with some of the most important people in my life. I had 8 people that I love dearly there with me at the finish. People that came from all over the continent and made my experience more complete than it ever could have been otherwise.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great write up. Congratulations on a fantastic year. You have such a positive and gracious outlook as well as amazing ability. You are an example to us all.

Lucho said...

Best race report ever. You're a bad ass with humility.

Anonymous said...

This must have been a very special experience. Well earned, and deserved; congratulations!

footfeathers said...

Uli was the impressive winner yesterday. You've been one all year.

Derrick said...

Great race and report Geoff. I loved that you laid it out on the line and went after the win with disregard for blowing up and possibly falling out of the money. That is what racing is all about.

Congrats on a great final race of a great year!

Mom said...

You are so humble. You have had a wonderful year and should be very happy with what you have accomplished. I am just bummed that I was not there to watch you and share this experience with you. I thought for sure I would be able to follow along as I have done with all your other races, but there was no coverage whatsoever. That really was disappointing.

You truly are an inspiration to a lot of people and I am so proud of you.

I still think that you should consider coming home for Christmas. We all want to give you our personal congratulations!!!

Love you very much
Mom

Mike Alfred said...

Awesome performance! I know a lot of people didn't think you would be there with Uli but that's where I put you pre-race. Thanks for the report.

Anonymous said...

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush................

GeorgiaSnail said...

Amazing race report! Your ability to describe the connection between the two of you was very powerful. Thank you!

C.J. Hitz said...

Fantastic recap Geoff! I feel like this duel between you and Uli should be made into a movie or documentary. What you guys did yesterday is every bit as impressive as the great duels in sport...Montana vs Marino, Bird vs Magic, Salazar vs Beard, etc. The only difference is those duels were broadcast to the world. Hardly a peep was heard out of Marin.

Again, congrats on an incredible year of racing & inspiring! You're a great ambassador of running.

Dave Chan said...

Awesome. Thank you for sharing that experience and as everyone has already said, congratulations on an amazing year.

R. Dane Berry said...

Congrats Geoff. Sounds like a wonderful race, one that captured something close to what competition is supposed to be all about. Thanks for sharing the experience. We'll be there to watch you come over one of those finish lines one of these days... :)

Tuck said...

Sometimes it's an honor to be second.

Anonymous said...

Geoff - way to put it on the line -- very inspirational -- and your race report was terrific too. Can't wait to follow your upcoming exploits.

Anonymous said...

congratulations! your running and sharing about it is inspiring. but much kudos to your mom - her post is so sweet, indeed an inspiration to all.

north face's coverage was truly disappointing.

Hart said...

if i had any say in the matter you would win "ultrarunner of the year" hands down.

saschasdad said...

You know, your report from this year sounds like Uli's from last year and Matt's from the year before. Epic duels between classy competitors - that's what championship racing should be about.

It was great meeting you.

ultrarunner (Brian Philpot) said...

Good Job! Another good race of the year. Bring on 2010!

robert.blair said...

I like Footfeathers' comment.

Great job, Geoff.

Krissy said...

Incredible run and recount here. thanks for sharing your thoughts so quickly! You've had many impressive performances this year and this one is right there. Hope you take some time to recover and rest up.

Anonymous said...

Nice running, Geoff. Don't worry. WE don't think you're a loser just because you came in second place. Just not a winner. Seriously, impressive running. It's awesome that you can be right in there with amazing runners who are having great races.

Craig and Amity

Speedgoat Karl said...

Way to kill it man, I bow to your greatness! Ulli is unique, one of those guys who can run with anyone.

Here's to hoping you're back in AK, so I don't have to follow your muddy footprints at Chimera.

The only bad thing about running so well this year....next year you have to top it...good luck! :-)

Andrew said...
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Andrew said...

Great race and reporting as always Geoff!!!

Love the quote from irunfar's blog from Michael Wardian (5th place finisher) * On Geoff Roes: "When I saw him on the out-and-back, it looked like he was a demon. I swear his eyes like..."

Obviously he doesn't know what it looks like when any of the Roes' are concentrating/focusing on something! ;)

and your Mom is right... you are truly an inspiration to many!

Andrew said...
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Rudy said...

Impressive, impressive, impressive! You are one inspiring runner.

Uli Steidl said...

Hi Geoff,

just found your blog...
Loved reading it and get your perspective on the race.
Yes, it was quite the battle between us this year. Very reminiscent of the duel with Matt in 2007. (In 08 Matt had pulled away from me at mile 17 and I never caught up completely).
I think you and I are better matched with our strong and less strong aspects of our running, compared to Matt and I. I don't think there would have been any way Matt would have stayed with us on the Bootleg descent. Btw, glad to hear this was close to your limit as well! Matt likely would have caught up again on the next climb, though.

I have never run this close for so long with anyone else before in a race. We did talk a bit on the descent to Stinson beach, but after that we ran too hard to talk.
I'm looking forward to more epic duels with you next year. Not sure yet if I'll run WR50 this summer to get the CR back from Tony. But for sure we'll meet again a year from now in San Francisco.

If you want to read my write-up...
http://ulisteidl.blogspot.com

Dave Mackey said...

Nice run and write up Geoff..congrats on your running success.

Rod Bien said...

Geoff, amazing run. Great write up. Congrats on just an amazing year of running. Enjoy the off season.

Emmett Rahl said...

You guys are amazing! However, I was wondering how you could go stride for stride from Pantoll to Muir Beach (on the ladder?) and through some of those trees where I had to get on my hands and knees to clear.

You barely beat me... by 7 hours... but I think I was the tallest finisher, at 6'6".

Mikael said...

Great race and write up Geoff. Congrats on a fantatstic year of running. Really excited to know more about you!

Fairbanks said...

Wow. Great words. Thanks for the incite into your race. I just started running ultras this year. Reading about your runs this year definitely has me psyched for my races next year!
Thanks,
Adam

Anonymous said...

Everything comes if a man will only wait........................................

Glen said...

Geoff - I was stumbling towards the finish of my first half marathon and was hurting bad. You passed me about one mile from the finish. And after completing 49 miles, you were giving me words of encouragement. You are amazing, very gracious and a class act. Thx

Thomas Bussiere said...

Great post. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts during the race.