The race itself I won't go too deep into here. Just a brief summary:
It started out really fast, but the pace felt surprisingly comfortable. Once we hit the first climbing (about mile 7) we were already down to a small group of 3 front runners. Michael Smith was about a minute out ahead of Erik Skaggs and I.
I stayed with Erik through this entire stretch of mostly climbing up to Aid Station 3 (mile 13.3), but I actually didn't think I was feeling very good. I enjoyed this stretch a lot though. I have known Erik for a couple years, but we've never really run together in a race. There was enough uphill in this stretch that we weren't chatting too much, but it was nice to spend that hour or so running stride for stride with him.
After aid station 3 you get onto the Chuckanut Ridge trail and that's when the fun really begins. I still wasn't feeling very good, but I was having so much fun I didn't really care. And then within a few minutes I think the enjoyment I was having on that trail was causing me to begin to feel much better. I felt like I had run to Juneau. This trail was more similar to the trails below treeline in Juneau than any I had ever run on. I knew I was probably feeling pretty good and running well on this trail when I looked back after a few minutes and couldn't see Erik behind me.
Through this whole stretch Michael was still a minute or two out in front of me, but I wasn't thinking much about the race. Just running along having a good time. I felt really good all the way to Aid Station 4 (mile 20.2) and found out I was about 1:45 behind at that point. This is where we began the toughest climb of the race and I instantly fell into a really good groove going up.
A few minutes up the climb I began to transition into race mindset. I started to do the math: if I run 10 seconds per mile faster than Michael for the rest of the race I might be able to catch him just before the finish. Okay, that sounded possible. And upward I pushed, running hard up pitches which I normally power hike in races. And then just a few minutes later, less than a mile from aid station 4 I could see Michael up ahead! I passed him well before the top of the climb and was then just hoping the climb would go on forever. I knew I could put distance on him as long as we kept going up, but I had no idea what would happen when we went flat or downhill. By the top of the climb I probably had one minute on him and then cruised back down to Clayton Beach where he had cut my lead back down to 30 seconds (didn't know this until after the race).
From here it's 6.5 miles of almost totally flat path back to the start/finish area. This stretch didn't feel very good physically, but to my surprise I was able to run it just as fast as we had at the start of the race, and about 3 minutes faster than Michael. When it was said and done I had one of the most enjoyable days of racing I've ever had. Just what I needed.
And now I'm off to Utah for a week of reuniting with the red rock desert.