Despite feeling so comfortable early on though, it didn't last for me. By the half way point of the race I was feeling very low on energy and falling off the pace a bit. I tried to slow enough to be able to get in more calories (25 miles into the race I had only eaten 400 calories) and water without falling too far out of touch with the leaders. I wasn't though ever able to pull it back together enough to get back in contention for the win. I was able to hold things together enough to keep moving at a decent pace and finish pretty strong in 5th place. My time was about the same as it's been each of the past two years, but this is misleading as the course was at least 20 (and perhaps more like 30) minutes faster than last year (due to some course changes which made the course a couple miles shorter, with a bit less vertical gain, and less technical than last year).
In the end it was a fun day of running, and I made the best of not having as much pep in the second half of the race as I had hoped, but it was certainly disappointing to not have the opportunity to battle with the leaders to the very end. It would have been really fun to battle more with Mike, Dakota, Adam, and Tim who all finished well ahead of me. To me there's nothing more enjoyable then being right in the mix of a serious battle for the win in a big race like this... especially if the battle is with folks who I like and respect as much as all 4 of these guys who finished ahead of me.
I can't help but think about the parallel between this race and my entire running season of 2011. They both started out very smooth and comfortable, with me in a very confident place with my running. But suddenly near the midway point things took a pretty distinct downward spin in which I inexplicably just didn't feel very much strength in my body. In both cases I was able to stay positive, and keep having lots of fun, and keep moving forward, but never quite turn things all the way back around to the place I ultimately want to be physically. Despite this though, I certainly relish the challenge of moving forward from here into 2012. For almost 3 years, racing ultras very effectively was something I almost took for granted. I had so much confidence that I felt like I should pretty much win any race I entered (and I almost always did). The second half of this season has flipped that completely around though. Having really effective races every time out almost feels impossible now, but is certainly a place I'm excited to work to try to get back to in 2012 and beyond.