I’ll dispense with the stride-by-stride race report since I f***ing blew it, but I guess some explanation is in order. See, it went like this….
I saw Adam Reiser in the parking lot and instantly knew the race would be for second place. The start was slow with some guy out front holding up the pack on the one-person-wide trail. Finally, Adam moved around and started to move. I said to no one in particular, “if you’re going to go, you better go now.” But it was too late, he was gone. I looked at my watch and it said 3:30 and Adam was already out of sight. I was still stuck behind this guy. I thought I could run with the pack, or try to be aggressive early. I decided to go with aggressive and finally the trail opened up and I moved around the pace car dude and within a few minutes I was all alone. I couldn’t see Adam in front or anyone behind. I was on course, the difficulty level of the trails was managable, and I was working pretty hard, but felt like I could maintain it. There was no one within 200 yards either way and I thought I had second place wrapped up.
Then it fell apart. It occured to me that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the course markings so I made a mental note to be more alert. I guess that’s when I missed the course marking. Around 15 minutes in I swear I saw a tree with two arrows on it, one on each side of the tree, pointing in different directions. Maybe I just misread the arrow. I do remember a slight puzzlement about it and the smallest of thoughts of whether I was going the wrong way. But there was absolutely no one around with which to judge my choice. Sigh, the price of aggressiveness!
I guess I took the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference. I soon came up on some 30Kers who had started 30 minutes prior to us. It was too soon for that to happen which was my first “uh-oh” moment. Then around 22 minutes I realized I hadn’t seen the aid station which was supposed to be at mile 3. Uh-oh again. I wasn’t running that slow.
At that point I guess I realized I had taken a wrong turn somewhere. I was passing 30kers in droves. One of them said another 10ker had passed, and another one said I was the first one. I didn’t know what to do so I just kept running. In the back of my mind I thought “maybe Adam dropped out, maybe they didn’t set up the aid station for some reason….” But I knew. What could I do? I couldn’t turn around and run against the grain of runners. Stop and wait for Adam then start again? Pointless. I didn’t know where I was so I couldn’t stop and walk to the finish. It sucked. But I kept pushing with that slimmest of hopes that somehow… maybe…
I neared the finish stretch at around 36 minutes. Impossible. And I didn’t see Adam. Should I even cross the finish? Just walk off the course? I didn’t know what to do so I started walking the last 100 yards. Everybody was looking at me like I was crazy, yelling at me to run. I just shrugged, jogged across the finish around 37 minutes and told the timer guy and Rogue guy that I must have taken a wrong turn, I didn’t win, and to DQ me.
Adam came in at 38 minutes. A high school kid came across at 41 minutes with his arms up yelling that he had won. He was so far back though, he hadn’t seen Adam (or me) take off at the beginning. Maybe he would have caught me. I’d like to think he wouldn’t have. It’s tough to make up ground on these trail runs with their dearth of open stretches. That’s why it pays to be aggressive early. But I guess not so aggressive you get lost.
Anyway, I feel like an idiot. Judging by the time, I figure I cut off about half a mile. I guess I was the only one out of 500 that made that wrong turn. I had to stand around the finish and recount the story 10 times, and driving home I felt like crying. But then I told myself I had a choice, that I was in control of my thoughts: I could let it bother me for heaven knows how long, or I could get over it and chalk it up as just another experience to live by. So yeah, it sucks, but I immediately felt better about it. And I’m not running the fucking Belt. ;)