I finished Runner-Up in the Ultra Bird 6hr this past weekend, running 40.3 miles of trails (and climbing 2,400 feet) in 5 hours and 55 minutes. It was a tough field this year and the winner and myself both broke the previous course record, despite the sleet, hail and mid-30’s temps on a muddy course. This type of race is unique in that it has no real finish line, just a moment in time to mark the end, which requires a different psychological approach.
I went out in the lead pack of 5 guys before breaking away around the 9 mile mark. I made a strong move over the next 5 miles to take control of the race and extend my lead. In retrospect, I moved too early and I knew I was in trouble when I saw my heart rate spike with over 4 hours left in the race. The eventual winner (Zach Terpstra) caught me around the 27 mile mark and I hung with him for a mile before he dropped me. I ran the next 10 miles or so alone through the sleet and hail as the sun set. I made up some ground in the dark and at the 39 mile mark I saw the headlamps of the leader and his pacer bobbing in the distance. With one final effort I pushed the pace with everything I had left, but they saw me too and put in a surge to hold me off.
A few miles into the race I realized that my Garmin was glitching and wouldn’t load my playlists, so I had to run the duration of the race without music... But plans will inevitably go awry during an ultra, and there’s nothing to do but keep running. It was an interesting experience competing in this race without a crew, a pacer or music. I had a lot of time alone with my thoughts, most of which were quite primitive (my pace, my caloric intake, distance to the next aid station, my family). I told my daughter I would run 40 miles, so I found myself continually reciting a line from a Robert Frost poem, “I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
My knees are still a little sore from the steep descents and I’m definitely going to lose a toenail, but overall my body held up very well and I’m excited to keep pushing myself further. Congrats to the winner Zach Terpstra and third-place finisher Brian Cavanaugh, and thank you to the race organizers and volunteers at Egress Endurance for putting on such a great event!