"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt
Sunday River, MAINE -- Einstein's definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. He must have known about me and MNT EPIC. Before I go any further I must say that as brutally difficult as this race is for me, it's one of my favorites and is hosted by one heck of an RD in Erik Boucher of TRI-ME. October is a funny month on my calendar. It's by far my favorite time of year. I love the fall foods, the football, the cool crisp days, the leaves changing...anything right now that doesn't include me doing a lot of training. With the Pinnacle Challenge, MNT EPIC, and the Shawnee Peak Challenge this month is as busy as any during the year yet my level of commitment to train is lower than at any time since last December when it began. And once again my physical performance at MNT EPIC suffered because of it. Mountain and trail races are a great opportunity to see my friends in these communities (Ian Parlin, Paul Kirsch, Kevin Tilton to name a few). And sometimes I get a chance to meet a couple of new ones. Before Sunday I've followed Paul Bazanchuk from afar through his blog and snowshoe racing performances in the WMAC. I've also had the challenge of racing against the kilt-clad Chuck Hazzard of Trail Monster Running. I had the pleasure of meeting both of these men at MNT EPIC, Paul before the race and Chuck during our first 1500 foot ascent to Barker Mountain aid station. Paul approached me before the race, introduced himself, and asked a couple of questions about the course. I chased down and caught Chuck while we climbed. He was incredibly affable under the relentless duress of MNT EPIC. Paul caught and passed me just before Barker Mountain aid station and immediately became my new endurance idol. At 55 the guy is a machine. If I'm half as fit as he is at 55 I'd be thrilled. Remembering the debacle that was the last 4 miles at this race last year I eased off the throttle on the first major descent. About half way down I heard gasping and groaning that could only mean one thing...okay, it could actually mean a couple of things but in this case it meant that my teammate Brent Tkaczyk had finally caught me after pacing his wife Amy on the first climb. And he was F-LYING down this hill. His arms and legs rag dollied as he leaned forward at a gravity defying angle. He shouted something to me about "I'll see you on the climbs!" but all I could do was marvel as his reckless disregard for anything quadriceps. Sure enough as we began our second 1400+ foot climb to Spruce Peak aid station I did catch him and actually pulled him along for a while. The two of us worked together and caught Chuck and could see Paul and a couple of other runners up ahead. By the time we reached Oz Brent, Chuck, Paul, and myself were within 15 seconds of each other. By the time I reached the finish four miles later they all were nearly four minutes ahead of me. And even more remarkable, finished within 20 seconds of each other! As much as I work to solve the riddle, I just can't bring myself to let it fly going down from Oz and Jordan Bowl. Watching the three of them move away from me was devastating. There's some switch in my head that I just can't flip. When I finally made it to the singletrack section I again had my adductors seize up on me. That for sure is a training issue. I probably haven't run more than 10 miles in a month and a half. Unlike last year when the same thing happened I had to walk for a short spell. This year I managed to run through it. Believe me, not very fast but I did make it look a little like running. I felt every foot strike reverberate through my entire skeleton the last few hundred meters of descending on the gravel road. Despite my tentative descent and adductor issues when I peaked at my watch I realized I still had a chance at a PR. The only thing that potentially stood in my way was the vaunted mud pit. Last year I cramped violently when I hit it. Sadly, this year wasn't any different. As soon as I entered the water my left calf locked up and I actually fell forward on my right knee and left a six inch gash of skin on a hidden boulder on the bottom of the pit. Somehow I managed to get back to my feet and dragged my sorry broken carcass across the finish line. My watch read 2:05:12. Incredibly, a PR by almost 2 minutes and my second 13th place finish of the year. From a team standpoint aR captured another team title over our rivals from TMR. Our top 4 scorers were Tim Cox (4th), Brent Tkaczyk (8th), myself (13th) and Austin Stonebraker (16th). I can become a better descender and I can put more training in for this race...but probably not.
"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction." - William James