Working most of the 3rd of 3 x 10.5 mile loops, the wind is was blowing into my face without any mercy. My quads stripped of their warmth and loaded with fatigue had tightened up. On top of it, after leading for the past 25 miles, the urge to glance over my shoulder is unnaturally strong. To think, there was still another mile and half to run in the Derby 50k.
Let’s hold up for minute, and rewind back to the beginning.
For a number of years now, the Derby 50k has been a bucket list item for me. Drawing my attention was their unusual awards. A derby hat was given to the male and female winners. Having heard stories about the toughness of the course and of the runners who ran it, there was plenty nervousness after signing up for it.
For those that don’t know. The Derby course is basically in the middle of nowhere. The course consists of about 7 and half miles of asphalt and 3 miles of dirt road. There is about a 3 ½ mile of climbing in the first 5 miles which is followed by a 4 ½ miles of climbing during the second 5 miles. Needless to say, the course is tough.
My plan going in was to settle in with the other runners and find a buddy for the first 10 miles. Not knowing the course, having four eyes to spot the arrows on the road seemed like a better idea than two eyes.
The weather was great for the 8 AM start – clear and cold. My hands are so cold in fact that they went numb while we are waiting on the start.
The Magnum Track guys gave us a countdown and we are off. Unlike a 5k, there is no sprinting off the line. Everyone just eases out slowly.
By the mile, Leigh Ann, Mike, Mike, and I are running together. Around 2 miles, Mike drops back. By 3 miles Leigh Ann drops back. I try to encourage her to run with us. Later she tells me that we were running the hills to fast for her.
Mike and I continue on. I broach the subject of expected times. Mike says that he wants to run around 4 hours which was my goal as well. The course was tough, the wind was terrible, and the cold makes running hard which is why 4 hours sound like a good goal for me.
We are chit-chatting until about 6 miles when I look over and don’t see him anymore. Glancing back he has stopped at the water stop.
Feeling the need to push on, I keep going. A mile or so later while rounding a turn, there is a glimpse of him a good distance back.
I push through the hill section and head back toward to start to finish the first loop.
Now, I have an idea of what the course is like after the first loop. The rest of the race is about running it in chucks. Don’t think ahead and don’t worry about how far it is. Just work the course one chunk at time.
The second loop is rather quiet for me. I catch my first runner with about a mile to go in the second loop.
As I pass the start, I yell two down and one to go.
The third loop is both hard and easier all at the same time. My entire body is ready to be finished. Yet, the energy from seeing the other runners along the course keeps my mind focus on something else. Each one that I pass, I say an encouraging word or two. I recognize Jamie as I pass her. I touch Danny on the shoulder as I pass him to say hello.
My first climb up the 4 and half mile stretch wasn’t too bad. The second time around the climb was a little tougher. As I said in my opening above, the 3 time up the 4 ½ mile section was unforgiving.
Looking at Garmin, there has only been one other time a 30 and 31 mile split has ever been recorded while during my New River 50k run.
Finally, cresting the difficult section of the hill, catching me now would be tough. Yes, there was still a gradual climb, but if someone came into sight, there was enough in my tank now to get me home.
More runners are just finishing their second loop. I keep sharing the encouragement while I am slower than before but making my way to the finish.
The parking lot comes in to view. The feeling of achieving my own personal goal is just insight. My just seem to float across those last twenty to thirty meters to the finish. .
Oh, did it feel good so stop.
Driving me through those last 26 miles was one thought. Win the race and get that coveted Derby hat.
Suffice is to say, I am setting here now typing this recap while wearing my new derby 50k winner’s hat.
There are cool race awards and then are “COOL” awards. The Derby Hat ranks at the top of my list as most cool awards ever..
Let’s not forget. I ran 3:36:13 which was just 7 minutes slower than my last 50k at New River. This course was nothing like the New River 50k where the course is mostly flat, dirt trail.
I actually ended up winning the race by over 30 minutes.
Along the way, I made a bunch of new friends. I got a chance to go hang out with the Magnum Track Club guys. They are an awesome bunch.
Definitely if you are in to ultra running, check out the Derby 50k on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner