Summer is literally starting with a bang this year. I got to enjoy a thunder and lightening show of unprecedented magnitude the other night, and followed it up with my first win this weekend. Luckily the storm was a wet one and we haven’t had any fires spring up. I have been starting to feel pretty good but my runs have been really inconsistent. I was very stoked to run to Cool and back last weekend with my brother and even put up my fastest climb up K2 that day. A couple days later I struggled to keep moving on a relatively flat 6 miler in Chico, where I was spending the week getting my WFR training (lots of fun). I have been overjoyed to get back to running in my favorite shoes, rotating the NB 840s and NB 790s without hurting too much. On Friday I had a surprisingly productive speed day running laps around Robie Point and started considering jumping into the Auburn 25k the following day even though I had promised myself I wouldn’t due to lack of proper preparation. The race in town was so temping because it is on my favorite network of trails that I am familiar with to the point that I would have a distinct “home-trail” advantage. I figured the level of entrants would be low because anybody that wanted to run a 25k this weekend would head down to Mt. Diablo for the PCT run. My buddy Ken Parnow was going down there to chase Chikara Omine up and down the mountain.
When I woke up Saturday morning I tested everything out and my body felt so good I decided that it would be a shame not to head over to the race. As expected it was pretty low key, I doubt there were more then 20 entrants in the 25k compared with Mt. Diablo’s 170 something. I eyed the competition and noticed a kid towing the start line looking ready to go. We took off and I found out that Eric was from Monterrey and decided that my familiarity with the course was really gonna come in handy, as he clearly was ready to set a pretty hard pace. I let him push ahead a little bit on the way to No Hands Bridge but kept him within sight. I was surprised with the power that he pushed up the hills with. It was a cool, overcast morning so I had plenty of water in my bottle and breezed by the first aid station. Eric pulled away from me on the stretch up to K2 and I just put my head down and cruised up it as I always do, counting on the technical descents to slow him considerably. It was pretty steady going through Cool on the Olmsted Loop and pretty soon I was at Norm Klein’s aid station on the road, where he told me I was about 3.5 minutes out of the lead. He kept trying to get me to stick around so he could do something about my tattoos, typical Norm joviality. I blasted down the road aiming to get Eric in my sights before we dropped down the canyon again. Soon enough I was at the fire station and he still wasn’t in sight. I asked a volunteer where he was and they said he had made a wrong turn. Bummer of a way to pass someone but the course was well marked, I think he may have gotten incorrect info from a volunteer and if so that is really unfortunate. I just blasted on down the trail hoping to seal the deal on the race with over 7 miles to go. On the Western States Trail heading down to Highway 49 I was flying around a corner and came face to face with a medium sized, cinnamon colored black bear that was moving pretty fast my way. It turned and boogied the other way when it saw me and though I was super stoked to see it I was also a little cautious for the next half mile-ish hoping I wouldn’t surprise it again, I just glided down the trail with my eyes peeled giving the occasional “HEY BEAR HO BEAR” shout. From there it was too easy to haul ass down to No Hands and I again skipped aid and when I was crossing the other side I stole a quick look back and didn’t seen anyone. That left me feeling pretty comfortable with a solid lead of at least a quarter mile with 4 to go. My parents were aware that I was considering racing and my mom popped up at several points on the course and I was pretty happy to see my dad running down the trail towards me after No Hands, two bears in one day! I dropped my Auburn Running Company sleeves for him to pick up and then just put it on cruise control up the same route that I end almost all of my runs on. I checked behind me a couple times and all was clear so I can’t say that I pushed it to the finish. I intentionally didn’t wear a watch because I didn’t need to know what time it was to know how I felt and what place I was in. My realistic finish time was 2:30 and I was pretty happy with myself when I crossed the finish line in 2:27 without ever having to dig deep like I was expecting. I got a nice cool down run in on the grass then soaked in the canal as people started trickling in. I hung out for a bit and got a burger and chatted with Eric (he was sent the wrong direction). I pressed him to come back and run in Auburn again sometime and maybe have a better experience. I couldn’t ask for better race conditions and am OK with the small turnout, because I really needed to get out there, go hard, and just get some race practice. It is a pretty unique feeling to be out in front and certain that you can hold it to the finish. Now it’s time to really tighten up the fitness and get ready to take what I learned today and apply it to some longer races. I would also like to give a special shout out to my buddy Austin Violette, who was going to poach the race and do it with me, unfortunately due to a mis-communication I never saw him. Ha.