Sunday, March 31, 2019

2019 Assault on BlackRock Race Report

Going into this year's Assault on BlackRock I had done nothing to prepare specifically for the event. Last year I had purposely done speed work in my quest for the coveted belt buckle but this year I had been more focused on making sure I was strengthening my hip and staying injury free with my main focus being on PMBAR and PRAR in May and BlackRock would be just another training run along the way with really no intention or hope of making the 101 minute challenge cut off and getting a buckle. Even with preparation last year I only managed to get a buckle with just over a minute to spare and repeating such a feat seemed nearly impossible and for whatever reason, I couldn't quite remember what the course had been like. I recalled a steep rocky climb up some double track and then a long false flat before the final steep climb to the summit and then a long and pounding descent but it didn't seem to me like there had really been 2800' of climbing. That is a lot and going up that far and then back down in 101 minutes didn't seem like something I could possibly have done and if I had it did not seem like something I would be capable of repeating this year.

With little intention of pushing too hard, I lined up towards the middle of the pack at the start whereas last year I had made sure to be in the front as I didn't want to waste a single second. It was cold but clear at the start and as we started up the trail I found myself trapped in a pack of people power hiking from the start and had to work my way through traffic before I was able to start really running. As I started up the mountain last year's race started to come back to me and  I remembered that it really was that steep and really did have that much climbing. I was still not pushing too hard but as I realized my body felt good I decided to dig a little bit and see how fast I could make it to the top. Once out of traffic I found myself yo-yoing with a group of guys who were power hiking the steep stuff and running the more managable stretches. I would pass them as they hiked and they would then pass me once they were running again. I knew that once we started down I would never see them again as they bombed the descent and would be getting buckles but was still unsure as to my fate. It was going to be close and my guess was I was going to be on the losing side of close but that was okay to me.

After a couple of miles the trail flattens out and flat is not my strong suit but I pushed as hard as I could until we made the sharp left back onto singletrack and up the final steep pitch to the top. The trail was very steep and technical and I gave it all I had and tried my best to acttually run it. I made it to the top right at the sixty minute mark and even though it was literally Downhill from There I did not think I would be able to do the 3.5 mile descent in 41 minutes to get a buckle but vowed to myself to try my hardest and gave it all I had.

The descent was steep and pounding and not technical at all except a few tricky sections with downed trees. I couldn't resist looking at my watch a few times - would I make it? It started to seem like I had a real chance and I dug deeper and pushed harder. The closer I got the closer the time got. It was going to be close. I looked at my watch again. If the course was seven miles according to my watch I was going to make it but if it was any longer I would not. A half mile from the finish and I was down to five minutes. A quarter mile and two minutes remaining. Then I fell. Shit! The seconds were ticking away. I made the final turn and saw some hikers coming up - "Am I close?", I yelled. "It is right there," one of them offered back. No time left to steal a glance at my watch, nothing left to do but run, run, run.

And then there was the gate and the finish. I was running harder than I've ever ran before and didn't know if I had made it or not. I hit stop on my watch and looked - 1:40:42. That meant I made the 101 minute challenge and got the last belt buckle of the day with 18 seconds to spare. Ouch!


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