October 3-4 was the date for the first North Coast 24 Hour race, and it also served as the 2009 national championship. I was very excited about running this one, as those involved in organizing the race had a great reputation, and it was indeed a great event, a real pleasure to run. You couldn't hve asked for better with the course, the weather, the aid station o the staff and volunteers, not to mention the other runners who were a real pleasure to spend a day with.
Speaking of whom, another aspect that excited me was the depth of the men's field. There were a number of runners who'd run t least 140 miles in the last couple of years - Bill Allen, Michael Henze, Serge Arbona, Akos Konya as well as myself. Also present were last year's top three - Byron Lane, defending champ (and my roomie the night before the race), veteran John Geesler and Dan Rose. There were also Matt Chaffin from this year's national 24-hour team, Todd Baum and Keith Straw from this year's Badwater, Umstead winner Dave James, Scott Jurek (no introduction needed) and current recordholder Mark Godale. My apologies to anyone else I missed, there were so many great runners. Admittedly, I wasn't paying as much attention to the women's field, but Connie Gardner was going to shoot for the women's record, and Deb Horn and Jill Perry were also among the favorites.
I admit I was going for that men's record of 162.4 miles. On the .9-mile course, 181 laps would do the job. I was feeling healthy, ready and confident at the start. The course looked perfect, the weather was perfect - cool and cloudy, with a chance for scattered showers during the day, and a projected high of about 60. I tried not to go out too fast, and there were a number of runners who quickly pulled ahead of me. After the first lap, I noticed that I did indeed have room to slow down a bit and stay on schedule for a potential record run. I had the assistance of Tania Pacev, who was supporting what seemed like a dozen runners, and who kept imploring me to slow down. Mostly just smiled at her and said "I will". Among those in front of me were Mark Godale, who lapped me quicklya number of times, although I was told that he didn't intend to run more than 100k, Dave James who was also zipping around nicely, Scott Jurek and Serge Arbona, who were running together about half a lap ahead of me.
I continued on my schedule, and all felt good for several hours. At some point I passed both Serge and Scott, and had lapped most of the other runners, and by 9 hours it looked like my main competition would be Dave, several laps ahead. It looked to me like he was shooting for afast 100-mile split, and I was hoping he might slow down after that. After about 9 hours, I started slowing down off record pace, so I let that happen and continue at a relatively comfortable pace.
At about 11:30 into the race, I felt pain on my left foothill from something in my shoe. I stopped into the medical tent, and it was not a serious problem, apparently a malplaced seam on my shoe, but Dr. Andy and the wonderful staff there pt on some lubrication, and while I was there they took care of a couple blisters and gave my legs a quick rubdown. After about a 2-minute delay I was back on my way, now with a long-sleevd shirt, which came off again after one lap.
Dave got his 100 miles in an incredible (and certified) 13:06, one of the best times ever by an American, and kept on truckin. I hit my split (uncertified) in 14:48 and was now running at the same speed as Dave, who was 11 laps ahead of me. At this point all I could do was keep on and see if Dave would tire. At one point Bill Allen told me that he saw Dave going into his tent to lay down. This was confirmed as time went on and Dave's total laps stayed the same at 133 laps. What a feeling it was when I overtook the lead at 134 laps! So I just kept plugging away. I felt more relaxed and was checking the screen for placement of other runners, and saw that Bill was second male runner on the course. Jill Perry was very high in the overall placement as well, and for a while was second overall. As time went on, Bill stepped off the course but John Geesler and Dan Rose were moving strong. By the end of the race, they would repeat their 2nd and 3rd place finishes from last year, but this time each with over 139 miles, enough to qualify them for the US team. Keith Straw, who was giving some very nice words of encouragement finished 4th with 137 miles. Jill won the women's race and 5th overall with 136 miles. Anna Piskorska and Deb Horn were 2nd and 3rd women.
It was a great race, and there were many friends there - from the New York area and beyond. A particularly good representation from BUS (Broadway Ultra Society), and from the state of New York in general! A special thanks to Byron for his support - and looking forward to our next battle, and to Frank and Annette for their friendship, and to Deb and Roger, and also to Ray Krolewicz, who seems to be my good luck charm, as he seems to be present at my best races, and always helpful in keeping track of all the runners.
This was my first 24-hour win, and I admit that this was one race that I really wanted to win. I felt relaxed and confident throughout. I didn't get the record, or even a personal record, but it was maybe the most satisfying race I've ever had, and I hope I'm able to build on it and have continued success at the next race!