I toed the line a good half hour after the start, having arrived in what I thought was plenty of time, only to be greeted by a bottleneck of traffic slowly seeping into the Lodge. 1,000 runners plus who knows how many friends and families turned what had previously been a fairly easy arrival into a traffic jam. I suppose it's a by product of the explosion of interest in ultra running and trail events in particular. I'm not one to lament the influx of newbies (I was one of them just 6 years ago), but I would be less than truthful if I didn't admit a longing for the smaller, more tight knit community that existed not so long ago.
The good thing about starting late is avoiding the masses at the beginning of the mostly single track course. I carefully made my way through the morning fog and light rain, enormous chunks of thick, clay-like mud clinging to my shoes. Normally, I can take the downhill portions fairly quickly, letting gravity do the work I as I hop from rock to rock. Not this year. The tops of the hills were more treacherous than usual, coated with slippery slime and mud. I had to concentrate on staying upright and not sliding off the side of the Hill Country. It was a slog fest.
After half way through the 50km, I hooked up with Guy, an ex-marine from New York. We decided to stick it out together for the remainder of the run. More of a hike than a run, actually. We kept the mood light and swapped stories, moving forward slowly but purposefully. Despite the fact that we probably walked half of the next 15 miles, we were never passed by any runners (other than the elite 100km studs). So apparently, many folks had also chosen to forego running for walking, given the miserable conditions.
Officially, I finished in 9 hours and 4 minutes. Because I started the run 30 minutes late, I'm putting my net time at around 8 hours and 34 minutes. That's an hour slower than last year's time. Oh well. With the rough climate--and just getting over a nasty bout of the flu that had me in bed with chills and a fever for three days before the race--I'm okay with merely finishing.
p.s. My kids are cool.