Monday, June 28, 2010

Spruce Tree Classic

Finally, after six years of living here, I got to do the Spruce Tree Classic. The race was smoked out in 2004, and every year since we were on vacation or it conflicted with the Flint Hills Mile.

Almost didn't make it this year and I was undecided until Friday afternoon. My knee has been hurting since the 3000 on June 10 and the Midnight Sun Run the following week. I only ran twice in the week between MSR and Spruce Tree.

Conditions were good, if not a little humid on Saturday morning. What, with three other running races (all comer's track on Thursday, Bob Wheeler Memorial 5K and Granite Tors on Sunday) I had no idea what to expect for competition.

Good, we had a quorum. Devin McDowell (34:25 last week), Wayne Peppler (36:47), and high schooler Gavin DeWilde (37:15) were on hand as well as Melissa Lewis, a top ranked skier who has been running better and better in recent years. And a mystery guy, (late 20s-early 30s) who wore a store/club running outfit from the Lower 48, who looked fairly fit.

Like this past weekend's USATF (Track and Field) Championships that were in Des Moines, we took it out ridicuously slow. I didn't mind too much, because it gave some time for my knee to warm up. We chatted, told some stories, and talked about the local running scene and US Nationals. The new guy (Robert Finicum) asked if we always ran our fun runs at such a leisurely pace and if we finished together.

I said nope, we'd race when the time is right. At least that was my plan!

I took a drink at the half way aid station and announced outloud "now is the time to hurt," before speeding off to take a lead. Gavin had fallen of our pace by then but Devin, Wayne, and Robert jumped right in as I leaped over the roots and ruts, almost tripping once (good thing I still have rubber ankles because that thing could/should have popped).

They passed and pulled away by 30-40 m by the time we emerged from the UAF Arboretum, but I managed to reel them in with the better footing on the T-Field. But by the time we headed up the long grinding hill past the Smith Lake turn off, things slowed a bit and they started to talk again. I waited till we were about 1/3 up, and put the hammer down again, thinking there has got to be something wrong with this picture--when a 52 year old guy with a glass knee is surging and leading a bunch of healthy guys 15 to 30 years younger.

Of course this was a rash move, and I knew it wasn't sustainable, but I decided to push all the way to the top, by the Geophysical Institute. Oh man, did I ever pay a price. Wayne dropped off 20 or 30 sec, but Devin and Robert were now awakened and they pulled away with ease.

For the next mile I could feel the lactic acid build up in my legs and I slowed way down. Wayne caught me just as we hit the pavement on Kuskokwim Way and I figured that was it. Somehow I had another gear and once on Tanana Drive and down the steep descent to the SRC finshish line, I was able to put in a 6 or 7 sec gap.

The newspaper had the wrong results. Here's how it really went down

1. Devin 46:10
2. Robert 46:10 (apparently in a dead heat)
3. Me 47:06
4. Wayne 47:13

And the first woman was Lewis, who ran a very fast 50:03, well of ahead of PAC 10 all conference runner Maggie Callahan and Hannah Henson of University of Arizona who ran it as an easy workout in 59:03.

Mikko, my son, was 7th male in 53:38 and that's the longest he's ever raced.


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