3K - 5K was a glorious run, I was full of life, at peace with my thoughts and the world was my oyster. I even allowed myself to start daydreaming about Las Vegas the following weekend...THEN reality came knocking at my door, or more like a tank came crashing through my door. 5.5K - 8K was a death march. It's amazing how even after all these years of racing, you can make such a rookie mistake. That's also the beauty of running, it doesn't matter if you're a hobby jogger or an Olympic medalist, if you don't respect the distance/elements/terrain/competition etc, you will all pay just the same. The mountain doesn't care about your credentials or resume. It's there to challenge you and challenge it did!
In a matter of seconds I went from a speedy trail Cheetah, to a rocking chair. At elevation, when you die, you die HARD. It only took a couple of minutes for the others to smell blood and close the gap. Bit by bit and around every turn I would steal glances behind me to see how much ground I was losing. I was also engaging in a pity party as I marched myself to the gallows. My breathing became labored and my quads and lower back tighter and tighter. I quickly started going through a mental checklist as to how I could've been so naive. In the end, this was my own doing and I had to snap out of my one man show of self-destruction and refocus on the race.
I was passed one by one, until I had gone from 1st place to 6th! I was passed by people I had never seen beforehand. I briefly wondered how this could be happening, as I expected to be overtaken by a clown juggling chainsaws or something. Eventually I got the much loved, mystified and talked about: "The Second Wind", and boy was it glorious. Little by little I started regaining life and resumed what I'd actually call running.
I had now about 3 Kilometers to go and 1st place was still out of sight. Without panicking, I started picking up the pace while repeating to myself, "If you're hurting, they're hurting..." I also gained confidence in the fact (at least I told myself) that there wasn't a single person ahead of me that had worked as hard as I had the week leading into this race, therefor I could carry my badge of fatigue well and use it as a strength rather than weakness.
It didn't take long before I saw my first victim. I was now the one doing the hunting, instead of the other way around. Checking back at the splits on my GPS, I managed to split a 3 min kilometer in between the 9th and 10th kilometer. This brought me back into the lead with about 2K to go. It also brought me dangerously close to redlining again. I knew that if I died this time, I would't be making a comeback, in fact I'd probably have to establish residency up on the mountain, as I doubt I'd have the legs to ever get back down.
Luckily this wasn't the case and I told myself over and over "2K, just 2K, you can hold on from here". My reward for a valiant effort was a rolling last few kilometers, without any major climbs. This allowed me to really tap into my track background and extend my lead all the way to the finish, which was a welcomed sight!