What can I say about END-SURE? I love this race. I keep coming back. Out of the 5 years it's been put on, I've shown up 4 times. Once again, Tim the race director blew it out of the park. It is a low-key event with a campfire at the finish line. What more does one need?
|The buckshot really adds to the ambience|
My previous three finishes were all done at the 50k distance (with varying degrees of effort put in). This year I was changing things up a bit. Because I had an extended period of zero running due to a dislocated shoulder, I figured my endurance wasn't quite up to snuff. On the other hand, I had been doing a fair amount of speedwork and figured the 25k should be doable.
I arrived at the start line a few hours early, in time to watch the 50k runners start from the west trailhead.
|Three seconds to go!|
|Back of the pack. My peeps.|
I had a few hours before the 25k race started, so I hauled out my zero-gravity chair, cracked a beer, and worked on my tan in the sunny 2C weather. Most people thought I was nuts, but there was one like-minded van nearby who shared my opinions on the proper way to stretch a cold muscle. As I was gearing up, I realized that I had left my short-sleeved shirt at the hotel room. So I'd just have to wear my long-sleeved tech shirt and hope I wouldn't get too cold.
Eventually the starting time came and we all lined up. I'd never paced myself for a 25k race before, so I figured it was like a half marathon with just a bit more of a "I feel like hurling" feeling at the end. So naturally, I took off like a rocket. It didn't take long before I slowed the pace down to something more reasonable.
The course for the 25k this year was a modified out-and-back. We started off doing a roughly 4-mile loop on the Oak Leaf trail, before returning to the start area and joining the North Country Trail on a 5.5-mile out-and-back. The return to the start area meant I would have a place to dump my gear after I had warmed up. It also meant I could get away with only carrying a single water bottle, as I could just switch out as I cruised through.
My plan mostly worked. As I neared the start area, I dumped what remained of my water bottle over my head, and stripped off my gloves and buff. "Wait a minute, where did my buff go?" Uh oh, I lost my buff. I wasn't prepared to turn around and look for a $10 piece of clothing. I hoped that somebody would pick it up and return it to the starting line, but nobody did. It will have to be my sacrifice to the trail gods. 35:08 for the first 4 miles, not shabby.
|An open section of the NCT|
We then started to run on the NCT on the out-and-back. This was the section of trail that we had in common with the 50k. On our way out, the 50k runners would be running toward us. Due to the way the 50k course ran this year, there was a figure-8 added just before the 25k turn-around. So when I came across a 50k runner I might have been seeing them on their first time through or their second time through. When I was about a mile away from the turn-around point, I came across Mallory and Todd on their second time through the figure-8. They were absolutely crushing the course. A short while later, I came across Brad on his first time through the figure-8. Also quite respectable.
At the turn-around, I dumped what remained of my water bottle over my head and refilled as quickly as I could. Then I was off. I figured I would take the "out" section a bit easier, and push hard on the "in" section. It took me 54:08 to do the "out", so my goal was to get under that on the way back. Up to that point, I hadn't walked a single step. Not even on the (occasional) steep hill. I wasn't prepared to start walking any hills, either. Especially not if I wanted to beat my 54:08 on the way out.
Only one runner (and her dog) passed me on the way back, and I managed to pass a few runners who were fading hard. My familiarity with the trail served me well, and I pretty much nailed which hill was the last one. When I could see the road, I turned on the jets and cruised through the finish line in an unofficial time of 2:23:09. I accomplished my goal on the "in" section, and ran it in 53:52.