I always wanted to write a race report for Highland Sky but just never have taken the time. Since this was my 10th year running it and the 11th year involved (aid station 5 1st year), I felt compelled to do so. This race is by far my favorite, for the beautiful views, the varied terrain and oh yes, all the rocky, muddy and wet wonderful trails. With all that the race wouldn’t be what it is without all the great people that pull together to make it work. Hats off to Dan, Adam and all the volunteers that give countless hours to this race. I do want to mention my wife also; she has been at aid station 5 ten of the eleven years of highland, it’s always nice to see her smiling face and hear her words of encouragement as I stumble past. Also many of my family members have been involved with the race in some form, running, sweeping or for some of them many years at aid station 2. This race has many different meanings for me, being able to mingle with all the runners and pick up bits and pieces of info that might help later races, proving one’s self on a difficult course, the comradery of all the trail runners, getting to see old friends and make new ones and also just being out in such a beautiful area.
I really enjoy the meeting/dinner on Friday night with family, friends and seeing all the new faces, many doing their first Highland and some doing their first Ultra, watching the excitement, determination and anticipation on the faces as Dan is doing his speech. The excitement at the start line on Saturday morning is very electrifying. Kelley, my wife always likes to see who is running out of the porta-potties when the race starts!
This being my 10th year, I wanted to run a sub 8hr race, which I have only managed to do in 2009, the year of the monsoon! This was also the first time in 2 or 3 years that I wasn’t dealing with plantar fasciitis, so I felt the stars were in alignment. I started the race well, keeping a good pace through the first section of elevation gains, water, mud and rocks. Then finally the 10 foot bridges and I even managed to do somewhat well on the road across the sky. I ended up at aid station 6 still with plenty of time to be well under 8 hrs. Knowing the rest of the course was easier than the previous 27 miles, (I forgot about the mud and rocks on the Raven Ridge section), I felt pretty good about being able to make it under 8 hrs. But then the running trolls got me, I begin falling apart; things going on that usually don’t happen to me much, stomach problems, leg cramps and just generally feeling downright nasty! I was wondering what was going on, as I forced myself to continue moving, watching the minutes tick away. I was trying everything to get back in the game, eating ginger candy, trying to hydrate more, trying to eat something, but nothing seemed to help. By the time I was coming down the ski slope and almost on Freeland Road I was still feeling lousy, but felt I could possibly still make it under 8 hrs, but realized shortly that I wasn’t going to make my goal. As Canaan came into view, knowing the end was near, made me start picking up pace a little and feeling a bit better. Finally the finish line was in sight, all the clapping, cheering, yelling and Dan’s smiling face and suddenly I felt great again!
In retrospect after a couple of days of pondering on why I fell apart in the last several miles of the race , it finally hit me, I made so many mistakes, from how I trained this year to how I took care of myself throughout the race. Mistakes that I made 11 or 12 years ago when I was first attempting to become a trail runner. I am still trying to become one! Anyhow with an 8:14:52 and more important a finish, number 10 in a row, there is always next year to try for under 8hr and maybe if I listen to all the advice, become smarter and train harder, chase my Brother Bill thru the woods a little more. Who knows, I may even give him a race for his money!
P.S. Dan, forget what I said to you when I crossed the finish line about wanting to work an aid station next year………I’m gonna run again!