The 7:30am morning sun barely cut into the 40-degree mountain air as we all made our way to the starting line just outside of the Mt. Bachelor Main Lodge entrance. It was predicted to be in the low 80's by the afternoon, but pre-sunrise the nip in the air is mountain crisp. A perfect day for racing…let’s get going!
|Max King hitches a ride to the start|
|Yassine Diboun is all smiles|
|70+ Racer Don Hildebrand going the full 50k today|
|Jen Shelton, Eric Skaggs, Max King, and David James|
|Derek Schultz and Me|
|And we're off! Photo courtesy of Bend Bulletin|
|Derek pulls a line of runners|
|Following Derek through the pines|
|Derek and I catch up to Headphone Guy|
|Jason Moyer knows how to stay cool|
|The cowgirl angels take care of us|
|Lush pines that go on for miles|
|Stephanie Howe crushes the single track|
|Just point towards Mt. Bachelor and go!|
About a mile up the trail they were re-marking the course, so I gave a quick “thanks for doing a great job with the trail markings”. They stared back at me with blank looks (I would later find out why), and I joined a chain of friendly mountain bikers to charge up the last climb. They let me know I was about a minute behind the next dude, and I wondered if it was Headphone Guy. I picked up the pace, but it wasn’t enough to hold off a charging Derek Schwartz who was back from the dead and running 6:30 min/miles again. By the time I hit the road (mile 30), Derek was a day-glow spot in the distance. I was so excited for his comeback! I watched him pick off one more runner on his way to the finish.
|Derek zooms by|
|Squeezing in just under 4:30|
Apparently, the course markings had been vandalized around mile 28 (where I had seen them re-marking the course), and the volunteers who reset the markings mistakenly sent the front-runners down the wrong trail. Eric Skaggs went first, with Max King following but realizing he was off course and taking a detour back. Unfortunately, the following six runners also went the wrong way and soon found themselves prematurely out on the road section after cutting through a confused horse camp. Max ended up out front all by himself.
What Max did next was extraordinary. Approaching the finish, he slowed to a stop and asked what happened. Upon learning of the situation, he waited 50 feet from the finish until the others caught up. They then agreed to cross the finish line as a group in the order they were at the moment the wrong turn was taken – Eric Skaggs (for the win), Max King (voluntarily taking second), Yassine Diboun, David James, Jeremy Tolman, Jason Moyer, Zach Violett, and Kami Semick (1st Woman). It turns out that Josh Nordell (10th), Derek Schultz (9th), and me were the first to approach the turn correctly marked.
Can you believe it? Stopping at the finish to get the right order? That’s an honor code right out of the Tour de France. Simply amazing. It’s hard not to gush with pride to be in a sport with champions like these.
|One beer-soaked mug, one check, one Masters National Championship - a damn good haul!|
I gave an extra pat on the back to Derek Schwartz, and congratulated him on overcoming his low spot to finish strong. Sometimes that’s the greatest gift of an ultra – getting into trouble, and then getting back out so clean you fly to the finish. It doesn't feel good when it happens, but you feel like a superhero at the finish! Had Headphone Guy been in sight, Derek would have reeled him in too. In my heart, that 9th place finish belongs to Derek. But 10th at a USATF Championship race ain’t so bad either.
I caught Max King on the way out and asked him what went through his head near the finish. He said “it was simple, really…Eric was crushing it all day, and it was not my best day. Eric was in a league of his own, and there is no question among any of us that he deserved the win today.”
Well Max, I think this may be your best finish ever. ;-)
Thanks to Super Dave and his awesome crew for putting on a great inaugural race. It took a lot of work for these guys to get a brand new race going, and get the 50k Trail Championship back on the USATF schedule. You did a great job! If you like a fast course in a beautiful place, I would highly suggest putting the Flagline 50k on your calendar for next year (rumored to be the 50k Trail Championship again). Just don’t expect Max to be waiting for you before the finish in 2011.