A very good race. I am satisfied with the performance, but I also wonder if it could have been a little better. (Well, on the 3rd stage I know
it could have been better. More on that later.)
It basically went as I expected. I have come to know my general capabilities on long races and also had a good sense of my shape, which suggested to me I should be able to hold it together. On the other hand, I was feeling quite tired the day before, and wasn't sure whether the Training Camp would have had an impact.
Anyway, the plan was to start steady and finish strong. I got the last part, but of course, started faster than I wanted/expected.
I had no plan to follow Tero, but to the extent I could see where he was going to #1, I decided to go that way, too. The initial pack was feet, Ross, Jon, Boris, JB, Matthieu, etc.
I really had to work hard to keep up with just about everyone. As we got to the 2/3 point of #1, people started to diverge. I placed my bets on Ross/Boris (although Ross was already away, and Boris was very strong.)
Punched #1 with JB and saw Boris climbing the hill. I gave no thought to challenging for King of the Mountain as I assumed it would be in vain. But, Jon T did it! Awesome! (I could not have challenged this year anyway. My uphill power just isn't there.)
To #3, kind of went after Boris, but as we got into the cliffs, I wanted to slow down. Still, I had a pretty good sense of where we were (or so I thought.) We did find the control, with Matthieu sweeping in from above and Wyatt and Kenny showing up on the scene. The Americans seemed to be deliberating a bit too long on this rather sweet leg and I wanted to just go. Actually, I want to go right, but the Frenchies went left. And, so did I.
For this whole leg, I really just blatantly followed. I only had marginal contact at times. I really didn't want to lose the guys. And I almost did as we got into the green valley. As I hit some flat spots I really tried to push and I got back. Along the way, I thought I saw Ross going the wrong direction up on the hills to our right. Anyway, we spiked that control (#4) just as Kenny and Boris were storming in from the right. I want to see their route...
Anyway, back after the Frenchies. We almost went right on #5 (which I thought would be OK) but they changed their minds. I saw Jon T taking off on the trail run at this point. I was a little high on #5 and the control was really hidden, but we got it.
Off on the trail run. JB took off first, and I took off after him. Assumed Matthieu was right behind, but I never looked.
I was right with him until Times Square, but then he started to open a little gap. It never got too big, and I cam back in a bit, until the indistinct trail, when it opened up again. I lost contact on the steep climb after the powerline.
So, into the aid station and I see JB and JT taking off. Had I not had a drink (which would have been really stupid) I might have kept contact.
I didn't and that was a pivotal moment (the second, after having drafted off JB up to that point.)
I was on my own and slowed down. #8 was OK, #9 a little off. #10 was very bad, however. Not sure what happened, aside from losing contact and not having a good final approach plan. Anyway, missed low and see Ross (was expecting him to show up eventually.) He went further in a direction I didn't want to go, but we both corrected correctly, and climbed up. At which point, Boris and Kenny reacquire. A new game was on.
We were all running the same speed and navigating in our own way (except on #12 when I followed Ross despite thinking we were off.)
On the way to #16 I try to do my own thing and go up the hill. But, I miss slightly right, and Boris is right there.
Last few controls were uneventful and we get to the aid station and transition. This was the point I was looking forward to, strategically and tactically. I had no idea who would be there with me or ahead of me, but it turned out my two esteemed teammates were there. In any case, I was feeling really good (considering) and looked forward to the last bit.
Seeing a left road route to the first control made me happy. I was hoping the guys might go that way, too, and I saw it as a chance to put on some speed. But, they went the other way and my surge was for naught.
Still, I was ahead, but I gathered as I left 20 (I thought I heard "Go Boris!") that everyone was still there. Indeed, as I was on the way to #21 they were beginning to rope me in, and a bit of hesitation on #21 got us back together. I gamely push on and push through 22 and 23. Looking at 24, I was a bit concerned--worried I might get hung up in green/rock by going straightish. Still, I couldn't find anything else, and decided to take my chances.
Maybe a little further right than I wanted (I saw other people over there and didn't think it looked right) but then I adjusted and thought I saw my feature. I definitely saw JonT, however, cruising in from the right, and get to the control at the same time.
This was a most unexpected development. I had sort of planned my route to the next control (it mostly involved trails) and I took off after Jon. He was surprisingly spry on the trails and got a bit of distance on me. He then leaved the trails sooner that I wanted, but I wanted to keep contact. We took off across the flats and I think the gap stayed constant, but it was sizable. I didn't see him punch #25 and I thought that was it. He had broken me on the trails.
I just concentrated on holding it together on #25. I did what I intended and basically spike it. And then I see Jon again converging from the right. A really, really unexpected development. Since I had punched first, I was thrilled with my good luck, surmising that the race with Jon, Boris, and Kenny was over.
However, I wasn't done. Some sort of instinctual reaction occurred and I thought I had to finish first, so I took off and was prepared to run over cars and people if necessary. (Of course, it wasn't--right?)
So, I guess I held him off, but maybe he was adhering to the pre-race instructions?
So, final thoughts:
• Race dynamics broadly what I expected. Held it together at the end. Endurance good.
• Felt way too fast at the beginning and I was just following. I did pick some good people to follow and got lucky that they didn't get away on #4.
• The speed on Stages 3 and 4 is congruent with my technique. I.e., I can orienteer/run fairly well in Harriman at that speed.
• I could have maybe eaten/drank more: 2 cups (1 water, 1 Gatorade) at #6, 8 ounces Endurox at #7, 2 cups (1 water, 1 Gatorade) at #14, 8 ounces Endurox at 19. One Gu at 6 and one after 22. (and maybe one other, but I can't remember.)
• Anyway, I didn't really fade, and refreshment consumption was consistent with my training, but still I feel like maybe I could have done better with that aspect.
• JB is a stud. He really kept it going, starting to win splits.
• Surprised I didn't win the finish split, but tied with JB, so that is OK
• Jon T wins the King of the Mountain. Impressive.
• I have no complaints with any aspect of my speed or orienteering (or following) on stages 1, 2, and 4. Stage 3 was bad. I didn't manage the transition to solo orienteering well.
• It was good/impressive to see the speed/endurance of Kenny/Boris who haven't really been preparing explicitly for this sort of race.
• Enjoyed the course setting on leg #1. Leg #3 was fine, but I like drama in the Highlander, and that was more pedestrian.
• Leg #4. WTF? A disgrace. What kind of map is that? It is a travesty.
• Overall, despite the above, a good event.