In a highly improbable result, I finished the two preliminary sprints two seconds ahead of Ali, despite her respiratory difficulties. While not quite Disney movie plot quality, it would have been hard to contrive a more interesting scenario. We were over 3 minutes behind Boris and about a minute ahead of Giacomo, so interacting with anyone else was unlikely. There were some modestly entertaining jests from the spectators, but I was really looking forward to the showdown.
While I think staying with Ali and kicking in the afterburners at the end would have been a viable strategy (as I think I'm faster over short distances), I wanted to race on my own merits and avoid tactics in favor of finishing as quickly as I could. After flipping over my map, I pushed hard to put a little distance between us. I ignored Ali for the first three (easy) controls, though I don't think she ever lost sight of me. I elected to run out to the field to the east of control 4; I glanced behind me to see Ali running left of the line. I think my route was good, though I did get stuck briefly cutting trail corners. She lost time due to barbed wire, and I punched a few seconds ahead of her. I doglegged out of 4, and put on more speed to 5 and 6 to try to break away. I was scared of overrunning 7, and I slowed somewhat. With the excellent visibility, there was no way I could get away from Ali, though I did gain some distance.
I was getting tired to 8, though I knew Ali was just behind me; I was clean, though probably slightly high going into the marsh. I misread the trail intersections on the way to 9, and almost went down into the reentrant before doubling back to connect to the trail. We ran to the field and attacked 10 down the green hillside. We saw the flag from a good distance and fought through green; I got caught by a vine across my chest and ripped to a stop with a strangled yelp. Apparently Ali also met a similar fate with similar sound effects, but I didn't hear it. I punched 10 a few seconds ahead of her, and ran cleanly to 11, again trying to gain some distance. Unfortunately, I misread the vegetation on the way to 12 and drifted far to the right. By the time I had figured out my mistake, Ali was punching 12 and took a small lead.
I considered running to the left to get to 13, but when Ali went right, I quickly decided to stay with her to avoid the risk of losing her entirely. I was really fighting to keep up, and adrenaline coursed through me. I punched 13 a few seconds behind her, and we diverged on the way to 14. I had decided to run out to the field and haul - the green was a fight, and the frisbee golf basket was a perfect attackpoint. It turned out that I was exactly on the line to 14, and I hit the boulder quite accidentally just ahead of Ali. I ran right along the trails to 15, and I noticed she wasn't behind me. I got caught in some green briar for some expletive-loaded 10s when I tried to cut the trail corner, but I saw her a few seconds behind me when our routes intersected.
I ran hard to 16 - though not quite kicking - along the trail, and I was momentarily distracted after leaving the trail by a boulder. I noticed the golf basket, and punched the control 2 seconds ahead of her. As soon as I made it out to the field, I started kicking, though she was apparently 1s behind me. The finish chute was short and downhill - my best conditions, and I ran at maximum effort in the off chance that she was making a move.
The race was very exciting; while we only diverged twice, it was a very tense and demanding race. I could not have been as physically aggressive and mentally focused had I been running alone. A friendly nemesis can drive you to extraordinary effort. I wonder what would have happened had I not been so lucky at 14. I think the last legs played slightly to my strengths - the navigation wasn't tricky, and there were lots of trails. I would probably still have taken the trail to 15, but coming from behind running into the last controls would have been tremendously climactic. Quickroute