This was my 5th time to line up at this local icon. It is by far the prettiest course in the area and has all the elements one would expect of a classic trail race. The trail gives you creek crossings, great views, some good climbs, some excellent opportunities to open it up on sweet singletrac and stretch your legs and a good bit of technical running. The aid stations are spaced perfectly and the race staff has been careful to maintain this races classic reputation. If you are going to do one 50k a year not far from home, this is it.
I've been fortunate at Sylamore. Before the start this year, I had maintained a streak of 4 top 10 finishes and 4 times being the first Memphis area finisher. I'm not saying this to brag, but to give you some sense of where the race fits in my heart.
This year I came into the run with 2 18 mile long runs in the past 4 months and these were done the two weekends before the race. Cramming for exams. So, I went in with a super casual attitude, with an expectation of running around 5:30 and having a good time and enjoying the company. I figured this would be the year the streak would end and i was perfectly o.k. with that. I had taken the month of december totally off, i ran once all month and in january i think i logged 14 days of running, went skiing with my little boy and surfing for a week in costa rica with my friend Steve Kirk. I was deffinately rested, fresh and looking forward to a nice trail run.
The race day weather conditions were ideal. Around 40 degees and damp. During the run, I never got hot or cold. I fell in with a great group on the way out including Steve Mcbee, Steve Kirk, Mike Cooley, Anna Assenmacher, A J Wolfe and Po Dog Vogler. We pretty much ran and talked all the way to the turnaround. It was so much fun cruising and talking to the two Steve's who I've known and raced with for years and running with Anna who led the group most of the time on this idyllic pace. I didn't have a clue of the time we were running 'cause i screwed my watch up before the start. All I knew is that it felt easy and i felt like I was holding myself back the whole way out. Steve Mcbee and I hit the turnaround and when I asked him what our time was he told me 2:25 and we were floating in 15 and 16th place. The rest of our group was beginning to split up and as we hit the single track coming home, Steve said something about running negative splits and I was like, " heck yea lets just run steady and see what happens. Steve and I ran together for the next 13 miles just talking and not believing how good we felt. The climbs were not a struggle and I felt very fluid on the flats and downhills. When we reached 25 miles we had passed a few people and still feeling good, I got a time check from Steve and he said, "dude, we're going negative." I was like, hell yea, that's pretty fun. Over the last 6 miles, the trail got muddy and technical and my legs felt a little dead from about 27-28 miles where Steve got out about 1 minute ahead. The good thing is, I still passd 3 more people in the last 4 miles and my legs perked back up and i was able to finish strong. It is the first time I have run negative splits on that course. I came back in 2:21 for a finish time of 4:46 and 9th overall. Steve finished 8th, 90 seconds ahead of me. Steve and I have had many great runs at Sylamore together, but, this one will always be special. We ran together for almost 28 miles and there was never a hint of competitiveness between us. We just ran and enjoyed life in the moment
This year was a total gift. It was probably the most enjoyable 50k to date. It just felt so good all day. The streak lives, 5 for 5, as I was the first Memphis area finisher and in the top 10 and at 53 years old, I just feel so fortunate to still be able to run and compete. This is truly a beautiful sport and I love running today as much as I did 30 years ago.
I am also so glad to see all the new Memphis area residents on the scene. We have some strong new blood out there and every one of them i talked to were totally positive about the experience. I see some talented road runners and tri-athlets, both male and female crossing over to trails and it makes me smile to see them love this sport as I do.
It's a beautiful thing,