Muddy Sneaker 20k trail run. This race is a homegrown oddity that friends of mine dreamed up 11 years ago and it's not for the faint of heart.
It's a prestigious race in the upstate NY area and it one of the very few races that so many people try to enter each year that they were forced to do a lottery system and limit the number of people that can get in. Ussually on a random night in February, hopefuls crowd the Otter Lodge in Brighton for the lottery. For 5 long years prior to 2010, I was "blacklisted" from the lottery and would pay my fee every year, send in my registration forms, only to be sent home disappointed year after year. But I made do, I became extremely adept at running the chaos that is aid stations #1 and #3 year after year and I would regularly watch the carnage that unfolded during the race, secretly hoping that someday I could test my legs against the course and fantastic competitiors.
You see, with this race being as technical and as difficult as it is, it attracts some of the regions best trail runners (and just straight runners in general) Past champions have included; Al Evans, Zach Rivers, Jeff Beck, Scott Bagley and Carl Johnston and the record board is littered with their accomplishments. So when the lottery night came and went this year (I got in for the 2nd year in a row...I smell a streak!) and none of the "studs" or "big dogs" were on the list, there began rumblings about who might walk away witht he victory. I honestly didn't think twice about it because in chatting with Mort Nace at the bar, he mentioned that past course record holders could hop in and avoid the lottery, no questions asked.
Fast forward 2 months and the quick runners on the list were starting to drop like flies. I was told via text that Jeff wasn't going to be racing this year and it looked like the front runners were myself, Jason Urkfitz, Alan Powers and Jim Oberst. With another note about a week later that Jim had pulled out of the race, suddenly my mind began to wander.
I was running with a few buddies along the river on lunch about 3 weeks before the race and it casually came up in conversation that I was a ringer for the win. I really could have stopped there in my tracks and picked my jaw off the pavement, becuase in no way was I thinking about a W... this was reinforced chatting with a few more folks (and the RD himself) about people coming and favorites, etc. I guess it started to sink in that I might have a chance at the overall spot about 2 weeks before the race. Talk about letting your nerves stew for a bit. That was a lot of pressure. In my mind there was no way I was capable of pulling the win out and having my name be synonomous with the other past champions. It was starting to eat at me...
Race week came and I was a little jittery to say the least. I knew I needed a new pair of trail shoes and I stopped by Medved to grab a new light pair and was directed over to the Saucony ProGrid Peregrine's. A minimalistic trail shoe with treads on the bottom that looked like shark teeth. With the weather forecast for Saturday being cold, rainy, and muddy, I thought these would be a good choice. Ironically I was helped by Jeff Beck and chatted with him about the race and reminisced about times at Geneseo where we ran together. Regardless of equipment and ability, I still wasn't convinced. It was going to be a tough battle as I know that Jason had gone a 1:30 on that course in years past and I'd also gone about 30 seconds slower than that last year. I expected it to be a tight race with him (amongst others)