Sep 102012

by Jeremy Bonnett – I’m usually nervous before every race, no matter the distance, or duration, but this one seemed to consume me more than others.

The Scuffle this year was one week before the VT100 and even though I said I was going to take it easy I still ran harder than I probably should have.  Coming in only a few seconds faster than last years time.

The Breaker was just ridiculously hard this year being two weeks after Vermont and with humidity that had everyone gasping.  Finishing four minutes behind last years time I was surprised at just how much affected the performance.  The real news was James Demer had a taste for blood finishing right behind me in a sprint finish that he would have won had the crowd not alerted me to his presence.  In the following weeks I could feel his race energy and fun-competitive spirit to race me in the Bruiser.

Most of my training, from directly after the Breaker on, consisted of road running to prepare me for the Maine Marathon.  I think I only hit trails 4 or five times and they were all relatively mellow.  So I was real curious going in to the Bruiser.  Which would serve for a better race?  James’ fast, gnarly, long, mountainous trail running or my relatively flat speedy road running.  I was definitely worried and felt his specificity would completely dominate on the 9th of September.

I’d had a few hints that James was “gaming” for me over the weeks preceding the race.  On race day it was quite apparent.  The camaraderie, and fun-spirit he brought that day was contagious, but I’ll admit a bit nerve-wracking as I don’t consider myself a racer.  James on the other hand, I would say, is a tactician in the world of racing and strategy.  He has years of experience with pacing, patience and pounce!  It was going to be a great race.

The word was out and a few people came up to me and mentioned the competitive rivalry with smiles and fun intention.  I knew James would have a strong finish in the O-Trail and he’s really great at sneak attacks.  So with this in mind it made sense to keep an eye on him as long as possible.  Jamie and I talked about this pre-race and I definitely agreed with Jamie that it was the smart, and fun, thing to do.  So at the start I eyed one of my true idols in the world of ultra-running, chugged the last few sips of my water bottle and shot out after him in the crowd.

The race to the first single-track portion was crucial and I tucked in behind Jeff, James, and another gentleman for the first few miles of twisty fun.  The three of them put forth a real fast start and I was surprised at how quick it felt.  After about the four mile mark It was just James and I and he was still running real strong.  In fact I was quite sure there was no way I’d be able to maintain his strong pace for the long remainder of the race.

The course was slick, and technical as always and at one point James went down with a loud thud.  He dusted himself off and after getting up waved me in front of him, but I definitely didn’t want to get in front of him that way.  I also had the interesting thought that it was a ploy.  Some sneaky maneuver to get me in front of him.  I’d have the same thought about his breathing at a few points thinking he’s just trying to fool me in to thinking he’s a bit tired, (he’s a crafty one that James)  I’m sure none of that was true but during the race I wasn’t taking any chances.

At about mile six as we turned to head up the snowmobile trail I run up beside him and gave a bit of a test surge to see how he’d react.  He responded and stayed right on my heels.  I let up a bit, then gave another surge and he stayed right along with me.  Ahh, tough, tough man.  All I could think of is that If I didn’t gain some ground on him he would stay right with me and kill me in the end.  So at the steeper part of the incline I gave a final surge to crest, and finally get the hill done.  After that it was just an all-out stride fest to put as much distance as possible.

Now I was running in fear.  Was this where James wanted me?  Did I go out too soon, and too hard?  During the new section of the race I caught a few glimpses of him and definitely felt like I was slowing down.  The new section was very undulating and twisty and not the final hill I was hoping for.  By the time I hit the O-Trail I was definitely feeling it.  I glanced at my watch, 1:11:xx, drooling, slipping, even falling at one point, I was quickly running low on gas and with no gels or water with me I feared James would catch, and pass me with ease.

This mind-set started really getting the better of me and I needed to switch to a positive.  So even though I only caught a glimpse of one person, way out in front of me, I decided to play catch instead.  He had a yellow shirt on, and I think he was in front of me…  You never can tell on the O.  After what I thought was an incredibly long time running the labyrinth I spotted Judson Cake up the hill and through the trees.  Damn.  If he was still running, I had a long way to go!

I secretly hoped more of the trail was done than it really was, but as usual it just kept going.  I don’t normally mind the O-Trail, but today was definitely different.  There were also a few mountain bikers on the trail and I was sure one of them was James sneaking up behind me.  I guess that was the good thing about that trail is at least you don’t have to turn around to see your opponent.  You just wait for the next bend.  Finally it ended and the glorious sand and rocky trail to the finish appeared.  At this point I turned back to double check I wouldn’t be ambushed and beat-feet to the finish, almost collapsing through the finish line.  Damn what a race!

I remember a few years ago when Ryan and Jamie were competing with each other and saw how well they pushed one another.  I’m amazed at how much even the smallest amount of fun rivalry can push someone more than they were able to on their own.  I not only want to thank Ian, Ryan, Mindy, Val, Christine, Jerry, Joe, Susannah, Amy and all the others whom I’ve missed for putting on, and volunteering at another wonderful race, but also James Demer for pushing me, and continually teaching me about running and racing.


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