With about 109 or so strong (I believe the largest Whitaker field ever?...results aren't done yet though so I'm not sure) we were off for the approx. 4 mile course on a 0 degree morning. It was COLD out there (as it seemingly is every year at Whitaker). My hands were pretty much numb right away. Nacho Hernando (I feel the need to call out he's like 15 or so years my junior) who was NH runner of the year last year with 30 or so WINS on the calendar year, was off pretty quick and I was right with him until we hit the first small incline about a quarter mile into the race. Then he gapped me just a bit and that was basically it. I could stop the write up at this point and tell you that from that point on, it was basically just more of the same...
After he pulled away just a bit on the small climb, I did manage to almost catch back up before the big long ascent (the largest climb on the course). But as the climb grew on, Nacho's lead also grew a bit. I went through the first mile, during the climb, in 6:33. That was 12 seconds faster than last year, so it was definitely an improvement although I had already lost the race. Nacho pulled slightly away (a few seconds tops) over the next climb after we dropped down to the hill we run in the Summer Series. By the power lines, his lead was 25-30 seconds and there it would stay.
I hit my second mile in 6:56, which is about 6 seconds faster than last year. I didn't see anyone lurking behind me after a few peeks, but I knew Andy and Sam and Eric were back there for sure. There was also a couple of dudes that showed up with Nacho (I believe former teammates of his at NHTI). So anything was possible.
The third mile was roughly the same as last year as well and I hit that 21 seconds faster but that was probably because the single track was in better shape (I can't really remember last year's section in that single track). This year it was packed pretty well. I was basically holding my 30 second deficit here and doing nothing else but trying to occasionally blow feeling back into my hands and fingers.
By the fourth mile, I could still see Nacho up ahead but wasn't gaining or losing at all. He was probably in cruise control as you can see by all the photos Joe took (Photos by Joe Viger). Nacho is smiling in all of them. I would be too if I was winning that easily.
In the end, I rolled through in 25:19/25:20. About 30 seconds (give or take) behind Nacho. Andy Drummond who is always lurking right there, wasn't that far behind me in 3rd and Sam Wood was a strong 4th place just ahead of Eric Narcisi in 5th. 3 CMS guys in the top 5. Not too shabby.