Ready or Not - Page 7
Powell hiked down to the junction just below, and waited. Minutes later, Roes appeared and Powell was there to direct him the right way. "It was marked correctly," said Powell. "But I could see where you could go the wrong way."
Everyone hopped in cars and blasted down to the White Rock Gap aid station (mile 54).
At White Rock Gap, a course volunteer who had been pulling flagging on the early part of the course said she had seen Wardian, heading the wrong way, toward Sherando Lake. "He was not happy, but I sent him back up the trail," she said. It would turn out that Wardian had actually beaten us to the parking lot on the Parkway, making the correct turn at the trail junction, but exiting the wrong way from the parking lot (i.e. not crossing the road). The trail took him downhill, and he had to climb back up, adding an estimated tough three to four miles to his race.
On cue, Roes appeared on the singletrack at White Rock Gap aid station (mile 53.6), swapped water bottles with his parents Sharon and Don, learned of his now-first-place position and disappeared into the fog on the Parkway, for the final nine miles, all road. Next arrived Flaherty, followed by Wardian, Sharman and then Allen.
As spectators encouraged him to "Stick with it," an agitated Wardian said, "Oh, I'll finish!" He grabbed fresh bottles and some gels from his team, and was off.
"Geoff will probably slow down now that he knows he's in the lead [and, in a show of sportsmanship, let Wardian catch up] or wait for him before the finish," said Mackey, nursing a Stella Artois, as crews packed up to catch the frontrunners at the finish. "I wouldn't do it, but Geoff's a nice guy." He was only half joking.
THE FINISH LINE
After several more rolling miles on the Parkway, then a one-mile 15-percent-grade descent, the final three miles climbed a sustained 10-percent road grade. Roes ran all alone, with nearly a half hour on the pack, and would not have to be looking over his shoulder. He did not, of course, wait for anyone, and crossed the foggy finish line in 8:58.
"I had to deal with a dozen lows," he said after catching his breath. "I kept telling myself that I was taking a break [from racing] after this. This race felt longer than some 100s. I felt like I was out there for 20 hours. It was not close to my strongest race physically, but in many ways it was the most satisfying race I've done."
Behind him, with around six miles to go, Wardian, Flaherty, Sharman and Allen were lined out within minutes of one another. "Before the race, I said that I wouldn't want to have to race that last section," Sharman would say after the race. "But that's exactly what happened."
Fog prevented them from seeing one another, which made chasing down a competitor difficult. On the Parkway section, Wardian was on fire. "I was clicking off 6:20s," he said. "If I blew up, I didn't care." Sure enough, he reeled in Flaherty, and took second in 9:20, followed by Flaherty (9:22), Sharman (9:23) and Allen (9:26).