Orienteering race 3:16:24  *** 18.0 km (10:55 / km) +950m 8:38 / km
Well that was fun! 18 km and 950(!) vertical meters later, the 2013 Ultralong Champs is in the books. The good news here is I managed to finish this year, unlike last, which was the most basic of my goals for the weekend.
Second goal was to be within 30ish minutes of the winning time. That didn't happen, but only because the "winning time" was Nick Barrable, a crazy fast Brit. As for the mere mortals, ~2:43:00 was it, so I was within the range if you squint a little.
Race overview: As always, the mass start was exciting with everyone jacked up and getting out quickly. Seemed to be about 12-15 Blue runners. A shortish leg to 1, with everyone pretty much together. The pack began to string out along the hills and reentrants on the way to 2, and I quickly found myself alone with a West Pointer by 3, with five runners getting away ahead of us, including Barrable, Eric, Zach Schroeder, Mikkel Conradi and Donatas Ereminas. Just the two of us nearly to 5, when he made a error and we lost contact.
Surprisingly, I was running solo from 5 all the way to 19-20, which comprised maybe 12k of the total distance. My navigation was solid for the most part - I tried to take straight lines while doing as much contouring as reasonably possible, and also use the reentrant bottoms when I could. Hard to say whether some of my route choices were best, as some of the other guys took more circuitous routes 8-9 and 10-11 that took advantage of roads and trails but added distance.
Ian Smith finally caught up to me on the way to 20, on a looong slooow slog up a (endless?) hillside. One second I was alone, the next I heard a twig snap and he was right there! At that point I was crashing pretty hard - I had felt strong until then, but that last major climb did me in.
I punched 20 just ahead of Ian and we were together to 21 and 22, at which point I began cramping up and couldn't stick with him. After 21 the West Pointer showed up once again - he may have been running behind Ian.
Long story short, I couldn't hold it together and finished about two minutes back of those two, and in 7th overall - but just those two minutes out of 5th. It's a little frustrating to maintain a solid lead for three hours and then give it up the last 15 minutes, but definitely an encouraging result for me given the competition as well as the physicality of the course, and most especially when compared to the 2012 Ultralong Champs in Ohio last December.
Based on this weekend, I'd presume to put myself near the same category as Ian Smith right now, which is great news both because he's a damn fine orienteerer and because he was much faster than me last year.
Still lots of work to do to reach the goal, but my motivation has rarely been stronger that it is now. Let's go!