A lot can happen any time you cover 160 kilometres (or 100 miles).
Two local runners can attest to that after completing the Rio Del Lago 100 near Folsom, Calif. on Nov. 3 and 4.
Kristian Manietta and Peter Armistead took 11th and 12th overall, respectively, with Manietta crossing the finish line in 18 hours, 58 minutes and 37 seconds (18:58:37) and Armistead clocking in at 19:35:45. The men were also fifth and sixth, respectively, in the men's 40-to-49 age category. Winner Christopher Denucci of Berkeley, Calif. completed the course in 16:36:29, with seven of the top 10 finishers hailing from California.
"The race was great. I went into the race where I'd set myself a goal of trying to do it in less than 20 hours, which was very ambitious. I've not done that before," Armistead said after completing his fifth 100-mile race. "I managed to get that."
While the two know one another, they had never run together until the race. The duo were together for much of the earlier portion, though Armistead slowed his pace and Manietta maintained his.
"We know each other but we've never run together, and to run so many hours together was really fun," Manietta said. "To be a place apart made the day that much more special."
Armistead explained he always runs solo, but appreciated connecting with Manietta, as they were side by side for about 30 miles, adding that Manietta acknowledged the 26-mile mark, or a marathon distance, which they had covered in roughly 3:45.
"That would be a good, respectable time for a marathon for most people and that was just our warm-up for the ultra," he said. "(I thought), 'We're really covering a lot of ground here. I feel fine,' and then literally about half-an-hour after that, I started realizing I had some muscle damage."
Armistead explained he had a game plan for pacing that he got "about 90-per-cent right."
"It was probably the biggest effort I've put into a race," he said. "My game plan was to go in, start relatively slow and steady and try to average five miles an hour for 20 hours and slug it out.
"(I tried) not to go too fast and tried to keep a relatively constant, steady pace.
"After about 30 miles, I was taking damage to my muscles in a way that I wasn't expecting to happen that early on in the race," he said. "My effort was low. It was manageable, but the fact that I covered a lot more miles than I would normally do in four hours or so meant there was a bit more damage to my system."
Miles 30 to 35 were a struggle, Armistead explained, but he slowed his pace to mitigate any further injury.
"I just had to dial it back, get my race back together. That was fine. I could do that," he said.
What ultimately gave Armistead his best boost, however, was running into ultra legend Gordy Ainsleigh on the trail.
"He was one of the reasons I got into 100-mile running. He is the first person to do a 100-mile running race and I just bumped into him on the trails out there," he said. "It was a remarkable coincidence.
"I talked to him for 20 seconds, told him I admire him and then carried on running ... It was the lowest point in my race and that enabled me to change gears quite well."
When Armistead finished the race, he discovered that Ainsleigh had tracked him down on Facebook to congratulate him on his sub-20-hour time.
Manietta, meanwhile, hit his tougher sections later on, recalling that in the final 40 kilometres (25 miles), he fell behind competitors jockeying for position. However, he returned the favour closer to the finish line.
"You might feel like you've done too much, but you always have a little bit more," he said. "It's uncomfortable, and it's dealing with that uncomfortableness. You get through it and essentially (are) proud. I'd hate to think, 'Oh, I could have done better,' but I left it out there."
Both Manietta and Armistead found that some of the course's toughest elements actually came from it being less challenging than what they normally train on.
"The course is awesome, but in Whistler, you're used to going up and down," Manietta said. "At something like WAM (Whistler Alpine Meadows trail race in September), we have a lot more vertical. On my watch, it said in WAM, I spent five-and-a-half hours going up and six-and-a-half hours going down."
The relative flatness of the course, Manietta explained, made it a challenge not just mentally, but physically, too.
"It's that monotony on the feet and you're running at a faster pace which, earlier on, might feel really easy and later on, feel really difficult," he said. "(To start), it felt really, really easy. We weren't even breaking a sweat. We were chatting the whole time. Then you get onto the trails and then you've got hours and hours on the legs."
In just his second 100-miler, Manietta said he took lessons from his debut, the Bighorn 100 in June 2017, which took him over 24 hours to complete. He was also 11th in that contest.
"Patience is a big thing," he said. "It's such a long day. You line up and think, 'It's such a long time running' and then it starts and then you're like, 'How did I just run for just under 19 hours?'
"It's just that relentless forward progress and putting one foot in front of the other."
Full results are at www.athlinks.com/event/63638/results/Event/821371/Course/1443408/Results.