He didn’t just survive the longest-distance day, he led it! Here’s the account from Jeff himself:
I am writing you tonight in utter amazement with the MdS, the severity of the challenge of the course and conditions, and the perseverance of those who tackle this epic event.
I approached today’s stage (the long one – 47 miles) with the special dedication that I mentioned last night — to my supporters, and with the mindset that I would race the stage hard (based on my coach’s advice — advice that I thought was crazy when I first heard it two weeks ago).
With the elite 50 males and 5 females starting (later) at noon, I found myself alone at the front of a pack of the 750 non-elite runners within minutes of the start, with the helicopter making passes overhead. I’ve never led a race of any distance, much less at the MdS. I held on within half a mile (one km) of the top five runners and finished a stunning second place.
The course was brutal, with three climbs that would nearly qualify as mountain climbing, dunes, very rocky sections, off-pitch sand, and scorching salt flats. It was very lonely at the front — something I have never ever experienced in a race. It made route finding much more challenging and added a new level of mental challenge. In one particularly hallucinogenic moment I saw all of you running with me in one wide line, pushing me forward… A bit crazy, but that’s how strongly I felt your support.
I passed the second place runner with 12k to go and pushed myself harder than I ever had to finish a strong second (of the main field). I beat the elite runners in so I had the true experience of being very early to cross the line (at just over 9 hours of a stage with a 32 hour cutoff).
I’m very sore, but healthy and immensely happy at how today went. This should help me move up a bit in the overall standings; moreover, it was a joyous day in a spectacular setting and a small way for me to thank you for your awesome support! And now I get a rest day!
To Coach Lisa: Thanks for pushing me!