With a hilly course and a naked sun bearing down, David Luy knew his goal of hitting the U.S. Olympic Trial standard was a pretty big ask.
But the 26-year-old from Brookfield gave it a go and then some Sunday at the Eau Claire Marathon.
"It was probably the hardest last 10 kilometers I've ever raced," Luy said.
In the end, Luy fell about four minutes shy of the Trial standard, although his consolation prize - a third straight Eau Claire Marathon title and a new course record - wasn't too shabby.
Luy finished in 2 hours, 23 minutes, 9 seconds, trimming 2:48 off his then-record-setting time last year and nearly 10 minutes off his winning time from 2016.
"I gave it pretty much everything I had, so I can be peaceful tonight going to bed knowing that I didn't leave anything out there."
Tammi Braund of Cushing, who set the women's course record in her 2015 victory, won the women's title in 3:20:39. The 39-year-old mother of six, who coincidentally has six marathon wins under her belt, was coming off a busy recent running schedule, including the Boston Marathon last month. Sunday's win came as a big surprise.
"I never expected to finish where I did," she said.
Menomonie's Amanda Molback was second, seven minutes back.
The half-marathon title went to 31-year-old Brent Kann of Eau Claire. The former Blugolds All-American and decorated area runner defended his title from last year in 1:12:44 to win by four minutes over Minneapolis' Jared Gentemen, who was third a year ago.
Elk Mound's Stephanie Cloutier was the women's champ in 1:25:20, edging a fellow former Blugolds All-American, Lucy Ramquist of River Falls, by nearly four minutes. Eau Claire's Rebekka Dow, last year's winner, was third.
In the 5K, Madison's Kevin Hall, 31, obliterated the course record in 15:39, besting Dan LaCroix's record time from last year by two minutes. St. Paul's Karina Taylor, 32, did the same on the women's side, winning in 20:32 - 41 seconds faster than the previous mark.
But for the third year in a row though, Luy was the main attraction. He bested the runner-up, Blue Ox Running owner Adam Condit, by more 11 minutes. It was another 20 minutes back to the rest of the pack.
With the big goal, he knew he had to put it down a little harder than the past two years, so Sunday was the biggest struggle of his three wins.
"I was just going to try to set it up with a really strong first half, going out kind of conservative cause it's so hilly in the first half, and just put myself in position to be able to control it from there," Luy said.
"I still felt pretty good halfway through, but it started getting warmer when the sun started cooking and I definitely missed a lot of water. ... I just don't think I was ready for this kind of temperature this early on."
Luy said the Trial standard is his ultimate goal for the year, so it might have been a bit early to go for it, but he wanted to see where he was at and the Eau Claire course offers some a unique challenge.
"It technically shouldn't be a super-fast course," he said, "but I think it gives you a chance to use different muscles, and it's almost nice not to have to run completely flat the whole time, cause you get to fire quads when you're going up, drop the arms on the downhills. It's a lot more like cross country, and I think it's really good strength-building right now for me."
The rest of his summer will be mostly triathlon-based training before ramping it up again for Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in October. That's a course that may be more suited to take the next step toward his ultimate goal - lining up for an Olympic shot in Febrauary 2020 in Atlanta.
"If the wind is good … you're going flat or downhill the whole way, so that should be a good one to go for it," Luy said.