Thursday, December 13, 2012

RACE REPORT: USATF Club Cross Country Champs

Editor's note: This is a recap from LAST week...

After an easy 7 on Monday with Sam, I started to feel a cold coming on, so I took Tuesday completely and ran my "Tuesday night" workout on Wednesday morning instead. I shuffled down to Radio Tower Field and then ran one loop (1.25 miles) hard in an effort to simulate the first mile at the USATF Cross Country Club Champs in Lexington, which I was racing that weekend. The workout (5:02 pace) felt a lot harder than it should have but I shrugged it off as residual effects from whatever that was bothering me on Monday. The next few days I ran maintenance miles in the lead up to the Saturday race. 

The Georgetown Running Club sent 3 complete teams this year: two men’s, one women’s, in addition to a master's runner, Scott. We took a bus down to the Blue Grass state, which was a ten hour trip. Although it took a little longer to get there, having a bus was a great call; we were able to walk around, change seats and spread out more. It rained most of the trip and our minds turned to the condition of the course.

We arrived in Lexington in time to get in a quick course preview. Despite Scott falling twice, the course was holding up quite well. All the while the rain continued...

After much internal debate, I decided to go out hard. I hate racing that way, simply because it's painful, but I seem to have success in cross country races by going out hard and toughening my way through the grass. Though, in retrospect, I wish I had gone out slower.

The starter raised the gun and 300+ harriers stormed across the open field all vying for a coveted position before making a right hand turn. I got a good start, but it was far too fast. Spikes were slashing and snapping all around me, like the jaws of alligators during a feeding frenzy. You couldn't stop, you couldn't slow down. You just had to keep running, and run hard. I took a quick glance at my GPS and it read "4:35" (as in pace). By the time I hit the mile (4:40) I was in what had to be 50th place. Witty and Luff were either a whisker ahead of me, or right to my side. I tried my best to settle into a groove, which in all honesty required slowing down, but it just wasn’t happening. After about a mile and a half I attacked a short portion of uphill, then a downhill, and passed Witty, then Luff. I hit two miles in about 9:45 and began to suffer. I purposely slowed down and went into “conserve mode” – maintain position as best I could and wait for an opportunity to push and move up once I recovered. Over the course of the next fifteen minutes I tried desperately to get out of my rut, but I was running on fumes, which is not ideal only a 1/3rd into the race. By mile 3, I was in 80th place; far from the place I was hoping for (60th) at the finish. After getting complacent, I would attack, gradually move past 5 runners, only to suffer a minute later from fatigue then get passed by the same 5 runners again…plus a few more. By mile 4, I knew our team's hopes for a top ten team finish were dashed. I had fallen back to 90th and I was still our top man. Unless 3 teammates went by me (which was certainly possible given how bad I was falling back), we were finished. I went into conserve mode once again and decided to take a beating for another mile and a half before attempting, yet again, another push…this time to the finish line. However, I underestimated how tiring it was running the mucky hill and dales across the course and, by the time I got to the top of the last hill, I was literally finished. I tried to hammer home with 600m to go, a plan I had devised pre-race, but it wasn’t happening. My last half mile was pathetic. My kick was nonexistent. I was cooked.

I shuffled through the finish line in 101st, a far cry from 60th, with a time of 32:32. It was 35-seconds slower than the time I ran here 3 years ago. Granted it was dry then, but I am also much stronger now. It was definitely a bad race.

Our team finished a dismal 17th (out of 41). After such high hopes for a top ten, we dragged ourselves from the course and turned tail back to the hotel. We had run our asses off...but the ends didn't justify the means.

After the aforementioned tragedy, I took Sunday off from running. 

By Monday morning, my sights were set on Phoenix.

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