Wednesday, December 15, 2010

USA masters XC Nationals

Over the weekend I ran in my first XC Nationals in many years. It was a great experience! I’ve always enjoyed XC it really takes you back to the roots of racing and the “good old days” of team competition. We were fortunate enough to have enough interested and healthy age 40-49 guys to field a full team at Nationals.

The trip out was uneventful (direct flight from Manchester to Charlotte). We all chowed down on subs in the airport and had a little while to get reacquainted while we waited for the 6 PM flight. Trips like this (even short ones) are a great reminder of why I enjoy being part of a team.

After a good night sleep, (Eric and I got the room well under 65 degrees) we headed out for Dunkin’s and a quick trip to a nearby County High Point. That was a good way to break up the morning; it was pretty boring just sitting around waiting for the late (11:30 AM) race start time.

We arrived at the race site 90 minutes before our start. I had forgotten the vibe of a big XC meet. Wow, there were clubs with tents set up all over the place and tons of very fast people running all over the place. XC does not attract road running 5k posers; this was a serious crowd who were here to race. Any lingering lack of enthusiasm (the opposite of Billy Mumfrey’s problem) was dissolved by the excitement in the air.
As we gathered up our numbers I heard that all teams had to report to the line 15 minutes prior to the start. They would do a final check in and were expecting it to take nearly that amount of time due to the large crowd of nearly 400 runners. So, with little time to worry we were off to check out the first loop of the course. It was an interesting loop with mostly dirt “trail”, probably more of a dirt road than trail. It was plenty wide and had no sharp turns to worry about. A form of that loop would be done three times and the only hill would be negotiated three times as well. It was a good 50’ climb over a short distance with the downhill in about 100m or less. None of the course was technical (well it might have been “Colorado Technical” J), so it looked like there would be a lot of fast times. That doesn’t really help me, but it was pretty much what I expected.

I switched into racing gear and my Inov-8 racing flats and did another mile or so with some strides. I saw Jason Cak, Francis, Byrne, and a slew of other fast guys that I knew. It was wild seeing so many fast people lining up. We found out at the last minute that only 5 runners are allowed in the box and teams with any other runners (you are allowed up to 8) would have to go to a different box set up for individual runners. No one seemed to want to leave so Eric and I volunteered to go. It turned out we got a slightly better box with a straight shot onto the dirt road. Eric took the line and I got behind him, which meant both of us would get a clean start. An individual runner from GBTC joined us and at the last second Tom Derderian also lined up with us.

Here is a little bit of what went through my head…

Start to 1 mile

Okay, be smart don’t shoot out too fast. Relax. Gun is up! Follow Eric. Don’t get knocked down. Wow, that wasn’t so bad…pretty easy getting onto the road. Crap, here comes everyone from the right! Wow, that must be about 100 people moving onto the road. Relax, don’t fall. Am I going too fast? Too slow? Hey, there’s Dave Quintal…okay he is only a few seconds up I must be okay. 5:39, okay right where I hoped to be. I wonder what place I’m in. Man, this is tough.

1 mile to 2 miles

Dave is pulling away, don’t push just yet…too early. Here comes the hill, cut the tangent. Wow, no one else made that move. That saved me a couple of yards. Push the downhill. Yikes! I just passed about 10 guys. That wasn’t much of a downhill. Where’s Dave? He is cutting every tangent and staying out of the pack. Smart move, follow him. 5:45, okay relax…good mile with the hill.
2 miles to 3 miles

I wonder where the other guys are. Concentrate. Don’t lose focus. Get to three and see if you can reel in Dave. Crap there are a lot of 50+ guys out here running fast. At least I know the loop pretty well now. It’s getting a lot easier to run, the crowds have thinned out. 5:41, okay that means about 17:40 at 5km. I should be able to run 35:30 to 35:40 if I can keep it together.
3 mile to 4 miles

Crap, that’s Greg Putnam on the side of the trail. I hope he’s okay. Concentrate. Work the hill again. Wow, no one is cutting tangents...what are they thinking? Maybe I’m a good descender I got another 5 guys going down this little hill. Tim Cox just yelled “go guys” not “go Dave”. I wonder who is catching me. That’s Greg, good that he is back in the race. I wonder how the other guys are doing. CONCENTRATE. 5:44, man that hurt…must have been the hill.

4 miles to 5 miles

Concentrate, relax, go after Dave. Crap, he is about 15 seconds up! Don’t let Greg pull away. Hey, that’s Mark Reeder! Go with him. Wow, that mile went by fast. 6:08. What! That can’t be right. Must be a long mile, no one passed me and I’m moving up. Concentrate. One mile to go.

5 miles to 6 miles

I’m hurting. Don’t let Reeder go. Hey, I think I’m closing on Dave. Here comes the hill. Crap, that guy is in the 60-64 age group! Go after him! Ugh, I think I pushed too hard on the hill. Greg is going to outkick me. Concentrate, go after him. Everyone is going so slow on the downhill, really work it.

5:51. No time to worry, had to be long.

6 miles to the finish

Don’t let Greg go by. Stay with Greg. Try to follow Greg. Don’t tie up. Ugh, that is one long straight. Crap, Reeder and Greg are flying. Don’t ease up, kick, kick, kick. :56 That had to be short.

Well the race was over quickly. It seemed to take forever to get to the mile then the miles just flew by. Tim grabbed some water for all of us and then we got a group picture. I heard from a few people that the course was long (6.29) and was glad to hear that everyone’s splits were off for 5 and 6 miles. I was given an official time of 35:44 which is pretty close to my best 10km time as a master, so I was pleased.

We headed back to the car and got it together for a warm-down. We did another loop and then watched the women race before heading out for a little more mileage. The day was just about ideal with temperatures in the upper 40’s and a little cloud cover and no wind. The team did well, finishing 13th of 26 teams. I was the fifth man or the final scoring member of the team, but Scott Clark (35:53) and Rod Viens (36:01) were close behind.

We didn’t really stay much longer, just cleaned up a bit and headed for the airport. It was a quick trip but a lot of fun. Unfortunately next year’s championships will be in the Northwest so it is unlikely we’d send a team. There was some talk of the masters 5k championships in NY.


GZ said...

Nice race.

What the heck is Colorado technical?

double-d said...

Colorado technical is a bit of an inside joke. Basicaly what we call technical in New England may be considered "unrunnable" by some (wimps). I've run some trail races in other places (like Colorado) where they call a few roots "technical" or a short downhill as "technical". So the joke might be "That paved rail trail was Colorado technical".

mueblerunner said...

No mention of "Just Wallpaper"? Seriously great race and that was a great time. I am laying the groundwork for next year! Also, you say crap a lot while you race:)