After an eight month hiatus from racing, I came into the USATF Club cross country championships with high hopes and a hunger for pain.
I left the course on Saturday with my head down and an unsatisfied appetite. 30th place, a time on the slow side of 30 minutes for the 10K, and a second-place finish for NAZ. It certainly wasn’t the weekend in Tallahassee that I or the boys were looking for.
The field was stacked. I explained to someone the disappointment in my own race, and they quickly pointed out what my last two seasons looked like (Injured) and how good of shape I needed to be in if I wanted success on that afternoon. Still, losing sucks. Losing to a lot of bodies is even worse. And knowing that, while a rust buster, I’m in decent shape–I just lacked the mentality that this race takes, and that made it even worse.
We looked over the entries the day before and could see the talent on our course shakeout. We knew it would be quick. The Tallahassee course was hard packed and the turns were easy. There was some elevation change that added a little bit of reprieve to a potential onslaught of 4:35’s up front, but overall the course was built to provide the audience a fast pace and a lot of blowing up.
As someone who hasn’t seen a lot of volume in miles or speedwork since April, I definitely grew a bit nervous thinking about just how much pain I was going to have to run through. But that never ended up being an issue. I found, after about 3K of racing, I couldn’t even coax my body into any sort of effort that would cause extreme discomfort. I hit a wall. My legs felt heavy but aerobically sound and I could not attack from group to group. I simply followed the pace around me–a progression of slower miles until the final 1K where I just watched points roll away.
I was in limbo.
I think the most frustrating aspect of the entire race was seeing that I wasn’t that far behind people for most of the 10K. I kept thinking that maybe during the next loop I would pick up the pace and try to grab ahold of the top 20. That mindset kept creeping through each loop and finally with 600m to go (all downhill), I sort of woke up. The thing about gravity though is that anyone can sprint on dead legs downhill so I ended up just losing another point before crossing the line nowhere near the well. I looked around and saw my teammates Scott Fauble, Marty Hehir, (seventh and sixth, respectively) and Scott Smith, who placed 18th. Ben Bruce came sprinting in just behind me and that solidified a performance that we already knew was going to be behind first place. The five of us walked off to find sanctuary somewhere less hectic and to complain about the race never settling, only holding a constant press.
The great thing about getting that race out of the way though is the fitness that comes after. While nothing crazy has been on the schedule as of yet, my legs certainly glide a little easier after enduring such a hard effort. I am very excited about the next month of training before sharpening up for the US Cross Championship race in Bend, Oregon.