Monday, December 12, 2011

Back to the Basics

So I have been helping out with a local high school (Redmond) cross country team, and they told me about this winter running series they do every year. It is put on by Club Northwest, a local and very strong running club, and it is a series that consists of six 2 mile races every other weekend. 2 are cross country style, 2 are race style and one is a track race. The final race is sort of screwy but should be fun, they try to stagger it so that everyone finishes at the same time. It sounded pretty cool so I decided to look into it.

After checking out the website i realized that to sign up for the whole series (all 6 races) it was only going to be $40! I was over the moon about this. I had been so sheltered to $500 and $600 ironman races that I forgot little running races were so cheap! Bottom line is i decided to show up and race the little kids.

Redmond had a very strong team in the fall, qualifying for the state meet and ultimately placing 11th. In one meet this season they had all 5 of their scorers under 17:00, and for a high school team to do that is pretty unreal. So their top 2 guys were running in this series, and with the first race approaching I decided why not start to stir the pot up a bit. I knew that their number 1 man, Jonathan,(15:45) was a little out of reach and their number 2 (16:05) man, Max, would take quite the race to beat, but a little bit of friendly competition and some trash talking would get those competitive juices flowing rather quickly.

The first race was cross country style, and as we headed to the start line, the scene quickly reminded me of my high school days many moons ago. Everyone doing run outs, the starter yelling at everyone trying to keep things organized. I felt right at home.

As the starter lined us all up for the race, Max turned to me and asked "Hey matt you gonna beat me today??" I turned and gave him a nice grin, such as the grin on the grinchs face when he gets the idea to go into whoville and ruin christmas. I got the feeling that he was a little nervous, and didnt want to give any signs of my nerves away on the start line. The starter, who typically has a gun, had a cowbell to start the race, rung his little bell and the race was off.

As we headed down the opening 400 i got out strong and couldnt see anyone in my peripheral view, so i decided that i have blown myself to shreds too many times in my racing career by going out too hard, so i dialed it back a bit into the trail which trimmed the pack down to a 2x2 formation. about 600 meters into the race is a nice big climb that really punches you right in the kidneys and wakes you up. After reaching the top of the hill Jonathan had passed me and was looking very comfortable, along with 2 other runners that looked like they knew what they were doing. As we made a big u turn and headed back down the hill i saw Max about 5-10 seconds behind. At this point i was in 4th and he was in 6th. As Jonathan started to make his move on the race and run away with it comfortably, I decided to focus on the guys in 2nd and 3rd and tried to limit the gap.

At the mile I was 4th still and came through in 5:19. I was hurting, but the legs still felt springy, so I kept my head on my shoulders tight and focused on trying to reel in 3rd, who was alone at this point. There was another u turn on the course about a tenth of a mile before the mile and I got to see where Max was at that point. Still about 5 seconds I was holding him off well.

The course was a 2 lap course so as we approached the big hill on the second lap i could hear footsteps and heavy breathing coming up on my shoulder. I quickly told myself the only way he is getting around you is if you have absolutely nothing left and you have to drop to the turf. This was a mentality i learned from experience and try to implement as often as possible. It is never easy pushing yourself to the absolute break point, but it is necessary if you want to be considered great instead of good.

So back to the race, Max tried to make a pass on the hill, but i didnt allow it, I made a calculated surge halfway up the hill to not give him any light at passing, and held him off. 1/3 of a mile later i heard him coming, and I made another near sprinting surge to break his spirits of trying to get around me. At that point we were at 1.5 miles and were withing 2.5 minutes of the end of the race. As we head around the last u turn and down the final 200 meter stretch i still had a 2 second or so gap on him. I didnt wait around to see if he made a move on me here, I gritted my teeth and reached down deep for ever ounce of power i had left to get to that finish line. I could hear him coming but paid no attention to that. I stayed focused on that finish line.

Next thing i knew i was reeling in 3rd place rather quickly! I had been so focused on holding off Max that I lost track of 3rd. It ended up being a little too late to catch 3rd, but I held max off for 4th place by a second or 2 cementing my status back in the running speed. I came across the line with a time of 10:28!

I had no expectations for that race other than to get out there and give it all i had, and I was totally pleased with the result. Turns out it was not a true 2 miles, clocked at 3100 meters, but still a very solid performance, gutted out a real tough one.

Up next, 2 mile road race!

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