Sunday, October 13, 2013

Xterra Harvest Half

Yesterday I took part in the first race of the 2014 Xterra Washington Series.  Even though it is still 2013, the Nationals took place last month in Utah, so the points from this race go toward next year.  Now you may ask, "why should I try to accumulate points in the series when Nationals is open to anybody?"  Well, how about a free entry.  Xterra is giving free entry to all those who win their age group regional series championship and that is what I plan to do.  Who doesn't like free stuff?
On to the report.

It was a crisp Autumn morning.  Fog crept through the valleys, leaving the ground and surrounding foliage wet from its passing.  Men and women clad in fluorescent clothing lined up to receive their bib numbers.  I pinned mine to my shirt, jogged back to the car to drop off my jacket and did a quick warm up.  The race director went over a few rules about the course markings at the start line.  This was a fairly small race, so it was our responsibility to pay attention to the many turns along the course.  I positioned myself on the start line with the assumption that the trails would be narrow and difficult to pass on.  A five-second countdown and we were off.  10k runners would do one lap and the half marathon two.  I went out fairly hard just to get in the front.  The course description called for 2,000 feet of elevation gain over the race but I wasn't sure where and how I'd come across it.

This is what it two loops of it looks like.
Within the first mile I told some walkers there was a big group behind me and in that moment I missed a turn.  Luckily another racer yelled, "Hey, guy in the red!  This way!"  I turned around and laughed to myself a bit. (I thanked him at the end)  The two climbs in each loop were pretty tough.  I was taking little steps to keep my HR down.  Trying to get the legs going on top was difficult.  My quads felt like jelly and my hams were quite tight but they loosened up eventually.  I had a couple of limiters I used to pace myself.  Keep the HR below 190 on the climbs and aim for an average between 170-180.  That pretty much went out the window right at the start but that's ok because I've learned I can go hard for two hours without blowing up.  There was a lot of pressure in the first half with the 10k racers all around.  We were coming down the first descent and I was hot on the heels of two guys, sitting in 7th.  Down at the lake (the only flat portion) I made a move on the guys.  Then the climb started and I immediately slowed down.  It was 40% at one point.  My heart jumped in my throat and I felt like power hiking but didn't want to get passed either.  So I pushed through even though I was burning up energy fast.  They must have slowed down even more because I never saw them again.

Two loop course.

The next guy came into my sights around the end of the first loop.  I sat on his shoulder for about 4 miles.  He put in some surges on the rollers and the downhill sections that I had to push for.   As soon as we hit that first climb, I saw him touch his hand to his stomach and that's when I made my move.  I consider myself a decent climber and being the second half, I put some pesto in my step going up.  On the top I actively tried to shorten my step and increase my leg turnover to flush some of the lactic out.  It helped, if only psychologically.  

After that I had to push myself down and up a few more times.  I kept my ears open for anyone coming up but no one did.  My calves were starting to cramp up a little but I pushed through knowing I was almost done.  In the end I came in at 1:44:37 for fourth place.  I missed third by 25 seconds and first by 14 minutes.  It's crazy to think someone ran that course that fast.  Incredible!

Since I was first in my age group, that's 100 points for me going into next year.  Woo hoo!  Now, time for more stretching.