Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Craig Cup 5k - Race Report

Another weekend. Another 5k. This time, it was the Craig Cup 5k. Cross country! I have no idea what's gotten into me. Well, that's not true. I'm hoping that a little 5k action will help build some speed for the MDI Marathon, and I may or may not be addicted to racing. So, I found myself at Twin Brook on a beautiful fall morning completely apprehensive about the task at hand. I knew that, unlike the 65 Roses 5k, the competition at the Craig Cup 5k would be pretty stiff. But, just like the 65 Roses 5k, I was completely out of my element. Luckily, the Craig Cup is actually a Trail Monster Running event under the direction of Jeff, so there were plenty of friendly faces. Offsetting that was the fact that this was also my first cross country race in fifteen years. What am I doing here?

I went out for my warmup on the course wanting to see exactly what I was getting into. I know the trails from the TMR TNR, but I'd never looked at them with the idea of running as fast as possible. A high school cross country team was out doing a workout on the course, so I was intermingled with them, which helped me not focus on how crappy I felt. I hate warming up. I made it back to the start/finish area, and guys were doing strides, high leg kicks and whatnot. What am I doing here? I did a couple strides of my own. I did not don spikes or flats, and I headed to the line. I knew that the field would be full of fast roadies used to these sorts of races, so I figured anything in the top 20 would be reasonable.

Jeff and I took our spots on the far left side of the longer than necessary starting line, which turned out to be an excellent angle to the first turn. As the gun went off, I took off like it was a cross country race...from what I could remember...and did a quick scan of the entire field to my right. I was in a around 15th or so around the first corner and moved up a few spots as I settled in an uncomfortably comfortable pace. It also felt a bit uncomfortable because Jeff was behind me, which was a very unfamiliar position for both of us. I noticed right away that guys were avoiding the puddles and muddy spots when the width of the trail allowed, but I was only focused on running the tangents. I figured I needed to keep the suffering to a minimum and could handle a few off-kilter steps here and there.

My entire thought process was focused on staying relaxed and not backing off. Admittedly, I feel like a backed off a bit as we entered the woods as I let a TLB (tall, lanky bastard) in spikes and high split shorts get pull away. "Hmmm...he clearly runs 5ks. Better let him go." Weak.

That's my 5k face. Just past 1 mile.
Despite that lapse, I went through the mile in a startling quick 5:57. Knowing that I ran 18:53 (6:05 average) on the roads at 65 Roses, I figured anything under 21:00 would be respectable on a cross country course, so I was a bit panicked by the split and decided not to look at my watch again. Relax and hammer. However, in many ways this race was very different from 65 Roses in that it was a race—I had people to run with. I passed a runner after we ducked back into the woods, could still see the TLB ahead sporadically and could feel another runner right behind me. Based on the cheers from Val and Ian at the mile mark, I assumed it was Jeff since they had said "Jeff's right behind you." (Thankfully, even when I'm low on oxygen I can do some simple math.) But, as we popped back into the fields briefly at around 1.5 miles guy-in-a-blue-shirt (Gibs) moved up and passed me. He nearly went straight through a righthand turn as we reentered the woods. I yelled to him that he was off course and briefly regained my place. I had delusions of staying ahead of him, but after a few seconds he passed me again. Back to chasing. I stayed as close as I could, but couldn't maintain his pace. My real problem was the downhills. I couldn't keep up with the turnover. Hmmm...track work, anyone?

Gibs had a decent gap at two miles when I again passed Ian and Val who seemed a bit more adamant in their cheers that Jeff was right behind me...really. Uh oh. For some reason, I figured that if I could get back to the fields, approximately a half mile to go, ahead of Jeff, I could hold him off. My only reasoning for this was that there was no way I was going to let anyone pass me in the final half mile. That's not how you run cross country. Luckily, I could still see Gibs, and, foolishly, I never gave up on catching him. So, pulled by Gibs up ahead and pushed by the specter of Jeff from behind, I hit the fields a tried to relax and open it up. Surprisingly, I never tied up during this race. I was able to stay fairly relaxed despite being well out of my comfort zone. I mean, I had the serious XC-froth going on, but that's just how we harriers roll. (Yeah, I'm not buying that either.) I crested the final hill confident in my place and was shocked when I hit my watch after I crossed the line: 18:52, 9th place. I managed to run one second faster than I had two weeks ago on a much easier course. That's racing vs. time trialing. Really stoked with this result. Of course, my elation was short lived as the clock reached 18:55, and Jamie reminded me that I'm running a marathon this weekend. Never liked that guy.


Finishing. Ouch.
I have to admit, this race was actually kind of fun. Cross country hurts. A LOT. But, it's a cool kind of hurt. It's a great combination of running fast and not running on roads. Maybe I'll try to do a few more of these next year. I'd love to attempt to get fast enough to not embarrass myself at Franklin Park—so many great memories of racing there in high school. Yup, attempting to capture lost glory. I must be creeping up on the masters category.


pathfinder said...

wow....great job racing

Jeremy Bonnett said...

Dude that sounds like a great race. You obviously have gotten much faster through the year, congrats!

middle.professor said...

Great report snom8n. what about a 3 race series next fall to go with our summer trail series and winter snowshoe series. Would we have the super ultra extreme badass category for someone who does all 9 races?

sn0m8n said...

That's an awesome idea! I need to get spikes.