Friday, September 9, 2011

US Trail 10k National Championships

Recovery from the Springmaid Splash 10k went just as I had hoped.  With the race being more of a hard effort than a 100% dig down deep grind I was able to run the next day pain free.  And long.  Which was important because I would be giving 100% dig down deep grind effort the next Saturday at the Continental Divide 10k which served again as the USATF Trail National Championship.  The field would include familiar names from the Mountain Cup in Jared Scott (winner this year) and Jason Bryant (4th) as well as reigning champ and recent USATF road 8k Champ Bobby Mack and training partner Joe Moore.  It was a stacked field that went much deeper than those guys but I don't know everybody's resume so I'll cut off the list there.
Jason's sadistic idea of a course

Jason Bryant created this course out of pure hate for road runners.  It only 5.8 miles but it runs like 10 miles.  It's technical.  It's steep.  It's up, it's down, and then up and down and then you have to try and run fast on a flat section.  It's brutal.  It was my first trail race I ever did and I recognized the pain I was in from some of my patients... the ones in car accidents.  But I've had fairly decent success taking the runner-up spot the last two years.  This year I wanted badly to win but Jason had assembled the deepest field yet.  Nevertheless I created a strategy to win the race and beat Bobby and I enacted it.

Garmin Link
Early on during the initial long descent it was me out front with a heard of buffalo stampeding close behind.  As we neared the bottom and began to climb Jared made a move out front and was followed by Bobby and Joe.  I watched them pull away from me on the climb but I didn't let them get too far ahead.  Then on the descent around 2 miles I made my move.  I went screaming down the trail/embankment and quickly caught and went past Bobby and Joe who were gingerly making their way down the trail.  For a little while Jared and I ran away from those fast guys but I was feeling Jared let off of the gas and made a move past him as well.  By the time I reached the second big climb I was alone in the lead without another runner in sight.  It should be noted that looking back through the thick woods didn't lend to a long sight line.
Trailing early to a dude in his underwear

This climb was long.  Last year Bobby caught me on this section and gapped me pretty good.  Since I had a solid lead this year I wanted to stay in front or be with Bobby at the time.  Bobby and Joe caught me again this year but it was late in the climb.  I came out of the woods just behind them and immediately caught and surged past. 
Spurting past Bobby and Joe

I would empty the gas tank on this flat/downhill section.  I opened up a pretty good gap and kept it till late in the second to last climb.  It was Joe Moore that caught me as I neared the top.  My climbing legs were pretty shot but he didn't go immediately by me.  Instead he waited for the grass field before the last single track descent to get in front of me.  I wish I had fought to keep him back because once on the single track I was looking for any opening to get by his gingerly pace.  I made a move on a grassy elbow on the trail and found a two foot stump in the middle.  I banged my knee on the old soft stump and spun right into Joe.  I apologized and continued in front.  He kept pace though and we hit the ridiculous last 1/3rd of a mile climb to the finish.
What I mean by "on all fours"

At this point I was ready for Joe to go by and claim his victory.  But he mirrored my every move while remaining behind me.  If I walked, he walked.  If I got on all fours to scramble up the rocks he did too.  When I ran, he ran.  It was going to come down to a 100meter gradual up hill kick as we exited the single track.  Here's where I lost the race.
Exiting the final climb

As I was nearing the exit of the trail I recognized where we were.  I thought "a quick spurt here would open up a gap and get me running on flat land before he could respond."  This would have been a winning move.  Instead I waited.  I hurt too bad.  As the terrain leveled off I kept pace and let him run by.  No fight at all and for the third year in a row I took the bridesmaid spot.  I was over 30 seconds faster than the prior year which was great news coming off the calf injury and leading into the world mountain running championships in two weeks.  It was great to beat Bobby.  He's been killing it the last two years so having my name listed before his is a great accomplishment.  Hopefully he doesn't get angry and start focusing on trail running.

Bobby, his dad, Joe, and I celebrated with a dogfishead 90 min IPA after the race.  We were on a rock with a great view and great wind.  By the end of the brew we were freezing and my lips were purple. 

Up Next
World Mountain Running Championships in Albania on 9/11.  The course profile is similar to Cranmore, the qualifying race, but the terrain is entirely different.  It's very dry yet hot and humid.  The dirt is lose and soft in spots and hard packed and jagged in others.  There's rebar, chickens, cows, and even a homeless man sleeping on the course.  The race will be at high noon so it'll be a challenge without the world's best mountain runners showing up.  Should be fun.  I'm looking to finish well enough to give our team a shot at the podium.  That's all for now.