Yesterday I ran my last race of the spring season. It was a good race compared to the last two races that I ran. The race course was new as the environment.
I left home around 6AM on Sunday morning. Destination: a 9 miles cross-country style race. I got there by 6:30AM. I thought the race would start by 8AM. But I was wrong. The first wave of runners would start by 9AM. So I had to wait for more the two hours before the race started. Not a bad thing. I had enough time to walk around and check the environment, talk to other runners and find out how hard the race would be.
This is a handicapped race. No, it doesn't mean that I had to run on wheelchairs. It is based on age(scratch, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, and so on) and sex(woman would fit into the age category with the most handicap time). For example: the scratch runners would not get any extra minutes. But the 35-44 age group(where I was) would start 4 minutes ahead of the scratch runners. And 45-54 age group would start 4 minutes ahead of the 35-44 age group, and 8 minutes ahead of the scratch runners(under 35). Kids were placed with woman and senior runners. The most handicap time was 20 minutes.
The fast and young runners usually are the ones under 35. So they would have to pass all the runners that started early to be able to win. In my case I had to deal with a traffic of more than 100 runners.
After waiting for 16 minutes, we finally took off. I had no knowledge about the runners in my age group. I started a little conservative and slowly I moved to the front. The first 400 meters were on the flat. My strategy was to find a runner in the front and just sit behind and follow his movements. So after 5 minutes I was sitting behind this runner. He was going out a little too fast. I was just following him as the rolling hills kept coming. My age group just spreaded out after ten minutes. We started to see lots traffic from the other age groups. Passing was not an issue.
The first steep hill was not a problem. We went up quick and kept hammering. After 20 minutes, the runner ahead was starting to slow down. I felt like that was the time to make a move and did just that. I passed by going on the this slightly downhill and said "good job" as a word of incentive.
When the big steep hill started I was by myself, passing runners and trying to stay focus. I was close to the 30 minutes mark and I was concerned about the cramps problem that I had in the other two races. I took a thermotab tablet by the 25 minutes mark and everything seemed to be working well. So as I was going down this steep hill someone came by flying. That was the actual winner of the race. He is a young kid well known for his fast times. I did not panic and did not try to follow him. I knew the biggest challenge was coming ahead. And so far that was the only runner that had passed me. I hit the bottom of the hill in 31:52.
So after the long steep hill there is a short flat section. It was getting warm but we were running under the canopy of this redwood forest. So the heat was not really an issue. So I tried to slow down a little and prepare myself for the "wood monster" hill. It was a 1.5 miles long steep hill starting at 800 ft and going up to 1600 ft. It started very gently and all the sudden the incline began. I was feeling good and passing people going up this trail was a good feeling. After around 600 meters another scratch runner passed me. He was not going very fast. I was able to keep the distance for awhile. But when the fatigue started to show up I had to slow down. Usually I never walk going up hill. I try always to run it no matter how bad I am feeling. This hill was seeming endless. I hit the 2/3 of the hill and another runner, possible from my age group, passed me. I did not answer and could not wait to end this climb. When we finally reached the top, I was feeling quite tired. But from there on the course was mainly flat with some short ups and downs.
In the last three miles or so I felt really good. No cramps. I put the hammer down and started to pass runners. I knew if I want to get a medal I had to place on top 15. So I did just that. I passed the last two runners with about 400 meters to go and finish the race in 13th place with a time of 64:08.
I ran the so called "triple crown" that included three races. My place in the standings was fourth before this race. By the end the race I found out that I was the winner of the triple crown. It was quite a surprise to me. Two of the runners ahead of me in the standings did not race and I finished ahead of the third place. I got a plaque and a $ 100. gift certificate. I didn't think I deserved to win the triple crown but I guess sometimes things just happen to be that way.