2002 National Masters XC Championships

Short version: 58th OA, 33rd in age group (out of 41 in the 40-44 AG), 23:21 time

The what-I-can-remember version:
3 loops of a 2k course on thick grass. I don't want to describe the course in detail, but it is a great course. It was held at Ft. Vancouver park in Vancouver WA. I lined up in one of the boxes for "unattached" runners, right behind a guy in the 50-54 AG who was barefoot (I ain't kidding, he forgot his spikes). The course starts out with a long, straight, slight downhill. I didn't know how fast to run so I guessed at an effort and took off. I felt like I was flying but all these guys with M50 and M55 on their backs were going right by me.

My first worry was crossing the road in my spikes with the 1/2 long spikes on them. I had never worn spikes before in a race but had done some interval workouts on the grass in them. I had bought the extra long spikes for the shoes since I knew the grass and mud would be deep in Vancouver. I had hoped to be able to practice crossing an asphalt road with the longer spikes but I have had some hamstring problems the last few days so I didn't. I had visions of falling on my face. I made it across the road and then went through a series of turns and hills. I did smile once when a NoWDead shouted at me to not hit the tree that was in the center of the course.

The course condition wasn't too bad but there were some spots that were pretty boggy. One of these was along a flat, straight stretch near the one mile mark. I stayed to the inside but quickly found out that running is hard in sticky 4 inch mud. I now knew why one of the leaders of the Masters women's race had run two of her three laps with only one shoe. I was still being passed by old guys, but not as many along the back side of the loop.

Someone was calling out splits at the one mile mark, 5:42! Granted the first mile is a net downhill, but 5:42 is just stupid. I can't run that fast. Shortly after the mile mark, we cross another road and turn uphill. I'd run this 6 times with Kelly last week, but the hill sure seemed steeper now. Finally I get to the top of the steep part and it levels out some but still goes uphill to a sharp right turn which marks the end of the first loop. I vaguely remember watching the barefoot guy trying to negotiate that turn without slipping.

The second loop is a painful blur. I was now into serious oxygen debt from the hill and the too fast pace. I tried to settle into a pace that I thought would be sustainable and it sure was a lot slower than the first loop. About 700 meters into loop 2 I started to get a very bad side ache. I tried switching my exhale to the opposite foot but that didn't help. The pain kept getting worse and I started to think about dropping out. Just about that time I could hear Kelly shouting at me from the side of the course and I knew I dared not drop out there. I think I was passed by a bunch more runners but I really don't remember anything but again getting caught in the boggy area and vowing that on the third loop I was going to go wide and avoid it.

Somehow I found myself up the hill and running the last loop. I was hurting from the hill and wishing the puke light would quit blinking yellow. Coming down the long straight portion that danger went away but I looked ahead I saw the back of a distinctive head. It was Pat Kenworthy, the 42 year old president of my running club that was running for the Oregon Track Club. I knew something was wrong because Pat is 2 minutes faster than me on a 5k road race. I just figured that I was still going too fast and would blow up on the next hill. I actually backed off for about 50 meters since I "knew" that I shouldn't be anywhere near him.

I finally decided that I would try and stay with Pat so I started to chase him through the trees catching and passing him just before a turn. I almost fell going around the corner but got lucky. Now I was in fear of Pat catching me so I tried to follow all the good advice the Deads were shouting at me from the side to stay ahead of him. Someone, one of the twins I think, warned me about a guy behind me and I assumed it was Pat. Pretty soon however, other spectators were yelling at a guy named Carl to catch "him". I guessed that I was "him" and now figured that I had two guys on my tail.

The puke light again was flashing yellow and Carl caught me as we went through the boggy section (I did go wide this time and Carl did as well). Carl was a little ahead of me at the turn up the final hill. I don't run hills well at all. I haven't done any hill work and I just was feeling lousy and NOT enjoying this anymore. I figured Carl would lose me on the hill and that Pat would most likely catch me as well. Again, my cheering section chose that time to show up and make impossible suggestions such as "catching" Carl (yeah right). I decided to try, just to prove to them the futility of the effort.

The hill is about 250 meters long with the second half being steeper than the first. By the end of the first half Carl and I were running shoulder to shoulder. I remember thinking what a truly unusual experience this was. I don't ever recall racing this hard against someone uphill. Things started to fog over a little bit at this point but I remember trying to find another gear to get by Carl. He and I both had friends shouting from the side but it was almost as if the voices were coming from far away. I think I edged by Carl right at the top of the hill where we make a sharp left for the final 120 meters to the finish. Somewhere I found a semblance of a kick and kept accelerating to the line expecting at any moment to see Carl or Pat go by me.

I didn't pass out or throw up on the volunteers in the chute, but it was close.

I think the results may be off or my perceptions are off. They show that Carl was 6 seconds behind me and that another runner was 1 second ahead of me. I don't remember anyone ahead of me and I don't believe I could have gapped Carl by 6 seconds over 120 meters. My guess is that my real time was 3:20, Carl was 3:21, and Pat was the 3:27.

I was pleased with my race. I again went out too fast but I felt that I gave close to my best effort. Often after a race I think I could have run harder. I didn't have that feeling today. XC is fun and I hope I can find some other races to run in. Anyway, it was a blast and I'm really glad I made the 2 1/2 hour drive for the race. My race was the last one of the day and watching the earlier races was amazing.