When one of the fast runners in town mentioned racing the Cross Country National Championships in Bend, Oregon I couldn’t resist. Heading into most triathlons I’m confident I can post one of the fastest run splits of the day, but this would be a completely different animal. I’d be racing against D1 collegiate runners, professionals, and a handful of Olympians. Frankly, I’d be a knife thrown into a gun fight.
Training for a race you don’t have high expectations for is an interesting task. On one hand, you want to do everything you can to get as fit as possible. Who knows, maybe you could have a breakout race and be up there with the fast dudes. On the other hand, sometimes you have to take a step back mentally and consider what you are really capable of. I knew I could finish in the middle of the pack and I was completely okay with that. Anything more would be a bonus.
A group of 7 of us made it to Bend on the Thursday before the race, and were greeted with a snow covered course. The race organizers had done a nice job partially plowing it, but there were still a few inches of hard packed snow covering the 2k loop. In watching this race last year I can say video does not do justice to just how difficult the course was. Each lap climbed almost 200 feet and there were some very steep pitches. Our race would be 10k with close to 1000 feet of climbing.
Prior to the race, volunteers shoveled the snow completely from the course. In conjunction with this the temperature rose to 45 degrees for race day leading to the course becoming a mud pit. “This is gonna be brutal,” is all I could think of prior to the start of the race.
After the gun went off I was quickly shuffled towards the back of the group. This is actually where I wanted to be so I wouldn’t start out too fast on the first 2 loops. At one turn a competitor slipped right in front of me and I had to hurdle him at the last second so I wouldn’t step on him with my half-inch spikes. I settled in nicely but still couldn’t help but notice my inner dialogue starting to say “I’m not gonna make it,” by the 3rd lap. At the start of my 4th loop I started to fear I may be lapped by the leaders if I didn’t pick it up. This was my motivation for the rest of the race. I was able to descend my last 2 loops, and finish strong in 60th place.
I’ve never been so content with a finish this low in my life. Sure I wanted to be higher in the results, but I was able to make it through the toughest course I’ve ever raced on, and got to spend time racing with a team; something I hadn’t done since high school.
I’m as motivated as ever moving forward, and I can’t wait to get the 2017 season going!