When you signed up for the XTERRA USA Champs there was a question at the bottom of the screen asking if you were doing the double. I quickly checked the box without letting any thoughts of the unavoidable pain in my post-race body take over my decision-making sequence.
It sounded like a fun idea at the time. Clearly, I haven't raced for a while at the time when I signed up and I had forgotten how brutal the Snowbasin course is with the 3k+ feet of climbing on the bike and another 1000ft on the run.
Fast forward to the moments after finishing the race, still dripping the sweat/gatorade combo I was already second guessing my sanity.
I convinced myself to run but do the 10k only. For a little while I even thought about just heading home early Sunday morning but that would have been a coward-ish act to me.
I figured I didn't need to be home for anything in particular as I just quit my job a week before the Nationals so might as well race and deal with the pain later.
I spent Saturday afternoon trying to recover. I stood in the reservoir's water for 15 minutes, iced at the hotel, used my Compex Sport Elite on my quads and calves to help speed the recovery.
In the evening Anna and I attended the post-race gathering in downtown Ogden at the Harvest Moon Festival. It was good to see many of the athletes all cleaned up and already smiling over that morning's tortures- with tasty local brews in the hands. We all re-lived the action when the 2014 XTERRA USA Champs highlights of the action was showed on the main screen.
It was still dark as we drove out to Snowbasin Resort at 7am. It was rather unusual for me but came as a delight that I only had to prepare for this with a pair of shoes, a singlet and my shorts. No swim and bike gear needed to be set-up and counted over many times.
It looked like it would rain so I ditched the sunglasses and used a hat given to me the morning of the race by Bill, the owner of Optic Nerve sunglasses company.
In the midst of some skinny runners I spotted Roberto Mandje so I knew the pace would be taken out rather fast.
What I didn't expect was that the "other skinny runners" would be leading the way from the get-go, through the first half mile around the parking lot. I placed myself right behind Roberto as we started to climb but halfway through I noticed he was slowing so made the pass. On the top of the first climb there were still a few of us making up the bunch so the pace didn't let go. The course consisted of two big loops. The first one is mainly the same as Saturday's run leg during the triathlon while the second is the last 10-11k on the mountain bike course.
I found myself in 5th position after a few miles of climbing but I didn't feel secure. At the start of the second climb (mile 5.5) I could hear the footsteps of the 6th place guy. I let him get close and as soon as we started climbing I surged and quickly put some decent distance in him. The climb was long. Miles and miles long. I felt I had the advantage over some runners who have never raced the course before even though I only biked this segment the other way, the easy way. It felt like eternity before we reached the summit of Sardine Peak. There, I spotted my chasers again running about 20-30 seconds behind. Just as we rolled (run) around the point from where you can see Pineview Reservoir I made my second attempt to shake the pursuers off. As the course started to decline I bolted out and pretended I can run downhill for once. I never considered myself like a good downhill runner. Mainly because in Hungary I was surrounded by runners who were actually fast runners who could really fly on the downhills. A few hundred yards of sprint like that and I lost them. I still felt uneasy about the last 2 miles of the race. From the race profile it seemed like a little uphill so I wanted to put in as much time into 6th place as possible.
It all went well until I went down. Hard. Not sure how did that happen. There must have been a root, a rock or something in the way. I rolled my left ankle and lost my balance. For a while I was "running" like a sprinter when they cross the finish line, leaned over trying to stay upright. I knew I would fall. It was inevitable. Just before landing I turned on my right side and I rolled out my momentum. Fun it was not. I was up and limping right away. My left ankle hurt really bad. My right elbow, arm and wrist were bleeding. I looked back, no sign of my chasers. Although I knew that they were there and getting closer. There were only 2 miles to go, based on the mile markers. I fought hard to keep my pace fast but I had to admit it that it was still slower than of those running behind me. Then, after running through a meadow I spotted him. I was still in the money (1-5 receives prize money) but not for long. When he finally caught me he didn't pass. Actually, I slowed the pace down in preparation for the sprint finish. Then, he went past me. I let him go but the gap increased from a step to 3 then 10. I heard the loudspeaker in the not-too-far distance. I thought I had time close that 10 second gap that grew by then. Then, out of nowhere, we came out of the woods and my chances of collecting some beer money diminished.
I wasn't happy. Taking 6th at the end of a 13 mile run when you are in 5th for 12.5 miles is disappointing. But I was disappointed in myself. I let this happen. I lost it. After a brutal Saturday I knew that I wasn't going to win this Half Marathon but I actually lost the race.
I was now not only sore from two days of racing (4+ hours, 40 miles) but I had a twisted and very swollen ankle, bleeding and bruised right arm, dirty clothes. A few days later though most of the pain went away and I feel I have accomplished something great. I didn't do as well I wanted to at this year's nationals but I toughed it out.
Would I do it again?
Yes, I would.
Results- XTERRA Trail Run Nationals- 21k