The Bitter(sweet) End

Thursday, December 19, 2013

                Cross-country season is over. I raced decidedly fewer races this year, due to the two 50k’s I did, but managed to sneak into the top 5 in the standings (in a tie with a friend), so hopefully we’ll both be comped for next season. While I’m happy with the bulk of the season, our trip to Bend this past weekend left a fairly bitter taste in my mouth. I recovered from Bootlegger quickly and was able to do quite well at PA’s. However, club nationals did not bring such a result. On Thursday, our team drove up to Redding and then continued on to Bend on Friday morning. We ran the course on Friday afternoon and after being slightly skeptical about the course on the first lap, I grew increasingly excited as we ran a few more laps. The course was truly an xc course – on a golf course, but instead of being the usual “off-road” track meet down fairway after fairway, this course cut across fairways, with steep dirt sections and sharp turns (often with the terrain banked in the wrong direction). There was not a lot of climbing, but the loop had decided up and down portions, which when combined with the turns, yielded a course that didn’t really let you get into a rhythm at any point. I quickly realized that this was a course on which I could/should excel. After the preview, we had a big team dinner at the masters’ house, I snuck in some Osmo preload, and then we went to bed.

                The open men’s race was not until 12:45pm on Saturday, which meant that a couple of us went for a shakeout run around 8:30am. The air was cold, but not too bad, and the wind was not noticeable. We got to the course in time to see the masters women finish, watched the masters men and then began our warmup as the open women were on the course. The wind was decidedly worse than it had been the day before or even that morning, and it seemed much colder. For once, I was happy to be racing in the middle of the day, as it would be warmer than at 9am.

                As we toed the start line, we realized just how big the open men’s field was. 430 registered runners meant a 100m wide start line packed with people. The course started off on an uphill and didn’t funnel down for 200-300 meters, so we were able to get into a good position without too much trouble heading into the first turn. I put myself in a great position through the first lap and a half and was ready to start moving up when all of a sudden, I couldn’t. I didn’t have anything in my legs. With the better part of 4 laps to go, I was already dreading the rest of the race. From there on, it was just a struggle to the finish. I felt about the same as I did last year in Lexington, but this year it wasn’t because my legs were dead. Afterwards, I realized that Bend was about 800-1000ft higher than I had previously thought, and I think that played a pretty big role in how I felt. That was slightly more confirmed when I felt amazing on my run on Monday, as if I hadn’t raced at all.

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Please let it be over soon.

                After finishing and agreeing with my teammates as well as other random competitors that it had decidedly sucked, we headed back to our house, showered, and headed out for the night. We started at 10 Barrel and then moved over to Silver Moon where we saw old friends and made new ones. This night was easily one of the most fun nights I’ve had at nationals. There were a ton of people out and all in the same place since Oiselle and PickyBars threw a joint party. Usually, everyone is spread out with their respective teams at different bars throughout the host city, but this party provided a place for everyone to get together and it was a ton of fun. So cheers to that and hopefully other running-related/local businesses in future host cities take note.

While this trip was certainly enjoyable (nationals always is), I noticed a decided lack of excitement on my part for the race itself. Before the race, I constantly wanted to just get it over with already. I never really felt those pre-race jitters that have accompanied me on every other trip for club nationals. Even on the course on Friday afternoon and seeing everyone out there, the excitement I felt was nothing compared to what I’d felt in previous years. I think it was mostly due to some let down following Bootlegger. After winning there, I got into the mindset that any other good performance for the rest of the year was just icing on the cake. I found myself looking towards 2014 and simply going through the motions at PA’s and nationals. While I’m very happy that PA’s went well, it didn’t garner the same level of satisfaction that I’ve derived in the past from running well at that race. And the same went for nationals – I’m not as disappointed as I feel like I should be despite underperforming. When I look back on this season, I’ll remember my races at Headlands and Bootlegger and the celebrations that followed PA’s and nationals rather than the races themselves. It’s a weird feeling, but I’m ok with it.

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Consensus: That was not enjoyable.

With the year almost over, I think I’ve got one more post in me before 2014. It’ll probably be a reflection of some sort, which is why I didn’t get too far into the woods today. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to get to 4,000 miles on the year.

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For the stat nerds, I slowed down a lot compared to PA’s.

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About afvarner

Runner. Donuts. Sneakerhead. Not necessarily in that order. Nike Trail Elite. Picky Bars. Gu. Vicory Sportdesign.
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