The series of races that I’m competing in right now is the Xterra Trail Run series, and since I live in Southern California, I’m doing the Southern California portion of the series. (http://www.xterraplanet.com/xduro/index.html; http://www.trailrace.com/ ). I think Xterra puts on a great series of races, as the courses are always challenging, and the competition is usually fairly strong. I learned about their trail run series last year when I competed at the Mission Trails 5k with some friends. (http://www.mtrp.org/events.asp?actiontype=showdate&the_date=2/1/2009). At that point, I was coming off some knee problems, and in the middle of the race, I was passed by some younger runners, which made me start seriously swearing at myself. Despite that, I had a decent race, and even though I was out for a while after that, I was motivated to come back stronger than ever for the 2010 series.
After running a couple Xterra races earlier this year, I was super pumped when I was offered a chance to race at Lake Las Vegas for free. (http://www.xterraplanet.com/xduro/lakelasvegas.html). I considered the offer for about thirty seconds before I decided that I was definitely going. And, after doing a little research and making a few plans, I had strung together a nice little series of events to do before and after. As a result, last Friday found me making camp near the Nevada border. Around eight o’clock, I watched the early stars come out before I went to bed. My plan was to get a good night’s sleep, since I would have to get up early to finish the drive, pick up my bib, and make the starting call. While it was a great plan, it didn’t work out, mainly because of some jackasses – literally.
Around one-thirty in the morning, I heard some crazy noises, which, when you’re camping alone in the middle of nowhere, is never good. In this case, everything turned out fine, as it was merely two wandering wild burros, who turned out not to be dangerous or hostile. In fact, after I fed them apples, we were the best of friends. In fact, we were such good friends, they wanted to continue hanging out, while I merely wanted to get back to sleep. After I got rid of the burros, I laid awake for a little bit, and then was shocked awake by my overly loud alarm.
As I drove into Las Vegas, I watched the desert glow and burn with the rising sun. By the time I arrived at Lake Las Vegas for the race, I was ready to go, albeit a little more blurry and tired than I would have preferred. I also had a lot on my mind that morning; people; questions about people; and general uncertainties about events in my life. As a result, the song running through my head was probably more along the lines of Elvis’ You Were Always on My Mind, completely sappy and slow, than my usual upbeat in your face warm ups of the Propellerheads or Rage Against the Machine. As I stretched it out, I took a minute to try and clear my head. While I couldn’t banish the uncertainty away in the thirty seconds of slow breathing, I did manage to reach a place where I could use it to motivate me. Which, as a semi-veteran runner, is my tip for this post: almost anything in your life can be motivation, if you look at it properly.
With my head mostly clear, and my body mostly not tired, I hit the start line. The race wasn’t as busy as some of the other Xterra events, and I found myself in a good starting spot. The course for the five and ten kilometer was the same; with the exception being that the ten kilometer was a two circuit loop and the five kilometer was a one circuit loop. The course led out through streets near the lake, before hitting some “rough” (I use that word loosely here) patches on the hills. After previewing the course, and then running the course, I have to admit that this wasn’t really a “trail” course; and in terms of other Xterra races, it probably was the worst layout I have seen. I make this point because most courses in the series are well positioned and metered. However, complaining doesn’t get you anywhere – especially when you’re running.
The race started, and I found myself packed in the lead group, heading up a hill immediately; before settling in. After the initial ascent, it was a slightly hilly course. Around the mid-point marker for the 5k, there was a semi-steep decent, but overall, the course was not overly challenging. Despite this, I found myself behind the fourth place finisher approaching the finish. I had been pushing it for a bit, and had shaved off a substantial amount of time between him and I, but despite how much my brain was telling me that I could catch him, my lungs were complaining loudly. Prior to the race, I had been concerned about how the altitude difference (Sea Level compared to 4000 feet) would affect my performance. I had tried to acclimatize to a higher elevation the days before, but due to a variety of activities, hadn’t spent enough time at a higher or equal elevation to make a great difference. (As a matter of fact, I had spent time at an elevation lower than that of sea level – doh!). Sadly, I didn’t catch him. In retrospect, I think had I made my push sooner, I would have had a better shot, but one never knows. Fifth place overall wasn’t a bad result, and it provided me with great experience for my next race, coming up on May 8, 2010 at Malibu. So, if you think you can school me or want to race with me, I’ll see you on the trail there! (http://www.trailrace.com/malibu.html).