Full disclosure: I ran a bad race. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Realistically, I didn’t run that bad of a race. I still finished sixth in my age bracket, and in the upper teens for the race as whole. Out of a field of over seven hundred and fifty, I really shouldn’t be complaining at all. I’m also not going to make excuses either: sure, I had to get up super early to be at the race site; and yeah, last week, and this week, I’ve been battling some sort of respiratory crud; and I didn’t position myself correctly at the start, and got stuck behind some really slow people, but making excuses is silly.
I ran the race badly, and making excuses doesn’t change that fact, and to me, it diminishes the accomplishments of the people that were there who ran a good race, if not a great race at times. Realistically, had I been healthy, and had I done some things differently, would I have won the race? No, probably not. So, there’s no need to make excuses. When I ran Black Mountain, after I finished the race well, a person who had finished behind me came up to me during my cool down, and started telling me how “if he had been healthy he totally would have schooled me”. I listened politely and smiled, but what I was really thinking was, “You just had the whole race to ‘school me’, but you didn’t, so get out, guy!” For me, you either live up to your word, or you don’t, and if you don’t, you shouldn’t try to drag others down with you. I ran badly this week; others ran better, all I can do is get back into the groove and run better in my next race.
Despite my ineptitude, there were a lot of things I loved about this race. First and foremost would be the setting. I haven’t spent a lot of time in Malibu Creek State Park (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=614), but the scenery was amazing, especially this time of year with all the rain we received, everything was a lush, verdant green. The second thing I liked was the course layout. It was a somewhat brutal course, with a slight uphill grade for the first mile, broken by a steep uphill up some single track trail to the summit, followed by a slant downhill from single to wide track. But that’s how a trail run should be, with steep grades, single track trail, and some stretches of double to wide track to allow people to pass. It was an immense and impressive improvement from the Lake Las Vegas “trail” run which was really a road race. The third thing was the level of competition. When I broke into the single track section, I was surrounded front and back by runners who were in great shape and form all struggling to hit the hill and maintain their positions. No quarter was asked, and none given. It was a great group.
In terms of my race, I did not follow a number of my unofficial rules. I did not position myself well in the start group. I was at the race early enough to be in a good spot, but I mentally checked out for a bit while I was talking to some people, and then had to hustle to make the start. This caused me to burn a fair amount of extra energy in the first mile to get around people, which in turn threw off my overall race pace. The one thing I did do well (fortunately) was run to my strengths. I managed to pass a fair amount of people at the beginning of the hill climb, and maintain my position throughout the single track, but at that point, the damage had already been done to my time and my placing. I managed to keep a decent pace, and pushed it at the end to pass a few more people, but realistically, I didn’t have the mental focus that I needed to finish strong as I knew I was out of contention. Despite all of that, I’ll definitely be back next year, as it was a great race, and a lot of fun. Racing badly also has now given me a little extra motivation to finish out the series strong here at home at the end of the month at Mission Trails, so running a “bad” race isn’t all bad!