It’s too damn dark. That was the first thought in my befuddled head as my alarm shouted loudly. My second thought was simply frustrated. I goddamn hate spring back, fall forward and all of that Daylight Savings bullcrap! My third thought was garden variety surly. Why am I doing this again? I didn’t have the answer to the last question; and I certainly couldn’t change the planet’s rotation to make me feel extra rested, so I did what any rational person would do, and rolled out of bed, cursing. After a bit, I felt semi-human, and slogged out to my car to drive up to the second regional SoCal Xterra race at Black Mountain. (http://www.trailrace.com/blackmtn.html).
As luck – or misfortune had it, the Black Mountain run had fallen on the Sunday which the clocks were changed, leaving me – and everyone else with one hour less of sleep prior to the race. As I watched the sun rise as I drove to the location, I felt a little less cranky. It was going to be a pretty day. But then, mini-disaster struck. I followed the directions to the race location, only to find that there was no race location there. As I scratched my head, checked my clocks and the date on my calendar, I saw other drivers who were clearly runners as well, driving in circles like hypnotized chickens. Rather than do the reasonable thing and follow one of them, I kept driving around in my own circles in increasing desperation until, out of spite, I followed one to the right location for the race. At this point (a month later) I can’t find the directions that I had that day, and I’m not sure if I read them correctly as I was very tired that day, but let this be a reminder of what I discussed last post (http://www.lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/2010/4/30/the-worlds-fastest-5k-the-carlsbad-5000-april-11-2010.html), to always allow yourself enough time prior to the race to get there and get ready.
Despite my potential directional incompetence, I got to the starting line just in time to hear the announcer discussing how the course was going to be an “in and out” track, meaning that we’d have to come back up the same hill we ran down. I lodged that fact and started hopping around to stay loose in the chilly, dewy air. The next thing I knew, the gun had fired, and I was mid-pack charging down the hill. As more and more people passed me, I began to wonder if I was just that slow, or I was having that bad of a day, or what exactly was going on. As we hit the turnaround point, the track leveled out, and I looked back up at the steep ascent up the hill in front of us. I could still see the leaders, and as my legs churned up the hill, I began to pass people, slowly, at first, and then in groups and bunches. Before I knew it, I had separated myself from the horde of tired runners who had blown their speed in the first part of the race, or didn’t have the legs to charge the hill.
My words of wisdom for this type of situation are therefore pretty simple: first, always run your race. Don’t worry about who’s passing you; or who you’re passing. Unless you’re that good, chances are there’s someone faster than you, so accept that fact, and do the best you can, but not on someone else’s terms. Second, on an “in and out” trail run, don’t burn your energy on the easy, downhill portion of the race. Save it for the killer ascent on the way back. But, back to the race. Even though I was running my race, I left a little time on the course by not pushing it as hard as I could after the person in front of me near the finish. As such, I finished fourth, but I’ll definitely be back next year with a better knowledge of the course, more motivation, and hopefully, a better night’s sleep.