Monday, December 14, 2009

USATF National Club XC 10K Championships

Lexington, Kentucky 10K XC National Championships

December 12, 2009

First of all, where is Kentucky? Never been there, never thought I would be going there, had no reason to go until "The Team" coerced me into going. The Team was the same "Team" of GMAA runners who had me going to a 5K out and back road race in October where I nearly puked at the finish. Yes this would be on grass instead of pavement and would be twice the distance from before and have some hills. I figured I would do it for "The Team" and booked my flight to Lexington. The Team consisted of Norm Larson, Tony Bates, Jim Miller, Kevin McMahon and myself. And for this race we added Keith Woodward, Bud White and Ted McKnight.

The big issue in training for the race was to properly train in spikes on golf course like terrain. We were informed that the course would consist of rolling hills on grass. What better way to prepare than to run on a golf course. But we don't all have access to a golf course. On the advise of Kevin & Norm I started to do weekly speed work but on the gravel and wood chip trails in the Park behind my house with the spikes, my Mizuno Kaza spikes. 4 minutes hard, 4 minutes easy and so forth with many variations. And of course tempo runs too. I think these are Norm's favorite. Any way, for the month before the race, I tried to fit this all in with a crazy work schedule that had me up at 2:00 am most mornings and some nights working until 10:00 pm. If anything, I looked at this trip as a chance to catch up on some sleep.
Friday afternoon at 4:30 pm was my flight out from Burlington. I ate my pasta dinner in the airport before loading on the plane. No sooner did I get on the plane, that I passed out immediately and awoke as we were up in the sky flying to Chicago. With a quick transfer, I was off to Lexington arriving sometime after 9:30 pm and at the hotel shortly after 10:00 pm. Norm had the room all ready and had picked up the race bibs earlier in the evening. After a little snack and pre-race briefing, I was sound asleep until our morning wake up run at 8:00 am. Nice thing about this race was that we weren't racing until 11:30 am! I had an incredible sleep. Hadn't slept that good in months. I was woken up by a phone call from Bud who was wondering about our morning run. I looked over to Norm and he was already gone. I thought I overslept but Norm was out getting some snacks and arrived with bagels and juice. Nice! Shortly after that, we were down in the lobby and out the door for a morning run in Lexington. 22 degrees and mostly clear, not bad at all. After a 10 minute or so run, we were back at the hotel. More food and some rest and we were off to the races, only a 5 mile drive to Masterson Station Park. It looked just like a golf course, only it was a horse park with nicely groomed rolling grass terrain. We all took some time to check out the course and our spikes. Norm was hopeful that we could finish in the top 5 and if all went well, maybe the top 3. That seemed reasonable as this was the Nationals and more experienced teams from all over the country were here.
For the start, we had our block to start in, on the lower side of the field with a little more of an uphill climb. After some pre-race warm up, we were off and running. Right from the start, Norm was in the front for our team. Tony was next with some goofy green hat that you couldn't miss. I was a short distance back from Tony with the rest of the team behind. The course consisted of 3 full loops with a finish at the stadium. The pace seemed much more comfortable than at the 5K road race in October and a much softer surface which was more to my liking. I much prefer to run on grass and dirt than pavement. The race seemed to thin out from the mass start and we all got into certain groups. I was trying to watch the competition and at the same time was looking for Tony's goofy hat to make sure I was keeping pace. I felt pretty good and the sleep I had certainly helped. The spikes were digging into the soft spots and felt good too. The first 2 laps seemed uneventful and I was keeping a steady slightly under 6 minute pace. On the third lap, Jim Miller came by. Jim had been doing nothing but water training for the past month and I guess it worked. He was looking strong as he went by. Nice work Jim. I could see him picking off runners as he edged his way forward. And with Kasie on the sidelines yelling, I had to pick up the pace too. On one of the uphills I passed by David Oliver running for Greater Lowell, who has always finished ahead of me. Could I stay ahead? Almost to the finish, Kasie was yelling again to sprint. And with about 100 yards to go I decided to kick it in as I saw another runner ahead with a "50" on his back. (That meant he was running on a 50's team). I passed him and ended up finishing one second ahead, good enough to finish in 19Th place for our team. Kevin was just behind me and finished the same time as another 50 year old but with a photo finish, put him ahead. We all felt good about our race and with Norm leading our team coming in just under 35 minutes, incredible! Tony, Jim, myself and Kevin all came in within a minute of one another. And Keith, Bud & Ted, following along.
In the end, we all were surprised when we found out we won! We beat the second place team by one place. This was a team who won the last 3 years in a row and were the heavy favorites. After the race we all watched the women's open race to cheer on Kasie Enman and then I added some more miles for the day and explored the rest of Masterson Station Park and then ran back to the hotel to get ready for the post race party.
We have an incredible bunch of senior runners who help push each other to run the way we do and have fun while doing it. I was proud to be part of this team and thankful that I was invited to participate.
MY GEAR: The Mizuno Kaza spikes were awesome! When I needed the traction on those slippery sections, I just dug in my toes and they responsed as they should. It was warm enough to wear the Mizuno shorts too. For the run before and after and the run back to the hotel, the Mizuno Alchemy's worked great as usual. Thanks Colin!
Maybe next up, I could get these guys to do some team Ultra event. Wouldn't that be fun!
"2009 National 10K XC Club Champions"