Monday, February 18, 2008

USA Cross Country Championships

Everyone should be versed in the results by now, and realize that yes, I in fact got blown so far out the back door that it was no longer funny. Instead, it was sad. Nevertheless, I had a great time despite my misery.

Upon arrival on Tuesday, the weather proceeded to be cold and rainy basically until Friday morning, when we were greeted with warmth and sunshine. Barf, Andy and I headed down to Mission Bay Park to meet our friend Eric for a course preview. We saw all the favorites there warming up - Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein, Shalene Flanagan, and of course, my girl, Delilah DiCrescenzo. She is the inspiration for the Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah." Anywhere else in the world nobody would care, but at a running event it's a topic of discussion.

The 2km loop consisted of a flat and "fast" first kilometer, followed by a series of five rolling hills in the back half. For the men's 12km race, it meant 6 laps. My expectation, or rather, my hope, was to be able to go 7:00/2k, which I felt was fast, but doable (high 5:30s). After 3 slow laps on Friday, I did one at "pace" and ran a 7:20. It felt much harder than I anticipated, and then I figured somewhere around 7:10-7:20 was going to be much more reasonable. For a soft surface XC race, 5:45-5:50 was a more real goal. Friday night we went to a club, and were out real late.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 6:30 am local time to a phone call from Brian Godsey. I didn't answer it and tried to fall back asleep, but since my body told me it was 9:30 am, I just rolled around. I felt like death. It was warm out, but pretty windy at the park. I did a slow 2 mile warmup, finished up and watched Shalene Flanagan demolish the women's field (25:26 was her 8k time, 1:10 up on 2nd place). Then it was my turn.

There were 185 starters on the line, and I lined up just behind Dathan Ritzenhein and Josh Rohatinksy (2007 NCAA XC Champ). The gun went off and even if I had wanted to throw an elbow, there was no one around for me to throw one to. I was already shot out the back. I hit my first 1k in 3:21, and came through the 2k in 6:54. For some reason this was extremely hard and I had to back off. I began clicking off 3:48 kilometers, which yielded slower than the slowest I expected times. Hit 5k in 18:10, 8k in 29:37 or something, 10k in 37:30. I was so demoralized, running alone, running slow but feeling like it was hard. All I had wanted was to get dragged through to a low 17 5k and then try and hold on.

The highlights of the race came after the half, when, somewhere around the 9.5km mark, the leader (Ritz) was going to make "the catch." I motioned to Andy and Eric to get ready, and they ran alongside until he passed, and tried to get a picture. I looked over at the camera, gave a goofy smile and thumbs up, and the crowd roared with laughter. More people passed me, and it was really amazing watching how effortless they made it seem. On my final lap, with about a kilometer to go, Andy and Eric jumped in to run with me for about a hundred feet, with beer spilling out of their red solo cups. Another hilarious moment.

All in all it was a great experience, although I probably should have known better and not actually run in the event. Made me upset that I didn't at least go to watch Brian in NYC two years ago, but I was out of town. I'll find out where it is next year and will probably go back, provided it's somewhere I would actually want to go.

In other news, check out the sidebar for the results, BG ran a PR 8:24.86 in an indoor 3000m over the weekend to win the race by 14 seconds, and then finished 7th in a highly competitive 1500m field. Great job!

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