I had never run an Xterra event, but the National Trail Championships seemed intriguing and I knew there would be a lot of really speedy runners in the race. This race fit very well in my schedule and was local, so it seemed obvious what needed to be done.
This is also an ideal race for Jo to run. Due to my own demands for a crew and race manager, Jo doesn't get to race as often as we would both like.
The race worked well with my schedule because I'm working on a taper (sorta) leading up to the Bear 100, which is held 5 days after Xterra. I started September with a 50k, then digressed the following weekend to a trail marathon, then dropped even further the following weekend to a trail half marathon, and ended my Pre-Bear racing with Xterra, which is also a trail half marathon.
September had 5 weekends, which naturally translates to 5 races.
My September has been going well and my results have been better than expected, considering my plans to rest for the Bear. I went into this race with every intention of going easy so I can keep my legs rested for my upcoming 100 miler.
Here's the problem with all that...When I'm running well and feeling good, I can only appreciate it when I'm running hard. So, while my mouth was telling everybody that I planned to run slow, my legs and brain were conspiring to make a liar out of me.
Xterra Finishers Bling
Checking out the Venue Before the Race
5 Time Xterra Champion, Max King
Max King has dominated this race for the last five years and was back to defend his title. Unfortunately for Max, he sprained his ankle shortly before the race and had been working on an abbreviated recovery so he could come to Ogden and take his 6th consecutive championship.
I spoke to Max before the race regarding his injury. He didn't feel hopeful and explained to me that he would be wearing a brace on his ankle during the race. I was curious to see how this was going to play out.
Backdrop for the Race in Fall Colors
The weather was strange and I didn't know how to dress for the race. It was much warmer than I had expected, but overcast. Storm clouds were building to the south, but the sky was clearing to the north. The weather was going to be a crap shoot, so I played it safe by dressing light. I can better manage being wet and cold than I can manage being hot and loaded down with layers.
The race started right on time, and we began by running a parade lap through the ski area parking lot so the field could thin out before heading to the trail. Once we left the parking lot, we hit a gravel road that took us right up the slopes.
It took me a minute to realize that I had run this gravel road before, but it finally sunk in, I backed off my pace because I happened to know that it was very long, and that it got much steeper toward the top. Forget the parking lot! This hill was doing a great job of thinning us out.
Once off the road, we hit some sweet single track. A lot of runners in front of me were already beginning to fade because they hadn't run the first hill correctly and I was slowly gaining spots.
A Bit of Sweet Single Track!
After the first aid station, it began to rain, which I was hopeful for because I run well in those conditions (and many others don't). Unfortunately, it proved to be a short lived event and the sun made its presence known.
By mile two, I was shirtless and sweating buckets. Not at all the best weather conditions for me.
Ski Lifts! A Staple in Utah Mountain Running!
After a few miles, we were running along the bench of the ski area and we passed just above the start/finish line that was nestled near the ski lodge just below our trail.
Heading up THERE!
We made a descent into the valley on trails that I had a lot of experience on. I knew the running would be fast for a while and I sped up to take advantage of it.
Gradual Ascent, but Still Fast
As we began to make our ascent toward Sardine Peak, I started to gain a few more spots. I felt good on the climb and ran every step of it.
For the briefest of moments, I caught a fleeting glimpse of Max King on the trail above me. I've raced with Max a lot and have learned that if I have anything to say to him, I need to do it BEFORE the race because it'll be my only chance to see him. This was a first for me.
In my fantasy world, it plays out like this...
Max King looks down and sees me. Our eyes meet. I instantly register the panic that suddenly surges through him at the realization that I'm on his heels. Trying to escape his pursuer, he realizes it's futile and curls up on the side of the trail as I go flying by. Max murmurs something about there being no shame in being beaten by me. Beautiful women in bikinis are lined up, waiting for me at the finish line with cold beer.
In real life, I never saw him again, but that little race fantasy kept my mind occupied for the rest of the race, so it's all good.
Back to reality...After finishing the ascent and enjoying the beautiful views, I started down the series of switchbacks that would take me back toward the finish. I knew exactly how to run this section of trail and I hammered my way down the mountain. I usually let gravity do most of the work on downhills, and I use them as an opportunity to settle my heart rate and rest my legs. But today, I was running them at full speed.
The View From Sardine
I was feeling pretty spent over the final couple of miles toward the finish but was running well. I had no idea what position I held and I wasn't really worried about it, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't at least mildly interested in an age group podium finish.
Flat Smooth Single Track Just Before the Finish
I could hear the announcer calling out finishers, and pretty soon, I could hear the crowd cheering for runners. I shot out of the woods, up a short hill and made my descent to the finish.
1:44:42...Not Bad for a Hilly Half
I was met at the finish line by friends and quickly had a cold beer in my hand to celebrate the end of my short trail races for the season.
After a bit of relaxing and socializing, Jo made her way to the finish line as well. She had almost the exact same finish time that she had posted the previous weekend, on a much easier trail system. She was happy and I was proud of her!
Great Work Jo!
Jo and I exchanged notes on the race and I was eager to hear what she thought. She hasn't run much of the trail network up there, so a lot of this was new territory for her. She really enjoyed the trails and had a great time running the race. I love it when she has fun and finishes feeling good.
Not a Bad Venue!
It turns out I finished 4th in my age group, just missing the podium and breaking a streak. These Xterra events attract a lot of very talented, short distance runners, so I wasn't surprised to finish like I did. My strength isn't found in the half marathon distance but I sure enjoy running it.
On fueling, I was excited to try the new Hammer Nutrition Peanut Butter Gel. I had been hoping this flavor would be released someday, and now it's here. It was delicious and effective. I didn't stop at any of the aid stations and had preloaded in advance with Endurolyte Fizz. Not having to slow for aid during these short races makes a huge difference in your finish time.
My race calendar is almost empty for 2013! I have only 5 races left for the year, but 4 of them are 100 milers and the other is a trail marathon. So, there aren't many events, but there's still a lot of work to do.
Jo and I will be heading to Logan, Utah this weekend for the Bear 100. I feel well trained and well rested. I think we'll have a great time running the mountains up there and I'm hopeful for a solid finish.
Thanks for taking the time to read along. I hope to see many of you out on the trails very soon!