Thought for the Day

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Mount Madonna Challenge 12K

I wasn't anticipating any racing last weekend. In fact I was thinking that I wouldn't get much chance to run, so I did some pretty good workouts Thursday and Friday, then six miles early Saturday morning, before our plans had changed. I really trained through this race, which will do me well in some of the stuff coming up, but didn't help much on Sunday.
I know Bill Flodberg, the guy who created this race 27 years ago, and he gave me some advice for how to run it. He said that you need to get in a good position in the first half mile, because after that you hit the single track trail going up the mountain, and it's difficult to pass. I should have known that this was good advice for someone like Bill, who used to win this race, but maybe not the best advice for me.
I started out fast, staying in the front 10% of the runners, and reached the bottom of the hill out of breath. I had heard that this first hill was tough. I mean, the name of the race includes the words "Mount" and "Challenge." That should have been a clue, but I didn't really know what I was in for. I've run some big, tough hills, but I started this one trying to do my 10K pace. It went up steeply, then switched back the other way up the mountainside, going up steeply. Then the same thing again, and again. The trees and brush were thick around us, so you couldn't really see how close you were to the top. I'm panting like a dog and chugging along telling myself "It's okay, we have to be near the top." And every time I think that, I see runners on the switchback above me.
I climbed like that for as long as I could. Meanwhile, I passed two people who had started on the hill ahead of me, and about five people passed me. You really had to be careful passing, because the footing was uneven, the trail was narrow, and it dropped off very steeply on the downhill side. You could here people saying, "On your left... Coming through... 'scuse me..." all around.
After about fifteen minutes, and after I saw a couple of people ahead of me take brief walks, I started walking the steeper rises. About five more people passed me, but after that, I passed as many as passed me.
There were no mile markers anywhere on the course. When I got to where the constant uphill relented, (and became rolling steep up and down) I checked my watch. We had been going steadily uphill, climbing, for about twenty minutes. Knowing the course now, I would probably save a little more at the start and be more conservative at the bottom of the hill.
The rest of the course was just a good, tough, trail run. A lot of it was on dirt roads.
After doing quite a few road races, it was interesting to me to observe a difference in races like this. In some races the runners stratify. You run with the same group of people pretty much the whole way. Throughout this race I was passing people and being passed.
People got away from me, and I caught up with them. I got away from them, and they caught back up to me. Some people were great on the uphill. Some smoked on the downhill. Some ran out of gas toward the end. Some found their second wind.
It was a beautiful day, a cool morning just starting to warm up as I finished. I loved the course, the trails over needles and leaves and powdery dust, the trees, the hills, the meadows.
I was fourth in my age division for at least the third time this year, but the third place guy was three minutes ahead of me.
My official time over the 12K course was 1:06:42, but my watch time and the time that showed on the big digital timer's clock when I came in was 1:07:35. They must've screwed up somewhere. This is about my marathon pace, but it hardly matters on a course like that. My legs today feel like I raced twice the distance. I'm more sore from this race than I was after running 30 miles lsd last weekend. Hams were hurting in the race, but quads are complaining now.

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