Sunday, November 19, 2017

PAUSATF Cross-Country 2017 Championships: getting my ego in check...

I didn't advertise my last post on Facebook so few people visited my blog 2 weeks ago where I was almost ashamed to... brag about winning a 5K! First because 3 miles look really short compared to what we are used to do un ultra running, but also because it wasn't much competitive (last year the winner clocked 15:05, this time I won in 17:47, how embarrassing... but like Frank Bozanich reminded us on FaceBook last week, you've to appreciate when winning a race at 53, and take advantage when the speedsters are not showing up, their fault! ;-) Or like the saying goes "Success is 95% preparation, 5% luck!").

Anyway, in that post I also shared how hectic my life was and it hasn't slowed down since, so much that I missed writing something last weekend (I may catch-up over the Thanksgiving break). Last Sunday I attended a Toastmasters workshop in the morning then drove directly to SFO to catch a flight for Raleigh, NC, flying back this Friday morning. And, this Saturday morning, I volunteered for 4 hours at the Berkeley Half-Marathon bib pickup to represent one of my sponsors, GU Energy, along with triathlete and coach Jake McDonald, and Agn├Ęs.

On Saturday evening I spent 3 more hours working on the draft of our 2018 Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) Grand Prix schedule, in preparation of our Long Distance Running (LDR) committee meeting this Sunday morning. Which was scheduled after the Cross-Country (XC) Championships, another convenient excuse to race again!
It was 42F when I arrived at Lindley Meadow, just in time to register and see the start of the women race. Gals had 2 loops to cover (4 miles) while we, men masters then open, had 3 loops to do.
Our Masters race came in second at 9:45 am. Chikara had told me not to push too hard on the first lap but event a 5:30 min/mile pace did allow to keep up with the front of the race, wow. Like for any USATF Championships, we were wearing an age group bib on our back, blue for M50-59, and I even could see a few of these far ahead after just one mile. But I passed a few in the second lap and was happy to actually run miles 5 and 6 faster than the others. While I didn't feel like able to push harder, I was barely out of breath when crossing the finish line, just under 38 minutes (37:58), a proof that I had not given it my all. And, surely enough, it showed in the results, posted about one hour later: 25th overall and 6th in my age group, won by Michael McManus of the HOKA Aggies (34:43). Tough competition this time, I think it's the first time I'm not making my age group podium this year, hence the title of this post! After me came 4 runners all within my age group bracket, the first one just 11 seconds behind: so close, so typical of cross country, an entire different sport and experience than ultra running. To put things in perspective, the winner of the Men Open division clocked a time of 30:19 for 10K on an uneven terrain, wow! And also an Aggie. Although I should mention that West Valley Track Club took 8 of the top 11 spots in the Masters race, way to represent the Bay Area!
One screen shot of my Strava activity to complement the short recount of this short race:
And the 3D flyover which makes it like a short walk in the park... (click on the image below):

As I was finishing my 2-mile cool down lap, an incident reminded me of my first race here, in 2003 when the start of our Men Open race was delayed because one of the Masters runner from Tamalpa had died from a heart attack on the course, 2 days after visiting his doctor because of chest pain, with his doctor telling him: "Com'on, you are a runner, you are so healthy, no problem for racing!". This time, it was a runner from Pamakids who had a bad fall which ended up on his forehead so the paramedics evacuated him after place a neck brace. Our sport is rather safe but sometimes scary accidents do happen, stay safe out there!
Speaking of 2003, it was my last year in the Open division and I had finished 118th out of 162 finishers, in 33:37 on a shorter course (5.8 miles) won in 28:32 by David Cullum from the Nike Farm. I couldn't be happier to move up a division the following year! The Open division spans 2 decades and make you feel old when you are approaching 40 especially in these shorter and fast races...

Amidst this cheerful reunion of clubs from all over North California and Nevada, it felt odd to the be  the only one from my Quicksilver Club, kind of feeling naked or orphan...
By the way, I put the Hoka-sponsored Aggies in the middle of this collage because their presence was overwhelming, both from an athletic and size standpoint, not to forget the party-style music which was still on when I left by 2 pm! They certainly know how to live by their long standing reputation!

Fortunately, there were a few representatives of the ultra community which now feels like family to me. The Abbs, Alan and Bev, Bill Dodson, Noe from Pamakids, Jason and Chikara from Excelsior, Alex Varner and Jonathan Bretan from Tamalpa and I'm still missing others. (And Jason Reed added that Jonathan is actually with the SF Running Company, and Alex running XC for West Valley TC, something I may should consider too.)

I even met an IBM colleague from our Silicon Valley Lab, Patrick! Beyond them though, many unknown faces especially in the Open division; seeing all these speedsters make you realize you have moved up to another generation, literally! ;-)

Special thanks to Tim Wason and his team from SF Running & Walking for organizing this major event (and the other race in September at the same place too), and these tireless and committed USATF officials who make such Championships possible.
At noon, it was time for our LDR Committee to meet and discuss quite some topics about our respective 2018 schedules for XC, Road and MUT (see agenda).
After working on it for the past 2 months, we've never been that close to finalizing our MUT schedule and we should be ready to publish in on time, next week, before the registration of a few big ultras early December. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, enjoy this most appropriate license plate: repeat the phrase after me "I'd rather be running"! ;-)

PS: More pictures of the race leaders of this morning's Open races. And the no less impressive M80 guys at the bottom of this post.

2nd place, from the Brooks Hansons team, graciously congratulating incoming runners:

And in the much older divisions:

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