Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Xterra National Trail Championships (21k)

It isn’t every day that a “National Championship” trail race is in our back yard. So once I heard that the Xterra Trail National Championship was at Snow Basin (Odgen Utah) this year, I got myself signed up to give it a go. The distance was a bit shorter than I was hoping for, just under a half marathon (21k), but it was still long enough to get a good workout. (thanks to Ken at for the entry)

I knew Max King was going to be there and a few others who were from out of state, but I thought I had a chance in the top 5. They were giving money out for the top 5 runners, so that was what I was going for.

I started my warm up with BJ Christensen, a co-worker of mine. He is more a triathlete, but loves trail running as well. Even with his 6’ 7” frame, he is a formidable runner. I didn’t think I was going to be able to hang with him unless I was on the top of my game and he wasn’t.

It was pretty nice day, weather was calm and sunny and not too warm. It was a great day for a trail race.

Max King had run the USATF 50k trail championships the day before in Bend Oregon in 3:27… he had to be tired right?? We had a chance...

We toed the line, BOOOOM – holy crap, I didn’t see the canon 5 feet from me. It scared the bejesus out me, not to mention it caused my ears to ring for the first 15 minutes of the race. They may want to put that further from the start line next year. We were off.

We ran around a parking lot to help space the crowd out before we hit the single track about a mile in the race. After we left the parking lot, we ran straight up the mountain. This felt like a cross country race, it was going to be fun race.

The pace wasn’t blistering up the hill and I felt pretty good. When we got to the top of the hill, Max and 3 others (BJ included) took off, at this moment I knew I was in trouble. I tried to go with them, but it immediately felt too fast for me and backed off a bit, that gear was not in me today. Pretty early to know I had no chance to win, haha. I was left in 5th place, so I had to hope that some would come back and that others would stay behind. I changed my mind set some and fell into a good rhythm as the trail wrapped around the mountain. I got one more glimpse of the leaders on another hill along a road, that would be the last I would see any of those guys.

I stayed in 5th place for a few miles, just cruising along. I had to work though; the miles just weren’t going buy like I was hoping, I felt flat. The course went up and down, had some sharp corners. A couple runners came up behind me and I could tell they wanted to get around me. The trail opened up a bit and they ran around me. One guy slipped on the corner and went down. We stopped and grabbed him to make sure he was ok, just a little blood, nothing serious. We all took off running again. I stayed with these guys for the next 7 miles or so with another coming up behind us.

As we ran, I would lose contact with them on the downhill's ad then gain it all back on the ups. It was pretty evident that I hadn't done much speed work as of late and was much stronger climbing. I really had no business running with these guys, but my ability to climb kept me close. We came to the 1300ft climb that would lead us up to the high point in the race.

The trail wasn't that steep, but steep enough you had to run it the entire way. It really became a grind for me at this point. Not feeling great, it was taking a lot of effort to stay with these guys. Near the top a few of them got away from me as the trail flattened and started to go down. I just couldn’t get the legs moving. It took me a bit to shake the legs out, but was able to start moving pretty good on the downhill sections. I was currently in 8th place.

On the decent two more guys passed me. One of the guys was able to get away from both of us. I matched the pace of the other guy who passed me and ran behind him the rest of the way on the downhill sections. I started to recover a bit at this point. Knowing there would be some uphill the last couple miles, I saved the energy for that section.

We got down to the bottom and the guy ahead of me slowed down and I was able to up the tempo a bit and got around him.

This section of the trail was very difficult. The up hills felt much bigger than they really were and it took everything I had to keep moving. With about a mile to go, I had distanced myself from 9th place. I was pretty much a lock for 8th. The runners ahead of me were too far to catch at this point. I had one more hill to power up right before the finish line. I crossed in 1:28:26 good for 8th.

Max won with a 1:17:59, he is just a freak. BJ was third with a 1:22:25 and ran great. Once he is done running triathlons, look out for this guy.

Here are the rest of the Results

I was happy with the effort, but also felt like I should have been able to get 4th or 5th place, it just wasn’t my day. Years ago, I probably would have fallen apart knowing I wasn’t having a great day. But I know now that if I change things just a little bit during a race, I can still pull out a good effort. It was a good experience and I went away feeling good about it.

I look forward to the race next year. It’s a very challenging course and a blast to run. I was surprised there weren’t more local runners there. There are some local guys who can give Max a run for his money, but they weren’t there and he was. Congrats on the win Max!

Fun race. I didn't think I would ever say this, but this race was too short for me. I believe I am officially converted over to the world of ultra running ;)


Cory Reese said...

That canon story is awesome even though you may need hearing aids now. Well-done!

peter said...

Glad that you think 21 km is too short. It is. I would have liked to seen a picture of Max with your friend BJ. I do like to root for the guys the lower elevation guys.