2011 Xterra 21k Trail – Race Report

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Phew! I didn’t realize I could run that fast.

This was the first race I can remember where I told myself going in, “Go all out & see what happens.” Realistically, if I pushed myself too hard, I could’ve bonked, and had to walk it in. Basically, I was operating under the all-or-nothing principle.

The Start

I started in a lead group with about 10 others. Since there was no chip timing, I really wanted an even start with the best of the best. It would also be nice not to weave through people on the single track. And I figured I would push myself harder if I ran with the leaders.

The Lead Pack

A lead pack of about 12 started to develop. After 4 or 5 minutes, I quickly realized I couldn’t hang with their pace. I was probably doing low 7:00s, but these guys were easily in the 6:00s. And they had it on cruise control.

I tucked myself into the back of that front group, and found a pace I was comfortable with.

The Ruins… didn’t ruin anything

The infamous Myan Ruins came early on (I think to everyone’s liking). If they made us climb those things in the latter part of the race… well, that would just be wrong.

I usually take them very slow, careful not to waste too much energy. I crawled up them pretty quickly, staying in control. 5 seconds of walking was still needed at the top, to quickly regroup.

Buttermilk

I’m no stranger to this part of the course. I’ve run Buttermilk more times than I can count. Some days have gone well. Others… not so much. But I knew the trail, it’s baby hills, turns, roots, rocks, and short but steep descents. I ran hard. I ran well.

The Internal Conversation (aka: Forest Hill Park loops)

Being the first race I’ve ever gone all out, my mind kept playing tricks on me. An internal conversation ensued. Confidence vs. Self-doubt.

Slow down. You’re going too fast.

Keep pushing. You’re faster than you think.

Keep drinking. Don’t get dehydrated. It’s ridiculously humid out here (That last part is 100% true. No bones about it.).

You got this. Legs feel good. No cramping. Keep doing what you’re doing.

For 6 miles, I went back and forth. Luckily, Confidence prevailed.

10k Support

Through Forest Hill, we started to see some of the 10k runners who started 30 minutes after us. They were incredibly supportive. And quite mobile, making every effort to get out of the way so I could pass. Thanks guys.

Rock Hoppin’ River Crossing

I probably lost a little time jumping rocks across the river. I navigated it well, taking the shortest path possible, but I put on the brakes just slightly. I was running a near perfect race so far, and the last thing I needed was to bite it on a slippery rock, or twist an ankle.

I even waited patiently for two 10kers to climb the ladder onto Belle Isle. My old racing self would have climbed the wall, but I’m glad I waited. It provided a brief rest, and it was the gentleman thing to do.

Belle Isle

It’s really more like a small mountain in my opinion, but you can call it what you want. Pretty much a straight shot up to the top, a few hundred yards across, and switchbacks right back down.

As soon as we came down, I knew precisely how far until the finish. And for the first time in a while, I looked down at my watch. 6 minutes left to break 1:40.

It was time to see what I had left in the tank.

Tank. Full.

How, I have no idea. Well, I’m sure adrenaline had something to do with it. And I knew there were no more hills, so it was game on to the finish.

Up the ramp to the footbridge, blinker on, get in the left lane, pedal to the floor. At this point, my breathing sounded like a 200lbs wild animal of some kind. My form might also have mimicked that of a wild animal, although I was trying to keep it together. Sometimes I just get too excited.

Home Stretch

Down the footbridge, onto Tredegar St, pedal still on the floor. I might have eased up just a bit for 10 seconds. I needed to make sure I had something for a sprint finish.

Smiling on the Inside

I had a look of pure anguish on my face. I usually throw my tongue out at this point too. Arms pumping. Lungs working overtime. Eyes squinting. I looked like absolute hell, but I was smiling on the inside.

The Finish

I blasted through the finish in 1:39:29 (a 7:37 pace). On that course, with those hills, and that humidity… very respectable.

12th overall, and actually 3rd in my age group. They gave me a medal. That’s never happened before.

Post-race

I saw a guy I recognized from last week’s 50k. We talked for a while. Real nice guy. From Montana. Going to school in Winchester, VA. Nice to meet you, Rob. Thanks for the conversation.

We stuck around to watch a few more friends finish. I stuffed my face with muffins, and devoured a dozen orange slices. Misting tent. Porta-potty. And lots and lots of deep breaths. Phew! That was awesome.

The Takeaway

I sit here now, 60+ ounces of water later, an ice bath, self-massage, cold shower, protein shake, and just flat out laid down for 30 minutes. And I feel good. Real good.

The human body is an incredible machine. If you treat it right… listen to it… give it what it tells you it needs, when it needs it… it’s capable of some pretty incredible things.

If you don’t believe me, please test it out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you discover.

2009 Xterra Xduro 21k – Race Report

A challenging course around the James River in Richmond, VA. This race has a few unique elements: stairs, storm drains and the Mayan Ruins. Not to mention some ridiculous humidity. It’s a fun race, but for me, it was a relaxing 13 miles in preparation for 8 more later in the day.

Xterra hosts a series of off-road events all over the country. They come to Richmond once or twice a year to host a few trail runs on Saturday, followed by off-road triathlons on Sunday.

Course description

This is not your ordinary 21k (~13 miles). You run up and down 30+ stairs 3 times. You climb the Mayan Ruins. You run through a sewer drain… twice. And you have to navigate the extremely hilly, confusingly curvy switchbacks of Forrest Hill Park. This course is sure to challenge even the most conditioned endurance trail runner.

My approach

This was the first race I could remember where I didn’t push myself to compete. I didn’t care who I beat or where I finished. My goal was to get the mileage in, keep my heart rate low, and be smart up and down the hills. A year from now I’ll be running a 100 miler through much more severe elevation, so I better start practicing now.

Back of the pack

I really enjoyed running in the back of the pack. I talked with a few nice people along the way, and even went out of my way to pick up a beer bottle on the ground and throw it out.

I’d say my strategy worked well. By far my worst finish all year in any race… but I had enough gas to run another 8 tonight… and I felt great.

21 total miles for the day.

The result

2:22:04
148/177 – overall
22/24 – age group