Dec 12

2015 Club Nats: My 31 Minute XC Season

10k + Cross Country + Race

2015 USATF XC Club Nationals was always a given. A December vaca in the Bay? Uh, yes please. Clubs had always been an event surrounded by fantastic camaraderie and memorable reunions. Hell, I actually went to Lexington, KY for the 2012 Nationals, didn’t race, and STILL reminisce about it.

That said, I came into this year’s event with some definite expectations for myself. I tried to be especially intentional with them as this would be the first year I wouldn’t be on a team and thus wouldn’t have the motivation of running for teammates (alas, The CLAP expired as a registered club, and with an aging, injured, or retired athlete base, seems to be destined to go the way of Stacy’s Mom and the Harlem Shake, an undefeated one hit wonder). And yeah, for me, when it comes to 5k+, I need all the motivation I could get.

Proof of the starting blitz

The starting blitz for the bottleneck

This would be my third 10k (all XC club races) and I had set a nice precedent in my previous trips. In 2010 I debuted with RMR at 67th place in 31:18. in 2013 with the CLAP I annihilated one of history’s most brutal courses for a 32:10 and a 27th place finish. Only 60 seconds off the winner! This year, the goal was to hang on to the back of the chase pack, and if I didn’t have it, well, I’d accept my fate on the struggle bus. The hope was to break 31 minutes.

The Prelude

The trip started off brilliantly. I was lucky enough to pass the pledging process for the HTS Elite sorority house. Further good fortune had me landing at the same time as a fellow sister so the trip was in good company right from the beginning.

Tangent: The Uber Brittni and I shared from the airport was also shared with a very talkative fellow who was either a big wig film director in the Bay, or a massive fibber. Like Liar Liar status fibber. At one point he gestured towards a grove on top of a hill a few miles in the distance and said, “That’s my house up there… We’re not going there, but that’s where I live.” It was a dozen acres of grassy, secluded space on a hill in the middle of lower San Francisco. I’m thinking literally worth a hundred million. He dove into is current en-devour of raising 15 million for a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Halle Berry called Blood Sisters and was constantly referencing landmarks and how they pertained to his various side businesses. Brittni and I exchanged incredulous looks in the back seat, eyebrows raised throughout the duration of that fascinating trip.

Tangent 3: I should take more pics. Here's one of my only

Tangent 3: I should take more pics. Here’s one of my only photos…

Tangent 2: HTS Elite has been a staple in the Boulder running community ever since I came on the scene over 3 years ago. Brad Hudson, the coach of the group, is one of the shining lights of the community, always inclusive and accepting of outside runners. He’s let me join his guys on Sunday runs and whenever I want to do strengthy 800 repeats on the track (or what his marathoners call “speed”). Please do support his group at any opportunity!

Brad would only be sending his girls to this race and they rented out a nice victorian Airbnb in Mission, a culturally interesting little area. Up the hill from our place was Zuck’s $10million mansion (to which we gave a wide birth in order to avoid instigating paranoid black SUVs). Yet, for our pre-race dinner we walked the other direction though a young professional area and into little Mexico for two blocks before arriving at our romantic Italian destination in the heart of the orient (we were surprised to find it as well). The area is a serious melting pot.

A plate of pasta. A glass of wine. Another half mile back home. Bed by 10. And breakfast at 7. The perfect prelude to a noon 10k.

The Race

I jogged around quite a bit pre-race, finding old friends, runners, past Williams teammates, and bay area spectators all over the place. God it’s good to be back at these events!

The course this year was a little soft, with the key element being a soggy sprint for the first bottleneck about 350m from the start line (see pic 1). I just wanted to get out, get in a good position, and let the pack flow around me.

Oh, because of this well known element of the course, the men’s race was broken up into two this year. They stated some silly prerequisites for getting into the fast (main) race like having to have run 29:30 in the past year or finished top 25 in 2014 if you were not competing on a team. I mean I guess that’s reasonable but I didn’t know how it would be enforced. When I grabbed my bib, I asked what race I was in and they didn’t know. After consulting with someone “in the know” I was given entry to the A race. However, come check-in 10 min prior to the gun, my name wasn’t on the list. I, of course, acted skeptical of this and the concerned official directed me to the starter. I came up with an angle on my way over to him but had barely even introduced myself as an unattached racer before he told me box 27 was open and his recommendation. Good enough for me! On with the warmup.

2 minutes to the gun everyone else started huddling up and loosing primal howls of adrenaline. It was a little sad not having the infectious smiles of my own CLAP teammates this year, but I poured one out for them from my water cup.

Eventually we were all equals again toeing the line and the gun went off.

Gotta get out.

macklin_xc_2015

The only pic I could find from the race. About 1k in.

Mission accomplished! 400m in I was safely resting in about 20th position with some nice daylight in front of me, and as I gathered myself and fell into my effort zone, people indeed began to flow around me… Fast. Embarrassingly fast. There were some runners literally skipping out and around me trying to get back to where they knew they belonged. I still came through that first mile in about 4:45, but there were no splits being called so I couldn’t say for sure. By about this time I was breathing pretty hard and I began to enter survival mode.

Thus began 6k of a demon on one shoulder, angel on the other. I let guy after guy pass me without response for the first 5k of the race. At that point, I was mostly surrounded by my people. There were distinct uphill and downhill parts to the course but I couldn’t seem to make much headway on the downhills. Finally, we made it to 8k, a point in the race where I started feeling a little more familiar with various mental cues. I began to gather myself and output a little more power for the next 800m. Finally I crested a super steep 50m hill which promised nothing but 1200m of flat cinder to the finish.

OK, Macklin, get your ass in gear and give something you can be proud of later.

I started to battle with a guy next to me. I got up on his shoulder and he fought back. I pressed again and he responded as we passed a few others. I fell back, bounced to his other side, and ramped it up again. This time he fell onto my shoulder and I took strength in this.

The two of us strode out passing 1 or 2 more souls. Last straightaway! But a good 400m to go. I went into middle distance mode and for 10 seconds it felt good. Almost like using new muscles and a different system. But that last 60 seconds with the end in sight was excruciating.

I didn’t slow in my kick, but I finished in 31:53, about a minute slower than I was hoping for at the beginning of the race. 113th place.

Conclusions

I had always known that my 27th place finish in Bend 60s behind the winner was a bit of a fluke. That course was deliciously absurd with its conditions and its path around a hilly golf course. There were hay bales and all kinds of other goodies that played into the hands of a more athletic, agile runner than the rhythm runners that dominate the distance landscape. However, my result here was poorer than even my first 10k in Charlotte, NC back in 2010 (2 months before I ran broke 4 for the first time).

There are quite a few qualifiers that might explain away some of the poor result but even so, it would seem I’m not as strong as I’d really like to be at this time of the year. My workouts indicate excellent general fitness compared to previous years, but perhaps I’m just more used to altitude training?

Regardless, I’m glad I raced as it points to some adjustments that need to be made in my training. I need to try and maintain the good work I’m putting into raw speed but up the mileage. The tradeoff is higher injury risk, but at this point I’ve successfully weathered the first signs of my knee issue which might indicate that my body has that under control.

Time to take some risks.

It’s critical I run a fast mile on February 14th at the BU Invitational. That will set the stage for my run at the Olympic Trials in July.

The last part of the trip was once again exceptional fun, with a good old fashion runner party at a local club, a closing night and reminiscent morning with the sorority, and then a fantastic 24 hours with Sam in Bret in their hot new digs at the heart of Palo Alto.

Thank you to everyone that made the trip so enjoyable! All in all a stellar break from the base phase grind.

 

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