The Santa Monica Mountains 9k

“Doing good, sweetie.  Relax  your shoulders.  The next girl is close…”

“I don’t care!”  I snapped back.  The truth was I DID care, or there would have been no reason to go into bitch mode in my fiance’s direction.  I was 1 week out from a race that depleted every part of me mentally and physically and those parts were not ready to race again.  But Sarah Spelt was one of my favorite race directors, and she had been kind enough to let my fellow bastards into her race the Santa Monica Mountains 9k, 18k 30k and 50k for a very generous discount.  I wanted to be out there to both support my team and  an old friend’s event.

As soon as my Jeep pulled up to the start line, the sky opened up and it started pouring.  The wind was not helping matters.  We were absolutely freezing as we picked up our race bibs and wished our fellow bastards luck.

Most of the team had opted for longer distances but Carl and I had chosen the 9k just to go at an enjoyable pace.  The wind and rain made us happy for that decision!

As the 30k and 50k took off, and shortly after the 18k, I looked around and sized up my competition.  Initially, looking at results from the past, I didn’t think I really stood a chance at placing overall, but maybe in my age group.  My legs were still super tired from the week before and I didn’t want that added pressure.  Sure enough though, when they yelled ‘go’ I ended up in the lead female position.

Less than a mile down the trail, I was passed by a strong female runner.    My legs felt heavy and I knew I wasn’t at my best, but the competitor in me still didn’t like it very much.  At the turn around, a second girl passed me, with another one not too far behind.  I started reasoning with myself.  Top 5 female would be legit, and something Eric would be proud of 1 week out from a big race.  I did my best to hold 3rd by tailing the 2nd place girl as long as I could but she put distance on me quick.

About a mile and a half out from the finish something possessed me.  I would see 2nd place on the switchbacks and I was gunning hard to catch her.  My legs were SO angry at me, as the wind blew painful horizontal drops of rain directly into my eyes and I slid down muddy trails.  Twice I even put distance on Carl as I raced as hard as I could down the trails.  Soon enough, I could see the finish line about 1 mile up and both the 1st and 2nd place females were not far in front of me.

I raced with everything in me, checking my fear of falling on the technical trails at the door, huffing and puffing gasping for air and tasting blood.  I gave it all that I had but still  finished 3rd only a few minutes behind the other two fierce competitors.  Upon finishing, we all congratulated each other.  We had all pushed each other harder than we could have pushed ourselves that day and it was truly an honor to compete with them.

Waiting at the finish line volunteering was an old friend, Jorge.  He had won Badwater the year I had crewed Dean, and was one of the most talented ultrarunners I knew.  He humbly congratulated me,a man who could have run that course in half the time I did, as I realized what I had just done.

“Carl… this was my first top 3 overall place in a race.”

“I know,” he smiled.  “You ran hard.  Congratulations.”

“Sorry I yelled at you…”

Although I definitely don’t plan to make a habit of racing back to back like this, I am happy that I put myself into a position like this today, once again proving my nickname.  Practice is once thing, but put me in an organized event and I will never turn off my inner ‘racer’ no matter how beat up I may feel.

And with that being said… time to rest and recoup to get ready for my annual Thanksgiving Day 5k on Thursday.  After that I think it may be time for a little break till December 10th, for some easy training runs, experimentation with weight lifting, and just some fun with friends, as I wait to see if I will be a competitor in the race that will potentially define my year.  The Western States lottery cannot be held soon enough!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Emmanuel February 21, 2012 at 7:28 am

great post! bhneid every great athlete is one or more just-as-great spectathlete. good luck on your IM! i just signed up earlier this week for my first IM (canada). eek! i already know that having a great support system is going to be just as crucial to me finishing as my training will be.

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