It was nice to be racing again. 3 Months away from the competitive environment of a trail race and it felt that I’m starting over again. It really helps that I’m in a familiar course and a really festive environment at Soleus Cross Country Challenge 2017 to help me endure the rigors and pains of a race once again.
Soleus Cross Country Challenge 2017
3 months away from races. That’s the longest time I haven’t raced for the past 7 years. There’s a shift in priorities and I’m again in a period of re-invention. I’m trying to build on my business though I still make it a point to hit the trails or the gyms on weekends. I’ve been missing the competitive environment. I’m jittery too that I may run out of gas in the race. The good part was that this was my second time at this race and 4th time at this course. I actually joined Team Soleus on the recon of the 21K distance last April even if I am only doing the 12K distance for the race. It’s a familiar territory and I could probably map out the course profile in my mind already. It’s just great to be back and let’s see how the story of this race unfolds.
Race Map and Elevation Profile
Race starts in Mount Sinai and goes over 2 kilometers of rolling terrain before entering Casile trails, which is about 4 kilometers of descent covering more than 400 meters of elevation drop. After the u-turn in the bridge, the race goes on a climb back to the finish line.
The day started early for me since I took the shuttle, which leaves at 2:30 am and reaches the venue before 4 am, which is more than 2 hours before gun start. I got my raceyaya timing chip and had to wait for the time. I was really sleepy at this time. It was nice to see familiar faces once again though I’m trying to stay low-key for the race. As the daylight came, we were treated to a really nice view of the mountains surrounded by the sea of clouds.
After a long wait, it was gunstart for the 21K and followed by our (12K) gunstart at 6:20 am. There was a dance warm up handled by the ever reliable Soleus people. It was a descent to start the race so I just tried to go with the flow and run on the descents and recover on the flats and ascents.
I took this pace until I felt that familiar sting on my shin. Shin splints. I guess I’ve been so rusty that my legs had to adjust to the impact and rigors of running. I opted to use the second kilometer to warm up the legs by switching to a brisk walk pace. It would be better to slow down now than when I hit the 4 kilometer descents. The second kilometer had a few short climbs so the walking pace was just perfect.
There was a few meters of concrete before the long Casile trails. I decided to reserve my energy on the sweet descent. After the second kilometer I started speeding up. I used a run-walk set just to make sure, I don’t over strain my muscles. Gravity was on my side this time. The surface was a bit rocky and slippery. I tried to retrace firmer surfaces like the path which the motorcycles take.
This was the long and winding descent. This is the part to attack and just hope you still have energy when you get to the climbing part of the race. The kilometers were moving fast since it was free fall. I had several bad landings but good thing Hoka One One Speedgoat has excellent cushioning to reduce the impact of each stride. The perks of using a shoes that’s designed for downhill running.
Well, I’ve always be a klutz but that never stopped me from enjoying the trails. I just tried to focus on the surface and react on the shifts in trail conditions. The rocky part was the hardest as one misstep can lead to sprain or falling down. I just tried to use the firmer surfaces except when I needed to overtake.
On the long descent, you also get to appreciate the views as you get to see the mountains at some vantage point. In no time, I was on my way to the base of Casile and about to go to the u-turn at the bridge.
I made my way to the bridge and on the way back I started running towards the other end of the bridge. This was a selfie hot spot so there are some congested stretches along the bridge. The real race begins at this point. It was time to climb. I took out my trekking pole and set my mind to “don’t-you-dare-give-up” mode.
It’s now a mental battle. Since I am familiar with this climb, I made several mental note. The first kilometer is the steeper part and the next 3 kilometers is a climb but has a few flat sections for recovery. I took a short hydration break at the store before the climb and it was time to climb. I went on a slow and continuous climb. I set a pace I can maintain without stopping. Since I haven’t used my poles in months too, I was relearning how to use it once again. At first, it felt like it was dragging me but later on, I rediscovered how to give me an added push.
I felt slower than I usually am on climbs but the good part was I never stopped on the climb. It was physically exhausting and it was a continuous mental debate to stop and just take it easy. The tougher side won and continued to push me towards the end of the climb. The last two kilometers was back on the rolling terrain. I just went at a consistent pace since I wanted to reserve energy for the final climb to the finish line.
I finished the race at 2:45 and I’m just glad to be back. This was always a challenging course because second half of the race is pure climbing but somehow, I look forward to challenges like this. It makes the finish even more satisfying. Ok, It’s time for some breakfast!