I arrived at the event with a few butterflies zinging around in my stomach. I’m not often nervous before a race but I attribute this nervousness to expectations. I felt I could come out to this event and possibly win it, so with high expectations there is sure to be a bit of nervousness.
Those nerves quickly abated as I warmed up and carried out my pre-race protocols of a 10 minute run with a couple of speed pick-ups and some mobility and movement. All this starts roughly 30 minutes before the race or more (in this case the race was small so I didn’t have to worry about making it to the front of the line).
The MC gave a thirty second warning and the guy next to me followed it up by telling me, “You look like a pro, you can take off ahead of me.” He made that comment because I wore the new SOF OCR gear and wanted to try it out to see how it performed in a race. I could tell all the fast guys at the start line were a bit concerned about me. Surely, I must be the Ryan Atkins of this event. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything to worry about. The suit looked awesome, but I was no Atkins in that race.
Prior to the race start I felt okay. A bit tired from a long day in the sun but I didn’t think it would impact my race. I drank a lot of water and ate well leading up to the race so my own hopes for a fast race were high.
In comes the 15 – 16-year-old athletes (rumored to be part of the cross country national ski team but that’s as of this point unconfirmed – they may have just been some fast teens). They wore heart rate monitors and had good warm-up drills. You can always tell an athlete from the regulars in how they warm up prior to racing. If they weren’t national skiers they were coached in a sport that understands warm-up protocols. They looked fast and it turned out they were fast.
The siren went off (yes it was a siren which confused the start of the race for everyone for a couple of seconds) and we were off. I took off keeping the young guys in my sight but they were flying. I looked down at my heart rate monitor a couple of minutes into the race and it read 179. The odds of me keeping such a pace (4:17km for the first km) were unlikely and I slowly backed it down to keep my heart under control. Unfortunately, despite the name of the race, mud didn’t come in depths like a Mud Hero race; it barely slowed anyone down. This would be a runner’s race with a few inclines and declines and some mush to slow things down but nothing that would give my size and strength and grip training any advantage (I like to think if this was an OCR race I would have placed better).
From that point on I tried to enjoy as much of the race as I could. I knew I wouldn’t place top 3, they were long gone by the end of the first lap (2 minutes ahead of me as later video footage would show). I felt pretty good overall. I had energy, I was hydrated (although at times felt like I could have used some water) and was running my heart out. My average heart rate at the end of the race was 179bpm. I had given it all I had and nothing could have changed the result unless I came to the race with better conditioning.
The result is that I came in 6th overall. 4 minutes behind the first-place finisher. I was immediately disappointed in my results and it took me a while (and some ice cream) to feel better about it. I had really wanted to place higher but it wasn’t in the cards for me. I know for a certainty I couldn’t have run it any harder. I probably could have paced the start of the race better, but the second loop was consistent to the first loop in pacing and I don’t know if it would have improved my time too much (not enough to place higher).
I now need to look at this race as a positive experience. I learned that the OCR gear is awesome even in the heat, my prerace meal worked out well because I didn’t feel hungry or tired (beyond heart rate and max speed), and I was hydrated enough to run it in a decent time. My run time for the 6km race was 33:41. It’s tough to say how good that is or if I’m seeing progress in a race like this with so many variables (that’s why racing is the execution of training, not the feedback gauge). My calves feel broken today so they were working hard through the race. What I could do better in the future would only come about if I ranked the race more important and rested and mobilized more for the race – but I rated it a 3 for a reason.
Up next in major events is Spartan Ultra in Ottawa.