Last week I caught wind of the FootRx Asheville Cross Country Series. Unfortunately, by the time I came up to speed, so to speak, there were only two races remaining. So, with my recent speed work(of sorts), I decided that a shorter race could be a great way to test myself and serve as a nice diagnostic test for what I can ask of myself and what goals I can set for the next months of training.
So race #9 of the series it was. The stage was Jackson Park in Hendersonville. Another place worth checking out if you find yourself in the area. The course was very much a cross country course featuring running through grassy fields, a couple of short stints on asphalt, and predominantly on wide trails. The race was a 6k, about three times shorter than any race I'd run prior. Given my inexperience in running short distances I was aloof as to what to expect with regards to my performance, but I knew I'd work my hardest.
At the starting line I met a few of the runners and was informed as to who the top-runners in the group would be, and then the race had started. I found myself seeking to stay on the tail of the two notorious frontrunners in the group and was able to keep the gap within about 15 yards for the first kilometer where a cramp led to a little faltering in my speed.
As we entered the woods I was able to regain a little peace of mind and began to push myself through a couple of quick kilometers. In the open spaces the two leaders were still in sight, but I didn't have a whole lot more to offer that would allow me to catch them. Thus, I settled into to a pace that was still very quick for me hoping to ensure that I wouldn't be passed by anyone.
In the final kilometer or so fatigue really set in and the cramp in my side returned more vigorously that before. But through the final couple of hills I was able to keep up a reasonable pace and come to the finish line just where I had started, in 3rd place!
Running "fast" in a race was a very new experience for me. I have always worked hard in races from half marathon to 50 miles and, don't get me wrong, it exhausts you, but to keep up a fast pace throughout a short race brings about a totally different type of fatigue.
It felt great to finish. The top two performers put on an amazing show finishing twenty seconds apart in the mid-22 minute range. I pulled in two minutes behind at 24:48 (~6:21/mile) with the forth place finisher arriving a minute and a half after me.
It was a great race to be apart of, a million thanks to Aaron Saft and the rest of the FootRx for the preparations and cheering they provided before and during the race. And a million congratulations to all of the runners that worked hard and got to enjoy a beautiful day on a beautiful course.