I parked on the north side of the park with a thought that the walk across the river would loosen up my legs. I hadn’t checked the website beforehand, but I assumed the start line would be at the bottom of the hill on the south side of the river; I reached the ‘start line’ but no one was there. I had assumed wrong. A rising sense of panic arose in my chest as I checked the time. 11:40. There was no way I could register and find the start line before the race started at noon.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy implores us not to panic. I took a deep breath and called my friend Alan – he’d know what to do. “The race starts at the top of the hill, not the bottom. Don’t worry, I’ll register for you.” Thank goodness for friends. Disaster averted, I began to power hike up the hill.
At 5 minutes to noon I found the start line and took stock of my competition. My friends Anne and Kim were there, I assumed they would beat me so I looked around for other ladies who were more in my league. That’s when I saw Tara, the girl who had outkicked me in the final 100m of the first race in the series. She was my target for today, no way she was going to beat me again.
The race began with some narrow, mostly flat single-track which lead to a steep downhill. I ran at a conservative pace on the single-track and I found myself stuck behind several slower runners. Patience. Don’t panic.
I waited for opportunities to pass and slowly worked my way up the field, conscious not to exert too much energy in the passing. By the time I reached the steep downhill I had worked my up to an open stretch of trail. I bombed down the hill, the trail turned and as I planted my foot the snow gave way beneath my spikes. It was not a graceful fall and I skinned my knees on the sharp snow crystals. Don’t panic. I was up in a moment and pushed myself to regain my position.
There was a longish flat section that followed the downhill that was covered with loose snow and low hanging branches that forced you to duck low as you ran. Once again I was stuck behind a slower runner but passing was awkward so I focused on recovering my breath rather than wasting my energy on an aggressive pass. I could see Tara in the distance, there was still lots of time to make my move. We walked up a steep hill and I waited patiently until we crested and I could really take off.
The course was two loops and I headed back towards the steep descent. I blew past Tara along with a few other competitors. I sprinted down the hill, this time keeping my footing, and pushed the pace along the flat section at the bottom. “4th lady!” called a helpful volunteer. I was 5th in the last xc race so I was energized by the news that I was moving up positions. I listened hard for heavy breathing coming up behind me but I heard nothing. Confident that I wasn’t being chased, I focused on catching the next competitor.
Heading up the hill for the 2nd time I passed two guys and powerhiked as fast as I could. I imagined I was Kilian at the vertical K, hands on my knees and focused. Another guy came into view as I crested the hill for the final flat kilometre to the finish. The trail was winding and I was exhausted but I eventually reeled him in.
I ran the final straightaway to the finish very happy with a 4th place position and a convincing win over my “rival.” My friends Kim and Anne placed 2nd and 3rd respectively – but I was surprised to learn that Anne was less than a minute ahead of me. Maybe if I’d pushed harder on that first loop ….
Next time 🙂