Saturday, March 31, 2007
Race Review: 2007 El Cajon 20k
I took everyone’s advice [thank you!] and reminded myself this morning’s El Cajon 20k was just a training run, nothing more. That helped calm me while the perfect conditions and bucolic course took care of the rest.
The race director called this year’s considerably smaller crowd (86 finishers) an “intimate group,” and I was thrilled that it included Denise, who trained with me during my marathon days. She had a baby five months ago and, like me, is on the comeback trail. She also picked this one to prepare for the La Jolla Half Marathon in three weeks.
The predicted heat never hit. The weather at the start was in the high 40s (perfecto!), with warming sun rays chased by a breeze. Denise and I agreed to average 10-minute miles and put her Garmin in charge of pacing us. First mile was well under that, so we slowed until we hit the first huge hill just before the 5k mark. Then we slowed even more :-).
This is where packs split up since some people charge upward and others move more conservatively. I pulled slightly ahead of Denise but knew she’d catch me coming down. Then I was catching her after stopping to wee wee in the woods (there are no restrooms/portable toilets on the course). At the 10k aid station, I took some Clif Shot Bloks for the first time in a race. I timed the intake perfectly.
The next rolling section around the Singing Hills golf course had its own challenge: seriously slanted road. My hip took some heat during that stretch but I was feeling fantastic otherwise. By Mile 8, everyone was really spread out, with the only ambient noise coming from cars. I passed a few people, including one guy I’d been tailing since Mile 3. It was his first time, so I pointed to the mountainous hill ahead and warned: “That’s where your body meets your soul.”
I got up the Dehesa hill without too much struggle. Winded, yes. Walking, no way. I passed two people at the steepest point, leading a couple of cops sitting on motorcycles to appear duly impressed. Aside from course marshals and a cranky rooster, they were the only “spectators.”
The last 2.5 miles are an overall downhill. I figured Denise would catch up to me because she tends to save something for the end while I typically finish on fumes. But this time I had my mojo workin’ and continued to pass a few people, offering encouragement as I did. One of them was a woman in my age group that usually placed. Neither of us did that day, but I was thrilled with my 2:03:44 finish (9:57/min/mile average) on such a tough course and after such a rough year.
It's now evening and I’ve had time to think about what went so right. First, I took everyone's advice and was well hydrated (maybe too much so based on the costly pit stop). The ideal weather certainly helped. Second, I listened to those of you who reminded me there’s a special place reserved for those at the back of the pack. So the self-inflicted pressure eased and as a result I ran more relaxed. Third, those Clif Shot Bloks were like manna from heaven. I may have finally found an energy replacement that doesn’t destroy my guts. And, finally, the people out there came because they love the course and enjoy the challenge. There were no whiners within earshot.
Some races, you have to dig deep within just to survive. Today, I had only to soak in my surroundings to soar. Honestly, not one negative thought entered my head, let alone escaped from my lips. Good thing, too, because something tells me those new reserves may be tapped between Del Mar and La Jolla Cove in a few weeks.
[Photo of Dehesa Road grabbed from Google Images; courtesy of sd-homes.com]