At Pioneer Park in Tumwater for the Club Oly cross country race. Significant course change from last year. Somehow this is both a two loop course and an out and back race. I know that does not make sense, but that is the best way to describe it. Well marked with cones and arrows. Lots of different surfaces including mushy soccer fields, nice packed gravel, some muddy trails and even a little pavement. On my warm up run I toured most of the course and found the huge "puddle" that we have to go through. No way around this and it looks deep. It is cold (about 41 degrees) and raining lightly. It has been very wet recently and there are puddles everywhere. At least it is not windy. I warm up well and keep running right until the start time so as to not get chilled. Fortunately we start right on time.
Start - Run across the mushy soccer field. Within 20 seconds I can see lots of mud on the backs of the legs of the runners in front of me. This is going to be a muddy one. Within 60 seconds I assess my position. With only 11 starters (9 of whom I know fairly well) I have a good idea of where I am going to finish. Rich, Ben, Nick and Matt are in front of me where they should be. Ron Burfurd is right behind me. He always beats me and I am going a little faster than I should, taking advantage of the more runnable grass, so he will pass me soon I am sure. Turn and onto a ball field. Onto what I think is wet pavement but is really the dirt infield. It gets muddy and slippery in one spot but I make it through. More grass and a bit of trail. I hear screams up ahead.....
Puddle 1 - Down into some thick mud and then a wide and deep puddle. This is one small section of the course that I did not preview and I had no idea this was coming. Volunteer Tammy is here and I think she was the one screaming as runners came through. The puddle is about knee deep and really muddy with bits of gravel. No way around, you have to go right through the middle of it. When I come up out of it I can feel the gravel going into my shoes and rubbing against my heel. Most of the big pieces work their way down to the bottom of the shoe and do not cause any pain, so I can keep up the pace. On to nicer trail and I push as hard as I can. Still ahead of Ron but I can hear his slapping feet right behind me. Along the river then onto pavement where I push hard. Then a turn onto grass and.......
Puddle 2 - This one is about 35 feet long and deeper than the first. Miguel is taking pictures. Ron and I are laughing. The deepest spot is almost to my waist. Then it gets more shallow and I remember that I am supposed to be racing. I slog my legs through the water as best I can and finally come up onto land. That is when I feel the cold. My entire lower half from my waist to my toes goes numb. We enter a forested single track trail that twists and has a couple of 2-3 foot bumps. I am seriously worried about pulling or straining some muscle, or falling, so I back off a bit. It is short piece through that segment and soon we are back on runnable trail and I can feel my feet again. Fairly smooth running for a while, Ron still right on my tail. At one point he make a move and we run side by side. I speed up just before the trail narrows and retake my position ahead of him.
Puddle 3 - We are now about 2 miles into the race. I have never kept up with Ron for so long. Puddle 3 is that same one as puddle 2. I am more confident now that I have been through it already, I slog on as best I can. Same numbness and sever cold on the way out. It gradually fades and I am running OK, but Ron makes his move and passes me.
Puddle 4 - Ron is just a few feet ahead of me as we turn and go through the last big puddle. This is the same as the first one except we are now going in the opposite direction. In the middle of it, I see Ron slip and come crashing down with a big splash. Tammy and I make sure he is OK and he is very quickly on his feet, but I am able to get in front of him again. All we have left is a bit of trail and then the ball fields, probably a half mile to go. If I was by myself I am sure that I would ease up and have a relaxed finish. But ugh. Ron is here, now even with me and I realize that he is going to make me work for it. I have little faith that I can beat him, but who knows, unless I try. Another speed burst, this is my last, I just can't keep this up. I am now a few feet in front of Ron and I hear him go down again. Should I stop and help him up, check on him? I can see the finish line across the field. He fell on the wet grass can't be hurt too bad if at all. I decide to finish the race and then run back to help him if needed. On I go and when I make the last turn on the edge of the field I see that he is running and is only about 20 feet behind me. And he is carrying one shoe!! I sprint on the squishy field and finish a few seconds ahead of him. We cheer on the others who are not far behind at all. I learn that Ron was not the only one to fall. Rich has a nice bloody knee and two others who finished ahead of me also had nasty falls. Everyone is in good spirits but with the rain continuing to fall we decide to go get warm before hypothermia sets in. One of the crazier races I have done.
5th place of 11
race #39 of 2010