McGill Open went down last weekend.
Going into the race, I expected that my experience would be slightly different then the last few years. This year, from the outset, I decided that I would race it. Whereas the past three or four years I’ve been tempo or jogging it alongside team mates not at my ability, to help them and give them confidence. In some ways, it worked. Running with team mates definitely gives you a boost, and treating the race as more of a workout has its advantages in an overall plan. But last year, I wasn’t satisfied. I didn’t get much of a workout. Kicking the last 2k of the race and passing loads of people was silly, and it didn’t do anything for my fitness.
This year I decided that racing it was a better avenue. We (John and I) experimented with some training over the winter and saw results, so we decided to follow a similar style. We decided that racing McGill would be in my best interests for the season, keeping in mind all the other races I have to run, and of course the obvious; peaking for the right one.
When I arrived, familiar faces and friends were immediately asking me whether I was going to run, or jog. I reflected on that at the beginning of this week, after the race. I don’t know of any other time I’ve ‘jogged’ a race. In some ways, it could be a good idea, if you know you are an athlete that can peak in a very short amount of time, or get amped up into racing mode early in a season, the burn out early. The past couple of years I’ve learned a lot about myself as an athlete, and I think I’ve learned how to dial in and out of racing and training mode better than I have in the past.
I told some people that yes I would in fact be racing, for others I shrugged. I didn’t want to talk about it, before it happened. I had already set myself for what I was going to do, and those curious would see soon. My warm up went exactly how I thought it would, 20min a light jogging, intermittent with cheering on the ladies (you gotta factor that in, you know its going to happen) my stretches and activation exercises were smooth. I noticed runners I hadn’t expected to show up, and noticed some weren’t racing. I gave myself a mental shrug. I remained calm. I had my routine, I was doing it, and I know that the race would unfold just like my warm-up was, in control and focused.
The gun went off, and the line of men took of HARD. It took me by surprise, only for a millisecond did I go ‘wow’, then I dialled in and pushed to the front. The plan was to stay at the front, deal with and respond to any and all surges, then lay it down going into the third and final loop. After the first 100m it settled down slightly, and a couple younger runners suddenly found themselves breaking the wind for the vets at the front. That lasted until the turnaround at Mont-Royal where we begun a long climb. Its a grinding climb, and some times people discount the hill which really starts at mont royal all the way up to the drop from Olmstead Road into the woods then the field. I took it easy, but I was leading. Everyone else seemed content to key off of me. When we turned right to get up the sharp grassy hill Raymond hit the throttle abit and bounded up, probably testing who would be fighting at the front. I closed the gap by the time we got to the top, maybe 80m from the wooden bridge. The western boys and the rest in that group caught us again once we got into the short single track path. Out onto olmstead road, again I found myself leading, shoulder to shoulder with Ben, but I was well within my effort level and cruising comfortably. Exactly what I wanted. I could also feel the group getting slightly smaller behind us. Once we got down, out of the woods, and around the Gazebo it got slightly tactical. There was a head wind and we all tucked in behind Raymond. No sooner was the pack hiding single file, then Phil Dupuis surged off to the left looking like he was going off course. I called him back, and at the same time covered the move. I think the confusion of misreading the course, and being unfamiliar with XC might have hit him right there. When we got around the angel statue and down towards Mont-Royal, Ben and I were alone. Again I got up the hill alright, this time no surge from Ben. I could feel my legs abit, because I think we were beginning to race a little, squeezing the throttle, but it was still manageable. When we got out of the single track section onto Olmstead Road, I could sense Ben starting to lose contact, I was alone. My plan had been clear from the start. When I got to the top of the road, turning left to take the downhill, I let loose. I leaned forward slightly and let gravity take me rolling down the hill. I opened up a gap that stayed for the rest of the race. The last loop hurt quite a bit. I haven’t done a ton of interval work, or race pace stuff, so by the time I got to the last sharp grassy uphill I was shoulder checking Ben. I wanted to keep on eye on him managing the hills. Its tough to judge how hard you are pushing, running, and getting up the hills when you don’t have another body as a reference. Ben is a powerful runner, and would be dangerous if he had gotten too close to me. After the hill I was confident I had it, and just kept rolling away as best I could. I stayed strong and smooth, and endured.
I’m happy with the W. Its my first W in XC, believe it or not. There’s along list of firsts for this race. But I’m cautious. I have many more races, and many more people to beat. The goal is to progress from here. This is my base.
See you in London, Ontario for Western International XC.