Six days after Ironman Arizona I found myself standing on the starting line of the Cow Chip Cross Country race in Trumbull.
Having won the race last year, I felt that I should go back and try to defend my win.
I was not 100%. I'd limped around Arizona for two days before I felt ready to even put 20 minutes of running in on Wednesday. I'd spun an hour on Friday and I was psyched for this, but I was also not really fully healed or ready.
When I went to sign up they told me they were expecting me to be there, but they'd put aside #1 for me, so I handed over my check (which Marty later ripped up) and pinned the number to my shirt- I'd forgotten my race belt.
My warm-up was limited to run out to the starting line and doing a few sprints. I ran into Charlie Hornak and we talked a little about the Branford Thanksgiving race. He'd had a decent race but was talking about building his speed. It seemed like we were out there early even though it was only about 10 of, then suddenly the mass of runners that had been avoiding the cold in the school cafeteria came out, followed by Marty on his bike.
Marty acknowledged a number of runners that were there- past winners and so on- and then we were off.
I didn't take the lead early. I'd spotted a couple of kids/guys I thought might be a threat. I picked my line to the goal post (the race starts on the football field, just like my old high school days), got there and I was quickly in third. The course takes a right, then a left and by the time we got to the backstop, I knew I had to pull in front and take control of the race.
Which I did.
I felt- good isn't the right word. I was running strong, but not really fast or anything. I was chasing Marty but then we went into the woods and I was leading a few people. The front pack had already thinned out and I felt good. I always feel good running through the woods. I feel like if I'm in front in the woods, you're really going to have to work to take that away from me.
We broke out of the woods. Marty's women's cross country team was supposed to marshall the course. Only two showed up. I came out at a point where you go right early in the race, and go left late in the race.
I didn't know which way to go.
Who's fault is that ?
Mine. It's my responsibility to know the course.
Bang, I was in third.
I settled in a second time. We broke out of the woods and I was third behind a guy I thought I could take late in the race and a guy I wasn't sure about. We went around the front of the school, by the barn, into a short section of woods and back around again. I could not eliminate the distance and get back in front.
We wrapped around the middle of the course and headed towards the stream/wall. the two guys in front of me went around it. I went around it. We were all within a few seconds of each other. As we went up a short hill, two of us made our move. The guy in second moved up to first and I moved up to second.
We went under a pavilion of some sort and then we were headed back towards the woods. My goal was to stay close and make a move in the last 750 yards.
This was the wrong strategy. I didn't lose any ground in the woods, but I also didn't gain any, and after we broke out the backside of the woods, I did try to pick it up.
But in the end, it was too little too late.
When the winner crossed the line, I shut it down and lost another 3-4 seconds, but my calf was hurting.
I had not done my job. I could have, in my opinion, but I didn't.
I warmed down with Charlie and an Australian guy who was also a previous race winner, then I hopped in the car right away and drove home so Margit would have some time to do some things.
This one had gotten away.