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Monday, September 20, 2010

Xterra National Race Report!

So, after the ordeal to arrive in the city of Bend... I woke up in plenty of time to race on Saturday morning. It was still raining despite the locals swearing that it "never rains in Bend". I was thankful. Rain keeps dust down, heat down, smells up and it is just awesome in general to race in misty conditions on a brand new trail!

I met Dayton at the registration table. He is the media guru for the Xterra organization and was extremely welcoming and friendly! I also met and saw a who's who of trail running as we grew near the race start. Rather than list them all, I will provide a link to the results. It was nice to have met Scott Dunlap and run a little bit together as well.

As we lined up for the start I found myself directly behind Lauren Fleshman. I did my best to just focus on what needed to be done, getting out relaxed and under control. But, like the rest of this trip, I was in for a surprise.

The tiny cannon exploded, and the runners were off. We snaked through some retail space and soon enough were headed out along the beautiful Deschutes River. My plan was to run 6:20 pace, I thought that was a best case scenario, so I expected the first, flat mile to be a little quick. I went through in 5:38... obviously very excited... Still, I knew I could salvage that if I backed off. I tried to, but mile two was covered in 5:57 with the lead women about 10m ahead. Not a good idea- this is not a 10k.

The dilemma became one of being in a rut of running too fast too early, or letting the group go and picking up the next one as I settled. Deciding to not run like a flash flood, I eased back in the initial hills and ran a 6:25. Right on target now and feeling much better about life in general. I passed by the 3rd place woman, Michelle Suszek and urged her to keep with it up the hill we were climbing. In a couple of minutes she had regrouped and went surging right by a small group of 30-something men. I made the choice to go with her and this was a gamble.

Taking Turns
We covered the next few winding miles in and out of trees as the trail zip left and right... running efficiently in 6:20, 6:18, 6:30, 6:22, 6:28 trading off the front running duties through 8 miles. I took a gel at that point as we headed back down to the river. I was feeling tired now, and that gel was ill-timed.

Soon, Michelle asked to pass and I was happy to step aside. She was flying! In fact she sped away, passing the group of 6 guys in that pod (including Scott Dunlap who actually took my picture as he ran away from me... good stuff there!) and ended up in second place overall. Very strong! I, on the other hand, was in for the business end of a lesson on pacing. Mile 9 6:44.

Here's the Secret (It wouldn't be a Battle, if it Were Downhill)
We turned away from the river and back toward the ridge we had run along during miles 5-6. Now though, we were headed straight up it. It was slow, steady work and I was being consumed by the trail and the field. That sucking sound we have all known, the black hole of oxygen debt. I slowed to a manageable pace and resolved to just keep going and see if things improved. Mile 10... 8:04. (The hill was not that bad:) ).

Soon the Earth gave back and we were zooming along downhill. At mile 10+, I did the math and realized we had less than 5k to go. Stay patient and run solid. Those passing you have little to do with this experience in patience, humility and toughness. Mile 11 went by in what seemed like 10 minutes... but was actually 5:39... somehow. It was about this point that the giant fork descended from the sky and struck me down.

I was in a death march and just so happy to be within 2 miles of the finish, and to know that those miles were downhill and flat besides a couple of rollers in there. Runners continued to catch me along the way. I guess I was providing them a goal to reach as they lured me in and zoomed on by. We each have a purpose! Mile 12- 7:06.

One. Mile. That is it.
My mind can always wrap around one mile, 10 minutes at the worst right? We have this... time goal shot, but there is nothing more important than putting on your Warrior Hat and finishing with courage. Nothing, except to keep laughing! So I looked around for my Warrior Hat and noticed something odd. We were certainly more than one mile from the finish... we were more than 2 miles from the finish. I was on course, we were racing 21k (13... miles) but sure enough we were getting surprise steps this morning! Jump for f-in joy!! Mile 13- 6:59 (1:24:36 ok)

Feeling as if my entire being was dipped in acidic concrete I trudged forward, checking my body position despite my failing cognitive abilities and powers of observation...

'another surprise, just deal with it!'

A couple of burners sped by then. The number 4 woman came by asking about the length of the course. I mumbled something I hoped was friendly and uplifting but I am sure I sounded like a drunken hobo... (and often they do have some important things to say.) A couple of minutes later I had the final brush with greatness and Kami Semick drove by me with her efficient and powerful stride. I sent out some encouragement, hoping some might bounce back on me but my body was being so stubborn, this was my speed and there weren't no more!

Finally I saw the finish line and turned right over the wooden trestle and into the chute! 1:33 flat and in 36th place. 7th in my age group (not sure where I placed in the actual human being category... I think we all tend to think we win that one every time...) and I was in the top three for runners from east of the Mississippi River with European heritage... no awards given in this case:)I learned two things above all else. Be flexible and willing to adjust the race on the fly. Michelle did this, backing off in the middle miles before surging late to take second. Be proud to have taken a chance! What was the disaster here? Nothing- except I should have had a wider training volume to perform better... no sin there. You can't breakthrough without running into a few walls!

all done!

Later in the day I went hiking in the Lava Lands... pictures to come:)


  1. great report - incredible race!

    lots of humor too! :)

  2. NIce!! proud of you buddy!! I think I went in o2 debt and had lactic acid build up.. BURN!!!! just reading your post! I cheated and looked at your lava field pictures on FB. SO beautiful. I want to go to OR SO extremely bad.

    WAY to represent NC. :o) hope to see you at a race sometime soon!

    take care!


  3. Amazing! Again, I love your writing style, really its like running with you (although I couldnt keep up) Congrats to you!

  4. Awesome job Sean! You are such an amazing runner!

  5. Still a smoking time Sean. Way to put it out there and take the chance man.

  6. You are so positive! I need some of that in a your price :) Sounds like a good race even though your pacing wasn't what you expected.

  7. Sean, I always love reading your race reports. This was a good one! Sounds like an exciting trip and an even more exciting race.

    How cool that the OTHER Dunlap took your pic on the way by :)....

  8. More pics!!! What a cool race! Congrats on finishing strong and represent the East Coast!!

  9. Oh....drunken hobos. Is there anything that they can't tell us?

    That is frustrating that you didn't have the race that you were wanting. But, you have the experience to look back on. Afterall, you qualified and ran NATIONALS!!

    So, how long did the race end up being?


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