Tuesday, March 2

World champion at Kamloops

Gold medals: Me (Ist), David Oxland (3rd), Archie Jenkins (4th) with friend from the RCMP.

Dreams come true:

I won. We won the team gold as well. That's the World Masters Championship cross-country, run in Kamloops, BC, Canada.

For half the race there were 3 GB vests at the front (with one Norwegian) and at 4k I said to the guys, "OK, who's Ovett, who's Coe and who's Cram?" I got a laugh, but no words were currently available, I guess :)

The race and pace was really controlled from the front, from the gun, by my fellow-Brit David Oxland, who I figured was going to win (he beat me by over a minute in the British champ 5k a couple of years ago)...but this time I was SO much better prepared and as he led us round the first lap I was just thinking to myself, "This pace is EASY, when's it going to start hurting? Surely this can't go on like this?". But it kind of did.

The course was fast but soft grass, with lots of very small hills, more like giant speed bumps - just big enough to break your rhythm and force your legs into a higher cadence on the down sides. It was cold and windy, which I think helped, as it took the sting out of anyone who had focused on pure speed and not done their speed-endurance homework on energy-sapping x-co repeats (round the lake at Fairview, for instance), not to mention the course-specific short hill repeats that training advisor Bobby McGee had suggested.

By the start of the 3rd 2k (1.2m) lap there were only three of us at the front (2 Brits, 1 Norwegian). David and I took bursts at the front, but we couldn't get rid of the Norwegian shadow AND he wouldn't lead. He was also getting very physical whenever we had to fight for the line on corners.

With one lap to go we were way ahead and I knew I was certain to get a medal AND we were going to sweep the team gold, so I thought sod it, nothing to lose, and took over the race. Bobby had advised me that racing in Boulder teaches us to race our peers, rather than race to win, and that it would be good if I could have at it in a "no guts no glory" kind of way. Get where you belong in the race, he said, "and then throw caution to the wind". So, knowing that I had been doing some really good lactate tolerance training and had lots more speed on tap, I did just that. I led all the way through the final lap, throwing in surge after surge.

Kali (aka Abby) had helped me find an animal image to get my frontal lobes out of the way, and the one that resonated with me was running with a pack (my pack) of wolves. The initial stages with us 3 Brits at the front were so much like that, I really *got* the picture. Whenever (rarely) I've been in front of a race before, I've always felt scared, like I'm running for my life and am going to get hunted down; this time, the feeling came to me that I was leading my pack, not even necessarily to beat them, but to just lead them as fast as I could. For once, this was all going on at a kinesthetic level; I wasn't *thinking*; I wasn't worrying about pace, or heart rate - in fact I wasn't even wearing my Garmin. I know, shocking, isn't it?

With about 400m to go I'd been leading for 1600m and no one had come past me; the shadows on the grass from the guys behind me told me that small gaps were opening. David dropped off the pace and here came the Norwegian up alongside; he elbowed me AGAIN, so I cut him up at the next corner to teach him a lesson.

The final little hill with 150 to go and here he comes again, and he is still giving it to me, so I just repeated my power mantra ("F...ing bastards" - don't ask, it just works for me) and threw in everything I had.

Never saw him again... here comes the turn off into the finish line and now the mind goes, "I am going to be world champion - no, this must be a dream, shit, shit..." but it was true...my arms were in the air and then I collapsed in a tearful heap, lying flat out on the ground - no more need for a stiff upper lip. Yes, I am WORLD CHAMPION!!!! The dream came true. David 3rd, Archie Jenkins 4th - fabulous team victory despite the 300 (I exaggerate) Canadians on home turf and psyched by the Olympics.

The greatest thrill was running in a pack of red, white and blue at the front of the race. It felt unbelievable. I don't want to go too much over the top, but the song I was listening to over and over pre-race was the Vancouver Olympics "anthem" One Dream by (Canadian) Sarah MacLachlan.

There's a line in that that I hear as, "You carry the courage, you carry the history, of all who've gone before you..." and for a moment there I thought we WERE Ovett, Coe and Cram. I know, way too weird and sloppy, but there you go.

And while we're in that frame of thing, I really appreciated the send-off at the Toad, our favourite Boulder pub. At one point I looked round the table and was humbled by the quality of the people I'm lucky to be able to call friends. It made a lot of difference to me; a lot of my training is done on my own these days, and as Bobby says (yeah, he says a lot of quotable things), what we are engaged in is by and large a "solitary endeavour" that few people take on, and fewer can appreciate. So it is a hellishly supportive when a crowd of us gets together and says to one of our number - we see the significance of what you are trying to do and we believe in you - have at it!

1 comment:

John Wright said...

Holy snikes!!! What an awesome race report. Why am I not subscribing to your blog? Congratulations!!!! So sorry, so late! Does Connie know about this, she didn't mention it. That sounded like an awesome race. Again congratulations, my heart is pounding a bit, I am so excited.

Btw, I love all the references to the old masters in your blog. I am reading the "The Lore of Running" which has a very long chapter devoted to the whole lineage of running. It's high time I learn some history.

You are now one of my heros, for something else rather than carrying sandbags.