Horseshoe Lake (50K)

I wake up at 6:30am on Sunday morning and the usual (or rather: usual for 6am on Sunday morning) thought strikes me: Why am I doing it?? I sure could use some more sleep. Preparations take me a bit longer than planned so the timing gets tight.

I jump in the car and hope to make up for the lost time on the way. No go. For the most part the road is winding like a snake around the mountain, so the best I can do is to stick to my GPS' predictions.

So I'm a bit worried when I get there, but gladly I picked my number the previous day... in fact, while at it I got myself a nice, new running vest, which I was to try out during the race; how did it go? Don't ask... It's embarrassing to admit, but I didn't exactly figure out how the bottles work ;). But I think the vest has a lot of potential. Anyway. In the end everything works out perfectly and I'm ready to roll when the time comes.

Shortly after the start I realize that it's gonna be a super hot day. What's worse there's one thing that I forgot before I set off: putting on sunscreen. I am afraid I'll pay a price for it, but surprisingly I get away with it, probably because a fair part of the race is in the shadow -- good thing too, given the temperature.

The race is divided into 5 segments with check-points in between: going there and back makes a half-marathon, repeat and then a final 8K loop. On the first segment I go far too fast and I know it. Problem is I can hardly help it. For once, significant part of the course is a single track, so passing people is not easy. But more than that it's my annoying racing habit. If I see someone in front of me my instinct is to try to get them. If I see someone behind me I'll try my best not to let them catch me. It's as simple as that. And sometimes it feels as if I am completely out of control in that matter ;)

Gladly on the second segment I manage to slow down and few people pass me. From then on it's business as usual. When approaching the last but one checkpoint I take stock of the situation. I figure out that I'm 8th and I wish whether there's any chance to make it to the top 5. One guy I have within sight, so I figure I can do it, but the next two, running close together, are more than 500m in front of me, so that's going to be tough.

What I don't realize is that even catching the guy just in front of me will be very tough. I shortly pass him after the checkpoint but on the upcoming hill he takes lead again. He's a great climber, hardly slowing down on those damn hills. So he always gains ground on me there, but I manage to reduce it and get him within sight on the descends.

Finally on a climb, some 14K or so from the finish, he takes off again and I know I'll not see him again. Almost at once my will of fight and my energy leave me and from then on it's just a fight for survival. And a tough fight it is.

I finish in 5:18:51. That's one and a half minute faster than in Montara Mountain race, so strictly speaking I reached my goal. However, Montara had 2323m of elevation gain, compared to only 1608m today, so I'm aware, and feel it too, that, on balance, my performance there was better. In any case I finish 9th and, to my surprise I win my age category. That's weird as there were 5 under-30s before me and 3 over-40s, but later I learn that there were only 3 guys in my age category running this distance, so that explains it.


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