It was a different world. So here are some observations from a mountain biker turned runner.
1) Guy to girl ratio. Almost exactly opposite to mountain biking. So THIS is where the girls are! And I don't blame them. It was so much less hassle getting ready to get out the door for the running race than the bike race. No equipment to worry about and its seemingly neverending rabbit hole of adjustments and personal preferences. Plus all the trappings -- tools, fuel, bottles etc that all need to be prepped in advance before they're stuffed into pockets. Not to mention remembering to bring essentials like gloves, helmet and shoes. For the running race, I got dressed, drove to the venue and what I was wearing was what I was racing in. The most complicated part of kitting up was remembering to do a double knot on my shoe laces. Easy.
2) Pre Race fueling. Clearly, I have no idea how or what to eat before a running race. When Nat and I go out in the mornings, I hardly eat anything at all because it makes me feel icky. So I tried eating based on that, keeping it light (fruit, toast, coffee) but still with enough fuel not to bonk. But it was the wrong strategy as evidenced by the stabbing side stitches that dogged me for the entire 11km. Before a mountain bike race, I eat a bazillion calories consisting of a few regular staples and feel awesome and bonk-free. Bonk-free I accomplished. Feeling awesome? not so much. Hopefully I can figure this out because I feel like without a speed limiter like a cramp in my gut I could really get a move on.
3) Warm up ...? Before a mountain bike race, I spend about an hour spinning and throwing in some hard pieces/climbs to get the legs ready for the effort. I was a little taken aback at the casual attitude the other racers had leading up to the gun. No one seemed to be doing more than laps back and forth to the johnny-on-the-spot. Hmmm. This one I couldn't let go, so a fellow rider-turned-runner and I did a lap of the parking lot/registration area just to see how things were feeling. I felt like everyone was looking at us like we were nuts.
4) Attire. I wore what I always wear running: shorts, t-shirt, short-socks, shoes and sunglasses. But I usually run on the road. I started to feel out of place when I saw the fancy trail-running shoes some of the other competitors had on. There were compression tights in full effect, tall socks that went about halfway up the calf and some runners even wore thin versions of XC ski gators. I had the definite feeling that these runners knew something I didn't ... and quickly found out what. I'm sure they didn't have the same problems I did: No blisters on the bottoms of their toes from all the quick turns and elevation changes thanks to their special shoes; No burrs, seeds, pebbles and grass finding their way into their socks and contributing to said blisters; And no Poison fother-mucking Ivy on their ankles and calves thanks to their tall socks. Noted, trail runners. Noted.
5) Race Strategy. The act of actually running the race was of course different too. It was like mountainbiking but in slow motion. The start almost had me laughing out loud. I felt so ... slow! And without the bike I felt bouncy and disoriented. It's hard to explain, but it was funny. So I settled in to a pace I thought I could hold and then tried to figure out how it compared to the other racers'. I passed a girl, but since everything goes slower in running, getting away from her took a longer time than I expected. Likewise when she passed me back, I felt like the process took a loooong time and it kind of messed with my mental game a bit. There was always this breathing right on my tail, and so I was constantly on the gas trying to get some distance -- to my detriment in the end. The stupid side stitch wasn't having any of that. Maybe it would be less slow motion without that. Also going uphill I found almost easier and how annoying that in running, I was actually LOSING time on the descents! I think I need some work there because the climbs were definitely a place I was catching other racers. A shame to waste the gains once gravity is actually on my side!
6) Good vibrations. During a mountain bike race, I usually suffer for the entire two hours straight. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the suffering, and all those feelings you get when you find out what your body is capable of but one of the greatest things about racing is the part where you cross the finish! It's like the anecdote about the guy who keeps hitting himself with a hammer. "Why do you do that?!" they ask him, incredulously. "Because it feels so good when you stop," comes his reply. Okay, throw all that out the window for running. Holy smokes, stopping is the WORST! I had no idea how hard I'd pushed myself or how bad I was feeling until I wasn't running anymore and then all I wanted to do was throw up or sit down so the world would stop spinning. How can you go from feeling great, pushing up a hill or kicking it up for the last stretch and then two second later feel like you've been repeatedly punched in the gut!! I guess the key to running is don't stop!
Anyway, in the end I came 3rd place, which I think is none too shabby. I had a lot of fun and made some new friends over the weekend so that was a great bonus. Big thanks to Chico Racing for putting on awesome event after awesome event. Check out chicoracing.com for information on upcoming races or to check results.