It's funny how things work out sometimes...last season I ran myself into the ground throughout the XC season, in an attempt to grab an All-Canadian (top 14) spot at the CIS Champs and came up just 3 spots short, in 17th. This season, I had a 3 week forced vacation in the middle of the season and arrived at CIS feeling lucky to be able to run at all....and then somehow ended up finishing 13th. Wild!
I must admit, I was as shocked as you are. I was in good spirits before the race as I was truly just happy to be there. I was going to help the team out as best as I could and call it a day. The course was hilly and muddy, and the only way to run this race was to run it smart: slow from the start and pick off people as they come back to me. So that's what I did, and off the gun I found myself miles back from the lead pack - must have been 90th or higher. From there I just cruised...short, fast strides up hills and then letting myself just roll down the otherside, moving forward from pack to pack, keeping myself engaged with the fans (much love for those who came out to cheer us on!) with an eye on the guys ahead of me. It was a 4 lap course, and while I don't know each lap-time, I must have sped up each time around. I think that many people underestimated the difficulty of this course and took it out too hard. By running smart and easing into the race, I made up for what I lacked in fitness - while everyone else was backpedalling in the latter stages, I was still feeling fresh, hungry and confident enough to chase them down. It should be noted that this race plan has been a constant for my entire XC career, it just always seems to escape me when the gun goes off...finally I managed to give it a try!
My performance was matched by several great performances from the rest of the team....good enough to finish 5th (our best performance in 3 years) and only about 20 points from a bronze medal. I certainly was proud to have shared a box (on the starting line) and slogged through the mud with those boys that day. As there are only two of us from this team leaving this year...I think there are good things to come for these boys, maybe some more AC spots.
Anyway, to finish off: big thanks to family and friends who came out to support us, to the athletic therapy team and trainers that helped with my rehab, to Kev for his patience until I finally followed the race plan, and to the Queen's men's and women's teams for a sick weekend!
Run Happy. Be Easy.