Clovis Invitational 2013

I was looking forward to running at Woodward Park the whole season, because it is a very fun and scenic course to run on. I still remember my race at Clovis two years ago. Returning to the course as a senior, I was hoping to leave my mark there one last time. I also felt pretty strong and healthy coming off of a 9:58.6 two mile at Saratoga the Wednesday before. I was ready to run a solid race.

The day before was very relaxed. I slept most of the way to Fresno, sneaking in some rest. We did a simple course jog in order to readjust ourselves to the different rolling hills and terrain. Only a few of us had run the course prior – Justin at states, and Revanth and me ran at the Clovis Invitational in 2011. We chatted casually and shared jokes about the car ride as we circled around Woodward Park. The atmosphere was a very lax one, which suited me as I tried to ease my mind off of other thoughts. After our jog, we posed together for a commemorative photo at the finish line together as a team.

Lynbrook Cross Country the day before the Clovis XC Invitational.

The pasta feed was much different than the ones back home. It was much more crowded, and there was a smaller selection of food as well. Multiple teams gathered together in the cafeteria, eating and talking together. Our team shared an entire table. The conversation flowed as we chatted about the season and prospects for the future. After a filling meal of spaghetti, bread, cookies, and iced tea, we filed out and headed back to the hotel.

I didn’t do much after we returned to the hotel, zoning out all distractions and focusing on sleeping early. I asserted my authority over my teammates and made our room sleep by 10:30. We woke up at 4:45 next morning and hobbled into the elevator. We met our team for breakfast… but there wasn’t any breakfast set out yet! Instead, we resorted to rationing ourselves to meager servings of raisin bran.

Race day felt much different. At 6 in the morning, we were the first ones on the course. It was pitch black outside as we walked with our gear. We set up close to the mile mark and caught up on our sleep. A few minutes later, the girls began to warm up; they were the first race of the day. Grace ran an aggressive race, finishing 4th in a very loaded field, which set the mood for the rest of us.

We did a few loops following the second mile of the course as a warm up. There was a good amount of fog and morning dew lazily sitting around the lower patches of the course, making the environment a bit cooler. It was also pretty cold at the start line, but after a few strides that was the least of my worries. We lined up together in our box and waited anxiously for the gun. CRACK. The start was fast, as expected. Justin and I pushed hard to avoid getting boxed in within the first 600m. I was a bit conservative at first, and I lost track of Justin for a moment. I found my bearings again though and moved up into the lead pack, reuniting with Justin. We strode in sync and flew past the first mile… in 4:53. I had never really split a sub-5 first mile, and I was scared that I was in danger of burning out. I held on, keeping with Justin as long as I could.

Justin and me coming off of the first mile together. Taken by Rich Gonzalez of Arcadia.

When we starting turning downhill in the middle of the second mile, Justin started to break and make a move to stay in the lead pack. I was unable to cover the move. I was starting to become a bit tired, and it didn’t help that the second mile had a few steep climbs. Runners started to leak forward past me, but as soon as I reached the top of the hill I stemmed the trickle and tailed the small group of runners ahead of me. We came past the two mile mark at about 10:09.

I wanted to break 16, and when I came past the 2.1 mile mark at 10:48, I knew I had to split about a 5:10 last mile to break the barrier. I was losing sight of Justin, so I started pushing harder back up the hills. I was making up ground on him and the other runners trailing the lead pack.

With 800m to go, I lost sight of Justin around the bend. I focused on catching the two guys immediately in front of me, holding on to them with 600m to go. We turned into the woods and back to the finish. I didn’t know what time I was on pace for, but when I saw 15:30 on the clock as I came onto the grassy finish, I knew I was going to break 16. I pushed harder, but was running out of room to catch the two guys who had lead me over the last half mile. I stumbled into the chute, finishing behind the two guys and tenth overall, but not before I had broken the 16 minute barrier definitively, running 15:50.

Kicking it into the finish.

Although I was very pleased with my race, I couldn’t help and think that even greater things were in store for my final season. “Could I finish top 10 in state… or even break 15?” I asked myself. Maybe, but I kept things in perspective, shifting my focus towards CCS and sending our team to state.

I knew that bigger PRs were within my reach – I just had to make the effort to grab them. But for now, I guess I’ll take things one step… or one stride at a time.

Here’s a video of my race:

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