2013 CCS XC Finals

It had to have been the scariest race ever.

I wasn’t able to sleep properly the entire week. I couldn’t think about anything else except today’s race. The night before, I woke up around 2 am in a cold sweat, unable to fall back asleep. I tried thinking about other things instead, but CCS weighed too heavily on my mind.

The division II races were early in the morning, so we were the first ones on the course. I warmed up with my teammates on Crystal Springs for the last time. We jogged downhill and made our way to the edge of the course. We stretched for five minutes, in silence. The only noises were the footsteps of the other teams and the wind rustling through the undergrowth. It was a serene scene, and I felt at peace before the most nerve-wracking race of my high school career.

We did what might’ve been my last woh-bundy ever. The gusts started to pick up as we lined up on the start. We were four boxes from the far right, so we had to get out fast and take control of the middle of the trail.

Start of D2 Boys Race.

The start was faster than I thought. I invested a great deal of energy striding down the hill, vying for important position. I was boxed outside and had to reroute around to regroup with the lead pack. After the first K, I was where I wanted to be, albeit having spent a considerable amount of energy reaching that position. I tailed the lead pack until they started to string out, climbing up Heartbreak Hill.

Coming off of the first mile mark, just past the climb up Heartbreak Hill.

People began to pass me, and I was losing position. First it was a few runners, then they started to trickle past me. I stemmed the trickle and ran alongside a St. Francis runner for the next half mile. My form started to break as I flailed downhill and around the winding turns. I got a grip on myself after we crossed the 2 mile timing mat. It was time to go. I pushed up the hill, catching more runners and regaining the lost position.

I couldn’t really tell where I was individually, but I could feel some people tailing me in the last 1200m. I was a little conservative going up the last few hills, but I held my line, making sure I didn’t lose any position. I tried making up some ground on a Willow Glen runner who was a few seconds ahead, but he was starting to make his move. I accelerated on the last quarter mile, starting my kick a little bit early. It was a risky move, but at this point in the race, I wasn’t planning on losing any more places or position. It was either states or bust. With 200m to go, a St. Francis runner streaked in front of me to the finish. I tried shifting into another gear, but I was spent. I wheeled over the finish line in 15:53, a 12 second improvement from my leagues performance nearly two weeks ago.

I actually wasn’t sure whether I had made states or not, despite the live-timing results. Jake told me I finished 9th, so I thought I had a good chance of making it. I counted four team runners in front of me and realized that I had snagged the final qualifying slot to state. Sure enough, five minutes later, I checked the results on my phone. I scrolled down first, checking the team results to see if Lynbrook had qualified as a team. My heart sank as I saw that we had placed fifth, well behind the top three teams. However, a small “I” adorned my time, confirming my assumption that I had picked up the last qualifying slot for the state meet.

Initially I felt relieved and elated… but then I felt a sense of survivor’s guilt. Only Justin and I would be heading to Fresno to run states in two weeks… but what about the rest of team? Why couldn’t they have made it with us? I comforted myself with the fact that I had given it my all during the race. Granted, I didn’t run the cleanest race – my form broke midway, I had sloppy racing tactics and strategy – but given the certain conditions, I ran to the best of my ability.

Post-race photo with two supportive parents!

On the way home, I felt a greater sense of relief. I could enjoy the next day running the half marathon without today’s race bearing on my mind. Plus, I would have nearly a two week break before states – plenty of time to rest up, stay healthy, and run a solid final race.

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