The Woodminster Cross Country Race

This morning was the final leg of the East Bay Triple Crown: the Woodminster Cross Country Race at Joaquin Miller Park and Redwood Park in Oakland began at 9AM.  It was a gorgeous day for a run; actually, a little on the warm side for top times, but perfectly clear skies and some great views of the Oakland hills from the park.  In fact, this was the first of the three races that didn't have the threat of rain.  It took us to mid-June to get free and clear of rain; think about that!

My time: 1:27:33, which is better than I thought I'd do this year, but it's also 33 seconds slower than I did last year on the same course!  I would be more disappointed at not improving my time this year, except for a couple of things: first, I haven't been running long hill runs as much this past few months (got sick, helping my wife in her own training).  Second, I looked at the finish times of some people near me and noticed that many of them who ran last year ran a few minutes faster last year than this year.  Relatively speaking, it looks like I lost less ground than most others in my general pace group.  I'll take that for now.

The folks running the race did a good job: the trail is difficult but well marked.  It's a low-key run, but they had chip timing this year, which let us see our race results on the same day.  Nice job, people!

This is the toughest of the three races in the East Bay Triple Crown, no doubt.  You run for maybe a quarter of a mile before you start climbing on a single-track trail, and before too long the climb is steep enough that everybody that I could see was reduced to a walk (myself included).  The real killer on the course, though, is the famed "Woodmonster" climb, about 5-6 miles in: 800 feet of elevation gain in about a mile.  Everybody was walking.  Everybody.  I feel like I'm not that fast a runner but I'm a good climber.  That Woodmonster section teaches me humility every time I get to it.

One more note about the race: it's handicapped by age group.  They start different gender/age groups 4 minutes apart, starting with what the most-typically slowest age group first (seniors, and under 12 year olds).  I ran in the 4th group, 12 minutes behind.  There were at least two groups behind me.  The first of the group just behind me caught up to me somewhere between 2 and 2.5 miles in.  These gazelles zoomed past me; man, they were fast!  Impressive looking on the trails, and they literally left me in their dust.  The next starting group's fastest runners didn't catch me for a few more miles, but they seemed pretty much equally fast when the blew past me.  It was pretty awesome to watch; I wish I would've been on a steep climbing section to see how those runners handled the most punishing parts of the course.

So, that's it for my racing this year, I think.  I wanted to try the Triple Crown and now I have a baseline of times for all three races.  I know I can do better on the Lake Chabot half marathon, although I'm happy with the time.  And with the Tilden Tough Ten, I think that if I do some speed work and focus on doing better on the downhills, I can improve there, too.  With the Woodminster, I think my only answer is to do more hill work and more consistent long hill runs on my weekends.  If I do that, plus the speed work, I'm hoping I can knock a few minutes off my time for next year.

From now until the end of July, I'm dedicating my time to my wife, helping her run her first half marathon.  San Francisco Half, here we come!

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