As I'm returning from the BolderBoulder 10k International team challenge, and I'm stuck in LaGuardia for the night due to weather problems, I think I will use this spare time to blog about and reflect about my trip. The International team challenge was 10 teams from 7 different countries, with the U.S. also having a Colorado team and 2 military teams. Each team consisted of 3 members. Our team definitely had a tough task ahead of us, but I guess the nice thing about being part of a smaller country with not very much depth in road racing is that young runners like me who have personal bests 1-2 minutes slower than many of the runners from other countries have the opportunity to run at an event like this and get some experience in a world class international field. I was looking forward to the trip and traveling to a place I've never been before, but I knew that I would need a heck of a race to just finish out of the bottom third of the field. Making things even more difficult was that we were running at over 5000ft, which is high enough to have a significant effect on your performance, and I don't think too many other runners besides my two other teammates Adam Hortian and Kevin Friesen came straight from sea level. I though maybe the UK team would have the same problem, but it turns out that all three of them were training at altitude, and thus much better acclimatized than us. Not to mention their team consisted of guys with track pb's of 13:24 5k sub 28 10k, and 28:30 10k (plus national cross country champion). And they ended up being third last place team! So at the start of the race, part of me was nervous about how much faster most of these runners were than me, but part of me said "this is a world class field, lets see how long you can hold on to the pack, and forget about that altitude thing...its probably like 90% mental anyways right?" I lasted about 3k with the lead pack. The next few km I was running with a few others who had fallen from the lead pack, including a guy from Peru whose name was John Lennon! The last half of the race was when I was really starting to feel the combination of altitude, heat, and the fact that I probably went out too hard considering those two things. Luckily it was downhill/flat from 6.5k to 9k, but the last mile was uphill. Last mile 5:33...ouch! Looking back at the results there was a few guys from the Air Force team that took it out much more conservatively and blew by me in the second half of the race, so maybe if I ran with them I would have run a bit faster, but I am not too regretful for going out the pace I did. Sometimes you just gotta go for it! Despite finishing 4th to last, beating only one guy that wasn't my teammate, I can take some positives from the experience and have confidence going into my next big race in Vancouver. For instance, even many of the runners 10-40 seconds ahead of me were 28:20-29:20 10k track runners and 1:03-1:04 half marathoners. It's hard to judge what my performance is equivalent to on sea level, but if I did a statistical analysis on how far ahead of all the runners were and what their personal bests are, I would probably come up with a confidence interval for my predicted time at sea level that is consistent with what I have done on the roads recently. I talked to the one guy not on our team that was behind me, and he came straight from sea level as well, so we weren't the only ones. It turns out he also is shooting for a sub 1:05 half in the near future. I'm looking forward to running a half marathon at sea level in 4 weeks from now, since I know I'm in shape crush my current PB of 1:06 (or a bit under 1:06 if you count my estimated 21.1 split in my 30k). I looked at the elite start list, and it looks to be a solid front pack of 4 for me to try to hang on to. Coolsaet, Kangogo, Watson, and 2012 CIS cross country champion Kelly Wiebe are all confirmed, and all will be tough to beat. So although I will be in tough to finish 'in the money', the race looks to provide a great opportunity to run a PB.
So, overall I will consider this weekend a success, except for being stuck at the airport right now. It was a good time, an opportunity to travel and see a new place, and considering the circumstances, my race wasn't that bad, despite feeling really rough that last half of the race. Different races serve different purposes. Sometimes you race to run a fast or a personal best. Sometimes you race to go for the win. This race was definitely neither. For me, what I wanted to get out of this race was to see how I react to adverse conditions, and try to be competitive against better runners than me despite those conditions. For a future marathoner like myself, dealing with adversity is going to be important. I think I'm fairly good at running in less than ideal conditions compared to other competitors, but perhaps if I had even a few weeks of altitude training prior to this race, I may have beaten some great runners. If I do it another year I'll be sure to do some altitude training leading up to this race!