by Mandy Deen
Some of you who have been running with Rogue for a long time might be sick and tired of hearing your teammates/pacefriends/longrunningacquaintances/people you vaguely recognize only in pre-dawn gloom, go on and on about their verified running achievements (Placing in races! Winning age-group awards! Winning races!!!). I mean, honestly. Some of you who are new to Rogue might be highly intimidated by hearing all the victory stories and reading all the blogs. I personally was not told that either placing or age-grouping at some point was a requirement when I signed up. Don’t worry! I myself, a life-long hobbyjogger, have figured out a fool-proof way to place at races; please follow and apply as needed:
FIRST: You should probably decide that it’s something you want to try and do. That’s a good first step for any endeavor, but I thought I’d mention it in case it was news to anyone (some of you may be Aggies).
SECOND: Know what you’re up against and be realistic. If you’re a 25 year old guy, maybe try and pick a race that’s geared exclusively towards women. OR, try to be born with superior endurance genes and have developed these over the course of your life until you’re an elite and finely tuned athletic specimen.
For the rest of us, you can probably manage by picking a small or dangerous or far away race where the least amount of competition will dare to show up. This is probably the single most important step in this process; I can’t highlight this fact enough. This is also the most advantageous time to actually employ all your serious hipster tendencies you’ve been willfully restraining all these years. Go for the off-beat, indie, previously unheard of races. The handcrafted, artisan races, if you will.
Personally, I picked the Rogue Trail Series for a number of reasons. A 10k trail race is enough of a butt-kicker with just a smattering of fear-of-faceplanting to be a fun challenge, but not enough of a serious race that you’d have to actually train for it. Or so I thought. Also, far fewer women run trail races, so just by showing up I’m already top 30. You see?
THIRD: Show up. I firmly believe that approximately 80% of life is just showing up. Really, it’s how I got myself through school. The Rogue Trail Series is a SERIES, requiring participants to show up to not only a single event, but a SERIES of races! This is when it is really advantageous to either a) be a professional runner and therefore have the time and inclination to devote your life specifically to races, b) an athletically-deluded 30ish unattached person without any pets who can’t even be trusted to keep a rosemary plant alive. You’re probably going to be free all of those weekends, is what I’m saying.
FOURTH: Talk about it a lot. Like, obnoxiously. Mention that you’re in race-prep every chance you get until your family and teammates want to strangle you. Plot elaborate methods for further limiting your competition by giving faster people the wrong directions or misinformation about race times. Attempt to manipulate Rogue organizers into joining your plot.
As you talk about your wish to actually place at a running thing for ONCE in your life, you will feel a tightness in your chest and throat begin to develop. Don’t panic, this is just fear and anxiety, brought on by your life-long fear of public failure and history of under-performing when you know people are watching you. This is how you know you’re probably ready. As the race date approaches this feeling will intensify, and you will find yourself dismissing thoughts of the race out of hand. Focus on the fun logistics of the race, what you’re going to wear, what you’re going to eat after, how many beers are ok the day before. You probably won’t have even thought about the actual race until it’s 5:30AM and you’re on a dark highway headed towards Reveille Ranch. That’s the appropriate time for your Come-To-Jesus.
FIFTH: Rope a teammate into driving you out there to the race. Spend the entire hour and ten minute car ride chattering about life, your job, NPR stories, and what is the socially appropriate number of beers and breakfast tacos post-race (probably around 2 each for a 10k. Sneak a third if you can). Fall silent only when you have the your crushing realization that everyone you know knows you’re trying to place at this race. Remind yourself the 10ks are supposed to hurt, then try and make peace with it.
SIXTH: Arrive just as the 30k is starting. Spend 24 out of the next 30 minutes standing in line at the port-a-potty because you got impatient and switched lines when you should have stayed in the one you were in.
SEVENTH: Spend the last 6 minutes prior to the start standing awkwardly off to the side, hyperventilating, looking around for your competition, and pretending like you’re not trying to elbow your way to the front. When the start sounds, go out WAY too hard, uphill. All your hyperventilation and adrenaline shoots through your bloodstream and you’re pretty much exhausted by the top of the hill (seriously? An UPHILL start?). Remind yourself that based on the tiredness and instability in your hill-running butt muscles that you probably should have tried and warmed up prior to the start. You saw other people doing that. Remember? They’re probably doing a lot better on this hill than you are. Spend the next 2 miles charging up hills and aggressively pushing forward, trying to pass people. Be sure that most of the other women got out ahead of you at the start.
EIGHTH: At mile 2 your breathing becomes unsustainable. Inwardly accept defeat. Of the paltry 5 people you managed to pass, only one was a girl, and the other 4 guys have already passed you back. Also, you never passed that little 8 year old kid. Slow down, spend the next 2 miles tucked in behind a guy with a “serious trail beard,” recovering. Convince yourself that you just lost all chance at placing for the race AND the series. Console yourself with the thoughts of beer and breakfast tacos. They get you, they don’t care how fast you can run. They’re your only friends.
NINTH: Experience a rebirth during the final 2 miles (this is completely unrelated to the fact that a) the main climbs are over, it’s generally downhill, and b) your body has finally warmed up and kicked over.). Respectfully pass Serious Trail Beard, charge on towards the finish and your friend the beer.
TENTH: When you have sufficiently recovered, follow the smell of bacon to where the excellent Rogue organizers are cooking breakfast for an army. Find the beer, and your other 10k friends. Find out how their races went, drink some cold water, watch the 30ks come through. Note how the 30kers are all in much better shape than you. Be happy to be finished and holding a beer, as there are some serious painfaces happening and the clouds have burned off. Discuss the course in detail with the other 10kers. Eventually wander over to the live-results tent. Disinterestedly find your finishing time and placement. Feel very relieved to see that you ACTUALLY finished in the Top 5!!!!! Wait anxiously for the awards ceremony. Make your teammate take lots of pictures of you with your award, and post it to Facebook immediately. Enjoy the rest of the 30k race by hanging out with other people and talking incessantly about your award. When you get home, sleep the sleep of the victorious for the rest of the Sunday.
There you have it. Ten easy steps.