Just follow the arrow.

Up and down, and in and out,
Here and there, and round about;
Ev’ry corner of the place,
Ev’ry twist is in the race,
Ev’ry outlet, ev’ry drain,
Have we run, and run again.

Yoemen of the Guard, W. S. Gilbert

I wasn’t expecting to run the Westmonster XC 5K, but when Rusty (or Mike) posted the workout yesterday it was part of it. A three mile marathon pace run on Mountain Dr. followed by the race on Westmont Campus.

My group agreed we’d go for a 6:50 pace on the MP run. But… well, Mike and Dan were running 6:30s, so the rest of us did too. 6:30 isn’t hard for 3 miles, but it is no longer a pace I could imagine holding for a marathon. Then I had about half an hour to trot down the mile between where we finished on Mountain Dr. and the race start on campus.

I was going to do the race with tired legs, which was what my coaches wanted, though my legs would be a bit more tired than they should be…

The course looked like crochet work when drawn on the campus map. Up here, down there, backwards, forwards, looping and recrossing… But on the ground it was well marked, with white chalk lines on the grass and little green arrows stuck to the pavement when we went on roads. And, even more usefully, lots and lots of students at every intersection to point us the way. And for me… there was always the back of the guy in front.

As we lined up I noticed that Cindy was behind me. Now Cindy is a (much) faster 5K runner than I, on roads at least, and I assumed she would be on a cross-country course too, so I encouraged her to move up. But she claimed injury and a race tomorrow and stayed where she was. I was in the second row, behind a guy who looked fast. Craig was beside me.

We were warned not to run into the photographer on a ladder about 100yds ahead.

We set off. There were a fair number of little kids in front. Some deserve to be there, but most have no idea what they are doing and are going to fade in a quarter mile which turns the race into an obstacle course for a while. Oh well. We start downhill and fast, and then uphill even more steeply, and then a quick right turn and down to the playing fields. And I have to dodge around a little kid who has slowed down. Ahead of me is Craig, and right behind me is Bob Tmur. Mmm. I would like to think I’m still faster than Bob. I hope I’ll pull away…

Oh, we go further down below the playing fields, and then up on the other side of them. I’m not sure who is behind me now. I don’t think it is Bob, but there is someone right there.

My legs do feel tired.

We keep going up. As we cross an open patch I see shadows. The person behind me has a pony tail, so I’m guessing it is Cindy. Hunh. Maybe, injured and with a race tomorrow, she runs at my pace?

Westmonster 2014 Cindy and Me
Taken by Brad Elliott, © Westmont

Now back down to the start line, and a second (but different) loop through the campus. Cindy is still behind, Craig still ahead (though both he and I, and presumably Cindy have passed a couple of other people). We come up to an intersection we went through not long ago, there are still runners from the first loop here, and the students directing us have to guess which loop each runner is on to direct us in our different directions. They seem to do a good job — at least for me.

As I run across a flagstone patio area I notice there is a white arrow on the ground. I don’t pay much attention to it, until suddenly it is stuck to my foot. I guess one of the green arrows somehow turned over and I just ran over the sticky part of it and it’s now mine for the rest of the race…

I wonder if there is any easy way to get it off my foot (without letting Cindy pass me, of course) and I can’t think of anything. So I keep running with a sticky paper arrow flapping around. It’s annoying but not really a problem.

We climb the monster hill now. I think I pull away from Cindy a little on the hill. Hmm. I might be a better climber than she, that would make sense given the kind of running I normally do.

At the top of the hill Mike and Ricky are spectating and cheer me on. Then they notice my arrow and laugh. As Cindy crests the top they cheer her too, and tell her “just follow the arrow”. I think this is about mile 2, and if I recall correctly it’s mostly downhill from now on.

Craig, who this morning was complaining of a hamstring injury is getting further and further ahead of me until I can no longer rely on seeing him to tell me where to turn.

Cindy now catches up with me and then pulls ahead too. Ah well.

The arrow continues to flap around my foot.

Back down around the playing fields, and then up to the road again. Somewhere my arrow disappears. Someone else can run with it now.

Then a little dip and on to the track. It seems to take forever to get around the track with Cindy about 50yds ahead and Craig out of sight.

20:47. Pretty slow for a road 5K (which this was not, of course). That’s a bit better than a 6:40 pace.

Cindy’s husband berates me: “You had a good lead at the top of the hill, how did you lose to her?”

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