Monday, October 27, 2008
The following are the reflections of five Northern California Cross Country runners who took part in the biggest 2 day cross country event in the US, the Mt. SAC Invitational. The athletes are in order, Colleen Lillig of California (winner of race #89 in a time of 18:04), Matthew Day of Berean Christian (2nd in race #27 in a time of 16:33), Rachel Mitchel of American (winner of race #55 in 18:35), Erik Olson of Novato (winner of race #15 in a time of 15:46) and Nathanael Litwiller (12th place in race #69 in a time of 15:30).
1) Was this your first experience at Mt. SAC? If not, how many years have you attended the meet?
Colleen: This was my first time.
Matthew: No, this was my third year. I ran Mt. SAC in 2006, 2007, and this year.
Rachel: I competed in the Mt. SAC Invitational my sophomore year, and of course this year, my senior year.
Erik: No it was not. The team and I went last year and then decided that since we had so much fun we should go again this year instead of going to Clovis as the team trip.
Nathanael: It was my first time racing there.
2) Transportation to the meet, drive or fly?
Matthew: Our team drove from Walnut Creek down. It is a long drive.
Rachel: My team decided to fly down Friday morning and fly back Sunday morning, but we rented vans to take us to the hotel and Invitational.
Erik: Driving. Partying the whole way down in the big white and big green vans. Allowing time to fly by while playing the ABC game, texting, and reading magazine articles out loud in weird accents.
3) Best part of the Mt. SAC Invitational?
Colleen: The fans and getting the chance to run on such a famous course.
Matthew: The atmosphere: I get a little with all of the people who go to the invitational, but at the same time I love how it never stops. It claims to be the largest Cross Country meet in the world, after all. And the medals given to the top 15 runners are good quality medals, so it's cool to win one.
Rachel: The best part of it all would have to be watching runners like Jordan Hassay and ALex Dunne run in the individual Sweepstakes. I was also blown away by the Saugus girls performance.
Erik: The atmosphere and the competition.
Nathanael: The size of it.
4) What is the toughest part of the course?
Colleen: Poop out is really a poop out.
Matthew: Personally, I find the switchbacks to be the most difficult part of the course. After running the valley loop twice in 5:00, it's mentally hard to go up a hill that seems like it doesn't have a summit. All three of the main hills are hard, but at least what comes up goes down.
Rachel: The toughest part of the course would have to be probably the last part of poop out hill, because it is toward the end of the race.
Erik: The last hill (Reservoir Hill) and having to race at the hottest part of the day (90+ degrees)
Nathanael: The last mile for sure
5) Describe the course for runners who have never run on it.
Colleen: It's just as much downhill as uphill. It's really nice because you run on soft dirt the majority of the race, it was dusty and really hot when I ran, but overall it was one of the greatest courses I've run on. Every part is a different challenge.
Matthew: You start off on a street and make your way to the Valley Loop, which you go around twice, equaling about one mile. Right after come the Switchbacks and a little extra uphill, and then you come back around and go downhill back to the street you started on. Then you make your way to a different hill known as Poop Out Hill going up and down it, going around the back side of the hills and reaching the two mile mark. Then you come back around the front side of the hills and go up another hill called Reservoir Hill and back down, once again, toward the street you started on, and make your way toward the finish right by the track. The course is dirt other than the street on which you start on, so the runners make a lot of dust.
Rachel: It is a fast course with some tough hills. There are cutbacks and hills such as poop out hill. However, there are a fair amount of downhill after the hills along with time to recover before approaching the next one.
Erik: The course is flat for the first mile since you run two 880 yard loops. Then you go up Switchbacks which isn't too bad since its early in the race and you have got momentum from the fast first mile. Then you go downhill for about a half mile reaching Poop-out hill, which is short but steep. At the bottom of Poop-out is the two mile mark. Then it's a long flat straight away leading to Reservoir hill. When running this you must be sure to stay focused because there is no one there to cheer you on. Once you reached the top of Reservoir hill, you have a half mile of downhill/flat to the finish. Then you must make sure you run through the finish line because there is a slight bunny hill 10 meters before the finish that many runners slow down to get up. The Spark notes of all of this is there is more downhill than up. Make sure you run a fast first mile and run hard down all the hills.
Nathanael: Even if you walk and study the course thoroughly before racing it you still will not know what your up against until you have done it.
6) What was your strategy before the race?
Colleen: I made sure to loosen up from a 7 hour car ride, tried to stay hydrated and cool, get pumped mentally, and visualize parts of the race.
Matthew: I wanted to get out fast so that I didn't get caught up in the dust the other runners produce. Other than that, I don't really plan much for my races. I did want to win my race, which I did not do, but I at least got second. I could have gotten less had I not worked up Reservoir Hill and kicking the last 400 meters.
Rachel: I knew I had to go out with the lead pack and I really wanted to push on the hills and open my stride on the downhill to create a gap.
Erik: Get out to a fast first mile and run hard down all the hills.
Nathanael: To run the first mile at my own pace and settle in then catch the leaders and go crazy after reservoir hill.
7) How will competing at Mt. SAC help you with your future cross country races this season?
Colleen: I think competing at Mt. Sac will help me to prepare to take on any race where I need to travel to run and not have my usual pre-race schedule. Also learning to run at a big invitational with the best runners and huge crowds. This year I've really felt like a I can hold my own at big meets like this for the first time.
Matthew: I know that I can run a 16:33, so I'm hoping that I'll get in the low 16's for state.
Rachel: Competing at Mt. Sac helped me compare myself in direct copmpetition and times of girls in m Section. It allowed me to know how much harder I need to work from now until the North Coast Section meet.
Erik: Well running Mt. SAC helps prepare me for running the Footlocker West in a little over a month. But it also helps me figure out how far I can truly push myself in the most extreme conditions. When I race in heat I always tell myself that this is nothing compared to Mt. SAC. Therefore, it gives me confidence that I can race in any type of weather and on any type of course.
Nathanael: It will make the rest of the courses seem easier; the course tests your mental strength.
8) Did you get to do any fun activities while down there?
Colleen: We didn't really do any activities. Our team just hung out and had a fun time laughing at each other and meeting runners from other teams.
Matthew: The night before, my team and I went to Medieval Times for dinner. After the race, we went to Downtown Disney and hung out. The next day after the race, we went into Disneyland.
Rachel: Aside from watching the amazing talent on Saturday, I spent most of the Friday and Saturday after the race at Disneyland and California Adventure with my team.
Erik: Well after the race, we got massages at the race venue, hung out back at the hotel, and attempted to party it up with some of the girls (Alhambra and Bret Harte) in the Hot Tub. We then learned that we were not as smooth as we suspected. But my team and I did get some numbers and still feel relatively good about our pick-up lines (though one of our girl teammates called them lame). We then boarded the Big White and Big Green party vans and drove back up the next day to go to our homecoming.
Nathanael: Ya I visited my assistant coach's college and went to a giant mall.
Thank you again all. Best of luck with the rest of your seasons.