This race was humbling.
I have felt great in practice, running increasingly faster intervals and losing weight fairly easily. I'll admit I thought I would be able to challenge for the win in the long course (8.5K).
When we showed up to the race, we were prompty informed by teammates Mette, Rasmus and Peter that last month's route was nothing compared to this one. We jogged most of the 3K loop and found two lung-busting climbs tracked arbitrarily into the hills. There were corresponding downhills, one of which ended in a sharp right-hand turn and a field of deep mud.
The course proved too technical for me, unfortunately. The guys around me, most of whom were young and fearless, bombed down these hills, gapping me by 30 yards each time. There were a few strethes that resembled runnable trails and on those I was able to benefit from the speed I have built up over the last two months.
In the long course race, I finished third, with top two out of sight. The eventual fourth and fifth place finishers started out yo-yo'ing around me. The younger of the two, Lasse, got the aforementioned 30 yards on me on three downhills per loop. What was worse was that the uphills were very slippery and I was the only top runner without spikes. So even though a non-technical guy like me ought to do well on the uphills, I ended up dreading especially one very muddy hill.
On the short course, a lot of juniors shot out in front. A lot of them hadn't run the long course, so they had fresh legs. I was in tenth spot after the first half mile, despite sprinting to get to the front. The trail was so muddy that everyone wanted to be in front, but I had to give in to these young speedster. Thankfully, they all lost steam and I was able to fight my way up to third, with Lasse, the monster dowhhiller behind me. On a steep downhill, he passed me and got a good gap. With a half mile to go, I caught back up, considering the horrible possibility of a sprint up the last 50 meter hill. He had spikes and I didn't, I kept telling myself, and I was willing to just let him stay ahead. Then, of course, on the hill with all the spectators screaming at us, we started sprinting. I was able to pull even but he responded with a wild dash over the last 10 yards.
All in all, a fun race but I didn't perform quite like I was hoping for.
With all the hills, especially downhills, I feared for how the Girl would fare. She must have learned a thing or two from Transalpine, where the downhills killed us, because she did really well yesterday. It's hard to compare races, because there are very few fast women running cross country. She took second last month and she took second yesterday. Compared to Mette, our teammate and fastest woman in Southern Zealand, the gap was much less than in their last two races. I think she was fairly satisfied with everything.