First and foremost, enjoy the moment. You are about to be a part of the biggest and best cross country meet in the country!
Take it all in!
Make sure someone takes a photo of you when your race appears of the GIANT TV screen. Tell all of your friends and relatives to watch your race live on the Internet. Walk over to the grove of trees at the 800 meter mark and listen to the roar of the crowd as the sweepstakes races come through, and then do the same along the finish gauntlet.
Finally, at some point in the day after your race walk to the top of Reservoir and take in the whole spectacle. You will remember this day for the rest of your life. Any time you tell anyone that you ran cross country in California growing up, they will ask you, “What did you run at SAC?”
Here are a couple of helpful hints to actually run a faster race this weekend.
One, stay relaxed. It is so hectic checking in, warming up on that grass field, going through the clerk, lining up—many younger runners let themselves get nervous and bothered and use up valuable energy just leading to the race. Remind yourself to relax and “tune out” all the distractions around you.
Second, at the gun, don’t go out too hard. Remember, you can use your ATP energy stores for just about 4-6 seconds to get off the line, but then, relax and don’t get caught up in the sprint down the strip.
Stay relaxed down the strip, and then once you have made the first left turn at about 300 meters, all the runners who went out too hard will start to slow down. You just have to maintain your pace, and you will actually start to move pass people just by maintaining your pace.
Third, move up slowly. The key to running this course well is to not run that first mile too hard. Get in good position and stay relaxed. The race doesn’t really begin until you hit the Swtichbacks.
Fourth, when you get to the Switchbacks, don’t race up the hill. Maintain your effort. It is the longest hill on the entire course—almost a quarter mile to very top. Maintain your effort throughout the hill, and you will pick up runners all the way up—especially the last stretch to the top.
Fifth, since the Switchbacks are the longest hill going up, it is also the longest hill going down-almost a full half mile from the top to the Crossover.
As you approach the top of the Switchbacks, keep your body lean forward over the top of the hill and get into running downhill quickly. Lean forward coming downhill and let gravity do its job.
Just about 100 yards into the downhill you will make a U-turn to begin to head down behind the stadium. Speed up going into that U-Turn, and use your momentum to get over the little hump coming out of that U-Turn and get quickly into that downhill behind the stadium.
Sixth, Poopout. Once again, maintain your effort. Don’t race up that steep hill. Save your energy for the back of Reservoir.
Seventh, after Poopout comes the two mile mark and the long stretch of flat course leading to the base of Reservoir. THIS IS THE PLACE TO PASS OR GET AWAY! There are few spectators, everyone is tired, most runners see Reservoir to their right and they slow down thinking how hard it is going to be.
You should look at Reservoir and think, “There’s the finish line”. Pick it up. Pass, pass, pass!
Eighth, make that turn at the base of Reservoir and power up that hill. Remember, there is a break half-way up to recover a bit, and then charge again to the top.
Ninth, at the top of Reservoir is actually about 30 meters of flat. As you approach the top, again, keep that body leaning forward, and charge into the downhill.
Lean forward and recover a bit as your fly down the hill.
On to the airstrip and give it everything you have left—its only 400 meters (one lap of a track) from the beginning of the airstrip to the finish line.
Finally, don’t forget that little 10 yards of flat grass after the little hill at the end to get to that finish line. You will either pass at least one person or be passed by one person in that last ten yards at the top of the little hill—be the passer!
After the race, shake hands with all the people you just raced, hug your teammates, find your friends and coaches from Runners Workshop and say “hi”, and smile—you have been part of one of the greatest athletic events in the country!