Lesson learned! DO NOT wear road racing shoes for a trail or cross country race. It was a dumb and rookie decision on my part. It certainly cost me at least a minute, a couple overall places and prize money in the open category. Before the race my friend and I did a warmup running about 2.5 miles of the course, which is about 80% dirt (mud in most cases). It was my first taste of what I was about to experience. During the slow warmup I used my Asics training shoes (which I intended to race in) and was already having some difficulty with the footing. When I went to change into my racing clothes I decided to change my shoes as well to the Saucony Fastwitch 2. I honestly thought I could get away with it.
At the starting line, my hopes of a good race started to dwindle when I looked around to see what shoes all the other runners were wearing. It was obvious they ran this race before and knew what the course was like. Almost all runners wore cross country shoes (rubber spikes) or trail shoes. When we were waiting for the gun to go off my friend from the running club (AV Unitas) asked me if I had trail shoes. "Yeah, there at home." I really wanted to laugh.
I felt good in the first 1/4 mile of the race as this was one of the few parts of the course that was on pavement. As soon as we turned into the trails the slipping and sliding began for me. I literally was looking for the little rocks so that I can push off and get some traction and momentum going. About 3k into the race I could not help but watch the leaders slowly increase their lead. All I kept thinking about was why in the hell did I not bring my Nike waffle cross shoes. I ran alone for the next 5 kilometers with a couple runners in sight about 50-75 meters ahead. However, I was making up some ground on them each time we'd come across the hills. The toughest part of the course (that's an understatement because the entire course is tough) is the 9th kilometer, where there are a couple hills followed by a steep wooden stairway (about 180 steps). It was during this part of the course that I caught and passed the two runners I had in sight. On a downhill with mud one of the runners I caught quickly opened a 25 meter lead while I was focused on just trying to stay on my feet. I stayed in that position, which I later found out was 5th overall and 3rd in the open category, until another downhill (around the 13.5 km mark) when the second runner I passed flew by me. There was no way to respond as I continued to slip and slide and tried everything possible again to stay on my feet. I finished 6th overall in 56:41. You can view the results here (click on Uitslagen on the left and then Uitslagen Mescherbergloop).
All in all, it was a disappointing race for me. I probably needed a bad race though, because I learned something from it. Preparation! I need to do a better job of preparing for my races, knowing the course and terrain and choosing the right gear (shoes in today's case).