I love running on trail. I also love racing because in the back of the pack you meet so many nice people. The ones in the back of the pack are slow. We are not in any hurry! And so it is common for people to talk to you as you go by. Some of them go further than the quick greeting like "beautiful day eh?" or "Keep it up!"
I was running at a good clip and did not want to stop to chat. As I passed a man he saw my team singlet and asked, "Where are you from?" I, as chipperly as I could, replied "Santa Maria. In California."
He kept talking. I didn't want to seem rude and not reply. But I did not want to stop to chat. The girl in blue was God-knows how far ahead. I already had to knock down to the half course from the full; I did not want to suffer another disappointment in not coming in before the girl in blue. So I saw only one option.
I ran backwards.
This way, I could keep running in the right direction and chat a little with the guy thus preserving the camaraderie and friendliness known to us "back of the pack-ers".
It's really stupid to run backwards. Especially on a trail with uneven surface as well as rocks and such. But I was also hoping that my running backwards would also cue the guy into the fact I wanted to keep moving. It helped. He asked a couple more questions which I answered cheerfully. Then I was able to gracefully turn around and kept moving forward.
Something scared me though. I still hadn't caught sight of the girl in blue. "Damn!" I thought, "She's probably a 'dirty girl'". (A dirty girl (or boy) is someone who likes to run on dirt.) This was bad news for me. Some runners don't like trails and actually slow down on dirt. The fact that I love trail running was a small advantage I had in this race. But if the girl in blue is also a trail runner, it didn't matter. Crap!
It was afraid to push my pace because I knew the critical factor would come down to who had enough juice in their tank at the end. Especially because I knew the toughest hill on the courses was in the last mile. I needed to be sure to get to the top of that hill first if I was going to have a chance at beating her. And I would need juice to tackle that hill. Ugh! I wasn't sure what I should do.
So I just made sure I pumped my arms and checked my form to try to be as efficient as I could. Then I made sure my pace stayed just where I could keep it up without running out of breath. The only other thing left to do was to keep scanning ahead praying I'd see a flash of blue!