Friday, November 8, 2013

XC4Life…Well, Starting Now

I don’t know if I’m just a 31-year-old curmudgeon or just narrow minded right now or a little of both, but I feel that once you reach a point in your athletic career there aren’t *that* many chances to try something new in your sport. There are new courses, new opponents, and new gear, but there’s rarely a chance to enter an event with the “I have no idea how this will go” mentality. I’d say my progression as a runner was a bit unconventional. Growing up I played golf and tennis and I cross country skied. We ran a lot for skiing, but there were only a few instances when we were timed. So my first formal running race was an ill-prepared (but fun) half marathon back in 1998. Unlike a lot of experienced runners, I skipped over 400s, relays, and 5Ks on muddy cross country courses. But when Kristin Metcalf, Team Manager at Oiselle, asked me if I wanted to run cross country this fall, it was hard to say no, especially when it meant the opportunity to run at Club Nationals in Bend, OR this December. Throw in a chance to hang out with Lauren Fleshman and Project Little Wing and I was sold!

I took this shot of the uphill finish line during the men's race.
Beautiful, sunny fall day in Seattle.
The problem, however, was that my triathlon season was in full swing until October 27th, while many of the XC races took place earlier in the fall. It didn’t make sense for me to jump into a local 5k or 6k on a muddy track, especially as a newbie, when I needed to stay healthy and put in miles on the bike or long road miles. That meant I’d only have a couple chances to race locally before we travel to Bend. And I wasn’t going to have my first XC race include something with “Nationals” in the title, even if I’m in it primarily for the experience (and a trip to Bend, the magical endurance town). So I decided to race last Sunday at the Pacific Northwest TF XC Championships, a 6k race on a very difficult course (so I’m told – I have no comparison other than the road). Being one week off from Austin 70.3, the timing was less than ideal, but the race was about 2 miles from my house and had a 10:45 start (and it was $10). Once again, it was very hard to say no. Besides, with 4 other Oiselle girls, we had enough to score as a team, which always makes things seem a little more exciting and a little more “worth it.”

Kayla, CK, Jena, Sarah, Natty in the Distance Shorts (personal favorite)
Picture from @Oiselle_team
So I decided to lace up on Sunday and, of course, I loved it. It was hard, my legs had very little pep, the pace burned my lungs, I finished near the back, but it was a beautiful day, and I had an absolute blast. It was something new and no matter what happened, I was guaranteed a PR. It was my Rando-Race for the year, as described by Sarah Mac. I met up with the Oiselle girls Sunday morning – Kristin was there as support and get us signed up, Kayla, Natty, Jena, Sarah were there to run, and Julie was there to cheer. It was great to have the moral support and jog a warm-up lap of the course together. Natty pointed out things like, “here’s the 1k to go mark – less than 3 laps around the track,” as well as where to go for the second and third lap versus the finish line. Gerry was out on a training run and met me before the start to watch the race. After bathroom stops, pinning our numbers, and taking off layers, we made our way to the line. Kristin took a team picture and we all lined up together, as I asked a couple newbie questions before the gun went off.
While CEO Sally was running NYCM, her
hubs was the lead biker.
Photo by @oiselle_team
Honestly the race went by so quickly there isn’t much to report, not because I was so fast, but because I'm used to 10 hour races. With tired legs from the weekend before and my lack of experience, it’s not like I was going to make any bold moves in the first couple kilometers. So I held on (behind them) with Natty and Jena as long as I could until the pack naturally spread out. By the second and third loop, I was basically running with a group of girls. I’d get passed on certain sections and then pass them back. There wasn’t much time to think or dwell, and only once during the race did the thought “how would this go on fresh legs” cross my mind.
I finished in 24:52 and was outkicked in the last 20 meters. Sarah was there to greet me with a, “Good job. You’ve done way more in the past week than that girl has.” My time or placing are nothing to brag about (36th out of 46), but there were quite a few girls stacked in the minute ahead of me, so it’s not like I got lapped or had a huge gap from some  of the other runners (legitimate fears going into this race) and from what I know, the field was made up of some of the fastest girls in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellingham area. Based on how sore I was Sunday afternoon through yesterday, I ran plenty hard – the course had many uneven sections, which made my hips ache; I just think I can run harder with some more rest. From now until Bend, I’ll get in a couple 5ks to work on some speed and I’ll do a few training runs in spikes (2 day shipping turned into 5 day shipping and my shoes came on Monday – thanks for nothing).
Yes, of course I wish I could go back in time and sign up for cross country races in my youth. I’m sure I’d have some fond memories from junior high and high school races. But at the time, playing tennis was more important every fall. And I have memories with those teammates that I’ll cherish forever. So now, the only thing I can do is look forward to the new XC memories I’ll make as an adult, including my first race.

Lots of XC Love,

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