Going into today, I wasn’t really sure how to approach this race. I wanted to take it seriously, but also not *too* seriously, since my legs are only 3 weeks removed from the marathon. I decided that my goal would be to run as close to 14:23 (my 4k XC PR, run in Terre Haute) as possible.
Getting to the course brought back a wave of awesome cross country memories. People with dogs, fall leaves, tents, course maps, the “spike walk” across pavement, team cheers…all subtle reminders of the pain-train that was about to roll in.
After we picked up our bibs we headed back to the car to stay warm. Even though it wasn’t a particularly cold day, there was a strong east wind that made standing around uncomfortable. We studied the course map, and noticed there were going to be quite a few sharp turns!
We ran the course as a warm up with one of Dave’s college teammates. Indeed, the turns were really tight, but the course was nicely laid out and not at all boring. There was even a log to jump near the 3k (which many people subsequently misjudged during the race and tumbled over). After our 20 min warm up we did drills and strides, then went to the line!
I haven’t run a cross country race in 5 years. I made a pretty dumb rookie mistake and chose a box in the direct middle of the starting line. It did not occur to me that people run out WAY too fast at the start of an xc race, or that after the first 100 m, we would all funnel into the woods. I did a few strides, found my place on the line, and then was asked by a guy next to me if I was Anna Weber, who had just OTQ’d. This conversation piqued the interest of the HS boys in the box next to me, and they excitedly asked me if I was going to run Boston next year. I think I disappointed them when I said no…only the Trials, lol.
When the gun went off, I found myself chasing down half the field, which was somehow already in front of me. I worried that I misjudged my fitness and wasn’t going to be able to run very quick today. We got into the woods and suddenly everyone slowed down. By the 1k mark I had worked myself into 1st-female position (3:28 1k), and then focused on the guys ahead.
the start (photo taken from USATF Indiana facebook page)
I had a lot of fun running people down. The course was fantastic. After the first k we snaked through the woods and then came out on a path that ran along the tree line. I was able to pass quite a few guys here.
In the woods (photo taken from USATF Indiana’s facebook page)
When we got out of the woods, the race seemed to string out. I was attempting to use my watch to help me pace, but I threw all that out the window when the gun went off. I forgot just how different a 14:00 race feels than a 2.5 hr race!
This photo is the epitome of cross country in IN (also from USATF IN fb page)
Once we passed 3k, I saw a small group of guys in front of me that I wanted to chase down. I caught up to them and we spent the last half mile going back and forth. With 200 m to go I knew it would be close whether I would beat my PR or not. I kicked as best I could and passed two guys, but then one pushed me and I took a couple bad steps and they both beat me. (not that it likely would have made much of a difference in my time, but still annoying.) In the chute I noticed my wrist was bleeding from getting spiked (?). On the plus side, I got a 1st place ribbon!
The good: So many positives for today. I put in a great strength workout, and ran a PR in the process! I feel weird counting this as a PR, since I ran 14:23 at the state meet in HS my senior year, BUT, I did run a few 4k xc races in college, so I guess it’s fair game. I am extremely happy that my legs felt so good only 3 weeks out from the marathon!! Still some hamstring/IT band tightness, but I’m on the upswing.
I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet…but racing in my new uniform was definitely a good part of the day! Once I had my spikes on and sweats off, I felt pretty unstoppable.
Dave also ran well! I’m secretly waiting for the day that I beat him in a race (since, you know…I train and he doesn’t), but so far that hasn’t happened. He ran 13:30ish and got 3rd overall, which is especially great because Dave isn’t exactly built like a cross country runner, so lots of turning can be tough.
The bad: I didn’t put myself in a good position at the start, and suffered for it the first 1k. Making moves around people in the woods was tough, and I wasted a lot of energy trying to run on the outside of everyone around the turns.
The ugly: I was pretty annoyed about being pushed at the finish. In the chute, I dramatically held up my bleeding wrist and asked the guy if pushing/spiking me was necessary. He offered a “I was just racing” response and shrugged it off. Had he not been twice my size or had he been female I wouldn’t have been as annoyed, but I’m super paranoid about dumb injuries (like the elite woman in the Toronto Marathon who shattered her femur after tripping on street car tracks). Oh well.
Assuming the next week goes well, I think we may head to Purdue on the 1st for the next race in the series.