Not running all week due to a cold takes some of the excitement out of this event for me. But then I thought the same way about last weekend’s Turkey Trot 10K and I ended up running fairly well. It’s not like I need to run fast to enjoy this cross country 6K race. This is my first cross country event in 30 years. Coming in last place won’t take away the fantasy of reliving my youth. Simply smelling the earthy grass takes me back. Those high school meets racing against Killeen’s Carlos Quiñones. Those intense mile interval workouts along the San Marcos River in college. Six mile repeats averaging a 4:30 pace. Despite the downer of thinking I’m not 100%, I feel like a kid again! I did run 7 miles yesterday at an 8.5 minute per mile pace. Felt so good to run again. I’m not worried that I fell out of shape. You can’t in a week. The callouses on my feet aren’t any thinner. It is possible I lost some racing edge but simply being here running a cross country race at any pace is priceless. This is going to be a good day.
Unlike a road race where everyone launches together, the women start first at 9am. I see Caolan MacMahon, aka the Chronic Runner. She’s about my age and a badass. I passed her in a half marathon a year or so ago right at the finish line. From the subsequent email exchange where I let her download the race pics of us finishing together, I got the impression she thinks I’m a douche bag for passing her like that. She’s leading her team of 50 year olds named Women Who Run the World. I see Melody Fairchild, local star runner and coach. Wasn’t too long ago she was setting national records at Boulder HS. This park is quite literally her backyard, under the shadow of the flatirons. She finishes top ten and wins the individual award in the masters division.
They call us guys to the line for a 10am start. I queue up near the middle of the pack where I notice a clear division between 20 year olds and 50 year olds. This will be a fast start and I don’t want to be in front of the stampede. Despite the 39° starting temperature and 16 mph wind, few in front of me are wearing tights. The guys behind are dressed more for comfort with gloves and tights. I pocketed my gloves but am wearing black Under Armour tights and a white Under Armour, long sleeve, compression-fit turtleneck top. The wind is gusting well over 30 mph which can make the air feel well below freezing. There’s a pack of kids lined up in front of me who look like they might be in grade school. I’ve already accepted that I’m going to be seriously smoked by some of these older kids. The millennials who wear their sister’s pink fleece pajama bottoms for warmups. My new goal for this race is to not get passed by any of them during the 3 laps. I wonder if I should be concerned over these little ankle biters. Surveying the field of runners lined up in front of me, I think back to my registration form. Did it ask me my age, or what grade I’m in?
We start and I settle into a pace that is pushing myself yet feels sustainable. My first mile is at a 7:20 pace. Slower than my typical 10K pace but I don’t expect to run as fast on the grass. Those little ankle biters swarm around me during this first loop. Their team is the Boulder Warriors, managed by Melody Fairchild. Ellie read the Warrior series in grade school so that confirms their age. They come with a huge cheering squad along the course which I’m quick to co-opt. Still, these pint-sized harriers annoy me because they can’t run a straight line. I endeavor to surge ahead of them. About half their team end up beating me. They cut a sharper turn around trees because they can duck under the low-hanging branches. They sprint down hills immediately after cresting them while my legs are still considering recovery from the fatigue of the climb.
I maintain close to the same pace on the second loop but a few runners catch me. I fail in my goal to not get passed by the leaders as two of them pass me within 10 seconds of the finish line. This is not the time to let negativity creep in though, I have another loop to complete. I don’t put on a kick necessarily but I run this final loop faster than the second. I finish in 29:07 for a 7:38 pace. I’m happy with my effort and want to do this again. It would be fun to field a team. This pic is of the 50 year old men’s team, Revolution Running, that won. I think a couple of them beat me but I know my neighbors would be competitive. The next race is in January. This series leads up to the U.S. National Cross Country Championships in Boulder in February.