Recently the USATF Club cross race has become what I believe the most competitive cross country event in the US (based on depth not top runners). True, the U.S. Nationals in February has still got more studs to make it tougher to win or be top 10. I’m talking from the standpoint if you happen to be a local standout and want a true test of fitness among your peers – look no further than the club xc race where you will get a good solid ass whopping if you aren’t bringing your absolute A game.
Although my 23:18 was possibly my slowest 6K in my life, I was more than satisfied with my 53rd place this year after all I had gone through to get there. The winner from Colorado was Laura Thweatt in 5:50 pace; I proudly managed 6:15 pace 58 seconds back from my BAC teammate Carrie Dimoff who finished an amazing 10th. Kristen Rohde, who creamed me by 41 seconds last month in a 3K time trial (running 9:24) was only 17 seconds ahead in 38th. My highest finish in this race happened in 2007 when I was 16th – 49 seconds from winner Delilah DiCrescenzo in a moderately difficult course filled with slop and snow melt (AKA great fun for me and not for the majority of the runners).
What really motivated me to stay in contention for the top 50 this year was the number “79” – My place at Club nationals in 2011 while I was 13 weeks pregnant (21:53 at 5:52 pace; 2 minutes behind winner Brie Felnagle). No matter how unprepared I was from my lack of training in November and December, I couldn’t be worse than a pregnant Julia Webb.
I didn’t realize when I was watching the movie “What to Expect when Expecting” in theater the spring before giving birth that for a while I was that “magical pregnant unicorn”. To be in the top third (of nearly 300 highly competitive women) while continuing to provide life in that 22 minute window for a growing human as your body is swimming with hormones that make you cry over a Pampers commercial is no joke! Luckily I was only about 5 pounds over my normal weight and although unproven, likely could have still completed the NYC High Heel Dash in under 35 seconds for 150m (and I don’t even wear heels!) I actually could have done even better but I flew in the night before and didn’t give myself enough time to adjust from the long flight from VA to the state of WA. Only a week later I crushed it with a 2nd place finish at the Celtic Solstice in Baltimore on a hilly 5 mile course in 29:34 (5:54 pace).
To compare these tightly packed fields of cross country harriers who show up for the Club race in December, I am reflecting on my experience at US Nationals when I “competed” unpregnant and healthy in the race in 2009. I finished in 26th place -which was over 3 minutes behind winner Emily Brown (we once were in the same training group at WI Camp of Champs the summer of 2001; unfortunately she must have gotten more out of that camp experience since she was a professional runner for New Balance as I remained “professional wannabe”) A day with unseasonably warm weather, on a tough hilly course very similar to this year in Bend, I ran 30:12 for 8K- and somehow finished in the top 30! I went out way too hard on the first 2K loop and ended up a full minute slower each consecutive lap while stopping to walk at the top of the hill and take water. I guess you could say I was almost walking in this year’s race at the final steep uphill but so were most people* in the race.
*this DOES NOT include my pal Jena Winger- she owned the hills!
For the race in Bend, I could not have been happier for myself to run on a course that took all the speed out of everyone’s legs. I live for the tough courses filled with technical turns, hills and slop. The only thing I feared is that this wouldn’t be good for Alan and I was right. He shies away from any trail runs unless they are wide and smooth enough to mimic track workouts. In Portland, the trail scene is endless, but he has only been on Wildwood to run maybe 1 time in the 3 years we’ve lived here. He frequently drives 45 minutes to Camas, WA for the 3 miles of groomed trail along Lacamas Lake.
The night before the race brought back a memory of our last run together in Wisconsin before we married in 2010. He had stopped in West Bend (my dad’s hometown) after flying into Milwaukee, a city I had worked in during a couple summers in college. Alan wanted to know if there were any great places to run (not on a road) and of course I knew the place I used to love to explore. I promised it was great for running; but this was my style of running. I figured one run through some windy woods would be a fun outing. We entered a rough section of the “ice age trail” which consisted of rocky twisting terraine, the ground completely covered beyond visibility with leaves- typical for what happens during October.
A note that the only time I can keep up with Alan without going sub tempo effort is in trails and this time he halted to a shuffle about 9 minute pace, cursing me out for bringing him to such a crap place to run and making fun of my “skiing” form. He yelled, “Why do you think you run like an old man!? You have to keep your legs low to the ground and shuffle so you don’t trip. Now I look exactly like you!” Probably true, but he couldn’t even just let go for once and enjoy a nice little adventure run through the woods with his bride to be!? I laugh now at how furious he had become with steam literally coming out of his ears, until miles later we finally came to a clearing before exiting to the road. Alan took off running sub 5 pace to drop me and express his anger that I had considered that a place to run.
This brings up another point that I always wanted to compete in the USATF Mountain running championships, and just have to wait til the race coordinates with my schedule. Note to USATF, please find a suitable location in Oregon and host it here soon. Or look no further than River’s Edge Golf Course in Bend!
Bend is situated at an altitude of 3600 ft which meant an easy break for anyone with the words “Boulder” or “Flagstaff” in the same line of their name in the results page. This also meant a significant disadvantage to us sealevel dwellers who haven’t been sleeping in our altitude tents and other hematocritly challenged athletes like myself. I had never raced above 1000 ft but wasn’t too nervous since I had experienced a few workouts in Mammoth Lakes above 7000 ft and did not pass out.
I knew time was out the window and ran blindly, praying I wouldn’t completely run out of gas until it was time to turn for home on the final sprint to the finish. I timed it perfect. I got out hard as we went straight uphill through the lumpy grass for 500m before a sharp turn into a treacherous section of downhill where I witnessed runners falling and flying off the trail. I recalled the grimaces and misery of the men during the masters race as we were warming up and flashed a smile a couple times during the race just to remind myself how great this was to be out there. Unfortunately if you see a photo finish of me, I was unable to smile due to severe oxygen debt to my brain while I was still trying to control movement in my limbs.
For Alan he was out there for one reason and that was to win. As he took off hard leading the pack for the first 2 of 5 loops, I cringed as I was screaming at him to “let the other guys do the work”. When he started to fall back spectators thought I was nuts as I was yelling for him to man up along the lines of “There’s Max King!! Get him!!!” It was no use, as I could see his frustration as he was breaking down the steep downhill section and signs of “giving up” were all over his face as the race progressed with the leaders out of sight.
He quotes “That race was one of the poorest in my entire career. I don’t think I’ve ever finished that low in place” – with his 32nd place finish. Can anyone prove that? Not too surprised based on his training preferences that he couldn’t pull it off, as many people struggled. The Zap Fitness guys who competed in the Richmond 8K and San Jose Turkey Trot were right there with Alan in Bend. Also Alan would like to say to the course designer “Thanks Max King” (sarcasm) 🙂 I personally would like to thank him for this true cross country experience, so “Thanks Max King” (no sarcasm).
The winner 29 year old Joseph Gray ran like a champ and used his technical trail experience and toughness as a former USA Mountain running champion. And doubters check this fact out – as white men can’t jump, old men on the brink of turning 30 can still run fast! Gray and 4th place dad Brent Vaughn are almost the same age as Alan!
Select Results for all your statistic nerds
USATF Club Nationals XC – 12/24/13 at River’s Edge Golf Course
Men’s 6 mile
1. Joseph “mountain running lover” Gray Club Northwest WA 31:05 (5:01 pace)
2. Sean Quigley Boulder Track Club CO 31:11 5:02
3. Maverick Darling Wisconsin Runner WI 31:18 5:03
4. Brent Vaughn Champions League CO 31:20 5:03
15. Max “damn him” King Central Oregon OR 31:42 5:06
27. Kevin Schwab ZAP Fitness NC 32:08 5:11
32. Alan “mountain running hater” Webb Nike OR 32:14 5:12
34. Jesus Romo New Balance Silicon Valley CA 32:15 5:12
36. Cole Atkins ZAP Fitness Reebok NC 32:20 5:13
39. Bobby April Playmakers Elite MI 32:22 5:13
40. Matt Cleaver unattached GA 32:24 5:13
41 Cameron Bean ZAP Fitness Reebok NC 32:28 5:14
44 Phillip Reid Asics Aggies CA 32:34 5:15
83 Devon Monson Adidias/RogueAC TX 33:17 5:22
168 German “hating mountains even more” Fernandez Nike OR 34:37 5:35
Here are other recent road race results for comparison– it looks like me and Mr. Schwab live for these kind of races unless he had a bathroom stop in the Richmond 8k? (No judgements; that happened to me in 2008 – 30:38 for 16th place)
Richmond 8K 11/15/13
4. Cameron Bean 23:03 (4:38 pace)
6. Bobby April 23:08 4:39
7. Alan Webb 23:10 4:39
8. Cole Atkins 23:17 4:41
21. Kevin Schwab 25:13 5:04
San Jose Turkey Trot 5K 11/28/13
5. Cole Atkins 13:51 (4:28 pace)
7. Alan Webb 13:56 4:29
11. Phillip Reid 14:13 4:35
13. Devon Monson 14:20 4:37
16. Jesus Romo 14:27 4:39
18. Matt Cleaver 14:29 4:40
USATF Club Nationals XC – Women’s 6K (3.75 miles)
1. Laura Thweatt Boulder Track Club CO 21:43 (5:50 pace)
2. Amy Van Alstine Team Run Flagstaff AZ 22:03 5:55
3. Deborah Maier Beasts TC WA 22:06 5:56
7. Brie Felnagle Beasts TC WA 22:17 5:59
10. Carrie “runs 5 days a week” Dimoff BAC OR 22:20 6:00
11. Steph Dinius New Balance Silicon Valley CA 22:20 6:00
12. Rochelle Kanuho Boulder Running Co CO 22:25 6:01
17. Brittni Hutton Boulder Running Co CO 22:31 6:03
13. Jessica Tebo Beasts TC WA 22:25 6:01
14. Kellyn Johnson Team Run Flagstaff AZ 22:15 5:59
18. Jamie Cheever Beasts TC WA 22:33 6:03
26. Sarah Pease Adidas/RogueAC TX 22:47 6:07
38. Kristen “can’t catch her” Rohde BAC OR 23:01 6:11
53. Julia “shuffler” Webb BAC OR 23:18 6:15
63 Sara Vaughn HTS Elite CO 23:32 6:19
64. Rebecca Friday unattached OR 23:33 6:19
119. Anna “speed for days” Connor BAC OR 24:32 6:30
San Jose Turkey Trot 11/28 (just about half the field here decided to also run xc)
Check out my drastic improvement I made in racing within the 2 week period!
3. Brie Felnagle 15:44 (5:04 pace)
7. Deborah Maier 15:56 5:08
9. Jessica Tebo 15:57 5:08
10. Kellyn Johnson 16:00 5:09
11. Rochelle Kanuho 16:05 5:11
13. Brittni Hutton 16:14 5:14
17. Jamie Cheever 16:23 5:17
18. Sarah Pease 16:25 5:17
20. Kristen Rohde 16:31 5:19
22. Sara Vaughn 16:40 5:22
23. Kristen Findley 16:48 5:25
DNF. Julia “antibiotics” Webb (was on about 17:35 pace; only 5:40 per mile- through half way; it probably would have been 19:35 if I had continued on)
P.S. It’s 1:45 PM and I’m still in my PJs on a Saturday 🙂 I could get used to this nontraining lifestyle.