After running, and loving, the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon last year, I was excited to run it again this year. It was going to be the USATF National Trail Marathon Championships, so I knew it would bring some great competition and no doubt, some faster times. However, something really cool happened 9 days before the race that made me not run it - the Sky-Em League Championship Cross Country Meet.
See, I thought only 3 individual guys from the Sisters Outlaws were going to qualify for State. I was wrong! The boys team not only qualified, they narrowly missed victory by only 5 points. The #4-6 runners all ran big p.r.'s to seal the team's berth to State. The girls teams also finished second, thus, sending 14 Outlaws harriers to the State meet. Since state was the same day as Lithia, my choice really wasn't a choice at all - there was no way I was going to miss out on State!
The day of the State meet started off early for us Outlaws. With fresh snow on the pass, we left the school in the very uncrowded bus at 6:15 for the 2.5+ hour drive to Lane Comm. College in Eugene. Although maybe not the most fun course to run, it sure is very spectator friendly.
The girls were racing first. All seven of them (Emi, Hayley, Katie, Jordan, Tia, Fabi, and Taylor) ran strong. We really didn't think a trophy was in the cards (top-4), but thought that with a solid day, top-10 was within reach. The girls stepped up and finished a strong 8th.
Next it was time for the boys. Undefeated on the season coming into the meet, Parker put a lot of pressure on himself. The other coaches and I tried to mellow him out on the bus ride. When the gun went off, Parker, Taylor, and Seth S. went out strong, while Jeff, Easton, Seth F., and Mason went with the main pack. Parker ran very strong in the lead pack of 3 for 2 1/2 miles, leading the whole way, at which point the other 2 guys made a move on him and he couldn't respond. They had bided their time well and had the kicks to show it. Parker pushed hard to the finish and made all the Outlaws proud with his 3rd place. Of course, he has since run that race in his head at least 100 times, and will at least that many more...he definitely learned a good lesson that day.
Taylor and Seth both steadily moved up within the lead pack throughout the race, finishing 8th and 12th, respectively. Taylor is going to be a solid team leader next year. Thanks to Mason's mid-race surge, he, Jeff, Easton, and Seth F. all moved up big-time throughout the race. And as per usual, once Jeff and Easton hit the track with 300 meters to go, they flew by guys! Thanks to Easton's, Seth F's, and Mason's p.r.'s, and Jeff's big finish, the boys podiumed in a very solid 3rd place and earned a trophy.
That night, we rented a big house on the beach in Waldport, had a great seafood dinner, played a bunch of silly games, looked at all of the pictures Zander and Chris took, watched movies, played in the sand, and just generally celebrated a great cross country season by being together. A sweet way to end a fun year!
This past Saturday, just a week after State, there was a USATF cross country race in Sandy that I thought would be fun to run and get a few Outlaws to go with me. I was only able to get Taylor and Parker to go, but we had a great time!
Taylor ran the Junior Olympic portion of the meet, finishing 5th in his 5k race in 17:39. He outkicked two guys on the track, beating one by .3 seconds! I got Parker to run the Open 8 k race with me...um, or at in the same race with me. He was excited to just run a race for fun with no pressure on him, and it showed. In a small, but very strong, field of 30, Parker ran his first 8 km xc race in 27:18 for 5th place. He smoked lots of 20 & 30 year old dudes - it was sweet! I overheard more than a few guys after the race comment about Parker. As for me, I was reminded that, although I love xc, I really suck at it. Although I never got passed the entire race, and ended up passing 10 harriers, I still couldn't even pull of a sub-30, finishing in 30:02 for 14th place.
I thought about cross country running and what makes a good cross country runner a bit on the drive home. I concluded there are 3, maybe 4, general runner classifications: power, strength, speed, and endurance. I got the endurance down. And crazy as it sounds, I think I even have a little speed (relative to the other categories). Power is pretty much reserved for sprinters and that's definitely not me. But I think it's really strength that makes a good xc runner. I am not a strength runner. To be a good xc runner, you have to be able to muscle up short, steep climbs, and be able to accelerate fast around corners. I'm just not good at that kind of stuff. I enjoy getting in a good groove, then slowly increasing my effort and pace throughout a race...no big bursts for me. And thus, I think that's why I've always sucked as a harrier. But I'll always love it!