Tuesday, December 15, 2009

USAT&F Team Cross Country Championships – Lexington, KY.

This past weekend, I took a 48 hour field trip to Lexington, KY for the USAT&F Team Cross Country Championships. Along for the trip were Ben, Dan, and myself. Ben and I were running. Dan volunteered to be our designated driver.

We left on Friday afternoon for the drive heading up 77 and over 64 into KY. For the most part, it was very smooth drive. We made a couple of quick stops for food and drinks. We only encountered one traffic jam along the way, but with Dan’s trusty iPhone, he navigated us right around it. I have no idea how he did it but he provided us some excellent views of Christmas lights.

Saturday morning arrived cold and drive. We arrived at the cross country course about 10:20. My race was out 11:30 and Ben’s race was at 1:30.

We picked up our packets and in addition, I picked up a nice souvenir sweat shirt with the event logo on it. Then it was back to the car to change and head out for some warm up miles on the course.

There is something unique about Cross Country Running that road racing just doesn’t offer. Maybe it is the fact that it takes men and yes, women back to their youth when they ran wild through the grassy parks and fields near their homes. Maybe it is the opportunity to run in the mud. Maybe it is running in very light shoes with what some people would consider nails sticking out of the bottom. Or maybe it is just the challenges that cross country running offers.

I never ran cross country in high school and pretty much my past cross experience has been running around McAlpine which is not true cross country.

During my warm up I found the footing difficult. There were sections where it was thick grass. Other sections had frozen ground and still other sections were quite muddy.

We lined up across this huge field and after a few last minute instructions we were off. Within ¾ of mile, our course narrowed down and people pushing and jostling for room. Some guys were moving up and some were moving back. And the race didn’t really string out until 3 ½ miles into it.

I kindof bided my time just staying out of the way and trying to not get either knocked down or spiked by another runner.

My first 3 miles were in 17:39 which was well behind the overall leaders. 4 miles went by in 23:55 and 5 miles went by in 29:59. I crossed the finish line in 37:47 which felt like I had just run a 35 minute 10k.

XC race are lean on the after race snacks with no munchies. There was only a cooler with water and Gatorade.

After the race I strolled around for a few minutes, met up with Ben and Dan, and then headed back to the car for some warm clothes.

Running cross country is way harder than running on the roads. Your feet are landing awkwardly which carries up through your legs and body. In the later miles, you start to find out just how much work the Gluts and hip flexors are doing since they really start to burn.

This weekend’s course really didn’t have any flat sections. You were either going uphill or downhill. And you were either running into the wind as the course looped south or had a tail wind when you were running north. Honestly, I never really felt the tail wind but some said it was there.

One feature I really like about cross country races is that they are different races in the same day. I got to see the Master’s women race, the open women race, and the open men race. That opportunity is not typically something that is part of a road race.

And, while cross country fields are relatively small compared to most road races, these fields are a lot more competitive.

Something other races might take note of is age numbers. In the master’s race, each competitor ran with his age group listed on his back.

Personally, I saw at least 2 50 year old runners pulling away from me during the race. Looking at the results, you had to look all the way down into the 60s before you found an age group with times slower than my time.

In looking at the crowed during the awards ceremony I would say it was a predominately middle aged crowd more men than women, but still the women are holding their own.

In checking the results, I finished 135th in the master’s race and 31st in my age group. When you take into consideration that I was running against some of the best masters runners in the US, being in the top 50% is pretty good accomplishment.

Looking toward next year, I am determined to see if I can put together a master’s team for the ’10 race. The USAT&F is bringing the 6K and 10k XC Team Championships to Charlotte, NC and to McAlpine Park.

Anyone interested in running on a master’s team, let me know.

Below is few of the master’s team from the race Saturday. From the times, you might believe that they ran on the road, but I can positively say no, they all ran on the grass.

Men 40 - 44
1 1 Tracy Lokken, 44, Marquette, MI 32:10 Front Line Rt M4
Men 45 - 49
4 1 Peter Magill, 48, South Pasadena, CA 32:26 Compex Racing M4
Men 50 - 54
42 1 Joe Sheeran, 52, Ellensburg, WA 34:45 Eastside Runners
Men 55 - 59
57 1 John Barbour, 55, Gloucester, MA 35:06 Greater Lowell Rr M5

200 196 JrM Ben Hovis, 31, Charlotte, NC 33:30

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