Race Recap: 2017 USATF Club XC Champs

Goals:

  • Goal A:  Top 5 on Strava Track Club team
  • Goal B:  Place better than I did in 2010 (60th)
  • Goal C:  Run faster than i did in 2010 (21:19)

Actual:

  • 20:54 | 42nd overall | 4th Strava Track Club finisher | results here
  • Strava Track Club - 4th Place Overall Team!
  • Achieved all 3 goals
  • Splits:  526, 546, 527, 546 pace last .72M

I'm about 99.99% sure that yesterday in Kentucky I ran a 6k cross country lifetime PR by less than one second. 

So, I'm pretty happy about this performance. 

To be honest, I didn't really even know what sort of goals to set for this race.   I only just finished Chicago Marathon 8 weeks ago, and I've been running lower mileage in the mid-50s.  After other marathons in the past, I felt pretty crappy for at least 3 months.  But this time around was different; I felt pretty speedy.  For this reason, I didn't even sit down to write my goals out until the night before the race.  Not really having any idea of what kind of shape I was in, I started by looking at my results from the 2010 Club XC Champs and decided I had to run better than that.  Then, I asked myself why it was so important for me to come to Kentucky.  And the answer was that I wanted to run alongside some very talented, speedy and smart women that make up the Strava Track Club.  I also wanted to represent Strava Track Club and rabbit, my small way to express the gratitude for all that they do for us to make trips, like this one to Kentucky, possible.  

And so to Kentucky I went!  But first I had to work four days in Charlotte, NC for all-day planning sessions and some team dinners.  By the way, packing for both work and a race in freezing temps is an especially difficult task if trying to fit it all into a duffle, but I did it…with the help of caribiners!  Without any complications on Thursday I landed in horse country and checked in to the Residence Inn.  Somehow I won the room lottery and got a massive 2BD/2BA split-level apartment that would put any average apartment in the Bay Area to shame.  

 Strack Track Club Men & Women

Strack Track Club Men & Women

The rest of the team was massively delayed at SFO and my roomie and all-around Stanford stud, Rebecca Mehra, arrived in our shared abode after I'd gone to bed.  On Friday, with Dena as our fearless leader, the men's and women's teams, all bundled up in layers of winter rabbit gear, headed to the course for a quick shakeout and course preview.  With temps in the mid-20s and a wind chill at 19 degrees, even those of us who used to live in the midwest (me!) were not used to the biting wind.  We didn't mess around too much at the course since it was freezing, so after strides and drills, we had a team lunch at Whole Foods, of course.

I spent the rest of the day hanging with Victoria and doing some work on my laptop.  Before I knew it, it was time to go to dinner, so that we could get a table at a local Italian joint that didn't take reservations.  While Dena dipped out to go to the technical meeting, the rest of the team split up into groups of 6 each in a booth and carbo-loaded our way to a (hopefully) good race.  The highlights of the pre-race activities were getting to know the girls better and also the team meeting in the room that Rebecca and I shared.  Full of positive vibes, Dena passed out our bibs and shared some anecdotes from past races, as well as the best team placement STC had ever placed at Club XC. 

After the men left, the ladies asked Dena to stay for some extra words of wisdom.  After telling us some of the more realistic team goals to consider, with the added disclaimer that it always depends on how the day goes, someone asked if we could all go around and share the goals we have for the race.  It was something so simple, yet so powerful; I wish we had done this more often in college!  I learned what place everyone was hoping to get and from there was able to craft a better race plan, which was mainly to keep Rebecca and Tori within a reasonable distance.  Throughout all of this, I was feeling so incredibly proud of these women, who had trained hard the entire fall together and who obviously all respected one another.  I felt like there was an electric buzz in the room; it was as if everyone knew that we could be a top five team, if we worked together and encouraged each other.  I felt pretty energized…or should I say synergized.  :-)

With such a late race start time (11:45), it meant that Rebecca and I didn't even have to set an alarm.  I woke up around the same time that Rebecca got back from a shakeout and we made our morning race breakfast together with Victoria, while covering some pretty awesome conversation topics. 

 Just hanging in our sweet mini van pre-race

Just hanging in our sweet mini van pre-race

The ladies all piled into the minivan and made it to the course with an extra 30 minutes to spare before warmup. Of course Victoria would have a pre-race playlist for us to rock out to in the car….so great!  After a team warmup and strides, we had to corral all 8 of the ladies together into a tiny tent to do a uniform check.  Not surprisingly, trying to find 8 women before a race is pretty hard since everyone has a different routine.  But, in record time, all of us showed off our uniforms and got cleared.  I swear that we all didn't shed our clothes until there were just 2 minutes left in the race.  It was just that cold.  Without any time to really think about how cold I was, the gun went off. 

We were perfectly situated on the far left of the starting line, which meant that our team didn't really have to cut in at all for the first turn.  It also meant that 200+ women descended upon us after 300 meters.  I watched as 5 of the STC darted out ahead of me and just told myself to keep my pace controlled.  I came through the 1 mile mark around 5:26 (perfect!), and by that time the crowd had thinned out. 

I saw Tori and Rebecca coming back towards me and eventually passed them, urging them to come with me.  I was really hoping they'd latch on so we could work together.  After the first 3K loop, I knew that I could use the downhill and flat to keep the pace honest before the hills on the back half.  I stayed alert so that I could hear what place I was in, and around 3 miles heard someone shout 45th place to someone near me.  Keeping my eyes up, I laid my eyes on each girl in front of me and tried to dig deep to pass them decisively. The final 1000 meters were particularly rough because of a long uphill, and I found out later that Rebecca found a second gear to pick it back up to stay as close to me as possible!  On the long uphill towards the finish, only one girl passed me in the final 200 meters, and she passed me FAST.  I basically walked through the finish line, which I'm not exactly proud of, but I will make sure I don't do that next time I race.  Rebecca ended up finishing right behind me; she ran so great, especially coming back and hanging tough!  The difference in time between our first and fifth runners was just 11 seconds.  Insane! 

 Women's Team 4th Place Finish

Women's Team 4th Place Finish

Strava Track Club Women's Finishers:

  • Natalie     |  31st   |  20:45
  • Ayla         |  37th   |  20:50
  • Maya        |  40th  |  20:52
  • Caitlin      |  42nd  |  20:54
  • Rebecca   |  43rd  |  20:55
  • Tori           |  62nd  |  21:10
  • Steph        |  79th  |  21:32
  • Victoria     | 107th  |  22:03

After bundling back up, Rebecca and I cooled down a little bit on the course so we could cheer for the men's team in the early parts of their race.  After battling cold wind on the course, we opted to cool down in a parking lot with some of the other girls.  At this point, I was able to connect with my dad and together we cheered for the men's team as they finished.  Ultimately, both the men's and women's team achieved best team place ever in club history, and Kris won the women's masters race, while our honorary member Neville won the men's masters race.  

I'm so glad I ran this race and am excited to come back next year!  I also experienced firsthand just how much these girls can push me.  I know that if I train more regularly with them, they'll help me get faster and help me break down barriers I never would have considered approaching!  #squadgoals #teamworkmakesthedreamwork