The Club Cross Country National Championship race is an intersection of ambitions, fitness levels, affiliations, and ages. The first two times I competed at Club XC, I ran for professional teams, who saw the race as a good indicator of fitness during our base season, as well as an opportunity to win a bit of money and a chance to qualify to represent the United States at the Bupa Cross Country race in Edenborough, Scotland.
This year I raced with Club Northwest, a much larger running club with a wide range of members. While runners had to qualify to make the Club NW squad that traveled to the race, most of the members on the open men’s and women’s team hold full-time jobs. They run and workout intensely, but competing is not their first priority. In addition, the club fielded a 40-49 year old men’s and women’s masters teams and a 50-59 year old men’s and women’s teams. Having teammates again was the best part of the trip. I was surrounded by friendly faces at the airport, getting food, and on the starting line. I enjoyed getting to know some of the master’s runners and hearing from runners who are fast and competitive past the age of 40.
When we got to San Francisco Friday morning, we went straight from the airport to the cross country course to learn the route and shakeout our legs. The course was unique in that it was a full 6k loop. In just about every cross country race, participants have to do multiple loops of 2k or 3k. Unfortunately, the course also had some rough sections with bad footing. Along one rocky section, I sprained my ankle. I turn my ankle fairly often after years of soccer have worn out my ankle ligaments, but for some reason this time was worse than usual. By the time I finished the pre-meet run, my ankle and calf were significantly swollen.
The next day I decided to race because, although my ankle and calf felt sore, I didn’t feel any pain. I didn’t feel quite in full form during the race, but I managed to run a solid race, finishing 21st in 20:35. Most importantly, I didn’t do any further damage to my injury. However, I was still pretty frustrated with my race. In 2012, I had finished 7th in 20:36 and in 2013, even with a torn labrum, I finished 18th in 22:33 on a very difficult course. I know a sprained ankle will impact running efficiency, even if I didn’t feel anything beyond soreness in the race. The good news is our team finished 3rd in the women’s race, an impressive accomplishment for a non-professional club.
Despite my frustrations with this one race, I know this is just part of the process of my build up to be in my best fitness until July. My coaches, Rick and Megan Elliott, have been so smart in gradually building up my mileage and workouts. I’m usually more fit around the time of Club XC, but so far this year, I’ve only been doing one workout a week. This year, I will have to be more patient to see the results of my hard work, but I will have a much better chance of being in prime shape at Olympic Trials.