This summer there was an email on the Finger Lakes Runner’s Club email list about the Pete Galvin Cross Country series. I was a soccer player in High School and I only got into running in the last decade. Now, both of my children run Cross Country so I’ve learned a lot about it. I talked my friend Brenda into signing up again (she’s done it twice before) and decided to give it a go.
Why? Two reasons. I want to meet new people and I want to understand what my kids feel like on out there on the cross country course.
This sounded like a good idea in the summer
I had to miss the first race, so the 2nd race of the season was my first race. The week before we had a few emails about the timing and location, and some fun things happening after the race. Brenda and I planned to carpool and I planned to look at details on Friday night before Sunday’s race.
It just so happened that the kids had races on Saturday. They were in opposite directions and both were over an hour away. My Sunday race was almost 2 hours away. Suddenly my summer ambition to try this out seemed foolish. Even so, I wasn’t going to skip something I signed up to try, so I sorted out a plan with Brenda. We’d leave at 8:15 and arrive an hour before the race. Perfect!
The morning of the race my 15 year old daughter, Elizabeth, started to ask me some questions.
How far do you run mom?
Hmm. I don’t know. I didn’t check the email. “A 5K I think?”
Later when she saw me in my capri leggings she asked, “are you going to run in tights?” “Yes. It is cold.” I replied. “Well for what it is worth, I was hot yesterday in shorts and a tank top, so I think you should throw in shorts,” she offered. I threw in shorts, borrowed her watch, grabbed my stuff and headed out.
They don’t follow High School rules
That morning I dutifully took out my earrings and left my GPS watch at home. In High School Cross Country neither of these things are permitted. When I arrived, I noticed that most people had GPS watches. Why didn’t I throw mine in just in case?
We got our bearings, found our FLRC tent and team and got ready to warm up. It was only 50 degrees but it was sunny and felt HOT. I felt so grateful to Elizabeth for suggesting that I bring shorts and promptly changed into them. Soon we were gathered into our team and running the course. This was fun. We ran a comfortable pace and chatted a little bit as we ran. When I encountered the big hill at mile 2 that I knew was coming I was a little worried. My right calf is really tight and I wasn’t sure how it would manage in the race. Soon we peeled off just shy of the last loop, making for a bit over 2 miles for a warm-up run.
With 15 minutes til the start we stretched a bit and then headed over to the line.
This will be over in less than 30 minutes
When my kids race I feel like I’m going to throw up … the ENTIRE time they are running. I worry that a stray thought that I have could mess up their race. I wait and hope they emerge from the woods without tears, upright and happy. I breathe a huge sigh of relief when it is over.
Today for my own race I didn’t feel nearly as scared. I was annoyed that I didn’t have my GPS. I was worried about my calf. I lamented that I haven’t been training fast at all while marathon training. But, mostly I just thought, “this will all be over in less than 30 minutes.”
One of my team mates told us she was shooting to start at an 8:30 pace to help us use her as a marker. We had our team cheer and then we were off!
And we’re running!
It was a wide start that funneled into a narrow path very quickly. I headed out on the slow side, cautious not to go out too fast. I settled into a nice rhythm rather quickly, but really had no idea of what pace I was going. As I ran, the thoughts just tumbled through my head;
I know why I never did this in high school. This is hard. Stay focused on roots. Then my little slogan “kooko bottom kooko bottom” crept into my head for what felt like forever. It does help with turnover on trails for me. Google should make something that can tell me where my teammates are because, wow, I really have no idea where I am relative to others. I see 2K spray painted on the trail. 10:28. Ok so that’s about 1.25 miles. That’s about an 8:30. Ok. There is the hill. Yuck! Ok no walking. No walking. You will make it up the hill without walking. I pass someone – yay! Then I walk. I have no idea why I walked. I wasn’t especially tired. All I can think is that my stride was so short at this point I thought it might be better to walk. Someone was on the sideline with a camera. Someone yelled out, “you got this, almost there!” Suddenly I thought about Elizabeth’s race in Groton where parents line the hill. We all cheer and scream. I have always thought we were helping. I wanted to hit the person who said “you got this, almost there.” Perhaps we aren’t helping so much when we cheer? Just like that we’re in the final loop. Soon, I see a 4K mark on the trail and I hear Tonya come up behind me. I know I need to push harder to stay with her. She becomes my rabbit. As we get ready to leave the woods she says, “It’s almost over when we get out of the woods.” I know what faces me when we get out of the woods – GRASS. I hate running in grass. The open space with a trail marked reminds me of the hardest part of the Cayuga Lake Tri course. I keep pushing and try not to let her get too far ahead. I hate this. This is terrible. Actually, no this is fun. I’m changing my mind every second about how I feel. Pick up your feet! Move. No I don’t actually care that much. I can’t pick up my feet any faster. Oh look, there is the rest of your team. They are cheering for you. The clock is still in the 25s. Maybe I can get a sub 26. Pick up your feet! Faster. 26:01. Really? Really? Why couldn’t you pick up your feet just a bit faster? Why do you always care more right AFTER you finish than when you can actually control how you do?
And just like that it was over. Less than 30 minutes of my life. A million thoughts. Soon I was chatting with team mates and hearing about great runs and personal challenges, falls and caught spikes.
How did it go Mom?
After grabbing a bagel and some cider, I checked my phone. Time to share the stories with my family.
What I learned
As we stood on the start line, the announcer asked us what we’d say about OUR race after we finished. He said he usually heard, “well, I got 78th behind so and so” as an answer. He urged us to think of OUR race in a different way. He said something like this,
When I ask you about YOUR race, I’m asking about how YOU did. When you get to that hill at mile 2 and look at the 5 people ahead of you, how do you do relative to THEM. How do you feel when you finish. Did you give it your all? Your race is NOT how you did relative to so and so in the field.
It was a nice way to think of things. And, as I ran I thought back to watching my kids race. As people come through I wonder how they are feeling knowing a team mate has finished or how they are doing out there and feeling like it takes so long for each second to pass. I realized cross country is no different than any other race. There are a lot of people in every part of the race. You aren’t aware of the gap of time between you and others – it is truly a race against yourself! Yes, the team is there and you are doing your best for them, but in the end it is a race against yourself – your job is to put it all out there and do what you can on that day. After I finished I took a picture of the results.
And I’m going to do it again
I liked it. It was hard and I wasn’t always positive. But, I met some nice people, had a great ride up with Brenda and now I have a benchmark. Brenda and I chattered all the way home about the race, life in general and just had a good time. I learned everyone’s name and hope to remember them at our next race!! And, Scott and I realized that Elizabeth will be able to drive next year so we can BOTH do it next year!