Posted by: Karen | November 13, 2005

Edworthy Cross Country Race

Yesterday morning I loaded up Little Runner, the Calgary Roadrunner’s Clothing display, and some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies into the car and headed off to pick up Dawn. We made it to the Edworthy XC Race in plenty of time to drop off the clothing display and cookies at the hall and then park nearer to the race start, to register at The Car.

It’s always easy to find The Car where we register, because there’s usually a line-up of freezing runners huddled by it, and sometimes there’s even a race brochure impaled on the radio aerial. The CRR registration system is quite simple. One fills out a waiver, complete with distance choice (4k or 8k) and age group, hands over cash or cheque, and the volunteers write one’s name and info on a sticker. Later, when one finishes the race, one is handed a numbered tongue depressor with one’s place in the race. One takes the numbered stick to the timing van and identifies oneself to more volunteers, who then place one’s sticker in the appropriate numbered slot on a chart. Assuming the clock is working and there’s paper in it, there’s no computer glitches involved. No down time, no viruses, no lost chips or dysfunctional mats. This is simple efficiency, folks.

Alan & Dawn at The Car

The atmospheric conditions were very similar to last year’s race, with the temperature hovering around freezing, and a strong North wind blowing. I had to jump around in my windbreaker, wooly mitts and earmuffs to stay warm before the start. Little runner happily traipsed around with some little friends, and then excitedly lined up with the other kiddos for the Kid’s 1km race.

I think I got all the kids in this one starting shot.

Little Runner came in very last, but very happy. We had a big hug and then I handed her and the camera off to Coach/Friend/Penguin/Best-Crew-I’ve-Ever-Had Dianne. Dianne pointed out a new American from Kansas joining us today, and I said a quick hello. He looked tall and strong, and I reassured him he’d probably kick my butt. He reassured me that they don’t have icy trails this hilly in Kansas, and that he’d probably only do the 4k option.

I hurriedly double tied my shoelaces as the race director Danny told us about the ice and mud we were about to face. I had a feeling I would have enough to concentrate on without my shoelaces being one of them. Yippee, we were off!

After a short, flat loop past the start, the course immediately took us along the edge of a steep cliff, and the view far below hovered in my peripheral vision as I kept my eyes firmly glued to the trail before me. Mr. Kansas gallantly waved me by as we started heading down hill. There were lots of other runners here, and I was all patience in keeping my distance on this and the subsequent steep downhill portions. I’m a brave, nutso downhiller, but there’s no sense in taking everyone with me if I wipe-out. That would never do, and the crowd would be much thinner on the second loop.

We picked up plenty of mud on the flat grassy picnic area at the bottom, where it seems the grounds keepers had spread fresh topsoil over the grass to settle in over the winter. Without the downhill momentum and with the extra pound of mud stuck to my trail shoes, my feet felt very heavy. I gave Julie plenty of room in front of me as she leapt the mud puddle, so I could do the same. Julie’s small, wiry, fit and does a lot of trail running. I knew she would be leaving me behind on the uphill stuff, so had no delusions about passing her here. I’d just get in her way.

YES, I cleared the puddle. Someone large and male came up behind me and I thought it was Kansas catching up, but no, it was someone else.

Now came the hard part for me, negotiating a tough icy switchback climb back up the monster hill. I found a reason to be grateful for all the mud still stuck to my shoes, as it offered extra gritty grip on the slick, unavoidable ice. THIS was the part I should have had spikes for. Yaktrax might have been helpful here, too, but they would have collected too much mud earlier in the race.

I did not run much at all in going up. Occasionally there was a flat portion for maybe 50 feet where I carefully jogged, but the brush had sheltered the melting snow cupped by the path, and I still had to be careful not to fall. Here is also where the runners my speed thinned out dramatically (Julie plowed on ahead), and I frequently pulled over to be lapped by skinny fast racers. Ken Meyers was the first of them and politely thanked me for pulling over. Later on, one of my lappers gave a huge HORC behind me, and I heckled as he went by “a simple ON YOUR LEFT would do!”

It took me about 10 minutes to get from the bottom to the 8k turnoff at the top, but it seemed like much longer. My lungs were bursting, and I tried not to think about having to repeat the climb in the second loop. Luckily, my oxygen-deprived brain focused all my attention on the path before me. As I crossed the rolling grassy portion I talked myself back into running, and stripped off my outer layers one by one. I wrapped my earmuffs around my forearm, pinned my mitts just above my left hip on my shirts (Jeanne taught me that trick), and handed my jacket to a volunteer.

I crazily bounded back down the hill, conscious now that if I fell or had to grab a tree that my bare hands would not be so protected from scrapes. There was no one in my immediate view, so I careened as fast as I dared down the narrow, ice-infested path.

Have you ever gone down a waterslide? And in doing that, have you ever noticed how your momentum in coming out of a turn sends you swinging left and right on your way down? That back and forth motion is how I maintain my balance while avoiding the ice in the middle of a skinny, steep, curved-bottom path. To use another visual description, I was a pendulum, and my feet were the bob at the bottom. The effect worked well in managing my speed without directly fighting gravity; kind of how my Mother-in-Law tactfully leads me down tricky conversational paths about my parenting practices (but that’s a topic for some other blog, eh?).

I love this part of a race. Adrenaline floods my system, and my attention is always absolutely riveted on my next footfall. I was within maybe 20 feet of the bottom and feeling pretty successful when I wiped out in full view of the volunteer. I bounced right up like a rubber ball, though, and caught up with Julie at the bottom. The volunteer thanked me for adding drama to his day, and I thanked him for being there to witness it. Julie and I breathlessly remarked about downhill trail technique, something about it being easier when it wasn’t so crowded, how we didn’t have to worry about taking others down with us if we fell.

Back through the mud-field. Back along the flat road. Again I let Julie pull ahead before the mud puddle, and her leap this time took her to the left side of it. It looked to me like she was going to take a side-path, so I picked up my speed and sent my own body flying over the puddle… just as Julie decided the left path was too wet and veered right.

Cross-Country running is not a full contact sport. At least, it’s not supposed to be.

My shoulder made full contact with Julie’s as I landed firmly on the far side of the puddle, and she ended up n-shaped, butt-up, hands down in the mud, her nose “this close” to water, probably very thankful for her upper body strength right then. Oh Julie! I’m so sorry! I yanked her upright and sent her on ahead with multiple apologies. She reassured me that her hands were merely wet, and proceeded to leave me behind on the treacherous uphill again.

Somewhere in the switchback maze I heard a brief conversation and I wondered if I was catching up to Dawn, or if maybe Kathy was taking pictures up ahead. Sure enough, Dawn was steadily working her way up the hill, and snapped a shot of me as I climbed. Check out her great pictures of the course and other runners here. I paid for lapping her with a butt shot, but I wasn’t about to lose any momentum now. Kathy also snapped a couple pictures of me at the next turn of the switchback. Kathy’s fantastic photos will probably be available in the Calgary Roadrunner’s photo album this week.

The last couple of kms were very hard, but I pressed on over rolling terrain at the top, following flags leading me hither and yon, through trees and mud. I repeated over and over, “I can walk later. ” and “I can quit later.” I struggled to keep my tired ankles from turning, and totally zoned in on maintaining a running pace. Just kick it in, baby.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself abruptly stopped with my right knee on the ground, and my left hand smarting from also landing very hard in the dirt. Well, where were my FEET? And what were they doing back behind me like that! I quickly corrected my posture, placing my feet moving underneath me where they belonged, and decided I would assess any damage later. I had a race to finish, eh.

Back along the fearsome ridge, which thankfully was fairly dry. I know there’s a steep drop there, but I’m not looking. Nope, not looking.

Finally I made it to the finishing field, let out a whoop of joy and I gave it all I had to get to the clock. Some cute kiddos handed me my numbered stick and I took it to the timing van before I could lose it. Well, would you look at that, Kansas was still out there! He came in less than a minute after I did . He’d done the 8k after all – crazy nut. I heartily congratulated him with the respect us crazy nuts share.

Dawn and Kathy came in shortly thereafter, and we headed over to the hall for soup and yummies. The beef barley was absolutely amazing, especially when I had the ladies mix in some of the spicy beef pasta soup with it. DiVINE.

My knee has a small scrape the size of a nickel, the leggings seem to have survived, and Coach Dianne made me ice the knee last night, just to make sure it wouldn’t swell. I even iced it a second time while watching the Flames trash the Avalanches 5-3. The knee feels just FINE. A few other body parts will probably stiffen up if I don’t get moving sometime soon, though. All the same, I had a great time, and am eagerly looking foward to the next one!

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Responses

  1. Great write up!!! It was easy to relive every moment as you described it, not that I could forget it lol. You have to teach me how to run those downhills and not be such a chicken…lol. Did you remind mr Kansas he wasn’t in Kansas anymore? 🙂

  2. Crazy lady. Cold, wet, dangerous race. At least they have munchies. 🙂

  3. Another wild race, Canadian style. Trail running is definitely not for the faint of heart. Congrats.

  4. saw the pictures in Dawn’s log. That ice looked a bit dangerous. Glad to see you made it through in one pice.

  5. Great post, Karen. Almost feels like I was there. Wish I had been, but my knees are glad I wasn’t!

  6. Good grief! What a great report and you guys have way too much fun and I can’t believe how many races you have out there!!

  7. I imagine this DARK, snow-filled landscape. Frozen tundra, grey sky, cheerless stinging winds. That’s when I read your race report at PAs. Then I see the pics! SUN! SMILES! A city’s modern spires in the distance! Still….too too too COLD and SLICK for me! Great report! Glad you bounced right back! 🙂

  8. BOING is better than splat or crunch 😀

    Ohhhh! The wunnerful thing about TIGGERS
    is Tiggers are wunnerful THINGS!
    Their tops are made outa RUBBER
    Their bottoms are made outa SPRINGS
    They’re bouncy, pouncy, flouncy, trouncy, funfunfunfunFUN!
    ButthemostwunnerfulthingaboutTiggersis
    *I’m* the only ONE! IIIIIII’m the only one 🙂

  9. i love your xc race reports! makes me want to get out and run in the wild. thanks!

    oh, but what is a HORC?

  10. In this context, horc is the disgusting sound made by a phlegmy racer who is clearing his throat, just before he spits.

    But HORC would be a great acronym for one Heck Of a Race Course!


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