Posted by: Karen | December 4, 2005

Okotoks XC 8k Report

Harsh, thin, horizontal light
Frigid, bone chilling, nose-hair-freezing breeze
that made tears come to my eyes
Variable, shifty, slippery terrain

Those words are how I would have described the course yesterday, had it been any other day. Yet when we put the words “Cross Country Race” into the mix, suddenly my outlook changes to:

Glorious sunshine to warm the face and make the snow sparkle
Minty fresh air that tastes so clean
that freezes our breath and sweat into white frosty highlights
Post-card perfect, pristine, softened landscape

I picked up Dawn earlier than usual. I wanted lots of time to a) get lost and b) drive carefully and slowly if needed. We laughed as we travelled, and turned up the radio to listen to “running” songs. Just before we got to the race we sang along to “Lean on Me”, a song that always reminds me of the Penguins and my running friends, on-line or not.

We were one of the first to arrive, so had plenty of time to set up the CRR clothing display and then work our way through the assortment of winter accessories we had brought. Which mitts? Which hat? Do I need this fleece under my coat? How cold is it out there? How windy is it? I smartly wrapped my watch on over my left mitt, so my wrist would stay warm, but I could still use my stop watch.
watch goes over the mitt, under the sleeve
We chatted with other racers and took some pictures.

David and Nadine. Nadine placed 2nd over all. Dawn and I just about ready to race.

About 15 minutes before the start we headed outside to do a little warm up jog and get our bodies accustomed to the terrain and weather. After 5 minutes I was totally out of breath, having forgotten how weird it is to run in shifty snow. I decided I didn’t need to cover my nose and mouth – it wasn’t cold enough for frostbite if I kept my body temperature up enough, and my lungs didn’t mind the air. The warm-up paid off later, as by race time my body adjusted to the effort required.

Staying warm at the start. Buncha crazy nuts, eh.

Dawn ran the 4k loop and I ran it twice, for 8. We started out running away from the breeze, down through a beautiful ravine with rolling little hills along a creek.

This gave us a good chance to get our bodies warmed up before we came out onto a prairie field and faced the wind on our way back. I’d say about 2/3 of the race was in trees which sheltered us nicely, so I never got too cold. I started out with my neck tube up around my jaw, to just below my mouth, and my woolly mitts tucked into my windbreaker sleeves. In the ravine I rolled the neck tube down, unzipped my coat and let it fall off my shoulders. I wrapped my earmuffs onto my forearm. My hands came out of my sleeves. On the prairie I’d shuck the jacket back up, tuck my thumbs back into my sleeves and don the earmuffs.

Mr. Arkansas, whom I’d met at the Edworthy race, was back again, and he’d already run a 5k Santa Shuffle that morning. He got ahead of me on the first big hill, but I caught him again on the down and he followed me closely in the first loop.

Ho. The light at the top of the first big hill. And Arkansas just ahead. Flat prairie. This stretch felt long, but just because I could see so much of it.

One of the climbs out of the ravine, just before we emerged onto the prairie, pictured above.

I gave whoops-of-courage as I bounded down hills, and felt like a giddy mountain goat. I may be a Penguin in most of my running thoughts, but at these races I am the best Ewe I can be.

I was going to leave a snow angel for Dawn just before the 4k finish, but I forgot. I was too busy trying to look strong for the very encouraging, very bundled up volunteers.

In the second loop I looked around several times for company, and found myself running very, very solo. I laughed when at one point some young, pretty volunteers came out of their truck just to show me the way, and then hurried back in.

I had run a fairly brisk pace in the first loop, but in the second I relaxed a bit, since I wasn’t trying to beat anyone now. My left knee wondered what we were doing out there, and warned me to be careful with my form.

A closer look at the terrain.

After running as hard as I could across the football field to the finish, I headed inside to change and eat soup and sweets. Even though I would probably be one of the last to the soup table, I stopped by the bathroom to change my damp, cold clothes immediately. Even though I didn’t feel cold, my skin was rosy pink, and it felt great to have fuzzy, dry, warm clothes on.

My time was 1:06 – a PR for this course because it was a new one to me. I knew I was close to the last one in, because our photographer Kathy jogged in after me. I listened carefully when the results were announced, because several of the regulars in my age group were missing. That usually doesn’t make a difference at this race, because there are often other women whom I don’t know that attend this race. Hurrah, only 3 in my age group – I placed! No hardware – these races are low key and the reward for age group placement is a mentioned name. It was good enough for me 🙂 I chose to race that race and others didn’t.

We packed up the club clothing display and headed for a shopping mall in the south of town. I wanted to visit the Disney store that doesn’t have a franchise in north Calgary yet. Dawn is always up for shopping, so we had more fun and then headed home for supper.

A hearty thanks to the Big Rock Runners of Okotoks and Strathcona Tweedsmuir school, for a great race location and well-organized, cheery volunteers! Dawn has some fabulous pictures in her report. Go see!



  1. Great time, great pics and awesome report. Thanks for a wonderful day with lots of laughter. *hugs* 🙂

  2. Nuts! That’s all I have to say! NUTS! Both of you.

  3. What great fun – and such pretty terrain!!

  4. […] PS – Thanks for all your great comments on my last race. As always its great to have your feedback. And if your looking for a great write up on the 8 km race, check out Karen’s posts here and here. Race results are posted on the Calgary Roadrunners Site over here and some more pictures right here. […]

  5. Whew….now that’s some cold running.When I first ready about your “shifty” snow, I have to admit I had another word in mind:) Well done.

  6. […] Time to get packed up for today’s snowy XC. While you’re waiting for my report, here’s how pretty it looked last year. […]


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