We had a beautiful sunny day for the Weaselhead Cross Country Race this year. We didn’t get to run our usual rabbit trail course next to the reservoir (one of the most beautiful in the series). The park was completely closed because there was an ongoing construction project which involved flying in new telephone poles via helicopter into the park.
Our alternate race course started quite a ways from the hall, but I considered the extra distance as warm up and cool down time. The course itself had no really big hills in it, but rolled gently along an out-and-back-route with grassy, iced in paths. There were a few puddles and some mud, enough to splash drops on my backside as I ran, but it wasn’t very messy.
We started out on a wide road for the first 400 meters or so, which gave us just enough time to sort ourselves out before we settled into a single track path between some bushes alongside a fence. I was glad I’d worn my Yaktrax, as the shaded paths mostly held ice or very hard packed snow, with a thin layer of churned up, grainy slush on top.
I settled in with Karin and Carla, two Roadrunners from the 10k group who regularly run just ahead of me in track repeats. I found a cadence I liked and they liked the pace too. I decided to just hang with them as long as I could. I figured when they got warmed up they’d pull away and I’d just manage on my own after that.
They never left. Most of the time we let Karin lead and Carla was right behind me. Sometimes when the track got a little tricky with mud or a steep dip I’d zip ahead, but they’d catch up on the flat again.
We chatted a bit on the way out, but only in brief bursts. We were busy watching the path and deciding between predictably hard but fairly even crunchy ice or stretches of softer, but more uneven tufts of dirt/mud/grass/puddles.
At one point Karin and I were shoulder-by-shoulder, and we heard a helicopter nearby. With my amazing grasp of the obvious, I puffed “Helicopter.”
Karin grunted back “Yep.”
“Do you think it’s carrying a pole?” I asked, ever so innocently.
Without missing a beat or taking her eyes off the path, Karin retorted “YOU look.”
I grinned and settled a little deeper into my race focus. This was going to take some work, and I liked it. I led the way over a couple of mounds at the turnaround, but missed a flag in the deep grass and veered off course. Good thing Karin called me back, or I’d have lost some time.
I was breathing pretty hard by 5k, but I wasn’t giving in yet. I knew at this point I would need to really push myself to feel like I was going faster just to maintain the pace, so I did. I was missing my usual built-in walk breaks (I limit myself to using them on steep uphills), but there was one rise where we all walked up between a couple of telephone poles.
Somehow Karin remained just ahead of me and Carla followed a step behind. I denied myself the luxury of slowing down and letting them go ahead. It felt better to work hard than give up.
Clay came up behind us and we joked about not letting him pass, but he made it through our gauntlet and left us behind. We had spotted Helly (70+ Age Group) ahead of us a few times, but couldn’t close the gap to her – she was relentless.
When we reached the last 400 m or so Les cheered me on with a big “GO PENGUIN!” and I hung on for dear life. I was dizzy. My eyes were bleary from the headwind making me tear. My breathing was ragged and hard. I didn’t care. Run now, rest later!
As we rounded the last knoll before the finish I noticed Barb within reach and gave one last burst to beat her to the finish. She heard me coming and gave a last minute charge to finish one step ahead. Woohoo!
What a blast! We had a big group hug as we caught our breath and then we yammered on about our efforts while cheering in a few others. We collected our jackets, walked back to the hall, and relaxed with some soup and sweets.