Posted by: Karen | January 24, 2009

Crisp Coulee Cross Country

This morning I cooked up chicken, rice and pasta soup and dressed in a few layers of warm woolies. It was about 18*C/-4*F, but the sun was shining and there wasn’t much wind.

I dropped off the soup at the Tuscany Community Hall and registered for the 12 Mile Coulee Cross Country race. It is Dawn‘s birthday, so I left a little something on top of her race gear. I signed up for the 8k distance, but I told myself I could quit at 4k if the first loop didn’t go well. Earlier this week I’d been feeling the beginnings of a head cold, and I didn’t want to stress myself too much.

I chatted with Philippa on the ~1k jog/walk to the race start.  Last race she’d been the only one in our age group to finish the 8k distance. If I had done the second loop, I’d have placed second. There was a good chance of that scenario repeating again today, with the weather being so cold. The colder it is, the less women my age show up, and the better odds I have of placing.

Run the full distance, Karen.

Once we got to the start we didn’t have to wait long before Race Director Hugh started announcing instructions. He was terribly sorry he’d had to take out a “favourite” lung-busting hill climb due to nearby construction. We mocked disappointment to humour him. I silently noted that one less big hill meant one less excuse to choose to the short distance.

Run the full distance, Karen.

Then we were off crunching over bumpy hard single track foot paths along the east ridge. The snow was not shifty, just hard-packed and very uneven. My first 10 minutes involved numerous involuntary calf stretches as my feet and ankles negotiated the terrain. Somehow my torso carried a smooth momentum forward and my legs kept up with my lungs.

15 minutes into the race I was down in the shade of the coulee and everything hurt. No sharp pain anywhere, just overall ache. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do the second loop. Oh well, finish this one and decide later, eh?

Dang it, the course marshals all looked very warmly dressed and hardy. There goes the “poor cold volunteers” excuse for cutting my race short. They would all have gladly waited if I’d walked the second loop.

Run the full distance, Karen.

The sun shone. The breeze was light and refreshing. I was perfectly dressed for the temperature. The volunteers were encouraging. The scenery everywhere I looked was gorgeous! What’s a little ache, really?

I remembered that I need to run a minimum of 6 full-distance races in this series to qualify to place in the Grand Prix award at the end of the season. This would be my fifth, if I took on that second loop.

Do it.

As tired as I was, at 32 minutes (4k) I waved quietly to the finish line folk and threw myself back into the race. It wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was actually a little easier. I concentrated on the styrofoamy squeak of my feet compressing the snow. I breathed a little easier and took my time on the technical bits. The second 4k took me 2 minutes longer than the first, but by then it didn’t matter. The hardest part of the whole thing was just deciding to do the whole thing. After that it was just a matter of finishing up.

I think I was the last one in again, but somebody has to be last – might as well be me. I placed second in my age group anyway, right after Philippa. I felt good that I’d pushed through tiredness and discomfort to grab a little more fresh air and glory. It was worth it.



  1. Way to go, Karen! Only one more race and you’ll qualify for the grand prix!


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