Heading into the USATF Club Cross Country Champs I was excited to see the ZAP team for the first time since before Thanksgiving. Much of the group had been building for this race throughout the Fall while I had gotten very fit before Twin Cities in early October and then gotten slightly unfit over the next 4 to 6 weeks due to a variety of factors. Luckily, the week leading into Clubs I could tell my body was starting to get fit again. I was finishing runs at or below 6 minute pace (not something I normally do) while also feeling smooth and controlled. The only question was how I would perform over the 10,000 meter Lehigh University XC course.
My goals heading into the race were not very concrete as I was planning on just racing and seeing how my body responded, but I did want to be a scorer for the ZAP team and inside the top 20 overall. Anything else would be a bonus.
As we lined up for the start in box #9 I nervously looked down the line to see over 600 other runners, the most in Club XC history, also eagerly awaiting the starter’s gun. The start of a cross country race is a frantic affair and the one part of the race that truly made me cringe. Once everything leans itself out it is just a normal race but the start is a barrage of elbows and spikes as everyone bounds out to get into a good position. Luckily, Leigh has a very wide starting straightaway and once the gun was fired it was not any more overcrowded than any other XC race I’ve done. I hit the mile in about 4:48 with a pack of about 40-50 runners and then settled into about 20-30th place and tried to find a good aggressive rhythm and move forward.
By the end of the first 5k loop Pete wanted me to be in the top 12 but I did not run the hill from 4k to 5k very well and found myself still in the 20-30th place range. By 7k I was the 6th ZAP runner in the race with Griff and Chris about 50 meters ahead of me. On the second time through the hilly portion of the course I once again did not make up any ground and found myself in about 35th place with 1,000 meters to go. From there I put my head down and really started to push. In the end, I was able to pass 6 or 7 runners over the fast, last kilometer. I finished as the 5th ZAP runner in 29th place in a time of 30:12 with Chris finishing less than 1 second in front of me for 28th and Griff one second behind me for 30th.
In front of us, Colley finished a fantastic 5th, Tyler 8th, and Joe 10th. With 65 points, the ZAP men had comfortably won our 4th USATF Club National XC Title. A great team performance.
On a personal note, it was a solid performance considering how poorly I ran two weeks prior on Thanksgiving. I am disappointed I did not accomplish my top 20 place goal but I am proud that I was able to score for the team and contribute to the win. Colley, Tyler, and Joe all ran very well and each put themselves in a great position to be named to the USA Team headed to Scotland for the BUPA XC races in January.
Up next for me is the NYRR Midnight Run in NYC on New Years Eve. I won the race last year and hope to defend my title this year against a tough field. Although it was nice to race as a team, I am excited to hit the roads again and try for some big PR’s over the next few months. Thanks for reading.
Here is my last week of training (12/7-12/14):
Sunday: AM: 18 miles (27 min last 5 miles) PM: walk
Monday: AM: 6 miles PM: 5 miles
Tuesday: AM: 12 miles
Wednesday: AM: 12.5 miles (2400+321×3 fartlek) PM: 4.5 miles
Thursday: AM: 10 miles
Friday: AM: 4 miles PM: 7 miles (4×30 seconds post run)
Saturday: AM: 14 miles (Club XC Champs at Lehigh)
Total: 93 miles, 10 runs