After talking more than a handful of Boise Betties into running XC on the premise that it's just a 5K trail race, we encountered the worst conditions I have maybe ever seen!
True, the sun was shining and yes, it has been awhile since I ran XC but oh my my, there was nothing easy about this race. More than one Bettie asked if the race would be canceled, but in the true spirit of XC racing, the show must go on.
After a treacherous 16 mile drive at about that many miles per hour over icy, pocky, snow covered roads, I arrived at Eagle Island State Park; temperature 1*F. I dart over the the number pickup and find the majority of the people hiding in the warm tent in spite of the strong smell of generator exhaust. I grab my number and race t-shirt (Nike's Adult XS is absolutely huge BTW and fits my 6' husband, but we'll save that for another post…) and head out to preview the course.
It's a 1.5 mile loop with tangents for the start and finish. A classic XC race with grass, trail, beach sand, and a hill steep enough to warrant a name (well, it's just The Hill, but those caps are well deserved). It looks like an iconic course, if only we'd been out here a week ago. Today, however, the 8" of snow is only partially cleared and not sticking together or packing up. Typical of hoarfrost snow that comes with the extremely cold nights, it creates a slippery covering to the frozen ground. "Awesome," I think without the slightest bit of sarcasm, "I get the chance to work on my 'Snow-tool' (referring to my last blog post, Wishing I Was A Tool Bag)".
But just a mile in to my warm-up, I twist my ankle. Nothing bad, but enough to make me pause. Running for fun is super important, but I cannot do it at the expense of my next two years. I have worked too hard to get back to this point to throw it away now. I shake it off and continue to run, cautiously.
I find my teammates, with understandable attrition due to the severe running and driving conditions, and we gather behind the starting line. It feels so good to be on this wide starting line, boxes spray painted in, a field ahead and awesome women to chit chat with before the race. THIS is how it should be. THIS is where I want to see our team in a year (minus the snow, though, if I am going to be completely honest). As the gun shoots and the 50 community racers take to the field, I realize that the start was in no way cleared. I am running through knee deep powder, unsure whether to use high knees, long strides, follow the runner in front's path or blaze my own- so I try all of the above. I am laughing out loud as it occurs to me that I have no idea what I am doing and the crowd envelopes me. Welcome back to XC, gg!
I run a conservative "race"- more like workout- as I pussy-foot around the snow, protecting my right foot and ankle, and try to keep my competitive nature in check. "It's not worth it, just have fun" becomes my mantra as I move up through the field, still running conservatively. I'm cold in my layers and I wish I had ski gloves- the temp is still just 12*F- and then I take a wrong turn and have to back track 100m. However, I find myself laughing at my mistakes and still enjoying the race. I am proud of myself for the 180* shift in perspective from the week before where one thing goes wrong and I am cursing the race. See? Me, I'm flexible. :)
Once again, despite winning the race my time is virtually unreportable. As in, I don't want to advertise my finish time in the hopes that my sponsors will never find out that it's possible for me to run that slow. You know what, I don't care. It was the most fun 6:30s I have run in a very long time. Can't wait for Boulder 2015!