Adventures in Cross Country

It's a different game, my friends. Cross country running is so very different than road running. Cross country means no true zoning out and mindlessly putting one foot in front of the other. Cross country means uneven terrain, slick grass, ankle-twisting gravel and strategically placed tree roots. It means constant scanning of the ground in front of you, adjusting your stride to avoid any undesirables and the never-ending quest for the path of least resistance.

Chile Pepper 2011

Around here, the Chile Pepper is THE fall race. It's been going on for 23 years now and gets bigger and bigger each year. And actually, the Open 10K (which I ran) is only one of MANY events that go on during the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival including college, senior high and junior high races! They let us slow pokes run first thing in the morning.

And speaking of slow pokes… I had my first "alllllmost late to the start line" experience with the Chile Pepper. I had never even been to the UA Cross Country course before and completely underestimated how long it would take to park and get to the race. We had some trouble finding parking in the first place and by the time we were figuring it out I realized I was cutting it close so I hopped out of the car and started jogging to the start line. Jeff eventually found a parking spot and joined me at the race, but didn't make the start. Glad I didn't wait!

The mob of runners at the start came into view just in time for me to hear a loudspeaker announcement, "The Open 10K will start in 1 minute!" I tore off my coat and threw it under the nearest tree and ran like mad to the start, getting there as the gun went off. Thank goodness for chip timing! (And thank goodness I'd gone to the "expo" the night before in downtown Fayetteville and picked up my timing chip and race bib!) I was a little frazzled, but I'd made it. Time to settle in.

The first half mile of the race sounded like a coffee shop with all the people chatting all around me. "Good morning…Hi…Good to see you!" Hilarious. Everyone just catching up on their local news and gossip during a Saturday morning 10K! It trickled off once the pack thinned out and people found their own paces, but I just love the running community here. Such a friendly bunch.

Jeff made it and quickly figured out the race pattern — we were supposed to do 2 1/2 laps of the course, so he would see me several times as we looped the center spectator area.

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After having no plan during my last few races and consequently starting out WAY too fast then losing steam for the end, I tried something new for this one. Start out slower and build speed as I start to warm up. I always despise miles 1 and 2 anyway so why not run them at a more pleasant pace then turn up the volume for the rest?

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It seemed to work ok and I felt strong nearly the entire way through. I didn't necessarily have a time goal, but wanted to keep it as close to an hour as possible.

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I wish I was having as much fun as it looks like I am in these pictures. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a photo op.

And apparently so is Jeff. Any big race is going to bring out some characters, and the Chile Pepper had plenty. Jeff was able to snap a few photos of the fun —

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Costumes and kilts, oh my!

And this situation, which is pretty inspiring.

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But nothing is quite like the finish line.

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Such a fun race, running on the Arkansas Cross Country course and seeing such a HUGE crowd out on a beautiful morning — just to run.

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With my friend Jennifer after the race.

After the Open 10K was over, we stayed to watch the College Men's 10K. WOW, you guys. WOW. Jeff had already scoped out the course during our race and these guys followed the same route so Jeff knew where to be during the race so we could get a great view, but we were having to RUN in between our spectator opportunities just to keep up with them! The winner came in at 29:13. You'll notice I ran it in 1:02:00. That's more than TWICE as fast as me! Incredible. These guys were flying. They all wore jerseys for their respective schools so we got to cheer for them "by name". We clapped and cheered like crazy for Arkansas — and Jeff even spotted a few ULM guys!

And after a nice big helping of the cross country fun with the Chile Pepper, I liked it so much I went back for seconds this weekend.

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A flying pig! Wearing shoes! How could I resist?

The pig should actually be wearing a sweater and some earmuffs… Hoo boy it was cold last Saturday. I optimistically wore shorts thinking it would warm up after sunrise, but it never really did. So the boys and I headed back to Agri Park (home of the Chile Pepper) for another Cross Country encounter.

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With our friend Susan before the race. We even LOOK cold!

When you're cold, you want to just start running already, so the pre-start waiting seemed to last FOREVER.

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See? He's thinking, "let's get this show on the road!"

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Just looking at these pictures is making me cold.

This was a good race for me. Short and sweet (this is how I think of 5Ks now, because I have officially lost my mind) but fun and a good challenge. The grass was wet (I was CERTAIN I would fall at any moment) and the gravel was a little deep at times, but overall a great morning run.

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Ok, I didn't realize this until I was looking through pictures today, but oh my goodness. Check out the guy in the red shirt (above) coming in just behind me at the finish line.

Now check out this photo Jeff took at the Chile Pepper a few weeks ago:

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Same guy?!

Colt has started to really like running with me at the end of my races and I love to have help over the finish line.

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Just in case you were wondering — still cold!

Official time – 29:25. No Age Group awards for me this weekend, which is a bummer — they gave away cute pig medals!

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After doing so many races the last few months it will be weird to slow down for a while, but I only have one more, toward the end of November, then it's time for the half marathon in December! It's crazy how that's sneaking up — only 5 more weeks to try and guess what the weather might be like in December in Vegas!

2 thoughts on “Adventures in Cross Country

  1. So excited for you and your upcoming half marathon! Praying for you. I know you’ll do great!


  2. When are you going to buy that winter running gear you talked about?! I know it is November and I know it was 75 degrees today, but tomorrow may be a whole new ballgame! BTW, I do think that is the same guy (behind you!) in your races. You are doing awesome…keep up the good work.

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