It’s that time of year again, the leaves change colour while the weather starts to cool off to perfect running temperatures. For some, it’s marathon season, for others like myself, it’s cross-country season. A few years ago I posted a blog about why I hate cross-country and not really much has changed since that post. This year it’s more of a love / hate relationship.
This will be my third straight season focusing on Ontario Masters Athletics cross-country with coach Timo. I have dabbled in the OMA series in previous years, doing one race and then swear to never do another one again. Under Timo’s guidance, I have learned the reason he wants me to do a full season and his logic always wins me over.
Just like the Toronto Maple Leafs, my season starts off strong and ends in misery and last year was no exception. I finished the year, did what was asked and firmly told coach Timo it would be my last time running a full season. On October 1st, 2017 I found myself at the start line of yet another cross-country season opener. Third times a charm I guess?
As every season opener has gone so far, my first race went amazing. Jet-lagged from my trip to Europe, I wasn’t sure how I would manage the intensity of a cross-country race. I was still in my laid-back European vacation mode. I finished 2nd place overall female and raced pretty much almost the same time I ran it last year. With two weeks to the next OMA race, I wasn’t sure what to do. I went back and forth with my coach about the next race. The Don Farquharson Memorial Harriers 4k is a hard course. He tried to persuade me to race the university meet that week but I stubbornly wanted to prove I could beat the Sunnybrook course. Did I mention I have a stubborn side?
I showed up with only one goal, beat the course, which meant just finish the race breathing. Running with asthma is bad on a good day but during cross-country season it’s a nightmare. The gun went off and I immediately fell into a comfortably hard pace. Admittedly, I was dreading the hill the entire first 2km’s preparing a plan of attack for when I got there. There it was, the giant climb staring me in the face. Don’t stop moving was all I kept telling myself. No matter how much it hurt and how slow I was moving, I needed to keep pushing up the hill.
Once over the top and heading back towards the finish line I looked at my watch and with only 1.5km to go, I was going to beat this course. Things did get a lot slower as the lactic acid burned through my muscles, but to my surprise, my body flushed it all out over the next 500m. The last km of the race, all I remember is wanting to push because now I was in second place and I wanted to keep it that way.
I crossed the finished line, breathing, in second place and the realization I had also run the best time ever on this course. I did it and I told everyone in close proximity to me that I did it! 2017 has been a breakthrough year for me, but I can’t take all the credit for it. My coach puts a lot of work into me and every race I do is a calculated step towards a bigger goal. My athletes, I get to coach inspire me each and every day with their own achievements and perseverance. Finishing strong in my second race is a good sign for the rest of my season. Oh right, I forgot to mention, coach Timo won again. I’m doing a full season of cross-country to finish off my 2017 year. I still hate cross-country but I’m going to love hating it this year.