As the Whippet women assemble a team for the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, my cross country season officially started with the Kurt Steiner 5k last Sunday in Van Cortlandt Park.
After typical train outages combined with my poor planning led to taking 2 trains and a bus to get to Van Cortlandt Park, I arrived just 40 minutes before the start. After checking in, I made the decision to warm up in my spikes, which was a first for me and I think my calves paid for it the next day.
A relatively small race, with 185 men and 95 women finishers, made lineup for the start simple. Looking around, I spotted a few familiar faces in the womens’ race, having now been racing in the city for a few months. After the gun went off and we headed out across the grass, I was careful to stay near, but behind, those faces. I wanted to get out quickly but comfortably, knowing what was waiting for me in the “back hills” that I had become unfortunately acquainted with in a college race years ago.
After roughly a kilometer, the course crosses a cement path to head into the woods. At what I guessed was about a mile, I started to focus less on caution and more on running the terrain efficiently. I managed to stay in control of the pace and my breathing through that second mile, but the hills really start to take their toll just before reaching the uppermost point of the course. And while less aerobically stressful, the following downhill presents its own challenges. Being out of practice, I found it difficult to open up my stride and wasted some energy.
After reaching the bottom and hitting the last, flat turn, I didn’t quite have another gear to kick into for the straightaway into the finish line – but I also didn’t feel like I was falling apart. Running a conservative race ended up meaning running a strong race. I was happy to get back on the trails with a smart first race of the season and take 4th female overall.
Next up for NYRR Cross Country is the Harry Murphy 5k on October 4. See you on the trails!